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Mr. Charles Michel: Lebanon needs your personal commitment

Monday, 10 August 2020
This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.
Credit: Twitter Charles Michel

His Excellency, President of the EU Council,

I possess little legitimacy, if any, to invade your attention with a plea of this kind. I possess no European citizenship to mandate your ears to listen to me, and while I write to you from Belgium, your home country, I have arrived here a mere one week ago, three days before the explosion blasted in my own home, Beirut.

As I write this letter, your visit to Lebanon is almost over and your promises for its people, however genuinely sympathetic, are soon to be raised to the test of time. It is however unfortunate to discover a demotivating clue among your tweets during the visit: a collage of pictures depicting your excellency with the country’s president, the same man who, we now know through a report, had been fully aware of the presence of 2700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate under the populated vicinity of North-East Beirut.

I hope that I am not being presumptuous with my reproach. You are surely aware of the track record of your Lebanese counterpart, one that stretches back to his time as a warlord. You might even repeat to me the words of Mr. Emmanuel Macron, who, faced with a similar reproach over his rushed visit to Beirut, justified his meetings with Lebanon’s top politicians via a baffled (and baffling) question: “But I’m the President of a Republic… Who else am I supposed to meet with?”

The mood that had been so present during Macron’s press conference and which the French President could not sense or grasp had been an air of vulnerable despair. When Lebanese journalists all jumped to hysterically question the motives of Emmanuel Macron for meeting the country’s politicians, most often at the expense of political television etiquettes (for such high-level meetings had usually formed the meat of their primetime hours) I wish Mr. Macron had seen the human quality behind their self-jeopardizing inquiries.

“But I’m the President of a Republic…” – it is precisely this customary, etiquette interjection that I plead your excellency to withhold as you receive more and more pleas for help from the Lebanese people. What Emmanuel Macron did not and could not understand the night of his press conference is that the Lebanese did not want to address him as the President of a Republic. Each at their turn, whenever the microphone miraculously reached their hands, Lebanese journalists aimed to kindle Emmanuel Macron’s own personal sense of duty, not the one curled with a blue, white, and red ribbon.

For us Lebanese, after 45 years of political shambles, we no longer believe in men in suits and ties, local or foreign. Governments, institutions, parties – all these are organizational ghosts to us; mere attempts to evade the human responsibility that the sight of our horror has inspired for years, explosion after explosion, viral video after viral video.

The Lebanese President has recently shot down the possibility of an international investigation over the truth behind the explosion. “Presidents of Republics,” or EU Councils, can certainly place political pressure to reverse his decision. But institutional effort of the kind succeeds or fails only in so far as all geopolitical considerations, and etiquettes, have been cross-checked.

That is, never. That is why us Lebanese can no longer bear jarring etiquettes or too-official visits or empty promises. As I write this, Lebanese protestors have taken over the Foreign Ministry and rolled down the emblem of their political revolution. This feat has been completed to send a message to world leaders as yourself, Mr. Charles Michel.

From now on, a commitment to help Lebanon should not be communicated from Foreign Ministry to Foreign Ministry, but rather from one beating, sweating human heart to another. His excellency has indeed pledged EU’s support for Lebanon. But when will Charles pledge his own commitment to the revolutionaries on the ground, too?

Rayyan Dabbous