Lebanese demand bread, Hezbollah offers hot air and fantasies
Once upon a time, an incautious word against Hezbollah — whether from lowly journalists or leading politicians — could merit a death sentence. Nowadays, ridiculing the “Axis of Resistance” has become a Lebanese national pastime.
In recent days, a flood of videos and articles have boldly questioned how Lebanon benefits from Hassan Nasrallah’s promises of breakfasting in Jerusalem, while penniless citizens struggle to obtain breakfast in Beirut. “The image of the Israelis packing their stuff and getting on planes and ships is in front of my eyes,” Nasrallah blustered in his latest fusillade of lies and obfuscations.
Nasrallah nowadays has no stomach for confronting the “Zionist enemy.” He believes that being the most rabidly outspoken anti-Israel voice excuses him from acting on his pronouncements. His nonsensical rhetoric is Hezbollah’s pretext for pointing its weapons at the heads of Lebanese and Syrian citizens. Hezbollah doesn’t stand for “muqawamah” (resistance) against Israel — its real war is against Lebanon’s dignity, identity, prosperity, culture and national pride.
Just as Antoine Lahd and his South Lebanon Army were regarded as traitors for aligning with Israel, social media activists are incessantly denouncing Nasrallah as a traitor for selling out his nation to Iran. Hezbollah’s very existence guarantees that Lebanon will never receive sufficient international financial support, which represents its only possible exit from the current catastrophic impasse. Intellectuals, economists and academics are sounding the alarm bell that the cancerous tumor of Hezbollah is steadily killing the Lebanese state. Can nobody propose a procedure for excizing it before it’s too late?
Hezbollah and Israel enjoy a cynical relationship of mutually beneficial symbiosis — collaborating to undermine the Palestinian cause. By bankrolling radicals like Islamic Jihad and Hamas, and flooding the Occupied Territories with weapons, Iran helped Israel discredit the Palestinian cause in the eyes of the world. Just as Daesh and Al-Qaeda provoked Western invasions to give themselves a raison d’etre, if Israel ceased to be, how would Hezbollah justify its existence?
Through its battalion of media outlets, Hezbollah weans its foot soldiers on a steady diet of vacuous propaganda about liberating Palestine, which only serves to justify perpetual Iranian hegemony and expanding monopoly over the Lebanese state, while offering nothing for the 50 percent of Lebanese who now live below the poverty line. By training and arming anti-state insurgents in Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and Syria, Hezbollah objectively poses a far more immediate threat to Arab regional stability than to Israel.
Through its aggressive regional expansionism, Iran is coming to eclipse Israel as the enemy of the Arab world. Palestine remains one of the most just and noble causes in the world, yet it breaks my heart to see how little resonance it has today among many Arab societies.
Through its aggressive regional expansionism, Iran is coming to eclipse Israel as the enemy of the Arab world.
The Israeli seizure of the Jordan Valley and rural West Bank would provoke immense sound and fury from Al-Manar TV. If this hot air was translated into tangible action to achieve Palestinian justice, I would be the first to offer wholehearted support. But does anybody believe that Hezbollah intends to lift a finger to redress such a colossal act of theft? Nasrallah rants endlessly about global injustice, yet for every 1,000 Palestinians Israel has dispossessed, Hezbollah and Iran have displaced 100,000 Syrians. For every Palestinian activist murdered by the Israel Defense Forces, Iran’s proxies have slaughtered 100 civilians. Israel is the enemy of all those who hate injustice, but Hezbollah, as an agent of Iran, has gone to extreme lengths to outdo its “Zionist foe.”
Within the Iran-Contra deal, Israel was secretly Tehran’s primary arms dealer throughout the 1980s war with Iraq. Despite Iran’s cartoonish “death to Israel” slogans, the regime knows that, if it ever initiated a direct conflict, Israeli warplanes would wipe its paramilitary fighters off the regional map within hours — while America and Tel Aviv’s other Western allies would not sit passively on the sidelines either.
During a speech last week, Nasrallah cited the “rules of the conflict that (have) been established between the resistance and Israel” to acknowledge their tacit understanding about avoiding targeting each other. He said: “We have the ability to initiate, and Israel has too, and that creates a balance that both parties take into account.” The New York Times reported that Hezbollah fighters have received “surprise phone calls” from Israeli sources, warning them to depart sites slated for attacks with the aim of preserving the delicate status quo. Nasrallah rages against UN Interim Force in Lebanon troops, yet the presence of this force suits Hezbollah in helping ensure that its bellicose rhetoric never becomes a reality. However, a fatal mistake in this warmongering propaganda could easily drag Lebanon into a viciously destructive war.
This shadow conflict, meanwhile, has horrific consequences. In the final 72 hours of the 2006 war, Israel dropped in excess of 4 million cluster bomblets over southern Lebanon, which continue killing and dismembering children to this day, while costing farmers millions of dollars in lost production. Hezbollah isn’t a “deterrent” against an Israeli invasion; it is a primary reason why Lebanon continues to live under the unceasing threat of war.
Lebanon is witnessing bouts of shadowboxing as each faction seeks to diversify its options: Gebran Bassil sends out mildly controversial trial balloons via his proxies to convince the Americans not to impose sanctions on him as a Hezbollah enabler, while conserving his all-important relationship with Nasrallah in an unceasing quest for the presidency. Bassil’s calls for administrative and financial “decentralization” have been interpreted as seeking to drag Lebanon down the fatally divisive direction of federalism, which many leading politicians like Walid Jumblatt have denounced as a “suicide path for everyone.”
Comments by Hezbollah and Amal Movement-aligned cleric Ahmad Qabalan also exploded like a hand grenade. He asserted that the “sectarian basis” of Lebanon’s post-civil war political system “is a phase which has come to an end.” Observers questioned whether this represented a veiled threat of Hezbollah’s readiness to impose its own political formula if rival factions pulled the plug on the current government.
This speculation and uncertainty is a symptom of Lebanon’s continuing plunge into the unknown. For once, Hezbollah has everything to lose. Where once Hezbollah was naively lauded as the defender of Lebanon, it is now reviled as the primary instigator of the country’s forthcoming demise. This is not the Party of God — it is the party of theft, corruption, foreign exploitation and naked political gain.
At this moment of insurmountable national peril, there is a growing realization in Lebanon about how close the country is to losing its Arab identity and national integrity. Citizens have finally realized who the real enemy is. Now, what will they do about it?
- Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.