“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”
It is true that Lebanon is but a small entity on the map of the Middle East. But it is also true that Lebanon’s impact on its surroundings is much bigger than its size. This is basically owing to its demographic makeup and other elements which renders it influential in the balances of power in the region.
Something else is true about Lebanon: it is the country closest to democracy in the Arab world; and this in spite of the fact that it has produced the strangest of political phenomena including the fascist, the idealist, and the absurd … since it came into existence within its current borders in 1920.
One of these strange phenomena is Hezbollah. It is a Shiite Muslim party that represents a line of thought not necessarily endorsed by the main schools of the Shiite faith. Hezbollah was, in fact, founded by the security and religious institutions of Iran, and its Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah once said he was proud to be a “soldier in the army of the Vali Faghih”, i.e. Iran’s supreme guide. These were Nasrallah’s exact words.
Hezbollah has made fighting Israel its prime source of legitimacy and the main pretext under which it can keep its weapons, but the truth is it had used this power to take control of Lebanon’s political scene under the auspices of the Syrian regime while totally overlooking Lebanon’s sovereignty.
Another strange phenomenon is a Christian Maronite military man called Michel Aoun, the former commander of the Lebanese army. This general was assigned the mission of heading an interim military government when Lebanon was on the verge of collapsing in the late 1980s. All Muslim ministers immediately resigned from this government, yet Aoun still considered it legitimate totally overlooking the fact that the hegemony of one sect violates the principle of coexistence. He, then, went on to fight anyone who questioned the legitimacy of his “government”; and in the process tried in his extremist confessional rhetoric to out-bid even the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir when he endorsed the Taif agreement in order to end the civil war.
Aoun also waged a destructive war inside the Christian community then a suicidal war against the Syrian army, which consequently ensured the hegemony of Syria in Lebanon. He then fled to France where he established ties with the “Israeli lobby” in the United States, culminating in his visit to Washington in 2003 and gave a speech at the Congress where he openly called for declaring war against Syria and Hezbollah.
But strange phenomena do not end here.
In February 2005, the ex-Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri was assassinated and it made sense that his main rival, the Syrian-Lebanese security apparatus established in Lebanon by Iran and Syria, to be held accountable and, of course, with Israel’s knowledge.
Less than a month after the assassination, Hezbollah extended its thanks to Syria, hence infuriating three quarters of the Lebanese population. The response came a week after with massive protests calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and this demand materialized a few weeks after.
The surprise was that Aoun came back from his exile in France after reaching an agreement with the Syrian regime. It was not long before he entered into an alliance with Hezbollah under the auspices of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
It was obvious that Aoun couldn’t care less about Lebanese sovereignty; and that Hezbollah dropped its struggle against Israel.
Aoun forgot the time he described the Syrian regime as the “crazy fireman” who would start a fire then seek appreciation for putting it out. He actually performed a pilgrimage to northern Syria, the birthplace of Saint Maroun, where he was Assad’s guest. In return, Hezbollah did not take an action against Aoun for his statements at the Congress.
Aoun, who was a commander of a state army and an staunch opponent of illegitimate militias, stood still when Hezbollah attacked a military helicopter and killed its pilot Captain Samer Hanna: and Hezbollah, which survives on its struggle against Israel, did not utter a word when one of Aoun’s closes aides, Colonel Fayez Karam, was uncovered as maintaining contact with Israel, and duly served a jail sentence.
Last week offered other instances of this series of wonders.
Aoun gave a speech in which he warned his supporters and members of his party of the consequences of toppling the Syrian regime. “The fall of the Syrian regime would signal a fall of democracy,” he said. “Christians will pay the price.” He explained that the fall of the Syrian regime will put an end to freedom of faith and will usher a new era of fanaticism. He even went as far as saying that the fall of the Syrian regime will mean the fall of all Lebanon. “We will be taken back to the 14th century,” he added.
When he mentioned the 14th century, he probably meant Islamic rule. The question is: Isn’t his ally Hezbollah an Islamic party? And to which century do the theological notion of Vali Faghih?
Aoun’s “respect” for Islam and Muslims is, in fact, equivalent to Hezbollah’s “respect” for Lebanese sovereignty.
Hassan Fadlallah, one of Hezbollah’s intellectual MPs, accused yesterday the March 14 bloc “of compromising the sovereignty of Lebanon”, and vowed that there is no way Lebanon would go back “60 or even six years.”
Sheikh Nabil Kaaouk, vice president of Hezbollah’s Executive Council, had earlier issued similar statements about March 14 being untrustworthy. Lebanese Minister of Agriculture Dr. Husseim al-Hajj, the prominent academic and the graduate of French universities, said that March 14 “is obstructing the work of the Lebanese government because its members are incapable of adapting to the fact that they are no longer in power”.
The three gentlemen seem to want – or expect – the Lebanese people to forget the one-year-long sit-ins that lobbied for toppling a democratically elected government. They want them to forget those found guilty by the Lebanese judiciary of communicating with Israel for years. They want them to forget from where the “divine” party is receiving orders, and to believe that an entity created by Iran and Syria and with Israel’s approval really respects Lebanon’s sovereignty.
Those behind Lebanon’s strange phenomena are similar to their counterparts in Damascus: they kill thousands of Syria’s men, women and children and then accuse others of conspiring “to spill the blood of the Syrian people!”.
(The writer is a columnist at Asharq al-Awsat where this article was first published on Sept. 10, 2012