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The Der Spiegel story and the Lebanese Reaction

May 26, 2009

On Memorial Day or (in Lebanon) the Ninth Celebration of the Liberation and Resistance, a consensus began to emerge between March 14 and March 8 over the allegations in the Der Spiegel article.  Generally, March 14 leaders and Hezbollah are treating the report as spurious and planted by Israel.

Saad al-Hariri said, “كل ما يحكى في الصحف ويصدر عنها نعتبره كلاماً صحافياً وليس لنا أي تعليق عليه وأننا لا نحتكم إلا لقرار المحكمة التي ناضلنا من أجلها ودفعنا دماء وسقط شهداء في سبيلها [Everything that is said in the newspapers and published in it we consider journalistic speech and we don't have any comment on it.  We do not judge anything expect the decision of The Tribunal that we fought for, that we paid blood for, and that martyrs fell for.]  Hariri’s position is more measured than Jumblatt’s, who explicitly rejects Der Spiegel’s claims.  Still, Jumblatt delivered his remarks in the prescence of Hariri and thus it can be assumed that he tacitly approves.

As as-Safir reports, Walid Jumblatt asserts that Israel was behind the Ain al-Rumaneh massacre that sparked the Lebanese Civil War so as to use Lebanon as leverage in peace negotiations with Egypt.  Likewise he suggests that Israel planted “Der Spiegelgate” to sow fitna (sedition) between the Lebanese so that it can have its way with the Palestinians.  as-Safir writes:

ودعا جنبلاط الى عدم الوقوع في فخ «الفتنة الكبرى»، معتبراً أن البصمات الإسرائيلية تكمن خلف ما نشرته «ديرشبيغل وخصوصاً أن اللوبي الصهيوني يملك نفوذاً واسعاً على حيز من الصحافة الالمانية، ولفت الانتباه ان السيناريو الذي سربته المجلة الالمانية والمفبرك إسرائيلياً يهدف ايضاً الى التغطية على اكتشاف شبكات التجسس في لبنان

Jumblatt called for not falling into the trap of “Greater Sedition”, considering Israeli fingerprints at work behind what Der Spiegel published.  Particularly the Zionist Lobby holds wide influence on a section of the German press and it turned attention to the scenario that the German magazine leaked.  The Israeli fabrication also aims at the coverage of the revealing of the espionage networks in Lebanon.

After a rather bellicose speech over a week ago, yesterday Hassan Nasrallah struck a more conciliatory tone towards his Lebanese rivals in remarks delivered in the southern suburbs of Beirut on the occasion of the 9th anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon.  As I predicted a couple of days ago, in this speech Nasrallah expanded upon his contention that Israel was behind the Hariri assassination and the Der Spiegel report, conveniently situating both within a larger Zionist conspiracy.  What is more interesting however is the way he cites the view articulated by Jumblatt and emphasizes the importance of Shia-Druze harmony.  Nasrallah says:

 هذا الذي اكتشفه سريع عقلاء القوم وحكمائهم في لبنان عندما تحدثوا عن استنبات الفتنة في لبنان، اشهد بالحق واسجل بشكل خاص بشجاعة وجراة ما قاله جنبلاط: على اللبنانيين ان يتعاملوا مع تقرير ديرشبيغل انه اخطر من بوسطة عين الرمانة قراءة جنبلاط وتحليله صحيحين، لذلك يجب ان نتعاطى مع الامر بحذر والمفروض التعامل مع الموضوع انه مشروع فتنة مش خبر صحفي والمحكمة هي من تحكم بالنهاية

منذ تأسيس حزب الله أقمنا علاقات مع كل الدروز في كل لبنان ومع جميع قياداتهم والمشايخ والنخب ولم نشعر في يوم أنه هناك مشكلة بين الشيعة والدروز بشكل عام وبين حزب الله والدروز بشكل خاص

This [courage of the Southern Suburbs] was revealed by the people’s quick wit and wisdom in Lebanon when they speak of trying to sow sedition in Lebanon.  I witness with truth and I note in particular what Jumblatt said with courage and bravery, “It is on the Lebanese to deal with the Der Spiegel report as if it is more dangerous than Ain al-Roumaneh.”  The reading and analysis of Jumblatt are correct.  Therefore, it is necessary that we deal with the matter with caution.  It must be dealt with as if it is a plan for sedition, not journalistic news.  The Tribunal is who judges in the end.

ٍSince the establishment of Hezbollah we have undertaken good relations with all Druze in all of Lebanon and with all of their leaders, sheikhs, and elites.  And we have not felt for a day that there is any problem between the Shia and Druze generally and between Hezbollah and the Druze particularly.

The above is explicitly an endorsement of both the views of Jumblatt and Saad Hariri with regard to Der Spiegel’s report.  Also, it is a clear attempt at easing tension between Hezbollah and Jumblatt.  The latter fact is notable in light of the good relations between Nabih Berri and Jumblatt.  Finally, one effect of the Spiegel story and the release of the four generals last month is to put Hezbollah in a position in which it is inclined to voice support for the Tribunal.

Again, as I mentioned in my first post on the matter, there is little March 14 can do to actively capitalize on the Der Spiegel story beyond allowing Lebanese to digest its claims for themselves.  I’m typically suspicious of explanations based on Zionist conspiracies and if the Spiegel story is indeed false I think it is more likely that someone friendly to March 14 conjured up the allegations.

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