Israeli collaborator Amer al-Fakhoury's return to Lebanon sparks nostalgic memory of leftist resistance

Israeli collaborator Amer al-Fakhoury's return to Lebanon sparks nostalgic memory of leftist resistance
The arrest of the former member of pro-Israel South Lebanon Army militia and senior warden in the notorious SLA-run Khiyam prison sparked anger towards Lebanese authorities for its 'soft treatment'.
5 min read
22 September, 2019
A demonstration denouncing Fakhoury's return and entry outside the Justice Palace in Beirut [Getty]

The arrival of Israeli collaborator Amer al-Fakhoury on September 13 and his subsequent arrest and interrogation by the General Security sparked national controversy and anger towards Lebanese authorities.

In a protest which took place in South Lebanon two days after Fakhoury's arrest, posters saying "the Butcher of Khiyam" were distributed in opposition to what several demonstrators considered "soft treatment".  

The Khiyam Prison, in which Fakhoury was an officer until 1998, was utilised by the Israel-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA) and surrogate militias to detain and torture militants and opponents of the Israeli occupation.

Since 2000, the year in which Israeli occupation forces were pushed out of South Lebanon, a heated multi-dimensional conversation about the fate of collaborators and the nature of resistance has arisen from time to time with relevant controversies.

The past week has witnessed a conversation which took place ranging from discussing definitions of 'treason' and 'resistance' to reminiscing the role of the secular Left in confronting the Israeli occupation of Lebanon.

A political manoeuvre?

While many demand that these militants receive the punishment stated in the law which has provided a mechanism to deal with collaborators residing outside of the country, some leading political forces in the country are said to have different considerations.

On that basis, many local journalists and figures have accused the Free Patriotic Movement, the controversial de-facto ruling right-wing party of President Michel Aoun and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, of facilitating the return of Fakhoury on Lebanese soil.  

Much attention was directed at the silence of Shia Islamist militant group Hezbollah, which has yet to release an official statement.

Although the group has a prolonged history of military confrontations with Israel in the South, it is currently a major ally of the Free Patriotic Movement and an important force behind Aoun's presidency. 

The Memorial of Understanding between the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah states that "both sides are convinced that the presence of Lebanese citizens in their homeland is better than their presence in enemy territory."  

A victim's response  

On September 15, statements made by former leftist militant and Khiyam prisoner Soha Bechara condemned the facilitation of Fakhoury's arrival to Lebanon.

A former member of the Lebanese Communist Party during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, she abandoned her college education to take part in resisting the occupation of Southern Lebanon after 1985.

Bechara was arrested in 1988 after attempting to assassinate SLA head Antoine Lahad in his house in the South. She was later moved to Khiyam imprison in which she suffered solitary confinement and electric shock therapy, measures she described in her autobiography.

Bechara emphasised that certain political considerations in Lebanon have protected the arrival of Israeli agents such as Fakhoury; "he was previously sentenced for 15 years. With time, they considered that these charges no longer apply," she said in an interview with LBCI.

A day later, Bechara explicitly held Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and the Free Patriotic Movement responsible for the past events. "As long as Gebran Bassil is in power and in the Foreign Ministry as a representative of the Free Patriotic Movement, he must hold responsibility for the entrance of an Israeli agent on Lebanese soil," she stressed.

Commenting on the move to absolve Fakhoury, Bechara further insisted that there exists a law and mechanism which is supposed to deal with collaborators and their families when requesting entrance to Lebanon.

"Some [collaborators] were released before completing their sentence," she told The New Arab. "Following the legal mechanism is important to make sure the state is fulfilling and defining its role vis-à-vis the Israeli occupation."

Who gets to be "resistance"?

Bechara's comments and criticisms towards the Lebanese authorities in general and the Free Patriotic Movement in particular lead to a wider debate between right-wing and left-wing activists, journalists and intellectuals.

"There are many concepts we have yet to define," she told The New Arab. "When we are unable to define to the term 'enemy', the term 'resistance' cannot be easily defined either."

Leftist activists, nostalgic for the days of the secular Lebanese National Resistance Front, have been criticising the FPM's double standards and hypocrisy when speaking about patriotism and resistance to occupation.

The conversation erupted on social media particularly after well-known xenophobic pro-FPM journalist Joseph Abu Fadel criticised Bechara's questioning of Bassil's patriotism; "who are you to raise your voice and talk about patriotism?" Abu Fadel emphasised in a tweet that him and his party are the "nerve of the resistance".

Abu Fadel's derogatory comments instigated a heated response from other journalists and critics of FPM. Popular LBCI journalist and TV host Dima Sadek made a public request to all networks not to host him; "you attacked a lady who sacrificed 10 years of her life in solitary confinement to achieve national liberation," she publicly told Abu Fadel.

In the midst of this fierce conversation, many intellectuals referenced the importance of the alliance formed between Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement when assessing how and why these events unfolded.  

"Aoun's followers insist on maintaining their discourse on sovereignty and independence, but they have turned into just another small sectarian project," commented leftist intellectual Elias Khoury in al-Quds al-Araby.

"The noise on social media and the papers leading up to this person's imprisonment exposed the political class' contradictions and makeup, suppressed not to disturb the establishment based on an alliance between FPM and Hezbollah..."

Khoury stressed on the importance on releasing the history of Lebanese resistance against the Israeli occupation from the language of sectarianism.

"The loss of the national [secular] resistance, for reasons which cannot be reduced to suppression, doesn't imply the erasure of our history because it provides a rare attempt to write national history outside the sectarian madhouse driving Lebanon to its doom."

In an attempt to honour a history of victims and national heroes, Soha Bechara told The New Arab that all Lebanese need to demand the authorities not to redefine crucial terms in order to build a state fulfilling its responsibilities towards its people.

Karim Safieddine is a political writer and student living in Lebanon

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