A recent poll by the Beirut Center for Research and Information (BCRI) found that two thirds (62.6%) of Lebanese Christians feel that, contrary to its vilification by members of the NATO alliance, Hizbullah has in fact protected their country from its most determined enemies—Israel, IS (known locally as Da‘ash), and Wahhabi-style terrorist groups linked to the Syria-Iraq conflagration.
The poll revealed also that very few of the respondents prefer UNIFIL to Hizbullah on the front line with the terrorist groups, as some domestic and regional actors have insisted. Nor do they believe the claim that the foreign “coalition” presently targeting IS in Iraq and parts of Syria seeks to “destroy” IS, as President Obama and his allies have declared.
As many as 73.1% dismiss this view entirely, which comes in the wake of endless reports in the mainstream media worldwide and growing evidence regarding Saudi, Turkish, Qatari, Israeli and NATO collaboration with anti-Syrian terrorist fronts and organizations.
Although some have interpreted the survey results as indicative of a “significant increase” in favorable attitudes—at least compared to two similar surveys in June 2013 and February 2014—there is no history of enmity between the Christian and Muslims communities, much less with Shi‘i Muslims.
During a visit to France in 2011, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Boutros Rai defended the government of President Bashar al-Assad and criticized states that had begun supplying arms to the terrorists gathering in Syria. Again in 2013, he said, “There is a plan to destroy the Arab world for political and economic interests and boost interconfessional conflict between Sunnis and Shi’ites. Some Western and East powers are fomenting all these conflicts. We are seeing the total destruction of what Christians managed to build in 1,400 years,” referring to peaceful cohabitation and historically productive relationship with Muslims.
“I have written to the Holy Father twice to describe what is happening,“ he had added. “I appeal again to the Holy Father, who only talks about peace and reconciliation.”
Hizbullah, which solidified the resistance against the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon, began largely in the Shi’a community, but then quickly expanded ties with other communities and organizations across the country. Today, it identifies its primary interests with Lebanon and does not claim to act on behalf of Shi’a Muslims only.
Strictly speaking, Lebanon’s woes are not confessional, even if they fed on endless disputes over confessionally based electoral rules and representation.
That a Wahhabi terrorist claims to speak for “Sunnis” does not by itself make for a Sunni-Shi’a divide. Nor does it define the armed conflicts that have erupted since the West began to sponsor a massive armed campaign to destroy the Syrian government and state. Few people know that this sponsorship dates, not from 2011 (when the terrorist onslaught gained traction), but from the early 1990s, after Syria insisted that Israel declare its intention to return the Golan Heights during the ”peace “ negotiations phase, a demand Israel categorically refused at the time.
The “West” (essentially, the United States, United Kingdom and France) has blacklisted Hizbullah as a “terrorist” organization and for years fought hard to pin the Hariri assassination on it, which many now believe Israel carried out, possibly even at Saudi Arabia’s behest, nearly provoking another civil war.
Hizbullah officials have repeatedly warned that a “terrorist” listing is a “big mistake,” one that will further damage the West’s standing in the region. In fact, this is no longer in doubt, given NATO’s current desperate effort to insinuate itself back into Iraq and to intervene for the first time inside Syria itself. NATO now has no choice but to tolerate both Iran’s determined assistance to Iraqi military and security forces. This tolerance naturally must now be extended to Syria, where Hizbullah aims to deal decisively with the terror emanating from the Gulf, Turkey and Israel before it overwhelms Lebanon too.
Clearly, the events surrounding the Syria conflict have thrown deep doubts on Western intentions—and competence—in the Middle East. For some time, these doubts have been seeping into Western policymaking circles, diplomatically around the world, and most tellingly, inside the intelligence communities themselves.
Years ago, under a previous government just before Canada put Hizbullah on the terrorism list, Canadian security analysts and some federal cabinet ministers had cautioned against such a blanket interdiction. The former Liberal government’s decision, it had transpired, was based in the ever-quaint Washington Times, which merely quoted a professor claiming that Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah had issued a worldwide call for “a suicide bombing campaign”and “don’t be shy about it.”
The “professor’s” claim happens to be in keeping with the Mickey Mouse warnings that Israel has for years been dishing out to Western countries about the Lebanese resistance. Yet, suicide bombings then, as now, are the Wahhabi terrorists’ choicest method in asymmetric warfare, not Hizbullah’s.
Developments since then have shrunk the Canada’ blacklisting of Hizbullah to insignificance as an issue. This is because Canada has lost most of its diplomatic influence thanks to the deeply ideological character and the arrogant style of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Many Canadians have questioned the wisdom of blacklising a party with elected members in the Lebanese parliament and government cabinet. This year marks a new watershed: few either in Canada or in the West are sure any more which side they are on according to their government.
To the Christians of Lebanon, such hesitation would have been unthinkable for the fatal consequences it entailed for them and their country.
One can only recall with nostalgia Hillary Clinton’s shrill call with the Friends of Syria: “Mr. Putin, you are on the wrong side of history!”
Dr. Anthony F. Shaker is the editor-in-chief and founder of Mittags Journal ( www.mittagsjournal.com ) and visiting scholar at McGill University; his published works and articles are in classical Islamic philosophy and history, as well as modern politics.