Tomorrow, Hezbollah will celebrate Lebanon’s Liberation Day to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the withdrawal of Israeli troops from South Lebanon. Hezbollah’s so-called victory was more a question of money, really: the Israeli government realized it was simply too costly to keep its armed forces in Lebanon.
Indeed, those who lost their lives defending Lebanon’s South during the 18 years of Israeli occupation deserve to be honored. But Hezbollah’s festive gatherings to celebrate victory over Israel gives me goose bumps. They remind me of the forced celebrations of prosperity in North Korea, and of the former Soviet Union communist parades that celebrated world peace and accused the West of imperialism; where chosen people recited ‘patriotic poems’ and sang programmatic songs. And if they didn’t, there was always an “or else.”
In North Korea, having a different opinion means getting sent to prison or even death. In the USSR or its communist satellite countries, it meant “re-education” in a dungeon, getting sent to a labor camp or Siberia. But Hezbollah can’t afford to do that. The party can’t afford to allow free speech, either. In Lebanon, if you don’t sing the party’s tune, you’re automatically accused of being an Israeli agent. In Hezbollah-land, it means that your family will be harassed until they’re too afraid to admit that they know you; it means that you would be accused of any illegality just to send you to prison and silence you.
It’s the Resistance propaganda that Hezbollah is spreading that is very bothersome lately. The idea of ‘Lebanese Resistance’ has become a generic term associated with Hezbollah. But is it? Where is the Lebanese Resistance? Fighting in Syria, killing fellow Arabs and practically inviting al-Qaeda to target the Shiite community in Lebanon? Resisting what? The Sunni community it helped radicalize?
An old Western diplomat once told me that whenever you find yourself in a place where everybody tells you the same thing, there is definitely something wrong going on. After a series of bombings that killed scores of civilians in a Hezbollah controlled neighborhood, the residents recited the same statement “we’re not afraid, we’re going to resist till the end.” That’s when I realized that something was definitely wrong. No human being in their right mind would willingly exposes himself and his family to a mortal danger for the sake of a political party. But what if it was done unwillingly: for fear of being called a traitor; or fearing that social aid might not come anymore, that your family might be harassed and be obliged to harass you into behaving.
Hezbollah stopped being the Lebanese Resistance when the spirit of resistance itself was buried under the expensive SUVs with black windows, under the villas that sprang like mushrooms after rain in South Lebanon after the July 2006 war – as hundreds of bombed houses waited for international aid to be reconstructed.
It doesn’t really sound like a Resistance, does it? Resistances are short lived, because their purpose ends at the end of the actual occupation. If they survive beyond that, they often turn into monsters. Resistances don’t invade other countries and don’t terrorize and censor their own supporters.
The Lebanese Resistance belongs to the Lebanese people in South Lebanon who began fighting the occupation with no sectarian affiliation and no purpose of taking over the country. Back in the day there was the Lebanese National Resistance Front, which had Syrian backing (because of its Marxist-Leninist inclinations). Many of them did not survive the operations against the Israeli army, others did not survive Hezbollah. Those who managed to survive are now silent, self-censored, and pressured.
When Hezbollah opened its Resistance Park in Melita, one of the communist fighters who survived the war looked at me and only asked me this: “where is OUR museum?” He couldn’t say more. He was afraid some Hezbollah agent might hear him and his family might have problems in the village. His wife was not veiled anyway, and that didn’t please Hezbollah officials.
The truth is Hezbollah is not the Resistance anymore. Hezbollah was part of the Lebanese Resistance for a long time, but now it’s just part of something monstrous: an apparatus of oppression.
Editor's note: This piece has been amended to remove a comment that contradicts NOW's editorial policy. NOW regrets any offense the original statement may have caused.
Author's note: I used a bad joke at the beginning of this blog post on purpose. Were it not there, I would have been accused of being a Zionist. I have been accused of it in the past. Therefore I decided to include in this piece an anti-Jewish comment. Now, surprisingly, the same people who have accused me of being a Zionist or even a Mossad agent are accusing me of anti-Semitism. I am neither a Zionist nor an anti-Semite. I just hate occupation forces of all kinds.