In his Machiavellian designs, Bassil is using racist discourse

Bassil expects his Machiavellian strategy to lead him straight to the Lebanese presidency.
Sunday 16/06/2019
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil speaks during a news conference in Beirut. (Reuters)
Worrying discourse. Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil speaks during a news conference in Beirut. (Reuters)

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has adopted a worrying attitude that is adding chauvinistic and racist undertones to his sectarianism.

Bassil is trying to take the utmost advantage of his alliance with Hezbollah. Because of the latter’s urgent need for a Christian cover for its Iran-dictated frenzied policies in Lebanon, the party was willing to cooperate with Bassil at times and even turn a blind eye other times to his vile racist discourse.

Bassil is blatantly taking advantage of possible compromises that derive from the presidential arrangement placed on Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. This settlement was imposed by Hezbollah, which prevented the election as president of any other candidate besides its own, Michel Aoun, founder of the Free Patriotic Movement, which is led by Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law.

Bassil started by adopting the slogan of the Christian frustration and then armed himself with the weapon of defending the interests of “frustrated” Christians as a result of election laws considered to be unfair to them and preventing them from choosing their representative at parliament.

The tactic enabled Bassil to impose the electoral law he wanted so as to ensure for himself a seat at parliament representing Batroun, despite that he had failed in 2005 and 2009 to win that seat.

Thanks to the presidential compromise, Bassil got what he had wanted and now he has declared a racist “Lebanese” war on Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon by appealing to his own superior Lebanese “genes” and to the theory of a unique Lebanese genetic type.

It seems that the ferocity of his sectarian rhetoric, which enabled him to lead the largest Christian parliamentary bloc as well as the largest ministerial bloc, made it easy for him to go further, relying on his alliance with Hezbollah and the rush to reap the fruits of the presidential settlement, to lay the foundations for something even bigger: extract as many prerogatives as he could for the position of the president and then take over the post.

For his Machiavellian campaign, Bassil found the issue of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon to be the weakest link on the Lebanese scene, concentrating various contradictions. The refugees will not return to Syria while Bashar Assad remains in power and they will not be able to leave Lebanon in huge numbers, to Europe, for example, because of the growing rejectionist mood there, courtesy of the rising right-wing forces.

The refugees, therefore, find themselves caught in the jaws of a relentless vice, without political cover, neither from Syria where even the opposition is ignoring their plight nor from Arab or international countries. They are political sitting ducks, likely to be subjected to further abuse.

It was easy for Bassil and his political current to launch their racist campaigns against the Syrian refugees, inciting the Lebanese against them and accusing them of dragging their feet to return home and of all kinds of grievances, including terrorism. Bassil and his ilk found in the refugees the perfect scapegoat for all the problems of the Lebanese, portraying the refugees as an absolute evil and a serious threat to the Lebanese entity and to the unique Lebanese formula for social cohesion.

“We have devoted a concept to our Lebanese identity, above any other affiliation, and we have said that it was genetic, since it was the only explanation for our similarity and distinction, for our bearing to live with each other and our adjustment to each other, for our flexibility and our unity together and for our ability to come together and merge on the one hand and for our refusal to be displaced and seek asylum together on the other hand,” tweeted Bassil. You can’t be more racist and chauvinistic than that.

It is true that Bassil’s racist discourse has not gone unchallenged. It was, indeed, condemned and mocked. However, what is certain is that it must have emboldened the aggressors who attacked the Syrian refugees and burned their camp, following a problem that might have been fabricated between civil defence personnel from the village of Deir al-Ahmar and refugees in the camp in the vicinity of the same village and run by the Caritas Association.

Bassil expects his Machiavellian strategy to lead him straight to the Lebanese presidency, with powers not enjoyed by any other president before him. This is a person who sees in his genes something that no one before him had seen. His tyranny is blinding him to the reality that is misleading him and which may shove him into the abyss he deserves, namely his alliance with Hezbollah, the party that did not and will not accept a president of the country it cannot control.