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We ALL want to live!

28. December 2006

by Samah Idriss, al-Adab

“There will be a war next summer. Only the sector has not been chosen yet. The atmosphere in the Israel Defense Forces in the past month [November] has been very pessimistic. The latest rounds in the campaigns on both fronts, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, have left too many issues undecided, too many potential detonators that could cause a new conflagration. The army’s conclusion from this is that a war in the new future is a reasonable possibility. As Amir Oren reported in Haaretz several weeks ago, the IDF’s operative assumption is that during the coming summer months, a war will break out against Hezbollah and perhaps against Syria as well.”

This is what two journalists wrote in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on 4/12/20061.(1) But here, in the heart of Beirut, the atmosphere seems quite different. The Opposition is in the streets, holding a sit-in until the formation of a “national union” or “national unity” government or until Fuad Siniora’s government is toppled. Sunni-Shi’a agitation has reached a peak, despite assurances that Lebanon cannot be “Iraqized” (in the past, we have heard assurances that Iraq cannot be “Lebanonized”). A martyr (whom government supporters described as having been “killed”) has fallen from the opposition ranks. The wounded number in the tens. A Western newspaper talks about new weaponry that has arrived at the Internal Security Forces from an Arab country [United Arab Emirates] in order to counter the influence of “Hezbollah” and Iran. Pictures of Rafiq Hariri are torn apart. Pictures of Hassan Nassrallah are shot at. The student representative in the Socialist Party is beaten up. The Resistance is meant to be in the alleys.

But the alleys are not those of Marun al-Ras, Bint Jbeil and Aita al-Sha’b that taught the Israeli enemy and its Mirkava tanks the harshest of lessons. Rather, the alleys are those of Corniche al-Mazra’a, al-Berbir, Tariq al-Jadidah, Qasqas and al-Dana. The “enemy” is now a Sunni Lebanese. The aim: to bury the Islamic Resistance in the alleys of Beirut, after France and the US failed to strip it of its weapons by means of international resolution 1559,(2) and after the US and Israel failed to eradicate it and destroy or confiscate its weapons during the July-August invasion.

It is as if we were watching an old scenario being replayed, or a scene that we had seen before (dà©jà vu): the scenario of the Palestinian-Lebanese conflict in the eighties, or the scene of the Palestinian resistance turning from fighting Israel to drowning in a swamp of petty wars (which the [Palestinian] resistance itself helped sometimes to sprout). While not subscribing to conspiracy theories, one is led to ask: could it be that with the glad tidings of the new American Middle East, the Lebanonization of Iraq is being followed by the Iraqization of Lebanon and the “Palestinianization” of the Lebanese Islamic Resistance?

And, as the mattocks are being prepared to bury the National Resistance in the districts of Beirut and elsewhere in Lebanon, and as the Sunni poor are incited to stand against the Shi’a poor, signals emerge from the South, and in particular from the town of Naqura, that point to a possible alteration in the aim of the mission of the International Forces as set out by the international resolution 1701 – namely, that of supporting the deployment of the Lebanese Army in the South. Following an article in the French newspaper “Le Monde” of 24/9/2006 in which mention was made of “rules of engagement” that point (albeit in an ambiguous way) to an offensive role for the International Forces, a statement was released on 10/10/2006 in which these Forces spoke of their “right” to “use force for reasons other than self-defense”, to establish “temporary barricades” in the South, to act on “special information” in instances when the Lebanese Army is unable to act, and to “use force” against any “hostile activities”. These “rights” were not stipulated in Resolution 1701 and, if they become part of UNIFIL practice, they will transform it into a force of deterrence and repression with respect to the Resistance and not a force of protection for Lebanon. The actions of the Spanish forces last month, when they broke into the houses of people in the South in search of weapons and “terrorists”, are an ominous signal that reinforces these fears.

…This, if the International Forces are not brought in to separate the quarrelers in the alleys of Beirut, or to prevent the infiltration of “terrorists” across the Syrian-Lebanese border.

In brief, the Islamic and National Resistance is meant to be squeezed between the two claws of a pincer:

* International-Israeli in the South. And we note here the emphasis of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the mission of the International Forces in the South is actually “to protect Israel” not Lebanon; otherwise these Forces would be standing on both sides of the Lebanese-Palestinian border not only on one side(3) — the Lebanese, which was under assault.

* International-Local in Beirut and other areas. And we note here the intimate relationship between the US administration and the leaders of the ruling coalition, a feature of which was the sandwich party at the US embassy, and the visit of representatives of the coalition to Washington to congratulate Bolton (are they going to visit him now to console him following his resignation?).

Is it possible that the leadership of the Resistance is not aware of these dangers, despite all the sophistication and wisdom that we witnessed in its management of the resistance against Israel this past summer and during the past few years?

The cause of our worries are the frictions that arise at the Opposition’s sit-in in the streets of Beirut despite Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s insistence in his speech on 7/12/2006 that no chance should be given to the plotters, intriguers and sectarianists. The Resistance should not abstain from internal Lebanese affairs, as it did in the past; for, securing the Resistance (Hezbollah) is dependant upon the creation of popular and governmental support. However, one is led to ask: can this support be achieved through a “national unity” government? Can this support be achieved if Fuad Siniora, whom the Resistance (and the Opposition) accused of forsaking the Resistance after the capture of the two Israeli soldiers on July 12, stays on as head of a new cabinet? And how can the Opposition “not mind” the return of Siniora as head of a new government, after accusing him – of all possible charges – of conniving and conspiring, the last of which is Sayyed Nasrallah’s accusation that he ordered the Lebanese Army to confiscate weapons transferred to the Resistance in the South during the last war? And how can there be national unity with the leaders of the ruling coalition when, according to documents in the possession of the Resistance (as Nasrallah hinted in his last speech), some of them were conniving with the Israeli occupation? Either the Resistance has raised its treason ceiling to the point that its demand for national unity with the “conspiring traitors” has become contradictory and precipitous or it has raised this ceiling in order to achieve “effective” participation in the government, and, in such an instance, charging it [the government] with treason would be gratuitous and far from honest.

