The Mideast Through the Eyes of a Lebanese Expat

22003232Lebanese born Joseph Hakim is a patriotic American who is deeply involved in community affairs. A successful businessman who came to America with less than $500 in his pocket, he has built a multi-million dollar business. It is not money however, that excites Hakim and gets him going. He is devoted to a single cause, which is saving the ancient Christian communities in the Middle East. Toward that end, he has assumed the presidency of the International Christian Union (ICU), an organization that seeks to secure the existence of Christian communities across the Middle East through advocacy in the U.S. Congress, as well as educational and informational campaigns, and speaking to diverse audiences.

Hakim has just returned from Lebanon and this reporter asked him how Lebanon has changed since his last visit three years ago. Hakim explained,

I saw more congestion, and more visible poverty. Syrian refugees are all over the streets of Beirut. Child beggars as young as 5-years old roam the streets asking for money and sometimes food. Approximately 2 million Syrian refugees flooded Lebanon, and there are over 500,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanese camps, as well as Iraqi refugees, fleeing the mayhem there.

It has changed the demography of Lebanon, transforming it from a balanced multi-cultural society to a predominantly Islamic nation. The Christian community feels threatened. I met with Christian religious and political party leaders, and they all spoke about the urgent need to arm the Christian community. They expressed the need to foster a security system for the Christian communities in Lebanon.

Frankly, I was shocked to hear from my Lebanese friends that allegedly the US and the West have conspired with the Turks, Qataris, and Saudis to cleanse the Christian minorities in the Middle East. This is being promoted in the Hezbollah media, with the underlying message that neither the US nor the West is going to come to the aid of the Christian minorities in the Middle East or the Lebanese-Christians. Al-Manar-TV, Hezbollah’s mouthpiece, is seeking to impress the Lebanese-Christians that Hezbollah alone can save them.

There is a feeling that Lebanon is descending back into the 1975 civil war in which the Palestinians and Sunni-Muslims engaged the Christians. The Christian community today understands the Sunni-Shia threat to their existence in the region, as well as in Lebanon.

We continued the interview as follows:

Joseph Puder: As the President of the ICU how do you propose the US should help Christians in the Middle East, especially those in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories?

Joseph Hakim: ICU seeks US Congressional legislation that would provide ironclad protection for endangered Christian communities throughout the region, especially in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories. Violators of the bill or persecutors of Christians as well as denial of their religious freedom, would lead to criminal charges in the International Court of Justice. Governments of Muslim states that sanction terror against their Christian minorities should be dealt with as if they declared war against the US and its vital interests.

As the colonial boundaries drafted by Sykes-Picot are disintegrating in Iraq and Syria, ICU envisions an expanded Christian state in Lebanon that would incorporate areas of Syria with a predominant Christian population. The remaining Christian minorities in Iraq and Syria should be granted autonomous status in a federated Iraq and Syria.

The Palestinians for example, will always choose the radical Islamic leaders over moderate leaders, but the Christians living in their territories are voiceless with few choices but to flee.

The US and its European allies must decide whether they can protect their oil interests while ignoring the growing Islamist resurgence or perhaps they can also secure the lives of peace loving Christians in the region.

JP: ISIS or as it is now called IS (Islamic State) is threatening to overrun Lebanon. What would you propose the US administration should do? Should it provide additional weapons to the Lebanese Army, or send US troops to help the Lebanese Army?

JH: About two weeks ago, ISIS attacked the Sunni village of Arsal in Lebanon. The Lebanese army Special Forces, the moujawkal (a counter-sabotage Regiment) and the Maghawir (Lebanese Commando Regiment) halted the ISIS advance, without which, the Bekaa Valley and Lebanon as a whole would have fallen into ISIS’ hands. As President of ICU, I strongly recommend that the US arm the Lebanese Army with advanced weapons, and secure them in safe military bases in the Maten or Keserwan areas. I also recommend joint US-Lebanese army military exercises and joint operations.

The radicalized predominantly Sunni-Muslim Palestinians in Lebanon pose a grave threat to Lebanon’s delicate demographic balance. Therefore, ICU recommends that the US and the UN devise a roadmap for the removal of the Palestinian camps from Lebanon and their relocation in any one of the vast oil-rich Arab states (Saudi Arabia, Libya, Algeria, etc.). These Arab states should provide them with decent housing, health care, jobs, and educational opportunities.  Lebanon simply cannot afford it. Under present conditions, the Palestinians amount to a ticking time bomb for the Cedar state. In settling the Palestinians in Arab countries, it would eliminate the corruption surrounding the UNRWA administration of the camps that benefit Lebanese and Palestinian politicians to the detriment of the poor Palestinians.

Last but not least, along with the Palestinian relocation into the oil-rich Arab states, there must be the disarming of Hezbollah. These two elements along with IS are existential threats to the integrity of Lebanon. Conversely, if that cannot be done, a serious consideration must be given to the arming of Lebanese Christian militias, as well as of Christian communities in Syria and Iraq.

JP: What is your vision for ICU? Given the proper resources, how would you go about protecting Christians in the region?

