Øjenvidnerapport fra Libanon - Hezbollah helps mend divisions
Hizbolla udbedrer Israels ødelæggelser i Libanon
Sara Flounders, 25. september 2006
Hizbollah er ikke til at komme uden om i Libanon, og de er særdeles aktive i oprydning og genopbygning, ligesom de i øvrigt har været siden den forrige konflikt med Israel i 2000. Men mere end noget andet er de ved at udvile til til en social magtfaktor, ikke mindst i kombination med en svag civil regering i Beirut. Hizbollah har dermed udviklet sig til et voksende problem for Israel (og dermed delvis også for USA), ikke pga. organisationens religiøse holdninger, men først og fremmest fordi Hizbollah gradvis udvikler sig til en væbnet national bevægelse. Og er der noget der kan styrke opbakningen bag en sådan bevægelse, så er det de militære resultater, som Hizbollah opnåede under kampene mod Mellemøstens normalt helt enerådige og traditionelt så sejrrige militære styrker fra Israel.
Flounders was part of a fact-finding delegation to Lebanon, organized by the Campaign for Accountability, from Sept. 11-17.
Traveling throughout war-torn Lebanon, we realized it is impossible to understand the historic accomplishment of the resistance or the vast reconstruction underway without understanding the role of Hezbollah in Lebanese society. Everyone we met wanted to discuss this one topic.
Lebanon is a complex multi-ethnic, multi-religious country. Under French colonial rule, the entire state structure of Lebanon was rigidly divided into religious groupings. There was no civil society and social services in Lebanon were organized by the different religions.
Even today, access to schools, health services, jobs, small business loans and marriage is strictly based on religious affiliation. The same is true for voting and representation in government — whether Sunni or Shi’a, Muslim or Maronite, Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Druze or numerous sub-groupings. Each grouping has its own political parties and its own militias.
This archaic structure was organized to keep the groups endlessly competing and warring with each other. In order to keep it in place, there has been no census or count of the population in 75 years. Every struggle for change in Lebanon has come up against this divisive structure.
By seeking to unite the whole population to resist the continuing invasions and occupations coming from Israel, Hezbollah, which is based in the Shi’a Muslim population, has had a profound impact on all the sects in Lebanon.
In meetings with countless individuals and organizations all across Lebanon, we heard again and again the strongest defense and support of Hezbollah as the one organization that did what no other organization in Lebanese history has been able to accomplish: they defeated an Israeli invasion.
Hezbollah’s support has grown since the war because it is also leading the reconstruction. The weak Lebanese government has been unable to take any steps to reorganize or provide relief. It is still “studying” the situation.
According to villagers we spoke to at every stop, the only force involved in extensive cleanup and reconstruction is Hezbollah.
But what has won the deepest support is Hezbollah’s long-held position to never use its arms against any political or religious group within Lebanon. Even in past provocations, when other militias or groups fired on Hezbollah assemblies and demonstrations, it has refused to retaliate. Each time it has stated that its arms will only be used against outside intervention.
Hezbollah also set up a wide network of social services and healthcare that distinguishes it both for the quality of care and the fact that it is open and accessible to all. Many people not linked to Hezbollah told us that this is what gave them confidence in the organization.
Learning from past mistakes
In Amman, Jordan, we had an opportunity to meet with Leila Khalid, a Marxist and heroic Palestinian leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. She was in Lebanon during the invasion.
She explained that Hezbollah has learned from and benefited from the lessons of past mistakes by the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance. It has the willingness to sacrifice and the confidence of the population. She said that Hezbollah knows its enemy and follows every Israeli development. The Israelis, however, entered the war having little intelligence on Hezbollah and were unable to penetrate its organization.
Hezbollah’s victory prevented both Israel and the U.S. from realizing their strategic goals for the region.
In Beirut we visited the totally bombed and devastated neighborhood in the south of the city called Dahiyeh. We observed the enormous clearing and reconstruction operation that Hezbollah has organized block by block. Hundreds of dump trucks, tractors and earthmovers were involved in clearing rubble.
Dr. Mufid Kuteish of the Political Bur eau of the Communist Party of Lebanon explained to us the steps made by the U.S. in preparing for war in Lebanon, the danger of wider war and Washington’s efforts, especially since the invasion of Iraq, to reshape Lebanon.
