Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lebanon, Israel, and Class Struggle (Chapter 5: The Bi-Polar Lebanon Under the Shadow of Terrorism)

Previous Chapters:

(Chapter 1: Background of the Bourgoisie) link
(Chapter 2: Dwelling on the evolution of Societies) link
(Chapter 3, Post Lebanese War Class Struggle and Pre- 9/11) link
(Chapter 4, Class Struggle in Lebanon post 9/11) link

A small Side Note

I decided to write the details about the July War that happened most recently, but decided to start to give a minor introduction on both societies then proceed with the war. The problem is the immense information I attempted to summarize, and didn't anticipate to expect such a huge load to write as well as the time required to do so. This is the final chapter in the Lebanon, Israel, and Class Struggle series before proceeding with the Israeli side. In this chapter, I will tackle the bi-polarity that rose in Lebanon and divided the nation into two camps, as well as reflect the facts and factors which played a major role during the July war. It is highly recommendable to read the previous chapters before proceeding with this one. Again, I repeat, these series are not information by itself on the history, rather a summary of a summary to give a small idea about the background of both nations: Lebanon & Israel.

The Reign of Terror Within Bi-Polar Lebanon

Impacts of 14th of March

The day 14th of March was a huge success. Number of participants fluctuated between 2 million and 2.5 million (there is no agreed number of demonstrators). The Pro-Syrians wanted to show the world that the Majority of the Lebanese are with the Syrian Regime, only to be countered by the Anti-Syrian demonstration. Actually, that day in specific witnessed the emergence of ordinary civilians who had been quiet for a long while due to Syrian presence.

The people weren’t Pro-USA as well. Both camps blame USA for supporting Israel against the Lebanese and Palestinians (yet intensity varies between one camp and another). The world was surprised on all scales. The lovely lady demonstrators appeared on fashion magazines (which sort of broke the image of Lebanon being ‘Camel Jockeys’) and the world was surprised to see two demonstrations in less than a week each containing above one million demonstrators. Lebanon as a whole proved itself to be a democratic nation again with the decline of Syrian influence. Both camps expressed themselves peacefully, and from these two days two movements would emerge.

The Bristol Coalition would become known as the 14th of March, which will include the basic parties: The Future Movement, The Lebanese Forces, Free Patriotic Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party, as well as tiny parties such as the Phalanges, Democratic Leftist Movement, and Tajadod Democrati, Ahhrar, and solo figures. The name of the movement aims to capitalize on that historic day where half the demonstrators didn’t really care about the parties but hit the streets to tell the Syrians: Leave us alone. The Parties, to be exact, relied on the International Community to push for the withdrawal of Syria out of Lebanon. The United States and France were the first two to happily answer this invitation.

The Ain el Teeni Coalition (named after Nabih Berri’s meeting locations) would become the 8th of March. They are Pro- Syria. Their logo is any type of alliance to face a Zionist aggressor. The Coalition included the balancer of power: Hezbollah, and afterwards AMAL, Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Marada, Lebanese Communist Party (only when it came to the topic of resistance), and major powerful figures such as Michel el Murr, indirectly the Lebanese President Emil Lahoud, and others.

France has more knowledge on Lebanon than other external countries since Lebanon is part of the Franco-phonic zone. France always maintained relations with Lebanon and Chirac was great friends with the late Rafiq el-Harriri. They knew which figure was with whom and understood the details of Lebanese politics.

On the other hand, the Bush administration proved how stupid they are whenever it came to Foreign Policy. The United States tried to capitalize on 14th of March as a response to Bush’s campaign for ‘Democracy’. They named it as the Cedar Revolution, while it was simply a demonstration to express “No To Syrian Presence!” Actually one US journalists mocks the US media on how they attempted to link the “Cedar Revolution” to the elections of Iraq in a relation that the Lebanese got inspired to hit the streets when they saw the Iraqis risking their necks to go and vote for their rulers. Afterwards it was dismissed, but Bush remained to capitalize on 14th of March demonstration as his achievement.

Israel were celebrating that this day took place. For starters, they knew that if the Syrians withdrew, Hezbollah would be crippled against their brutality. Moreover, Hezbollah would become a normal political party with no military power as UN resolution 1559 specified that no arms in Lebanon except the weakened crippled Lebanese army (even though all major political parties that remained after the war still maintain up to certain level weaponry). Sharon was happy till he heard both camps agreeing that Israel is still the enemy.

