I woke up this morning to be confronted with a flood of articles about the General’s trip to Damascus. Everywhere one looks, it seems, people are tripping over themselves to either claim or contest Aoun’s status as… er, how does one translate za’im masi7iyii al-sharq? The region’s head Christian? The Eastern-Christian-in-chief? Mr. Christianer-than-Thou?
I don’t know about you, but I find all of this talk of “representing the Christians” to be a little bit distasteful, not because I would rather someone else be Mr. Middle Eastern Christian, but simply because the FPM prides itself on taking a stand against sectarianism. How delighted I was, therefore, to read Khaled Saghieh’s excellent editorial in al-Akhbar this morning. In it, he takes aim at Aoun’s silly claims of presumed regional Christian leadership, saying:
“We do not know what this leadership means, nor how Aoun wove the strands of his relations to the Christians among the peoples of the region. What we do know is that Aoun’s rhetoric has experienced a stupendous retreat from the slogans of the civil state in Lebanon, to Christian leadership within it…”
Saghieh says that while he understands that many Lebanese may identify first and foremost with their sect and secondly with their national identity, he wonders whether “the Copts of Egypt or the Christians of Tanja, whom Minister Gebran Bassil [i.e. Aoun’s son-in-law] extols, are really craving for the leadership of General Michel Aoun.” Furthermore, he asks: “Even Syria, which Aoun visits today, would its regime be satisfied with having a leader for its Christians from beyond its borders?”