Monday, August 28, 2006

Lebanon, Israel, and Class Strugge (Chapter 4: Class Struggle in Lebanon post 9/11)

Status prior to 9/11

As Chapter 3 ended with Syrian hegemony, the United States in the mean time has been dormant regarding Lebanon and Syria's relations. It expressed few opinions on Syria, but not fully active before 9/11. There were two goals for the United States:

1) Focusing on the Peace treaties between Israel and Palestine
2) Establishing better relations with Latin America on a political level and not only economical level.

Syria placed an iron grip on Lebanon. Even their own citizens inside the American University of Beirut were monitored for suspicious activism. The peak of re-writing history to isolate the angry christian core, represented by the Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement peaked. For example in the memory of the foundation of the Phalangist Party, the pro-Syrian karim Bakradoni was its president. The guests were the Syrian Baathi Assim Kanso, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party's Ali Kanzo, the Progressive Socialist Party's Walid Junblatt in his mood for Syrian allegiance, representatives for AMAL, and plenty others. The talk was Junblatt paying respect for the "sacrifices" of the Phalangist Party which is ironical that his party did the a huge massacre on their people during the Mountain Wars post Bashir Gemayil assasination. In the end, Bakradoni speaks and he says as follows:

"... And to the extreme Christians of Lebanon, be neutral, and sieze to be fanatic. Be respectful and avoid racism to the Syrians. We are in a common cause, if you except the Syrians, then Bashir Gemayil's words would be achieved on the ground. " To be honest, Bashir Gemayil was the most extremist against the Syrians, but the re-writement of history had to take place.

el Hariri had resigned in 1998 to Salim el-Huss, whose Arab nationalism made him pro-Syrian in the line up. In his time, he integrated the value-added tax which was planned by the Harriri economical business machinary. Expectations were that the VAT would cover 50% of the National Debt. Ironically, neither Harriri nor el-Huss's calculations were correct. Revenue, and not profit, only increased by 15-30%. Rafiq Harriri's main plan during the nineties were to build Down Town, and form it as a global city with Saudi investments and bring forth investments and customers to Lebanon.

In 2000, Harriri did a strong come back sweeping 18 out of 18 in Beirut district while el-Huss and his list collapsed. It was the first elections that the Armenian Nationalist party Tachnak lost most of the Armenian chairs available. Nevertheless, the final decision maker was Syria.

9/11 occurs

The United States has maintained an image of an touched nation. Exluding for Pearl Harbor during World War II, the United States was not attacked since by another country. Neither the cold war nor afterwards the USA was attacked by a foreign country. It was threatened by the Cuban Crisis, but won that arguement on the political arena. Even though the United States did not invade Cuba, it remained under siege despite the agreement with the USSR which meant ending the siege of the naval siege on Cuba.

I remember perfectly well since I was in my university with few comrades. We heard that a plane hit the first tower of the World Trade Center and we rushed to the Womens' dormitory to watch. First impression was that it was a sequel to Will Smith's independence day and the media is playing tricks on us to promote a movie. When the twin towers crumbled down, we all go stunned. As citizens who suffered a lot from US foreign policy, we felt a good feeling that the USA got a taste of its own medicine, as Marxists, we were sad for the Proletariat who died while doing their job. For an 9 hours, we remained talking about how great the plan was coordinated and started thinking. We directly pinpointed out Bin Laden from Afghanistan and started developing conspiracy theories as how probably he got the best of the collapsed Stalinist Regime the ex-Soviet KGB officers.

I will not deny that plenty of Lebanese were actually happy for witnessing the US might as an invincible country collapsed. People had enough of outcomes due to their hardcore treatment to the US. The comrades and I were saddened about all those Proletariat, but we worried about the outcome. If it was Bin Laden, then the whole world has changed, and things will not look good for the Arabs. A lot of my friends later got rejected due to the fact they were labeled as Arabs or had Islamic names. We knew the world holds nothing good for the world as we anticipated US imperialism to conquer the world militarily and politically. Some of the ocomrades and in specific the reminants of the Stalinists in our group before leaving us for despising the party, bargained that Russia will remain as a checkpoint on the United States. As for us, we knew the stats of Russia is in no condition to face the United States, and whatever happened in Yugoslavia and Kosovo proved our point in the 1990s. As news of our friends suffering racism for being labeled Muslims on their passports (although plenty of the ones I know are Communists like me and Athiests), they suffered racism, and we were more than sure that the next hated "enemy" are gonna be the Arabs. Despite that the Bush administration, to be 100% objective, made a clear announcement in less than 72 hours that there is a difference between Islam and Bin Laden's group, the orientalist perspective took effect. Between Hollywood and the controlled media, effects took place.

For my side, I already have two relatives working in the World Trade Center. Luckily one had a vacation, and another was my second cousin who was starting day 1 in the WTC. Luckily for her, as she was entering the building, the first plane hit the neighboring tower, and they got evacuated to a 100m parameter instantly till further notice. We already heard that three lebanese perished between the planes or who worked in the towers . What made me laugh is the stereotyping of average US citizens. For example, CNN was interviewing a middle aged lady who was saying as follows: Personally, we couldn't have been more and more insulted by such a notion. In any case that interview was 2 days later and we were watching it at the Cafeteria screen, and most of the room goes as: "In your face, welcome to our world, ... the bystanders." Such reaction would be expected, in the end, we have been living such days all our lives while they just sit and coldly provide theories. In the end, the ones really hurt were the proletariat whether in the USA, or those in Afghanistan or Iraq. "I was talking a look at the balcony, I saw civilization... next thing it is all Beirut over here." Personally, we couldn't have been more and more insulted by such a notion. In any case that interview was 2 days later and we were watching it at the Cafeteria screen, and most of the room goes as: "In your face, welcome to our world, ... the bystanders."

