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March 08, 2005



From the AlJazeera site: one thing they're saying is they "oppose a UN resolution demanding the disarming of militias."

This burns my Lebanese-American a**. I know there are many in Lebanon who can give all sorts of reasons why Hizbollah is becoming a mainstream political party. Fine. But why are they still armed? I know, I know, Syria wants them to be and they have their reasons.

But from my two visits to family in South Lebanon in the past decade, I just cannot understand the rationale for disarming all the other militias and letting one keep their weapons. The Palestinians put down their guns. THe fascist right wingers put down their guns. Letting one group march around with weaponry is not only injust, it's a provocation. And then they have the nerve to shout for this "right" in a demonstration?

As'ad Abu-khalil pointed out on PBS last night that the Lebanese are very divided; that nobody likes the Syrian regime much (not even inside Syria, good one, As'ad). This demonstration absolutely proves his point.

But: how many Lebanese really want Hizbollah to keep their weapons, though? Not even the other Shi'a would, I'll bet. (non-Hizbollah, they do exist you know, think Amal and many non-Amal Shi'ites)

I take this personally because my family lives in South LEbanon and we see Hizbollah flags and billboards whenever we move outside of our village. I didn't see armed guys on the streets in my last visit, but the propaganda presence is huge. Knowing they have guns just makes me think of '74, the last summer I spent there. Not good.


It was "Michael in Beirut" who posted the Elmer Fudd photo ... can't remember the name of his blog, though.

No One

People are going to argue that people were bused in and "forced" to march in today's protest.
That may be the case. But I don't know. I don't see the Syrian Regime as so organized that it possesses the ability to arrange such a show of support and strength. There is not that much force in Damascus, not alone in Beirut.

The fact is Lebanon is divided about the Syrian presence. And only a portion of the population was speaking before today.

To view the situation as 'people power' or however these superficial western magazines and big news agents have been arguing is dangerously ill-conceived.

the aardvark

I already saw reports about the busing from Future TV. I'm sure that will be part of the argument.


lots of Lebanese flags in the crowd, though. Interesting, huh? I get the feeling that Hariri was actually assassinated by some sort of nefarious international flag-making cartel.


Bush giving a speech now.


Equally legitimate without hot babes? Where does al-Jazeera come up with this stuff?


1.5 million is a nonsensical number. The entire Shia population of South Lebanon is probably below that. The demonstration is probably well below that.

As for busing, there was probably some of that, but why is that wrong ? Demonstrators always do some of that. As for force, come on, hundreds of thousands forced to march ?

I see this as Hezbollah asserting its political strength. Hopefully, it will lead to a sensible withdrawal from lebanon that does not


With regard to your Elmer Fudd comment, Nasrallah has a terrible lisp when pronouncing the letter "wow." Suwiya instead of Suriya - Wafiq al-Hawiwi instead of Rafiq al-Hariri. I first heard it watching his press conference on Al-Jazeera a couple days ago and fell of the couch laughing.

the aardvark

Wafik al Hawiwi... stop, you're killing me!!! "Welease... Bwian!"

Justin - yeah, 1.5 mil is nuts, but that was what the "official source" said. But AJ didn't change its ticker which held steady at "hundreds of thousands" for the entire duration of the coverage. Associated Press is saying 500,000 now.

Martin Kramer

Abu Aardvark: I am amused to see you persist in the "Lebanonization of Hizbullah" thesis that gained such currency among "experts" in the 1990s (and which I always thought was pure wishful thinking). Today's events should lay it to rest. Sure, they pass out Lebanese flags, and talk about sovereignty, but look to what purpose: to preserve the Syrian envelope (and the lifeline to Iran). When I started following these guys in the 1980s, they actually had demonstrations where they burned Lebanese flags, and the ambivalence is still there. There is an allegiance at work here that isn't Lebanese nationalism, and it's spelled like this: I-S-L-A-M.

the aardvark

Martin - I've never been a full subscriber to the "Leb of H" theory, mainly for the reasons you outline: I take their ideology and their rhetoric seriously, and their Islamic orientation is hard to miss. But at the same time, the evolution of their civil and political institutions on the ground, and participation in the political system, created very real and cross-cutting strategic and political incentives. The Hizbollah of today just isn't the Hizbollah of the 1980s. I think that Hizbollah can now talk the Lebanon talk much more convincingly than they might once have been able (or willing) to. And some (but not all) of their leaders and cadres are more enthusiastic and sincere about it than others - I don't see a monolith there.


