“We’re not expecting a sectarian strife to happen. People are hugging each other on the streets,” said one man laughing, his mouth opening to reveal a few gaps where teeth once were. He later backpedaled, reflecting the uncertainty that plagues the nation. “We cannot know yet. In a couple of days we will know. We’re waiting for the [Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL)] indictment,” he said.
“All of the politicians are living, and the poor people are not living,” chimed in his friend, as other men quickly jumped on the chance to bemoan the selfish tendencies of Lebanon’s ruling elite.
“These people are nothing. They don’t represent Nabatiyeh. This talk is out of frustration, it doesn’t represent the opinions of all the people,” said a man sitting amongst them who works as a furniture designer. “You’re not saying the right things,” he shot at them, urging them to shut up and not talk to us further.
The man would not give us his real name for privacy reasons but told us that the rhetoric coming out of Beirut and Dahiyeh is not shared by the town villagers.
“I believe that this is a political game, and it doesn’t reflect the [people’s sentiments] at all,” he said. “I live with two neighbors in my building, one is Sunni and one is Christian. We eat together, we talk together. Our relationship will not be affected by a war… We deal with each other in a human manner.”
Before we could take down the names of the other men, the police arrived and escorted us away, telling us we needed a permit to talk to people on the streets, but that the permit could not be obtained in anything short of two-days time. In this so-called “sensitive area,” according to the head of the municipality, a journalist must get permission to speak to anyone. That’s been the policy since 2005, he said, avoiding giving us his name though NOW Lebanon asked for it several times. As another officer drove us back to the souk to fetch our taxi out of town, he assured us we were lucky to have been caught by the ISF, not Hezbollah, who he said may have questioned us for four to five hours, instead of 30 minutes.
“Those whose opinion is that the STL is actually a game and will not issue an indictment are those running away from reality,” said Mona Fayyad, professor of sociology at the Lebanese University who has written extensively about the Party of God. “[Hezbollah] has created an illusion for their supporters that nothing will happen … that they are stronger than that…The party has convinced its supporters that they have the power to control all issues.”
While that may or may not be true, Resistance supporters like 20-year-old computer science student Fakher al-Omma (a symbolic name meaning ‘Pride of the Nation’) are certain the political situation in Lebanon will soon erupt.
“Whether you like it or not, confrontation is coming,” said the South Lebanon resident, who did not want to specify what town he was from but said he was currently living in Tyre. “There’s already a war in the region, a cold war. I feel that if there are indictments [against Hezbollah members], the situation will explode and there will be violence against Lebanon’s enemies. We should expect something that looks like May 7, 2008.”
When probed about the nature of Lebanon’s enemies, he indicated that not just Israel would be involved, but its Western allies as well.
Syrian-Saudi efforts to allay STL-related tensions in Lebanon were launched in July, but Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz’s trip to the US for surgery has temporarily stalled the talks, and some believe the summits are merely a weak attempt to show interest in Lebanon’s well-being.
“The Syrians and Saudis are laughing at us. They seem like they create agreements to make us calm down, but really, they are mocking us. This is just a political game,” said Kamal Abou Ali, an elderly resident of Tyre who was taking his evening stroll along the waterfront.
Like many residents of South Lebanon, Abou Ali rests little hope in regional efforts and even less in international ones.
“I’m Palestinian, so I don’t see any international justice,” he said, adding that he doesn’t believe in international courts or international bodies, such as the UN, but that he’s sure Israel was responsible for Hariri’s murder through its operatives in Lebanon.
The stand against international justice in the region is only normal, says Fayyad, referring to the international institutions’ bias towards Israel against Palestine.
“People have the complete right to have such a stand because until this day there hasn’t been any actual international justice,” she said.
And for many like the computer science student, that translates into pure, raw anger. “When the US brought two nuclear bombs on Japan, what did the UN do? When US made war on Vietnam, what did the UN do? When USA made a war on Iraq and Afghanistan, what did the UN do? When Israel killed all the Lebanese people in 2006, what did the UN do?” he questioned.