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The Liberation of 2000 in Today’s Context

The Liberation of 2000 in Today’s Context

Monday, 1 June, 2020 - 07:45

In the past few days, the Lebanese were left beyond doubt: yes, we disagree over just about everything. We have disputes over the repatriation of those who cooperated with Israel or, as they are referred to in a different narrative, agents of Israel. We have divergent views about pardoning prisoners, the smugglers, the situation at the borders and crossings, federalism and centralization, and the details of our relationship with the International Monetary Fund on the one hand, and the Syrian regime on the other.

Some of these disputes are of a Christian - Muslim nature, some are Sunni- Shiite, and others are residues of the March 8 and March 14 split.

The explosion of disputes in this glaring way coincides with an event that one would assume unites the Lebanese: the 20th anniversary of the liberation of the significant chunk of Lebanon that had been occupied by Israel for 18 years. The opposite is true.

No doubt, pinning the numerous deep disputes on the liberation is an overstatement that may sometimes be compelled by bad intentions. Part of our disputes stem from an earlier time, and part of it is the result of the revolution’s setback… However, the correlation between the celebration of liberation and the revelation of the extent to which the Lebanese’ discordance calls for reflection.

This tells us, at the minimum, that the major event that took place in 2000 falls short of being a national and foundational event. It remains, very regrettably, a course of action that concerns only a particular segment of Lebanese society.

There are many reasons for this; some of them fall under the category of intransigent hard realties, while others are of an alterable variety. A region of a particular sectarian majority was subjected to occupation, and it was confronted by a party of a particular simultaneously religious and sectarian nature as well.

Nevertheless, these intransigent realities, which cannot be altered, could have been circumnavigated or at least mitigated if the liberators had taken another path.

For example: if they had dealt with the 2005 liberation from Syrian tutelage as the culmination of that of 2000. The opposite happened, as the liberators of 2000 appeared to be partners of the regime of Syrian tutelage, while there emerged those who accused them of being implicated in the crimes that began with the assassination of Rafic Hariri.

Another example: if the liberators of 2000 had presented their liberation as the beginning of a process of building a Lebanese state with a strong national center. Here as well, the exact opposite happened; Hezbollah remained adamant about keeping hold of its weapons and built up its state and army at the expense of the Lebanese state and army, granted war an infinite horizon that is not constrained by time and would not end once a specific achievement had been realized. They acted as though the liberation event itself had not happened, promising the Lebanese endless wars, because to be truly liberated is to continue along an uninterrupted path of violence.

The subsequent intervention in Syria was a translation of this fact.

A third example: if the liberators had presented the victory as a pathway for improving the Lebanese’ political and social conditions. This issue did not concern the liberators in any real way, which limited liberation to violent action aimed at retrieving land, a process that was dissociated from all principles and virtues that regard the enrichment of people and their conditions and future.

A fourth example: if the liberators of 2000, after the need for mobilizing their group had rescinded, focused less on the symbols and rituals that speak to a particular group of Lebanese and none of the others.

The problem was made worse by the fact that these symbols and rituals are of Iranian origin and connotation.

That none of this had happened made liberation closer to a single mode of behaviour and a single closed identity. In fact, Hezbollah’s real and deep intention and its narrative of what happened can be summed up in this summary of the state of affairs: the contributions of other factions that resisted Israel are obscured. Those who contributed to the fight against Syria are presented as traitors. The unilateral withdrawal strategy of Ehud Barak was ignored.

On top of that, the triumphant narrative is very wanting on the humanity front, i.e. in artistic and cultural terms in general. We did not hear about anyone having felt scared, confused, conflicted, or hesitant, nor have mixed feelings, as they resisted. Everyone was, from start to finish, heroically moving, straight as an arrow, towards their goal. And when Israeli soldiers’ biographies and memoirs are published, highlighting those sentiments, the comment is: Here they are, their trembling cowards.

On the other hand, what was widely exalted is the "culture of resistance", which does not write novels or paint pictures!

In short, such liberation did not have the means to bring the Lebanese closer. It was able to push them apart, through its construction of a rigid hierarchical system in which their positions were determined in accordance with their connection to Hezbollah.

This is what had been the aim, and this is what has indeed been achieved, making the Lebanese people's previous divisions, prior to Hezbollah and the liberation of 2000, a relatively minor part of their current divisions. For this reason and due to this experience, many Lebanese held their breath when they learned of a different liberation, this time in Syria. They said, whether in secret or public, that Lebanon itself is a stone's throw away from political annihilation.

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