Salim el Hoss was the Prime Minister of Lebanon on three occasions

Salim el Hoss :

Interview granted by Salim el Hoss to Silvia Cattori

Silvia Cattori: Mr. Salim el Hoss, thanks for having accepted our interview. You are highly estimated and respected in Lebanon for your decision to serve your country in difficult times, and for having assumed the prime minister post for four times. Weren’t you ever afraid of being assassinated as many of your predecessors were?

Salim el Hoss : I was appointed Prime Minister from 1976 to 1980. In
between there was an interruption, for I had to form a new government.
So I was Prime Minister twice. In 1987 when Prime Minister Rachid Karame was assassinated I was Minister and member of his cabinet. After his assassination I was appointed Prime Minister; it was the third time. Then after the Taëf agreements, President René Moawad was elected and he nominated me as Prime Minister ; but he was assassinated three weeks later. Then President Elias Hraoui was elected to replace him, and he also appointed me Prime Minister, and that was the fourth time. And then, at the beginning of the
term of President Emile Lahoud, in 1998, I was Prime Minister for two
years. Thus I have held the post of Prime Minister five times.

S.C. – Lebanon is again in an unstable situation. Nothing has been solved as to Palestine is concerned. Israel continues to occupy the Golan Heights and the Unites States is accusing Syria of having ordered the assassination of Hariri. Do you think that there will be a solution for every thing?

Salim el Hoss : I am not very optimistic about the near future. We are
facing a lot of challenges in the region, particularly in Lebanon, in Palestine, and in Iraq. We are very fearful that what is happening in Iraq might be disseminated, might reflect itself and fall over the region. A lot is being done in order to bring about civil commotion or civil strife in Iraq, arousing sectarian and ethnical sensitivities. We are very fearful that it might also bring about a conflict between Sunnis and the Shia and that lead up to the beginning of an inter-religioius Arab war in Iraq. If that should happen that will not be restricted to Iraq since it will pervert all the Middle East region, because this kind of sensitivities are there, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Saudi Arabia, all over… so we are afraid there might be some kind of plans, or deliberation about breaking the Middle East into smaller entities, with the purpose to bringing them in a “Greater Middle East”. This is an American project, which I believe, has twofold objectives. One is doing away with something called Arab nationalism, existing since the times of Gamal Nasser. The men of that time raised the sceptre of Arab nationalism to defeat Israeli and America, which have ever since worked to obliterate and do away with something called Arab nationalism.

The Greater Middle East project does that actually. Because the matter of
the Middle East would take away a good segment of the Arab population of the
region, and in that case north African Arabs would not be part of the project ;
this project would bring in non Arabs into the folds, that is Iran, Turkey,
Cyprus and Israel. So where would the Arab people go ? There will be no more such a thing as Arab people anymore.

The second objective of this plan is the way of implementing it actually; we hear from America officially about something called “creative” or “constructive” areas that intend to turn political entities into small entities or entities in conflict. Now they started in Iraq actually, Iraq is a candidate to be broken into at least three entities, perhaps more than that. If this happens in Iraq it could be spread throughout the region. A similar thing would happen in Syria, and definitely in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia; they have similar sensibilities all over the Middle East. There are daily attempts at strife inciting, daily attempts in Iraq. Car bombs, etc, or blasting the mosques, things like that, but a civil strife is not yet there, there is no conflagration for civil strife. We are fearful that the blow of such pressures could certainly reach anyone from Iraq to Lebanon. In Lebanon there are such attempts to instigate official differences between Chias and Sunnis, Christians and Muslims; if this should happen it will repeat and will not be constrained to Lebanon but it would be spread all over the region. I am very afraid for the immediate future, very fearful; we have to stand the challenges that we are facing now. Let’s hope that things will look brighter in Lebanon.

S.C. – Is Israel the one that gets most benefits from all this and the first instigator of chaos in the region? Has Israel called for the breaking up of Iraq since 1997? Would it be necessary that Arab leaders should not continue to normalize relations with Israel and the US, which oppress their people, and instead denounce the suffering imposed by those countries?

Salim el Hoss : You are right, the Arabs do not constitute a single
front in facing these challenges; and the US and Israel are playing
with the differences existing among the Arabs; unfortunately our major problem is the lack of democracy. If the Arab world had been more democratic, the will of the people would have stronger in itself than the will of the rulers of the various Arab countries. The rulers now are the ones who lead
their countries in different courses. But if we had been a democracy the people will would have prevailed. What we lack is democracy. Our rulers in the Arab countries, they have their own interests, their own considerations, they are to complaisant with America, too fearful of America, they actually dread America. So they try too often, or they go to far in complying with the truce, not because of conviction but because of fear or incapacity. This unfortunately makes the Arab front very weak and very vulnerable for the winds coming from America and Israel.

