[Note: Following is an article by Salah Salah, a Palestinian refugee and long-time activist living in Lebanon who has been a member of the Palestinian National Council since 1970 and a member of the Standing Committee on Refugees since 1989. The article was sent for publication to La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers Tribune), the weekly newspaper of the Democratic Independent Workers Party (POID) of France, and was published in its September 9, 2020, issue. The translation is by The Organizer Weekly.]
What was at the center of political discussions in Lebanon before the explosion in the port of Beirut was the serious economic crisis that the country is suffering from and its repercussions on the unemployment rate; the rise in prices; the fall in the value of the Lebanese lira against the dollar; and the inability of the State to control the Bank of Lebanon, whose general manager is protected by foreign forces more powerful than the Lebanese State.
A huge popular movement has risen up in all parts of Lebanon. The youth have been courageously at the forefront, though traditional political forces, both in power and in opposition, have managed to contain and put an end to it.
Three external factors contributed to the defeat of this popular movement. The first is the COVID-19 epidemic and the restrictive measures that prevent rallies. The second is the participation in the movement of certain groups known to be linked to the U.S. embassy, which prompted many activists to withdraw from the movement. The third is the huge explosion — the largest in Lebanon’s history — that took place on August 4 in the port of Beirut, causing considerable material losses. It is considered to be the third largest explosion in the world since the Second World War. Its impact reached Cyprus, Greece, Syria, and Jordan. It caused about 205 deaths, 50 missing, 6,000 injured, and damage to 50,000 homes. Three hundred thousand people were displaced, and material losses were estimated at USD$15 billion.
The explosion has raised many questions
The experts point out that two factors have come into play to prevent the damage from devastating all of Beirut. The first: only 60 tons exploded, because the rest of the explosives had been stolen, without specifying by whom (corruption). The second: 20% of the shock wave hit Beirut, while most of it was absorbed by the sea and, to a lesser extent, by the wheat fields.
This explosion raised many questions. Why did a ship carrying 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, which was on its way from Georgia to Mozambique, stop in the port of Beirut?
Why did this ship stay there for so long (seven years), getting bogged down in the depths, without its owners bothering to take it back? Why didn’t the ship’s owners try to retrieve it?
More important: The Lebanese authorities were all aware of the presence of the vessel at Pier 12, so why did no one in charge take the necessary measures to avoid the risks involved in storing this material?
Who is responsible for the explosion? Was it due to negligence? Was it premeditated? All these questions have not been answered clearly, and nothing has filtered through the investigations. It is more than likely that the explosion was a premeditated act. Who was the perpetrator then?
This is the most important question!
Accusations have been leveled against Hezbollah by those who claim that Hezbollah has arms depots close to Pier 12, and that this proximity caused the explosion. Hezbollah Secretary General Sayed Hassan Nasrallah denied this accusation, calling on the judiciary to conduct its investigation, while warning against the risk of interference from U.S. and French investigators, as was the case, he recalled, with the International Commission of Inquiry into the assassination of Rafik Hariri [former Lebanese Prime Minister, killed in an attack in 2005 – editor’s note]. After 15 years of investigation, which cost nearly USD$800 million, this commission finally decreed that the culprit was an isolated person with no connection to anyone.
New Foreign Interference
Some accuse the State of Israel, encouraged and perhaps even supported by the United States, of being behind this explosion, since it is the biggest beneficiary. This is in order to put pressure on Lebanon to accept the demarcation of its land and sea borders with Israel, to remove Hezbollah from power to prevent any rapprochement between Lebanon and Iran, and to weaken Hezbollah’s role in the resistance and the constant threat that it poses to Israel, particularly in the north on the Lebanese borders.
However, the target was easy to hit, as was the possibility of concealing this crime. Both Trump and Netanyahu face serious internal difficulties, and Trump needs success to win the elections, just as Netanyahu needs to consolidate his position in the government.
In addition to the economic crisis, the explosion has had consequences on the Lebanese government: Prime Minister Hassan Diab has been forced to resign. From my point of view, this once again puts political life in a deadlock: Who will form the alternative government? This will pave the way for new foreign interference — especially U.S., French, and Saudi interference. The visit by French President Macron and his Foreign Minister indicates that France is in charge of managing the situation in Lebanon under the following conditions: speeding up the formation of a government of national unity and carrying out reforms of the Lebanese system.
The Israelis no longer care about anything — neither the Oslo Accords nor the decisions of the “international community.” The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is, in fact, deprived of any authority, as its president, Mahmoud Abbas, has acknowledged. It is completely under Israeli control from both the security and economic points of view.
The Gaza authorities are under siege and its inhabitants live in a large prison, the keys to which are in the hands of Israel on the one hand and Egypt on the other. And neither of them uses its key without the consent of the other.
The “Jewish State Law,” passed by the Knesset (Parliament) in 2018, now governs Israel’s behavior. This law affirms that all the territories of the Palestine Mandate [i.e., historic Palestine, formerly under British control – editor’s note] constitute the borders of the State of Israel and that only Jews have the right to self-determination in this country.
That is why they have declared Jerusalem the sole capital of the State of Israel and consider the construction of settlements as their legitimate right to a land that they are taking back from the Palestinians, which they claim the Palestinians stole thousands of years ago. In the same context, Netanyahu claims that he will annex the Jordan Valley (where settlements have been built since 1995) as well as “Area C” of the Oslo Accords (1993), i.e., 60% of the West Bank.
All this means that the Israelis no longer pay any attention to the Palestinians. It doesn’t matter to them whether they are angry or satisfied, it is no longer their problem to negotiate with them about anything; they have taken everything they needed.
The “normalization” of relations between the Arab regimes and Israel
Israeli interests now demand to turn to the Arab regimes to normalize their relations with as many of them as possible. These relations are not new, they have existed for a long time, but they must now be formalized. Hence the importance of the U.S. plan called the “Deal of the Century.”
In my opinion, behind all this, the United States is seeking to strengthen Israel’s role in the region, in order to continue and reinforce U.S. domination in the Arab region, by creating an alliance — public or secret — around Israel to confront Iran and enable Israel to obtain a share of the wealth of the oil-producing countries.
But history has shown that not everything that the colonial powers and their reactionary allies want is always achieved. Revolutions in the Arab region have confirmed this, from Algeria to Yemen, to Egypt, from Libya to Palestine.
Israeli policy feeds the path of resistance
The situation in the Arab region shows that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has destroyed and dismantled the country. Trump admits, however, that it was a big mistake by the United States, because by getting rid of Saddam Hussein they replaced him with Iran. The same thing happened in Syria: by trying to control it and failing, they reinforced the role of Russia and Iran, their worst enemies.
In my opinion, Israel’s growing involvement in the Arab region will only increase hostility toward it among the people. The calls to fight Israel and the “normalizing” of relations with Arab regimes will be strengthened. The Zionist project and its intentions for expansion are worrying Arab intellectuals. They fear seeing the project of a Greater Israel “from the Euphrates to the Nile.”
Concern is growing among young people, who have seen from their own experience that Israel (1) does not want a peaceful and just solution that would allow the Palestinians to constitute their own independent and sovereign state, and (2) refuses to implement international resolutions allowing the refugees to return to the towns and villages and to recover the property they were forced to leave in 1948.
Israeli policy, supported by the United States and Europe, is fueling the path of resistance.