President Emil Lahoud asked Omar Karami to do another government which will be transitory in nature but nobody replied back just as Lebanon was becoming more than ever divided into two camps. Eventually a moderate politician and business man Najib Miqati formulated a transition government till the elections decide what the next government is. Meanwhile, 14th of March supporters aimed their campaigns at the suspected Pro-Syrian army and intelligence officials, and the logo: “Kicking illegal President Emil Lahoud outside Lebanon is our next step.” It is ironic that the man who spent most of his mandate under Syrian mandate has triggered the Anti-Syrian unification front; Rafiq el Harriri probably never expected that. Eventually, the return of General Aoun and the release of Jaajaa also were seen coming soon.

Reign of Terror Begins in Parallel to Elections

When I say terror, I surely do not mean US style of defining terrorism as I already agree with Chomsky's statement that the United States administration is the number 1 terrorist nation in the world.

While the 14th of March kept focusing on Syrian withdrawal and blaming Syria for the assassination of Harriri, along who the Economist MP Bassil Fleihan was severely wounded, 8th of March kept replying that it was Israel who killed ex-PM and is aiming towards a weaker Lebanon.

This bi-Polarity led to a massive sectarian line-up. The major Sunni leader Harriri Jr Sa’ad, Walid Junblatt leader of the Druze, and Maronites embodied by the leaders George Adwan and Strida Jaajaa. On the other hand, the Shiites were the core of the other. The Durzi feudal lord, Prince Talal Irslan, was still too weak to face Junblatt, while Omar Karami’s popularism was limited in Tripoli.

Series of accusations occurred. The 14th of March mainly demonstrated either in front the Harriri Mansion in Qraytem – Beirut, or Martyr’s Square (which known also Independence Square) while Nasrallah made major appearances to push the 8th of March where they took place mainly in Southern Lebanon or Hezbollah based/Christian Marada based locations. A cartoonish figure called, We’am Wahhab, became a national hero in Syria while he didn’t have much followers over here in Lebanon. Wahhab was actually a minister for the short-lived government of Omar Karami. According to a member in the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Wahhab was speaking such a vulgar way because being party based, none of the leaders can behave that manner.

With the Syrians withdrawing from different sections from Lebanon, the color Orange (reflecting the Free Patriotic Movement) appeared in Christian Areas. Actually, several neutrals had huge expectations from Aoun as the factor that would do change in Lebanon.

During the Evenings, serious of terrorist explosions that targeted Christian concentrated areas in an attempt to stir Sectarian strife between the Christians and the Muslims. The first to appear were the 14th of March with their anti-Syrian accusations, followed by the 8th of March representatives denouncing Israel. These operations (burning factories or explosive cars) kept going for a while which indicated that a central unified government is out of limits to control the securities. The 14th of March speculated it was the same people who were behind the murder of al-Harriri = the Syrians.

By end of April, Bashar al-Assad declares that the Syrians have fully withdrawn. In the Christian areas, they celebrated while the head of the Syrian Baath Party in Lebanon and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (Jubran A’orayji) bid the Syrian officials farewell. The withdrawing Syrians coordinated extensively with the Lebanese army, whereby they withdrew the Beka’a Valley first, then to back to Syria. 14th of March supporters became rather racists in their talks against the Syrians, and tensions between the two people increased. Four military officials were arrested in relation to Harriri’s assassination, while nightfall became reign of terror in the Christian areas in terms where the next bomb would explode.

14th of March supporters travel afterwards to Aoun’s 5 stars palace to give him the opposition scarf (which was white and red) and awaited his return. The 14th of March refuted to delay elections to benefit from the Euphoria generated by the day 14th of March. Aoun returns to Lebanon in maximum security and was welcomed by the 14th of March.

The elections of approach and serious calculations are needed. For starters, the reactionary Elias Attallah (Democratic Leftist Movement) was expecting a place in the Durzi concentrated area, and to attain it was through the shoulders of Walid Junblatt who never lost a chair in elections. Actually escalations rose till in the end they decided to put him in the Tripoli elections on the shoulders of al-Harriri, Neyla Mo’awad, and others.