Effects of 9/11 on the region in the Middle East

Already, the Arabs or 3rd World countries suffer from the Western "Superiority" look, and how already they want to impose on its people their "values". In any case, it is the result of "Western Colonialism" that blocked the evolution of societies. Then these ex-colonialists transform those ex-colonies to a center of cheap labor and market so that their elites can maximize profits.

Well, bottom line is, despite all that seggregation towards the Arabs, things now are worse. A lot of my friends who applied to Europe or United States got their applications canceled even though they were already accepted fair and square. Yet, this hatred also applied to everyone else. Hence Universities and schools boomed in Lebanon by the fall semester of 2001, while tourism increased to incredible heights, specially the gulf rich people prefered to go to Lebanon rather Europe in order to avoid this racial hatred. This boom boasted Harriri's plan to re-build Down Town.

Sadly, things were taking a different turn on the political level in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Israel. Bush decided to wage a war on an unknown enemy: fighting terror. Fighting terror and "promoting" democracy under Bush Jr.'s logic is simply another adjective for the term "Pre-emptive Wars". Pre-emptive wars mean heck 'I can invade ya to protect myself' sort of reminding us of the Realist school pioneers.

One of the people who abused this war on terror was Mr. Ariel Sharon, the engineer of hundreds of massacres, the Prime Minister then of Israel. The very next day after Bush's speech to fight terror, he declared that he is engaged to fight this war on terror side by side with the US administration. Although the terrorists to him were the ones his earlier governments kicked outside their homes: the Palestinians. Special to 9/11, Sharon increased activities and aggression on the Palestinians all in the name of protecting Democracy (well Israeli) and fighting terror.

Prior to 9/11, Democracy was studied and analyzed in a socio-political perspective or also Historical. Suddenly, every pro-US opposition started talking about democracy. The increased bloodshed on the Palestinians (which increased in Benthalame and Janeen in Palestine while Yasser Arafat was sieged in his own office) had a major implication on Lebanon.

For starters, Mr. Bush Jr. invented the axis of evil, which simply means anyone that who opposes publicly the US foreign policy. Syria and Iran were two part of such axis. Both, also got influence on Lebanon as well. Second, Armitage labeled Hezbollah as a Team A terrorist team and Qaeda as Team B (although anyone who can pull such an operation on 9/11 is a Class A terrorist). Syria decided to tighten its grip on Lebanon, which meant suffocating more the opposition within Lebanon. The Shiite sect, which is expected to be over 50% of Lebanese population, felt directly threatened due to Bush labeling Hezbollah as a Terrorist group and bringing terror on Israeli boarder (although I do believe such Hollywood language did pay off).
Moreover, the bi-polarity of Bush into "either you are with us or against us" meant in defecto that the Shiite Sect is labeled as terrorists, and this increased the sectarian divide among the Lebanese people, specially pushing the Shiite Sect towards Syria, along with its allies.

On the other hand, the anti-Syrian opposition had some sparks of hope. They imagined that Syria would shrink away from Lebanon, or the US's war for "democracy" would end the presence of Syria in Lebanon, and hence regain their historical powers back. General Aoun appeared big time on TV dialogues from his 5 stars house and accused Hezbollah and Syria as terrorists. The Lebanese Forces' tone increased against the Syrians as Syria retaliated by doing blackmails, threats, or do a Pro-Syria demonstrations in support of its own presence within the Lebanese boarders. The change of US foreign policy has polarized Lebanon to a huge extent.

The Lebanese Forces, Free Patriotic Movement, and left-wing movements escalated their activism for freedom of speech and anti-censorship, while the opposing blocks retaliated with big Pro-Demonstrations. For instance, in 2002, the assumed "Independance Day" was celebrated under two seperate themes. For starters the anti-Syrian forces expressed the idea of "No Real dependance till Syria is out" while the other side expressed "What about the Sheba'a farms?" or "Full independance occurs when whole Lebanon is liberated from Israel." Eventually the pro-Syrians would manage to get the upper hand due to quantity of parties participating.

Hezbollah tended to stay away from domestic politics and focus on serving the rural Shiite areas. To go a little bit more to details, the only time they appeared in full support is during the celebration of certain historical moment, and related in specific to resistance. The speeches like all Pro-Syrian stressed on the need to protect Lebanon and liberate Sheba'a farms. The 4 decades old Hassan Nasrallah would in the end focus on national unity and the right of the people to resist. The end sentence would be the dedication of his 2000 victory to every Lebanese despite region and sect, and would say that this is not a Hezbollah victory but rather it is a Lebanese victory. The influence of Nasrallah on his audience has always left them in a trance-style mood as they always had this figure that united them.

From the other side, the Shiite elite representative dominated the public sector. MP Nabih Berri had been the chair of the Parlaiment for over 2 decades and a half. Most of the bureaucratic corruption in recruitment had been according to Sect. Whenever a Muslim Sunni was recruited for instance, a Maronite, a Durzi, a Shiite, and others were recruited at the same time. This led to a popular saying in Lebanon: "Six by Six repeated!" This means that again six newly recruited from different sects were recruited. Nabih Berri monopolized the Shiite recruitment. He attempted more than once to capitalize on that tactic to regain some grounds informally against Hezbollah's mass popularity. Actually by 2003 manicupality elections, Hezbollah almost eradicated AMAL movement in elections if Syria didn't intervene and give some space to AMAL to win.

