Today, al-Akhbar released a transcript (with some omissions) of the closed meeting between Walid Junblat and the Druze sheikhs which had been previously leaked on youtube in April. The original leak offered a rare glimpse of the everyday politics of sectarianism in Lebanon. And while the leak might have been more sensational, today’s transcript contextualizes better Junblat’s aim in the meeting: convincing those present to work the Druze rank and file into accepting coexsitence with the Shi`a (read Hizballah).
Steps towards reconciliation between Junblat and Hizballah have been in the making since the Doha meeting this past summer. Junblat immediately issued several overtures which culminated in Na`im Qasim revealing Hizballah’s decision to open up to Walid Junblat and suggesting that a meeting between Junblat and Nasrallah is possible after — and probably also in light of — the elections. Junblat’s attempt at smoothing the Druze wrinkles of last May might very well be a preparation for such an eventuality.
What I find most interesting, however, is the argumentation method Junblat used to convince those present of helping him with his goal: reconciliation or bloodshed. Pursuant to his summary of “we have the sea, we have Israel, and we have Syria,” he said:
ولما كانت الحرب، كنت أطلب الذخيرة، كان حافظ الأسد يلبّي طلبي سريعاً (الواحد بدو يذكر المساوئ والمحاسن) كانت قوافل الذخيرة تأتي من جديدة يابوس حتى حمّانا… صحيح خضنا الحرب، لكن اليوم ماذا أفعل؟ من أين أحصل على الذخيرة؟ من البحر؟ أو من إسرائيل؟ لا، من إسرائيل لا…
When there was [civil] war, I used to ask for munitions and Hafiz al-Asad would swiftly fulfill my request (one has to remember both the good and the bad characteristics). Caravans of munitions used to come from Jdaydit Yabus to Hammana. It is true we went to war, but what do I do today? Where do I get munitions from? From the sea? Or from Israel? No, not form Israel…
A structurally similar line of “alliance with Hizballah or bust” was forwarded during the “debate” between Ibrahim Kanaan and Sami Gemayel on Kalam al-Nas last Sunday (if you can stand 2+ hours of shouting, you can watch it here). Responding to Gemayel’s (read, Kataeb’s) one trick pony of “the state über alles” and to the accusation that the Free Patriotic Movement is providing cover for Hizballah’s project for Islamicizing Lebanon, Kanaan responded that the alternative to coming to an understanding with Hizballah would be “committing suicide” (towards the end the episode).
Earlier in the Kalam al-Nas debate (a cross between a cockfight and a bad domestic argument), Kanaan accused Gemayel’s party of waging “a campaign of fear” when it comes to Hizballah (عم بتخوفوا الناس). That much is obvious. From billboards, to slogans, to speeches… capitalizing on the events of May 7th has pretty much been March 14th ticket this electoral campaign. But one has to ask oneself, are not alliances and rapprochements with Hizballah, when framed as Junblat and Kanaan frame them, also campaigns of fear? Hizballah, it seems to me, can be a very useful and flexible tool.