When Israel’s invasion started, Hez bol lah led the national resistance. The Lebanese CP declared a full mobilization of its party to aid Hezbollah in the political movement, in the defense of the south and in internal operations to aid the million refugees who fled Israeli bombing.
Dr. Kuteish traced the history of the Arab Nationalist movement in Lebanon that had been so harshly attacked by the U.S. and Israel. He also described the left secular movement that had been repres sed and then was confronted with the loss of the Soviet Union and many socialist countries.
He explained that now Hezbollah, a religious grouping, has undertaken the tasks of uniting the national movement and liberating the land. If Hezbollah had been defeated by the Israeli invasion, he concluded, it would have been a defeat for all the resistance.
Hezbollah is a problem to the U.S. not because it is a religious group — the U.S. helps divide Lebanon according to religion and helped arm other religious groups — but because Hezbollah is a national resistance organization.
The impact of solidarity
We visited the southern part of Lebanon, where the full fury of Israeli bombardment was felt, and had the opportunity for many discussions amid the ruins.
One local organizer explained that the relations among the different sects in Lebanon was a historic problem, and that outside pressures had been consciously used to enflame civil wars. Zionism was planted in the region by imperialism in order to divide and instill conflict. The coming of Hezbollah had for the first time stabilized the situation in Lebanon and transformed the conflict from an internal conflict to a united conflict against Zion ism and foreign intervention. Now the various sects were knitting back together.
Many we spoke to described how in this invasion, for the first time, other sects welcomed Shi’a refugees into their homes. In past wars, each sect looked after only its own grouping.
The day after the ceasefire went into effect, almost a million people responded to Hezbollah’s call to return to their homes and rebuild. This was often cited as an example of the people’s confidence in the resistance movement to help solve their enormous reconstruction problems. Hez bollah immediately offered to pay $10,000 to every family whose home was destroyed, not just to people in their Shi’a base.
The caretaker at an Orthodox church in Marjayoun described how Hezbollah had provided the same funds for rebuilding that village’s homes, saying this surprised him because past hostilities ran deep. During the 1982 to 2000 Israeli occupation, Israeli collaborators were based in the Christian communities.
He described how as Christians took refuge in his church, he met with Hezbollah leaders and appealed to them not to fire rockets near the church. They told him they were under orders to never fire near any Christian or non-Shi’a community.
In Baalbek, the traditional center of the Hezbollah movement and the site of magnificent ruins dating back 3,000 years, official Hezbollah spokesperson Hajj Ahmed Raya told us:
“Hezbollah is a Lebanese party. We are sons of this population. We want our land and we want our prisoners and we want back everything stolen from us.
“This party has not been terrorized by this war. The U.S. and Israel thought that we would have a huge social problem after this war. Our reconstruction has upset them. We are able to solve problems that big nations have not solved. To this day the U.S. lives with the problems of Katrina.
“What distinguishes us is the variety of cultures here. This creates a nation in contact with all of the world. Israel, based on Zionism, is increasingly isolated and has nothing to offer—just war. They entered Lebanon to defeat Hezbollah. But now the flag of Israel is being burned everywhere.
“Hezbollah is not a military organization; it is a society. So it is impossible to dismantle it. We are an example to other peoples of the world. We will continue to fight the American Project. Justice is on our side.”
The view that this was a U.S. war, although carried out by the Israelis, was also raised to us in almost every discussion. This was reinforced by billboard-sized signs in front of bombed sites throughout the country that read, “Made in USA.”
Another local organizer said to us that Hezbollah does not view itself as a replacement for the state, and that the Lebanese state should be responsible for rebuilding the roads, bridges and homes. However, since the government was nowhere to be found and because people had immediate needs, they had stepped in.
He described how rebuilding was based on mobilizing popular pressure. “In this town we have two wealthy families; we also have two bombed bridges. We sent a delegation of town families, we appealed to their patriotism and our needs. One family will repair one bridge; the other family will pay to repair the other bridge.”
As we parted he said, “A single human can do nothing. Collectively we can make a great change. We look to a future without borders. We look for real peace.”