Georges Abdallah: A Hero Returns

By: Pierre Abisaab

Pierre AbisaabThere is always room for surprises with the French government, which claims to protect the interests of the region’s peoples, from Damascus to Bamako.

After all, did French President François Hollande not say that his government – like that of his predecessor Sarkozy in Libya perhaps – was strongly committed to fostering democracy in “post-Assad Syria”? These remarks came in a New Year’s speech to diplomats, in which Hollande said that this democracy will be based on the “diversity” and “unity” of the Syrian people.

Surprises are always possible with the French administration. As such, the French Minister of Interior Manuel Valls is expected to sign an order to deport Georges Ibrahim Abdallah by 14 January 2013. If all goes as planned, then the Lebanese freedom fighter, having survived unjust incarceration in France, will be on his way to Beirut.

The question is: How will his country receive him after three decades of imprisonment?

For some, this issue may appear trivial. Perhaps many will respond, “What kind of question is this? Let his family, friends, and supporters receive him. Let them chant some slogans, set off some fireworks, and raise some flags. It will be a small celebration and then the party will be over.”

For its part, MTV might carry a brief report at the end of its news bulletin about “the terrorist’s return” (What can we do? Georges Abdallah is no Lara Fabian).Well, ladies and gentlemen. The return of Abdallah, like Ulysses in the old myth, should be a major national event in every sense of the word. These are historic moments that we must interpret well and draw from their symbolism to gain momentum to move forward through the quagmires of the present.

The man is not an ordinary expatriate returning home after a long absence. He is not a dangerous “criminal” that the dignitaries should be ashamed to greet. (After all, his innocence was even affirmed by the French authorities.) Abdallah belongs to the same line of French resistance heroes as Missak Manouchian and Jean Moulin. He is the symbol of an era.

The Lebanese state must therefore bow down before his sacrifices, and receive him in a manner befitting a hero, elevating him to the status that he deserves.

But this revolutionary is not a popular cause, and no politician can take advantage of shaking his hand for electoral gains or sectarian one-upmanship. There won’t be a sectarian leader at Abdallah’s reception, or a cleric or a clan chief. There won’t be a representative of any family’s military or civilian wing.

Nevertheless, the state, despite being associated with that grim reality, must be there. An official reception would not just recognize the heroic deeds of the man who hails from Kobayat in North Lebanon, or condemn the injustice that he has suffered; it would also acknowledge the values he represents, here and now, amid the darkness descending on the Arab world.

We therefore ask the Lebanese government to be there, on the tarmac Monday evening, to reaffirm the sanctity of the cause that Abdallah paid a lofty price to advance.

Because Abdallah did so out of conviction rather than personal interests, we are in dire need of people like him at a time like this. Indeed, the fateful confrontation with the same enemy Abdallah fought 30 years ago is about to intensify.

Pierre Abisaab is Vice-Editor of Al-Akhbar.

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