S.C. – Don’t you think that the international community should have given Israel the same treatment given to the Apartheid regime in South Africa?

Salim el Hoss : Of course. These are our tools but we are not using them
actually, these should be our weapons against Israel. We should compel the
international community to force Israel to respect human rights. But you
know there is a paradox actually ; under the level of war against
terrorism, America is doing anything it can. There is no single definition
of terrorism internationally. We know, any action, any violence that is used
against civilians for political purposes is definitely terrorism. And
terrorism is despicable, is reprehensible and it should be rejected. We are
against terrorism. But, in the American policy, terrorism is becoming a
point of view. If violence is practiced by Palestinians, Lebanese or
Iraqis, no matter how they use it or for what cause, it is terrorism. If it is practiced by the Israelis it is called an act of self-defence; moreover, if it is practiced in others people’ territories, where Israel occupies other people’s lands they call that self defence.

So, violence by Israelis is not called terrorism. You will never hear the
term “Israeli terrorism”, never . You hear islamist terrorism. Also the
Israelis are practising violence in the worst form. America is practising the
worst kind of violence in Iraq : killing civilians actually, when they
destroy all in a city in Iraq, Falluja for instance, they do not care who was
killed. Is not that terrorism ? When Americans practise violence, their
violence serve the cause of freedom, democracy and human rights. It is
paradoxical ! It is all violence but it is looked from different
perspectives. Only Arab violence is terrorism ! Israeli violence is
self-defence. American violence is to serve the cause of freedom and human
rights. So terrorism has become a point of view. But who would dear to say
that to America ?

S.C. – What’s your view on the France’s diplomatic turn against Syria and its current alignment with US policy?

Salim el Hoss : The only explanation we have is that France values his alliance with America; they want to placate the American administration. So theses things will please America. This cooperation with America will let France its own part.

S.C. – Aren’t you afraid that the assassins of Hariri will never be exposed because they were serving the interests of Tel Aviv and Washington and that Syria becomes their new victim?

Salim el Hoss : You know the issue of France and M. Hariri. It is well known that there was a very close friendship between M. Hariri and Chirac. The event might have affected the French policy and the French have fallen into the cause that America had pursue. It is an easy cause to pursue. Yet, we think that the French position is more valuable and more understandable than the American one. We hope that the French position will change for the better in regards to Lebanon and Syria. We can not accept this situation, you know. There is too much pressure being exercised on Lebanon, by America and by France in regards to Resolution 1159, so much pressure involved actually will give way to a civil war in Lebanon. They should understand this. We can not afford that.

S.C. – Then, Will Syria and Lebanon have to face the consequences of the French turning point? Has the latter one got involved in a problem? Hasn’t the Chief of the Mossad, Alevi, that there are plans to guarantee the US presence in the Middle East for decades?

Salim el Hoss : If Syria is willing to sign an agreement with Israel now, Lebanon will follow immediately. And if that happens, be sure that America will have no problem either with Lebanon, or with Syria. America raised issues against Syria in regard to Iraq’s resistance and in regard to the
resistance in Lebanon and Palestine; but it is all nonsense. What they want
from Syria is to sign an agreement with Israeli similar to the one signed between Egypt and Israel, an Jordan and Israel. If Syria is willing to pursue that course, it will be no problem at all.

S.C. – Let’s put it straight then. Any country that opposes US or Israeli supremacy will be forcibly kneeled down and Syria will have to pay a high cost for not being submissive?

Salim el Hoss : Our problem is that : America is democratic inside
and despotic outside. They try to dictate on people abroad what they should
do, they dictate on us, on Syria, except Israel. This in not democracy. They
are democratic inside and despotic outside.

S.C. – That means that as long as Israel has not defeated Palestinian resistant and forced Syria to accept the definitive occupation of the Golan Heights, all Arab neighbours to Israel will live in a real hell?

Salim el Hoss: Of course. They will be a lot of problems in all the region.
because the whole issue in the Middle East is Palestine. Even the Iraqi issue,
the war against Iraq, the occupation of Iraq had some Palestinian background. Israel used to consider Iraq a very strong force against it.
Now Iraq is out.

Full Salim el Hoss’ speech is available in video on

Interview by Silvia Cattori for Voltaire Network.