Kidnapped by Hezbollah, Lebanese suffer from Stockholm syndrome
We have a family story that is about one of our now-deceased relatives. As he entered the bathroom, which had just been cleaned, he was unable to find his razor blade for his daily shave. So, he started complaining loudly: “Where is my razor blade? Who misplaced my razor blade? Inshallah, I don’t find my razor blade. You will see what happens if I don’t find my razor blade.” At this point, his wife entered the bathroom and yelled back: “Tell me what will you do if you don’t find your razor blade?” And so, he answered timidly: “Nothing, honey, I won’t do anything, I just won’t shave, why are you getting upset?” It all would have been fine except that another family member was a guest that day and spilled the beans to the rest of the family.
There is much about Lebanese politics today that resembles this scene. People scream, “Where is our prime minister? Where is our president? Where are our MPs?” They can all yell, but ultimately Hezbollah comes in and says: “What are you going to do about it?” And everyone answers: “Don’t get upset, we will do without it.” This is already happening with the constant and consistent humiliation of the prime minister’s office. We are only allowed to have an acting prime minister and the Lebanese have accepted this.
When it comes to the presidency, it gets more respect. Just a little more to avoid a precedent. Yet, intrinsically, it has become a position under the control of Hezbollah. This is why, when it comes to the approaching mandate, the opposition only requests an uncontroversial president. This is the same opposition that, I remind you, could make its own selection if it were united. It is a complete capitulation. I seriously do not understand what this means. The only request is not to be insulted and to try and find an imaginary consensus, while Hezbollah continues with the destruction of the country. This is crazy politics.
In fact, the Lebanese suffer from Stockholm syndrome. They have more reasons to storm public buildings than the people of Sri Lanka or Ecuador, but they will not do it. This is simply because they know very well that the power does not lie in any of the republic’s buildings or symbols. They know that the real power — the power that controls the country and has kidnapped them — belongs to Hezbollah. And it is exactly that: A hostage situation. Just like the bank heist situation in Sweden, from which the syndrome’s name derives, the victims refuse to act or testify against their captors.
The syndrome is so strong with some on the left that they will actually take sides in favor of Hezbollah, presenting the organization as a symbol of resistance against international imperialism and an example of ethics and purity. The blame is entirely with the political parties and Israel and the US, which are trying to colonize Lebanon. It must be easier to live with this illusion than face the reality of being in a hostage situation. The milder version of this syndrome is to avoid mentioning Hezbollah, keep the blame on the political parties and analyze Lebanese politics as if it was a functioning democracy. This one proves popular with Western pundits and is all the more pernicious.
They have more reasons to storm public buildings than the people of Sri Lanka or Ecuador, but they will not do it
Khaled Abou Zahr
It is not only the imbalance of power that paralyzes the Lebanese and prevents them from acting. They might not say it, but they all understand too well what rising up against Hezbollah would mean. It would be a second civil war. Obviously, the captor knows it well and viciously uses this fact to keep a full grip on power. Hezbollah has already wiped out every single threat, no matter how small. It has basically continued and completed the actions of the Syrian troops. To this day, it keeps exploiting the fears of every minority to keep everyone in check. The playbook of occupation is the same across geographies and history. Obviously corruption is only a side effect. It is the required grease on the wheels of such regimes. Everyone complains about it, but they also envy the ones close enough to the captor so that they can benefit from it.
The technique is the same as that of Hezbollah’s patron in Tehran. It is all about twisting arms and threats of chaos. And so, today, as a final text has been reached in the nuclear deal negotiations, there is little mystery about how the following years will look. In these negotiations, the West is suffering with Stockholm syndrome just like the Lebanese. The Europeans especially are looking for a quick fix, having lost access to Russian oil as winter fast approaches. If we go back to 2015 and 2016, after the original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was signed, Hezbollah and all other Iranian proxies felt emboldened and used the deal to grab more in each and every arena. It will probably be the same now. The only difference is that the countries of the region will not take such abuse this time.
Unlike my silly family story of a husband and a wife bickering, there is no love there. There is not even a family left. This image of Lebanon is dead and buried. There is nothing to build with a terrorist group like Hezbollah, no matter how often Western pundits describe the organization as Lebanese. This is a lie. Hezbollah is not Lebanese and it is not even a political organization. It is a violent extremist group holding an entire country hostage and destroying its freedom and fabric.
• Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.