Holding Hezbollah accountable more important than left or right
Many people question if the political divide between left and right exists in Lebanon. Does the same delineation we see in the West also exist in local political formations? And, if so, who is right wing and who is left wing? A quick answer would be that this is just color on top of the confession of each party. Indeed, in appearance, all Lebanese parties are confessional before being right or left. In a country where the sharing of political power is linked to confession and religion, the clan comes first. Moreover, it seems that, regardless of the paint they choose, few care about or question it, as allegiance goes to the leader, not their political platform.
This is clear in the alliances between political parties during elections. In short, most moves are tactical rather than built on a political vision or long-term strategy. Politics in Lebanon is a short-term deal-making activity. This shows in times of elections, when the map matters more than having a common ideology, whether left or right. As the country’s situation worsens, the dividing issue is now being for or against Hezbollah. This is how political delineation is defined today.
And so, how would we qualify Hezbollah? Is it a left-wing or a right-wing movement? Interestingly, most Western-influenced and left-leaning Lebanese intellectuals would qualify Hezbollah as right wing. I disagree vehemently. Hezbollah is in fact a religious communist party, just as Iran is a religious communist country.
It starts with the political structure and the country’s declared purpose. In both structures, there is a supreme leader or secretary-general, followed by a guardian council or a politburo, followed by a central committee or expediency council and the members of the party. Each has its own colors, but the construction of the blocs is similar. And this goes to serve the objectives of the belief or theology. It is state over individual. It is the same structure as the Muslim Brotherhood has opted for. When it comes to the economy, free enterprise is replaced by a state-run economy. And so, by all accounts, Hezbollah is a left-wing political formation.
It is important to note that the left that opposed Hezbollah or the Syrian regime was eliminated early on. Samir Kassir, one of the leading leftist thinkers who was critical of Hezbollah, was killed in a car bomb in 2005. The remaining left-leaning political movements focus their criticism on the political parties and ruling elite and avoid criticizing Hezbollah. Their political program favors Hezbollah’s status; and, worse, it institutionalizes it. Strangely enough, if you ask who would benefit from their programs demanding secularism, social justice and equality, the answer is always Hezbollah. And so today, whether they would like to admit it or not, the leader of the left in Lebanon is Hezbollah.
The key point is that the left is deflecting the blame from Hezbollah. Lebanon’s left-leaning intellectuals and thinkers are pushing the narrative of the ruling elite and brushing off Hezbollah’s accountability. They never mention who is protecting this ruling elite or who is benefiting the most. They will not recognize Hezbollah’s responsibility and main role in the decay of their country. For them, Hezbollah is fighting the biggest oppressor — Israel — and is not accountable for what is happening in the country. This is bipolar politics or hypocrisy and might explain their disastrous results in May’s elections.
Until this day and despite the slogans, when asked, leftist thinkers or political formations do not want to be labeled as such. They do not want to be perceived as being on the left and, in the same way, do not want Hezbollah to be labeled as such either. They still know that, in a country that idolizes free enterprise and entrepreneurship and looks up to successful entrepreneurs, this would not sit well. However, the main fact is that the deepening of the crisis is changing the fabric of the country. Hezbollah — and the Syrian regime before it — has corrupted and bankrupted the soul of the Lebanese flag and its libertarian values.
Lebanon’s left-leaning thinkers are pushing the narrative of the ruling elite and brushing off Hezbollah’s accountability.
Khaled Abou Zahr
Nevertheless, the October 2019 protests showed a greater voice of the left in Lebanon, especially among the youth. Although a varied crowd, most of the slogans and demands of the leaderless youth movement could be described as left-wing. But even they, despite the starting slogan of “all means all,” quickly excluded Hezbollah.
The party uses an image of obsequiousness and modesty to contrast with the uncaring elite and exacerbate the youth’s frustration. And so, will today’s youth, which is being starved and deprived of everything, still believe in freedom or free enterprise? As they see the system is crooked and the profiteers are the ones benefiting, will they still seek to build up and admire those who do, or will they look on with resentment and jealousy? Has the fabric of the country been changed forever?
The answer comes as we realize that two years have now passed since the Beirut Port explosion. More than 200 souls were lost, more than 7,000 injured and there is still no accountability for this murderous action. This crime shows that the corrupt ruling elite is just a symptom of the disease of occupation and, ultimately, Hezbollah and Iran are responsible. And this is why, for the sake of the country’s youth, all Lebanese — from the left and the right — should unite to hold them and their accomplices accountable.
- Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.