Can You Still hear?
By: Elias Bejjani

Another loud SOS cry was voiced by the Lebanese Southern Agricultural Association in their on going outstanding daring quest to make the Beirut regime aware of their dilemma. In fact the Lebanese all over Lebanon sense and share this dilemma. The SOS said, "put an end for the smuggling of agricultural products from Syrian and assign the Lebanese Army to guard the Lebanese-Syrian borders".

This bitter cry like numerous previous similar calls from other industrial, labor, constructional, poultry farms, diary industry, truck and taxi drivers, and other professionals sectors fell on deaf ears. The mercenary officials ignored all them and kept on serving Syria’s interests not those of Lebanon. It showed no sympathy or empathy to the Agricultural Association’s cry for protection.

In its latest press release (Annahar newspaper on 6/10/1999) the Southern Agricultural Association stated that the agricultural calendar governing the exchange of agricultural products between Lebanon and Arab countries is not in the Lebanese farmers’ best interest. Especially that it excludes citrus and Banana from the ten basic merchandise. The Association said: "the agreement is not fair to citrus, pear and potato Lebanese farmers. It complained also that exporting Lebanese banana to Syria is a very difficult process, although Syrian climate is not appropriate for growing banns there. Meanwhile Syria imports Banana from other countries and smuggles them to the Lebanese market. The Lebanese banana is unable to compete with the smuggled banana.

The Association asked what is the purpose of having custom duties on Syrian and other countries’ agricultural products if the Lebanese Syrian borders are not patrolled and are used freely for smuggling to Lebanon. These duties are imposed on Lebanese products alone, since Syrian products are all smuggled into Lebanon. The Association asked if Lebanon is collecting duties on Syrian industrial products according to the trade agreement between the two countries. It also complained that while Lebanon does not impose duties on agricultural products from Egypt and Jordan, Egypt imposes a tax on Lebanese apples.

The Association called on the Beirut government to install the Lebanese Army on checkpoints one-kilometer apart along the 150-kilometer border with Syria to curb smuggling. "It won’t require more then 1,000 soldiers to patrol these borders and protecting the borders is also one of the army duties, the Association said". It added that all kinds of agricultural products are smuggled from Syria and it is shameful for the current regime to keep the Syrian-Lebanese borders open freely for out laws and smugglers. It warned that such atrocities would lead to the collapse of the country.

The Southern Agricultural Association’s cry for help is in fact a cry uttered by all the Lebanese who are persecuted and oppressed in all regions and sectors especially the Bekaa, North and Mount Lebanon farmers. The Southern’ cry is a national daring righteous one stating that the living hardships have become unbearable. The economical situation is extremely deteriorating and the disastrous status is not sparing any Lebanese. All the people are suffering and are paying a high price from their welfare, jobs, dignity, comfort and future. The Southern cry should be taken seriously because it is authentic and speaks the minds of all the Lebanese. The people of Lebanon are closely tied to the land that has been their provider and protector for the last six thousand years. The land has always been a strong Lebanese ally in deterring invaders and occupiers.

It a patriotic duty and an obligation to support the Southern Agricultural Association because once the occupier succeeds in forcing our farmers to abandon and leave their land, the country will collapse and the Lebanon we know will cease to exist. The occupier’s scheme to force our people out of Lebanon is not a secret any more. Syrian officials have disclosed this fact numerous times and keep on repeating and reiterating this wish in every occasion. For them Lebanon is a part of Syria and accordingly there is no Lebanese identity, but a Syrian Arabic one. In this context Syria granted illegally (through its puppet Hrawi-Harri regime) the Lebanese citizenship in 1992 to more then half million foreigners many of them Syrians. Presently Damascus is coordinating with other regional powers to settle half million Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and naturalize them. In case this vicious plan is executed Lebanon’s demography will be destroyed, Lebanon will lose its significant identity and the Lebanese will turn to be strangers in their own country. Forcing our farmers to abandon their land goes hand by hand with the holistic Syrian venomous plan aiming to destroy all Lebanese resistance means. In this context other crimes are committed like the on going intentional arsenic crimes affecting our woods and orchards, the destruction of our mountains and the pollution of our environment.

The occupational powers are coordinating with each other to kill the Lebanese dignity, force the Lebanese to surrender, stop their struggle for liberation and accept submissively the imposed status quo. The Lebanese Diaspora’s patriotic role is to be Lebanon’s conscience, lobby strongly and courageously for the Lebanese cause and carry the liberation torch. The Diaspora must be the voice that has to wake the free world’s conscience, exactly like St. John’s condemning voice two thousand years ago.

The Lebanese in the Diaspora have a national obligation to respond and offer all kinds of support and help. To do so they have first to recognize that Lebanon is occupied and its regime is a puppet one that does not represent the hopes or the aspirations of the people in occupied Lebanon.

Any Lebanese citizen living in Diaspora and is keeping a blind eye on the occupational imposed status quo in Lebanon, is no different from the puppet officials installed by the occupier. In fact he shares the same status with collaborators, no matter if his stance is based on ignorance or treason.
Long Live Free Lebanon