JH: ICU’s mission is to build solid bridges of understanding and brotherhood among Middle Eastern Christians throughout the world, especially in the US. We are a global organization that seeks to unify Christians everywhere, and serve to awaken the Christian conscience to the suffering of Christians throughout the Islamic dominated Middle East.

As we approach the 100-year anniversary of the Armenian-Christian genocide by the Ottoman Turks, we need to remember that over a million Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Christians perished. The looming threat of the IS is to the remaining Assyrian Christians as well as to Greek-Orthodox and Catholic-Maronite Christians in Syria and Lebanon. Hopefully, ICU is not a lonely cry in the desert. Ours is meant to be a warning call to western Christians to show solidarity with their persecuted brothers-in-faith.

ICU has dedicated its efforts towards empowering Christians to assert their unique way of life and values. This runs in conflict with the jihadist aims of the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, and IS, whose violent agendas threaten the survival of Christians in the region.  This is the reason ICU is calling for an independent Christian state, as a haven for persecuted Christians, just as Israel served as a haven for the persecuted Jews.

Our vision of the future is one of building rather than destroying (the MO of radical Islam). We seek religious harmony instead of religious intolerance as practiced by the Islamists and jihadists. We want to build libraries and theatres while they want to burn them. We hope to contribute to humanity’s advancement, while they seek to roll us back to 7th Century barbarism and bloodshed. With the above in mind, our future rests with a secure and independent Christian state allied and protected by the US and the West.

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  • AharonHaLevi

    I have been writing to many Christian news services with the same idea for the last 5 years with little to no responses. The 2 billion Christians, many living in the richest, most powerful nations on earth, surely can repatriate oppressed Christians to Western nations where they will thrive. They have the means. Carving out a Christian nation would be a solution, but that means someone has to give up land. The Muslim nation’s religion prohibits that (Israel is the best example). Israel at least has an historical and cultual tie to the Land of Israel. Most Western nations cannot due do this due to a shortage of land or small citizenry populations fearing foreign impacts. However, there are a few Western nations that could manage it with some space and large domestic populations: US, Germany, France, Britain, Spain and some eastern European states like Poland. Hard working, Christians will find enclaves already in place, immigrations could offset Islamic immigration to those countries, preserving the European values and culture (due to the common core of Christianty). This solution of course tacitly accepts that there is a “clash of civilizations” that ultimately will have to be met on an international stage. Israel by contrast has taken in millions of Jews and has the 42% plurality of them already there. This took 66 years but relied mostly on its own limited efforts. Surely, 2 billion Christians and the Western world can do this faster.

  • krinks

    You forget that the world hates the Lord and those that follow him. They want all of his followers to suffer and die. No help will ever come. Nor will it be offered.

  • Arf

    This man calls for the removal of Palestinians from Lebanon because they are radicalized and upset the ethnic balance there. Send them to the oil rich Arab countries he advocates and disarm Hezbollah. Sound familiar? When some Israelis advocate the re-settlement of the Palestinians in Gaza and Judea/Samaria to other Arab countries and the disarming of Hamas, they are called Nazis, and are told they are an apartheid state committing genocide. The removal of an ethnic group in Lebanon because “they are upsetting the delicate balance” is clearly ethnic cleansing — like it or not. Lebanon has stopped allowing Palestinians from Syria to find refuge while allowing other Syrians to enter. Why no cry of racism, from the world? I do not doubt that the Palestinians in Lebanon are radicalized. If they had been allowed to integrate into the population, maybe they would not be. Lebanon created its situation — it is not a victim. It would be nice if instead of condemning Israel, Lebanon would keep its mouth shut at the very least and insist on stopping the violence against Israel committed by its citizens.

    • UKOMO

      Mr ARF it looks clear to me that you do not know the lebanese history well enough the palestinians in 1948 settled in Lebanon after the nakba as guests and not immigrants . in 1975 the PLO with its leader Arafat thought they can commit a genocide against the christian population of syriac and armenian race and take the land instead of the land of palestine .We fought and defended our families and we won the reputation of the best militia in the world still feared by all the arab countries . And we remained in our historical mother land . you should understand one issue you and all those who think that we are afraid of ISIS or the Hezbollah or the palestinians terrorist groups like hamas the jihad and the Plo . we will fight in our mountains till the last drop of our blood and i promise whoever will try to invade those mountains will suffer as we rely only on our efforts and above all our faith .and by the way why not receiving those palestinians and those salafits in New York as they will soon come to you as they did in the 11th of september .

  • senatormark4

    ON this same page you show that 1 in 6 French support ISIS. I wonder what the number was for Nazi support when they first annexed France?

    Until we start saying, and demanding, that no U.S. tax dollars will be used to support any regime or group that doesn’t enshrine the First Amendment we will have a hard time drawing bright lines.

    Obama is marching and he knows where h’e going. Our leaders have the wool over their eyes.

  • cacslewisfan

    I had the same idea. The US imports so many Somali Muslims, why not bring in Christians? Catholic Charities gets money for bringing in Muslims, but I never hear about them bringing in massive numbers of Christians (most of whom are Catholic). Maybe Christians don’t want to leave? No oil money for non Muslims?