Beirut Airport as a Microcosm of Lebanon’s Politics
Aerial view of Beirut International Airport. (Combined Military Service Digital Photographic Files)

Beirut Airport as a Microcosm of Lebanon’s Politics

Nida Al-Watan, Lebanon, January 7

If Alfred Hitchcock was destined to return to life, he could not have chosen a better scene than the scene of seagulls hovering over the Costa Brava Landfill located outside Beirut International Airport. Recently, the chairman of the Board of Directors of Middle East Airlines (MEA) demanded that the airline be allowed to bring in hunters who will shoot the seagulls and prevent them from threatening aircraft. This isn’t a fantasy, but rather a real proposal that may translate into a catastrophe for hundreds of people and their families. This story is a classic example of overlapping authorities between the Lebanese government, private corporations and average citizens – with no one claiming responsibility over the issue at hand. The issue of aircraft safety at the Beirut Airport is an issue that should never be undermined. But seagulls are far from the only threat to the airport’s operations. Several airplanes have been hit by indiscriminate bullets over the past few weeks. The government must step in and take ownership over this issue. This current situation of overlapping powers and loyalties, conflicts between security agencies and widespread nepotism, is unsustainable. Everyone is walking on eggshells when it comes to the airport. Hizbullah refuses to let anyone intervene, with the fear that its’ steady source of dollars, arriving on planes from Tehran, would be interrupted. This is a microcosm of Lebanon’s problems and an example of the state’s problematic relationship with Hizbullah. Expecting our corrupt political system to reform itself is too ambitious. But where are the deputies of the Baabda District, to which the airport land belongs? Where are the honorable deputies representing Beirut, who are seeing their country’s only international gateway being put at risk, but aren’t lifting a finger? Finding solutions isn’t difficult, provided that there is a will for compromise. Either the airport belongs to the state and is subject to state law, scrutiny, and management – or it is owned by a substrate actor that has de-facto authority over it. – Bashara Charbel (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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