Al-Rahi Says Lebanese who Fled to Israel are Not 'Criminals', Urges 'Reconciliation'

إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية W460

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Friday said the Lebanese state must not deal with its citizens who fled to Israel in 2000 as “criminals,” noting that they are not the ones who have “impeded the presidential election.”

During a visit to the Druze village of Isfiya near the northern Israeli city of Haifa, al-Rahi said he was “profoundly hurt” by those who have criticized his historic visit to Israel and the Holy Land.

“Can't we perform our duties? Has compassion died? Have social duties died?” the patriarch asked.

“We have several times repeated that this visit is purely religious. I did not come here to make political deals … I did not come here to make commercial, economic, military or security deals. I came here to see our loving people,” al-Rahi underlined.

Commenting on the issue of the Lebanese who had fled to Israel after its forces withdrew from south Lebanon, al-Rahi said: “The solution is reconciliation.”

“We are not collaborators. I did not see any Lebanese collaborating against Lebanon,” he added.

According to LBCI TV, al-Rahi rejected in his speech that their possible return to Lebanon be tied to “an amnesty or international resolutions.”

“Had they fought against Lebanon? Had they fought against the Lebanese state? Had they fought against Lebanese institutions?” al-Rahi asked rhetorically.

“Have they paralyzed the presidency? Have they displaced and impoverished the Lebanese? Have they created an economic and social crisis in Lebanon? I want to know what their crime is,” the patriarch added.

Mentioning the undermining of state institutions in Lebanon and the closure of the presidential palace, al-Rahi went on to say: “Who is committing crimes against Lebanon? You? You who love Lebanon and carry its flags in your hearts?”

Israel has invaded Lebanon several times, occupying part of the country's territory for 18 years until it withdrew in 2000 following armed resistance. In 2006, a 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah left 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead.

Lebanon bars its citizens from visiting Israel or having business dealings with Israelis. However, Maronite clergy are exempt from the ban to enable them to stay in touch with the faithful in the Holy Land.

On Wednesday, al-Rahi celebrated mass with exiled Lebanese as part of his controversial trip to Israel.

Hundreds of Lebanese Maronites came to Saint Peter's church in the village of Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Trained, financed and armed by Israel, the South Lebanon Army (SLA) militia battled Palestinians and Hizbullah fighters during the occupation of southern Lebanon.

Many SLA veterans feel they have been abandoned by Israeli authorities in their adopted home, often working in low-paying factory, restaurant or cleaning jobs, but unable to return home for fear of retribution from Hizbullah and others who consider them traitors.

Al-Rahi arrived in Israel earlier in the week to join a brief visit by Pope Francis.

The Maronite Patriarch was condemned by media close to Hizbullah, which said traveling to arch-enemy Israel would be a "sin." His critics have also said the pilgrimage implies normalization with Israel at a time when the two countries remain formally at war.

Al-Rahi's speech marked the end of a weeklong visit to the Holy Land. He spent the first two days in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, lands Israel occupied in the 1967 war, but on Monday ventured into Israel for the first time.


Comments 28
Thumb lebanon_first 30 May 2014, 22:43

You speak sense Mr. Rai. This blind continuous hatred for anything remotely related to israel including jewish lebanese and lebanese of the SLA and the so call friendship towards Assad are two aberration we must outgrow.

Default-user-icon kammal (Guest) 31 May 2014, 11:47

it is better for him to stay where he is now. it is the place where he belongs. lebanon is only for heroes who fight israel

Thumb -phoenix1 31 May 2014, 14:03

LF, I am fully with you on this one, let anyone who wishes to return back from Israel be allowed to do so. But then, another question surely does longer on the minds of those Lebanese still in exile in Israel on such things like these realities. Surely in Israel they do enjoy a lot more than they would if they returned to Lebanon, masalan: Would they get a job here? Social security, pension, health benefits? Would they not be targeted by both Lebanese and Syrian moukhabarat or Hezbollah? Then will they want to live in a country in ruins, where refugees of all kinds now make up for about 50% of our population and are now stealing our jobs and professions? What future will their kids have here, ya 3ammeh, even the vegetables now grown here are watered with sewage, yesterday people got poisoned by eating Tabbouleh masalan. Who would blame them if they stayed in Israel?

Thumb -phoenix1 31 May 2014, 14:05

** Does linger on their minds...**

Default-user-icon KK (Guest) 31 May 2014, 23:45

and do two wrongs make a right ??
sure in my opinion what assad has done and is still doing in syria is a crime But what's the other choice in syria now Da3ishor nousra but it's not about syria here we are talkin about what SLA has done to lebanese Citizen's especially the shia in the South you Name Yourself Lebanon First you should portray that name you should never forget what the SLA has done to lebanese Women and Children and how they opposed a force that returned the South To be a part of lebanon regardless of their actions today
Once Again two wrongs don't make a right

Default-user-icon Illusionist (Guest) 30 May 2014, 23:12

No need for them to come back, what are they coming back to? Whether you love israel or hate it, they are given rights and are treated equal to others. They have food, electricity, jobs, peace and a real authority and laws. Why would they ever come back? why would any sane lebanese anywhere in the world come back? This country is a mess that has no hope and will never ever be better. It could have had hope before the 1 million syrians refugees, now with them + 700k palestinians and i dont know what else, and political leaders doing wtv, it is the jungle.

