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The Shebaa Farms Republic

The Shebaa Farms Republic

Wednesday, 14 April, 2021 - 11:45

The Shebaa Farms returned to the forefront recently. We were reminded of them by former US Ambassador Frederick Hoff, who wrote that Bashar al-Assad had told him that these farms are Syrian in 2011. Around the same time, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora reminded us of them during an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat in which he expressed fears of the Lebanese-Israeli demarcation turning into “another Shebaa Farms,” in reference to the obstacles impeding the demarcation process.

In fact, the Shebaa Farms should not need to be remembered, nor should they need reminding about, because they should not be a subject for forgetting in the first place. The farms are a fact that exists and has a strong presence among us. Beyond that: they are the most accurate gateway for understanding what is currently happening in Lebanon, indeed current Lebanon revolves around the Shebaa Farms.

It is well known that this piece of land is covered by Resolution 242 on the Arab territories occupied by Israel in 1967, not Resolution 425 on the Lebanese territories occupied in 1982. This is because the Jewish state snatched the farms from the Syrian forces during the Six-Day War; in the 1950s, those forces were stationed there, where they established their outposts, customs and checkpoints. The Lebanese authorities turned a blind eye to the farms at the time and sacrificed them at the altar of “brotherhood.”

But Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in 2000 shuffled the cards. The Lebanese authorities and those of Syrian tutelage quickly called it “the conspiracy of withdrawal.” The Lebanese people were required, overnight, to embrace the struggle for the farms that had been discovered suddenly and to embrace, on this basis, the doctrine of unity that binds us to the path and destiny of the Assad regime.

The enthusiasm for liberating territory that we had not heard of took us by storm and came to control our lives, territory to which not a single poem had been written or a single song been sung. Even a singer exploding with enthusiasm for the resistance like Julia Boutrus’ voice did not reverberate for the Shebaa farms. Marcel Khalife also missed out on singing for the farms. With that, woe, only woe, became the fate of those not infected with enthusiasm for their liberation.

The Israelis of the “peace camp” who said: we pull out of Lebanon and the problem ends, were proven wrong. The Shebaa Farms became sufficient cause for launching vengeance epics without end, especially since, a short while afterward, the village of Ghajar was added to them. How, then, does one escape the resistance? The two successive discoveries settled the issue once and for all. The wager of the Israeli peace camp, which was immense at the time, on the withdrawal that we considered a “conspiracy”, collapsed. And so, this camp began to wither away in favor of the nationalist, expansionist right.

As for claiming that the contemporary situation and modern history of the Middle East are partially linked to the Shebaa Farms, it would not be an exaggeration. Hezbollah, which the Shebaa Farms granted an opportunity to keep its weapons despite the Taef Agreement, is the same party that swiftly waged war in Syria and intervened in Iraq and Yemen. Thus, in some sense, it was the spark that lit the flame that would later engulf the region.

Surrounded by all this confusion but also with all this importance, the Shebaa Farms became one of post-Israeli-withdrawal Lebanon’s foundational pillars. The logic that shaped this relationship was simple: so long as the parent issue has not been resolved, nothing will be resolved, and everything will remain suspended.

Indeed, with varying degrees of urgency, in some form or another, no settlement would be final and nothing viable would be worked on: neither regarding relatively old issues, which are suspended and exacerbating, such as corruption, electricity and banking, nor the truth about the Beirut port explosion or the demarcation of land and maritime borders. Presidents and governments came to stop being chosen, and when they are chosen, it is only after great pains are endured. As for parliament, as demonstrated by the experiences since 2005, its majorities do not rule. All the authority is in the hands of the Shebaa Farms and whatever it takes for it to remain a sword hovering over Lebanese politics and society.

Would it be conspiratorial, then, for one of us to think that there is an actual conspiracy to kill Lebanon off so the Shebaa Farms can be revived or rather be immortalized? Let us contemplate this a little: international institutions’ loans are almost forbidden, and it is also forbidden to create conditions that would allow the Lebanese to extract their oil and obtain the $40 billion they desperately need. In practice, it is forbidden for the investigation of the port crime to move forward, and when German and French companies intend to rebuild it, insults are hurled at the Germans and the French. Ties with the Arab world and the international community are a valid reason to label treacherous those who call for consolidating them. Neutrality, of course, is forbidden ...

Would it be conspiratorial to link the centrality of the Shebaa Farms- with “the liberators” who emerged from it now “liberating” Syria, Iraq and Yemen - and the theory of “heading East”, which would be a total and qualitative coup against what remains of Lebanon?

Precision in describing what is happing demands that we refer to the whole with the name of a part, especially since the whole, that is, Lebanon, is fragile, impoverished and defeated in every sense of the word, while the part, namely the Shebaa Farms, is flourishing and being promoted from the local to the regional and the international. The Shebaa Farms Republic or Lebanon Shebaa Farms are two extremely fitting names.

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