Lebanese Politician: Greatest Threat Facing Lebanon is Iran and Syria
In the arena of domestic policy, in which the old and experienced politicians are the main role players and influential people, he is considered as one of the youngest political activists. Nadim Gemayel is 35 years old. He is one of the most prominent members of Lebanese Kataeb Party, which was previously known as Lebanese Phalange Party, one of the rightist Christian parties in Lebanon. He believed in a specific type of Lebanese nationalism preserving the interests of the Maronites.
Being the son of the late-Bachir Gemayel, the former president of Lebanon, Nadim is one of the most famous political characters of the country. Other Hezbollah members and he are opposed to Syria’s intervention in Lebanon’s internal affairs, are strongly against Lebanon Hezbollah, and constantly criticize Iranian government policy about Beirut.
There are many claims about his party (Kataeb) and its role during Lebanon’s eight-year internal war, namely the cooperation of Phalange Party with Israel and its contribution in the massacres.
Nadim Gemayel’s answers have been translated from the original French.
Your party and you are one of the main opponents of Syria’s intervention in Lebanon’s internal affairs. Now, what do you think about Syria’s situation and its troubles due to getting involved in the crisis?
We do not like Syria to be in crisis because of two major reasons. First, our opposition is against Syria government, while the main victims of this crisis are Syrian people, who are in trouble. Second, Syria’s intervention in Lebanon’s internal affairs has not stopped yet. Syria is continuing its interventions indirectly through its allies, namely Lebanon Hezbollah. The Syria crisis has clearly resulted in mass immigration of Syrian refugees to Lebanon. This is direct threat against Lebanon.
Presence of Salafi groups in Syria might have a direct influence on similar groups in Lebanon. Are you worried about it?
I do not worry about this matter as our security forces are very efficient, are able to defeat most of terroristic forces in Lebanon territory, and will keep on this job. Kataeb Party and I have always been opposed to the actions of the Syrian regime and its policies in Syria and Lebanon since we believe that it was Syrian regime policies that helped Salafi development in Syria and other parts of the world.
Lebanon was the arena of rivalry between the foreign powers for their higher influence in the country. Do you think this situation would be ceased someday?
It has been one my major goals in my political activities: independency and political decision making without foreign intervention. Unfortunately, we cannot argue that it is possible today, since Iran and Syria are trying to gain the control of our country by the political parties and Lebanese organizations, which are their allies.
What do you think about the presence of Hezbollah forces in Syria civil war?
Hezbollah acts independently, and is a government within another government. It has a parallel economy, its own military forces, and has developed its own structures in all aspects of public and social life. This group gets order directly from Tehran. Lebanon government doesn’t argue about the intervention of Hezbollah militias in Syria. It is very important to remind them they are Lebanese above all, and their main goal should be to defend the interests of their country against other countries, groups, or forces. Therefore, they must confine their activities to synchronizing with the Lebanon army. We express our opposition against Lebanon Hezbollah by a political stance. But if we feel they are a threat to our free presence in Lebanon, we will use other tools to resist against them.
Are you worried about probable temptation of Hezbollah to establish an Islamic government in Lebanon?
Hezbollah ideology is establishing a government in Lebanon similar to Islamic government in Iran. They have clearly and explicitly stated this purpose. It was announced by its leaders since the beginning. I think it is the time for Hezbollah to discern that the democratic and political structure of Lebanon inhibits implementation of this project. It is very important to note that a significant number of Shia society condemn Hezbollah’s ideology. We, the Lebanese citizens and politicians, are responsible for defending the Lebanese democratic and free idea, i.e., a country without a religious government, if not secular in its thorough sense.
What do you think about Trump’s policy towards the Middle East?
Trump does not have taken a clear policy about the Middle East and its developments. However, America’s policy in the region has always been closeness to Israel and Saudi Arabia. I see no reason for Trump to change this policy as there is no necessity in this regard. In the end, any country is seeking its own interests and the USA interests in the region hasn’t changed either. We expect to compare Trump’s activities in the Middle East with Obama. We haven’t seen any significant activity from his side yet. We hope to see a positive achievement about Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and see the results practically.
The opponents of Gemayel family accuse the members of your family of stimulating the opposite thoughts and creating a severe internal war. They have accused you of collaborating with Israel since 1982. What is your opinion in this regard? What do you think about Israel and Israel-Palestine Conflict?
We haven’t lured anybody and have done nothing to start the war. It was the Palestinian military organizations who acted provocatively since the collapse of Cairo in 1969 (when Arafat was selected as the leader of Palestine Liberation Organization). The events contributing in Lebanon civil war were not related to the Lebanese parties, but were attributed to the fact that the armed Palestinian forces had violated the governance, freedom, and resistance of Lebanese, who were mainly Christian. I want to remind you a famous sentence from Arafat. He said that Jerusalem path passes through Jounieh (a city 15-kilometer from north of Beirut, whose residents are mostly Christian).
We defended our land and country against the strangers who wanted to get us out of it. We cannot talk about cooperation with Israel when we were defending our country and identity on this planet. In this case, cooperation has a real meaning when someone sacrifices the interests of their own country for those of another one. We had to buy weapons from Israel since other countries refused to sell us weapon. It was a very critical situation for us and presence of Christians in Lebanon. We accept our previous actions. If our presence in this country faces some risks and threats again, we will contact with any government perceiving this matter and will use anything to preserve our independence and dignity. We shouldn’t forget that we offered and proposed nothing to Israel in return. Today, Israel is the enemy of Lebanon. We have never questioned this fact and doubted about it.
I believe that the conflict between Israel and Palestine should be resolved soon as it might decrease the pressure on Lebanon and reduce the tension in the whole Middle East.
Your critics argue that Lebanon Falange cooperated with Israel in 1982, and Bachir Gemayel met Ariel Sharon. Is there any relationship between you and Israel now?
I want to repeat that there was no “cooperation” with Israel, and we still have no relationship with Israel government.
Some people still believe that Lebanon Falanges contributed in the massacre of the Palestinian and Lebanese Muslims. One of Falange members stated that your father ordered to massacre a number of Muslims to retaliate the killing of four Christians. What is your opinion in this regard?
I highly doubt that Bachir has ordered so. He was always aware of the fact that Lebanon cannot pass the fight unless all Lebanese are united together. Such order for massacre was against Lebanon, and Bachir definitely didn’t wish for such an action against Lebanon. Nothing beyond the historical background and platform of the war at the time can be discussed in this regard.
The past has passed. Our actions today show that we wish for union of all Lebanese residents under the flag of this country. Today, the main threat to Lebanon is the influence of Iran and Syria in the policies of our country, which has an armed group supported from Tehran and Damascus through Lebanon Hezbollah.
What do you think about the fact that most Lebanese leaders are old, and Lebanese youth have no effective role in policy?
The political structure of the country is very complex. It takes so many years to change it. I believe that the youth participation in the power is the first necessary step for this change. The youth have a broader view than the old people, and show greater tolerance and compromise in different societies. Currently, the youth have a nominal political role, which is mainly due to the economic crisis we are facing now. This crisis has made some of them to leave their country and immigrate for living. A quick review over the last 10-15 years shows that participation of the youth in policy is increasing.