By: Robert Abdallah
On the day of the French judiciary’s decision to release my brother, Georges Abdallah, my two sons stayed home from school to await the announcement. They were absent the next day too, helping to make preparations for the welcome-home rally.
On Monday, when the deportation order was due to be issued, Rawad went to school after I promised him that as soon as I heard his uncle was on his way, I’d pick him up and drive him with me to the airport.
He kept one eye on his test paper and the other on the classroom window, counting the minutes until my arrival to take him to be introduced to his legendary uncle, the hero he had grown up to love and admire since infancy.
The image of Georges that formed in 15-year-old Rawad’s mind developed gradually. At the age of five, he received his first letter from him. Georges had carefully written in all the vocalization marks in different colors. Later, he would write to him about other matters, like awareness, taking a stand, life in captivity, and much more.
It was not only his longing to meet Georges that made Rawad so impatient. He was also looking forward to leading the same kind of life as other children who don’t have a relative in captivity. He yearned for the day when his father would have some time to help him with his homework, take him on a hunting trip, or do whatever else he heard his friends’ dads did with them.
When it was reported that the French government had reneged on its obligation to carry out the judicial order to free Georges, I found the news easier to take than the thought of my son’s reaction. He had been more enthusiastic than the adults about preparing for the homecoming rally in Kobayat.
Rawad cursed all things French as he hurried to the car, eager to get to the French embassy as quickly as possible, to “show ‘em.” In front of the building, I saw sparks fly from his eyes for the first time ever. The next thing I knew, he had made his way through the angry crowd and was facing the clubs of the embassy guards.
Time stood still as questions crowded my mind. The image of Muhammad al-Durrah flashed before me. Should I pull him back? Should I leave him to face danger? Did I bring him up wrong? Should I have given him a false impression of his uncle so he wouldn’t grow up being so anti-French?
To make things worse, just as his blood was reaching boiling point, I got a call from his mother, who was watching the demonstration on television. “Don’t worry, I’ve swallowed enough tranquilizers,” she said. I hung up before she could confuse me further.
My son is of the same frame of mind as his cousins. The oldest, my elder brother’s son Wael, has become well-known throughout Lebanon. They call him “the giant,” and his voice requires no megaphone to be heard at every demonstration. The youngest is a toddler, who, in his innocence, can only manage: “That France is a big liar!”
What, I ask myself, do the French gain from continuing their abduction of my brother Georges? What do they and their American masters mean when they lie that he poses a “threat to world peace”? Do they expect any child in the Abdallah family to grow up not hating France and all who stand behind her? Do the Americans know what it means when their senior officials say that George must remain in jail until he dies? Do they appreciate the scale of the reaction?
When it comes to passion and emotions, the French administration excels at inflaming them. It has done a particularly thorough job on the nerves of my family members. But the questions remain. Why does it give them every cause and reason to nurture generations of revolutionary freedom fighters? How absurd is it for the French ambassador to reiterate: “Let’s wait for the court ruling on the 28th of the month”?
Our children, like us, Mr. Ambassador, were taught at your missionary schools, and some of them even graduated from your universities. But the heroes of the French Revolution were educated in the schools and academies of a despotic monarchy, and that did not prevent them from rebelling against your kings and building them gallows.
You are closing the metal prison gates on Georges, so we will close the gates of your embassy with living flesh. We will continue exposing your hypocrisy when you celebrate your resistance or receive a distinguished visitor to flaunt your hallowed culture. We will do the same at your putative cultural centers. As Lebanese, our history and geography know all about your “nurturing” culture – the culture of hatred and loathing you implanted among us to ensure perpetual sectarian conflict.
We also follow the news of your ugly deeds in Africa. Perhaps the coincidence between your latest military campaigns there and your interior minister’s refusal to obey his country’s orders makes Georges more deserving than ever of the title many of his supporters have given him: the Arab Mandela.
We have seen wonders, meanwhile, from officials, ministers, and legislators in our own beloved country (some currently in office, but mostly from previous governments). They have often left us wishing that Georges had been a collaborator, a thief, a neighborhood thug or a smuggler.
We have questions for their excellencies: Can you honestly claim that if he were any of those things – or, indeed, all of them – he would still be in prison today? How can French municipalities award him medals honoring the sacrifices he made for his country, while you, that country’s supposed leaders, ignore him? How come French activists campaign in defense of Georges, but you barely go through the motions? Did you hear his French lawyer, Jacques Verges, wonder whether you are running an independent state or a colony?
Robert Abdallah is the brother of Georges Abdallah, who has been imprisoned in France for 28 years.