Lebanese have to undermine Hezbollah without provoking it
Hezbollah has a vocabulary of its own. Peaceful protests mean roving the streets of Lebanon in big convoys of vehicles, armed to the teeth with heavy weaponry, and screaming threats. Hezbollah’s reaction to Judge Tarek Bitar’s procedures for justice over the Beirut port explosion symbolizes its vocabulary: We have the power to question and accuse the Lebanese state; the Lebanese state does not question us. We are the supreme leader of Lebanon. Unsurprisingly, this aggressive demonstration by Hezbollah led to violence that echoed the years of Lebanon’s civil war.
Last week’s events were described by some Western media outlets as “sectarian clashes,” which is the wrong vocabulary to use. These were not sectarian clashes. An armed, Iranian-owned (not backed) militia took to the streets to threaten the Lebanese and impose its own rule, which ignited a military confrontation. Following these events, leader Hassan Nasrallah warned that Hezbollah has 100,000 trained fighters.
And here it is. This is the only vocabulary Nasrallah knows how to use — that of violence and oppression. This should serve as a lesson to all analysts who have been using the same vocabulary of “political wing” and “armed wing” for this militia. These are the same analysts who use the logic of Iran’s “conservatives” versus “reformists” scenario. Hezbollah’s armed men are not here to defend Lebanon against oppression, they are here to execute Iran’s agenda and, hence, any threat to this structure will be met with extreme violence. It is a military organization that engages in criminal activities.
So let us use the proper vocabulary. Hezbollah is not committed to resistance, but rather to oppression. It is high time the Lebanese on all sides united to face this oppressor that holds the country hostage, starting with its own community. But this needs to be done without creating violence in the streets. It is time to find ways to irritate Hezbollah and disrupt its operations without reaching the point of a violent backlash.
So how do we make Hezbollah obsolete for Iran? How can the Lebanese transform Hezbollah into a liability for the Tehran regime instead of the precious asset it is today? One event stands as a symbol of this potential disruptive action. In August, after Hezbollah fired rockets toward Israeli forces in the Shebaa Farms area, Lebanese citizens intercepted and held the fighters and their truck loaded with rocket launchers in Chouaya, in the south of the country. These citizens were fed up with having to bear the military backlash and the risks they were being exposed to as a result of Hezbollah’s actions. This is what all Lebanese need to do.
Following the incident, the Lebanese Armed Forces intervened and later returned the launcher to Hezbollah. This also raises a question on the army’s required role as guardian of Lebanon’s sovereignty. Today, if you ask most people in Lebanon about the importance of empowering the LAF to counter Hezbollah, they will answer with despair that the latter controls the institution and that, if a strong stand were taken against the militia, it might even fall apart due to divided loyalties within.
Another question is why hasn’t there been data published on the covert and criminal actions that Hezbollah uses? How come the web of businessmen it uses has not been named like those in previous leaks? It seems the only institution that has been uncovering and fighting Hezbollah’s activities is the US Justice Department, which discovered its global web and the links between businessmen and criminal activities. There should be a way for Lebanese to anonymously share information on Hezbollah’s activities in order to block its international activities. The less money it can gather and the fewer smuggling networks it can use, the more obsolete it becomes to the Iranians.
It is high time the Lebanese on all sides united to face this oppressor that holds the country hostage.
Khaled Abou Zahr
As the next parliamentary elections are on the horizon, the Lebanese are reminded that it is not political representation that gives Hezbollah its power, but the 100,000 fighters Nasrallah claims. They give him the power to be above the state and to infiltrate and destroy key institutions with impunity. Hezbollah has never hesitated to eliminate critics or people who reveal information. It is, therefore, important for the Lebanese to force their representatives to use their platform to address Hezbollah’s status. This should be the core of the coming election debate. It might also be about forcing the transformation of the political agenda and asking for a simple yes/no referendum: “Should armed militias surrender their weapons?” This should be a referendum open to Lebanese wherever they live.
It is, nevertheless, my view that the real step needed to move forward and end Hezbollah’s oppression is decentralization. Hezbollah’s actions have, in a way, pushed and destroyed the idea of coexistence among sects. There is no cohabitation with this armed militia; there is only subordinate status for the state and its citizens. As proof, it has turned its Christian ally into a puppet. What a sad demise for Gen. Michel Aoun, who stood against the Syrian occupation.
Federalism will not happen without violence, and so the Lebanese need to find ways to irritate and block Hezbollah without reaching the point of explosion. Most might find it useless for obvious reasons, but I would add to this list a citizens’ dialogue with Hezbollah’s crowd, not its leadership.
- Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.