by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog

It was totally fortuitous that I dedicated a fair chunk of my previous article to the Lebanese journalist Sami Koleib . A cornerstone of the pro Axis of Resistance journalism and a pillar of Al-Mayadin media network is no longer; after he announced his sudden and somehow controversial resignation announcing that “in line with my thoughts, convictions and conscience,  I have resigned today from Al-Mayadin network wishing for it continued growth and success”

What is of pertinent interest herein is the fact that this resignation came only a couple of days after publishing his article -and which was referred to at length in my previous article-العقوبات-الأميركية  in which he made comments that were seen to be critical of Hezbollah and its leader Chairman Nasrallah.

Some, on the Axis of Resistance side, are rushing to label Mr. Koleib as a traitor, a deserter, or less dramatically perhaps as someone who was easily manipulated, persuaded and swayed to jump ship. I beg to differ, because  personally, I put his “critique” in the basket of constructive criticism, and it is in this same spirit that I have independently written a few articles referring to the same and using almost exactly the same argument.

Four lives have thus far been tragically lost in the uprising, but the tally of fallen heads must include that of Koleib, though I don’t believe that his career will end right here and now. He is still fairly young and has many years of good productivity left in him, but his fall from the higher echelons of Al-Mayadin is a direct outcome of his point of view that sees, just like I do, that Hezbollah needs to make some serious and immediate adjustments to its political decisions.

For years leading up to this, one of the biggest meddlers in Lebanese domestic politics was Jeffrey Feltman. Feltman was the American Ambassador in Lebanon from 2004 till 2008. He watched to his horror how Israel was humiliated at the hands of Hezbollah in July 2006, and was unable to do anything about it. His greater horror and dismay was seeing the extremely high popularity rate of Hezbollah amongst the Lebanese populace, how it commanded respect and to witness such a high level of awe and admiration the majority of Lebanese people had for Nasrallah personally. In a display of utter Schadenfreude, Feltman is now gloating over the “shrinking popular support of Hezbollah” within Lebanon as a whole and the Shiite community in specific.فيلتمان-أكثرية-اللبنانيين-رفضت-الاستماع-لمطالب-نصرالله

What is disappointingly sad about this, is that for the first time ever perhaps, there is a ring of truth to some of the statements the rascal is propagating. It is outcomes like this one, dear readers, which prompted me to write in a manner that some people may not like any more than I do. Only a few weeks ago, I would never have imagined myself whispering in someone’s ear anything that can remotely be seen as a negative statement to do with any actions of Hezbollah let alone being publicly critical of its political stand. But constructive criticism is what friends do when it is necessary. In the past, Feltman was lying when he said that Hezbollah doesn’t represent the majority of Lebanese, but in saying the same now, his words are increasingly reflecting a horrifying trend. This troglodyte who has tried all that was in his power to bring down Hezbollah’s popularity has had this outcome offered to him on a silver platter.

And why did all of this happen, we ask again? It is because Hezbollah is involved in politics, has 11 out of 128 members of the Lebanese Parliaments plus significant number of ministers in all cabinets for the last 20 years or so. In the eyes of the Lebanese, it’s involvement makes it partly responsible for the many failures of the Lebanese administration; corruption included.

Almost concurrently with Feltman’s statement, Trump made an even more audacious statement. The POTUS announced that America will be ready to work with a new Lebanese government that meets the demands of the people. Yes, Lebanon needs a new government and a new style of governance and an end to corruption, but not the American style, not according to what Trump and Feltman want.

Yes, there are serious attempts by the real enemies of Lebanon to infiltrate and hijack the street uprising which they have done already. But what are the genuine Lebanese and pro Axis of Resistance activists and writers supposed to do? Are they to stand against the uprising because it is getting hijacked or are they to remain quiet because criticizing Hezbollah is taboo, or are they to offer sincere advice?

Furthermore, the longer it takes for the uprising to yield results, the higher the chance of further infiltration. Everyone is bleeding. The country has come to a standstill. The nefarious groups are blocking roads making it impossible for business to run. The whole country is in shut-down mode. Banks are not writing letters of credit in US Dollar, which means that for a country that is import dependent, before too long there will be shortages of basic commodities including food supplies. The bigger danger however is in giving the infiltrators more time to plot and make their plots work.

Admittedly, Nasrallah wants a renormalization of civil life as soon as possible. There is no doubt in my mind that he is genuine in his desire, but the basics upon which return to normality have not been agreed upon. Nasrallah is quite aware that Hezbollah has nothing to gain, and possibly much to lose if the protests continue unabated and the longer the street movement lasts. But with or without any foreign backers and meddlers, the protestors will not pack up and go home before they make significant achievements. They have nothing to lose, and many of them have exposed their faces, thereby putting their own necks on the chopping board and risking persecution and acts of vendetta by their political leaders and henchmen if reform is not implemented.

