Unfortunately, this is not the score of a football match.
Although it features a pitch, players and a ball, this game is much more dangerous than your usual soccer night … It is actually bloody.
The playground is Lebanon, the players are Lebanese politicians and the ball today lies with the people.
The question remains: where’s the referee?
For decades, Lebanon’s fate has been closely linked to neighboring Syria. Prior to 2005, it was easier to grasp it, as the Syrian military was present on Lebanese territory, its secret services operating by daylight, and its political “orders” followed pompously by politicians.
After Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri’s assassination in February 2005, and massive popular protests in Lebanon, the Syrian army and intelligence “physically” withdrew from the country – but their political presence remained and their interference in Lebanese internal affairs persisted.
When the Syrian uprising started over a year ago, the Lebanese were split into pro-and anti-revolution camps.
Sadly enough, those divisions have not been limited to political views.
In the course of the last year, several Syrian opposition activists have been reportedly kidnapped from Lebanon, the Syrian army has been held responsible for killing citizens on the northern borders, and anti-Assad protesters have clashed with regime thugs every time they took the streets, causing several injuries.
But all this time the phrase “civil war” was rarely mentioned even though many analysts described the unfortunate incidents as well-crafted endeavors by the Assad regime to stoke tension in Lebanon using violence and political assassinations attempts.
However, in the latest clashes in the north of the country as well as Beirut, Assad has scored.
Some would argue that the war hasn’t started ─ and it won’t ─ and that these violences were politically contained. However, 12 lives have been lost in the course of events.
Street tensions sparked between pro and anti-Assad groups after the arrest of an Islamist in Tripoli, the killing of a Muslim cleric and his companion also in Northern Lebanon, and the latest kidnapping of Lebanese pilgrims in Aleppo as they were returning from Iran.
Are these events a total misfortunate coincidence? Perhaps.
But they might just as well be another attempt by Assad to pour oil on an already fired up society.
Every time the ghost of civil war haunts the Lebanese, it only means, somewhere, someone has scored in the back of their net. Or worse, we scored our “own goal.”
As headlines across the world read “Syria’s violence spills over into Lebanon,” it may be safe to assume that the Assad regime is trying all sorts of tricks to divert attention from the revolution it faces.
But even if the whole world conspires to set fire in Lebanon, it is only Lebanese citizens who are wholly responsible for falling for the ploy and killing each other.
While Lebanese politicians on both sides call for restraint, it is obvious that the “coaches” are striving hard to lead their team towards victory. Or to lead their team, full stop.
Luckily for Lebanon, the game is still in its first half, and there’s plenty of room for it to stage a comeback.
Trying to figure out what is happening in the dressing rooms is useless. The people’s role is on the pitch, keeping the game fair play.
It doesn’t really matter in which camp the ball lies today.
It might just be time for the people to finally be “the referee”.
(Rana Khoury is a journalist at Al Arabiya and can be reached at email@example.com)