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Creeping Coup in the Land of Cedars By: Mordechai Nisan
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, August 14, 2008


The political language of Lebanon has been violated for many decades. What was coined as a “civil war” from 1975 was, in fact, a Lebanese-Palestinian battle. Syria’s occupation, as a hegemonic subjugation of Lebanon, was sanitized into “brotherly relations” and a “historic pact.” The 1989 Taif Accord was hailed as the end to the militarization of Lebanese society, with a call for disarming all private militias, but Hizbullah was exempted as the so-called ‘resistance’ against Israel.

Today the ‘resistance’ has a political stranglehold over the Lebanese government. It exercises veto power over major decisions and enjoys the license to initiate hostilities against Israel, without cabinet approval. Hizbullah is liberated from constitutional controls, while Lebanon is enslaved to this Iranian/Syrian Shiite movement which is executing a creeping coup in the land of the cedars.

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Hizbullah’s political doublespeak of ‘resistance’ requires a language of deception and distortion.

Recently, Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, Hizbullah leader in south Lebanon, repeated the party’s disinformation mantra regarding the conflict with Israel. He declared in Tyre that “if we [Hizbullah] were weak, Israel would not hesitate to start another war.” But because Hizbullah is strong, he added, there is no war. An armed Hizbullah is prepared for war with Israel, but meanwhile it successfully deters the war that Israel, according to this twisted sophistry, is interested in starting.

In fact, there is no inherent or objective basis for enmity, tension, or warfare between Israel and Lebanon. Lebanon never participated significantly in Arab-Israeli wars. Israel, which nonetheless captured territory in Lebanon, as in 1948 and in 1982, thereafter withdrew completely. After Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties with Israel, and the Palestinians agreed to negotiate peace-making, Lebanon unquestionably should follow suit. The touted territorial issue of the Shaaba farms can be resolved amicably by arbitration or agreement.

Israel has no need or intention of provoking armed conflict with Lebanon, and except for the incessant bellicosity of Hizbullah and its role in the Iranian-led ‘Shiite Crescent,’ there would be no armed conflict. Indeed, Israel’s misconstrued wishful-thinking policy of withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000 was calculated to close the ‘Lebanese file.’ But Hizbullah has its own agenda and has incessantly pursued its long-term strategy of struggle and warfare against Israel.

Hizbullah is not defending Lebanon but exposing her, as in the summer of 2006, to war and destruction. Hizbullah is not deterring Israel from warfare but goading Israel into further warfare. A weak and weakened Hizbullah, if marginalized in Lebanon and peripheral to the Arab-Israeli impasse, would calm the region and reduce considerably the possibility of an outbreak of violent hostilities. However, an armed and taunting Hizbullah is a prescription for war with Israel and, by implication, for extensive collateral devastation of Lebanon as a whole. Hizbullah, not Israel, is the real enemy of Lebanon.

Yet for Hizbullah, war and bellicosity is the necessary course of action to buttress its fabricated demagoguery that Israel is a real enemy of Lebanon. This self-fulfilling prophecy is a piece of political witchcraft and psychological warfare directed, beyond any other audience, against the Lebanese people itself.

Hizbullah plays the ‘Israeli card’ to force its way into the center of Lebanese national affairs. It turns its ‘resistance’ into a sacred struggle on behalf of Lebanon, when it is in fact the cause for Lebanon’s deteriorating capacity for central and complete sovereign rule. Hizbullah is not, contrary to its claims, the savior of Lebanon in the face of a menacing Israel, but the menace of Lebanon itself.

Actually, Hizbullah ‘needs Israel’ as a foil for its bellicose arrogance which is its political hallmark both within Lebanon and towards Israel. The patriotic language, of self-praise sacrifice and persistence and martyrdom, is used to cover the treasonous policy bludgeoning the people, the government, and the honor of Lebanon. Hizbullah, the enemy within, is engaged in a step-by-step coup in Beirut and throughout the country, running a parallel government and forging a culture and discourse alien to the traditional national ethos of Lebanon.

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Hizbullah’s posture of patriotism is to be tested, not by Orwellian claptrap of revolution and resistance, but in the only decisive thing that counts: disarming its militia and acknowledging the army as the sole authority over security and arms in Lebanon. Throwing sand in the eyes of the Lebanese, with cheap rhetoric of defending Lebanon’s sovereignty from the Israeli devil, has from the start been a hollow and condescending maneuver that many Lebanese recognize, though fear compels them to choose their words of protest with care, or hide their true feelings. When President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora were present on July 16 to celebrate the return of murderer Samir Kuntar to Lebanon, Hizbullah’s sweeping intimidation of the entire political class in Lebanese politics constituted the powerful message of the moment.

As a consequence, the ostensible solidarity of the government with Hizbullah has led some Israeli commentators to define Lebanon in total as a terror state, thus a target for Israeli warfare when the time comes.

A country whose historical narrative expressed faith and peace, tolerance and brotherhood, has been hijacked by a band of jihadists who are in collusion with a fanatic regime in Iran and a repressive regime in Damascus. This is not the noble and inclusive Lebanon in the spirit of Fahr al-Din II, Khalil Jibran and Patriarch Arida, of Sa’id Aql and Abu Arz. It has become a transformed mongrelized entity, a foreign offshoot from other places.   

Removing Hizbullah from the military playground would enable Lebanon to assert its national independence and walk the path of peace. No less than this paramount political endeavor is the struggle for Lebanon’s soul at the core of the ongoing and nerve-wracking drama. Adept at abducting and holding Israeli hostages, Hizbullah has been with impunity holding Lebanon hostage in a crippled and mournful condition for too long.


Dr. Mordechai Nisan teaches Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and has written The Conscience of Lebanon: A Political Biography of Etienne Sakr (Abu Arz).


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