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What Ignited Beirut?

What Ignited Beirut?

Sunday, 17 October, 2021 - 09:15

Going back to 1975, our minds would spew out pages of history that the well-intended among us thought had been turned. Maarouf Saad’s assassination, the Ain al-Rummaneh bus…all were recalled to this present day. The past does not pass in Lebanon.


What leaves the past in the present, or perhaps puts it in the future, has one name: Tyranny.


Tyranny could stem from authorities or from armed groups that impose, through force of arms, what weaker counterparts cannot oppose. This Thursday, there emerged those who opposed, and so Beirut was ignited.

The background story starts with the Taif Agreement that was implemented under Syrian patronage. Hezbollah’s arsenal was thus deemed legitimate while the other armed groups were handing theirs in. The Second Republic was born with this disequilibrium and discrimination. Matters became worse after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in 2000. The arsenal, for which the Shebaa Farms were conjured up, remained in its owners’ hands.


Exacerbating the discrimination and disequilibrium is that a wide segment of the Lebanese had gotten involved in the war of 1975 in opposition to the arsenal. The leaders of that segment of society ended up either in exile or prisons. Opposing the arsenal came to be officially considered a form of treason. Opposition was forbidden. Those who found that Lebanon had been able to protect itself through an armistice agreement between 1949 and the late sixties were considered traitors, or in the best of cases, suspicious.


Those with the guns couldn’t absolve themselves of Rafic Hariri’s assassination in 2005. The Syrian forces’ withdrawal from Lebanon expanded their influence. In 2006, they thought it was the right time to wage a destructive war that would reel in the causes raised by Hariri’s assassination, i.e., freedom, sovereignty, and independence. We returned to the “sacred causes” that hide and disfigure every real cause.

Nonetheless, opposing that destructive war is also treacherous.


The parliamentary majority is barred from governing. The government collapses, through the withdrawal of its Shiite members, whenever it expresses the slightest opposition to that arsenal. It loses the sectarian representation it needs for its legitimacy.


When those opposed to the arsenal raised their voice, they would be fought with the occupation of the capital. That is precisely what happened on May 7, 2008. The fairytale that this arsenal had been maintained to protect Lebanon was dealt a heavy blow. Protecting the fairy tale came to require two other assurances: ministerial statements would be obliged to adopt the “army, people and resistance” formula. Opposition is also forbidden. Those who oppose are agents working for embassies. Another assurance was ensured through the intimidation of areas that could object to the arsenal: the streets of Hamra and Ashrafieh, friendly gentle visits declaring “we are your followers Nassrllah” recurred frequently.


Those with the arsenal decided to participate in suppressing the Syrian revolution and then in the Syrian civil war. Whoever disagreed with them on the Syrian conflict is either a Sunni Islamic extremist or one of the American devils’ tools. The same accusations used to target those who have a different opinion on how to protect Lebanon from Israel were repeated against those who opposed fighting in Syria.


It is against this backdrop that the economic crisis came to pose another challenge. Those who found that Lebanon’s foreign policy should be aligned with its interests and serve those interests were depicted as conspiring against those with the arsenal. To be deemed acceptable, they have to forget their ties to the Gulf, Europe, and the US and try to further them in Iran and China.


The October revolution against the ruling clique and its corruption is not permissible either. It undermines the conditions most suitable for those with the arsenal. The ban has taken many forms, starting with banning Shiites from taking part, and it does not stop at youths chanting “Shiites Shiites” assaulting protesters.


The biggest calamity was with the blast at the Port of Beirut, which Christians consider to have left their areas paying the heaviest costs. Credible suspicions about the Syrian regime’s involvement through middlemen arose. Those with the guns said the investigation was politicized. The first lead investigator, Fadi Sawwan, was not fit for the task. The second investigator, Tarek Bitar, is not welcome to take it on.


The few days before the bloody events on Thursday witnessed an unhinged campaign of terror, accusations of treachery, and blackmail. It involved defamation and repeated references to May 7, 2008. With the declarations about the government falling and the threats issued during the council of ministers meeting, it was apparent the guns were being oiled.


All of this to prevent a trial!


After Rafic Hariri’s assassination, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was viciously attacked because it was international. With the investigation into the port blast, there is a desire to hinder a national court.


The stance, then, addresses investigations, all forms of investigations. The assassination of Lokman Slim, who was killed in Hezbollah’s fiefdom, has not begun to be investigated. Crime is a requisite for resistance to the same extent that resistance is a requisite for the crime.


The tyranny and intolerance for opposing it, as well as the defamation of its opponents or the enforcement of the strictest of punishments against them, have become so bitter that fairy tales about the “sacred cause” or that the “weapons are to protect Lebanon” are no longer useful. Even the homeland becomes, in this case, a pure fairy tale that most of its people don’t want to be part of, and discovering that the homeland itself is a fairy tale, very sadly, could spark many other flames.


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