Middle East Intelligence Bulletin
Jointly published by the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon and the Middle East Forum

Press Release
Movement for a Democratic Left
4 February 2004

The following statement was released by the "temporary preparatory committee" of the Movement for a Democratic Left in reaction to the government's refusal to allow independent leftist groups to attend an official ceremony at Beirut International Airport welcoming prisoners released by Israel. This translation was published on February 12, 2004, by the Beirut-based Daily Star.

The alienation and marginalization of the left in the aftermath of the prisoner exchange was not the . . . inconsiderate or silly act that those who condemned it said it was. In fact, the elimination of the left from the exchange process, including the reception of the prisoners, should be seen as part of a decision taken by the Syrian administration in Lebanon 20 years ago, in 1984, following the beginning of the defeat of the Israeli project, in which the left, through the "national resistance front," played a decisive role.

The option of effective and tangible resistance adopted during the siege (of Beirut in 1982) by three leftist movements: the Communist Party, the Organization for Communist Action and the Socialist Action Party, formed the political and material basis of a new Arab trend. What gave this strategic option further historical significance and credibility was that immediately after the occupation of Beirut by the Israelis at the end of a barbarous siege lasting 84 days, what had been a political decision was transformed into tangible and effective action through organized and successive resistance operations. This action, in addition to the pressures Israel felt in the aftermath of the carnage inflicted on unarmed Palestinians (in the Sabra and Shatila camps), forced it to evacuate the capital.

The national resistance front succeeded in establishing new guidelines of action in the Arab-Israeli conflict, characterized by Arab defeats, armistice agreements and the barring of Arab peoples from intervening in this existential issue. For the first time ever, military defeat and its consequences were rejected as options and resistance was adopted as a choice of action.

Resistance, as a strategic and practical option, was born out of an independent decision the left took in the abandoned . . . city of Beirut, and in the days following the first ever occupation of an Arab capital it became an effective and practical course of action . . . The national resistance movement, through its organized, systematic, continuous and concentrated operations against Israeli forces, played a pivotal role in breaking Israel's supremacy and preventing it from transforming its military victory against Lebanon in 1982 into political gains on the ground.

This (strategy) brought about the collapse of the May 17, 1983 (Israel-Lebanon withdrawal) agreement and, for the first time, forced the Israelis to retreat and redeploy their troops behind the Awwali River (near Sidon).

The Israeli retreat . . . in addition to the bloody confrontations that ended on September 6 (1984) with the defeat of the forces then allied to Israel, formed the material base for the return of Syrian hegemony over Lebanon, after (the Syrians had) retreated on June 9, 1982 to the central and northern Bekaa Valley.

In light of the new realities on the ground and the resulting change in the balance of power due to efforts by various parties and other factors, most prominent of which was the resistance, the Syrians were provided with the additional opportunity of playing a political role in Lebanon. Thus the scene shifted from the May 17 agreement to the (Syrian-sponsored) negotiations (between opposing Lebanese groups) in Lausanne and Geneva.

In light of these developments, the Syrian regime's intention of eliminating the Lebanese left from the political arena and marginalizing it became all too apparent.

In 1984, the left formed the main and most effective resistance force against Israel in Lebanon. It launched an average of three attacks per day in addition to the role it played in foiling attempts (by other Lebanese groups) at forging alliances with Israel, whether in the mountains, Beirut or the southern suburbs. In spite of this, it was sidelined and prevented from participating in shaping a future Lebanon . . . (Indeed) signs of pressure on the left's role in the resistance started appearing through expropriation of the technical assistance sent for that purpose by the USSR.

Pressure escalated . . . especially after the Lebanese national resistance front refused to provide advance warning of its operations (to Syria). In other words, it refused to become a tool of the Syrian leadership in Lebanon. After that, attempts at scuttling the growth of the Lebanese national resistance movement . . . became continuous. This was done not only through the blocking of technical assistance, but through attacks against the left by forces loyal to the Syrian presence in Lebanon, including a wave of assassinations leading to the death of 18 comrades. All the while, attempts at sidelining and alienating the resistance continued unabated . . . starting with the Tripartite Agreement (of December 1985, between the three leading militias of the day, the Lebanese Forces, the Progressive Socialist Party and Amal) that embodied the logic of Syria's treatment of Lebanon and the left - a logic persisting to this day.

