Hazem Saghieh

South Lebanon and the Two Abrahamic Moments

Some believers who share Immanuel Kant’s manner of faith - that is, believing in religion within the confines of reason - argue that the Abrahamic experience is composed of two moments: in the first, Abraham is commanded to slaughter his son (Isaac in the Torah, and Ismael in the Quran), and offer this son, who had been a precious gift God had offered Abraham in his old age, as a sacrifice. The second moment amounts to a correction of the first, as God intervenes to stop Abraham from killing his son and commands him to sacrifice a ram instead.

These two moments reflect two different approaches, not only to worship, but also to sacrifice. The first is literal in its interpretation and gratuitous in its sacrifice, although this sacrifice could come at a high price and be extremely painful for the person making it. As for the second approach, it accommodates metaphorical interpretation, thinking, and imagination to the same extent that it does reason, comparison, and the weighing of benefits and outcomes.

The war Hezbollah is currently waging in South Lebanon can probably be placed in the category of the first Abrahamic moment. Party members and cadres there are being killed in large numbers, and this may well fall within its undisputed rights.

However, the party does not have a right to instigate a conflict that leads to the death of civilians and the destruction of their homes, terrorizes residents, forces over 120,000 of them to flee to Tyre, Beirut, and spoils harvests, which could take a long time to recover, in addition to leaving the entire country panicked about the specter that the scope of this conflict, which is difficult to control and contain, could expand.

The picture becomes even more bleak once we account for the well-known fact that the Lebanese state has no say in this matter, while the party sees no reason to consider or give any attention to foreign diplomatic efforts so long as the war in Gaza continues.

As for the theory that things should remain as they are in the South because of the need to support the Gaza Strip, it raises a question: What more could the Jewish state have done to Gaza, what has Hezbollah's innervation prevented it from doing? No observer could have failed to notice that the Lebanese-Israeli front has not featured, in any way whatsoever, in the ongoing deliberations of Arab and international officials to avert a campaign on Rafah.

Despite all of this, proponents of resistance have been pushing a strange narrative. Those who want to drag the South into a state of war, they claim, are the ones who love this region and see it as a cherished part of the homeland, and those who want to avoid a war are the ones who do not hold the South dear.

Two premises that do not hold up to the slightest scrutiny underpin this narrative. The first, which is drawn from a famous historical discourse, is that nations cannot achieve independence or liberation without sacrifice - mind you, Lebanon has been an independent country for 70 years, and the vast majority of its citizens, including those in the South, believe that the degree of liberation Lebanon has achieved is more than reasonable for a country in the Middle East. In any case, our dire conditions do not seem to be sufficient cause for what poets and visionaries call "embracing annihilation".

As for the second premise, it is that Lebanon will inevitably be subjected to an Israeli invasion, or a half invasion, or even a quarter invasion, because Israel invading us is inherently inevitable. Without absolving Israel of harboring evil intentions, this narrative, which we now see an effort to build a broad consensus around, is nothing more than another one of the commodities designed to normalize the state of war and the bearing arms, as well as to glorify resistance, that the militant propaganda factory manufactures in excess.

The fact is that the incidents of harassment suffered by the South between 1949 (the year that Lebanon and Israel signed an armistice agreement) and the latter half of the 1960s (when Palestinian militants began launching attacks against Israel) could have occurred on any other border shared between two non-warring countries, and they definitely inflicted far less harm on Lebanon than the actions, both within and outside Lebanon's borders, of the various military regimes that had ruled Syria during this period.

This empirical fact allows us to claim that death and humiliation were not prevalent in the South during the period in which it had been under the control of the state and Lebanon had been protected by its international relations, but during the period when armed groups, Palestinian in the sixties and Lebanese since the eighties, seized this region and shaped the lives of its inhabitants.

The conclusion one draws from these paradoxes is that it is none other than the militants in the South who despise the South. Indeed, on one hand, they abhor the Lebanese formula - a hatred shared by all incarnations of radical militancy - and on the other, they are closely tied to a bleak foreign model that sees the destruction or subjugation of the Lebanese model as a requisite for success and overcoming its legitimacy deficit.

The glorification of what could be called the "first Abrahamic moment" occupies its hegemonic position on these grounds. The sacrifice of land and people, though for nothing, is portrayed as inherently noble and glorious because it rewards those making it with the resistance and gifts them (ideally long and wide) "caravans/convoys" of martyrs. This is the only path that pleases Ayatollah Khamenei.