Robert Fisk: Lebanon does not want another war. Does it?

Despite everything that has happened in the past few days, the people have no appetite for yet more civil conflict

Related Topics

I went to cover a demonstration in West Beirut yesterday morning – yes, please note the capital W on "West" – and then I get a text from a Lebanese woman on my mobile phone, asking if she will have to wear a veil when she returns to Lebanon. How do I reply? That the restaurants are still open? That you can still drink wine with your dinner?

That is the problem. For the war in West Beirut is not about religion. It is about the political legitimacy of the Lebanese government and its "pro-American" support (the latter an essential adjective to any US news agency report), which Iran understandably challenges.

A few days ago, I went to view an exhibition – here, in Beirut – of posters of the terrible 15-year civil war which cost the Lebanese and Palestinians 150,000 lives. It was called "Signs of Conflict: Political Posters of Lebanon's Civil War, 1975-1990", and I came to the conclusion that there would never be a civil war in Lebanon again. How could a people who were prepared to show such outrageous placards re-fight this hopeless conflict? But, am I not seeing almost identical posters in the streets of West Beirut?

So let us start at the beginning (be that the Ottoman, French, post-Versailles beginning of Lebanese history). Or let us begin yesterday, when it was broadcast that two Hizbollah members (for which read Shia Muslims) were knifed to death in Aley by Druze Muslims. Outrageous, if true. So let us begin with the statement that the Lebanese army command has decided to let Brigadier General Wafiq Chucair remain in command of security at Beirut airport. And that the Lebanese army commander – General Michel Sulaiman (the favourite for president if parliament, after 18 sittings, decide to choose one) – was determined to restore "law and order".

Thus (if the reader is not already confused) we should advance to the near-present. The army is demanding an end to all militia presence, for example the armed checkpoints in Lebanon; also, the opening of all roads. The army's fear, of course – and this is not in the official communiqués – is that if the militias do not end checkpoints and open all roads, then the army itself will split and its soldiers become part of the checkpoints. Yesterday, though, Hizbollah TV said the militias would comply with the request.

But let's go back to that demonstration I was covering in Beirut. Two days ago, Hizbollah, in its takeover of West Beirut, captured Saad Hariri's Future Television. This was the station of ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri prior to his assassination on 14 February 2005 (for whether Syria was responsible watch this space, as they say). When Hizbollah took over West Beirut two days ago, they cut Future's cable, and so the 200 or so demonstrators who turned up yesterday were wasting their time.

Meanwhile, back at the poster exhibition, the Phalangists (still very much alive) tell their supporters that their "martyrs" died "for Lebanon to live". Another tells readers that "the Morabitoun [in Arabic, the Muslim "Ambushers"] destroyed the symbol of fascist treason, of black Zionism". The Syrian Social Nationalist Party calls, after 53 years, for "the renaissance and unity of society, and for the liberation of the nation from Zionist and foreign occupation". Let us remember here that the SSNP still wants an Arab nation which includes "Palestine", and Cyprus. And there is poor old Bashir Gemayel (Phalangist leader, assassinated in 1982, after winning the pro-Israeli presidential ticket) telling the Lebanese, Kitchener-like, that "Your nation needs you – yes, You!"

And when I walked round that exhibition, I thought – yes – that this war could never be recreated. I even contemplated an article saying that there would not be another civil war here. On reflection, I should have sent that story to this paper. For despite everything that we have witnessed these past three days (or two years, or the 30 years or 2,000 years, you take your pick), I don't think the Lebanese want another civil war.

Five days ago, I recorded an interview for Saad Hariri's Future channel about my new book, and told my interviewer that I did not think there would be another civil war in Lebanon. Because Hizbollah has cut the cables of the channel, there will be no programme. "You did it for nothing," the young Lebanese woman interviewer told me yesterday. Yes, I think she was right. But I still suspect that the Lebanese will not tolerate another civil conflict.

And I say this in front of the facts: that Hizbollah paraded down the Corniche in front of my apartment with their weapons, and that my car is shredded with bullet holes courtesy of – let us speak frankly – Hizbollah's venal allies, the Amal militia (owner; Nabih Berri, speaker of parliament). Like all who live here, my driver and I are happy we were not in the car. But in Lebanon, the question is: who will drive the car?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service and Business Support Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: By developing intimate relationships with inte...

Recruitment Genius: Application Support Engineer - Software

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A small rapidly expanding IT So...

The Grange Retirement Home: Full Time Care Team Manager

£22,400: The Grange Retirement Home: This is a key role which requires a sound...

Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Punks show off the Doctor Marten boots as they gather in Blackpool for the annual Rebellion Punk Rock Festival  

Recalling my act of punk rebellion at school shows how different attitudes are today

Rosie Millard
A hormone released when someone is under stress or pressure has been found in breast milk  

Shaming women for being unable to breastfeed is wrong, and it needs to stop

Siobhan Freegard
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada