Ten years ago, in what is known today as the “July War”, Israel had for declared objective the destruction of Hezbollah in Lebanon, but what it did instead was destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure, bombing urban areas, tearing off children’s arms and legs. It was obviously a war against Lebanon itself.
I had just arrived to Lebanon, the country of my origins, after living abroad for 13 years. I was in Nabatieh, in South Lebanon, with my brothers, cousins, aunt and grandmother. My parents had gone to Beirut a day earlier to search for a house. We were moving back to Lebanon.
I remember very well the sound of artillery fire far from Nabatieh on the first morning. I also remember a warplane bombing a structure. I remember how we had to run away to the basement the nights of heavy bombings and how we eventually moved to the basement. We all lived in a spacious living room, we were refugees in our own house. I remember the stress of being away from my parents. I remember the phone call from Hassan Nasrallah, the night when Hezbollah famously bombed the Israeli military ship. I remember the carnage, the blood I saw on TV, the burning cars (or what was left of them) the destroyed bridges, the food getting scarcer, my aunt getting thinner, my grandmother reciting prayers, the electricity disappearing for 7 days. I remember how we feared going to the toilets and being “far” from the living room.
As hundreds of thousands of Lebanese, I still have nightmares of Israeli warplanes obliterating my country. I had one not so long ago. For a long period of time after the war, my heart used to pound much harder in my chest after hearing a loud sound.
Eventually, after 12 days in Nabatieh, we fled to Khaldah, a small town just south of Beirut. There, we used to feel every vibration from the bombings in Dahieh, the southern suburb of the capital that was most heavily bombed by Israel.
I also remember the nights when Hezbollah sent heavy missiles into Israel, their sounds resonating in the valley. To me, an answer against Israel is justified, natural, and I will continue to support any resistance against Israel in the future.
After the war, I learned by heart many of Hezbollah’s propaganda songs. I cheerfully went to concerts of the team behind many of those songs.
But my admiration and respect of Hezbollah eventually died down, partly because of their very questionable and violent politics and policies inside the country. But the biggest reason was and remains its involvement in Syria.
How can Hezbollah stand with Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria, when the SAA, the Syrian Army, acts so similarly to the IDF, the Israeli army? Both the Syrian and Israeli regimes have bombed civilian areas relentlessly, with smart bombs or, notoriously with Assad, barrel bombs. How can I stand with Hezbollah in Syria and continue to admire them, when they are helping Assad remain in power, and make millions of civilians endure what Israel made myself and my family endure.
Israel made me a refugee in my own country, as well as outside of it. Assad has done the same to Syrians.
How can I respect Hezbollah when it stands by a regime that is torturing and killing thousands of detainees? How is that anti-imperialist? The Assad regime gladly took part in the CIA’s torture program in the months and years after 9/11. The Assad regime gladly invited Iran into Syria. The Assad regime gladly welcomed Russian imperialism with open arms. How is that anti-Zionist? Israel targeted Gaza’s Al Quds hospital several times throughout the years. Assad destroyed Aleppo’s Al Quds hospital in April of 2016. They say they are involved in Syria to defend Palestine, but how does it help?
Here’s how one Aleppo doctor described Assad’s attack on Al Quds hospital:
“The people who are in Aleppo now are people who decided to stay here. We used to look at people in Gaza and wonder how they live their lives normally – but now we know.”
They know because Assad acts like Israel, even exceeding it in its relentless brutality.
How can Hezbollah stand with the regime responsible for the worst refugees crisis since WW2? How can Hezbollah stand with Assad when he created a Nakba against his own people, just as Zionists created a Nakba against Palestinians?
It’s very simple. I do not differentiate between the suffering and the oppression of the Lebanese at the hands of Israel and the suffering and the oppression of Syrians at the hand of Bachar el Assad and his military apparatus, including Hezbollah.
How does Hezbollah defend Palestine by fighting in Aleppo? Hezbollah has been coldly and cynically pragmatic, allying itself with the most murderous regime of modern times, to continue receiving weapons from Iran. I ‘get’ that, but how does that make it more acceptable? How does Hezbollah stand with Palestinians when hundreds of thousands of them were besieged in Yarmouk, the Palestinian camp near Damascus. And no, Palestinian factions allying with Assad doesn’t it mean Palestinians stand with Assad – the latest poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) put Palestinian support of the FSA at 40%, with 18% in favor of Assad – or that their oppression there is acceptable. Why should I condemn Netanyahu wars and massacres on Gaza, but not Assad’s war on and massacres of Syrian themselves?
Today, there is absolutely no justification in standing with the Syrian regime, no righteousness, nothing. Assad is just a mass-murdering dictator who would gladly choosing ruling over a destroyed and lifeless Syria, a Syria in which his supporters tag the walls of besieged areas with “Assad or we burn the country” and “kneel or starve”.
I used to respect and admire Hezbollah because it wanted to fight on the side of the oppressed. Today, it is fighting side-by-side with the oppressors.
Author: Hassan Chamoun.
Joey Ayoub helped with editing and suggestions.