Destructive silence

The street that separates Alawite neighbourhood of Jabal Mohsen and the Sunni Muslim Bab al-Tebbaneh neighbourhood is seen, deserted, in Tripoli, northern Lebanon March 16, 2014. (REUTERS/Omar Ibrahim)

A summary of the national news from Lebanon these days is enough to send most rational people running for the exit.

Thanks to the spillover from the war in Syria, the city of Tripoli is experiencing yet another round of violence; areas of the Bekaa Valley are regularly targeted by rockets fired by rebel groups in Syria; while Syrian aircraft intermittently launch airstrikes on the town of Arsal. On the border with Israel, a mine-planting incident last week was claimed by an Al-Qaeda splinter group, though it appears unlikely that it could have been committed by anyone other than Hezbollah – the only certainty was a reaction by the Israelis, which came in the form of a barrage of shells. The practice of kidnapping, whether for political reasons or for profit, also continues to rear its ugly head.

The army and security institutions are making some progress against threats to stability, as they arrest militants and discover cars rigged to explode, but not even they can keep up with the challenges on various fronts.

Amid all of this bad news, politicians continue to fight over the terminology used in drafting the Cabinet’s policy statement, while the fate of the presidential election remains cloudy, disturbed by the shadow hanging over a Parliament whose members extended their own terms of office last year.

It is fashionable – and legitimate – to blame politicians for the mess, since each of these problems would be enough to jolt or bring down a government elsewhere. But it is equally valid to ask why the public isn’t jolted into action by this miserable state of affairs, and why it doesn’t demand more of its elected, and non-elected, leaders.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 17, 2014, on page 7.




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