خالد أبو زهرة/ارب نيوز: لا يجب على لبنان أن يفقد الأمل بالرغم من قمع حزب الله Lebanese must not lose hope despite Hezbollah’s oppression Khaled Abou Zahr/Arab News/February 10/2022
I received more criticism than I expected for last week’s column presenting the advantages of federalism for Lebanon. The criticism revolved around two main points. The first was a view that the country needs a complete shift in its political direction, along with a centralized system to bring back order, and federalism would complicate this process. The second critical view was more nuanced and opposed it on the basis that the current situation does not permit positive change and that Lebanon already effectively has a de facto decentralized system. As an example, some areas allow westernized behavior and others forbid it. Some areas even allow the production of chemical weapons, drugs and the launch of missiles.
Both of these views indirectly conclude that, with Hezbollah in control, the main problems facing Lebanon cannot be solved. The judiciary’s independence, the country’s foreign policy and the army’s sovereignty — all of these and much more are decided by Hezbollah and imposed on the state. Hence, for both families of critics, federalism is not the solution. This description of the state of the country is true and I agree with it. I would go so far as to add that Lebanon lives under the occupation and oppression of this group. I would argue that, with Hezbollah in control, there is no rule of law and the group has total immunity to act against the interests of the people.
It is also true that the people of Lebanon cannot do much about it on their own. Those who dare to voice their opposition end up facing threats of violence or even death. We all recognize this, especially as this month marks the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Lokman Slim. We are, in fact, reminded of the situation by death and terror anniversaries every single month of the year. How many have been assassinated for opposing Hezbollah and the Syrian regime? This is why it is important for the Lebanese to keep their voice alive and to keep opposing, in any way they can, the nefarious role Hezbollah plays on the orders of its patrons in Tehran.
It is also important to voice our concerns over the ongoing nuclear deal negotiations that could give Iran more money and resources to assert its control over Lebanon. America is a friend of Lebanon. If you are not convinced of this, then just look at what the US Justice Department has done to bring down the networks of Hezbollah and Iran. It has done more for the country than the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and without costing the Lebanese taxpayer a single lira. And so we need to let the US and the West know that Lebanon will not be helped by pragmatism. Was pragmatism ever the solution when facing the Nazis or other fascists? Was it the answer to any evil force? It is the opposite — evil forces feed off pragmatism and become stronger. Help for Lebanon does not come in the form of a consensus that gives Hezbollah legitimate power. It comes from facing down this evil and forcing it to retreat. The world needs to understand that Hezbollah is not the color of Lebanon, just as the current regime in Iran is not the color of the Middle East.
However, the Lebanese should not wait for international help in order to initiate the idea of change or the idea of a better place for all. It is by uniting around the dream of a new Lebanon that we can start unifying more efficiently to oppose this group and its plans. The reaction of Hezbollah and its allies to the idea of federalism is a good indicator that this is something positive. This is also why, as much as it controls everything, demanding a referendum on federalism makes more sense than just accepting useless legislative elections. It would also be a great way to clarify what federalism is and show how it is more than simple decentralization.
It is by uniting around the dream of a new Lebanon that we can start unifying more efficiently to oppose this group and its plans.
We all know that any transparent referendum or truly free election will not be permitted. We all understand that, for now, Hezbollah will block any positive change. But this does not mean we cannot start dreaming of building something new. We are still allowed to dream of a better future.
Once again, the current situation will not last. History tells us that various external influences take over Lebanese politics and rule over its minorities, only to eventually fade away. But we also need to reevaluate and ask why these influences keep succeeding one another. Why does Lebanon keep living in this vicious circle? It is due to a flawed and imposed political structure that traps the country under the rule of political gangster families. This is exactly what needs to be destroyed and why the dream of a new Lebanon starts with federalism.
So there are two separate questions: How do we overcome the oppression of Hezbollah? And how do we build a new state? Even if change cannot come today, these two challenges feed off each other. If we have nothing to dream about, then we become prisoners of the current situation and this is what Hezbollah and the political families want. If we see that there is hope and a new horizon, then we will find ways to defeat evil and the world will support us.
*Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.