Hundreds and thousands of Lebanese Hezbollah supporters have rallied in the heart of Lebanon, Beirut. They all gathered in the devastated southern outskirts of the capital.
The crowd was massive, reminiscent of a similar Hezbollah rally after Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon not long ago.
The hundreds and thousands of people have defiantly held Hezbollah yellow flags, coming from miles away just to be a part of the victory rally. A man walked 90 or thereabouts kilometres from the demolished South of Lebanon to the capital just to be present in the rally. Hezbollah and its supporters have repeatedly said the force remains “steadfast.”
The Rally was to be held on Friday simultaneously with the final withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from the Southern areas of Lebanon, however an army delegate said the complete pull out should not be expected until Wednesday.
Leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, called upon the people of Lebanon to participate in the rally on national television. “I call on you all to participate in a victory rally, your victory … in the southern suburb, the suburb of honour, glory, faith, steadfastness and victory for the whole country.”
According to Nasrallah, the purpose of the rally was to “renew our covenant and declare our joy at the divine victory to the whole world.” He was successful, with a vast turnout from all walks of Lebanon. Muslims, Christians, Catholics, Druze cordoned the streets of Southern Beirut.
Hassan Nasrallah is a prominent figure in the Arab world. He is the leader of Hezbollah. His objective is to free the Palestinians and regain control of the Shebaa farms, an area occupied by Israel. The Shebaa farms remain the most controversial part of the Middle-East. Israel occupies the Shebaa Farms, however there is dispute for who should claim the title of these farms, Lebanon or Syria.
Hassan Nasrallah triggered the recent conflict in the region after kidnapping two Israeli soldiers, in the hope of negotiating with the Israeli government a prisoner exchange. Nasrallah kidnapped two soldiers and wanted to exchange the two men for hundreds of Lebanese soldiers held under Israeli captivity. In the past he was successful, however on this occassion; Israel responded with an air offensive and ground invasion. The war continued for 34 days before a UN resolution called for the immediate end to hostilities and disarmament of Hezbollah.
This was Hassan Nasrallah’s first appearance in public since July 12, the beginning of the Israel-Hezbollah war. Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, did not disclose whether the Hezbollah leader would be targeted if he appeared at the rally.
On Thursday, Olmert said in an interview on Israeli television “you think, that if he was, I would tell you – and tell him?”
The news of the rally travelled fast across the Middle-East and rest of the world. Muslims in the west have been closely watching and discussing the rally. It has been televised across all major Arab news programs and has been the paramount headline.
Hezbollah is a recognised “legitimate resistance organisation” in every country, excluding the US, Israel and Canada who identify the group as “terrorist organisation.” In Australia and the UK, only the Hezbollah External Security Organisation is deemed “terrorist organisation,” but the rest of the group’s party is not. Calls to ban it in Australia and UK as a whole have been dismissed by the government as Hezbollah poses “no threat” to security.
Under the Clinton administration, Dennis Ross, the Middle-Eastern envoy has been reluctant to regard Hezbollah as a “terrorist organisation.” He said Hezbollah “is not terrorism and that the US included Hezbollah on its list of terrorist groups for Hezbollah’s past activities, not for its ongoing resistance to Israel.”
The EU especially recognises Hezbollah. The BBC is speculated to be Pro-Hezbollah and Pro-France. New York Times supports Hezbollah claiming its “acceptance as a legitimate political force in Lebanon.” The Guardian in the UK is also criticised for being increasingly Pro-Hezbollah.
80% of Lebanese Christians support Hezbollah and 90% of Lebanese Muslims. Effectively a majority of Arabs and Muslims support the Hezbollah organisation. In numbers; thats is more than Bush, Blair, Harper and Howard’s support put together.
The Arabic community defiantly holds Hezbollah flags and vocalises Hezbollah chants across the west in their demonstrations. The Australian Prime Minister recently said this was “no threat.”