In 2002, the Syrian Government attempted to isolate the Christians again, and re-stressed on the Christian League which had figures of Christian identity that advocated unity with Syria and attacked the isolationism that the Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement advocated. Aoun typically replied that Hezbollah were terrorists and left to the United States and met with the US congress to initiate "The Syrian Accountability Act" which included that other groups labeled as Terrorists operating in Syria should be disarmed (all started as liberation movements) while Syria withdraws unconditionally from Lebanon.

On a class struggle level, things look devastating as each sect followed its leader. The Lebanese Communist Party already lost its historical strength since 1990, ever since the Soviet Union collapsed and they lost control over the labor unions. This also includes the fact that the Central Committee had been monopolistic and corrupted. In any case, the Lebanese Communist Party was never shoved into the electoral equation even though they had a a good mass support.

The Syrian Social Nationalist Party, the other secular party, had its own problem. Even though they were re-united again (the Pro-Syria and Pro-Lebanon factions and ended up as pro-Syrian with utmost allegiance) deviated away from its goal and its active members focused mostly in defending Syria from a resistance and national unity point of views. Even though they are secular on Lebanese standards and historically racists towards the Jews without seperating between Jews and Zionists, they started to shift their views. In 1998, Noam Chomsky was supposed to do a visit to Lebanon and they were the first to threaten that they will assasinate him, but ended up in 2006 giving him the hero's welcome as his ideas spread more. The first Jewish scholar to visit Lebanon was in 2002 Dr. Finkelstein specially his book "The Holocaust Industry" was very popular. They began to change attitude between Jews and Zionists, and switched their arguement that "There is no difference between Zionism and Jews; however, any Jew renounces Israel or give up their citizenship meant that they are no longer Zionists or Jews." That attitude was attributed due to the writings of Talmod, and the goal to establish a Jewish Nation from the Euphrates to the Nile. This threatened the Syrian Nationalists royally, since this covers most of the land that they hailed as the great "Syrian Nation" (Syrian as Greater Syria).

The Anti-Syrian forces increased their racism towards Syrian Proletariat, and that covered the left-wing movements. They failed to understand that the Syrian Proletariat are not to be blamed, rather express solidarity with them in the face of their government. Few leftists adopted the slogan of "Unity of the Lebanese and Syrian Workers against the Syrian Government". The Lebanese Forces hated everyone including Junblatt, and focused that they need their Mount Lebanon back. Actually due to the mood swings of Junblatt, they someimes labeled him as a traitor, specially due to his offensive on "Qornet Shahwan". They restored the glories of a "Christian" Lebanon without being Arabs. As for the Free Patriotic Movement they were more and more presecuted as their Leader in Paris intensified his offensive on Syria and labeled them as "Invaders equal to the Israelis back in 1982". The Pro-Syrian forces simply replied sarcastically on the political level that it was the Free Partisans and Phalangists that invited the Syrians to enter, and hence under the legality of the Arab League, they were not an invading force. Besides, their withdrawal probably meant a political void and hence a civil war.

As for the second most hated was el-Harriri. Even though he abided by Force to Syrian policies, he remained untamable, in a sense that he was the Saudi man in specific and US in general. He faced a challenge from Walid bin Talal to be a Lebanese Prime Minister (due inheritting the citizenship as the grandson of the historical figure el-Solh), and was always cornered. When Emil Lahoud was elected, el-Harriri had to face two in the upper "Trioka", the President and the Chairman of the Parlaiment. Emil Lahoud had his allies who already dominated regions, such as Michel el Murr. El-Murr replaced Bshara el Merhej (who also was a pro-Syrian) as a minister of interior, and eventually his son inherited the throne in the ministry. His daughter was already the chairman of municapilities in upper el Matn in Mount Lebanon, and there was no stopping him. Ironically the only person to threaten him was his own brother, who was supported by all anti-Syrian parties and figures such as Boutros Harb and Nassib Lahoud. Gabriel el-Murr went head to head with his brother's daughter in 2002, and defeated her. In the streets of Christian Beirut, the flags of anti-Syrian Communists, Lebanese Forces, and Aoun pictures gathered togather which was strange to see the Hammer and Sickle, next to it is a picture of the Omega (sign of the FPM which resembled resistance) and the chipped cross representing the Lebanese forces. Later, Gabriel el Murr was framed by his brother and his TV station "el-Murr TV" was closed due to "corruption." This occured before officially Gabriel el-Murr became an MP, and did not attain his diplomatic immunity. The Pro-Syrian parties celebrated that their is no corruption in the government, while anti-Syrian argued that this was corruption itself for challenging Syria. In this crisis, Junblatt nominated a neutral figure and ended up winning the chair in defect. In the end, over 500 employees were thrown to the street without any means of compensation due to politics.

A unique case appeared and was quickly forgotten and covered was the most hated "war" lord in Lebanon, ex-MP Elie Hobaika. He recieved full military training in Israel when he was one Bashir Gemayel's two most loyal followers. He was head of the Lebanese Forces special unit, and most hateful of anyone non-Christian. Afterwards he switched sides when Samir Jaajaa became the head of the Lebanese Forces, and Syria welcomed the man who in person shot and engineered the massacre of the Sabra and Shatila camps where over 3000 women, eldars, and children were shot cold blooded manner. Then supported by Syria, he led an offensive against Jaajaa during the war on the Christian stronghold or Capital "Ashrafieh" which weakened the Lebanese Forces and paved way for the Syrians to enter in an easier fashion. He was supposed to testify against against Ariel Sharon as being an accomplice in the Belgium Tribunal international court and was assasinated. Nobody knew who killed him. It could have been the reminants of the Palestinian militias seeking revenge, it could have been the Christians, it could have been even the Israelis to protect their prime minister and war Hero Ariel Sharon, or it could have been the Pro-Syrians, or the Syrian intelligence themselves, nobody knew and the case was dropped as he already was no longer an MP.

