Across the Bay

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Jumblat's Sarcasm

I just saw this piece in the Lebanese An-Nahar (Arabic). It includes some statements by Druze leader, and member of the opposition, Walid Jumblat. One section was of particular interest as it related his position on the Shebaa Farms and Israel.

You need to understand a couple of things before reading this. Jumblat, while a pragmatic politician, is also the product of an era and its ideology (he's a faithful reader of The Nation for instance!). So naturally, based on both these points (ideology and pragmatism as a politician concerned with internal coalition and survival), he will not go out on a limb for Israel. At the same time, if you read the statement carefully, it's quite a departure from his earlier rhetoric. Here's my translation of the relevant sections:

    I wonder what harm it would bring if the Syrian government approached the Lebanese government and together drew the borders and presented a document to the International Court or the UN stating that Shebaa is Lebanese? Sure it's Lebanese, however if you go back to history, in certain circumstances, perhaps political and military, the Syrian authorities seized Shebaa in the 50's and 60's and since then it remained without clear borders. [emphasis added]

    Today we're facing the UN and we want together to protect Hizbullah in its principal fight [which is] to liberate Shebaa. However, in order to protect that position, we have to assert and draw the borders for Shebaa and Mkhayleh and other areas so that the aliby of reclaiming Shebaa, peacefully or militarily, would be a logical aliby, no more no less. [emphasis added]

    We've not attacked the legitimacy of Hizbullah['s attempt at] reclaiming Shebaa in the past and we won't in the future, nor have we attacked the right of Hizbullah or others to resist. However, we are entitled to ask, after Shebaa, where to? If, as official propaganda puts it, as in the case in the president's response to Gebran Tueini's op-ed in An-Nahar, that Shebaa is a stage on the way to the Golan then Palestine, then fine, and I've called in the past to open all borders and fronts and to unify all military and political currents from Naqoura to the Golan to the Jordan to Rafah. However, then each one of these countries -- Syria, Jordan and Egypt as well -- should bear the burden and consequences of an Arab-Israeli struggle. I don't accept that Lebanon alone should bear it Lebanon was in the frontline, and that was an honor, since 1968, since the days of "Fatah Land" in 'Arqoub. They want to continue? Fine, no problem, but let all the borders be open to the fighters from Hizbullah and its likes, in order to have a logical, objective, military and political continuity with those in captivity and under Israeli occupation, i.e., our brothers in Palestine. [emphasis added]
    ...
    In order to liberate Shebaa, we need to prove that it's Lebanese or else it will remain under UN resolution 242 and will not be under resolution 425. [emphasis added]
    ...
    I don't think that you [his audience] would accept, under the slogan of the continuation of the Arab-Israeli struggle, to cancel the Lebanese national identity, and for the country to be squandered. [emphasis added]

    I will not accept to compromise on Lebanon's independence and sovereignty, as well as proper and healthy relations with Syria, and there can be diplomatic ties. However, to stay under the thumb like this, that I won't accept. At least out of faithfulness to the legacy of my father, Kamal Jumblat [assassinated by the Syrians]. [emphasis added]
    ...
    Look at the ME ... Lebanon was an oasis of freedoms and breathing lungs, why cancel Lebanon? What's the use?
    ...
    As for President Assad's claim that Syria has institutions, that's fine, and we know that. However, if he'd allow me to say so, Lebanon had institutions as well, but the common secret services [i.e., Syrian with its Lebanese cronies] wrecked these institutions. I can't stay silent on that issue, because Syria's people in Lebanon, who were brought to power by force, have destroyed the institutions.
    ...
    Now all of a sudden they remembered the issue of the status of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. That's been a reality since 1948, and it will continue to be until there's a viable Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, which I doubt. We should therefore remove the chains and racist laws against the Palestinians, which prevent them their basic dignity and livelihood, of course, without naturalizing them. In return, it's our right to ask, "what's the use of the Palestinian arms, and against whom are they pointed?" The South has been liberated, and Shebaa will be liberated, so against whom are these arms? Unless of course, some cadres in the intelligence apparatus want to use it against the Palestinian refugees in the camps and against some Lebanese parties. [emphasis added]
    ...
    Let us remain, as Lebanese, free. We don't want to be bossed around by a security officer. The finest Arab elites are migrating to the West and in my opinion they will never return home, because they don't want to go back to prison.

