Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A message to my love in Lebanon: By Al Habtoor, Khalaf

A message to my love in Lebanon
By Khalaf Ahmed Al Habtoor
The Daily Star

First person by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

It was the time to go back to Dubai after a week's rest and some business in London. Our jet had to stop at a Mediterranean airport for refueling. We were five passengers: two UAE compatriots, two friends from Lebanon, and myself. We discussed available options to stop and refuel. So, where to land?

Well, it was Beirut that came to my mind first. That wasn't without reason. The famous city had always captured my imagination. It had a remarkable role in shaping my conscience. My suitcases still breathe the city's pine scent. Images of its neighborhoods and places have remained in my memory ever since, like a sweet dream. It was Beirut then, and the question was open to discussion among the trip companions.

The date: February, 6, 2007. Beirut was undergoing heavy internal struggles. Confrontations between regional and international powers covered the city with smoke and black clouds. Different fronts filled the scene with demonstrations, counterdemonstrations, protests from both sides, and threatening political statements that were sufficient to start up an intra-state war not only a civil war.

The place: a space for discussion between love and adoration, sorrow and pain, hope and despair, fear and awe. We decided not to land in Beirut. And it no longer mattered where to land. The question became an insignificant detail. Avoiding eye-contact so as not to communicate our feelings, our eyes were looking aimlessly into nothing. No one wanted to betray his adoration for the city that had a suicidal harshness against itself. No other city had showed such self-destructive tendencies as Beirut. Then, no landing in Beirut, all agreed. But in the sky, my memory went back to the morning haze of Bhamdoun, the snow-crowned cedars of Marya, Tripoli, the history living in Baalbek, the sea of civilizations of Sidon, and tobacco farms of the South.

Can a human being be afraid of his history and childhood memories? May he or she be reluctant to recall the experiences of past years? Or can he or she sever themselves from past neighbors, friends, playmates? Can a country be as harsh against its lovers as Lebanon is? Can a people be as unfair to their country as some Lebanese are? What are you doing? I'm asking you all without taking part in any party, only your country. What are you doing to this Oriental gem, Mediterranean pearl, Arab jewel? What are you doing with the mermaid, spring's breaths, water's flow, snow's lanterns, your warm emotions, the spontaneous Lebanese generosity, your Arab traditions and hospitality and your eyes' joy? What have you been doing? Once, you were our pride, joy, elegance, book, paper, hospital, university, travel destination, oasis, rest and peace.

We, the people of the Gulf, were proud of your savvy people, sophisticated culture, metropolitan environment, lovely habits, logic, openness, love for each another and your homeland, overwhelming attachment to your country's history and honor. We need to retain this feeling toward you. We want you to be entrusted again with our pride, confidence and love. And we will not save any effort to support you. Your pains are ours. Will you wake up, regain the rein over your destiny, and give the utmost priority to the interest of your country? Where are you now compared to your past? I'm asking as your partner, a person who loves you as well as your country. I tried to figure out why on earth the Lebanese are doing such harm to their country. Well, I confess that I couldn't. I failed to find any justification for this blighting indicated by a prominent poet as the gate of paradise.

However, I will not contend that this has been made by the Lebanese themselves. God has entrusted Lebanese with this heavenly gift, human heritage, and natural miracle. There is no reason to do what you are doing now. The Lebanese have reached the bottom of their history. Unemployment is rampant, Arab and international investors are leaving, factories and even restaurants are closing, maybe irrecoverably, throwing crowds of unemployed to be victimized by poverty. Emigration has become the buzzword among hundred of thousands of Lebanese who bear their pains and despair with them to earn their living anywhere in the world. Don't those deserve a while to think about the current situation? Don't they deserve from you to recall your deep rooted national feelings, to regain your honorable past? You were among the first who demonstrated that homeland is the synonym of integrity, honor and pride.

Give Lebanon the opportunity to live, to be an oasis for our world. Go back and amicably and open-mindedly discuss your differences inside your constitutional establishments, your inclusive Parliament, your multilateral government which is meant to serve people not the other way. Go back to constructive dialogue, unified stand, logic resonance. There is no alternative to one Lebanon, one Lebanese people. Differences, no matter how deep they are, should be minor issues when the homeland is under threat. Politics usually become insignificant when national sovereignty is at stake. All losses are neglected when the loss of your nation is looming. You are required to have some mercy for Lebanon, your sons and daughters, your seniors, and your youth. Deny your enemies the opportunity to celebrate your blight. Try to mitigate your friends' fears. No one needs to assure me about your love for your country. But what is going on now endangers even the national survival of your Lebanon. Every one is required to halt for a while and reconsider his stand, even to make concessions if necessary. No one needs to be ashamed of concession in favor of the nation. No one can be victorious or a loser vis-a-vis his or her nation. The real victory sought is Lebanon's unity and integrity. Leave your assumed ditches to the daylight. Go beyond the walls of disengagement and hostility. You need to extend our hands to each other, not against each other. Think of your country's scars. This is your only possible exit.

Khalaf Ahmad al Habtoor is chairman of Al-Habtoor group.

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