The French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the Lebanese people as he toured the doomed Beirut neighborhoods: “French aid will not end up in the hands of the corrupt.”
Nothing can be more accurate than this sentence to express the image of the ruling political class, starting with the one who received Macron at the airport to the guests of the table prepared by Michel Aoun for the French guest. Macron, who chose to spend time with the inhabitants of the disaster areas in Beirut, heard from the Lebanese what he expected to hear. They told him that the rulers were all corrupt, that corruption did not only increase people’s poverty, but that the Lebanese corruption is also murderous and destructive, and that Beirut is today a city destroyed by corruption, not by war nor by attacks.
Macron said at the airport that the French aid will be distributed directly to the needy, not through any mediator. What he did not say at the airport he made clear on Gemmayzeh Street. Macron clearly revealed that he feared the corrupt would steal the aid. Aid will not pass through the authorities for fear of being stolen.
The event will establish a different level of relationship, not between France and Lebanon, but also between the Lebanese and their authority. Reducing the level of international respect for this authority to that extent will strip it from the remaining immunities that it has been sheltering behind.
Visiting Gemmayzeh means a lot. It is the most important stop in the French president’s visit. Gemmayzeh, Mar Mikhael, and Al-Hamra are Beirut’s soft spots, those whose inhabitants took the initiative to launch the demonstration. These are the non “domesticated” regions where those persecuted by the Republic go, as well as its artists and young minorities, who are not the same as the partisan and sectarian-based communities, and Beirut’s old people who reside in those beautiful buildings destroyed by the massive blast; buildings that are closely linked to the French memory.
The visit was a political scandal for the ruling class. Macron did not hesitate to declare to the Lebanese that he did not trust those in power. The man has revealed his conviction in the street, not in a diplomatic salon. This is probably unprecedented, yet it has not caused the leaders and officials any feelings of shame, instead, they waited for him at the palace.
The Gemmayzeh station will be the most prominent of Macron’s visit, and probably its primary goal. According to information, the French president refused to be accompanied by the Lebanese Prime Minister, and he did not care for security advice to avoid the area, which indicates that the French president came to hear for himself what the Lebanese are saying about the disaster that befell them, and that he does not want mediators between him and the afflicted citizens.
The event will establish a different level of relationship, not between France and Lebanon, but also between the Lebanese and their authority. Reducing the level of international respect for this authority to that extent will strip it from the remaining immunities that it has been sheltering behind. The lack of confidence naturally extends to the investigation into the explosion, as the French investigation team arrived and will participate in the investigation.
The talks in the palace halls would not be of importance, as the message has arrived beforehand, and no one would shake hands with this authority unless many resigned and many others were held accountable. They will not leave of their own accord, but Macron told the Lebanese at Gemmayzeh that their government was corrupt and that they had to move. This time, Hassan Diab will not be able to tell the French president what he said to his Foreign Minister.