The month-long war in Lebanon elicited diverse reactions from the Lebanese left. We reproduce here two examples. The first statement, distributed on July 25, 2006, was signed by Ibrahim al-Amin and Joseph Samaha of the new al-Akhbar newspaper, leftist intellectuals Fawwaz Trabulsi and Samah Idriss, al-Safir editor Talal Salman, filmmakers Jean Chamoun and Mai Masri, and 178 other Lebanese journalists, writers, academics and artists. Many of the signatories are unaffiliated with any political grouping. Others are associated with the “March 8 forces” in Lebanese politics, so named after the large demonstration on March 8, 2005 organized by Hizballah and other groups to “thank” Syria for helping to maintain stability in Lebanon. The second statement is an open letter from novelist Elias Khoury and his colleague Ziad Majed to others in the Democratic Left Movement co-founded by Samir Kassir, a journalist who was murdered by parties unknown on June 2, 2005. The Democratic Left helped to organize the spring 2005 Independence Intifada, the series of demonstrations following the assassination of ex-Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri. These demonstrations culminated in a million-strong rally on March 14, presaging the collapse of the Lebanese government and the departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Politicians from these “March 14 forces” — united by little but opposition to the Syrian “presence” and pro-Syrian elements in Lebanon — went on to win a majority in Lebanese parliamentary elections in May and June. Khoury and Majed’s letter, which appeared in Lebanese newspapers on July 30, 2006, was translated from Arabic by Sinan Antoon.
Statement by Workers in the Public Cultural Sphere in Lebanon
We the undersigned declare:
Our conscious support for the Lebanese national resistance as it wages a war in defense of our sovereignty and independence, a war to release Lebanese imprisoned in Israel, a war to safeguard the dignity of the Lebanese and Arab people;
Our unambiguous refutation of the logic that accuses Hizballah of having provided the “pretext” for the Israeli invasion. Israel did not invade Lebanon, destroy its infrastructure, and displace and murder its populace because of the heroic operation carried out by Hizballah. Israel has never needed a pretext to breach the sovereignty of Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq or other nations. Rather, the recent Israeli aggression is the latest in a long series extending back to the founding of the Zionist state and motivated by both historical ambitions vis-à-vis Lebanese territory and waters, and a racist supremacist ideology that denigrates the indigenous population, their culture and their very existence. The most recent aggression is, more specifically, the realization of a long- standing, openly professed desire of Israel to avenge its humiliation at being driven out of most of Lebanon by the resistance operations that began in September 1982 and had their fruition in May 2000. Israel’s very avowal of intent to implement by its own powers UN Resolution 1559 is proof that its invasion of Lebanon today surpasses any mere response to the above-mentioned operation and serves an American policy that aims at annihilating all viable opposition in the world at large, and at direct control of the Arab world and its resources in particular. How strange that Israel should wish to be the policeman in charge of executing UN Resolution 1559 when it has not yet executed any of the previously issued UN resolutions addressing its own actions, with the exception of the partial implementation of Resolution 425, which resulted essentially because of strikes inflicted by the armed Lebanese Resistance;
Our staunch condemnation of official American support for, and contribution to, the Israeli aggression. The war crimes Israel is currently committing, as well as those it committed in the past and will commit in the probable future, would not have occurred…without America’s political and military support for Israel, that which is unmitigated by its allegedly unswerving espousal of Lebanese freedom, sovereignty and independence;
Our utter rejection of the Lebanese government’s decision to “not adopt” the Lebanese Resistance operation, thereby stripping the Resistance of political credibility before the adversarial international powers, when it behooved that government to deem said operation as consistent with its Ministerial Proclamation in support of the liberation of the Lebanese prisoners in Israel, of Shebaa Farms and of Kfar Shouba.
We the undersigned, in declaring our intentions, also therefore call upon:
The Lebanese government, which we want to see leading a sovereign, democratic state for all Lebanese, to realize its full responsibilities, especially in terms of embracing the Lebanese Resistance in diverse ways, and particularly after the clarification of Israel’s plan to destroy the infrastructure, institutions and political entity of Lebanon.
Arab intellectuals to stand beside the Lebanese Resistance, to expose the Zionist racist, supremacist impetus, and to docu- ment Israel’s crimes against Arabs since its founding. Likewise, we ask our Arab colleagues to confront the continual calls for capitulation (wrapped in the cloak of “realism”), and to expose both the American bias toward Israel and the complicity of the majority of “rational” Arab governments against the Lebanese Resistance. We also ask that you take a stand against all kinds of normalization with Israel, by closing down the Israeli embassies and government offices located in Arab countries, and by boycotting products of Israeli and pro-Israeli companies, whatever their nationality.
Lebanese intellectuals, in particular, not to be swayed by the (il)logic that accuses Hizballah of having destroyed the Lebanese economy, but instead to hold Israel fully responsible for its age-old policy of destruction and war crimes. The principle of the Lebanese Resistance is to be a deterrent force against Israel’s ability to pursue that policy with impunity.
