The Divisive Role of the ‘Resistance Bloc’
It seems the world has been moving aimlessly in endless eddies. This was evident at the ‘Arab International Forum for the Support of the Resistance’ held in Beirut in mid-January. The conference was reminiscent of the many conventions held in the 1970s that extolled the victories of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and affirmed their commitment to liberate Jerusalem.
Some of the old faces were seen at the conference, while some new ones picked up on the old rhetoric like “throwing Israel into the sea”. The only change was that the word ‘arrogance’ supplanted ‘imperialism’ and religious overtones took precedence over nationalistic values, with exponents of the latter finding it hard to get an empty seat in the front row.
It was only out of courtesy that some of the prominent guests at the conference, like Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Mir Taj Al-Dini and leader of Hamas Khaled Meshaal, cared to meet Lebanese officials. Those attending the conference—like their hosts Hezbollah—were mainly those who had crossed the border to attend the forum, showing little respect for the territory of the host country. In fact, the ideological orientation of this bloc is wont to placing the interest of the ‘Umma’ above any obligation to the homeland and in facilitating the flow of Mujahideen across borders, not only across Arab and Islamic worlds but even across the globe.
It is pointless to comment on the speeches made at the conference, as they were trite and repetitive. However, it would be worthwhile to mention that the venue for this gathering was a building of the Lebanese Ministry of Education, carrying the name of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It is sad to note that speakers at the conference were airing views here that went against the very spirit and purpose for which this venue was built. Thus, the conference clearly showed that the Lebanese state is currently suffering from the machinations of the Hezbollah ‘mini-state’.
It is also noteworthy that in his speech, which was telecast through a large screen in the conference hall, the Secretary General of Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah vowed to decisively defeat Israel in case of an attack by the latter. He warned that a new confrontation would “change the face of the region” and would clearly establish victory for the resistance.
However, there was nothing new about this lengthy speech. Still, it raised some questions on the kind of change this prospective war between Israel and Hezbollah could bring in. The most likely and logical scenario emerging from such a war, given the high level of preparation on both sides, would be the large-scale destruction and fatalities that would easily exceed those suffered in the July 2006 war. In such a scenario, Lebanon would again have to pay the price for being the arena for an open conflict. It is a given that neither Tel Aviv would be able to destroy Hezbollah nor would the latter be able to wipe out Israel. In addition, Syria and Iran would not join in the fray as they do not look prepared in the present circumstances and would likely not hazard a military misadventure.
Looking beyond the war of words and the game of psychological warfare played between Hezbollah and Israel, we discover that Hezbollah has gained virtual independence from the Lebanese state, although it still holds an important position in the national unity government that should supposedly be the sole arbiter and decision-making authority on matters relating to the fate of the citizenry.
Given the audacity of Hezbollah—both with its words and actions—against the state, one can hardly blame its guests at the conference for ignoring diplomatic courtesies, and for refraining from showing any respect for the host country. For one, Mr. Khaled Meshaal still seems unable to comprehend the upshot of his actions last year, which led to Israel’s aggression against the people of Gaza. He still seems uncertain about asserting claims of ‘victory’ or soliciting urgent Arab aid, which would only come on the condition that Hamas distances itself from Iran. However, this confusion did not deter him from claiming at the Beirut conference that the issue of Palestinian weapons—outside and within the refugee camps—was part and parcel of the conflict in the area and is linked to the ‘Palestine catastrophe’ and that this conflict between good and evil is not linked to the Lebanese reality. In the least, this statement contradicts the will of Lebanon and the consensus reached in the national dialogue of 2006 on the disarmament of Palestinians residing outside the camps, as it is a violation of state sovereignty. It also does not have any semblance of ‘resistance’ in any manner but seems an extension of the erstwhile presence of Syrian in Lebanon prior to 2005, which eventually left the country under Security Council Resolution 1559. This is important because the elimination of these weapons would be an important step for restoration of real and complete sovereignty in Lebanon.
Meshaal’s comments remind one of the days when the Palestinian Liberation Organization had spread its presence across Lebanon. The arming and protection of the PLO by some Lebanese forces had then become an important cause for the civil–regional war that ended with the incursion of Syrian forces to the country in 1976. It also led to Israel’s devastating invasion in 1982, and to a series of local and regional wars that raged across this small country.
Many had thought that Meshaal, during his meeting with Lebanese officials, would offer clarifications on the circumstances leading to the ‘mysterious’ explosion at the office of his movement within the ‘security precincts’ of Hezbollah in the southern suburb of Beirut late last year. Some believed that Meshaal had realized the mistake of locating his offices outside the camps at a time when the Lebanese state was trying to close the camps. It was also thought that he may want to be more friendly and helpful towards the state of Lebanon in accordance with statements issued by his movement, and that he would not want to cause complications in Lebanese and Palestinian arenas. However, this hope was crushed when in his speech entitled: “Readiness for dialogue,” Meshaal could be seen hiding his real agenda.
However, what Meshaal said—somewhat diplomatically and with a tinge of ambiguity—was later enunciated more clearly by his colleague Colonel Said Abu Moussa, leader of the Fatah Al–Intifada, who has lived in Damascus since he severed ties with Yasser Arafat in the 1980s and who has some bases in the Lebanese Beqaa valley. Fatah Al–Intifada’s military bases, along with those of Ahmed Jibreel, were the ones specifically deliberated upon and resolved during the Lebanese national dialogue over the issue of disarmament outside the camps. The Colonel, attending the “Forum for the Support of the Resistance,” made a shocking statement by blatantly refusing to turn in the weapons and stressed that his forces were part of the larger engagement with Israel.
The statement by the Colonel was widely condemned in Lebanon. The Lebanese government took a bold stand and called the declaration unacceptable as it violated Lebanese sovereignty. However, this does not change the fact that the weapons would continue to exist and that the alliance of this group with the ‘resistance’ would offer it much needed cover and would lie outside the purview of the state.
The presence of the representatives belonging to the so-called ‘Iraqi resistance’ at the conference confirmed that the ‘resistance’ now considers itself to be the only movement capable of taking on the troubles and hopes of the Umma, whereas it is just a mission for carrying out seditions in every country of the Umma. After the liberation of south Lebanon in 2000, resistance in that country became a force for national division, and its counterpart Hamas in Palestine is playing a similar role following its revolt against the legitimate authority and its take-over of the Gaza Strip. Iraqi resistance is also at cross-purposes with the state and the reestablishment of peace among its social components. Houthi rebels in Yemen, who did not attend the conference, are threatening to split the country and are violating the sovereignty of their neighbors. On this premise, all parties participating in this conference could well-nigh practice seditious roles if they have the means and weapons at their disposal.
The PLO had pushed two countries into civil war. The first was Jordan, which emerged out of the trap only after much bloodshed. The second victim was Lebanon, which has been suffering for about three decades, and has still not completely recovered. All this is in the name of the ‘Palestinian cause,’ which is a just cause in its own right but has been romanticized and mixed with other political agendas. As for the ‘resistance’ movements of today, they have all mixed up certain legitimate aims with their own doctrinal orientation and regional ambitions. They are only capable of disintegrating societies and under the slogan of war of the Umma against the enemies they extol “beautiful destruction” that foolish poets eulogize.
Bechara Nassar Charbel is the Editor in Chief of Sada al-Balad, a daily Lebanese political periodical.