The ninth anniversary of the assassination of Rafik Hariri is an especially poignant occasion, because the commemoration will finally coincide with the trial aimed at achieving justice for this painful moment in Lebanese history.
It is also an occasion for a bit of nostalgia for the days when Hariri was playing a leading role on the political scene, as the inevitable comparisons are drawn between then and now. In terms of economic performance, international reputation and security conditions, it’s clear that a Lebanon just exiting a civil war had a considerably brighter future than today.
Most strikingly, Hariri was a champion of moderation, perhaps the quality that is most missed in these turbulent times. Hariri’s politics were the politics of inclusiveness, as he struggled to protect the country from the destructiveness of sectarianism. His tried-and-true tactic was to maintain channels of communication and engage in dialogue with all of Lebanon’s political factions and sectarian communities, and this ability to transcend the various cleavages is something sorely missed today.
Politicians should learn from Hariri’s legacy and take note of the striking differences between his time spent serving the public and the depressing and dangerous times of today. The other options – when dialogue and moderation are discarded – have led nowhere.
There are those who continue to reject the court process in the Netherlands that is trying to get to the bottom of Hariri’s murder, relying on rumor and innuendo as they try to discredit the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. And there are those who are equally stubborn as they ignore or demean the legacy of Rafik Hariri, a heritage steeped in dialogue, moderation and putting Lebanon’s national interests first.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 14, 2014, on page 7.