Thumb saturn 30 May 2014, 23:22

Up your guard, Your Holiness!

Thumb saturn 31 May 2014, 00:32

Not funny, because either camp can try that now to prove a point, can't they.

Thumb Chupachups 31 May 2014, 00:42

Yes Hezbos can do it

Missing nuetral 31 May 2014, 01:03

Isreal is an enemy of Lebanon.

Missing phillipo 31 May 2014, 12:34

Israel is not an enemy of the legal Government of the Republic of Lebanon. Israel is the enemy of HA which is trying to draw Lebanon into a bloodbath which will affect hundreds and thousands of peace seeking Lebanese civilians.

Missing forces 31 May 2014, 01:38

It seems everyone calling for them to be brought to justice have forgotten their own masters crimes during the civil war.

Thumb Chupachups 31 May 2014, 01:38

lame comment.

Default-user-icon Tintin (Guest) 31 May 2014, 02:03

All this negative exchange is a sad testimony that despite
all the years of in-fightings not much has changed. Until we
are able to outgrow our very narrow, feudal, and contaminated
mind set in how we view others we can never progress and exist
as one united nation and one people. Sad!

Thumb cedre 31 May 2014, 02:39

1- even if they're criminals, bring them back, plenty worse of them in lebanon, plenty did worse than them during civil war and now are MPs or leading parties.

2- israelis hate to see these pics : christians in peace with druze, sunnis, shias, palestinians, all greeting each others. They like to see us fighting each others...

Thumb Chupachups 31 May 2014, 04:16

We already have many criminals in lebanon..and i dont think the ones in israel are criminals.

Thumb cedre 31 May 2014, 13:59

if we judge them, we need to judge all the other criminals that killed since civil war, and that wont happen...

Bring them back, they betrayed in the past, others are betraying now...

Missing applesauce 31 May 2014, 19:38

Chupachups, what did they do to flee then? You dont think rapists, torture and other forms of terror is criminal? What a hypocrite you are.

Thumb Chupachups 31 May 2014, 04:18

terrorists? Pleasee what are you smoking.

Missing applesauce 31 May 2014, 19:36

Oh so they were not terrorists after everything they did? You and your likes are the brainwashed ones.

Thumb Chupachups 31 May 2014, 04:18

he's brainwashed.

Missing karim. 31 May 2014, 08:20

I say bring them back and give them a fair trial. Someone like Geagea who massacred thousands in cold blood is now a free man and is running for President, so what exactly is the difference?

Thumb -phoenix1 31 May 2014, 19:26

Karim, there's a dance called Tango, anyone dancing it alone will be deemed nuts. That guy you accused of killing people in cold blood, have you forgotten who was his dance partner? Yet you still want to call that partner a good man, even worst, keep saying God bless him? Right now in Lebanon, do you know who is killing people? Sure you don't, but we do.

Thumb scorpyonn 31 May 2014, 09:45

This man is the sanest voice that we have in Lebanon today

Thumb -phoenix1 31 May 2014, 14:07

James, well said, that's exactly what I said a few days ago, too many chiefs and no Indians. Many here don't want to be told, they instead want to tell us. Sad.

Thumb -phoenix1 31 May 2014, 14:14

Southern, statistics confirm that most of the SLA men were Shiites. Even Nabih Berri in May 2000 said it on news media, when frenzy was beginning to manifest itself in Dahieh and other Shiite areas and was about to take the better of people's judgment, he said" Ya ekhwen, 3ala mahelkoun, ma howde aktariyetoun mininah. 3ayb, khallouna mastourin". Then again, a good number of those Shiite men of the SLA were the ones who took orders in 1982 from Elie Hobeika who delegated his brother Charles Hobeika to go to Sabra and Chatila and commit the massacres wearing LF uniforms. Ma3leysh ya Southern, there are things we also know that you too should know, rawe2a 3aleyna shouwayeh.

Missing greatpierro 31 May 2014, 17:00

what about the crimes done by the syrians, hizbollah, amal and jumblatt (do not forget the massacres in the chouf) and not by the sla?

Missing applesauce 31 May 2014, 19:36

When someone comits crimes against my people then i judge them. Why do you judge me? Why do you judge hezbollqhv? Why do you judge this or that? If al rahi wants to forgive crimes then let him forgive crimes comitted against himself or his sect, the SLA didn't torture nor rape him and his crew now did they they?