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40 Years of Hezbollah: People’s Resistance and Communal Resistance Movements

40 Years of Hezbollah: People’s Resistance and Communal Resistance Movements

Wednesday, 22 June, 2022 - 09:30

In celebration of its anniversary, Hezbollah called the forty years of its existence (1982- 2022) “the forty springs.” A “series of festive activities” will be held to mark the occasion, as the ad promoting them says.

The fact is that anyone looking at Lebanon’s conditions today would struggle to find anything to compare to spring or anything to celebrate. Even those most sensitive of us have come to put their birthday celebrations on hold.

This bleak view is not dictated by the country’s economic collapse alone, but also security fears: the Lebanese are living under the daily weight of the question of whether Israel will launch a military attack, a prospect that some believe to be likely and others do not believe to be far-fetched.

What are the roots of the misunderstanding with Hezbollah as it celebrates while the Lebanese are accepting condolences?

When the party was founded in the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Lebanon had just been occupied by Israel, and we know that the laws, morality, and self-interest, as well as national dignity, all enshrine peoples’ right to resist occupation and occupiers. Nevertheless, communities’ right to resist occupations is a more contentious and less evident question.

One thing bridges the gap between these two rights: that the community behave like it represents the people, thus the faction of the people with the geographical misfortune of confronting the occupier.

Raising the national flag or poetics about “defending Lebanon” do not mean that a group is behaving on behalf of the people. Representing the people means a few other things, perhaps the most important of which are:

First - that the community’s focus on its sub-identity decrease in favor of a greater focus on the things the nation’s communities share, i.e., exactly the opposite of what Hezbollah is doing and has always done in terms of bolstering its sub-identity, an identity distinct from the country’s other sub-identities.

Second - that the leadership of the resisting party have some kind of awareness of the importance of moving from the negative phase of resistance (liberation from the occupier) to its positive phase (liberation to build a nation and a state).

Stopping at the negative phase hinders linking the liberated area to its country and its central authority, thereby replacing the foreign occupation with a kind of internal occupation, justified under the pretext of the privilege of resistance and its sole right to bear arms.

Third - that the resistance’s role in resisting the occupier does not reinforce an outsized political influence gained after achieving liberation. If this kind of influence is hard to swallow in a religiously and sectarian homogeneous society, a society whose differences stem from political and ideological reasons, tolerating it in a society founded on religious and sectarian pluralism is impossible.

Fourth - that the resistance have a known endpoint, just as it has a known beginning. When the beginning is known, but there is no explicit endpoint at which specific goals are considered to have been achieved, the resistance’s raison d’etre of liberating land is negated. This resistance thereby becomes more like a tyrannical and salvationist regime that calls itself immortal, a regime that justifies getting implicated in aggressive misadventures like the war in Syria or interventions in other countries.

Fifth - that its ties to foreign powers are alliances amenable or breakable in principle, rather than the resistance melting in these powers, which leaves no distinction between the larger body and the smaller body within that alliance. The principle of dissolving into something bigger is tempting to communities who are not confident in their people and use foreign powers to intimidate other communities, while the principle of malleable alliances defines those that peoples build through their states.

Such factors, if they apply in principle, are more pertinent in a fragile and difficult country like Lebanon... This is, if the goal is for it to remain a single nation that unites citizens who have equal access to sources of power and an equal say.

As for continuing along the current path, which is, of course, more likely, it is a recipe for reinforcing a domestic tyranny accompanied by threats of civil war and subordination to foreign powers in anticipation of the disintegration of the Lebanese nation, which would be deemed an unviable experiment. The resistance bringing about such a state of affairs is enough to revoke the preference for resistance over occupation: occupation does not cause this much harm.

The past few years were bitter enough. They were made more bitter, and their bitterness’s lifespan was extended to reach forty years by popular culture in the region’s exaggerated exaltation of resistance, any and all forms of resistance.

The wisdom that has been adopted emphasizes what resistance “represents,” not what it does. This dichotomy of glorious representation that blows things out of proportion on the one hand and bad behavior receiving almost no attention on the other, is among the reasons for our many catastrophes, including this one.

This wisdom tells us: resist Israel and do what you like. Those who resisted did indeed, and continue to do, what they like.

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