The Entire World Should Take Pride in May 25th

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Hussein Hoballah, Montreal

In Lebanese history, the Lebanese remarkably take pride the most in May 25th of 2000. Back then, the Lebanese managed to liberate most of the Lebanese territories that had been occupied by Israeli army; that happened thanks to the Lebanese people’s resistance and patience and the Lebanese Army’s support.

In the earlier, long years of the occupation, the Lebanese had been subjected to unbearable humiliation by the most brutal army in the Arab region, or perhaps in the world. Several thousands of unarmed civilians had been massacred under direct Israeli command in the localities of Sabra and Shatila. Two massacres in the southern village of Qana had claimed many lives, too. Civilian detainees had been brutalised in concentration camps of al-Khiyam, Atlit, and Ansar. Towns in South Lebanon and West Beqaa had been besieged, and residents of the towns by the occupied borderline had continuously been assailed. Likewise, the inhabitants of the occupied regions had been tormented and forced to do espionage tasks to serve the Israeli occupiers.

May 25th brought great relief and joy for most of the Lebanese. I say ‘most’ because back then, there were people who thought that was a disastrous day; they had been trying to make certain gains by collaborating with the occupiers, and those dreams were now gone. The collaborators’ association with the occupiers had been strengthening them, and losing it now meant they would be backed no longer. Ahead of the end of the occupation, they had chosen to showcase ‘patriotism and love of liberation’, actually hiding their history and their plots. Once the occupiers were expelled, those collaborators accused the liberators of ‘treason’ and sought to take revenge on them to please the Israelis who had been trying, since their defeat, to target all oppositionists.

On that day in 2000, Montreal, alongside many other Canadian cities, celebrated the landmark accomplishment. Massive rallies were held near Mount Royal, and a procession with Lebanese flags toured the city. The cheering provoked pro-Israelis, who complained to officials against ‘hooligans’ roaming the streets, as a security official told one of our community activists back then. The complainants were trying to turn security corps against the celebrators who were marking the occupiers’ defeat and the recovery of Lebanese territories. Eventually, the demonstrations went on peacefully, contrary to the complainants’ claims.

In Lebanon, May 25th was declared an official holiday. The Embassy of Lebanon in Ottawa and General Consulate of Lebanon in Montreal declared it a day off, too. And on the eve of the Liberation and Resistance Day, Lebanese Army Commander-in-Chief General Joseph Aoun made a speech, saying, “May 25th will continue to symbolise a bright stage of our country’s history and a landmark victory. The Lebanese have relentlessly struggled hard to expel the Israeli enemy from the Lebanese territories and have debunked the myth of the Israeli military’s supremacy. The Lebanese have brought great dignity and freedom to their country, becoming a source of pride for the whole world, and highlighting the necessity of fighting for freedom before the eyes of every nation. That’s what the Resistance and Liberation Day is about.”

On this day, the least that Canada’s Lebanese community expects is to get felicitations from MPs who never miss congratulating any of the other communities for their holidays or celebrating with them– be that via a tweet, a Facebook post or a recorded video message. All through the recent years, we haven’t seen such felicitations being addressed on the Resistance and Liberation Day, as if our MPs – the ones representing the Lebanese/Arab community in particular – were not meant to care about this day or about their community. They have tried to justify their attitudes by citing fears of groups that would intimidate or target them if they made any stances the groups didn’t favour.

We used to excuse them for stances they made every once in a while, but just days before the Resistance and Liberation Day, things went too unbearable, particularly on Palestine’s Nakba Day: The felicitations that MP Fayçal El-Khoury addressed online to the Israelis celebrating “Yom Ha’atzmaut”, which they see as Israel’s ‘Independence Day’, shocked many of our community members, regardless of their backgrounds or faiths. In fact, El-Khoury wished “a happy Independence Day to my fellow Israeli citizens and those from all over the world. Yom Ha’atzmaut!” The message has stirred a storm of denunciations, and one of our prominent community activists has called it “an insult”. After all, there all limits to compliments or compromises that could be made, and such a stance means letting us down and showing submission to others.

MP El-Khoury has tried to minimise the swarm of angry reactions by deleting his Facebook post and blaming the message on a new member of staff “who had posted it without consulting him”, as says a kind mediator who has tried to wrap things up and justify this huge mistake. Besides, MP El-Khoury has visited some clerics to explain his stance and the relative circumstances. The clerics’ identities have however remained unrevealed for unknown reasons. In the meantime, MP El-Khoury hasn’t explained the incident to our community, simply leaving it to a few mediators to try to justify the “unbearable” message, as says an activist who’s been in good terms with the MP.

Despite all the justifications made, this unprecedented incident is dangerous and demands that MP El-Khoury take a different action to rectify his ‘mistake’. After all, many among his electoral base have decide not to vote for him anymore, and this means he will lose many votes in the coming period. And though an acquaintance of El-Khoury claims that only a minority of our community has voted for the MP, everyone knows that it was our community that contributed to nominating him during the federal party’s primary elections, ahead of the parliamentary elections.

Many happy returns to the readers. It is hoped that Lebanon recovers from all crises it’s been plunged into after the liberation by those who wanted to retaliate after the May 25th victory. We anticipate that those who say they represent us in Parliament eventually do stand up for us and prioritise our causes.