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From the Airport: The Return to 7 May - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Anybody who witnessed the security and political embrace that Hezbollah insisted on demonstrating last week in welcoming Major General Jamil Sayyed cannot help but compare this scene at Beirut international airport to what took place on 7 May two years ago. This comparison is automatic, and for those who can’t recall what I am talking about, a consultation with Google or YouTube will quickly jog your memory. The black SUVs that have no number plates and which pulled up in front of the airport [to welcome Major General Jamil Sayyed] were the same cars that raced through the streets of Beirut on 7 May after Hezbollah’s militia took control of large sections of Beirut.

The only difference is that the situation wasn’t as simple [to observe] on 7 May. At the time, Hezbollah exerted effort to close down all media outlets, and even resorted to burning down some media outlet’s premises. Hezbollah imposed restrictions and censored photographers and journalists, even those belonging to media outlets allied to it. Hezbollah also exerted effort to control what was being broadcast on television, although it failed to control all media outlets, which enabled us to view much of what happened [on that day], and we must think YouTube for recording this and keeping the memory of what happened alive.

On 7 May 2008, Hezbollah did not want its image to be broadcast whilst it was [militarily] occupying Beirut; although the paramilitary organization was indifferent towards images of militias allied to it being broadcast, it exercised strict control with regards to the broadcast of Hezbollah fighters. However last Saturday Hezbollah took the completely opposite attitude [with regards to meeting Major General Jamil Sayyed at Beirut airport]. Perhaps the organization regrets shunning the media on 7 May 2008, for this time Hezbollah did all that it could to ensure that all media outlets were present at the airport, and that all journalists and photographers could observe and record Hezbollah’s security guards, their sunglasses, walkie-talkies, loaded machine guns, and black SUVs. These security guards were standing right next to, and in some cases beyond, the state security forces and army troops, who appeared to have lost control of the situation in the same manner that they did on 7 May 2008.

Jamil Sayyed was flanked by more Hezbollah security guards than those that escort Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah when he addresses the media!

Hezbollah wanted the Lebanese people and the world to see its security and military personnel, and one Hezbollah MP told the media that “we are at the airport today to defend the judicial system and the state.”

It is not difficult to read what was happening last Saturday. What we saw was the defence of the state through the strengthening of a non-state institute, and the defence of the judicial system by strengthening an illegitimate and unlawful institute!

The people of Lebanon may overcome what they saw last Saturday in the same manner that they have overcome worse things, but what has recently been seen in the Lebanese media gives a glimpse of the complex impasse that we will soon face.

General Michel Aoun has come out and publicly asked his supporters to carry out acts of civil disobedience and not cooperate with the Lebanese security apparatus, while Major General Jamil Sayyed issued public threats [against the Prime Minister and Lebanese government] and said that he would take justice “into his own hands.” Hezbollah has also come out to flex its muscles in front of the media, highlighting the state’s inability to confront the organization. This reflects a crack in the foundations of Lebanon that cannot be healed by the Arab world or the international community, even if they are capable of control the explosion that this causes, or in the best case, postponing it.

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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