Aoun entered a major clash with the 14th of March which surprised everyone. For starters, he wanted to be the heir to Emil Lahoud. The 14th of March refuted but Aoun insisted that his size allowed him to have more places than the ration of dividing power was agreed on. Hence, in Matn, he allied with his Pro-Syrian nemesis Michel el Murr and the Armenian fanatic nationalist party, the Tashnaks. Indirectly, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party started supporting Aoun after the supporters demanded Aoun’s executions for calling Hezbollah terrorists and traveling to the US Congress to get the Syrian Accountability Act cooked.

Actually this era would be known, enemies of the past best friends in the present. Arch-Enemies during the war ended up in alliance. The most illogical was having Aoun announcing his alliance to Pro-Syria Talal Irslan in Walid Junblatt’s areas.

Meanwhile Junblatt has been attending Hezbollah and AMAL’s festivals in ‘support’ of resistance. This also was a major blow to the 14th of March line-up. Junblatt preferred alliance to those two parties rather the others if he had to have the choice. Actually, the unholy alliance is wonderful for both factions as Junblatt had extensive Durzi votes in the South while Hezbollah and AMAL had Shiite votes in Ba’abda Alley area. The major benefit would go of course to Junblatt as he needs the Shiite votes more than Hezbollah needed him. Hezbollah tend to sweep easily the South, while their only opponents (who can provide severe competition) were AMAL, and they were in the same political line).
As the first elections occurred, Hezbollah sweeped through the South easily in June while the biggest surprise in the new patterns were Strida Jaajaa and George Adwan hailing the resistance of Hezbollah and recognizing it as a Lebanese Resistance, while Aoun elsewhere was allying himself with the rest of Hezbollah’s allies (pro-Syrian) whether in Mt. Lebanon, Baabda-Alley, the North, or Beqaa area. The 14th of March opened a way to Hezbollah through the Lebanese Forces recognition, while in the meantime General Aoun was attacking the whole set of 14th of March. The 14th of March block promised Hezbollah to review their considerations regarding the arms within Hezbollah, and the shock of Lebanese politics was to see the line-up: Lebanese Forces – Progressive Socialist Party – Future Movement – AMAL movement – Hezbollah. The specific shock was to see Shiite voters going to vote for George Adwan of the Lebanese Forces while seeing Syrian Social Nationalist Party members going to vote for Aoun’s list was a shock on its own as well. To say the truth, at this moment, there were no longer any known patterns as all political border lines collapsed to seek maximum number of chairs.

After the elections of the South and Beirut, the Democratic Left Movement was in clash with the Progressive Socialist Party because they chose Hezbollah rather to go against their hegemony of the South. The only person who went against Hezbollah was the Lebanese Communist Party, ex-prisoner in Israeli camps, Annwar Yassin under the logo of not manipulating Resistance to a single group since the LCP had a hand in the resistance.

Eventually, new wave of terrorism rises. The assassination of 14th of March cadres and the shock was the assassination of the Anti-Syrian journalist and member of the Democratic Leftist Movement: Samir Qassir. I remembered it clearly because it was Aoun about to give his electoral speech when the news entered his conference, while simply said to stand one minute silence to honor him and simply continued with Business. Samir Qassir had close relations with certain factions with Syrian opposition and his assassination in specific pointed fingers on Syria. No one knew that this was the beginning of a new wave of terror in Lebanon. His death triggered mass denouncements of the assassination, while his energetic youth image broke-hearted the youth (specifically in 14th of March). This opened way for Elias Attallah to be fully integrated in the election list of Tripoly of 14th of March just as Harriri wanted to ensure that his block had all the parties who had martyrs.

As results appeared, Hezbollah and AMAL dominated the areas they were concentrated in. Saad el Harriri sweeped through Beirut while Aoun announced his alliance with another Pro-Syrian who was Slumeiman Frangieh. Aoun’s block afterwards retaliated, Aoun sweeped through the whole areas of Zahli, Jounieh and Keserwan, al-Matn, except for Baabda-Alley where Junblatt’s List won. Actually Nassib Lahoud in Matn was crushed to pieces in elections while Junblatt had the Shiite votes in order to win elections. Aoun sweeped unanimously in all the rest of the areas except in Matn where the son of Amin Gemayel won elections with a hard struggle with a feudal rich figure called Sarkis Sarkis. I remember one of the SSNP saying during elections when he saw a car had the OMEGA sign (which represented FPM), next to it the Zawba’a (SSNP sign), and Michel el Murr’s picture combined , and he turns around asking his wife: “Is it really all those symbols combined on a car or this is the whiskey that hit me?”

