Interview with Dr. Fouad Abou Nader, leader of the Liberty Front political movement

Posted in Broader Middle East , Other | 22-Sep-07 | Author: Manuela Paraipan

"Lebanon is the only Arab country, where we don't have a state religion. Muslems and Christians live side by side"

The following interview by WSN’s Manuela Paraipan is with Dr. Fouad Abou Nader, leader of the Liberty Front political movement.

WSN: When and why did you found this party?

Dr. Fouad Abou Nader: We founded a political movement, not yet a party, named Liberty Front. Liberty Front is an offspring of lets say the veterans of the Lebanese Forces resistance. This movement started in the mid 70s and lasted until 1990. All the comrades that founded this movement fought in the war during this period.

WSN: What are your objectives?

Dr. Fouad Abou Nader: We would like to find a final solution for the problems of the country. We found out that the Christian parties deviated from the cause and from the real targets. We don't want our kids to continue the war we have fought. We want to find a final solution with the Muslims in Lebanon and rule number one is that we have to stop lying to each other; number two, we have to start thinking Lebanese only; and rule number 3, we need to sit together and find a solution - without a hidden agenda from either side. This is why we have decided that we need to redefine the cause and our targets. After the war, the traditionalist Christian parties have not learned their lessons, the lessons that we lost a lot when we were not united. And why weren't we united at the time? Because we had the struggle for power and this took us to different places where we destroyed ourselves. This is why we decided that all parties should refrain from being a party for a person.

Another major issue is that we want to go through the democratic procedures within the movement. These procedures are lacking in the traditionalist parties that we have and you don't want to see these parties fighting again for power. Those who want to reach power should apply to it and be elected.

WSN: Why do you choose this precise moment to go out into the public with this movement? Is this also because the Syrians left?

Dr. Fouad Abou Nader: Yes, this is true. After the Syrians left Lebanon, in fact during the 15 years the Syrians were here we were very active politically, but we kept a low profile. After the Syrians left, we decided that we have to be politically active again and then we organized our comeback. We wanted it to be within one of the present parties. We did not want to start a new thing. We were against starting up a new political party because we have so many of them. We tried to integrate. But we found out that these parties did not want people joining them and we argue that it should be democratic, that one cannot stay president for life. These chiefs of parties and I am talking about all Christian parties: They refuse anyone to come back, it’s amazing. It’s maybe a virus in the air... So we learned after 6 months to 1 year that these parties totally refuse to change, that they didn't learn anything from the mistakes of the war and we decided to start from scratch.

WSN: Is it possible that the chiefs of the parties perceived you as a threat?

Dr. Fouad Abou Nader: Definitely. This is why they blocked us. You cannot argue with their decisions, as if they were coming from God. So we said sorry but we don't accept it.

WSN: Is the movement a secular one?

Dr. Fouad Abou Nader: There is nothing secular in Lebanon.

WSN: The movement was recently launched if I am not mistaken.

Dr. Fouad Abou Nader: We launched it on August 26. We wanted it to be an in-house event and we invited almost none of the officials. We had delegates coming from different areas of Lebanon and abroad, approximately 600 delegates from Europe, Africa, the US and Australia – from almost all countries where the Lebanese Diaspora lives.

We are preparing for the first elections that will take place on the October 13. A committee will be elected and the mandate will be for one year. During this year we will be preparing for the first major congress of the movement. People will be electing their leaders directly and even the Diaspora will elect on the same day via the Internet on our website - www.jebha.org

WSN: This is very important.

Dr. Fouad Abou Nader: Yes it is. I hope we will succeed. People are fed up with this two-sided situation that we have reached. It’s either you are with or against the 8 or 14 of March. Well we are fed up with both of them. We don't want to follow leaders who have foreign agendas and we don't want to deal with leaders that are lying to us and leaders that are using the power to make more money and the money to have more power. We cannot accept that our leaders will take us back in time. We did bad things; we fought each other, Muslims against Muslims and Christians against Christians. We don't want to go back to the same scenario. Unfortunately today, the political speeches remind us a lot of that situation. We cannot tolerate going through this ordeal again.

WSN: You talked about Christians and Muslims getting together. What do you think about Hizbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement alliance? Is it a step forward?

