I have become very cautious when writing or reading an article using the phrase "unprecedented" or "not the same as before" when referring to an important event as we, writers, become excited in the heat of the moment and raise our hopes, imagining an earthquake would hit and change all of the balances of power and change all of the situations that we have long hated and called for changing several times. Our dreams are then crushed by the bitter reality that has produced incurable diseases which cannot be treated with a quick fix but, rather, require a skilled and bold surgeon who is not intimidated by the screams of a deceptive sectarian leader, nor is not deterred by a criminal militia leader.
I say this on the occasion of marking two years since the Lebanese revolution on 17 November, 2019, and masses from all sides taking to the streets and calling for the overthrow of the government and the president—or rather, the fall of the entire sectarian system. They chanted "All of them, means all of them", while the Shia, Sunnis and Christians joined hands and united their voices, chanting this wonderful symphony, "All of them, means all of them." It was a beautiful sight that Lebanon has never witnessed before, which prompted us writers to express this rare moment and say that Lebanon after 17 November would not be the same as before.
However, the sectarian leaders had other opinions and positions, despite the fear and terror they felt in the face of this magnificent scene. Each one of the leaders feared for their sovereignty and superiority over their sect, which, in their delusions, they thought they protected their sect from the evil of other sects. Therefore, they followed the leaders blindly and without thought, while each leader had a different country to protect and support them against the other sects, thus allowing Lebanon to be governed from abroad. Iran protects the Shia, Saudi Arabia protects the Sunnis and France and the West, in general, protect the Christians, so the countries controlling Lebanon began to move their conflicts and wars against each other to Lebanon's beautiful green land, the Jewel of the East or, as it was called, 'Switzerland of the East'.
At the moment when the Lebanese people from all of the sects joined hands, the sectarian leaders feared that the rug would be pulled from under their feet, and they feared for their wealth which they gained through corruption and their forced leadership. Therefore, Nabih Berri, speaker of the parliament and president of the Amal Movement, quickly sent his armed men to shoot the protestors headed towards the parliament and threatened to cut off the tongues of those who spoke ill of their leader, Nabih Berri. They headed to Martyrs Square, the location where the sit-in took place, and they burned the tents at night and opened fire on the protestors, chanting "Shia, Shia, Shia", to mislead or disrupt the chant "All of them, means all of them."
Hezbollah Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah, accused the Western embassies in Lebanon of being behind these demonstrations, claiming that they financed the protests, that there was a foreign conspiracy against Lebanon and that his party was the target. He threatened all those who called for the fall of the president, who he appointed and forced on the Lebanese people so that he could be his puppet, signing off on everything he wants, while Nasrallah continued to rule Lebanon behind the scenes; or rather, so that Iran remains the de facto ruler of Lebanon. Did not one of Iran's officials say that it occupies five Arab capitals, the first of which is Lebanon?
Unfortunately, the sit-in was dispersed and the leaders of the sects united and managed to divide the united street into several streets, fragmenting the protestors into sectarian and doctrinal tribes. Each sect became closed onto itself under the umbrella of its leader, to take shelter under their leader and preserve their sectarian identity, instead of their Lebanese identity, which brings everyone together under its umbrella. Hence, they managed to bury the Lebanese revolution through conspiracy and betrayal, like all of the Arab Spring revolutions, and the situation returned to what it was, perhaps worse than it was, thus disproving the phrase that 'Lebanon after 17November will not be the same as before'.
A few months later, came the major event that shook all of Lebanon, with the terrible explosion in the port of Beirut which claimed the lives of nearly 200 people, wounded thousands and destroyed tens of thousands of homes. Between the horror of the catastrophe, the flames and smoke that covered the sky of Beirut, people wondered where the several tonnes of ammonium nitrate that caused this terrible explosion came from and why it was left for all of these years near residential neighbourhoods. Who does it belong to? Fingers were pointed at Hezbollah, and it was said they kept it either to use domestically when needed, or to send to Syria to burn the protestors with explosive barrels, as they did during the revolution. This is especially since the period they were stored coincides with the crime committed by the Bashar Al-Assad regime. An international investigation was initially called for, but the Hezbollah state did not agree, so the President, Michel Aoun, was forced to assign the investigation to the Justice Ministry, which actually investigated the details of the act. It seems that it has found the culprit, but was forced to step down because of political pressure on it. Instead, Judge Tarek Bitar was appointed, who was not to the head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah's liking, so he attacked the judge in his speeches for four months, inciting his sect against them and threatened to overthrow him. Nasrallah sent his security official, Wafiq Safa, to the Justice Palace, threatening to usurp him and accusing him of collaborating with the Americans. An immoral and poisoned incitement campaign was launched against him on Hezbollah's channels, news sites and newspapers, which reported undocumented news about his meetings with American ambassador, Dorothy Shea and with Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi.
The unfortunate events took place in Tabouneh Square, which resulted in the killing of 7 people and wounding and injuring dozens. These events confirmed that there is deep sectarian tension among the Lebanese people that is no longer hidden in their hearts but rather, rears its ugly head whenever the opportunity presents itself. This time, the opportunity was presented to them by Hassan Nasrallah and Samir Geagea.
No sooner had the sound of live bullets subsided, than a shooting of another, louder kind begun. Verbal clashes and political quarrels began between Nasrallah and Geagea. Nasrallah gave a speech last week, in which he claimed that he had protected Christians for the past three decades, threatening Samir Geagea by name, not implicitly, and accusing him of having a civil war in Lebanon on his agenda. Nasrallah also claimed that Geagea is being funded by Saudi Arabia and that he supports Daesh and the Nusra Front. Nasrallah said Geagea has to calm down and show restraint, and exhibited his power to the Lebanese people, saying he had 100,000 fighters ready to fight.
Geagea denied Nasrallah's accusations and considered it nonsense, a blatant lie and another excuse to get out of his predicament. Geagea claimed that the Hezbollah project is a destructive project for Lebanon and what the country is witnessing these days is the beginning of the implementation of this project.
This came amid news circulating that the military court had summoned the head of the Lebanese Forces Party, so Geagea responded that, if this information is true, then Hassan Nasrallah must be treated similarly and summoned first for investigation, as he is the head of a legitimate Lebanese party under the law. However, the party considers itself above the law and military judiciary.
We do not know how these political quarrels will end, as it is not limited to two sects clashing in all of their news channels and newspapers in order to fan the flames of the clashes. This may thwart the port investigation out of fear of the outbreak of a civil war, especially in light of the accusations of the judiciary!
The conflict in Lebanon has made the Lebanese people live in terror and dread due to the threats of their master and the escalations of the wise.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.