Hence, the two regions of Tripoli seemed to be the decisive factor on who will dominate the Parliament was it Aoun or the 14th of March + Hezbollah and AMAL. Harriri Jr. and his Aunt paid extensive visits to Tripoli which bothered Omar Karami to see his Sunni region being switching to al-Harriri. Nasrallah declared that all Shiites should vote for el-Harriri, and the Lebanese Forces were scared because Aoun already dominated the Christian concentrated areas. Aoun has called his campaign as “Tsunami over Lebanon” and announced that he is fighting “Petro-Dollars”. It was unclear where his voters stood as he also justified the SSNP to support him, and the FPM members hated them since it was his boys who were bashed by Syrian supporters. Nevertheless, it was a fierce battle and in the end, the 14th of March won the whole seats. The surprise was the strength of Neyla Mo’awad on the Christian street (as well as Boutros Harb) while Harriri did secure enough Sunni votes for the list. The laughter was on Elias Attallah, who labeled himself as the first leftist MP to secure a chair in the parliament (and elsewhere from his region). I remember people putting on their MSN: “Bye Bye Tsunami!”

As this round was over, a new terrorist attack occurred which (for the first time) stunned both 14th and 8th of March together. The assassination this time targeted the co-founder of the Resistance Front and Member of the Lebanese Communist Party (although relations were dry since he supported 14th of March) and this left all people from all camps shocked. George Hawwi, unlike the others, fought the Israelis when he was General Secretary of the Lebanese Communist Party. Palestinians adored him due to his war records against the Israelis. The story goes that George Hawwi was going to congratulate his friend Elias Attallah when he was assassinated. The battle emerged on who to claim martyrdom over George Hawwi. The Lebanese Communist Party insisted that he was the Party’s martyr while the DLM argued that he was leaving the Party. Nevertheless, fear sprung among the leftist figures because George Hawwi was the 2nd leftist figure to be assassinated after Qassir in less than three weeks. During his funeral, the Down Town Square became a Red Square while over 50,000 communists (mostly Stalinists) rose the Red Flag as his coffin entered the Church (while another 50,000 awaited the arrival of the coffin in his home village Tighreen). The Democratic Leftists were relatively few, but had minor support in terms of presence from the PSP since George Hawwi had strong relationships with Kamal and Walid Junblatt. When Walid Junblatt was entering the Church, the Communists yelled: “George Hawwi is a Communist!” while the DLMers sat and felt inferior in face of this angry wave. What really made the 14th of March hated by all factions of the Lebanese Communist Party was the fact Strida Jaajaa and the Gemayils were present in his funeral (two belonging to the Phalange Party and Lebanese Forces who were his arch-enemy). This indicates the left is split beyond reconciliation to three factions: Those pro 14th of March (DLM with their Neo-Con ideology), 8th of March (LCP with its Arab Nationalist ideology), and the free lancers who are against both.

The elections were illogical and I remember a Comrade abroad asking me: "What the hell is going on?", I replied: "It is a long long story with no logical patterns whatsoever."

Elections Aftermath and Terror Continues

As Elections were over, a new dilemma is to take place. What ought to be done with the Arms of Hezbollah. Legally, they have the right to resist since Sheba’a farms are still occupied. Actually, Sheba’a Farms became an excuse by Hezbollah and their pro-Syrian allies to preserve the weaponry.

Ex-MP Emil Lahoud argued that Hezbollah would be a Special Forces unit within the army, while other proposals suggested that they would become an urgent Army Unit only when Israel attacks Lebanon. In neither case, there was no agreement. Finally Seniora got elected as a Prime Minister and representatives of 14th of March. The Government included 2 Hezbollah ministers, 2 AMAL ministers, and One in between AMAL and Hezbollah. The Gemayils returned to power through Pierre Gemayel, and the release of Jaajaa was focused on by all groups. There was an attempt to assassinate Michel el Murr’s son Elias Murr (the ex-Minister of Interior) who supported 14th of March. He got away with it with severe browses. Bassil Fliehan (who got wounds from the Harriri explosion) dies and the wave of terror continued.

Jaajaa gets out of prison and will disappear for a whole month from the scene, while LBC covers in details every move he did in order to recover from prison.

