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US-backed parties have infiltrated Lebanon’s protests, pushing the country toward war amid economic collapse

By joining the roadblocks around Beirut, protesters allowed themselves to be used by US-allied parties playing a dangerous game that has the potential to explode into open warfare

by Rania Khalek

Part 2 - In the South, Hezbollah and Amal clash

Western and Gulf media have attempted to portray the protests as an uprising against Hezbollah, losing themselves in an anti-Iran fantasy. There may be some elements of the protests that have chanted against Hezbollah and their weapons, but they reflect a small minority. Despite all outside attempts to co-opt the movement, the protests remain solidly focused on opposing corruption and the government as a whole.

Meanwhile, the international media has continued to erase the Hezbollah supporters who were crucial to the first two days of protests. The Western press has also ignored the ever-present chants against Israel and burning of American and Israeli flags. 

When Amal supporters from a nearby Shia neighborhood beat up protesters in downtown Beirut for blocking the main road, Western media falsely identified them as Hezbollah. 

And when clashes broke out in Nabatiyeh, a town in southern Lebanon that is dominated by Hezbollah and Amal, Western and local media zeroed in on the violence. Local protesters, with communists among them, had been violently cleared out by local municipal police, including supporters of Hezbollah and Amal.

Hezbollah and the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) have a notoriously antagonistic history. Some in the LCP blame Hezbollah for being complicit in the government’s corruption and they were outraged when Hezbollah supporters in the municipal police attacked their comrades in the Nabatiyeh protests. Hezbollah supporters maintain that LCP holds a grudge against them for fighting the communists and absorbing much of their Shia base during the 1980s.

With this background of conflict, it is no surprise that the LCP has been harshly critical of Hezbollah throughout the protests, as have many leftist groups. 

This bickering has been exploited by the Western press and Gulf-funded outlets, which also celebrated the resignations at Al Akhbar, one of the most widely read newspapers in Lebanon and a rare outlet that is explicitly pro-resistance and anti-imperialist.

The disproportionate focus on these rifts obscured the reality of southern Lebanon, where tensions have been brewing between Amal and Hezbollah. Amal and Hezbollah were rivals in the civil war. These two forces have already engaged in a conflict referred to as “the war of the brothers”  – its name inspired by Shia families in the South turning against one another according to their members’ allegiance to Amal and Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has been compelled to maintain a peaceful alliance with Amal in spite of the rampant corruption of its rival’s leadership. It is determined to avoid another Shia civil war and maintain a powerful coalition in the government. Meanwhile, Amal leader Nabih Berri, a civil war-era warlord who has been speaker of the parliament since the end of the civil war, has enriched himself on the back of his community. Many Shias are angry about Berri’s corruption and during the protests openly chanted against him and his wife Randa. 

Berri has also demonstrated his willingness to side with the US and Israel against Hezbollah, at least behind the scenes and for purely opportunistic reasons. According to Wikileaks cables, during Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon, Berri told the US ambassador at the time that the war’s potential to weaken Hezbollah was a positive development and he decried how few Hezbollah fighters Israel had managed to kill. 

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