Hezbollah’s Palestinian Problem

by FRANKLIN LAMB

Many Lebanese and Syrian supporters of this regions Resistance culture, increasingly led by Hezbollah, are chastising, for a number of reasons, their former Islamist ally Hamas. Pillorying them with accusations that the latter are ingrates who are creating a host of problems for Hezbollah and its support for the Syrian regime, during the continuing crisis. Unnecessary problems, it is frequently asserted, that inure to the benefit of their mutual arch enemies, the Zionist colonizers of Palestine and their American and Arab enablers.

An outsider living near the center of the Hezbollah security zone in Dahiyeh, South Beirut, including this observer, hears from friends and neighbors both sides of this rancorous ‘domestic argument’. Having respect for, and being a supporter of both, one feels a bit awkward– rather like a good friend of a married couple, who are engaged in an increasingly acrimonious marital spat.

While sympathetic to each friends seemingly legitimate complaints with the other, one does not want to take sides for a few reasons with one being the risk of appearing disloyal to mutual friends and alienating perhaps both while being labeled a weak charactered “friend betrayer.”

Yet one cannot disagree with the Palestinian community in both Syria and Lebanon who repeatedly assert that they want to stay neutral in the Syrian crisis, whick appears unlikely to end anytime soon. Palestinian refugees, who have manifold problems in Palestine as well as Syria and Lebanon, want to stay sidelined from internecine conflicts and focus on trying to survive and staying focused on confronting their only enemies, those being the ones who stole and are still living on their land and villages.

Some supporters of Hezbollah and the Palestine Resistance seek to avoid exhibiting dirty laundry to public view, but given the voracious craving of media outlets linked to various local parties and foreign sponsors, there is much pressure and opportunity to condemn each side by broadcasting, some real but many illusory, Hezbollah-Palestinian cross border conflicts. This mutually destructive phenomenon is becoming commonplace and appears to be spreading.

Hezbollah’s local Palestinian problem started to form in the spring of 2011 as the Syrian crisis quickly gained momentum. Some Palestinians joined the rebels and nearly 28 months into the maelstrom, unknown numbers continue fighting the Assad government. But the numbers do appear to this observer to be a tiny fraction of the unemployed, discouraged Palestinian youth, facing a bleak future because they are bared by Lebanese law from even the most elementary civil rights to work or to own a home. Some have succumbed to the allure of $ 200 per month, free cigarettes, and an AK-47 and have joined one the literally hundreds of militias operating in Syria with affiliated jihadists currently scoping out and probing Lebanon.

Some point out those Palestinian refugees in Syria should not be seen as betraying those who have helped them most. This includes the undeniable fact that Palestinian refugees in Syria have been granted by its government, for more than six decades, rights to education, medical care, housing, employment, even with the government, as well as preferential treatment in many instances. In addition, Syria has granted them identity and travel documents, on a basis that no other Arab League country has ever granted them. This despite decades of Arab potentates blathering interminably about supporting the ‘bloodstream and sacred cause of Palestine.”

So there is festering resentment among some when certain media blare that Palestinian groups such as Hamas, are with the rebels and are insisting that Hezbollah fighters not enter Syria under any pretext. Hamas stands accused of closing their Damascus offices, accepting a $ 400 grant from Syria’s nemesis Qatar, and of joining the US-Israel axis by harming their own people as well as undermining the Resistance to the Zionist regime in the process. Certain other Palestinians in camps such as Yarmouk in Syria and Shatila in Lebanon tacitly accuse Hamas of abandoning the Palestinian cause and misguidedly sparking sectarian strife with Hezbollah. Others argue just the opposite and blame Hezbollah.

Some Palestinians are also said to be carrying guns for the Saida, Lebanon based, Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir, the imam of Sidon’s Bilal bin Rabah Mosque, while supporting his anti-Hezbollah-Assad regime movement which is trying to unite Sunnis, who make up roughly 85% of the world’s Muslim population, to eliminate Shia Muslims.

Syrian government forces claim that Hamas has even trained Syrian rebels in the manufacture and use of home-made rockets. Some Hezbollah fighters go further and complain that they taught Hamas many of their battlefield skills and they turned around and used their fighting skills and IED’s against Hezbollah forces in al-Qusayr and are preparing to do the same, with larger numbers, in the coming battle for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.

Many supporters of Hezbollah believe Hamas and some other Palestinian factions were being needlessly provocative when a few officials issued an unusual admonishment of Hezbollah on 6/17/13, calling on their ally and mentor of more than 20 years to direct its firepower at Israel and demanding that it withdraw from Syria. “We demand of Hezbollah to withdraw its forces from Syria and call on it to leave its weapons directed only at the Zionist enemy,” read a statement allegedly from Hamas, posted on the Facebook page of its deputy political leader Moussa Abu Marzouq.

