The force used by internal security and others was real. Barricades erected prevented access to parliament and violence was used to deter protesters.
But the population decline was not there. The withdrawal has come the time Lebanon (support me here) was attacked.
On two fronts. The first, the historical inertia that draws the majority of us behind predetermined lines, and where the amplification of “everything means everything” becomes personal rather than political. Long before the weapons of Kataeb or Hezbollah entered the conversation, when a prime minister fell without the president and speaker of parliament with him, the unease of community anxiety overtook the narrative. Saad Hariri – successful or unsuccessful in his political career, and despite intense criticism within his own ranks – remains the most popular leader of Lebanon’s Sunni community.
If Michel Aoun and Nabih Berri had gone into exile with him, I would apologize for my previous thirty entries and reevaluate my own convictions.
This may be a lexicon frowned upon by many in civil society and the most absolute of October 17, but to look away from it is to escape reality.
The second, a decades-old crackdown on our sovereignty. I have heard many former March 14 believers who have become October 17 believers repeatedly say that March 14 is dead. A hypothesis based on error and misreading. The two uprisings, at the base, are the same at the bottom. The 2005 reform demanded an end to the Syrian occupation. A desire to regain lost independence and break free from Assad’s grip on Lebanon. Leftists participated in this movement, and among them, a most inspiring historian, journalist and professor.
Samir Kassir was on March 14 and he was with us on October 17.
The events that took place after 2005 are a reflection of what has happened since 2019. A first division which quickly led to the departure of Michel Aoun as well as a passage from categorical criticism to the alliance with the Hezbollah, and the current ideological divide that tore October 17 in two. A July 2006 war that underscored Hezbollah’s military proxy role in determining war and peace, and a port explosion in August 2020 that implicated Lebanon’s continued role as the region’s battleground . A special tribunal for Lebanon intended to deter further killings (twelve other successful executions took place) resulting in a verdict without arrest, and the local investigation by Fadi Sawan and Tarek Bitar into the port explosion which has been chained since the beginning. Attempts to overthrow a parallel telecommunications network and airport cameras installed by Hezbollah in May 2008 were met with urban warfare and a forced Doha national unity agreement, and a Hezbollah-led protest in Tayyouneh last October positioned itself to turn violent, followed by a postponement of Cabinet meetings until Bitar’s work stopped.
If there is a long-term answer around which we can rally, it is one that recognizes our sectarian complexities and multidimensional identities, and demands the groundwork necessary for movements to move forward and reform. Rather than tripping and breaking.
Endless paralysis. A security situation that turns national calls for reform into political degeneration, economic collapse and institutional failure.
Unity, imagined or real, has no chance of changing this landscape. Protesters-turned-politicians are paying a heavy price for geopolitics beyond their control.
Their calls for reform fade as the regime survives, intact, bent to the needs of Hezbollah. Impunity against all of us continues endlessly. And diplomats who could use leverage to end our status quo prefer talks about gender quotas and environmental awareness to tough negotiations with Iran.
Even when we are divided and fall together, it is up to us to solve local problems. The question is how to get there, and shorter attention spans miss the story.
History is made to take its time.
If there is a long-term answer around which we can rally, it is one that recognizes our sectarian complexities and layered identities and demands the groundwork necessary for movements to move forward and reform. Rather than tripping and breaking.
Ronnie Chatah’s hosts The Banyan of Beirut podcast, a series of long-form storytelling and conversational episodes that reflect all that is modern Lebanese history. He also leads the WalkBeirut tour, a four-hour narration of Beirut’s rich and troubled past. He is on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @thebeirutbanyan.
The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOW.