In a context of economic crisis, the rhetoric and positions of Hezbollah, which is seen as an obstacle to radical changes in Lebanon, is getting worse and worse. Since the beginning of August, the Shiite party has crystallized around it growing resentment among the population.
Hezbollah is going through a troubled period in Lebanon. Since the beginning of August, it has concentrated criticism and has increasingly aroused the annoyance of the population of a country at the end of its rope and in the midst of economic collapse.
In particular, the pro-Iranian Shiite movement found itself isolated and at the heart of tensions with actors from three of the country’s main religious communities, the Sunnis, the Druze and the Christians.
In early August, security incidents erupted in Khaldé, south of Beirut, when a funeral convoy of Hezbollah supporter Ali Chebli, murdered the day before amid blood feuds, was targeted in an ambush by police officers. members of Sunni tribes. The latter accused Ali Chebli of the murder of a teenager a year earlier. Assessment of the armed confrontation of Khaldé, unimaginable a few months ago: five dead, including three members of Hezbollah.
A party at the heart of tensions
A few days later, on August 6, clashes pitted members of Hassan Nasrallah’s party against Druze residents of the village of Chouaya, located in the Hasbaya region, south-east of Beirut. After rocket attacks claimed by Hezbollah towards Israel, the truck carrying the rocket launcher used in the operation was intercepted by dozens of angry Druze who accused Hezbollah of exposing their locality to reprisals Israeli.
Villagers in Choueya, Hasbaya, obstructed a truck carrying two rocket launchers that belong to Hezbollah. The truck has been seized by the army. #Hezbollah explained that the truck was returning from the #Lebanese border where they were launching rockets earlier this morning. pic.twitter.com/4eZYabTnQt
– Sally Abou AlJoud | سالي (@JoudSally) August 6, 2021
While videos of this completely unprecedented event were massively relayed on social networks, Hezbollah supporters filmed themselves a few hours later. hunting Druze farmers came to sell figs in towns in southern Lebanon.
Since then the leaders of the Druze community and Hezbollah executives seem to have managed to calm the spirits.
Despite the climate of tension, Hassan Nasrallah, in a televised speech on August 8, decided to attack the examining magistrate Tarek Bitar, in charge of the investigation into the deadly explosion of August 4, 2020 at the port of Beirut. “The investigation is politicized, he said in particular. Either he must work […] clearly, either justice must find another judge “.
The words of Hassan Nasrallah have ulcerated the judicial sphere and the families of the victims. For several months, they have accused the political class of seeking to torpedo the investigation and interfere in the judicial process, while accusations and rumors that the Shiite party is involved in the storage of tons of Ammonium nitrate, the source of the explosions at the port, have been circulating since August 4, 2020 in Lebanon.
According to the Lebanese media, several personalities maintaining relations with Hezbollah are in the sights of justice. Among them, we find the head of the General Security, Abbas Ibrahim, known to be close to the pro-Iranian party, to the former ministers Ali Hassan Khalil and Youssef Fenianos, both sanctioned by the American administration because of their proximity to Hezbollah.
Finally, in the same speech, the secretary general of Hezbollah also threatened Israel with an “appropriate and proportionate” response to “any airstrike on Lebanon”, after an episode of tensions at the border, in the midst of commemoration of the explosions in Lebanon. August 4.
“The Lebanese today have other priorities, in relation to their own survival, than to go to war against Israel”, replied Sunday, the Maronite patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï, the highest religious authority of the Christian community. majority of the country. Recalling that the country of the Cedar is “officially committed by the armistice agreement of 1949” with Israel, he called on the army to prevent rocket fire from southern Lebanon, and thus reopening a very sensitive debate. That which concerns the arsenal of the Shiite party which arrogated, de facto and at the expense of the State, the right to decide the war and the peace with the Israeli neighbor.
The criticism of the head of the Maronite Church against Hassan Nasrallah has sparked a violent campaign of denigration and treacherous accusations carried out by Hezbollah sympathizers on social media. In response, several political figures, including President Michel Aoun, gave their support to the patriarch, while the hashtag “Do not shut up” was propelled by Internet users at the head of trends on Twitter.
Since, in an attempt to calm things down After the outcry, Hassan Nasrallah said on Wednesday that the criticism was legitimate, but the insults were not. “This kind of behavior only aggravates hostilities and resentment,” he added.
“Hezbollah is definitely in a bad spot”
This climate of tension around Hezbollah tends to reflect a certain fed up with the Lebanese population, experts say. The party and its arsenal remain perceived as obstacles to the change demanded, since October 2019, by the popular protest movement against the political class accused of having led the country to its economic ruin.
Paradoxically, after having been the party of the anti-establishment for thirty years, Hezbollah rushed to the rescue of the political class shaken by the protest movement, explains to France 24 Karim-Emile Bitar, director of the department of political science from Saint Joseph University in Beirut and director of research at Iris. He has even become the main force of the counter-revolution in Lebanon “.
And to continue: “Hezbollah, which has succeeded in recent years in considerably increasing its hold on Lebanese institutions, is undoubtedly in a bad patch, while other Lebanese communities are increasingly hostile to its policy. this apparent is perhaps also linked to the fact that the Shiite party feels in difficulty because of the economic crisis which affects part of its base and the weakening of its main political allies “.
In particular, underlines Karim-Emile Bitar, the camp of President Michel Aoun, “very weakened by the popular protest movement”, and the Amal party of Nabih Berri, the Shiite president of the Lebanese Parliament. Two movements on which Hezbollah relies to consolidate its domination of the local political scene.
“Attempts by Hassan Nasrallah’s party to discredit the investigation into the explosion at the port of Beirut, seen as a way of intimidating the judge and preventing this investigation from going to completion, does not help his image “, adds Karim-Emile Bitar.
In a context of economic crisis, the speech of an increasingly isolated Hezbollah is getting worse and worse. Especially since a scandal involving one of his figures caused a stir during the month of July. That of the sumptuous wedding of the daughter of Nawar el-Sahili, former member of parliament and part of the party inspired by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Faced with the outcry caused by the images of the party organized in the midst of an economic collapse, the former deputy, known for his virtuous speeches, announced that he was suspending his activities within Hezbollah.
“We see signs of a certain arrogance and drunkenness of power that can lead Hezbollah to commit missteps while the Lebanese have other concerns, far removed from the rhetoric and ideology of the Shiite movement, concludes Karim Emile Bitar. Today, they think only of the absolute urgencies of food, health and the supply of hydrocarbons so that the country continues to survive, and the situation is so catastrophic that the discontent could amplify even within the Shiite community, the electoral base of Hezbollah “.
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