Monday’s acts of intimidation and violence on Beirut’s streets, at the hands of unruly thugs, have struck at the heart of Lebanese of every region, sect and tribe.
That’s because Beirut has never been a one-sect or one-party city. It is a melting pot.
Every Lebanese has a bit of himself or herself in Beirut.
And in addition to embracing all the country’s sects and political parties, the city has also long taken in refugees and downtrodden political exiles from other countries in the region.
Beirut is the jewel in Lebanon’s crown. The city is a center of higher learning and of medical treatment, with its multitude of universities and health facilities; it is a hub for trade and commerce; and it is a key center for tourism, with its history dating back thousands of years and the city’s Roman past tangible as you walk through its streets.
After controversial parliamentary elections, Lebanon is now charged with tension that could easily turn deadly.
And as they have in the past, threatening or violent acts could again become the catalyst for dramatic events whose trajectory nobody can foresee.
So, where to from here?
First of all, politicians who day in, day out have been expressing their appreciation for and ties to Beirut must rein in these thugs immediately – not after the damage has been done.
Beirut is not a place to settle scores. Every effort must be made to safeguard, nurture and develop it as a city that unites the country. Beirut deserves this and more.
Speaker Nabih Berri disowned and condemned the motorcycle gangs and others who created havoc in Beirut Monday, even though they mainly came from his party and those of his allies.
The speaker hit the nail on the head when he spoke in the name of all Lebanese and declared: “The dignity of Beirut and that of its families and leaders, and historical leaders, emanates from our dignity, and to abuse that is abusing the dignity of all the Lebanese.”
Beirut is a beacon of unity for a fractured Lebanon. The speaker’s call is one that everyone must heed – don’t touch Beirut.