The decree from the Ministry of Education that all government schools and universities dedicate one hour to discuss the idea of resistance has incurred the displeasure of many who see it as yet another way for Hezbollah to use its influence to indoctrinate our youth into a military ideology that is predicated on religion and conflict and which in reality has nothing to do with Lebanon at all.
But while this reaction is understandable, and while we should never aspire to be like Iran or North Korea, the ministry should in fact be applauded for taking such a bold step and should encourage more of the same. For if the notion of resistance is essentially the fight for national dignity and independence from oppression and occupation, then, in a Lebanon that has been continuously plagued by conflict both from within and without, a serious debate about how to channel the notion of genuine resistance can only help shape the direction of national dialogue away from the parochial confines of sectarianism.
We have seen, for example, that armed resistance as advocated by Hezbollah has ultimately been a failure. The party, with which the word “resistance” has so often been associated, has been unable to shed its martial posture after it drove Israel out of its 1,200 square kilometer “security zone” in 2000 and only succeeded in alienating those segments of Lebanese society who initially backed its struggle but who soon felt quite jumpy about having an armed party running amok without a cause. The Shebaa Farms argument was a red herring that only highlighted the party’s cynicism, while the 2006 war, started as a result of Hezbollah’s adventurism, merely confirmed the party’s complete disregard for Lebanon’s best interests.
The final smear on Hezbollah’s apparent unimpeachable reputation was its attempt to protect its so-called security interests in 2008 by taking its guns onto the streets and using them to kill fellow Lebanese. For Hezbollah, the Resistance Project became a spectacular failure.
The struggle against Syria’s three decade “presence,” however, showed that resorting to violence need not be the only way to boot out an unwelcome guest. In 2005, for example, we saw another type of resistance, when, in the wake of the February 14 assassination of Rafik Hariri and 21 others in a massive car bomb on the Beirut seafront, 1 million Lebanese took to the streets in peaceful protest against Syria’s presence in Lebanon and the culture of repression, violence, intimidation and murder that it represented. As far as we know, not one person died in what became known variously as the Independence Intifada and the Cedar Revolution. And while Lebanon has struggled to realize its democratic aspirations since those heady days seven years ago this month, the fact remains that March 14, 2005 was a landmark moment in modern Arab history.
So much so, that it more than likely inspired what became known in 2011 as the Arab Spring or Arab Awakening, the spontaneous movement across the Middle East and North Africa that saw dictators toppled and old orders crumble. Surely this was the greatest resistance of all? It remains a work in progress, but if ever there were proof that the Arab Spring was a long overdue manifestation of resistance, one only has to look to the streets of Homs and other towns and cities across Syria where dozens are dying every day for freedom and dignity and the right to live without fear of oppression.
For so long the notion of resistance has been connected to Hezbollah’s private battle with Israel. We need to move beyond this hysterical definition and recognize that Israel is but one thorn (and not necessarily the prickliest) in our side. There are other ways to “resist,” just as they are other forms of occupation to resist against. All Lebanese, indeed all Arabs, who want freedom in all its forms, self-respect, opportunities, peace and prosperity should resist all those that stand their way. This is the modern resistance, and it should be shouted from the rooftops.
Then again maybe that’s not what the Education Ministry had in mind.