Lebanese Mock Hezbollah Chief’s U.S. Boycott

In this Aug. 2, 2013, file photo, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah gestures during a rally to mark Jerusalem day or Al-Quds day, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, categorically denied accusations that his group is sending weapons to …
AP/Hussein Malla

Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iran-backed Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah, on Sunday called for a boycott of American goods to protest President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan.

Lebanese citizens spent the next few days mocking Nasrallah online by pointing out how much Hezbollah relies on American goods and the U.S. dollar.

“Why are we not resorting to boycotting American products? This is part of the battle. If we do not want to boycott all goods, we choose some companies, and this is a form of confrontation,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Sunday.

“The Israeli is afraid of death while the American’s weakness is his security and economy,” he added.

Nasrallah’s speech, presented as a commemoration of slain Hezbollah members and the late Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, included strident demands for Lebanese to support the government. 

Massive protests have rocked Lebanon since October, forcing the resignation of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and threatening Hezbollah’s grip on power. The appointment of new Prime Minister Hassan Diab has not mollified the protesters, prompting many observers to label the new Lebanese administration as dead on arrival. Demonstrators continue denouncing the Lebanese political elite, rampant corruption, and the influence of Iran through its proxies in Hezbollah.

The Jerusalem Post last week quoted Lebanese activists who said Hezbollah has lost its appeal as a “resistance” movement against supposed Israeli domination because Lebanese are more worried about their crumbling economy and collapsing government than they are about Israel or the Palestinians.

As one anti-government Lebanese protester told the Jerusalem Post, “We don’t trust Hezbollah, as it’s a partner of the current political game. They manipulated us.”

Nasrallah attempted to push back against these criticisms in his Sunday speech by insisting the new Hezbollah-backed government in Beirut deserves applause for its courage, rather than condemnation before it has a chance to accomplish anything.

“We must laud the government’s PM and ministers for their courage to shoulder responsibility, because we will face difficult and sensitive circumstances. The situation is very difficult and I call for separating the financial and economic file from the political conflict in the country and leaving aside the settling of scores,” he said.

Nasrallah claimed, “This is not Hezbollah’s government, although Hezbollah backs it and wants it to succeed.” He accused those who “call for despair” of “committing national treason.”

Sarcastic responses to Nasrallah’s speech began within hours of its delivery. Iraq-Lebanese columnist Hussain Abdul-Hussain said Nasrallah’s call for a boycott of U.S. goods, ostensibly on behalf of the Palestinians, was utterly out of touch with the concerns of most Lebanese.

“This shows how dangerously delusional Iran and its militias are. Here, Hezbollah’s Nasrallah calls on Lebanon to boycott U.S. products. He doesn’t understand that an economy in free fall, like Lebanon, cannot exert boycotts [or] economic pressure on anyone, let alone America,” Abdul-Hussain said on Twitter.

Online sarcasm flourished on Monday and Tuesday, with Lebanese critics of Nasrallah pointing out that his own son has been photographed wearing American clothes.

Al-Arabiya described and contextualized some other bits of online pushback:

Dima Sadek, a Shia Lebanese journalist, shared a meme depicting cartoon character Tom from “Tom and Jerry” as a neighborhood spy speaking in a dialect from southern Lebanon, an area that is predominately Shia. He’s talking about someone named Abbas, a common Shia name. He says, “Peace be upon you Hajj, Abbas is smoking Marlboro.”

Twitter user Ma3lick’s Wrist responded to the call for boycott with several questions. “What about all the payment in US dollar? Is that halal? Why don’t they use the Iranian currency?”

Cynthia Karam, Lebanese Twitter user, sarcastically wrote in Arabic “If I see any Hezbollah member carrying an iPhone, I will complain about him to Nasrallah.”

Hezbollah unveiled a huge statue of Soleimani along the border with Israel on Saturday, depicting the Iranian terror master standing next to a Palestinian flag and pointing at Israel to signify the determination of Hezbollah and Iran to “liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation,” as Middle East Monitor put it. The “statue” was promptly mocked by Lebanese who said it appeared to be made out of cardboard.

As Middle East Monitor pointed out, Lebanese protesters are unlikely to be thrilled by Hezbollah’s message that it wants to drag Lebanon into a war with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

The National Interest on Monday saw Nasrallah and Hezbollah as clearly on the defensive, desperately trying to protect their wealth and political influence against a remarkably broad-based protest movement. The steady erosion of Hezbollah influence that began when the group collaborated with Iranian client Syria to assassinate Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has accelerated despite Nasrallah’s efforts to distract the public by railing against U.S. and Israeli conspiracies, while Hezbollah’s habit of using violence against protesters certainly is not endearing it to the restless Lebanese public.

Rafik Hariri’s son Saad, incidentally, did not depart from Lebanese political life when he resigned as prime minister. Saad Hariri gave his own major public address on Friday, the first since his resignation on October 29 and the 15th anniversary of his father’s assassination, vowing to remain active in his Future Movement party and defending “Haririism” against what he saw as unfair efforts to scapegoat his family’s political philosophy for the failures of a corrupt elite.

“Iran’s cash can solve the problems of a party, not of a country,” Hariri said in a swipe at his Iran-backed political adversaries.

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