The build up

While the Sunni Sect remained neutral and hence allowed the Syrian formula of a "Zionist Christian" versus "Resistance Formula" be applied, Harriri had his own battlefrints whenever he had the chance to integrate Lebanon into the WTO he had to undergo a fight. He had to face all the Pro-Syrian forces and that included Walid Junblatt in his Syrian mood swing that lasted for a while without switching. Towards the June of 2004, he faced a huge wave of mass building on the behalf of the Pro-Syrian parties undergoing the demonstration of "Fighting Starvation" or "Living away from Money". The logos raised clearly demanded the need of the government should make life better away from Taxes.

The Minister, then, of Finance, Seniora was labeled "Super Tax Man" as it was his plan to integrate the VAT and increase it, to increase taxes, and integrate the 5% tax on intrest rate. None used to object since all were having piece of the share. For example, when the mobile phones were first privatized, all argued on each other to grab a juicy piece of the cake. This of course included the Future movement themselves. Dwelling a bit deeper, on the "Bread demonstration which left 6 people dead as clashes between the Army and demonstrators in Hayy el Soullom clashed. Funnier thing is the case of having pro-Syrian ministers demonstrating against their own government, and in the end of the day, they were the majority in the cabinet.

Another case that 9/11 reflected negatively and catastrophic on the Proletariat was the process of United States requesting suspected "Terrorist" bank accounts from countries. Since Lebanon had Hamas in Lebanon, and Lebanon was the first Arab country to follow the Bank Secrecy procedure, Lebanon was requested to deliver 50 accounts, and ended up 2 years later with over 200 bank accounts denabded from the US and around 100 from Europe. This situation reflected badly and sectarianism build-up started to form against the Sunnis since they voted for el-Harriri's entire list and won 18/18 in 2000. The governor of the central bank Riyad Salameh recieved a memo to display the accounts and a huge scandal took place on Lebanon. al-Harriri was accused of treason and serving US interests, because Hamas meant resistance against Israeli occupation of Palestine. Political escalation increased specially from ex-Prime Minister Salim el Huss, President Emil Lahoud, and Chairman Nabih Berri. Those trio spearheaded the offensive on el-Harriri, even though he attempted to explain that he does not know how the memo arrived there. Nevertheless, the accounts issue became an excuse to attack the "Saudi" man.

As elections of 2005 approached, new alliances started to take place, and a new balance of power occured.

The Pre Elections Clash

It was said that those with the warriors had the bargaining cards. This applied in the Civil War as in previous chapters mentioned that if the Sect leaders loved each other, so would the people. As attempts to generate third party figures during the war, all attempts ended up in failure. This is the same case with Post-War, because in the end it was the Sect Leaders who did the balance of power on the Lebanese scale.

At first, an attempt to rebuild a new left-wing movement called the "Democractic Leftist Movement" , it ended as a last minute patch work for Elias Attallah to run for elections. They currently also defend all right-wing ideologies and the sectarian line-up. I think my previous posts had plenty of analysis on them. They ended up as the Party they were supposed to face, the degenerated Lebanese Communist Party.

Forming the Bristol Conference series, which meant the alliance of all anti-Syrian figures, it was attended by FPM, Lebanese Forces, DLM, Phalangist figures, and the two surprises were al-Harriri and Walid Junblatt. The two switching sides meant a disastrous result for the Syrians. Junblatt's switch and Harriri going public with his opposition of Syria stimulated the PSP members to go back to the initial block they were supposed to be part of. In any case, at first people were distrustful of Junblatt's switch, but as he demanded the release of Samir Jaajaa from Prison and return of Syria's arch-nemisis General Aoun, the Syrians returned to calculate things. El-Harriri was supposed to be the financial consultant and supplier to the Anti-Syrians while Junblatt and the Christian allied forces brought the man - power to do so. The Democractic Left ended up, like any weak party, a bandwagoner to the stronger part, and that was Junblatt.

The media of opposing Syria was spearheaded by two figures, both with strong connections to the French, and they both belonged to the same Newspaper and these two were actualy Jubran Tueini and DLM's journalist star Samir Qassir. The leftists were supposed to be running with Junblat in his "Durzistan" empire, while the opposition line up was critical to shoot down Syrian power. Ek-Harriri's men were harrassed as even though the Sunni Street was neutral, they were refered to as "Sunnis" Street going to the anti-Resistance line. The PSP were having a blast out of it, because for long years they were supporting something they couldn't digest, which is Syria, and go into alliance with their arch-enemies the Syrian Social Nationalists and Talal Irslain who became appointed Minister of State.

The escalated situation occured and Syria pushed its unstable allies into opposition when they forced the re-newal of Emil Lahoud's mandate for another three years despite anti-Syrian opposition. Junblatt and el-Harriri had enough of being Syrian muppets, specially after Lahoud by force was re-elected as President, clearly by Syrian pressure. Syria took the risk, but they wanted to send a clear message to France and the United States that Lebanon is no one but their's. The re-election of Lahoud took place after UN resolution 1559 occured. The UN resolution demanded that:

1) Unconditional withdrawal of Syria
2) Disarmed of all non-militia groups, which targeted in specific the resistance heroes Hezbollah.

Hence, Lahoud by force was re-elected for another 3 years, even though the Lebanese Constitution does not allow the renewal of such an act, and Prime Minister Harriri and his block, as well as Junblatt's ministers resigned, and the government fell.

