Middle East Intelligence Bulletin
Jointly published by the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon and the Middle East Forum
  Vol. 2   No. 9 Table of Contents
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5 October 2000 

Document File Document File: Lebanon

Declaration of the Maronite Archbishops' Council

20 September 2000

MEIB Translation from the original Arabic by Nadine Sibai

[The following statement was released following the monthly meeting of Maronite archbishops, chaired by Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir and is considered to be an official reflection of their collective views.]

Now that Lebanon has reached a point of crisis, we must disclose the reality as we see perceive it in our hearts, without any reticence or equivocation.

We find people whispering their thoughts, terrified to reveal them because they are frightened of arrest. But knowing that revelation of the truth is our only savior, before it's too late we decided to appeal to all people who care for Lebanon, in hopes that they can help in it's rescue."

I. The Parliamentary Elections

We begin with the truth about the recent elections--the fact that those who were responsible for their regulation were the first ones to admit their corruption. In large electoral districts which have [candidates] from a majority of a certain sect helping the [candidates] of a minority sect to win. Therefore, we ended up having deputies who do not really represent their constituents. Furthermore, some deputies from large districts earned over two hundred thousand votes, compared to others from smaller districts earning twenty thousand votes. And this in and of itself , taking into consideration the required number of votes to succeed, shows that some representatives have more value and prestige than others.

Moreover, much money was squandered on buying people's conscience, provoking confessional feuds, obstructing the mass media for some candidates, and enacting it for some others. What about the pressure that was applied during the establishment of electoral lists, which obliged some candidates to accept others who do not share any common political or national ideology, and which prevented others from running even as independent candidates? And what about Lebanese, and especially Syrian, [security] agencies calling upon mayors and the heads of municipalities to make them convince the voters to vote for specific lists, sometimes by intimidating them and other times by giving promises. The results of the elections were known on by the time election day arrived. That is what both winning and losing candidates have acknowledged after overcoming their paranoia.

II. Economic Affairs

Lebanon is experiencing an an economic crisis of a magnitude avoided even during the [civil] war. Statistics state that half of the Lebanese are on the edge of poverty. Industries are closing their doors and discharging workers. Private schools are losing their students for the parents are not able to pay the fees, thus they're canceling their contracts with the teachers. University graduates are travelling abroad - sometimes for good - because of unemployment.

The Lebanese agricultural and industrial products are not being exported for the government is not supporting them against foreign products, particularly those of Syria, which competes with the Lebanese in every domain benefiting from the vast difference between the two regimes. In addition, foreign laborers, specifically Syrian, are benefiting from the Lebanese state's protection and competing with Lebanese workers. They work for smaller wages because they accepting a lower standard of living and because of the discrepancy in value between the two currencies. Moreover, Syrian street vendors and truck and taxi drivers work freely here, while their Lebanese counterparts cannot work in Syria.

III. Political Affairs

In both political and economic fields, there is eminent rule that a healthy economy cannot survive without sound politics. If the Lebanese economy is collapsing, it is because of political corruption. Lebanon has been suffering improper and imposed politics for a quarter of a century. It tried to break free and stand on its own, but to no avail. We do not want to dwell on these wars or analyze their causes--it is up to historians to study them and publish their findings. But we should all be honest and humble to admit that all of us made mistakes out of selfishness and ignorance. We all have had our share of coercion, humiliation, loss, and destruction. It's time for us to be conscious of and learn from our mistakes, to unite in order to seek the right solutions for our country before it disintegrates.

Lebanon is losing its way by losing its sovereignty and [external] hegemony over institutions, public authorities, and economic facilities has prevailed. Its management is marred; its judicial authorities are muddled. And its citizens are living in a continuous state of panic, humiliation, and hypocrisy. They feign loyalty, but they are full of resentment. Whoever tries to express himself simply gets tracked down. Many Lebanese have been imprisoned in Israeli and Syrian jails for years and their names have been replaced by numbers. Therefore, when you go ask about one of them they reply : We don't have this name.

IV. Inevitable Questions

The Lebanese people have been bearing all kinds of humiliation and agony for a quarter of a century. They've been deprived of their sovereignty, and they've painfully accepted another's guardianship and the fact that they were incapable of their own protection. But now, they think it's time to unveil reality. It's time to have real fraternity, honesty, and mutual respect. It's time to raise some questions for the sake of keeping the fraternity that embraces the historical relationship between Syria and Lebanon. Israel withdrew from South Lebanon, but left behind problems we're still suffering from. The liberation of the South and the heroic bloodshed have reduced the tension. It facilitated the way for the government to spread its authority over all regions in pursuant to U.N. [Security Council] Resolution 425. However, isn't it time for the Lebanese government to fully extend its authority, thus encouraging people to return to their families and land?

Now that Israel has left, isn't it time for Syrian troops to completely withdraw pursuant to the Ta'if Accord? Is it necessary for them to embarrass us by sticking around the presidential palace--the symbol of our national dignity, the Ministry of Defense, and all of the vital government sites?

Some declarations say that the withdrawal of the Syrian troops will lead to large riots and that the Syrian presence is indispensable to the peace process. In addition, they claim that Syrian troops will retreat as soon as our government asks them to. All of this is utter illusion. No instability will occur as long as there is no external incitement. Lebanese infighting has always been an outcome of foreign incitement.

Our desire is to consolidate the fraternal relationship between Syria and Lebanon. It's time to reconsider the course of communication between the two countries so that they will perfectly compliment each other in every aspect. However, Syrian troops must be redeployed pending their complete withdrawal in accordance with UN Resolution 520 and the Ta'if Accord. Both countries will mutually preserve the bonds of history, geography, friendship, kinship, and common interests.

We believe this is the only way to prevent Lebanon from falling apart. We also believe the weakness of Lebanon is a weakness for Syria, while the recovery of Lebanon benefits Syria. And we want for Syria that which we what we want for Lebanon: Dignity, economic development, and peace.

May God fulfill our hopes and guide our way.

� 2000 Middle East Intelligence Bulletin (translation)

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