Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Contradictions and Compromises in Lebanon | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Lebanon’s Hezbollah supporters hold banners and wave Hezbollah (C) and Palestinian flags (L) during a demonstration against Israel’s military action in Gaza, in front of the United Nations headquarters in Beirut July 18, 2014. Israel stepped up its land offensive in Gaza with artillery, tanks and gunboats on Friday and declared it could “significantly widen” […]

A man named Hussein Atwi stands accused of launching a rocket from Lebanon towards northern Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya said Atwi, who is currently being detained and interrogated, is one of its members.

According to the Lebanese government, if he is found guilty he will have violated the state’s laws and have subjected the country to danger, and thus he will deserve to be punished.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has objected to this. His objection, however, is not because he wants to defend Atwi. It aims to protest the contradictions in the Lebanese government’s policy.

Geagea told Future TV Lebanon that he supported the detention of Hussein Atwi. But he also raised an interesting point: What would Lebanon do if, while Atwi was being interrogated, he pointed out that they had arrested him for firing only one missile at Israel, while there is a group in Lebanon that has fired thousands. Geagea continued: “What if he [Atwi] asks: ‘I fired one rocket against Israel and got arrested. Why don’t you arrest Lebanese groups fighting in Syria and firing thousands of rockets against the Syrian people, as [Hezbollah leader] Hassan Nasrallah has acknowledged?’” What would they say to him?

In brief, our current situation is that Lebanon’s borders with Syria are open, while those with Israel are closed. Hezbollah did not launch rockets and send drones towards Israel in order to protect Lebanon or the “Syrian” Shebaa territories. It certainly did not do so out of a desire to liberate Palestine. Hezbollah acted as it did in order to carry out Iran’s policies; it was working within the scope of Iran’s agenda in the Arab region.

Because Hezbollah is committed to the orders of its Iranian sponsor, it has sent thousands of Lebanese youths to fight in Syria. Hezbollah’s militias support Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces by attacking border areas on the Lebanese side. Most of the territories on the Lebanon–Syria border is under the control of Syrian armed groups that oppose Assad—groups that threaten Lebanon with guerrilla warfare. It will not be possible to halt or limit the fighting because, unlike what used to happen when clashes erupted with Israel, there is no phone number you can call to reach an agreement with these groups.

Hezbollah has opened Lebanon to danger over the last 30 years. It has caused Lebanon’s destruction by triggering wars with Israel—wars that served the Syrian and Iranian regimes. For a decade, Hezbollah took Lebanon hostage for the Shebaa Farms, a Syrian border territory occupied since the 1960s. Today, Hezbollah no longer brings up this Israeli-controlled countryside area in its statements and rhetoric.

The urgent Lebanese ordeal is more dangerous than all the crises the country has faced since its civil war ended in 1990. It is dragging the Syrian war into Lebanon. A million Syrians have already fled into Lebanon, part of Assad’s plan to push the crisis onto neighboring countries. Armed Syrian extremist groups besiege Lebanese border regions, and the extremist Hezbollah militias fight in Syria.

We could not give a convincing response to Atwi if he pointed out this hypocrisy. How do you account for one man being arrested for firing one rocket, when nobody is obstructing the paths of the thousands of men going to fight in Syria.

The Gaza crisis has renewed perennial questions about the empty slogans raised by some sides. Hezbollah has been, and still is, Iran’s most prominent agent. Its main task is to confront Israel and keep the Palestinian cause alive, regardless of the consequences and using any justification. But events intervened, and friends became enemies. Those who used to cheer and pray for Hezbollah turned against it; some now see it as an enemy no less evil than Israel.

Those who dream up slogans and write speeches usually know that the people’s memories are very short. What is happening in Syria—the crimes, violations, the death, the sheer scale of the tragedy—is both unthinkable and unforgettable. But there are still people who forget about it. Instead of focusing on this reality, they trick themselves into seeing a different one.

How does anyone justify their contradictions?