Details of an interview conducted with:
Minister Issam Abou Jamra
by Elias Bejjani / Phoenician Newsline Voice

May 20, 1998.

N.B.: Minister Abou Jamra has been living in exile (France) since 1991 after Syria invaded Lebanon in 1990 ousting the legitimate military government of General Michele Aoun Abou. Jamra was a minister in the Aoun government.

Elias Bejjani: It is a pleasure, Minister Abou Jamra, to be your host today and to convey your views on the current Lebanese situation. First: why do you maintain a very low profile and keep away from media, although everywhere it is well known that you are very active, especially in the human rights domain?

Minister Abou Jamra: First of all, I take this opportunity to thank you for conducting this interview and to hail all those who are working hard to lobby for the fair and just Lebanese cause all over the world, especially in Canada and the USA. Secondly, I am an individual who believes in organized, productive, quiet work. I talk to media when there is a good reason to do so and not for rhetorical purposes. Too many people are talking, God bless them.

Elias Bejjani: The Free National Current is participating strongly in the present Lebanese Municipal and Mayoral elections. These elections are currently the main focus of the Lebanese people. What are your expectations, and do you believe the regime is going to be neutral and impartial?

Minister Abou Jamra: The one fact that nobody in the world can hide or deny is that Syria totally occupies Lebanon and controls its puppet regime, and has since 1990. The Syrians, in a bid to tighten the grip of their occupation more and more, are trying through other means to occupy the county via money using Hariri and his wealth in this vicious scheme. Lebanon is currently enduring two different categories of occupation, one through the Syrian military machine and the other through the huge wealth of Hariri and that of his Arab and foreign business partners. The Lebanese people are trying through the electoral process to rescue their country from the savagery of the two occupations, money and military power.

The Free National Current’s objective for participation in the elections focuses on encouraging people to continue rejecting the current, imposed occupational status-quo, and to sustain their stance in not recognizing the regime by not casting their ballot to its nominees. People are encouraged to vote for the best nominees who are well educated, honest, devoted, committed to the Lebanese cause, and patriotic in the national stance. They are encouraged to vote for those who believe in freedom and who not only preach democracy and human rights, but who in fact practice them in their day- to-day life. People are expected to boycott the puppet regime’s nominees and to cast them out of all municipal and mayoral councils. Casting votes for patriotic municipal and mayoral nominees is a national obligation that can help in creating a nucleus for future liberation struggle.

At the same time we cannot deceive ourselves and believe that the regime is not doing its best using all the nation’s resources to force its choices on the people in a bid to control municipal and mayoral councils. The officials are using all illegal means, oppression, intimidation, threats and financial temptations to achieve their traitorous objectives. They are using the illegally newly naturalized 300,000 cluster, as was the situation in the last fraudulent parliamentary election to undermine the electoral process. The Free National Current is fully aware of all these painful realities, but still decided to participate actively in the elections. We consider the participation issue an act of struggle as all other similar patriotic acts practiced since 1990 to rescue the country from occupation and make the free world aware of the intricacies of the Lebanese crisis. We want the whole world to be aware of the fact that Lebanon is occupied by the Syrians and that the Lebanese people reject their illegal status-quo.

It is crucial for our people, as well as for our friends all over the world, to understand that winning or losing a municipal or mayoral seat is not our final goal. Calculating gains and losses do not have a place in any holy struggles for freedom and liberation. In fact, the people’s participation in the electoral process in spite of all the Syrian and government atrocities, threats and assaults is a victory in itself. It is also a clear message to all those involved in the Lebanese crisis, that the people of Lebanon will never, ever, surrender or accept defeat without resistance, as was the situation for 6000 years. Victorious the were and victorious we shall be.

Elias Bejjani: How do you see the latest appeals by many Lebanese leaders and well known journalists to neutralize the capital, Beirut, in the imminent municipal and mayoral elections? And especially since it has been publicly proven that Mr. Hariri and other regime figures have lately been preaching denominational and feudalism concepts in a spirit to "divide and conquer"?

Minister Abou Jamra: The calls for neutralizing Beirut, Jouniea or other towns or villages in the municipal and mayoral elections are mere manipulation and deception. Their aim is to help the regime puppets win as many council seats as possible. The political war between the majority of the people opposing the regime and the foreign powers behind it on one side, and the regime officials, their puppets and masters on the other side, is a reality that cannot be avoided by compromises and non-national, temporary solutions.

Any compromise in this domain will be to the advantage of the regime and its figures. I believe any attempt to neutralize Beirut is an anti-patriotic act escalating attitudes of subservience and submissiveness. Losing a battle in a long term war is not fatal. What is devastating is losing the will to struggle and the will to resistance. It is entirely wrong to neutralize Beirut, and the battle should be fought to the end no matter how many seats are gained or lost. What really matters is the maintaining of a clear national agenda with all needed persistence for the rejection of occupation and the struggle for liberation. A big No for the neutralization of Beirut.

