Chronic poverty of part of the population, social contempt, nepotism and corruption, Lebanon concentrates all the ingredients that have fuelled the upheavals in the Arab world for a decade.
The new wave of uprisings in the Arab world threatens to crush on a triple wall: powers that do not hesitate to use superior force; deeply rooted financial and geopolitical interests; and the indifference, even complicity, of the rest of the world. After a visit to Lebanon, one of the essential “laboratories” of these movements, it is difficult not to feel the fragility of this aspiration for change. Now in its third month, the Lebanese revolt is looking for a new lease of life.
Lebanon concentrates all the ingredients that have fuelled the upheavals in the Arab world over the past decade: chronic poverty of part of the population, social contempt, nepotism and corruption, an ineffective and biased state. But in Lebanon, for a long time, the trauma of the civil war, freedom of expression and political clientelism have helped to mitigate the effects of this mal-development. It’s over now. First, because a new generation has shed the weight of history, obsessive communitarianism and fear of a disappointing future. Against all traditions, it was the young people who led their resigned parents away, and instilled a dose of idealism into this battered country: under
a tent near the Grand Sérail in Beirut, around a shared hookah as the rain fell on the city, a group of young people of all denominational origins rebuilt the world one evening in December, determined to go all the way.
Nevertheless, the conservative, or rather counter-revolutionary, forces are far from being defeated. After a first phase of shock, at the beginning of the uprising on 17 October, political games resumed their rights in Lebanon, still governed by the small “cake-sharing” arrangements decided at the end of the civil war in 1990. Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who resigned, could succeed himself, with some new faces, but also representatives of all political forces
who, collectively, bear the responsibility for the crisis. All this for that? “They will steal a little less than before,” ironicly cynically says a Lebanese intellectual.
This rebranding is intended to show a willingness to tackle all the problems that have been neglected for years, intermittent electricity, untreated garbage, stricken employment or pervasive corruption; but also to convince the international community, which is called upon to put its hands to the pocket to get Lebanon out of its financial crisis. “The Lebanese political authorities must shake themselves up,” commented Jean-Yves Le Drian, head of French diplomacy. In doing so, he does not challenge the “system”, as the demonstrators do, but he calls on it to make itself more presentable.
By force, as in the recent demonstrations, by provocation, by deterrence, or by force of inertia, the pro-Iranians of Hezbollah, who are at the heart of the system while having a parallel army and structure, or the pro-Western forces of Saad Hariri, also in power, have a common interest in changing everything so that nothing changes. The older Lebanese, who have seen everything, have already understood this well. Not the youngest, engaged in the struggle of their lives for a dignified Lebanon. History has no shortage of unequal battles that have succeeded, but this one promises to be difficult to win. The Lebanese I met in Beirut think it is worth leading.