The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, co-authored by Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. Charles Malik,
Lebanon's representative to the UN, set forth the guidelines
for resolving problems in the world. Lebanon, a charter member
of the United Nations, does not now enjoy the "inherent
dignity" of the human family of which the document spoke
so eloquently. On the contrary, the events of recent years and
months have shown that, in addition to being the battleground
for the conflict of its neighbors, Lebanon now faces the prospect
of serving as the sacrificial lamb in the "peace process."
In this critical time, Lebanon, whose history of tolerance and
democracy was unique in the region, may fall as the price of
Lebanon's historic dignity among the community
of nations demands that it be accorded full membership at the
peace table and all other negotiations, which may affect its
future. While Lebanon fully acknowledges the special relationship
with Syria, this relationship has not been allowed to naturally
develop because of continued occupation by Syrian troops in
violation of the Taif Accords, which was supported by the United
States. It is a matter of Middle East political history that
Lebanon as the first true democracy in the region has been hindered
in further development because restrictive regimes.
Because of the occupation, distrust and discord
has been planted among the Lebanese themselves. Repressive measures
and agreements, which do not have popular political support,
are causing significant violations of human rights. There are
still prisoners in Syria for which there has been no accounting.
In Lebanon itself, political dissidents who are out of favor
remain in jails and legitimate political leaders remain in exile
afraid to return.
Although the Israeli withdrawal from the south
of Lebanon was welcomed by all Lebanese, yet to the present
day the Lebanese government has been restricted from taking
its lawful action to secure and protect its own citizens.
Recently the Maronite Patriarch and the Council
of Bishops issued a strong statement calling on the nation to
address its relationship with Syria. This call for national
dialogue on the issue of Lebanese sovereignty and the national
government's exercise of its constitutional role was well received
from most of the segments of the Lebanese constituency. Many
leaders gave support to the Patriarch and the bishops on their
strong call on the President and the Parliament to begin this
national dialogue and to engage the Syrians on a redefinition
of the individual national roles and responsibilities.
The Patriarch's call for open dialogue should
be considered as an opportunity to develop a consensus among
the Lebanese body politic to develop a working relationship
centered on the concept of a "strategic alliance"
between Lebanon and Syria that would preserve their individual
sovereignty. The only beneficiaries of this definition can only
be a strengthening of the social and economic ties between the
two nations, and the development of a security alliance. Finally,
at long last, there can be an appropriate exchange of ambassadors
between the two countries.