Elias Bejjani: How do you see the future of South Lebanon in the context of the latest Israeli offer to implement the UN resolution 425 and the Syrian- Lebanese rejection of the Israeli offer?

Minister Abou Jamra: Frankly the Israeli proposal, in spite of its apparent positive aspects is not applicable in the context of the current Syrian imposed status quo on Lebanon. Israel, as well as USA, and all other countries are fully aware that Lebanon is a Syrian satellite, and has no say in any internal or external matters, and that its decision-making process is completely confiscated. Syrians rhetorically allege that their military presence in Lebanon is a prophylactic measure to protect Syria itself from any Israeli invasion through Lebanon and to keep the pressure on Israel till it withdraws from the Syrian occupied Golan Heights. In fact Syria does not want Israel to leave South Lebanon and will keep aborting all efforts to implement the UN resolution 425 unilaterally by Lebanon . Syria if not internationally deterred will keep fighting Israel indirectly through South Lebanon and not from Golan Heights, using its surrogate guerrilla groups for this job. Syria, by fighting Israel from Lebanon and with the Lebanese, assures that all Israeli retaliatory assaults will target Lebanon and the Lebanese, not Syria or the Syrians, and will not inflict any threat to the regime in Damascus. These is no logic or reason on the Israeli side to ask the Lebanese regime to give any security guarantees when Israel knows very well that it is installed by Syrians and has no free choice in any decision. The only solution for the ongoing Lebanese crisis will be achieved through the Implementation of the UN Resolution 520 that calls for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon. Until then, all other attempts to liberate south Lebanon will remain merely rhetorical maneuver, far from reality and simply not applicable. Syrian occupation is the main problem and as long as this problem is not radically solved, all other subsidiary problems will remain, including the Israeli occupation to the south.

Elias Bejjani: How do you believe the Human rights atrocities in Lebanon could be stopped, while the regime there and the Syrian troops are not deterred by all the reports issued since 1990 by numerous international human rights organizations and the USA Secretary of State Department? And, is there any hope for the release of the hundreds of innocent Lebanese citizens arbitrarily detained in Syria for years, without any legal basis?

Minister Abou Jamra: The main core and essence of the Lebanese crisis exists because of the Syrian occupation. Accordingly all other subsidiary problems including those of the Lebanese detained in Syria, and the day-to-day infringements on human rights will remain without a solution as long as the Syrians are not forced by the international community to withdraw from Lebanon and leave the Lebanese to take charge of their own country. This of course does not mean the efforts of the human rights organizations are not effective. Syria was forced by their pressure lately to release more than 100 detainees, some of whom spent more than 20 years in detention not only without a trial or any contact with families or lawyers, but without their loved ones even knowing where they were or if they were alive or dead. All the Lebanese problems will remain and even worsen as long as the Syrian occupation is in place. No values, laws, rules, rights or covenants are respected currently in Lebanon because of the Syrian imposed status quo... we appeal to the USA , UN and all the free world to help us free our country through the implementation of UN 520 that calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.

Elias Bejjani: Do you believe a revolution is the only viable solution left as a last resort to solve the deteriorating Lebanese crisis after all other means have failed?

Minister Abou Jamra: All peaceful efforts, and a revolution, are needed to liberate the country. The Lebanese people in spite of all the atrocities and pressures they are exposed to, are carrying on all patriotic obligation in the best way possible. The main reason the Lebanese crisis is still without a fair solution is that the Free World is not yet decisive enough in its stance. It is not prepared to force the Syrian army to withdraw from Lebanon. The Lebanese living in Diaspora can play a very influential role in this respect by lobbying in the countries where they live for the righteous Lebanese cause. They can influence the international community’s stance and make a big difference.

Elias Bejjani: The Lebanese regime confiscated all the money that was with your wife before she left Lebanon’s Beirut airport to join you in exile almost eight years ago. Were you able to get the money back?

Minister Abou Jamra: No, not at all. My wife is living now in Lebanon and all her attempts to get the money back failed. We have taken the case to the judiciary, and hopefully the matter will be solved in the courts. The regime admits that the money is ours and we have an official receipt, but still holds it and does not take any action to put an end to this thievery. We are hopeful in spite of all the corruption in Lebanon that a brave, daring judge assigned to the case will put an end to the dilemma.

Elias Bejjani: Do you have anything else that you would like to share with the Lebanese in Diaspora and Lebanon’s friends all over the world?

Minister Abou Jamra: We are all aware of the difficulties and homesickness the Lebanese are facing in Diaspora, but still they have an obligation to support their people in occupied Lebanon and utilize all their capabilities to lobby for the Lebanese cause. Lebanon is a great country and needs the help of all its people. Liberation will not take place without a great deal of patience, courage, sacrifice, persistence and most importantly, hope, and a belief in the ultimate victory. There is always a light at the end of each tunnel.