Perhaps the Karamis since the 1990s had the worse luck when it came to governments, because their family members when being Prime Ministers were either assasinated or kicked out during huge wave of demonstrations. Omar Karami, a feudal Sunni figure was elected who supposedly dominated the Sunni Street in the second largest city after Beirut, which is Tripoli. The void of el-Harriri resigning caused a major void, and the Pro-Syrians attempted to valance in the vabinet by getting the largest elite powers into the government. Such figures included Skaff, who is the top merchant in the Land business, the decendant of el-Solh with all her family fortunes, and plenty others. The Karami government will be remembered for three things:

1) The government that resigned in the face of political turmoil
2) The government that witnessed the assasination of Rafiq el Harriri
3) The First government to finally have women in its cabinet and had two.

No matter what happened, the bi-polarity was extensive as Hezbollah focused on Shebaa farms and away from the swamp of Lebanese politics. Politically, the balance of power was restored, but on the ground, Hezbollah's mass support of over one million reflected its strength, specially that they intended to paticipate in the "One Million Man" demonstration but didn't their allies horded around 600,000 in support of Syria. Funnier thing is to see AMAL members raising banners that they are against Terrorism, and it was they who butchered most during the war the by-standers. It was also reported that partially small amounts of Syrian and Palestinians demonstrated. The number was huge, and that included of a symbolic participation of Hezbollah.


In the end, a new shock will occur that will shake Lebanese politics from its very foundation, something that would have a much more effect than the assasination of Elie Hobaika, that till now people would be surprised and find it hard to grasp, including myself, not out of love, but out of the suddenly occured event. I always opposed Harriri's horrific taxations that went to the pockets of the elites. This was of course, the assasination of el Harriri.

Harriri's Assasination: The Bi-Polarity and Accusations

There was an assasination attempt on Marwan Hmaidi, after the election of the President, and people said it was either a single going attempt to deliver a message to Junblatt to behave whenever he attacked Syria and its Second Bureau or it was the first of a whole set of series of assasinations. Whatever the case, it pushed Junblatt and Harriri even closer, and pushed both even further towards the opposition. While all the Bristol line up were attacking al-Assad, the scandals of money laundering were exploding in the Lebanese media. specially there was a link between Bank el Madina and Syrian officials, or what used to be called "Governers" such as Rustom Ghazali and Ghazi Kenaan. The owner of el-Meddina bank, Miss Kolailat, disappeared only later to be discovered inside Egypt.

In February, el-Harriri was assasinated, along with later dying from his wounds, Minister Bassil Fleihan, in a huge explosion that left 11 people dead. I do not need to describe the details as the whole world watched with stunned eyes. Actually my mother was only 200 meters away from the explosion and survived the falling glass.

The anti-Syrians directly accused Syria for assasinating the spearhead of the newly founded opposition, including the Free Patriotic Movement. The other side, after couple of days, accused Israel to attempt to abolish stability and drag Lebanon to chaos. Junblatt stayed with the Harriris for 6 days non-stop. All elites wanted to capitalize on the issue. The pro-Syrians accused it was Israel (after three days President Lahoud decides to speak and send condolences) while the location of el-Harriri became a holy shrine to be visited by all parties.

The assasination triggered the dormant Sunni Street as their representative was killed, and for the first time they hit the streets in masses of angry waves. Demonstrations occured and as the streets of Ras Beirut and Sunni dominated locations were full of Sunnis in the same day, all store and dinners closed out of fear to see their stores smashed down due to the angry wave. The government announced three day mourn and no store should open out of respect to the "father of modern beirut". People, who never loved the Syrians but remained dormant or were neutral were pushed towards the opposition block and participated in the demonstrations against Syria. The Syrian forces remained silent to avoid clashes that would trigger a chain reaction whose end result is another Lebanese civil war. This was probably the smartest move played by Nasrallah to avoid the clashes. It was till later stages that he expressed his accusation to Israel.

Whether or not, who did it, the timing was perfect. If it were the Syrians, then their calculations were to kill the strongest financial power and send a message to the opposition to "behave". If it were the Israelis, well they successfully triggered the operation of a life time after 9/11, whereby they killed al-Harriri and framed Syria for it. Till now, all fingers point to Syria, but there is no evidence to point out the murderer. The fingers remained pointing because Syria remained intervening and wanted to eliminate politically its opposing elites inside Lebanon. The following murders would direct the finger ore towards Syria.

International pressure, specially from France, who attended the Harriri funeral and spent a day with his friend's family, and the United States who needed any excuse to bombard Syria as the alliance between Syria and Iran increased. Besides, both countries supported Hezbollah and assisted in arming it. In the end, everyone claimed they will find the murderer of el-Harriri and seek revenge. Pro-Syrians did a series of speech deliveries by spokesmen towards Israel, while the anti-Syrians did the same, but towards Syria. This included the Son and sister of Rafiq el Harriri.

As a gathering was supposed to occur, three weeks later, where the MPs should meet, the Army was given an order to stop the demonstators of anti-Syria to meet. The pro-Syrians were leading a tiny demonstration as well headed by person without any followers: Nasser Andeel. The demonstrators of anti-Syria broke through the barricade and reached Martyre's square, and remained under-siege. The others were surrounded, and the first time in ages the Lebanese channels remained open 24/7. This followed a demonstration that had the Sunnis, Christians, and Druz in it. This reflected the Sectarian built-up: three sects against the Shiites and allies from different sects.

Prior to the ousting of the government of Karami, series of demonstrations were staged by the leaders of the three sects, whose theme is the withdrawal of Syrian troops and the unity of the Christians and Muslims. From the Harriri's side, no one knew who will be the political heir to Rafiq el Harriri, except a tiny difference, that this heir will be the leader of the majority of the Sunni who are on the move and demonstrate on the streets. The bulk of the movements involved: The PSP, the FPM, the LF, and the Future. Few tinier groups were bandwagoning in the hope of getting a a chair in the parlaiment, such as the Democractic Leftist Movement. This coalition also involved the political figures without any mass movements, such as Botros Harb, Nassib Lahoud, Nayla Mo'awad (well she got partial mass support in the North), Samir Franjieh, and so on.

