By a commentator for Tjen Folket Media.
For weeks, there have been riots and protests in Lebanon. They began when authorities announced a tax on the messaging app WhatsApp, but they are directed towards all economic problems and the entire form of government in Lebanon. The country has been in a deep economic crisis for many years, and now people are rising in protest.
Firstly, it must also be noted that there were large protests and riots in 2005, in 2006-2008, and again in 2015-2016.
The country’s economy has been in decline since the cyclic crisis in capitalism around 2008 that large portions of the world, among them Lebanon, have still not recovered from. There have been a number of crises in the country, and just before the protests and riots broke out, the government had not only taxed internet-based phone services, but also wheat and gasoline, and the country was afflicted by the dollar crisis and preventable forest fires.
Iranian authorities claim that the uprisings in Lebanon, as well as in Iraq, have been infiltrated and influenced by Yankee imperialism and the CIA. Iran’s closest ally in Lebanon is the party/militia Hezbollah, which has partly attempted to profiteer on the uprising and partly gone against it.
It Is Right To Rebel
The German comrades at Dem Volke dienen write:
Thirty years after the end of the 25-year civil war, the situation in Lebanon is very complicated. […] The masses have the right to [rebel]. They are increasingly suffering from a bureaucratic capitalist system in which power and money are shared between a few families representing religious groups.
They describe how the authorities have failed to bring forest fires under control and how the political system in Lebanon is exposed to foreign intrigue. Great powers fight over influence in Lebanon, and use sectarianism among 18 different religious groups in the country to attempt to pit people against each other – to “divide and conquer”.
Smaller than Buskerud and 2 Million Refugees
As of 2016, Lebanon had a population of roughly 6 million. This is greater than the population of Norway, despite the fact that Lebanon is just 10,000 km2, scarcely larger than Rogaland [a south-western province of Norway, trans.] and much smaller than most Norwegian provinces.
As of 2016, an estimated 1.5 million people had fled to Lebanon from the war in Syria. 1 million of them were registered by the UN before they stopped keeping track. The UN also estimates that there may be as many as 450,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria. There have been Palestinian refugee camps that have in practice become cities in Lebanon ever since the ethnic cleansing campaign that began in 1948 when Israel was established.
Justified Uprising and Imperialist Intervention
The German comrades write about the causes that justify the uprising, but also point out the currents that praise Western imperialists among the protesters, and that they leave a “sour taste” in one’s mouth. They write that “[t]he people must liberate themselves. For that, it can not become a puppet of imperialist (super) power.”
In other words, we see an uprising in Lebanon similar to uprisings in countries like Hong Kong and Iraq, or the first uprising against Assad in Syria. Completely legitimate demands are posed, the masses rise up against oppression and exploitation, but the imperialists take advantage of the situation to exploit the instability and advance their positions. Where the Western imperialists condemn uprisings against their allies and lackeys, where they support the brutal oppression of masses, as can be seen in France, Chile, or Catalonia, they end up supporting rebellions against governments they do not like.
This is nothing new; it’s been like this as long as the great powers have played their game and fought over power and influence. This does not change our position on the people’s struggle, but we must see the aspect of the imperialists’ intrigue and intervention, and speak out to combat them all.
A Balance of Power Under Pressure
The rotten government form in Lebanon bases itself on a balance of power and a division among religious groups that in practice has given Syria and Iran a degree of influence. The Shia Hezbollah militia, for instance, has close connections to Iran. With this perspective, it is interesting that one of the demands that are being raised in the rebellion, and which is being covered by Western media, is the demand of a form of government that does not base itself on sharing government power between religious groups.
As it stands today, the Lebanese constitution states that the head of state must be a Maronite Christian, while the head of government must be a Sunni Muslim, and the head of Parliament must be a Shia Muslim. The Parliament in Lebanon is dominated by parties that to a large degree base themselves on just these – and other – religious divisions among the people.
Lebanon’s History Between Great Powers
Lebanon became a French colony after the Ottoman Empire left WWI on the losing side. After WWII, the country gained formal independence, but then with strong ties to the US and European great powers. From 1975 until 1990, there have been wars in the country, primarily between the US and Israel’s allies among Christian parties on one side and Muslim, pan-Arab, and leftist groups with the support of the Soviet Union and Syria on the other. Both Israel and Syria occupied portions of Lebanon during the course of the war. The war in this small country claimed well over 100,000 lives.
For people in Norway, the war in Lebanon is closer than many other wars, since the Norwegian military participated in the UN force tasked to the country that for some periods controlled regions of Lebanon. The Sabra and Shatila Massacre is also well-known, where the Christian Phalangist militia – with a name inspired by the Spanish Phalangist party of the despot Franco – and the IDF, the Israeli army, killed several thousand Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in a grotesque manner. Today, the Phalangist party is called Kataeb and is a small party that takes part in the ruling coalition.
After 1990, an agreement was negotiated to share power in the country. The leadership has for a long time been West-oriented, but also closely tied to Syria. And in the last 10 years, relations with Russia have warmed. Among other things, they supported Russia-friendly breakaway republics and have had a lot of economic cooperation, along with significant military agreements. Russia donated a large amount of weapons to the country relatively recently and has been pleased with Lebanon’s position in regards to the war in Syria. The Iran-friendly Hezbollah militia is an opposition party in Lebanon, but the connection between Russia and the government in Lebanon and the old treaty that the form of government in Lebanon is based on reveals a country that is torn apart between several imperialists.
Will Shift the Balance in the Midst of Rebellion
It is the balance and disruption that the US and Israel wish to shift in the midst of this principally justified rebellion. The rebellion directs itself against bureaucracy-capitalist mismanagement, poverty, and taxation, but rivalling imperialists are trying to take advantage of the situation.
Commentators have said that different great powers can often find allies in Lebanon, but rarely enough to dominate the country entirely.
This forms the background that is necessary to understand the nuanced differences in which rebellions are covered in different media.
Unrest in Lebanon (Dem Volke dienen)
Lebanon protests enter 3rd week, roads remain blocked (Russia Today)
Lebanon protests: Five things you need to know (Al Jazeera)
Roads blocked, sit-ins continue in Lebanon as protests enter third week (Times of Israel)
Iran Is Losing the Middle East, Protests in Lebanon and Iraq Show (Foreign Policy)
How Lebanon’s Unrest Is Both New and More of the Same (Washington Post)
2019 Lebanese protests (Wikipedia)