Hizbollah doesn’t speak for all Lebanese people

What Arabic writers say about the actions of the Beirut-based militia, Hizbollah. Translated by Carla Mirza

Lebanon's Hizbollah leader  Hassan Nasrallah addresses supporters through a giant screen during a rally in Beirut. Khalil Hassan / Reuters

The travel bans imposed by various Gulf countries on Lebanon due to regional instabilities have drawn strong support from Arabic-language commentators.

Writing in the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat, Abdel Rahman Al Rashed said that following moves against Hizbollah initiated by Saudi Arabia, some observers seemed to believe that Hizbollah represented the Lebanese people as a whole.

“One must recall that those who assassinated [former prime minister] Rafiq Hariri, according to the results of international investigations, were members of Hizbollah. They killed him as they have killed a number of Lebanese symbols who dared to stand up to the Iranian camp – that is Hizbollah and the Assad regime [in Syria],” he wrote.

Al Rashed noted that Hizbollah had also killed ministers such as Mohammad Shatah and Basil Fleihan, military leaders including Gen Francois Al Hajj and top security officials. The party had also killed intellectuals such as George Hawi and prominent young Christian MP Pierre Gemayel, the son of the Phalange Party leader Amine Gemayel who had dared to challenge them.

The list also included the writer Samir Kassir and the editor-in-chief of Annahar newspaper, Gibran Tueni, who often wrote against Hizbollah, and Bashar Al Assad, demanding the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.

“When the militia of [Hizbollah leader] Hassan Nasrallah invaded the Sunni areas of west Beirut six years ago, killing many people and destroying their property, Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Druze, took a stand against the party. Hizbollah factions retaliated by attacking Druze areas in Mount Lebanon, killing 46 people.”

Al Rashed noted that Lebanese Forces party leader Samir Geagea was one of the bravest in standing against Hizbollah, and that even many Shia had protested against the movement’s intervention in Syria.

“My historical exposé is addressed to those who seem to mix up the Lebanese people with Hizbollah. The majority of the Lebanese people wish to be rid of Hizbollah, its ideology and its militia, for internal reasons that are not related to Saudi Arabia or Syria.

“Hizbollah has created a state of fear, caused the exodus of hundreds and thousands and repelled investors.”

He cited the Downtown Beirut project, which began 20 years ago and had been deliberately sabotaged by Hizbollah “at every opportunity”.

Al Rashed said that the decision of Saudi Arabia to withdraw its support for the Lebanese army was justified. The role of the army was to strengthen state institutions in the face of extremist organisations such as Hizbollah and ISIL, but army leaders in Lebanon were powerless to do so.

“I do not imagine that Saudi Arabia would abandon supporting the forces that stand against Hizbollah, nor will it impede dealings with the Lebanese who have nothing to do with the party,” he concluded.

In the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, columnist Rashid Saleh Al Araimi noted that the UAE was one of the first to align with Saudi Arabia in its stand, as it often warned about the dangers presented by militias that do not recognise states or their interests.

Those warnings made no distinction between Sunni and Shiite militias “for all are equal when it comes to the destruction of nations and peoples”.

Al Araimi concluded: “Will the Lebanese cabinet show sufficient wisdom to spare Lebanon the consequences of actions committed by Hizbollah and its allies? And will Hizbollah revise its positions in the interest of Lebanon and all the Lebanese? Coming days will tell.”

* Translated by Carla Mirza