Hazem Saghieh

Lebanon, Iran, and Forms of Solidarity with Gaza

After many Lebanese officials voiced similar positions, Prime Minister Najib Mikati took things further than his colleagues and seemed less embarrassed about his embarrassing position. Besides implicitly acknowledging that Hezbollah is the actual negotiator at the table in which the situation in Lebanon and its future are being discussed, Mikati echoed the party’s theory about linking developments in Lebanon to developments in Gaza.

Fear of death and destruction, which is justified, was not the only reason that broad segments of the population met his rhetoric with indignation, nor was the fact that he ignored those segments and sidelined their opinions and sensitivities regarding a matter of life and death. In addition to both, there is a history of “linking” that has cost and continues to cost the Lebanese dearly.

Indeed, since the mid-1960s, Lebanon has been linked to Palestinian militancy, with the 1969 Cairo Agreement granting this link “legal” justification. Successive wars erupted as a result, culminating in the Israeli invasion of 1982.

After that, with Lebanon under the influence of the Syrian police state and with Hezbollah’s power growing, Hafez al-Assad came out with his famous theories about the shared destiny and path of "one people in two countries." Once again, disasters whose repercussions continue to reverberate, and whose consequences continue to add up, ensued. Mind you, Assad’s theories did nothing to help the Palestinians and their cause, however one interprets that cause; rather, these theories went hand in hand with policies that wreaked havoc on the Palestinians in Lebanon.

Today, with the “unity of arenas,” we are looking at one people in five or six countries that supposedly share the same path and destiny, but instead of being led by Damascus, this time, they are led by Tehran.

The most dangerous aspect of all of that might be this nihilistic - militia perspective that is being broadly promoted in some environments. This view makes light of doing away with states, borders, and national sovereignty, not to mention the interests and opinions of the population. It is an idea that can be partially traced back to an imperial consciousness that preceded the emergence of modern states.

At that time, for example, many “mujahideen” who did not recognize borders emerged, going from Syria to fight in Iraq or from Lebanon to fight in Syria or Palestine... It is obvious that this is no longer part of the global zeitgeist, just as the mood of the times is no longer favorable to the emergence of forces like the “International Brigades,” the 40,000 volunteers who fought in the Spanish civil war of the 1930s. Nowadays, a group like ISIS has been left to present the perfect image of pasting everything on everything else over a geographical area that “unified” western Iraq and eastern Syria.

One consequence of the times and its novelty is that religious, national, and ideological wars have become a thing of the past, and with them, so has the epic image of “nations,” “peoples,” or “masses” rising up as one in defense of a cause, be it just or unjust. The consolidation of states and societies has given rise to a clear distinction between transnational moral and humanitarian solidarity, like that of the people around the world expressing their solidarity with Gaza or with victimized groups like the women of Afghanistan, and political solidarity that goes as far as direct military intervention, which is now contingent on a particular country whose parties are drawn together by a life cycle and common interests.

Today, we see this distinction between degrees of engagement even among the Palestinians themselves, depending on their different circumstances. The West Bank, for example, with the exception of pockets here and there, did not take its solidarity so far as to announce a mass insurgency, to say nothing about the Arab population inside Israel. As for those searching for epics “between the Atlantic and the Gulf,” or in the vast “Muslim lands,” their disappointment with the times turns them back cursing their luck and carrying crushing frustrations.

On the other hand, there is good reason to be extremely skeptical about the meaning of solidarity with Gaza as it is expressed by today’s solidarity specialists. It does not take a genius to refute, based on knowledge and experience, the prevailing militant narrative about these new solidarity experts.

The Houthis’ social environment in Yemen had sided with Imam Al-Badr and against Nasserism and Arab nationalism in the Yemeni civil war of the 1960s, at a time when the slogan of liberating Palestine had been tied exclusively to Nasser. As for the Shiite parties in Iraq, their social environment launched attacks of retribution against the Palestinians in Iraq after 2003, because they considered them to be Saddamists and Baathists. Meanwhile, the environment of Lebanese Hezbollah crystallized politically through its clashes with Palestinian armed groups in the 1960s and 1970s, before it wiped out the Lebanese affiliated with those armed groups.

That is not to criticize or glorify those past choices, but to ask by what miracle that their descendants became “enamored of Palestine”? In all likelihood, they have fallen under the spell of Iran, not Palestine.

Using Gaza as a pretext, what they want is to turn their countries into militias and impose their control over their societies and central authorities. They want to turn their countries into part of Iran’s imperial domain, and of course to cast as a traitor anyone who does not buy into this hypocrisy in the name of Gaza, or who refuses to exchange his homeland and patriotism for Iran. In turn, the latter acts in solidarity through Arabs bodies, countries, and societies, and it avenges Gaza in Iraqi Kurdistan and Idlib, or on the border with Pakistan, while Gaza’s fate is left to God.