I would expect no less of Hezbollah, being as organized and disciplined as it is. But to be fair, here in Lebanon gathering a massive crowd is easier when you have official Syrian support, and throngs of militants at your beck and call.

Lots of potential anti-Syria demonstrators never joined the protests fearing that the Syrian "moukhabarat" would be keeping tabs on them. Which, I might add, is commonplace in Lebanon.

By the same token, if a Syrian agent knocks on your door and "encourages" you to attend, you know you'd better show up or you'll be jeopardizing your and your family's security. These are the rules of the game. But Hezbollah is too concerned with "death to Israel" to worry about that.


Could someone point an utter neophyte towards some resources that would help understand where the divisions and interests in Lebanon came from where they stand? (Though I note the warning in a previous post that my head may explode)

Though I'm starting from close to zero, my questions is spurred by a curiosity as to whether the current alignments are derived from the civil war factions, or whether there are new interests which have taken precedence since then. What is the attraction of Hezbollah as a continuing political movement? Is Hezbollah as closely connected to Syria as it seems? I think I understand why there would be some gratitude for Syria's initial role at the end of the war, but why would there be any Lebanese desire for it to remain this long afterwards? The numbers in the picture seem a bit large for pure astroturf. If Hezbollah has as much support as it would seem, wouldn't its own political interests be better served by putting distance between itself and any outside influence?

Sorry about the tangential comment. Since I stumbled in here a few weeks ago (about the time democracy began its march past the reviewing stand) I've tried visiting the Daily Star et al, but I don't think I've got enough context for that to be really useful. This thread has pushed my frustration with my ignorance over the line. Thanks in advance for whatever help you can lend.


Shawn, Juan cole has a good rundown of who the players are and a bit of their history here. http://www.juancole.com/2005/03/lebanon-realignment-and-syria-it-is.html You may not agree with his politics, but he knows his stuff and he backs it up with sources. I've seen a lot people calling him names from the right, and disagreeing with his interpretations, but not much substantive challenge to his history.


Shawn, try this:



I think I understand why there would be some gratitude for Syria's initial role at the end of the war, but why would there be any Lebanese desire for it to remain this long afterwards?

I don't believe South Lebanon was occupied by the Syrian Army recently (correct me if I'm wrong), but it was occupied by Israel. Its not surprising that Shia in South Lebanon see Syria as a potential ally and Israel as the enemy whereas in the North, Syria and Israel are both viewed with some suspicion and the presence of Syrian troops angers locals.

As for Syria keeping tabs on anti-Syria protesters, isn't that threat a little exaggerated now when they're thousands and tens of thousands of people protesting against them ?


Oh, here's the guy who posted about Elmer Fudd:



Also Lounsbury.


I agree with the Aardvark on the "Leb of H" issue. Hizballah's increasing usage of Lebanese nationalist icons and rhetoric fits in perfectly with Roy's thesis about Islamists in "The Political Failure of Islam". Because Hizballah is now intimately involved in the Lebanese political playing field, it has to frame its agenda in nationalist ideology, rhetoric and symbols if it wants electoral and political support... even if this is all a facade for its real desires. But gradually it gets taken over by nationalism. Rather than Islamizing the State, the Islamists themselves become "nationalized".

(But Abu Aardvark... I'm not sure why it would surprise you that Nasrallah is speaking in "Lebanon-centric" language).


Thank you, Retief and Praktike. Those were far more encyclopedic than I could have hoped for. BTW, I have absolutely nothing against Juan Cole's politics; I'd read some of his stuff on Iraq, and I have no idea why I didn't have the common sense to look to him on Lebanon.

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