I don’t think I missed any of Lebanese energy minister Jibran Bassil’s statements in the last few hours. He talked about a “refugee dumper,” but it seemed like he was at the bottom of another kind of dumper. That is why I will not be surprised if I hear that he called for closing the borders, or even closing the skies in the face of the snow storm because it will drench him or might hinder the construction of the Iranian Balaa Dam or stand in the way of his non-stop business-election marathon of which only business remains, while elections are always uncertain.
This minister and the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon were the stars of nonsensical statements towards the end of the past year. They assume that those people who were forced to leave their homes did so out of utter greed for they dream of becoming refugees living off the morsels thrown to them by condescending benefactors. The minister saw the escape of Palestinians from death as a plan to tip the demographic balance in favor of Sunni Muslims. He missed the fact the no one in Lebanon, regardless of affiliations, wishes to see refugees flocking into the country. The ambassador saw the refugees as “terrorists.” You cannot blame the blind for their blindness, but they better stop trying to guide the seeing.
They denied there is a crisis in Syria, prevented the cabinet from acknowledging the waves of refugees, and left the entire matter to the UNHCR as if those refugees are flocking into another country. They decided to think of them as members of the March 14 Alliance, that is unwelcome enemies, even if they are unarmed and injured and so long as they were saved from the Syrian regime’s “thugs.”
When the matter got more complicated, they realized that the state bears some responsibility and that the state is bankrupt and out of resources. It would have been better to allow Bassil himself to take care of that, for he has solutions for electricity and for everything, but when he got aid it was on the condition that an electricity tax will be deducted from each consumer.
Humanity is nonexistent
The invitation extended to Arab ministers to attend an extraordinary meeting for the hope of getting aid should have taken place more than a year ago, but the Syrian approval was delayed after the regime realized that the issue of refugees is causing regional tumult. They noticed that Syrian refugees have not been offered any help. Even Hezbollah that knows what being a refugee is like preferred to look the other way. It seems like all the allies of Syria and Iran are living in another world, in a place where humanity is nonexistent.
Even in this matter that concerns, as they say, security, society, and the job market, they did not allow the government to perform its duty and it could have done so because the international community would offer help if the government is serious in its attempt to solve the problem.
The problem is not in finding money, but rather in the lack of a political decision and an acknowledgment of the presence of refugees. Arab ministers have the right to believe that their Lebanese counterpart is seeking help, only because his colleague Jibran Bassil is currently negotiating with Iranians to fund in cash the construction of a dumper on the Syrian border.
*This article was first published in Lebanon's An-Nahar newspaper on Jan. 9, 2013. Link: http://newspaper.annahar.com/article.php?t=makalat&p=23&d=24957
Abdul Wahab Badrakhan is a Lebanese journalist, who writes weekly in London's Al-Hayat newspaper among other Arab publications. Badrakhan was a journalist in 'Annahar' (Beirut) until 1979, in 'Annahar Arabic & international' magazine (Paris) up to 1989, in 'Al-Hayat' (London) as managing editor then deputy editor in chief until 2006. At present, Badrakhan is working on two books. The first book is on the roots of the experiences that have motivated young Arab men to go to Afghanistan. The second is devoted to Arab policies to counterterrorism, starting with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and covering the ensuing wars.