Thursday, March 17, 2005

They came, Oh how they came

They came. They came by car. They came by bus. They came on trucks, on foot, even by sea. And they came with a vengeance, thousands upon thousands, upon hundred of thousands.

Monday morning, by noon, Martyr’s square was full. Yet the march was not officially started till three. A sea of red and white filled the square.

An unbelievable number of people packed the square to bursting. Even the adjacent roads were slowly filling… people came to make a point, to answer a challenge.

For when Hezbollah organized a large march last Tuesday, numbering around half a million we felt despair. When I saw all those people Hezbollah gathered- in an adjacent square to martyr’s- rage and anger filled my heart.

Why? Why did Nassrallah - the head of Hezbollah - choose to side with Syria. Why didn’t he join us, the opposition, to form for the first time since 1943, since our independence, a true national unity. To prove once and for all, that we Lebanese we are one people, not a patchwork of warring communities

It seems that people everywhere felt this anger, this betrayal and they came. They came to Monday’s march, to prove that Hezbollah was wrong. To show Nassrallah that he made the wrong choice, that he should have chosen Lebanon over Syria and over Hezbollah’s own selfish needs and interests.

People came till both squares were filled. Martyr’s square , where the opposition held most of its protests , and Riyadh el Solh , the adjacent square where Hezbollah held its Tuesday’s half a million march.

I have never seen that many people in one place. The mobile phone network crashed. I couldn’t find the group I came with.

And several times while walking around martyr’s square, trying to find a place to look in on the podium where the opposition leaders delivered their speeches. I was stuck in a sea of bodies.

It felt like being trapped in the currents of a ragging river. Helpless but to move with the mass, driven forward by the press of bodies.

It both suffocating and exhilarating. To see all those people united in protest , united to find out who killed Rafic Hariri, united to see Syria out, and the resignation of the heads of the Lebanese security services.

And hope blossomed inside of me. Hope snuffed out by Hezbollah’s betrayal rekindled. Hope that no matter what they do. No matter how hard they try to divide us, to try to pit us against each other. Our unity shall prevail, and that the specter of war shall never again visit my country.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Then my dream chattered into a million shards

What pains me most is that we all had this perfect chance to unite, a chance to build our country on sound basis. For throughout the short history of Lebanon our sectarian cohabitation was always doubtful, everybody was just waiting for the other side to show signs of so called “treason” to start getting help themselves from the outside as a response to the other side betrayal.

Unfortunately Lebanon used, and to some extent, still have two main factions the Christian side and the Muslim one. Usually the Muslims side got help from Arab world and more especially Syria. Whereas, the Christians got help from the west or Israel.

However this is not a sacred rule. The powers helping the Lebanese factions switched sides with the whims of international geopolitics and grater nations’ interests. Usually we, alone ended up paying the price.

Like in 1976, when the Syrian army entered Lebanon to help the Christians against the Muslim-Palestinian alliance, then a few years later the Syrians switched sides and attacked their formers allies (the Christians)

With the death of Hariri I hoped beyond reason, beyond hope even. That this time we, all of us Lebanese, we will agree once and for all to live united in our country in peace and accept to cohabit in the same definit country that is both part of the arab world and of the west. A unique bridge in a world that dearly needs such bridges.

What a naïf idealist I was… The first chance it got - while Hariri assassination was still a mere three weeks behind us- Hezbollah betrayed us all. Hezbollah betrayed Lebanon, betrayed its people – most of the Shiia Muslim faction- and betrayed itself.

Why Hezbollah did that… Forever I will ask that question. Many answers arise. Out of allegiance to Syria and Iran – Hezbollah has been the backed finacilly and military by Iran and Syria in its mini-war with Isreal on Lebanon south -, or out of fear of disarmament.

No matter Hizbollah choose to side with Syria against the rest of the Lebanese.Even though the opposition tried everything to convince Hezbollah’s leader to join them. The opposition offered to postpone Hezbollah disbarment till after the election and after a national dialogue. The opposition agreed with most of Hizballah conditions and demands, asking just that Hezbollah proves its patriotism and joins its fellow Lebanese.

They were rebuffed. Just after the speech of Syria’s president Bashar - a mediocre speech given by a mediocre man while he laughed and joked in front of his puppet parliament members, which clapped in unison like schoolboys at his feeble jokes. In a time when the fate of two countries hung on his words and actions- Hassan NassraAllah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah choose to commit himself to the Syrian side.

For Hezbollah have been sitting on the fence for a while now. Even before Rafic Hariri’s assassination. Hope blossomed that our unity will be total that all sects all Lebanese will join our side … but no Hezbollah choose to join Syria’s side. Choose to bring old division back. Choose to draw the line again in the sand. This time the factions have changed a bit, but no matter the slogan are still the same.

Hezbollah announced it loud and clear. “We are the true patriots; we are Arabs and will defend the Arab world while the opposition are traitors, trying to make a peace agreement with Israel.” The old deadly accusation has surfaced again. It matters not if the Palestinian themselves are on the way to make peace with Isreal. It matters not that halve the arab countries have relations with Isreal, that we are sick and tiered of war and the endless killing.

All what matters is that they rule. Rule absolutely with no opposition. Syria and its proxy Hezbollah are even willing to rule over ruins. And if they are obliged to get out of Lebanon, by the effort of the international community they will leave ruins behind. For Bashar Assad told the late Prime minister Hariri : “ Tell your friend Chirac- the French president who was a close friend to Hariri - that if he want us to leave Lebanon, we will leave it but we will burn it. Just like how we burned it in the past…”