Marvel at the contempt Hizbullah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, must feel for us all, that he would expect us to believe his presentation last Monday telling us that Israel was behind the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister. But that contempt may also in some ways be justified, because far too many Lebanese actually believed him, even as they observe the rapid erosion of their slender sovereignty with lethargy.MEMRI also has a rundown on Lebanese reaction, which predictably follows party lines.
Do we Lebanese deserve independence? You have to wonder. Israel has killed many people in Lebanon, and will doubtless kill many more, but we would only be abasing ourselves by abruptly reinterpreting the Hariri assassination in the light that Nasrallah chose to shine on the crime. We would have to believe that Syria did not threaten Hariri in 2004, was untroubled by Resolution 1559, for which it held Hariri partly responsible, did not control Lebanese security in 2005, and did not appoint or approve all senior officials in the security and intelligence agencies. We would have to disregard that these agencies tried to cover up the scene of the assassination, that Hizbullah sought to stifle the emancipation movement by organizing an intimidating demonstration on March 8, 2005, to defend Syria’s presence in Lebanon, and that virtually all of those assassinated after Hariri (not to mention Marwan Hamadeh, who barely escaped assassination before) were critical of Syria.
And, of course, we would have to forget that Hizbullah and its Amal allies twice left the government because it was preparing measures to establish the tribunal – the second time kicking off an 18-month Downtown sit-in to bring down Fouad Siniora’s government.
Nasrallah now offers an explanation for this: the tribunal was politicized. Yet that was not the excuse Hizbullah and Amal used in 2006 when they withdrew their ministers. At the time, their beef was that Siniora and March 14 had undermined governmental procedure by not consulting properly with them. But we can conveniently forget that, too, as well as Syrian President Bashar Assad’s warning issued to the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, at a meeting in Damascus on April 24, 2007. According to a detailed account leaked to the French daily Le Monde, Assad told Ban that approval of the tribunal under Chapter VII authority “might easily cause a conflict that would degenerate into civil war, provoking divisions between Sunnis and Shiites from the Mediterranean to the Caspian Sea.”
Perhaps Nasrallah had not yet shared his information about Israel with the Syrian president, who, with amazing prescience, found himself echoing revelations about a Shiite connection in the Hariri assassination more than two years before Der Spiegel made a similar reference – one that Nasrallah now sees as proof of an Israeli plot.
It would take an awful lot of forgetting to buy into Nasrallah’s theory, but that is precisely what the secretary general is demanding. He wants Lebanon, above all its prime minister, to forget the overwhelming evidence from the past and bury the Hariri tribunal for good. Let’s just blame Israel, Nasrallah is telling us, so that we can all live in amnesic harmony.
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