When the Christmas and New Year holidays come, Hezbollah intends to dole out 1,000 food rations, alongside blankets, to Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
According to a reliable source within the party, the decision to carry out this plan — which shall be officially announced in few days — was personally taken by the party’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. Imdad Charity Association, which operates under the auspices of the party, will shell out these rations, each valued at $50, to Syrian refugees in Beirut, the West Bekaa valley and the south.
This initiative is not the first of its kind. During the holy month of Ramadan, Hezbollah distributed food packages to Syrian refugees in Beirut and the South, and the same scenario was repeated during the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
On a deeper level, these initiatives reflect the need for Hezbollah to respond to media campaigns accusing the party of opposing the “popular movement” in Syria, and their need to play a political and logistical part in the regime’s quelling of the momentum for change, not solely through speeches but practically, on the ground, as well.
The more the calamities skyrocket on the Syrian scene, the more Hezbollah feels morally pressured, as a result of its stance towards the crisis.
This fact has led to an internal dialogue within the party aiming at coming up with practical ideas to balance between Hezbollah’s pro-regime political standpoint and its moral position that necessitates showing compassion towards the struggle of the Syrian people.
The dialogue showed the difficulty of overcoming the hindrances standing in the way of finding a solution that can fill the gap of inconsistency between the two poles of this paradox. When the crisis first erupted in Syria, Hassan Nasrallah reached out in vain to mediate between opposing prominent figures and President Bashar Al-Assad. The hidden goals behind taking such a move were to give the impression that Hezbollah stands in the “middle” and desires to reach a political settlement that strikes a balance between the people’s aspirations for change and the necessity of preserving a regime that resists Israel. However, Nasrallah’s vision intending to preserve the moral image of the party as well as its political position failed to find shelter within the harsh facts of the Syrian conflict.
Hezbollah realizes that its current initiative to aid displaced Syrians will not erase moral concerns held by both Syrians and Gulf Arabs as a result of its support for the Syrian regime. Nonetheless, Hezbollah holds out hope that the initiative will contribute to lessening the outrage against it from the part of Syrians taking refuge in territories that fall under the party’s influence. The fear is that a significant demographic part of anti-regime refugees lives in Beirut, south Lebanon and the West Bekaa Valley, and is being lured by the party’s rivals to get involved in yet-to-come intercommunal military fights that bring to mind the participation of Palestinian refugees in the Lebanese civil war.
Some calamities that took place recently had hints that a repeat of this scenario is looming on the horizon, such as the violent conflicts in Tripoli and Beirut, in which anti-Hezbollah Syrian fighters took part alongside Lebanese parties.
It is expected that the number of displaced Syrians spread across the country will reach 300,000 refugees by next year, which greatly concerns Hezbollah. As a result, the party has to put up with a new population harboring hatred towards it. The expected prolonged stay of those refugees in Lebanon, given the vicious cycle of political settlement in Syria, adds fuels to the fire of concern. Hezbollah fears this groups will become an integral part of the internal Lebanese conflict, which will not change the balance of local military power in favor of Hezbollah.
Nasser Chararah is head of the Lebanese Institute for Studies and Publications, writer for multiple Arab newspapers and magazines, author of several books on Hezbollah-Israeli Conflict, and has worked for the Palestinian Research Center.