The funny thing reading this from my perspective is how much, in several instances, it echoes the rhetoric of the Christians since the 50's and on throughout the war! To see that Jumblat has come full circle, while encouraging, is also sad on one level. Why didn't you see and say this way back when?

Nevertheless you can see the sarcasm and cynicism when it comes to a pan-Arab unity and struggle against Israel. He said that until you achieve that consensus and decide to open fronts against Israel from your own countries in unison, leave us the hell out of this nonsense! Of course he knows this will never happen. Jordan and Egypt have already signed the peace, so this is a jab at Syria and its aliby for staying in Lebanon and maintaining Hizbullah as a pressure card against Israel without having to open a front from the Golan. There's also a jab against Hizbullah, although it's very politically shrewd as it doesn't burn the bridges. However, when you compare Jumblat's statements on resistance and the Shebaa Farms to Hasan Nasrallah's statements (Arabic) you'll understand the message. Nasrallah, trying to salvage or revive a lost golden moment, says he's open to dialogue with any internal party on any issue save for the resistance and the disarmament of Hizbullah! Like I said before, the clock is ticking for this kind of rhetoric, and the cards are slipping one by one. This is more a statement to the Shiite community in order to maintain a constituency for the upcoming elections: we're the resistance party, don't forget that! Oh, it's Israel that's behind UNSCR 1559! Furthermore, Jumblat's point on the Palestinian refugees is also a jab, as Nasrallah raised the demagogic (and sectarian) point of the Palestnians being naturalized and staying in Lebanon, instead of going back to a liberated Palestine. Overall, Nasrallah was calling for blood and resistance, and Jumblat was saying "you want to do that, fine, but then every Arab state should be involved, including Syria, from the Golan, and not just Lebanon." This kind of rhetoric is very hollow now in Lebanon. This is an inter-Shiite fight over constituency and relevance than anything else. Also, the defensive tone is indicative. That's how I read Jumblat's dismissal in his statements of a Christian-Druze-Sunni alliance that will leave the Shiites out in the cold. I had made reference to this in my post "Word to the Wise." He's making sure his hand remains extended to include Hizbullah in the process so that they don't get used by Syria to thwart a united national opposition. These are very tricky times for Hizbullah. They need to tread very carefully and juggle several balls: the Shiite community and their relevance there in the face of other Shiite parties, the broader Lebanese society and the Lebanese political game and their relevance there in the face of formidable Shiite opponents, and then regionally vis à vis Syria (but also Iran). Let's wait and see.

Jumblat's talk had a lot of references to his dead father, who was killed by the Syrians in 1977. All of this is innuendo against the Syrians and, I think, a real personal issue that has surfaced in him and converged with his political decision to oppose Syria's interference in Lebanon (not just in political and military institutions, but also in the judiciary, the business sector, the education sector, the entertainment sector, the media, etc.). As he himself says, he's fed up with the nonsense, and he's using the opportunity to vent, among everything else, about his father's assassination.

Finally, à propos the Shebaa Farms, a UNSCR drafted by France and co-sponsored by the US, Britain, Denmark and Greece just came out deciding that the Farms belong to Syria and not Lebanon. Therefore, Israel has fully complied with UNSCR 425 which called for the withdrawal of Israel to the UN-delineated blue line border. This is what Jumblat was talking about with regard to the applicability of UNSCR 425, and now it's been settled internationally, and Syria lost another card, theoretically at least. Let's he how this translates on the ground.