Whatever the case, the opposition is very wrong to think that participating in the government through what it calls “the guaranteeing third” (or blocking third) + 1, will put the country on the right path. What is far more important than the percentage the opposition holds in the government is a comprehensive program for radical reform: from holding all corrupt politicians accountable, to fighting all those responsible for the huge debts that Lebanon incurred (and no sanctity here for the dead!), fixing the wretched state of the Lebanese University, articulating a clear socio-economic policy that helps the poor overcome their burdens, defining Lebanon’s relationships with its Arab-Islamic surroundings, so that these relationships are firm, without being subordinate to either the Syrian regime or the Saudi Arabian regime in particular, giving Palestinians in Lebanon their full civil and political rights until their return to Palestine, defining a clear position that refuses the dictates of the World Bank …

But, let’s be frank about it, how can we expect all this from the Opposition, when some sections in it are directly responsible for past corruption, and past squander, for the “partification” and “sectarianization” of the Lebanese University, for paralyzing the labour movement, for making entire unions subordinate to different tutelages, for flirting and coordinating with old-renewable guardianships to increase their chances of reaching the highest posts?

The real opposition, from all oppositional parties, should, at this particular time in the history of our country – when different sections of the Lebanese population are united in Riad al-Solh and Shohad’a – articulate its own clean visions for the future— visions that do not stop at immediate goals (like, as we said earlier, the hasty and unconvincing demand for a “national unity government”) or personal aspirations. The honest groups should keep – even amid this rich mixture of oppositions – a considerable distance from some of the leaders of the Opposition that are themselves responsible for drowning Lebanon in corruption, squander and Syrian … and international (1559) tutelage. Moreover, the genuine secularists in the opposition should not just nod approvingly at slogans of the “dubious Opposition” that do not differ in the least from the slogans of the March 14 group: the call for “Muslim-Christian unity” and for “Sunni, Shi’a, Druze, Orthodox, Maronite …” solidarity (as per one of the new songs), and all similar calls that are so abundant in the late Opposition sit-in and are reminiscent of the March 14 demonstrations (the one important difference being the absence of a racist attitude towards “the Syrian”). As for the songs that sprouted from the media machinery of Hezbollah for this particular event – besides being devoid of any artistic or political value (as opposed to most of the Resistance songs of previous years) – they remind us of the absurd, rushed “unifying” songs that were broadcast on “Future TV” and “Radio Orient” [Hariri outlets] following the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri. The difference here is that the “new” opposition is the one that is, today, singing the songs of “national unity” that the “old” opposition used to sing in the days of Syrian tutelage, before turning against it [national unity], after attaining power, and after the need to know “the truth” became its sole aim in life— as if there is no truth in the world worthy of being known other than the truth of who killed Rafiq Hariri!

Raising the demands for comprehensive secularism, holding all corrupt politicians accountable whatever side they are on, refusing all local and international guardianships, improving the state of the Lebanese University and of public education, supporting low-income housing, making Lebanon a single voting district while adopting a system of proportional representation— this is what is expected from the real opposition (the Communist Party, the People’s Movement, the National Unity Platform, … ) while it simultaneously demands protection and the upgrading of the weaponry of the Resistance in anticipation of the next Israeli invasion this summer (or earlier or later) as Haaretz predicts.

“We want to live!” This is what president Siniora says, repeating the slogans posted on bulletin boards across the capital these days. Those promoting the new slogan may be no different from those who, after the end of the Syrian tutelage, promoted the slogan “Independence 05” followed, a few months later, by the slogan “Dependence 06”, mocking and ridiculing the first! We, of course, want to live like Siniora wants. But, “free and dignified” living has to include everyone: our captives in the jails of occupation that have sacrificed for us, our people in the South dwelling amid daily Israeli violations and in the danger that one of the one million two hundred thousand cluster bomblets dropped by Israel during the last hours before the cease-fire could explode in the face of their sons and daughters. Free and dignified living should include the poor and dispossessed, low-income employees and the victims of Hariri’s “reconstruction”— most people neither benefited from his upscale Solidà¨re or from his luxurious airport. “We want to live” should include, as well, the more than three hundred thousand Palestinians who, in the camps of misery, are simply not “living”. And, by the way, only one thing “lives” better now than at anytime in the past: the banks!

Samah Idriss is the editor of al-Adab magazine.
This article appeared originally in the October-December issue of al-Adab.
Translated by Tadamon! Montreal, with permission.

(1) Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, “North and South”,

(2) Richard Labà©vià¨re attributes UN Resolution 1559 to France’s desire to please the United States after the losses it incurred from the American boycott that followed its objections to the 2003 American invasion of Iraq. He also notes that the close financial relationship between the late Prime Minister Hariri and French President Jacques Chirac played a role in the passage of the Resolution.

(3) Robert Fisk, “Conflict in the Middle East is Mission Implausible”, The Independent, 15 Nov. 2006.