It’s time for the Lebanese people to seize control of their destiny

It’s time for the Lebanese people to seize control of their destiny

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Lebanese army soldiers corral protesters in Beirut. (AP Photo)

As the conditions in Lebanon worsen and a solution seems impossible, some international voices are once again trying to make a case for a differentiation between Hezbollah as a political force and as an armed organization.
This is nothing but an imaginary differentiation invented a long time ago by the Europeans to please the Iranians and enable them to deal with government formations that included Hezbollah members. Hezbollah is a unified entity and one cannot differentiate between its political and armed wings.
To serve Iran’s regional interests, Hezbollah has used the Lebanese state as a shield to allow it to continue its military and terrorist operations, while in the process consistently weakening the country’s institutions.
The Lebanese state has been unable to enforce any decision on the armed group, and this “state above the state” status has also been a major reason for the spread of corruption throughout the country. Indeed, the silence of political forces about Hezbollah’s special status had to be compensated.
For decades, Hezbollah has taken sovereign decisions and forced the country to pay for them, while the ability to govern and administer has been challenged and destroyed. Moreover, international help requested by Lebanese governments always came when needed to cover financial crises or to rebuild the country.
It was a good deal for the Iranian axis for many years. Hezbollah and its masters in Tehran never thought that the international community, and especially the Gulf countries, would stop yielding to their blackmail — but they finally have.
For years, Iran’s leaders could run their business, threaten regional order and decide on foreign military campaigns, while others would keep paying. It has been, in fact, a true hostage and racketeering scheme, using the Lebanese state. It was accepted by successive Lebanese governments from all sides of the political spectrum, including the March 14 movement.
Therefore, it is a surprise that some voices continue to try to make a case for a differentiation between Hezbollah’s political and armed wings, and to suggest that the Lebanese people accept Hezbollah’s status as an armed militia. This is simply not true.
The reality is that until the protests started, the people feared Hezbollah and the consequences of any confrontation. They no longer fear this regime for one simple reason: This corrupt arrangement between Hezbollah and the local political forces has left them with nothing. The state has been depleted and destroyed, so the racketeering scheme no longer works.
Shiites, Sunnis, Maronites, Druze, Orthodox — none of them have anything left to lose. They have lost their country, their life savings, their health and their minds. All this while Hassan Nasrallah continues to point his finger at and threaten the US, and reassures his followers and party members that even if the country fails their salaries will be paid (in dollars) by Tehran.
Not even this provokes a reaction by the opposition. As the country disintegrates — and in a surreal disconnection with reality — opposition politicians are bickering about who ensured the quorum for the vote of confidence on Hassan Diab’s government.
It is also interesting to read in the pro-Hezbollah media that European embassies will give their support to the Diab government.
In short, Nasrallah is no longer just Hezbollah’s secretary-general — he is now officially the supreme leader of a failed state.
It is nevertheless not too late to save Lebanon. Yet this cannot be done without the support of the armed forces. It is time for the Lebanese Army to stand with the people and answer their call. It is high time it responded to what protesters have been crying and bleeding for: One country and one army.
After serious incidents of security posts being targeted by gunfire in a growing challenge and show of disrespect to local authorities, the army cannot split; it must remain united and prepare for a swift and courageous response.
This should start with a declaration of support for the protesters and a pledge to protect them wherever they are, not selectively. A further step should be to create a transitional committee to run the country while suspending the constitution. This committee should be composed of true representatives of the people and exclude all known political formations: Hezbollah, Future Movement, Progressive Socialist Party, Amal Party, Free Patriotic Movement and so on.
“All means all” was the first demand of the uprising and this should be respected. A new constitution needs to be written and approved by a referendum. A new Lebanon cannot be built on sectarianism, it must be built on citizenship: The same rights and duties for all, regardless of religion, gender, wealth or social status. It cannot allow an armed militia to compete against or challenge the state.

A new Lebanon cannot be built on sectarianism, it must be built on citizenship: The same rights and duties for all, regardless of religion, gender, wealth or social status. It cannot allow an armed militia to compete against or challenge the state.

Khaled Abou Zahr

If we do not act swiftly and create this road map, chaos and division within the military and sovereign security institutions will erupt as financial chaos hits the country.
Moreover, we cannot wait for a regional deal with Iran, a resolution between the Israelis and Palestinians, or any other global change. We need to act now to make life better for all — and that means refugees as well.
It is time we understood that Lebanon no longer has the same status as a platform for a free press and cultural exchanges that it did in the 1970s, before the Civil War. Advancing technology and new regional hubs have rendered it obsolete. The world is tired of saving us and will no longer bankroll a racketeering and corruption scheme.
So this time we are alone and we have no choice but to disrupt ourselves and create a new Lebanon.

  • Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view