On August 4, 2020, the world watched in horror as videos from the Port of Beirut blast flooded the internet. We watched 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate destroy Beirut, rendering parts of the already devastated city to rubble.
For one year, we’ve also watched politicians evade responsibility for the illegal storage of ammonium nitrate. The reality that most people, especially the Lebanese, have come to accept is that justice is extremely unlikely.
There can be no justice for these crimes so long as those who committed them are the so-called justice seekers. A year after the explosion that took the lives of nearly 220 people, injured thousands, and left hundreds of thousands homeless, every action aimed at delivering justice to the victims and their families has failed.
When Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri makes repeated statements on ensuring accountability for those responsible, does he look to members of his own Hezbollah-aligned Amal party? Or does he abuse the constitutional articles that grant immunity, merely to escape accountability? Unfortunately, he does the latter.
The state of Lebanon is one of misery. In what was once the jewel of the Middle East, more than 60 percent of the population is now living in poverty, 80 percent are food insecure, and the value of the Lebanese Pound has fallen by 95 percent in the past two years. To add insult to injury, the United Nations recently warned that water supply systems are on the verge of collapse. In most of the country, the government is only supplying two to three hours of electricity per day, and oil and petrol resources are scarce.
This is the short-term impact of the political and economic crisis. The long-term effects are far more severe. Due to rising costs, children are unable to attend schools or receive proper medical care, such as vaccines. Unless addressed immediately, Lebanon will lose its top export—human capital.
The Lebanese are no longer revered for their Tyrian purple dye, but for their educated workforce. Not long ago, the Lebanese middle class lived in relative comfort. Today, a middle class simply does not exist. This once-broad middle class constituted most of the aforementioned educated workforce, and they are now leaving the country in staggering numbers because they cannot feed themselves or their families. Should the severity of the crisis continue, Lebanon will join Syria in having a lost generation of youth.
While it is instinctive to blame regional conflicts, the Lebanese Civil War, and the rampant corruption of the Lebanese government for the country’s situation, Hezbollah is arguably the most culpable for these disasters.
No country in the world is immune to conflict or war. However, very few countries are held hostage by a terrorist army with a quasi-government apparatus. Very few counties have such populations, with one-third pledging allegiance to a theocratic tyrant a thousand miles away.
For an organization that claims to serve the Lebanese people, Hezbollah has destroyed the very essence of Lebanese society, governing apparatus, and identity. A country once known for its prosperity, generosity, and grace is now begging for resources to feed its people.
As Israel sets to open the Gulf Port of Haifa in September of 2021, the Port of Beirut lays in ruins because of Hezbollah’s illicit activities. Instead of utilizing the Port to its fullest capacity while it was intact, Speaker Berri and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah dominated the Port for decades to conduct their narcotics and arms operation. This, in turn, led to highly explosive material being stored in the Port for seven years with no regulation.
Looking ahead, President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati must deliver on their promise of quick government formation. For many months, Lebanon has been on the brink of state failure, and this is the last call for the country to clean up its act.
The international community has made it abundantly clear that aid is contingent on reform. The government should have reformed after the 1990 Taif Accord, which pieced Lebanon back together following the tragic 15-year civil war. However, until lasting political and economic reforms are enacted, support for the Lebanese Armed Forces must continue to be a priority.
Congressman Ted Deutch (D- FL), chair of the Middle East Subcommittee, noted at a hearing on Thursday morning that the Lebanese Armed Forces are a trusted partner. “Despite its deficiencies, the Lebanese Armed Forces remains vitally important counterweight to Hezbollah,” he said in his opening remarks.
As we commemorate the hundreds of victims of Hezbollah’s crimes against humanity, let us also remember the millions it is slowly killing.