On the 19th of October 2012, Beirut’s detachment from the spiraling Syrian civil war and Damascus turned simply to a relative fantasy. A car bomb in the predominantly Greek Orthodox district of Achrafieh in Beiurt’s eastern suburbs slapped the face of politicians who chose to believe in the fantasy of detachment and brought them back to a sad reality.
Many people in Lebanon argue that Beirut has had such a complex and disturbed past that it is immune to trivial car bombings and diminutive assassinations. After the assassination of Pierre Gemayel, a key figure in the right wing Christian Phalange party, many people were seen sucking their hookah pipes on Beirut’s sea front as if nothing happened. The Lebanese are known for their bouncing back technique where bombing or assassination is routine. Protests follow protest, culminating collective amnesia. However the bombing in October was something different.
The bomb took place in the area of Beirut which is usually seen as the financial and cultural hub of the city. Its population, despite being overwhelmingly Orthodox and Catholic in culture, has the face of imported liberalism. Young nightclubs and trendy pubs line its thin alleyways. Even though Ashrafieh housed the neo-conservative Phalange Party, it has always been seen by many Lebanese as the place to escape from the grip of political uncertainty conflicting ideologies.
The blast killed the senior Officer of Information, Wissan al Hassan, who was a sharp and clear outspoken critic of the Syrian regime which is employed by Bashar al Assad in Syria. His death has wider repercussions for the Lebanese public as Hezbollah, a strong force supporting the Assad regime, stayed quiet through the events. Many Sunni Muslims, Catholics and other opposing parties see Hezbollah as a driving force in the Syrian civil war and the car bombing in October.
Furthermore, Hezbollah is reliant upon the Syrian regime financially. If the regime topples and is replaced with another ideology or practice it spells the death of Hezbollah in Lebanon. But Lebanon’s largest religious sect, the Shiites, will not let go easily; too many of their sons and daughters fought and died for their rights to be acknowledged in a new, multicultural Lebanon. Unfortunately only Hezbollah truly recognises these rights. Therefore, the death of Hezbollah also spells the death of Shia rights.
Lebanon’s big brother, Syria, is slowly dying a bloody and painful death, while its cousin, Israel, has been diagnosed with paranoia. Lebanon has cried before and is still crying to this day. This is nothing new. However Lebanon cannot control its own future without this family. Even though the Lebanese have repeatedly cried for their autonomy and self-respect, it cannot come easily to them without a unification of ideas and collective tolerance. The bombing is one of many that the world is going to witness. There is no clear cure for Lebanon’s anguish, and hope is not a cheap remedy.