The goal of the bristol coalition was divided into five things:

1- Fight to allow the date of the elections remain the same dates without any delay so that the Bristol block would capitalize on the assasination of Harriri
2- The withdrawal of the Syrian Army from Lebanon as soon as possible to gurantee a 100% democractic elections without any Syrian influence
3- Certain army officials be arrested
4- To get the international court involved in the assasination of Rafiq el Harriri
5- This is added on the eve of ousting the Karami government: inviting Hezbollah to join the block for national unity

It is important to note that Harriri prior to the assasination was cursed by plenty of people, after his death, plenty regarded him a Saint on Earth. A lot used to curse him for his taxation system, now he is the father of Lebanon to them.

The Karami Government goes bye-bye

The Karami government kept promoting the unique ties between Lebanon and Syria. The official spokesmen for the Pro-Syrians were outside the cabinet were figures also without parties, while the parties remained silent. People like Nasser Andeel expressed their attitudes with utmost offence on the Bristol line-up while promoting the threat of Israel against Lebanon. This theme rotates that Israel would benefit if Syria and Lebanon's ties are broken. Another spokesman was Suleiman Frangieh, he was the minister of Interior to replace Elias el-Murr (son of the Pro Michel Murr who dominates the Upper Matn), which pushed Elias to the Bristol line - up as well. Suleiman Frangieh was the head of an ex-Militia known as the Marada. A Christian militia back during the war, and his arch-enemy is Samir Frangieh, because Sulieman's grandfather ousted Samir's family from its traditional power and dominated in a bloody way in the Zgharta region (extensive Christian). While the logos of Shebaa were used extensively, accusations were directed by the street masses that Pro-Syrians are Syrian Agents, while Anti-Syrians were pro-USA (at first due to the impact of Rafiq Harriri's death and later as Pro-Zionists).

During the first days, the Sunni street was on the move. Walid Junblatt remained with the Harriri's, and Bush demanded the full implementation of UN resolution 1559. The Bristol line-up kept demanding the full implementation of the Ta'ef Accord. After three days of the assasination, the Pro-Syrian President Lahoud finally spoke in "mourn" about Rafiq Harriri. The international arena moved in favor of the Bristol line-up and the Bristol line-up gained more confidence itself.

After the funeral of Rafiq Harriri, the political heir and the new head of the block was not as expected, Baha'a Harriri, rather it was his younger brother: Sa'ad Harriri. On the political arena for the Harriris, it was Rafiq's sister Bahyia on the offensive. She decided to wear a veil to mourn her brother, and the logos: "The father of Beirut" or "Builder of Beirut" were raised in reference to Rafiq' Harriri's Down Town Project. Ordinary non-political citizens were pushed in support of the Future movement. The reasons it achieved its popularity are several:

1- For starters, Harriri broke away "bravely" from the Syrians and ended up paying for his price.
2- He became a martyr for freedom
3- He was not a war-lord during the civil war so he got plenty of sympathy from normal citizens
4- His business logo as "New Modern Lebanon" was promoted extensively

The Bristol line-up wanted to capitalize on this massive storm as soon as possible and hoped it would reflect on the elections, of which they refuted to postpone. Gradually, the pro-Syrians started their counter-offensive and attacked Israel for the assasination.

After several weeks, the government finally met with the members of the Parlaiment. One night before, the Anti-Syrians decided announced to go down to Martyr's square (soon to become called "Freedom Square") and demonstrate. The Pro-Syrians as always tended to counter every demonstration with a demonstration of their own. This time, the spear head was supposed to be the Nasserite MP Nasser Andeel. Yet the army formulated a blockade and successfully blocked the Pro-Syrian demonstration. The Anti-Syrian demonstrators partially broke into the Martyr's Square and were locked inside. Through out the evening, more and more demonstrators were encouraged and by morning, new demonstrators brought flowers with them and gave them to the army. The concept of the flowers is to pay respect to the only recognized military force in Lebanon, which was the army, and to enforce its importance against Syria. The army baffled with what ought to be done, recieved "orders" to let the demonstrators in.

As the members of the Parlaiment entered the Parlaimentary building, non-MP figures spoke to the demonstrators as they were celebrating Freedom. Inside the meeting, a new battle was waged. The newly aligned Anti-Syrian coalition attacked the Karami government as Syrian agents, while the Prime Minister attempted to direct the discussion towards Israel and this is what the United States wants. The ultimate spearhead, as silence struck the room was the sister of the late Rafiq el-Harriri, as she was given the floor to speak. Her offensive was directed towards the Syrians, and blamed the government for not protecting her brother. Her speech was stunning as anger was flaming from her eyes. After several heated discussions, the afternoon break was given, and the Anti-Syrians coalition MPs joined the demonstrators. When the evening session started, Karami, as Prime Minister, had the floor. He began to remind people how his family gave Martyrs for Lebanon, and declared his resignation. His speech was in specific directed to Bahyia Harriri, and the Bristol Line Up MPs started clapping or raise in surprise their fingers in a V form. The Head of the Parlaiment, Nabih Berri was surprised (still not sure about that part) and said to the Prime Minister: "You can't take such a decision, you should have consulted me." The anti-Syrians MPs returned to the Martyrs' Square (which is few minutes away walking) and decided to celebrate with their supporters (and also capitalize on the matter as potential candidates running for the newly coming elections needed to be identified).

