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Anti-Syria rally analysis
The BBC is reporting that today’s anti-Syria rally in Beirut was the largest in the history of Lebanon, drawing perhaps a million people.
That’s out of a national population of three-and-a half-million (the same population of the city of Los Angeles whose Mayoral election drew only 27% of voters).
After last week’s muscle-flexing by Hezbollah, it’s heartening to see the hundreds of thousands out in the street today demanding Syria’s immediate exit from Lebanon and the erasure of its local puppet regime. It was rather interesting last week to read the political commentary that was set off by the Hezbollah rally.
On the one hand, many on the Right wrote off the Hezbollah simply as terrorists. There is mostly definitely a central terrorist aspect to the group. But if that’s all they are, you think you might ask yourself why a half-million came out to support them. Hezbollah runs a vast network of social welfare facilities, sits in parliament, gives voice to the Shia and is a major political force in Lebanon.
On the other hand, some on the Left went to the other extreme and wrote off the pro-Democracy, anti-Syrian movement as simple stooges for the U.S. and Israel and displayed a rather alarming, sneaking sympathy at times for…yes… the Syrians. Perhaps they forgot that Syria originally intervened into the Lebanese civil war to crush the Palestinians.
And they are completely ignorant of the fact that the Syrian de facto occupation of Lebanon has not only strangled the Left, but has distorted and twisted the entire body politic. Note this extract from a statement issued a year ago by a fledgling Lebanese Movement for a Democratic Left:
"The logic behind the Syrian leadership's treatment of Lebanon is, among other things, the main factor behind the present political situation affecting all aspects of Lebanese political life, from the time of the Taif Accord until today. This situation has allowed the destruction of all attempts at rebuilding the state, has emptied its institutions of their effectiveness and transformed them into meaningless instruments at the service of (the political leadership's) material and political ambitions. /.Instead, they behave like a mafia, steeped in corruption, feverishly seeking to stay in power and further enrich themselves at the expense of common values of decency and the interests of society. To achieve this, the alliance (of those in power) never shirked from . . . openly disrespecting the constitution, the law and the country's institutions.
We do not defend the left from a partisan standpoint. We wish to express our point of view from where we stand regarding what has befallen and is still befalling our country. The culture of elimination, subservience and "occupation" has not targeted the left alone, but the country as a whole. From the beginning and until today, the only valid option is that of rejection, refusal and clarity, coupled with . . . advancing achievable and practical necessities of successful action, not theories."
In other words, get the Syrians out now.
One of those leftists who were hanging black crepe over the upsurge of the Lebanese opposition movement last week was Naomi Klein, who was last seen on this blog trying to put a happy face on Muqtada Al Sadr.
This time around, Norm Geras has taken her to the woodshed. Have a gander. And a good laugh. Norm scolds Klein as a "single-issue" western leftist. That single issue is the reductionist notion of standing in opposition to whatever George Bush is for and vice versa. I’m praying Dubya doesn’t soon come out in support of milk and sunshine.
UPDATE: Click here to listen to my Radio Nation interview with Boston University Professor Augustus Richard Norton, a long time expert on Lebanon.