Free-thinking intellectuals the world over, and advocates of justice and peace, to publicize the history of Israeli aggression and to pressure the American and European governments to halt their military and material maintenance of the Zionist killing machine. Similarly, we call upon our peers in the world to announce a boycott of Israeli products, and of Israeli academic and scientific institutions that do not condemn the Israeli aggression against Lebanon. Furthermore, we invite intellectuals the world over to visit Lebanon in order to stand by the side of their Lebanese colleagues and to view firsthand the results of Israeli war crimes….
Resistance is an intellectual act par excellence. That is because the goal of intellectual activity, like resistance, is to defend the values of justice and equality of all people. For this reason we, the undersigned, consider, regardless of our varying intellectual inclinations, cultural and critical activity an integral part of Lebanese national resistance, indeed of resistance to injustice anywhere in the world.
A Letter to Our Comrades in the Democratic Left Movement
For more than two weeks now, our country has been subjected to a ferocious Israeli war, for which the United States is providing the cover. Using an operation carried out by Hizballah as a pretext, Israel is inflicting crimes against Lebanese civilians and infrastructure in violence whose scale shows the depth of Zionist antipathy for Lebanon and its people.
The war on Lebanon follows weeks of open war waged against the Gaza Strip, which commenced before the operation that captured the Israeli soldier there. All of this takes place amid Israeli and US calls for uprooting “extremism” and establishing a “new Middle East.”
Our national, ethical and leftist responsibilities compel us to reiterate some first principles, which some comrades, friends and allies have, alas, forgotten.
We have disagreed with Hizballah and still do — over ideas, politics and regional alliances. We disagreed with its unilateral decisions about war and peace in Lebanon, when to escalate the battle with the Israeli enemy and when to de-escalate it.
We have disagreed with Hizballah and still do — over its relationship with the oppressive regime in Syria, a regime whose hegemony over Lebanon we helped to resist, and then defeat, in Beirut’s spring.
We have disagreed with Hizballah and other sectarian movements, and still do — over how to carry out the project of building a democratic, secular state of social justice and Arab renaissance.
But we were never neutral vis-à-vis the battle with the Israeli enemy and we never relinquished our commitment to the demands of that struggle, as determined by Lebanon’s interests and capabilities.
It pains us to hear what is said nowadays among some of our comrades and friends in the March 14 forces: that Lebanon has nothing to do with the ongoing war; that Hizballah is solely responsible for its continuation; that one should avoid discussing the US role in providing cover for the aggression and allowing it to continue; that one should hesitate in demanding an immediate ceasefire or link the ceasefire to demands internal to Lebanese politics — the very demands that some forces had ceased calling for since the 2005 elections, when we warned against overlooking the importance of building a new state that transcends sect and has sovereignty over all its territory; that Lebanon is not involved in regional political axes, on the one hand, but on the other hand adopting a discourse identical to that of the Saudi-Egyptian-Jordanian axis — the wrong choice, in our view, for confronting the Syrian-Iranian axis.
All this pains us, as it pains many Lebanese who confronted Syrian hegemony in Lebanon in years past and fought to build a society which will learn from its mistakes, from the experiences of sectarian confrontation, from the history of betting on external patrons.
Accordingly, we are here compelled to state the following:
The national priority today is to confront Israeli aggression against our country and people. When the homeland is under attack, citizens must rise to its defense and resist occupation through various means. We must recall that Hizballah, despite our deep and fundamental disagreement with it, is made up of Lebanese citizens who are part of our society and are resisting the enemy with competence and valor in the south of our country. They deserve our full support and respect.
We should reject the suppression of debate about the reasons for the status quo and the preconditions for a way out, as servile and oppressive Arab regimes do, and instead acknowledge disagreement as a sign of vibrancy and diversity in our society. Such debate does not and should not preclude making the demand for an unconditional halt to this savage aggression a national priority.
The Lebanese government must be the sole party delegated to negotiate internationally in order to find a solution that preserves Lebanon, safeguards its sovereignty and protects those who engage in resistance within Lebanon.
All forms of popular action in Lebanon and the Lebanese diaspora must be organized to demand an end to the aggression, support its victims and stress the importance of embracing the displaced, as is now taking place in Beirut, the mountains and all regions.
We stress that building a modern state requires abandoning sectarian calculations and refashioning a Lebanese and Arab identity that is consonant with liberation and progress, according to Lebanese interests defined by the Lebanese people alone, free from the influence of retrograde and totalitarian regimes.
There will be no peace or stability in the region as long as Israel continues its policies of aggression in Palestine, and as long as Arab lands are occupied with the aid of US backing and Arab impotence — the product of decades of regimes of militarism, oppression and oil.
An Arab, democratic, sovereign and independent Lebanon cannot be a battleground for outsiders, of course, but neither can it be an island, isolated from the causes of our region and the battles for freedom, progress, development and justice being fought therein.