Saturday, November 11, 2006

Rayyan Al-Shawaf is a writer and freelance reviewer based in Beirut, Lebanon. Here he furnishes a much needed perspective of the way things were observed and understood on the other side of the border from Israel.

Apparently, the shrill war-mongering and gorilla's triumphal chest pounding of Hezbollah in the wake of the war were just that: a lot of noise manufactured in the hope of drowning the political weakness of that organization.

In fact, their bombastic statements notwithstanding, neither Syria nor Iran lifted a finger to aid Lebanon. Indeed, even as Israel pummelled Lebanon, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had the audacity to declare that any Israeli attack on Syria would meet with a firm Iranian response. Attacking Syria crosses a red line, destroying Lebanon doesn't. Regionally, the only positive sign came from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, which indirectly rebuked Hezbollah and Hamas for their 'adventurism'. Hezbollah's actions, of course, are all the more inexcusable as it had already witnessed the furious Israeli response to the Palestinian militants' operation. Pointedly, the leaders of Egypt and Jordan also declared their support for the Lebanese state imposing its authority over all of Lebanon.

Many Palestinians and Lebanese, on the other hand, have become prisoners of their own anti-Israel rhetoric. For too long, they have chosen to coddle ideologically extreme and recklessly violent organisations like Hamas and Hezbollah, in deference to that sacred cow called 'resistance'. Now, they are finding it difficult to change. Indeed, the Palestinian and Lebanese governments failed to condemn the militants' attacks, despite the fact that both occurred in Israel proper, not the occupied West Bank or Shebaa Farms.

Yet in Lebanon, dissent is beginning to be voiced. Even politicians, such as maverick Druze MP Walid Junblatt, are openly questioning Hezbollah's motives. While this certainly augurs well for the future, it cannot ameliorate the current situation. Israel made good on its promise to 'turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years', while Hezbollah seems poised to hijack the Lebanese state for the next 20 years, meaning that Lebanon as a country has already lost. The only remaining hope is that those who truly care about Lebanon will eventually succeed in radically altering the dominant political culture, so that the 'resistance' is no longer enveloped in a halo of immunity, and the Lebanese can finally discuss it freely and critically.


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