Some politicians in Lebanon suffer from acute schizophrenia. Day in and day out, they spend half their day waxing poetic about the virtues of coexistence, and the other half scaremongering about the threats posed by everyone who is not from their small sect or group.
While this schizophrenia has been around for a while, it sometimes bursts out into the open. The latest trigger has come in the form of anxiety over property ownership. If one reads the headlines, one might think Christians are anxious over the sale of land to non-Christians. At first glance, such fears and worries might even seem reasonable, due to demographic change. But a little more digging is required to arrive at a sound diagnosis.
For one thing, the same type of politician and public figure who carries on about the need to respect the law in Lebanon ends up becoming the first person to ignore the concept of law altogether. There is simply no legal foundation for engaging in such blatant, racist discrimination. Some might think decentralization has actually arrived, but it hasn’t – and even decentralized government doesn’t permit anti-constitutional behavior.
Moreover, the same type of Christian politician who rails against selling land to non-Christians has been strangely silent about Muslim investors when they engage in large-scale investments in places such as Sin al-Fil or Hazmieh. If one travels further uphill in areas of Mount Lebanon, there are summer resort areas that have seen large-scale purchases by Gulf investors, and home ownership by non-Christian Lebanese – no one seems to be upset by the phenomenon, and few politicians seem interested in railing against the unwanted guests.
Christians are not the only group that has been afflicted by this schizophrenic behavior, but they are the ones usually making the loudest noise about the threats posed by outsiders. Any politician who takes such a stance should at least be consistent; instead of spending time talking about coexistence, they should run openly on an anti-coexistence platform come election time.
But a more professional response by such politicians would be along the following lines. They should ask themselves why Christians want to sell their land.
Can politicians and officials who have spent years in their positions tell the public about all the robust development projects they’ve brought to Christian-majority areas, especially in rural parts of the country?
Can they tell the public about how they’ve helped boost the agricultural sector, through forward-looking plans to grow high value crops, backed by public infrastructure projects?
Can they point to any successes in eliminating the corruption and lack of opportunity that makes many Christians (and other Lebanese) give up on where they grew up and leave for a better life elsewhere?
If these politicians can’t point to such successes, then they should stay quiet and stop inciting people to break the law, and stop paving the way for another civil war.