The (episode of the) return of the detainees and the martyrs' remains cannot be dismissed as foolish behavior; nor did it occur by mistake... It was the embodiment of a decision to eliminate the left from Lebanese political life and went beyond targeting the left. It was . . . a behavioral pattern inseparable from the culture of nullification on which all members of the alliance supporting the (reigning) status quo (in Lebanon) agree, and one upon which is based the logic of the treatment of Lebanon, its people and those refusing to bend under pressure. It is a logic of hegemony and subservience, and those who reject it are the targets of efforts at nullification, marginalization and elimination . . .

It is also worth highlighting, and not for the first time, that the left could have as early as 1984 . . . opted . . . for other strategic choices. It could have adopted a policy of adaptation (and) justification (of the prevailing status quo) and embraced the role of the rejected rather than the one rejecting (a political reality it found unacceptable).

The logic behind the Syrian leadership's treatment of Lebanon is, among other things, the main factor behind the present political situation affecting all aspects of Lebanese political life, from the time of the Taif Accord until today. This situation has allowed the destruction of all attempts at rebuilding the state, has emptied its institutions of their effectiveness and transformed them into meaningless instruments at the service of (the political leadership's) material and political ambitions. This was done because the authorities abandoned the principles of national interest, sovereignty and independence, after having earlier relinquished their duty of participating in the liberation of the south. Instead, they behave like a mafia, steeped in corruption, feverishly seeking to stay in power and further enrich themselves at the expense of common values of decency and the interests of society. To achieve this, the alliance (of those in power) never shirked from . . . openly disrespecting the constitution, the law and the country's institutions.

We do not defend the left from a partisan standpoint. We wish to express our point of view from where we stand regarding what has befallen and is still befalling our country. The culture of elimination, subservience and "occupation" has not targeted the left alone, but the country as a whole. From the beginning and until today, the only valid option is that of rejection, refusal and clarity, coupled with . . . advancing achievable and practical necessities of successful action, not theories.

It would have been possible, for example, to counter the actions of those in authority who organized the reception of the detainees and the bodies of the martyrs, by announcing that these celebrations concerned only these authorities and their allies, and that the left and the opposition would celebrate at the same time in another location. But this is a political and ethical matter and we, before anyone else, will not agree to dilute our identity, or be reduced to an unwelcome guest . . . with the knowledge that before and behind us stands a multitude of martyred and living heroes.

Does our position mean a lack of appreciation for the return of the detainees and the martyrs' remains? Self-respect can never be considered harmful to anyone. When we justifiably laud the leadership of the Israeli enemy for respecting its prisoners and its dead, how can we be denied (similar consideration) for insisting on the respect owed to our families and victims, and to their identity and dreams?

Our mistake was to expect fairness from those who . . . decided to eliminate us because our raison-d'etre did not suit their divisive plans. Let us leave them to their own choices and turn toward ours to make them . . . clear, far from the logic of wagering (on those in power) and victimization. Suffice it to say that if we were not insubordinate, they would not have rejected us. We therefore reject their acceptance of us, because they are harmful, first, to the nation and, second, to our society and to us. We come from a different place than they do, and since half measures only result in confusion and silliness, we should define our well-rounded positions based on total clarity of outlook . . .

Our deference to the sanctity of the (ceremony at the airport) is what made us delay taking any public position or deciding on a particular course of action. We, however, insist on declaring in all clarity that from now on we will raise our voices in the face of any attempt at expropriating history. The history of the left belongs to public opinion and to all Lebanese, in addition to being rife with feats and heroism, but also mistakes and stumbling. In this respect, exclusivity becomes meaningless and only represents the viewpoint of those who believe in it.

Learning from the mistakes of the past is the duty of any living and developing force. In light of its experience, its critique and the lessons learned, the left will be able to play its role in facing up to the national challenges and the requirements of the battle for national salvation. In this way, it will also have an opportunity to contribute to efforts towards countering the present negative condition of the Arab world, and the incapacity of its regimes to stand up to American and Israeli hegemony, in a manner that best serves the interests of the Arab people.

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