Two nights ago, Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah gave a speech in which he, for reasons I can’t quite comprehend, re-opened the file on the events of May 7th 2008. It seems that the Future Movement’s latest round of campaign billboards — which feature slogans like “We won’t forget,” “They won’t return,” and “We won’t leave you,” which reference the May 7 takeover of West Beirut — managed to touch a nerve with Nasrallah, and he felt the need to respond.
Nasrallah’s reading of the events is one that most opposition partisans will typically present: March 14th was doing the bidding of the United States, Israel, and the Arab puppet regimes by attempting to disable a crucial component of Hizbullah’s military apparatus; as soon as they crossed this “red line”, they were given two days to reverse their decision, which they ignored; Hizbullah then struck with surgical precision, shutting down the city and neutralizing all the pro-government militias that had been preparing for a battle envisioned to last weeks and which would eventually lead to the intervention of foreign armies to “keep the peace”; when this plan was foiled (with minimal casualties), the country was forced back to the dialogue table and a peaceful solution was reached in Doha.
Therefore, concluded Nasrallah, “May 7th was a glorious day” for the Resistance. Predictably, there are many who disagree, and interestingly, they are not all on March 14th’s side. Former PM Salim al-Hoss, a strong supporter of Hizbullah, criticized Nasrallah’s remarks yesterday, and the Free Patriotic Movement has not moved in any overt way to back up their ally. My own experience speaking to various pro-opposition types here in Beirut confirms the uneasiness with which Nasrallah’s words were received. The feeling is that he overstepped.
Not that it really matters, this close to the election. It seems that the desire to win is so strong on both sides that it overrides any petty intra-coalition grievances. At some point, however, one wonders whether the FPM and Hizbullah are going to lock horns on resistance issues.
I had a conversation recently with a relative of mine, “Samir”, who is a strong supporter of both the FPM and the Hizb. I think his feelings are representative of how many opposition voters (particularly within the FPM) think about the future of the resistance and Lebanon’s role within the Arab-Israeli struggle. I reproduce as much of it as I can remember, below:
Samir: What the March 14th Christians do not understand is that the FPM is able to have a more productive dialogue with Hizbullah based on respect. It is easier to have an effect on someone when they respect you.
QN: What kind of effect?
Samir: I mean, let’s take a superficial example. I, as a Christian, have no problem going on al-Manar and being interviewed by a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf. I respect her customs. But why is it a problem for a Hizbullah leader like Naim Qassem to be interviewed by a Christian woman if she is not wearing a headscarf? Shouldn’t he respect her customs? Do you see what I mean? This is not an important issue, but the basic point is that a Lebanese Forces MP can’t have a sensitive dialogue with Hizbullah because there is no trust between the two sides. But the FPM can, because we are allies.
QN: Is there anything that the FPM can’t talk about with Hizbullah?
Samir: Like what?
QN: Like the Resistance. Take, for example, the business about Hizbullah cells operating in Egypt.
Samir: I’m totally against that. It was a major mistake for them to get involved in Egypt. Not that I’m defending Mubarak — I can’t stand him — but he was right when he said that Hizbullah has no business operating secretly in Egypt.
QN: Do you think Nasrallah made a mistake by admitting it?
Samir: They shouldn’t have been involved at all, in my opinion. I don’t understand why Lebanon — which is the smallest country in its region — has to pay the largest price in the struggle with Israel. We have paid enough already. For now, I want to go back to the hudna and in the long run I want a peace deal. I want to support the Palestinians in the camps here, to improve their living conditions and give them their rights, and to send money to Palestine. That’s what I can do. But to go and fight and bring another disaster down upon our heads… no, I’m against it.
QN: So the Resistance is, in your opinion…
Samir: … a national defense. That’s what Hizbullah is saying and I trust them. If they start to reveal something else, then I’m against it.
As we saw recently in the flap about Jezzine, it does not take much for the old battle lines to become visible. I don’t know how many people feel the same way as my cousin Samir, but I’m sure he is not part of a tiny minority in the FPM. M14’s Christian leadership, however, has proven to be so hamfisted in its attempts to exploit this ambivalence that it will probably end up costing them the election.