As far as the timing of the protests is concerned, even some very savvy pundits are saying that they have been taken by surprise; a statement I find very surprising in itself. Those who are not familiar with the history of Lebanon do not know that even though Lebanon has been invaded many times throughout history, it was never easy to rule its people. Even during the height and might of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th Century, Lebanon had a strong army and autonomy. The might of Israel a few centuries later was humiliated and defeated. Even Alexander the Great, who conquered the whole ancient known world, within a few years was stopped at the walls of the kingdom city of Tyre for seven long months. And when President Suleiman Franjieh lost his popularity during the civil war, he was shelled out of the presidential palace. Subduing the Lebanese people was not historically therefore an easy walk in the park, and if anything, one should find it surprising that it took many decades of injustice for the Lebanese to rise against their government.

Others, who do not know much about Lebanon and are nonetheless prepared to write about it, argue that the protests are legitimate; with a proviso, a “but”, in desperate attempts to fit the uprising neatly into their familiar box of colour revolutions. There are no real “ifs” and “buts” when it comes to revolts against the magnitude of injustice that the Lebanese people have endured over the last few decades. It must be understood that the protestors felt that they have lost everything and with nothing more left to risk losing. In that frame of mind, nothing else matters and, unfortunately, the risk of infiltrators and deflections have no place in their mental framework.

This is very clear, because a good look at the protestors does not show they are all suffering from poverty. They do not necessarily look hungry. But those who did not lose their livelihood, have lost their dignity, and it is this sense of common grief that united them all in an unprecedented manner.

And speaking of the protests, the Lebanese are doing it in style. The Lebanese people are party animals with a great sense of humour. The protests turn into carnivals sometimes, venues for marriage proposals and even weddings. There are intermittent musical parties including belly dancing, smoking Shisha, and huge meals feasts. People and businesses are offering food, for free. Chanting and singing are filling the rings and town squares.

They see their protest as a huge cleansing party, and they are having fun, unarmed and fearless.

So back to Koleib. Why did he resign?

Was it because of the backlash that followed the interview he gave President Aoun a few days earlier? There is a rumour spreading in Lebanon that the interview was followed by an altercation between Koleib and Gibran Bassil, the President’s son-in-law and heir apparent. Purportedly, Bassil saw that the interview was a flunk and blamed Koleib and insulted him, and because Al-Mayadin was unable to canvass an apology from Bassil, Koleib resigned. This scenario looks unlikely because in this interview, it was President Aoun who put his own foot into his own mouth. Koleib was actually asking him the “right” questions and even gave him subtle hints as to how they should be answered properly, but it was the President who asked those Lebanese citizens who don’t like what is going on to leave the country!! Mr. Koleib can hardly be blamed for this goof. Moreover, that interview was more than a week prior to the resignation, and if it were the straw that broke Mr. Koleib’s back, its repercussions should have been evident a few days earlier.

Does this take us back to the afore-mentioned article in which Mr. Koleib was critical of Hezbollah?

But here’s the thing. Did he resign willingly or was he “politely” asked to resign? Was he coerced or even threatened? And by whom, and why exactly? Is the whole kerfuffle because Hezbollah is meant to be beyond reproach and unable, or rather unwilling, to listen to well-concerted advice from a lifelong friend and ally? Was the decision for him to go made in Beirut or outside it? Was it made outside Lebanon? Has the media control that is prevalent in the region been exported to Lebanon? We need to ask those questions as they are all very pertinent.

In my previous article I reiterated that in Lebanon there are more than a hundred reasons for a revolution. With the resignation of Mr. Koleib, we must add one more reason; and that is the emerging lack of free speech and freedom of self-expression. Does Mr. Koleib have to bunker with the opposite political dipole for him to be able to speak freely about this particular subject and in the manner that he did? Does he have to join the Hariri camp? The Christian Lebanese Forces militia or Jumblat? And if he does reposition himself with any of these, would he still be able to criticize them? I think not. Why is it that he is not allowed to continue to be the free thinker that he is?

Any which way we look at it, I smell a big rat, and it is clean up time, for better or for worse. Heads will roll, not literally I hope. With four civilians tragically killed thus far and Mr. Koleib “resigning”, we should only expect more heads to roll, and the protestors are adamant to remove all incumbent politicians and their ruling legacies from the political map under the slogan of “Killon Yaani Killon” (All of them means all of them). This is quickly becoming akin to either all of them or all of us.

Revolutions are invariably marred with chaos, and thus far, only the wrong heads have fallen in Lebanon. People are very hopeful that the uprising will lead at least to some partial gains, but for this to happen, the heads that ought to roll are the ones who were behind the rot and fanned its destructive flame; not the ones who are trying to bring reform and stifle the fire of corruption. The next heads to roll will tell us which way the revolution is heading. It is hoped that Hezbollah will be able to get out of its defensive corner and be actively involved in steering the uprising in the right direction.

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