To say the truth, in several anti-Syrian demonstrations, I had to be beaten by Pro-Syrian supporters or military intelligence. This was my first demonstration participation that ousted out a Pro-Syrian government. In the demonstration, when Karami announced his resignation, we all hailed victory. I yelled: "Hasta La Victoria Siempre." The reason of my participation was to give "national unity" a chance, even though I got carried away that day, but sadly the Sectarian line-up was there. Plenty of leftists participated in this demonstration, and in the end of it, two additional invitations were added:

1) One invitation was directed to the Syrian people to rebel and get rid of their government.
2) Another directed to Hezbollah to join the national unity for a stronger Lebanon

The resignation itself of Karami would be controversial. The ones extremely involved with the Bristol line-up believed that it was their demonstration that overthrew the Karami government. Others thought it was an act on a stage to created chaos and political vacuum. Nevertheless, that day was a memorable day, the first time anti-Syrians overcome a Pro-Syrian government. February was indeed one of the most heated months in Lebanon, and March would be much more heated, as more than 60% of the Lebanese population would hit the streets in less than a week.

The Birth of 8th and 14th of March (2005): The Bi-Polarity

The Rise of 8th of March

While logos Independance 05 were beginning to be popular. The Pro-Syrians were rather weak or kept a low profile in their solidarity for Syria. Syria's President, Bashar el-Assad, announced a pull-out plan that would include few stages. Junblat and Fatfat (Future member) insisted loudly that the pull-out should be complete before the elections in the summer.

Eventually the Pro-Syrians will do the balance. On March 7th, Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah for the first time ever would use his own muscle to reflect the actual size of his audience. Nasrallah declared that the next day would be a farewell demonstration on order to thank Syria's contributions to Lebanon. No one can doubt the effect of Nasrallah on his audience as over a million descended to Riyad el Solh square (also few minutes away from Martyr's Square) the very next day.

The Bristol Line-Up watched in fear as Nasrallah gathered a million alone, excluding the participation of other Pro-Syrian parties. Plenty of pro-Syrian figures spoke about resistence and the full liberation of Lebanon, which will not be complete till Sheba'a farms are free. The only flags that were permitted to be raised were the Lebanese flags. This is the first time a Pro-Syrian demonstration without a Syrian Flag in it. The awaited star of the event was Nasrallah. When he stood at the balcony, everyone was silent as if he was the awaited Messiah. Whether the Christian Party of the ever-vulgar Suleiman Frangieh's Marada or the secular Syrian Social Nationalist Party, or the weak Durzi leader Irslain, all hailed equally to Nasrallah as he brought balance to the Pro-Syrian block on the national scale.

Nasrallah spoke but unlike what is expected he could have caused Lebanon to head towards a civil war with his talk as his audience were repressed for the first time for weeks and weeks... something they were not used to. He spoke on resistance in general and how his party liberated the South. Eventually, he thanked the Syrians for their contributions in Lebanon, and stresssed on the era of the Israeli 1982 invasion on how the Syrian Army gave martyrs for the security of Lebanon (although that can be contradicted in terms of Syrian motives from an academic and Political point of view). He then he formulated a critique on the Bristol Line Up by telling them that the Syrian and Lebanese relations should be damaged in the face of a Zionist enemy who is still massacring the Palestinians in a most brutal sense.

The analysis of the overall demonstration was Nasrallah wanted to display his real strength in Lebanon. The fact that in less than 24 hours, he gathered over 1 million supporter displayed his actual size. The second point to stress on that he did not allow nothing but Lebanese flags to be raised, indicating to the Bristol-Line Up that negotiations can be available if a better deal was offered. Third, he wanted to send a message to the Bristol Line Up that they are not really a dominating sweeping majority in terms of mass support. The Anti-Karami demonstration was rather very small compared to his over 1 million (a quarter of the Lebanese population) supporters. Even though some Syrians and Palestinians were spoted in the demonstration in solidarity to Nasrallah, the bulk remained Lebanese. From here afterwards, the Pro-Syrians would be labeled as 8th of March coalition.

When the Bristol Line-Up saw what is going on, fear struck the Sectarian parties. The Sunni in specific were most terrified of the 8th March demonstration. The Sunni street is new to street activism, and during the war they never really had a militia. The only Sunni militia during the war were the Nasserite Mourabitoun, who didn't reflect the Sunni Street. The Sunnis since 1920, ever since New Lebanon was created, dominated the political arena from the Islamic side while the Shiites remained disorganized and scattered. They did want to lose their power, or the remainder of their power to the Shiite leaders, in specific Nasrallah and Berri. When Bahyia Harriri called few days later for a demonstration on the 14th of March, it was clearly an invitation to the Sunni Street to retaliate on the biggest Sect in Lebanon, the Shiites. The Sunnis, in general, embodied the Harriris as the representatives of the Sunna. Bahyia el Harriri was to speak on their behalf as Saad el Harriri did not fully inherit his role.

The two Christian Parties: the Lebanese Forces and The Free Patriotic Movement feared that the International community would believe that the Anti-Syrians are really a minority in Lebanon, and would let Lebanon whither away. They wanted Jaajaa out of prison and the return from the 5 stars hotel in Paris, the exiled General Aoun. They worried that if the Syrians remain, they will remain to be oppressed and there is no chance to bring forth their glories back best case, or have a shot of being in the Parlaiment in a worse case.

The Durzi leader Walid Junblatt had enough of political swings. He is more determined than ever that he does not want a dictator above his head telling him how to manage his Durzi kingdom. He knew Talal Irslain, nor his Syrian Social Nationalist Party, in his area, are no match over his command over the loyalty of the Durzi supporters. He knew that his followers were fed up of swallowing Syrian speeches, and he wanted to emerge as the ultimate spearhead for the Bristol Line-Up. He knew that his forces have to fully participate in the situation as the whole world kept close eye on the 8th of March demonstration.

