Today, the charismatic leader of Hezbollah had a tough mission ahead of him. He had to explain to the Lebanese people why his party will ignore the STL’s indictment, and as a bonus, to portray this as the reasonable course of action to take.
The format Sayyed Nasrallah chose was a prime-time televised speech in which he presented his defense to the Lebanese, aided by audio-visual material. He chose a calm tone and he was clearly aiming for the hearts and minds of those who are still undecided on the STL. (Full speech in English as translated by Qifa Nabki)
Discrediting the whole process
Sayyed Nasrallah’s main aim was associating the tribunal with America, Israel and March 14. He tried to achieve this by doing the following:
- Accusing Israel of tampering with electronic evidence. 97 Personal computers used by the investigating team, he claimed pointing to an “Israeli customs document”, left Lebanon through Israel instead of taking the regular channels like the airport and harbors
- Accusing STL investigators, prosecutors and consultants of being corrupt, of being receptive to bribery by great nations and billionaires with agendas. He demonstrated this by displaying a grainy footage of what appears to be Detlev Mehlis’ number 2 receiving a bribe
- Discrediting STL consultants and Judge Cassesi himself of being CIA agents, Hezbollah haters and “friends of Israel”. He tried to achieve this by highlighting individuals who appear to have conflicts of interests in this process
- Pointing out the improbable coincidences between STL leaks and March 14 political expediencies and needs. He cited leaks that conveniently happened before elections and March 14 marches.
So why not present these evidences to the tribunal itself?
Sayyed Nasrallah argues that the STL is predisposed (by the choice of people in it) to be against his party, and that submitting to its legitimacy would be a preposterous act of naiveté. He said that the entire process is a plan that was concocted specifically to get rid of the resistance. He brings up the case of Jamil el Sayyed, the Lebanese General who was jailed for 4 years by and then released with no evidence and no recourse to fair judicial compensation.
Did the Lebanese buy his arguments?
I would be delusional if I wrote that the Lebanese will immediately see through Sayyed Nasrallah’s presentation. After all, his logic is appealing to many who are predisposed to believe conspiracies and macabre Israeli agendas. Notwithstanding western propaganda, the man himself is likable and appears reasonable and genuinely interested in avoiding strife between the Sunnis and Shiaas in Lebanon.
The flies in the Sayyed’s ointment
There’s a problem however. His “evidence” is more show than substance. Consider for instance the 97 computers he said exited Lebanon through Israel. I will assume for a moment that the Israeli document that he displayed was genuine (Update: It’s not. According to Annahar, the document in question does not belong to the STL investigation but to the UNTSO, another UN body). The real question is: Who cares about the computers? The entire data of the investigation, the stuff that really matters, can fit in no more than a few DVDs, copies of which would have probably existed in different locations. Even if the Israelis did tamper with the computers, the data redundancy would have immediately revealed the tampering and exposed the Israelis. Are the Israelis so dumb to take such a risk?
The grainy footage of a man taking money doesn’t mean anything. He could be simply being paid expenses, or his salary, or even checking out some evidence in the form of fake money. Where is the proof that he is being bribed?
Judge Cassesi’s friend told a Jewish conference that Mr. Cassesi is a “friend of Israel”. How does that incriminate Cassesi himself? His friend was excusing the judge’s absence from the conference, an absence that was probably designed to prevent the very conflict of interest he is now being accused of.
In other words, Sayyed Nasrallah’s defense would not be satisfactory in any court of justice worth its salt. Mr. Nasrallah chose the easy court: The court of Lebanese public opinion that is easily impressionable and forgiving.
That whole conspiracy thing
What does Sayyed Nasrallah wants us to believe? He wants us to believe that Israel, a few years ago, prepared a master plan to kill Rafik al Hariri, Samir Kassir, Gebran Tueni, Walid Eido, George Hawi, George Ghanem, Pierre Gemayel and dozens of Lebanese, all figures who are political enemies of Syria and Hezbollah. It has brilliantly achieved this without being caught by the Syrians, the Lebanese state or Hezbollah.
After that, Israel fabricated an entire legal process, staffed it with thousands of professionals from many countries, and then rigged the whole thing to slant it against Hezbollah, the enemy it could not beat on the field.
I will hang on to the Tribunal and I will dismiss Sayyed Nasrallah’s explanation for one reason only: There must be a more simple answer to the question: Who killed Rafik al Hariri and the other martyrs..