Dr. Fouad Abou Nader: It's a positive step although I don't agree with the objectives of Hizbollah, but this is the first time and this is maybe the only good element of this bad situation in Lebanon. It is the fact that we have two camps - of Christians and Muslims - that the Lebanese are really gathering around maybe because of the objectives they share. I don't know.

WSN: Could you brief me about your experience with the Lebanese Forces?

Dr. Fouad Abou Nader: The Lebanese Forces were formed by Bachir Gemayel and was the answer to the Palestinian threat. At that time it was a Palestinian-Muslim threat because they wanted to oust the Christians from Lebanon, to throw them into the sea. And many times the Muslims of Lebanon came out and said that our army - our Muslim army - was the Palestinian army, not the Lebanese army. They ignored the government and preferred to stick together as Muslims. Arafat was the king of Lebanon and he said in an interview that he was running Lebanon and it was true. He was running part of Lebanon. He was the leader and he changed whatever he wanted, even the prime ministers. He was above the prime ministers. He dictated his orders to the Lebanese prime ministers. Yassir Arafat said many times in 1975 that the road through Jerusalem passes by Jounieh, the Christian area. He said that they (the Palestinians) were going to teach the Christians to live under the tents some day and throw them into the sea. It was clear. So when you have such a threat what do you do? Two things. You either fight or run away. We decided to fight back. This is how we formed the Lebanese Forces

WSN: Later on you decided to leave. Why?

Dr. Fouad Abou Nader: The head of the Lebanese Forces (LF) changed and the situation changed so I decided to leave. Later on, the LF entered into internal struggles for power that were fatal for us.

WSN: And now? Do you still have connections with all your former comrades?

Dr. Fouad Abou Nader: Yes, of course. Not with the head of the supposed Lebanese Forces but with the other guys of course. We are very close.

WSN: What do you think about the struggle within the Christians for the presidential chair?

Dr. Fouad Abou Nader: It is unnecessary and stupid. We have to find a final solution for this internal power struggle. I think the system is bad and you have to change the system. This is yet another one of our objectives. We have to find a new system. We are 100% for keeping this coexistence between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon, but the political formula of how to implement it must be changed. Otherwise we are going to stay in this situation. We cannot go on like this for all of our lives. We have to try a stable solution for the sake of our kids. Everyone in Lebanon, Christians, Muslims, Alawi, Jews etc can live free and enjoy security, equality and freedom.

WSN: What kind of a system do you have in mind?

Dr. Fouad Abou Nader: We have a system that closely resembles the model of the local governance that is in the US. The people choose their own leaders. And a central government will run the major issues.

WSN: But basically the troika with the Maronite president, Sunni prime minister and Shia speaker remains the same?

Dr. Fouad Abou Nader: I don't think this will last. Something will change in this respect and we also have to change.

WSN: Do you see Lebanon having friendly relations with both Syria and Israel in the near future?

Dr. Fouad Abou Nader: In the near future maybe not but definitely in the end we have to find a resolution. Why do we have to stay in this state of war? Why can Jordan, Qatar, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco have normal relations with Israel, but not Lebanon? Why? Why can’t we achieve peace between our countries? Our peace has to be fair between the Israelis and us and between Syria and us as well.

WSN: If you have anything else to add, please do so.

Dr. Fouad Abou Nader: In our opinion, Lebanon is a very special case in the Middle East and maybe in the world. It is the only country where Muslims and Christians live side by side and until now equally. All Arab countries are Muslim and consider Islam as their state religion. Lebanon is the only Arab country where we don't have a state religion.

Lebanon is very special when it comes to geography. We are a mountainous country, a green country with water and snow. If we consider the people that are outside Lebanon, Muslims and Christians are half-half. This is the only country where Christians have political rights. In all the other Arab countries they either don't have or they give them something, like you can have a Christian minister over twenty Muslims, you can have 5% or 10% of the deputies etc. In Lebanon it is 50-50.

I believe it is important to keep and protect this unique experience in the world. We can teach other countries how to coexist. However, you cannot have a new political system without declaring Lebanon a neutral country in the region. We want an end to the wars that are fought in Lebanon and that are using Lebanon just to fight external causes. We want to take Lebanon out of the major struggle that is happening in the Middle East.

WSN: Thank you Sir.

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