Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Khalid Al-Bari

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : The Anonymous Criminal in Lebanon

Lebanese intellectuals on the margin pointed at the “elephant in the room” before others. Dr. Waddah Sharara is among the most prominent among them. His groundbreaking book, Hezbollah’s State, sounded the alarm in the nineties, during the golden era of Hezbollah’s propaganda when it was presenting itself as a model, savior, and source of hope.

Dr. Waddah Sharara was luckier than other Lebanese writers who had addressed the problem as the biggest obstacle to reform. The journalists Gebran Tueni and Samir Kassir lost their lives to the wrath of the "resistance circle." Since the assassination of Hussein Mroue in the 1980s, the message of the party of Wilayat al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists regime in Iran) in Lebanon has been clear: No mercy!

This kind of Lebanese showed exceptional courage. Not only by criticizing Hezbollah, but also because they were able to understand the conflict’s political and social mechanisms. It is a more dangerous task than the theoretical and ideological controversies that some intellectuals entertain. Faraj Fouda in Egypt testifies to this.

Another variety of the Lebanese elite did the complete opposite. They embraced the party (Hezbollah) and launched vicious propaganda campaigns against its critics. They presented themselves as having the moral high ground, as the spokesmen of the resistance, the oppressed, the marginalized, the intellectual revolutionary, and uno, due, tre. Theirs was the voice of ditches, not hotels. The benefit was mutual. A culture that considers life surrounded by trenches to be better than life in peace, marketed by media experts who want to live prosperously and be seen as austere activists. The militias consider them as an asset, since building a media platform is cheaper than building a tunnel, and its efficacy protects a hundred tunnels.

Some of them presented themselves as Arab Nationalist newspapers that had supported the rejectionist militias in the past and incited against Anwar Sadat and Youssef El Sebaei. The murder of Tueni and Kassir, their colleagues who wrote for the rival newspaper Annahar, did not haunt them.

But most of them were part of the newspaper that was Hezbollah’s secular tentacle, which bombarded readers with concerts, films, and literature with one arm, and white-washed Hezbollah’s image with the other. This trick was pioneered by the Persian alliance and imitated by the Ottoman alliance. Some are still fooled by it, a trick that can be outlined by the slogan “I support the resistance during the day, and have a drink at night.
The two varieties are on opposite sides but hold a similarly clear view on the situation. There remains a third variety that deserves our attention.

The phrase "yes, there is an elephant in the room, but there is also filth, disorder, and negligence" speaks for them. This third variety is the most widespread among educated Arabic speakers in general. It makes you think that the phrase “the elephant in the room” had been coined with them in mind. They think this way for of one of three reasons:

1-Deficient logic. Having an elephant in the room will inevitably result in filth and neglect. Thus, finding corruption in this or that corner of the room, under the heater or behind the refrigerator, is merely an inevitable consequence. Even if you cleaned it, the elephant would still be in the room, and life would remain impossible. No investment, security, stability or friendly relations with the countries surrounding you. A recipe for decline the rest of the state.

2 - Narcissism.

Whenever the fingers are pointed at Hezbollah, he adds, "but also about Hariri", "but also Samir Geagea", Siniora, Riad Salameh, and so on and so forth. He wants to "fight against corruption" or earn a badge of "independence". On the other hand, it distracts thinking away from the main criminal, the primary culprit, the boogeyman in the room.

All of the names mentioned may have transgressed. But Hariri was assassinated, Geagea was imprisoned and the banker, at the end of the day, is an employee. Hezbollah is the only group of criminals who creates transnational security, military, and economic crises that destroy lives, and no one touches them; they are here to stay.

3- Total Hypocrisy:

The goal of “what aboutist” politics is not to condemn this guy or that guy. This goal is to take pressure off the elephant.
The Lebanese cultural elite is out to rethink its behavior and think of how to change during the crisis, not after it, for the sake of change, to allow itself to be questioned. Why have those on the wrong side of history always been dominant: in the seventies and eighties, with militias that stood against the state. In the 1990s, with the religious militias sometimes and always against Hariri. After 2005, a timid position in which they tried to distance themselves from the elephant, the distance between was the same as that of the refrigerator. After 2011, when militia rule began to spread in other states under the pretext of an empty promise of democracy, we did not see this benefiting Lebanon in the slightest.

There is something wrong with the core of the dominant culture of the Lebanese elite. It may need to spend more time playing video games or a competitive sport and less time reading books. History's only usefulness stems from the natural human experience that it presents, which you cannot recreate in a lab. If you do not learn from this experience, reading it becomes a waste of time, "imprisoned in the same room and thinking yourself to be Plato." It is a comedic tragedy.