Loving Lebanon?


The Beirut Report- Habib Battah

The Kataeb party has been draping the highways in preparation for their annual event. The canvas reads: “Love Lebanon? Don’t Love Any Other”
But if the Kataeb loves Lebanon so much, why have they covered the essential highway exit signs? Is promoting the party more important than public safety?
Covering highway signs should be illegal, so what type of signal is the Kateab sending its supporters/foes? This is our highway and we can do whatever we want with it? Or the public’s right to driving safely and finding directions comes a distant second to self-promotion and propaganda?
Then there is the message. “Don’t Love Any Other”
What type of medieval rhetoric is that? Why would we not want to love others? This sounds like a very xenophobic discourse as pointed out by my friend Farah. Is the subtext hate Syria and the Syrians, hate Palestine and the Palestinians, she asks. 
Like many Lebanese parties the Kataeb was inspired by rightist/fascist/ultra-nationalist parties of Spain and Italy so Farah’s questions are not without merit. Like Many Lebanese movements, the Kateab was a militia during the civil war, accused of mass atrocities. Yet thanks to the post war amnesty law, the Kataeb and its rivals now function as legitimate political parties. 

The banners have been strung up over many overpasses along the coastal highway. This one says: “77 years in the service of Lebanon…”

And here it is again, just a few hundred meters up the road:

The Kateab is not alone. Virtually every party (former militia) in Lebanon is involved in laying siege to public space, including its rivals the FPMThe Lebanese ForcesThe Future MovementAmal, Hezbollah and the SSNP.   
It would be interesting to know what type of “service” these parties have provided to Lebanon. Any tally should include the number of rounds of savage shelling launched at towns and villages during the civil war, innocents killed or paralyzed and property destroyed as a result of their shelling as well as the appropriation of public space, public institutions and other financial sectors in the post war period. 
Judging by the way they treat highways, it may come as no surprise that most Lebanese political parties do not hold democratic elections and there’s close to zero transparency in their public proceedings.
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