Despite its withdrawal from Syria in early 2012, Hamas, as an Islamic organization as opposed to some of its individual members and a few officials, has been wary of publicly criticizing Hezbollah for its military support of the Assad regime. On 6/5/13, the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Araby reported that a schism existed within Hamas regarding its attitude toward Hezbollah. Hamas’s military wing, the Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, reportedly endorsed the alliance with the Syria-Hezbollah axis, while its political leadership opposed it. Some have questioned the accuracy of this report.

Other more petty accusations have been made by some Hezbollah supporters, for example that Hamas and perhaps others had prevented some Palestinian camp residents in Ein el Helwe and Jalil camp near Baalbek, from burning refugee aid packages provided by Hezbollah for Syrian and Palestinians forced to flee Syria. The reasons cited were that the Palestinians felt they could not, given moral Islamic values, accept “blood” gifts, even of much needed food.

This observer met with some Palestinian leaders from different factions and is satisfied by their explanations that this was not the case. Hezbollah has given emergency aid to all the Palestinian camps. What happened with the symbolic burning of a few parcels was entirely politically motivated and organized by certain salafists in Saida and a few troublemakers from the pro-Saudi/US factions, including rump elements from the so-called pro-western March 14 alliance. That issue has now been resolved by Palestinian popular committees and the Hezbollah donors and hopefully will not recur.

Some Hezbollah partisans complain that certain Palestinian factions have circulated rumors in the media accusing the Resistance of wrongdoing and thereby are in effect collaborating with the US and Israel to divide and weaken the National Lebanese Resistance.

Yet additional criticism of certain Palestinian factions, specifically Hamas, relates to the nature and future of the movement’s relationship with the state of Qatar which is accused of essentially appointed itself godfather of all the Islamist and Muslim Brotherhood movements in the region. According to some criticism, Hamas’s change of stands has caused the movement to lose the credibility and popularity that it once enjoyed from diaspora Palestinians and the Arabs.

The Palestinians’ Hezbollah Problem

Revisiting the “marital spat” analogy, some of the accusations against certain Palestinians mirror those made against Hezbollah.

Some Lebanese analysts and some camp Palestinians have warned that Hezbollah’s foray into Syria is fueling a Sunni-Shiite polarization that threatens to feed extremism on both sides and catapult the conflict to the wider region

Syrian opposition groups reported on 5/30/13 that Hezbollah had ordered Hamas’s representative in Beirut, Ali Baraka, to leave the country immediately over Hamas’s public support for Syrian rebels fighting Assad. Baraka denied the report, telling Lebanese media and his neighbors there was no change in the relationship between the two organizations. Baraka’s assessment may be a bit understating the reality, but it is not too late to fix this problem. As of today, this observer’s kitchen balcony overlooks over the Hamas office in central Haret Hreik and it is clear that the Hamas office is still functioning.

The Hamas disagreement with Hezbollah still stands but both parties have agreed to discuss it by holding a series of meetings. In response to a question on this subject, former Foreign Ministry undersecretary in the ousted government in Gaza Ahmad Youssef, pointed out that Hamas needs and very much wants the support of all the powers and sides in the region to face the colonial Zionist implantation, what some refer to as “the 9th Crusade.” Youssef explained: “We needed and still need Iran and Hezbollah. However, the movement’s position is that this behavior had damaged the relations which we wanted to be close and strong with the party.” Next month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abass will reportedly visit Lebanon to meet with Palestinians who fled Syria for Lebanon as is expected to attempt a Hamas-Hezbollah Musalaha or reconciliation.

The Resistance to the Zionist colony has multiple pillars two key ones of which are Hezbollah and the Palestine National Movement, which itself is becoming international, given that world opinion increasingly opposes the illegitimate apartheid regime still clinging to occupy Palestine. Both of these powerful forces as well as a growing number of others, including hundreds of militia now fighting in Syria, share one, if not other, common objective which must not be squandered by relatively soluble problems. And that bond is the shared reason d’etre to liberate every inch of occupied Palestine from the river to the sea and to return-by all means necessary. They share a moral, religious duty to struggle until victory in achieving the full right to return for the rightful indigenous inhabitants and their off-spring, from the 531 Palestinian villages that were ethnically cleansed 65 years ago. It is latter who, post liberation, who will decide, based on one person one vote without religious preferences, for all Jews and Arabs who choose to live in peace, how best to rebuild and administer Palestine on the basis of absolute equality before the law.

Neither Hezbollah or certain Palestinians now fighting each other in Syria, and god-forbid soon in Lebanon if the US-Israeli is successful in achieving this project which both are investing in, need the 2-cents worth of advice from this foreign observer.

But surely most from each camp will agree that this is not the time for Hezbollah and the Palestinians to use their over stretched resources to right perceived wrongs claimed to have been inflicted by the other. There will be time enough to discuss that, if either group is still feeling unjustly wronged, after Palestine is freed from its racist colonial yoke.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and Lebanon and can be reached c/o fplamb@gmail.com

Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (sssp-lb.com).

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