Remarks by Walid Maalouf
Director Public Diplomacy for Middle Eastern & MEPI Affairs
The World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU)
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Thank you for bestowing on me the Platinum Immigrant Award, which will encourage me to work even harder for Lebanese-American relations.
I come to you today as an immigrant from Lebanon and as a Lebanese American to share with you my thoughts, my hopes and my plan for a new Lebanon - a motherland that is stable, secure and moving forward economically.
In my book How many Times… I Told You I made it clear that the greatest hope for Lebanon is its Diaspora. When you left Lebanon, you left it, as did your forbearers in the mid 1800 and 1900s and those who left as recently as 1973 through today. You left with your bodies and minds but not with your hearts; hopping to return to your roots and to the families you left behind to regain those lost days and offering whatever help you are capable of.
Generations of Lebanon’s sons and daughters stand with her to keep her from falling. In particular this last generation, my generation, your generation has become successful at all levels: politically, economically, professionally and socially wherever we have immigrated to.
Today you are equipped to play a more effective role than any prior generation before you in bringing peace, stability and prosperity to those who we left behind.
Amine Rihani said: “Our country is just beginning to speak; I am her chosen voice, I feel that if I do not respond, if I do not come to her, she will be dumb for ever…“ No my friends we will not let Lebanon be dumped, we will not let Lebanon be controlled by anyone anymore except by its own government and people.
Exactly a week ago today, President Bush was speaking before the students of Grand Rapids High School in Michigan and he said: “any time a democracy begins to take hold in the Middle East; extremist groups prevent that democracy from moving forward. One such democracy is Lebanon, a wonderful little country. And yet there is a Syrian influence -- Syria uses not only their own agents inside the country, but Hezbollah, to destabilize this young democracy. And Hezbollah is funded by Iran. In other words, the Iranian regime's current posture is to destabilize young democracies. And they're doing so in Iraq, as well.”
So the enemies of a democratic Lebanon are the same enemies of a democratic Iraq and democratic Palestinian territories. The lines are clear. Let’s not kid ourselves. The Syrian and Iranian regimes are the destabilizing force for freedom and democracies in the region and they must be stopped.
In 1958 President Camille Chamoun called on President Dwight D. Eisenhower to help him when Jamal Abdel-Nasser was meddling in Lebanese internal affairs. President Chamoun was hoping that the President of the United States would send a few Marines around his presidential palace in Beirut, but President Eisenhower send thousands of Marines and spread them on the Lebanese shores from Tyre to Tripoli. In no time Lebanon was stabilized and Abdel-Nasser refrained from interfering in Lebanon again. President George W. Bush rose to the occasion, 47 years later – thanks to his effort and President Chirac – this partnership between the Lebanese Diaspora, Lebanon’s voices for freedom and democracy and the international community produced UNSC resolution 1559 which led to the Syrian army withdrawal from Lebanon.
UNSCR 1559 was the foundation for rebuilding a democratic Lebanon, free from foreign influence and stipulated that all foreign forces should get out of this sovereign nation. It was followed by UNSC resolution 1595 calling for the investigation of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, than UNSC resolution 1680 request the delineation of the common border and establish full diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria, and last but not least UNSC resolution 1701 which called for the cessation of hostilities between Hezballah and Israel and the deployment of a larger UNIFIL force to secure the south. These resolutions demonstrate the international community’s firm support for the Government and people of Lebanon.
However, I believe we still need one more resolution:
With the help of the Lebanese Diaspora I have recommended a new resolution calling for the Neutrality of the Lebanese Territory. The Lebanese government presides over a "confederation" of confessional communities, which traditionally tend to establish their own irregular foreign alliances. This fact proved to be fatal during the wars that have taken place since 1975 as it attracted foreign intervention particularly from Syria, Israel and Iran. The case of Hezbollah has proved to be the most lasting and pernicious. Unless Lebanon is cut off from these kind of irregular alliances that continue to entangle it in the conflicts of the Middle East, its current transition to democracy, stability and reconstruction will not last, particularly since Syria and Iran are not willing, in the long term, to lose their grip on the country. I believe that this neutrality resolution is possible, taking into consideration that there is more unity today among all Lebanese than at any other time.
The last point in my plan, after the implementation of the neutrality statutes, is the return of the Diaspora to lift up Lebanon economically, socially and politically in reforming all its government institutions. I invite you and all Lebanese organizations around the world to help implement this plan so the Lebanese people will be once again happy, dignified and free.
Don’t underestimate your capabilities and your strength as immigrants, but in order to be effective you must unite. If we are united in this effort we can stop all those who want to keep Lebanon in the regional conflict. If we are not united Lebanon will remain used by regional powers and its territories as safe haven for terrorists and rogue regimes.
So I need your help… unite… so we can achieve this goal.
In my book I spoke of the divided Lebanese organizations in the Diaspora, but I still have hope that unity is being achieved internally and externally. This is how I ended this article I wrote in the New York-based Al-Hoda Newspaper in June 28,1991, some 16 year ago urging the divide organizations of the Diaspora to unite, I said:
Our only hope is that the new expatriates unite to form one and only one association.
Our only hope is that the silent majority begins to work for the Lebanese cause and for its suffering people
Our only hope resides in educated and independent young Lebanese who will take the lead, and not solely for their personal gain.
Lebanon’s hope resides in you
Your parents’ hope is in your unity and your fidelity to one another
Be prepared as the future awaits you
And dignity is desecrated
Unite… Unite so that you become the conscience of Lebanon.
Thank you and God bless the United States and Canada.