I remember recieving an SMS on my mobile telling me: "1.5 million demonstrated for Syria, 2.5 million still oppose it." The number is too general and not detailed as there was no mass referendum to see exactly who supported what inside Lebanon. Such referendums were not made as officials feared a sectarian war or chaos would break, specially the concept that the Shiites are expected to be over 55%, and they are fully commanded either by Nasrallah or Berri.
A counter demonstration is needed to balance against the 8th of March demonstration.

The Birth of the 14th of March block

The situation could not have been better for the soon to be the 14th of March block. The assasination of Harriri and the sudden come back of the Pro-Syrians stimulated most of the regular citizens that opposed Syrian hegemony over Lebanon. The bulk was a reaction to the 8th of March. Plenty participated that day for different reasons:

1- Call by Bahyia Harriri, the sister of the late Rafiq Harriri
2- Sectarian Reaction against the Shiite block and their allies
3- Prove to the world that the 8th of March are not the dominant ones and majority in Lebanon
4- Hopes and Dreams for a better future and better economy

The number that went down was not accurate. Numbers ranged from 1.8 million to 2.5 million participant. I was there as well. I went down walking from Bliss St. to Down Town, up to the Martyr's Statue. The banners raised were anti-Syrian, the slogans were against the Syrian and Lebenese President, as well as against the presence of the Syrian army and their intelligence in Lebanon. Sadly racist logos were also raised against Syrian workers. The demonstration gathered more that what the organizers anticipated. The Lebanese Flag was not the only one as party flags were also raised. The opposition leaders spoke about Syrian hegemony, and the need for freedom. Big screens and sound systems were available. The ones in the front were able to listen, other than that, people kept walking from one area to another. It was very difficult to do a human ladder, every time a hand breaks from the ladder, the person is automatically lost due to the crowd. When someone asks: where did X or Y disappear, another replies: "Martyred!" in a comedy way.

While everyone of the anti-Syrians whether regular people or politically affiliated people were happy, not many speeches were heard. We made it to the Statue of the Martyrs, where my aunt tripped and would be held by the soon to be assasinated Jubran Touieny. As we made it out because we couldn't stand the heat, and went back walking, along with few comrades, to my place. I was just in time to hear the star of the event, MP Bahyia Harriri.

Her speech again was charismatic, even though Ghazi Areedi speaks remarkably well, but probably due to her relation with Rafiq Harriri and the anger she has made her an effective speech deliverer. I consider this speech very important because it reflected what the Bristol line-up is really about: a Sectarian reactionary line-up assembled to face a Sectarian Syrian bourgeoisie dominated group from the other side. The secular forces were just bandwagoning with the two blocks. In any case, Bahyia focused on the following points: When she attacked the assasins of her brother and spoke of national unity, she was hailed; whever she invited Hezbollah to join the national unity, she recieved plenty of boos from the FPM and LF. In any case her goal was avoiding the path of a civil war between three sects verus the biggest of all.

The funniest part of the whole 8th-14th March demonstrations were the logo wars. For example, a banner was raised in the Anti-Karami demonstrations which said: "Faja'nakon Moo?" (Translation means: in Syrian Accent: We surprised you no?) This was a joke about the people of Homs in Syria which goes by: "A Homsi was taking a walk when he stepped by mistake on a frog. He sees its squashed face and says: 'I surprised you no?'" This with time including the whole Syrians in Lebanon, and tended to be used plenty of times when an expected intelligence Syrian is there, people would whisper "Faja'tak moo?" (Syrian Accent translation: I surprised you no?" When Nasrallah gathered his supporters in 8th of March, a banner was raised: "La'a, ma faja'toona mo" (Translation: No you didn't surprise us - in Syrian accent). On 14th of March, the banner in retaliation was raised: "Mbala, faja'nakon moo?" (Translation of Syrian Accent sentence: Yes, we did surprise you! No?)

In another logo war, a different hilarious wars were swinging. There was a picture during the anti-Karami demonstration was taken of a lady (a madame) with all her jewelry demonstrating while her foreign worker maid is carrying a banner written on it: "Syria Out". Now the picture has various dimensions to the situation. Traditionally, the "Madame" tends to refer to the Christian elite women of Ashrafieh area who rely on their maids for everything. The term "Madame" is also used by the maids to address their employers. So the term tends to be racist and Sectarian. The photo attained by 8th of March block was very popular of the "Madame" while her maid was carrying the "Syria Out" banner. It was very popular as a chain email, and on 8th of March a banner was spotted saying: "Now does really Madame want Syria out?" On the 14th of March, the retaliation was on a banner: "Didn't You Hear! Madame did say Syria Out!". These two scenarios were just very few of the huge popular clashes between the two reactionary camps.

From that day forth, Lebanon became divided as "14th of March" and "8th of March". The 14th of March focused 100% on condemning Syria for its assasination of Rafiq el Harriri while the 8th of March condemned Israel for its previous attoricities and brutality towards the Palestinians. The ex-PM Salim el Hoss opened the "The Third Way" block, but on the ground it was Pro-Syrian. The ones who did step aside against both camps and denounced them as reactionary, they were denounced by both at the same time as US/Zionist agents from one side, and Syrian agents from the other.

See:

Lebanon, Israel, and Class Struggle (Chapter 1: Background of the Bourgoisie) link
Lebanon, Israel, and Class Struggle (Chapter 2: Dwelling on the evolution of Societies) link
Lebanon, Israel, and Class Struggle (Chapter 3, Post Lebanese War Class Struggle and Pre- 9/11) link