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Out of Respect for the 'Resistance Community'

Out of Respect for the 'Resistance Community'

Monday, 13 July, 2020 - 09:00

In his latest speeches, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General reiterated his narrative about his supporters, also known as the “resistance community”. The idea he restated, speaking to the Americans and his other enemies, was the following: nothing will rattle this community or shake its conviction, come what may. The community’s absolute loyalty to Hezbollah will not be undermined by economic or security conditions, others’ perceptions, or anything else.

This is not the place to discuss the accuracy of this assessment. With that, I would hope that it is not accurate. This preference does not stem from political opposition to Hezbollah or a desire to see it weakened as its community drifts from it. On the contrary, this preference stems from my respect for this community and my assumption that, like any other vibrant and lively community, it is affected by the state of the world.

We know that polls assessing public opinion are conducted frequently in democratic societies, recording a decline of support for a certain politician or a surge in support for another. These changes come as a result of this or that politician’s policies and their effect on citizens’ lives: on their economy, finances, public health and education, the environment, etc… In this sense: politics cannot exist when there is no change, only a death-like stagnation.

However, the claim that Hezbollah’s victories are the reason for its community’s absolute devotion to it and its leader raises two questions.

First, even if we were to concede the point and agree that Hezbollah had indeed been victorious, these victories cannot compare the victory over fascism in the Second World War. This is a matter of fact that, one would assume, Hezbollah itself would not deny.

Reminding reading of the British elections of 1945 has become a cliché of political history, as Winston Churchill, who provided the British with their extraordinary victory in that war, was nevertheless defeated in the following general election. The majority of voters punished his Conservative Party for its economic performance before the war and were skeptical about its ability to carry out post-war reconstruction. Here, the British did not say that the victorious Churchill "had the British raising their head high", a phrase that had been said of Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had the Arabs raising their head high after his unambiguous defeat in 1967.

Second, the party is almost 40 years old. Throughout these years, several minor and major wars have been fought with the Israelis, and an ongoing war is being waged against the Syrians, thousands have been killed, families have been displaced, homes have been demolished, lands have been burnt, and the "resistance community’s" relationships with other sects has faced many tough tests; most recently, poverty dealing its blow and the national economy collapsing. This process, with its rich and costly experiences, ought, at least in principle, to lead to disputes and schisms, changes of opinion and loyalties stemming from divergent assessments of benefits and drawbacks and opinions over whom to hold responsible. This is natural and healthy. Its absence is not.

There is no doubt that the symbiosis between the community and its party, rather between the community and the party of its sect, is not new to the Lebanese or the people of Arab Levant in general. True, Hezbollah pushed this relationship very far, and supported it with economic, health, and educational services and by raising morale, as summed up by the famous slogan: “You are the most honorable of people.” But it is also true that the traditional sectarian leaders were keen to garner their communities’ support as well, and they used the means provided by the state’s public administration to offer them various services.

Decades before Hezbollah's people cried out "this sacrifice is to the Sayed’s (a religious title of Nassrallah’s) slippers," mothers would be heard saying that the belly brought their son, the "martyr", to life, can deliver other children to die for the family, the sect and the leader. Moreover, this absolute devotion to one’s group, in all likelihood, is reinforced by the tribal approach that characterized the Arab-Israeli conflict: 100 years of conflict without any kind of political solution on the horizon. All of us against all of them. Politics is forbidden…

But, in any case, holding on so tightly to the inherited religious affiliation or bloodline is not worthy of anyone. Even parties that are established based on ideas that one chooses voluntarily are subject to disagreements, cleavages and changes of opinion.

It may take a long time for some of the meanings of the October 17 revolution to manifest, specifically this question: to what extent was the community’s symbiosis with Hezbollah a free choice and to what extent did the symbiosis stem from a fear of the party? But the result, regardless of the reasons for it, is not good news for anyone, let alone a source of pride.

Only those who change and respond to challenges and transformations are alive and progressing.

What is being said here does not demonstrate a lack of principle. It is a response simultaneously commanded by one’s reason and interest. He who loves and respects the "resistance community" is required to suggest: remove the wool shirt that you have on. Wear a lighter shirt. The weather is changing, change.

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