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Dossier – Interview with a politician: Jawad Boulos

Rédigé le 23/02/2012 (dernière modification le 22/02/2012)

Named after his great-uncle (1899-1982) former Lebanese Minister and Member of Parliament, Jawad S. Boulos won the elections of 2005 in the aftermath of the Cedar Revolution that pressured the Syrian regime into evacuating its armed forces from Lebanese territory thus liberating the 10452 square meters country after thirty years of direct occupation. The lawyer and politician from Zgharta, north Lebanon, clarified his principles and political views about the current situation in an exclusive interview with Podcast Journal.

Photo (C) Jawad Boulos
Photo (C) Jawad Boulos
podcast_jawad_boulos.mp3 Podcast_Jawad_Boulos.mp3  (391.44 Ko)

I believe that if you want to be a successful politician, you need to have a vision, a solid base and framework of reference, and convictions. This will help you set your objectives and define a blueprint for your political and social action in the direction of what you perceive is the interest of the nation, says the 45 year-old former Member of the Lebanese Parliament. He relies on his moral convictions and a worldview acquired through education, upbringing, understanding of the country’s history, and life experience.

Speaking about education, Jawad Boulos studied at the College des Fréres at Kfaryachite, Zgharta then obtained a bachelor of science in biology and a bachelor of arts in business from the American University of Beirut (AUB), followed by a degree in law from Saint Joseph University (USJ) in Beirut. He also earned a degree in international law from the Sorbonne, Paris and an MBA from INSEAD, Fontainebleau. He is planning on continuing towards a doctorate as soon as he can find the time. Definitely he says, elected politics is not a hobby. It is not something that one should approach as a job or career path or an enterprise one would embark on simply because one’s particular social environment may demand it as is very often the case in Lebanon. I am often shocked by how very limited many current politicians are from a purely professional perspective..

The political mission of the polyglot politician is to achieve a transformation of Lebanese society from it’s current less-than-satisfactory state to a better model by looking first at the constitution and the constitutional processes which at the root of everything and moving onwards towards more modern, efficient and egalitarian system of organization of the state, of the economy and of society at large based on the rule of law. This, he feels, is predicated on free participation of all in the political process unhindered by the constraining agendas of private militias willing to use force to influence the process and the paralyzing weight of political assassination so that the place to start in achieving reform and change is in effect to act in a way that these last 2 issues are first solved. (Read more below)

Moral politics

Jawad Boulos, the lawyer, admits that morality is a concept that applies to human beings not to politics. There is no such thing as an entirely moral policy. But it is equally true that politics should not be divorced from morals and higher principles. Politics must be informed by a sense of what is moral and right. Of course a politician might be often called on to bargain and compromise on issues so that some of the policies he or she upholds might end up not being fully congenial with his or her views. But so long as the underlying trend of his activity continues to be informed, over the long term, by a set of deeply held values, tactical compromise will not cause a politician to stray too far from his fundamental views and objectives. It is only when you remove an understanding of what your values are completely from the arena of politics and that you abandon your efforts to infuse your political activity with these values that politics becomes a kind of organized chaos where everything goes. That’s when you sacrifice public good at the altar of private interests. And that explains why both the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) and particularly the Syrians so actively promoted those individuals who most lacked in values and principles during their respective eras.

Family history

Jawad Boulos comes from a family that has been involved in Zgharta and Lebanon’s political and public life for more than a century and a half. His great grandfather who fought under Youssef Karam and was later exiled to Istanbul, his great-uncle who was Member of Parliament for the years 1937 to 1939 and founded the Lebanese Front, his father, Simon Boulos, who was a discreet but powerfully influential figure in national politics though never to be elected to public office so that one journalist once described him as an ambassador to his country who was never provided with the letters of credence. All were deeply involved in the national affairs of their time.

A complicated Lebanon

On whether such a complicated country as Lebanon can ever find solutions to his problems, Jawad Boulos fires back: When things appear too complicated a politician should go back to the basics. The basics are the Constitution, the law, a healthy respect for the political process, a refusal to operate outside of institutions, a strong moral framework of reference and of course, a sense of the manifest destiny of one’s country. By going back to these, one realizes that some things are non-negotiable and should not be compromised in the name of political expediency.

For the ex MP a state cannot be viable if it has no clear and undefined borders. Lebanon is the only country in the Middle-East that boasts a political class that is antithetical to this principle.

A second essential element in the sovereignty of a State is that it cannot exist when weapons are not controlled by a country’s institutions. If a State has a non state competitor on its territory (group, clan, party, organization) utilizing force in order to implement rules, norms, political views, or even the law, then you don’t have a State.

Are you trying to indicate someone specific? We asked.
Jawad Boulos (JB): Not necessarily, but this could be applied to many in Lebanon.

Podcast Journal (PJ): Currently this would apply to some armed groups, indeed, but none of them matches the example of Hezbollah.
JB: In the case of Hezbollah, I have two major issues – the guns, and ideology. And that takes me back to a position I once took in Parliament in the course of criticizing the government’s position on the issue of the role of Hezbollah. I said “be wary of sacrificing the Lebanese political model in the course of promoting resistance against Israel”. I have always believed that the real resistance against Israel is in promoting the Lebanese model of coexistence and equal rights of all communities. If we can make this model work within the framework of a functioning democratic political process, we can then promote the Lebanese system as a model of reference to all countries in the Middle East, including but not limited to Israel. That should be the entire point of “resistance”. Guns are not the solution. And an exclusivist political ideology cannot be the solution either.

PJ: That was in 2005. What do you consider the solution to be now?
JB: I think we need to set two priorities. First support the government, any government, in its attempts to achieve full and total control over the entire expanse of Lebanese territory including the borders. Second, reach agreement with the widest possible array of political forces to the effect that our armed forces should be the sole owners of weapons and that no party or organization, whether Lebanese or foreign, should be entitled to keep weapons, however noble or righteous they may believe their purpose to be. This will isolate the militias by removing any cover they may have. No militia, however strong, can face the consensus of all other segments of society against it. Once those priorities are achieved, we can sit down and start with the necessary work of constitutional reform.

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