Addressing Hezbollah’s “corruption”
There is always a story or an angle about Hezbollah that gets the attention, first, of the Saudi media, and then consequently of the Western media. Readers of Arabic are struck by how the themes, stories, and perspectives of the Saudi/Hariri media invariably become the stories of the Beirut correspondents of US (and to a lesser degree, French and British) media. The Hariri assassination story always originated from rumors and leaks in the Saudi royal yellow press, and was regurgitated by the Western media’s Beirut correspondents. One has to write a story and do a study of how the Beirut-based Western correspondents operate and how they all rely on the local Hariri media office to hire drivers, translators, fixers, and stringers. The Western media’s Beirut offices are now largely an extension of the Hariri/Saudi media operations in Lebanon.
The problem of Western correspondents and their reliance on the themes, leaks, rumors, and spin of the Hariri press office was only compounded after the outbreak of the Syrian war. Beirut-based correspondents did not stumble on “activists” in Syria to help guide their highly biased and highly unprofessional reportage on Syria. Rather, they got the names and contacts of Syrians from the Hariri press office and the affiliates of the Saudi media offices in Beirut. It is not a conspiracy as those things happen in broad daylight. By following the Twitter activities of Western correspondents in Beirut for a week, one can notice that they are often urged by Hariri personalities or supporters of the Free Syrian Army to cover certain stories or to pay attention to certain YouTube videos. In other words, it is not only that many of the Western correspondents in Beirut are not covering Lebanon and Syria independently, but many have become lazy, relying on their contacts in the Hariri movement and Free Syrian Army in order to cover Syria, and to a lesser degree, Lebanon.
The story these days is “corruption” within Hezbollah. It was started by stories exclusively reported in Saudi/Qatari/Hariri media about the identification of one spy working for Israel within Hezbollah. Hezbollah never confirmed the story and never commented about it but one Hezbollah middle ranked figure, Ghalib Abu Zaynab, denied to a Lebanese station that he is related to “the [Israeli] agent Muhammad Shawraba.” Abu Zaynab was compelled to respond because Saudi/Hariri media had reported that the Israeli agent was his brother-in-law (that he was married to one of his sister). Abu Zaynab explained that he has no sisters. Amusingly, Saudi/Hariri media had reported that Abu Zaynab had to resign from his portfolio as the person in charge of Hezbollah’s relations with Christian political parties and churches because he was tied to Shawraba, as if ties to an Israeli agent would merely result in resignation from Hezbollah.
The Christian Science Monitor correspondent Nicholas Blanford jumped on the story, and he recycled – merely recycled – variations of the stories in the Hariri/Saudi media in The Daily Star and The Christian Science Monitor (yes, it still exists but its best years are well behind it). Blanford, of course, has established a solid record of disseminating the propaganda and talking points of the Hariri press office, and has written a hagiography of Rafiq Hariri – which amusingly contained the first story of the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, before the Hariri family changed its mind in the last two years. Blanford does not even change or edit the propaganda stories about Lebanon, and Hezbollah in particular, which appear in the Hariri media in Lebanon (and subsequently in the Saudi media around the world).
The recent story is about corruption within Hezbollah. The fact that Israel was able to lure and recruit one lone member of Hezbollah’s security branch is used as evidence in this story to indicate that “massive” corruption has invaded the party and that it is falling apart. The irony about those accounts is that there has never been a more corrupt political movement, and political family, in Lebanon than the Hariri family and the Future Movement. The scale of corruption of the Hariri family and the introduction of massive scales of bribery is something that Lebanon has never experienced before.
Furthermore, the corruption of Walid Jumblatt – who used to accuse Rafiq Hariri of being a spy for the Mossad and the CIA when Hariri would cut off his funding – has never attracted the attention of Western media because Jumblatt is a fine host of the class of the foreign correspondents in Beirut. Jumblatt had benefited from Iranian, American, French, British, Saudi, Qatari, Syrian, and Soviet funding and arming over the years but his story has never been of interest because he has become a foe of Hezbollah and he provides, in English and French, Western correspondents with amusing anecdotes and quotes.
Having said that, Lebanon is a corrupting scene and money afflicts all political groups in Lebanon. But the thesis advanced by Blanford (relying on Hariri politicians who, we are told, follow Hezbollah affairs very closely) that the corruption of Hezbollah has become comparable to the scale of corruption by the PLO in its Lebanon sojourn is laughable. But Nasrallah’s absence from the visible political scene since the July War in 2006 has harmed the party and allowed corruption to affect the lifestyles of certain key personalities within the leadership – but not Nasrallah, which is crucial. But what Blanford does not report is that the party under Nasrallah’s leadership does not protect corrupt people even if they are brothers of senior leaders of the party. The party did not intervene when both the brother of Husayn Musawi and of Minister Muhammad Fnaysh were imprisoned on various charges of corruption. That can’t be said about any other political party in Lebanon. It is unimaginable that a Hariri minister’s brother would be allowed to serve time in jail, or that a Jumblatt MP would be allowed to stand trial for corruption. But Israel and Saudi Arabia, through the wishful thinking of their figures in March 14, are dreaming. They want to believe that corruption can achieve for them what Israeli atrocities in 2006 could not achieve.
Dr. As’ad AbuKhalil is a Professor of Political Science at California State University, Stanislaus, a lecturer and the author of The Angry Arab News Service. He tweets @asadabukhalil
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