Saturday, June 2, 2007

What Happened to Nasrallah’s Red Line?

A Comment By Tony Sayegh

Last week, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah in a televised speech concerning the events around Nahr El-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon stated that attacks by the thugs of Fath Al-Islam on the Lebanese Army were a red line. He called for the arrest and trial of those responsible for attacking and killing Lebanese soldiers. Equally important, Nasrallah stated that a military attack on the refugee camp, which is the home of some 40,000 Palestinian refugees, by the Lebanese Army is another red line.

At the time of the speech a pseudo truce was in effect which allowed about 25,000 of the Palestinian refugees to flee Nahr El-Bared to other refugee camps, primarily the nearby Beddawi refugee camp which has doubled in size. Since then, and especially in the past two days, the Lebanese Army, utilizing newly supplied U.S. artillery and a helicopter, has been shelling Nahr El-Bared at the rate of one shell every few seconds around the clock. Fires are raging in parts of the camp and destruction due to the random shelling is expected to be large.

The Lebanese Army is keeping all reporters at least two kilometers away and is not allowing humanitarian workers entry into the camp, which still has up to 15,000 refugees holed-up inside with no water, food, electricity or medical supplies. A catastrophe of huge proportions is in the making, which explains the Army’s rough treatment of all journalists and the complete news blackout on what is unfolding. As Dr. Marcy Newman stated in a live dispatch from near the camp, “…one refugee from Nahr al-Bared camp, who passed through a checkpoint earlier today, was told by a Lebanese soldier, ‘I hope that we can round up all the Palestinians, throw benzene on you, and light a fire.’ This is a truth that Lebanon does not want told.”

With this dramatic escalation taking place, Hizbullah has fallen silent.

When Hizbullah was resisting the Israeli invasion of south Lebanon last summer all Palestinians in Lebanon, in the occupied areas and everywhere, stood by Hizbullah, and Nasrallah was celebrated as a hero. Palestinians in the refugee camps in Lebanon, in spite of their meager means, opened their homes to Lebanese refugees from the south. Sadly, the reverse has not happened to the Palestinian refugees fleeing Nahr El-Bared. I read that not one Lebanese church, mosque or any civil group has opened its doors to the Palestinians.

The Palestinians have become accustomed to respect the word of Nasrallah. He, in the past, said what he meant and meant what he said. Last winter hundreds of thousands of Hizbullah supporters took to the streets of Beirut and thousands of them have been camped out outside the Sarai of Prime Minister Siniora, whose government Hizbullah considers illegitimate. Nothing comparable has happened in support of the Palestinian refugees being slaughtered by the army of that same illegitimate government. The question is, why? Hizbullah’s credibility, especially with the Palestinians, is on the line.

It is quite possible that Hizbullah suspects that the attack on Nahr El-Bared and the flood of U.S. weapons to the Siniora government is a prelude to another round of attacks targeting Hizbullah itself. This time it will be a two-pronged attack: Israel from the south and the newly equipped Lebanese Army from the north. If this happens, Hizbullah would find its natural base of support among the Palestinians in Lebanon. Therefore, it behooves Hizbullah not to try to be politically correct and to respect its own warning that an all-out attack on Nahr El-Bared is a red line. It is time for Hizbullah to act and to back up its words with action.

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