I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of hearing about offended imams and clerics and what happens when they or their followers get teed off. Tired. Of. It.
One evening earlier this summer, Lebanon’s most popular satire show, ‘‘Bas Mat Watan,’’ broadcast a sketch showing an ‘‘interview’’ with Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader and secretary general. ‘‘Nasrallah’’ was asked whether his party would surrender its weapons. He answered that it would, but first several conditions had to be met: there was that woman in Australia, whose land was being encroached upon by Jewish neighbors; then there was the baker in the United States, whose bakery the Jews wanted to take over. The joke was obvious: there were an infinite number of reasons why Hezbollah would never agree to lay down its weapons and become one political party among others.
Lebanon But it was the rapid reaction to the satiric sketch that sent the more disquieting message. That very night, angry supporters of Hezbollah closed the airport road with burning tires — a warning that they could block at will the main access point in and out of the country — and marched on mainly Sunni, Druse and Christian quarters in Beirut. In a Christian neighborhood, they clashed with the son of a former president and his comrades, and several youths were taken to hospital.
The leaders of Hezbollah defended these actions, explaining that they were the spontaneous emotional response to the mocking of a cleric. It is just as likely that they were a coordinated effort to intimidate critics. In any case, to me the event seemed an essential one, since it symbolized the duality that has defined Lebanon ever since its civil war came to an end in 1990. The duality was once neatly encapsulated by Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon’s Druse sect, when he asked, Would Lebanon choose to be Hanoi, circa 1970, or Hong Kong? That is, would it seek to become an international symbol of militancy and armed struggle, particularly against Israel, as represented by Hezbollah, or would it opt for the path laid out by Rafik Hariri, Lebanon’s late prime minister and billionaire developer, who sought to transform his country into a business entrepôt for the region, a bastion of liberal capitalism and ecumenical permissiveness?
Lebanon’s choice is largely being made in Tehran, Damascus and Turtle Bay–where terror masters and sympathizers rule. But some of the choice is ingrained in the culture:
How long it seems (and yet it is only a year) since the Lebanese were celebrating the Cedar Revolution — or what they always more revealingly called the Independence Intifada.
That last phrase never made its way onto blogs touting the protest babes (who have been showing up on Hezbollah’s side lately), probably because we all wanted to believe the best about Lebanon and that part of the world. That turned out to be naive. We need to take off those rose-colored glasses and throw them away. They won’t be needed for a few decades.
By the way, I think this may be the video that got Nasrallah’s minions so hot and bothered.
It’s tamer than the average SNL skit. The Daily Show might spark mass aneurisms.