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Hezbollah: Perfecting the Art of Eavesdropping - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The controversy that is currently taking place in Lebanon with regards to who is spying on whom, and whether phone-tapping is “legal or illegal” is amusing.

What is even more comical is that the meeting of the parliamentary Media and Telecommunication Commission convened to discuss this issue was held in secret! The joke is not over yet, the chairman of the parliamentary Media and Telecommunications Commission is a deputy [MP Hassan Fadlallah] for the “Loyalty to the Resistance” political bloc i.e. Hezbollah!

It is a common experience when calling a Lebanese politician, and asking him what is going on, or after simply mentioning the name of Hassan Nasrallah, to receive the response “We’ll talk when we meet in London [i.e. not over the phone]”

What is strange is the fuss made over the issue of phone-tapping, for Lebanon is a country where basic privacy is not protected, for everything is done openly there. Although the practice of phone-tapping has only been attempted primarily since the Syrian’s established a presence there, and after Lebanon became acquainted with characters that you could tell stories about!

Hezbollah said that it was one of the first parties to call for this issue of “illegal” phone-tapping to be confronted. Hezbollah of course is not talking about the “legal” phone-tapping that the movement itself performs under the name of resistance, this does not include the state, and that is the crux of the matter.

When the state is absent then nothing is present, and it is due to this state absence that Lebanon has become a country “suspended from its ankles” with the resistance having its own media [agency], and army. Its flag flies higher than that of the Lebanese flag, and so of course it [the resistance] has its own special agencies for spying.

When the security chief of Lebanon’s airport was dismissed [for alleged ties to the movement] Hezbollah took up arms [to reinstate him] and we all know what controlling airport security means. So how can Hezbollah attempt to portray itself as impartial in the case of phone-tapping? Especially since the airport is the port of call for illegal items which includes devices used for phone-tapping.

What some forgot is that Hezbollah has a private communication network which the movement considers a red-line that cannot be transgressed against, and this is not to mention the camera that was discovered [monitoring a runway of the Lebanon airport] and the cameras which are yet to be found.

And so what the Lebanese have not yet realized is that when the state is absent then nothing is present, and then the most important executive powers are transformed into a doormat for worthless ministers, and the political process continues with [empty] dialogue and debate in lavish settings, while victory is achieved through arms.

Our newspaper had a legal experience [in Lebanon]; all we needed was a single particular file from a ministry in Lebanon. I spoke to an important Lebanese individual about the document that we needed, she called a Lebanese Minister in my presence [with regards this issue]; his answer, he would do his best to see if the document was still present in their files!

We did not stop our efforts, and we spoke to two junior members of staff in this ministry to find out whether the file was still there. The answer came back that the file had completely disappeared, nobody wanted to speak about it, and of course our telephone calls continued [in vain]. That week felt like a month, and we were forced to wait for our envoy to travel to Lebanon, and then wait for his return, since nobody wanted to talk on the telephone about any sensitive issues. And all of this was to locate one innocuous document which of course had nothing to do with the location of Hassan Nasrallah [or anything sensitive like that]!

And so the issue is larger than “who is spying on whom” rather the issue in Lebanon, in its entirety, revolves around the absence of the state. For as long as the state is absent then Hezbollah, and others, will continue to do as they please.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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