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Lebanon is not Resistance, Nor is Resistance Lebanon

Lebanon is not Resistance, Nor is Resistance Lebanon

Wednesday, 14 October, 2020 - 09:15

For three decades, Lebanon and resistance have gone hand in hand. Resistance is sometimes presented, in day-to-day politics and the media, as the pinnacle of Lebanese history, just as Hafez al-Assad is the best thing to come out of Syria. Seeing as the resistance’s achievements in Lebanon, per this narrative, surpass those of any other resistance movement in the history of the resistance, its supporters are elevated to the rank of “the most honorable of people” and its opponents demoted to the pits of dubiety.


This linkage was established during the Syrian tutelage and developed year after year, eventually leading to the emergence of the theory about the triad of “army, people and resistance,” to the tune of slogans that sum up the present and confiscate the future like “unity, freedom, socialism” or “unity, liberation, vengeance”…


This slogan, “Lebanon the resistant”, was pit, implicitly and explicitly, against other descriptions that the Lebanese had grown up on like Lebanon being a “bridge between civilizations,” the “Switzerland of the East,” and a place “where the mountain meets the sea,” or those descriptions that couple it with particular functions related to freedom, tourism, nature and the weather, which ascribe totality to adjectives are supposedly features of the country. Though the descriptions are heavily exaggerated and seek to entrench a rosy self-image, they are nonetheless a thousand times closer to reality than “Lebanon the Resistant,” in which distortion of history reaches its zenith.


The best thing about Lebanon’s history before the emergence of resistance movements is that it did not have to resist. Circumstance freed it having to undergo this bitter experience that leaves a leading party and an inspirational leader standing tall on victims’ blood. This is how ancient resistance movements are portrayed, like that attributed to Sidon, which the Assyrians are said to have destroyed and burned hundreds of years before Christ, offsetting the need for resistance in the present. As for official Lebanese history, it was written to this effect: our ancestors were great heroes whom we should always honor but never imitate. The glorification of myths is thereby accompanied by the assumption of a breach with the past that leaves immersing ourselves in death and conflict unnecessary in the present.


In contrast to the “resistance culture” which revolves around martyrdom mythology, pre-resistance Lebanon’s culture still referred to literature, poetry, music, drawing, sculpture and dance. When the “May 6 martyrs” whom Jamal Pasha executed in 1916 were celebrated somewhat elaborately, the ceremony was not accompanied by a celebration of martyrdom. The occasion was presented as the last of sorrows. The celebration was used to emphasize Christian-Islamic partnership in death, which, it was hoped, would become a partnership in life and building the promised nation.


The same thing repeated itself as late as 2005. The glorification of the “martyrs of the Independence Revolution” was not accompanied by familiar martyrdom mythology. Once again, the focus was on the Lebanese forming bridge to a vibrant homeland, or this was, at least, the explicit discourse.


Resistance, any resistance, was not a source of Lebanon and its regime’s legitimacy for those who did not languish under the control of a vanguard party or an infallible leader. Along the same lines, the Phoenician merchant was resurrected, seen as proof of success and better living. The intention, though it had a degree of lyricism and romanticism, was that he would be the guiding compass.


The fact is, the overwhelming majority of Lebanese knew and know that when they did not take up resistance, they were not subjected to incursion. However, and more importantly, they knew that ascribing sanctity to resistance and its fighters does nothing else than diffuse criticism, limit freedom and cast a dark shadow over political life.


Thus, the transition from pre-resistance to post-resistance Lebanon was nothing but a coup against everything, a coup accompanied by demographic shifts, many of which had been caused by Israel’s attacks. And it is, like all coups, detrimental and dangerous. Indeed, it would be accurate to say that resistance’s only positive outcome is that it brought the multinational forces and their spending and consumption in the South.


But if linking Lebanon to resistance is a lie, linking resistance to Lebanon is a bigger lie. True, Lebanese did take up arms as part of the Palestinian resistance’s organizations, and Hezbollah’s fighters are Lebanese; but the decision to resist was never a Lebanese decision, and it is not easy to demonstrate the benefits it granted Lebanon, while demonstrating the damage it caused is straightforward.


Furthermore, while the inclination before resistance organizations was to incorporate others and expand the commonalities between them, although it was slow, inconsistent and messy, resistance movements are necessarily and by definition factional, no matter how strongly they claim otherwise. It concerns a particular group only, while it pushes the others to reactions that vary between apprehension, fear and resorting to arming themselves if granted such an opportunity. This is precisely what happened on the eve of the Lebanese civil war, and many are hoping it will recur today and be the serious conclusion to that war.


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