March 14, 2005

"Biggest Ever" Arab Protest

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Once again the forces of democracy turned out in Beirut, this time in record numbers...

There were no official estimates of the crowd size, but Lebanon's leading LBC TV station and some police officers estimated it at about 1 million. An Associated Press estimate put the number at least 800,000. Either way it was the biggest demonstration ever in this country of 3.5 million.

One out of every four Lebanese shows up for this protest today? Amazing.

The question is whether or not the pro-democracy forces will be able to seize back the momentum from the Hezbollah influences that have turned things around with pro-Syria street protests of their own. Claudia Rosett reports from Beruit:

The tragedy would be if the world community, having finally noticed that the totalitarian regime of Syria was desperately unhealthy for Lebanon, should now give a pass to the terrorists of Hezbollah. Having watched the democratic opposition gain momentum for the first three weeks following Hariri's death, Hezbollah leaders last week stole some tactics from the democrats, wrapped themselves for the first time in the Lebanese flag, held a huge rally last Tuesday in Beirut and a smaller one yesterday in southern Lebanon, and are now singing the national anthem while paradoxically parading pictures of President Assad. By the time Hezbollah held its second demonstration, all of five days after its sudden adoption of the Lebanese flag, experts both in Lebanon and abroad were already deep in discussion over whether, as the New York Times put it in an editorial yesterday morning, Hezbollah leader "Sheikh Nasrallah is not above changing his stripes, if it is politically expedient."

Hezbollah's tactics bear a closer resemblance to the manner in which communist front groups once infiltrated democratic organizations than they do to any sudden conversion to democratic ways. At yesterday's Hezbollah rally in the terrorist group's southern stronghold of Nabatiyeh, talk of freedom and independence for Lebanon was framed in such terms as hatred for America; threatening posters aimed at opposition member Gebran Tueni, editor of Lebanon's leading democratic newspaper, and effusive thanks to the Syrian regime for all it has done for the Lebanese people - by which Hezbollah basically means Syria's interest in supporting Hezbollah's attacks on Israel.

Posted by dan at March 14, 2005 10:32 PM