What what would complicate things for 8th of March and their arguements about Israeli activity is the suicide of Ghazi Kena'an during the Mehlis investigative committee. This encouraged 14th of March to direct further fingers towards Syria as the murderer behind all the assassinations of political figures in Lebanon, for his suicide (murder?) means that there was information that was needed to be hidden by all costs.

Hezbollah withdraws from the block as the 14th of March didn’t offer a solution to the weapons of Hezbollah. Actually, Seniora was started tackling the Palestinian weaponry on Lebanese soil since he did not want to confront Hezbollah. What helped Seniora were the encounters of shootings from Palestinian militants on few civilian cars. This triggered loud noises that Seniora was a Syrian Agent. Aoun demanded that Seniora resigns and he announced himself as the only real candidate for presidency. Actually, the current President Lahoud voted for Aoun, during elections, which is also ironic since Aoun in exile attacked him as a Syrian Dummy. An assassination attempt takes place on the Journalist and LBC (Pro – Lebanese Forces) May Chidiaq, who survives but lost her arm and leg. This was a direct message towards the Lebanese Forces.

Later, MP Jubran Tweini gets assassinated in December as the country reached a stale mate between 8th of March (rejoined by the balancer of power Hezbollah and AMAL) and 14th of March. This time, unlike the George Hawwi assassination, some pro-8th of March supporters danced on the street since Jubran Tweini called the Shiites masses as sheep. This was a blow to Annahar since they lost Samir Qassir and now lost its editor in chief and co-owner Jubran. Jubran Tweini is known to be Pro-Lebanese Forces. Tension rose between 8th and 14th of March again. Actually in an indirect manner, the assassinations restored the popularity of March 14th and gave them an excuse to hit “Independence 05” Square (Martyr’s Square). I remember that I went to demonstrate for the sake of freedom of expression, the whole PSP – LF – Future were down there. The FPMers were sitting on a separate side. The FPM officials were booed everytime they went outside the Annahar building and were accused of “Syrian Agents selling Lebanon to Syria and Iran.” In the evening, when I went town with few comrades, the Annahar building was different with all the light systems, and sound systems (while recordings from Jubran’s famous Oath were repeated, the oath stressed that Christians and Muslims should defend forever the eternal Lebanon).

Later, Aoun becomes the official candidate of 8th of March for Presidency. In a bombshell meeting, Aoun and Nasrallah announce their unholy alliance on minimum agreement points and this puts the 14th of March in critical situation. Already the 8th of March was a strong block, but to be in alliance with Aoun’s block, that made them stronger. Aoun, unlike when in exile, defended Hezbollah as he said that till a valid alternative is proposed, Hezbollah has the right to keep their weaponry. Both factions attacked Seniora and 14th of March.

The retaliation was on February 14th, 2006, when that day marked the one year anniversary for Harriri’s assassination. It is expected around one million demonstrators went down, while Junblatt raised the ceiling on the Syrians and their Lebanese supporters. A famous picture was taken where Jaajaa – Junblatt (those two generated civilian martyrs during the battle for Mt. Lebanon between Lebanese Forces and PSP) with Ghassan Tweini (father of Jubran and a current MP after his son was assassinated) and Saad el Harriri. That day I told my aunt: “I saw it all”. It was funny how though Elias Attallah tried to squeeze himself in the historic picture but failed to do so. The Speech that Junblatt gave reflected the extremities that 8th and 14th of March have located themselves. No one is willing to reconcile. All forms of National Dialogues and mediations are a waste of time as no one is willing to decline on their goals.

I would like to focus a bit on Ghassan Tweini. Ghassan is not an anybody MP. The person is known to have had Pro-SSNP affiliations, while his academic skills almost toppled anyone. During the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, he was Lebanon’s Ambassador to the UN who performed magnificently. Some people argue that Ghassan should have been Lebanon’s president, but sadly being a Greek Orthodox (in this sectarian electoral system) he can’t be a President. Currently, he is with the 14th of March block and returned as Annahar’s Editor in Chief while preparing his granddaughter to inherit the Annahar Empire.

I will do more analysis on the 14th and 8th of March demands and activism as it will shed light on Lebanese politics during the July War.


Anonymous said...
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Renegade Eye said...

Quite interesting analysis. Much different than presented on CNN.

MarxistFromLebanon said...

I was there on 14th March demonstration, check chapter 4 renegade... towards the end of it...