A floating symbol of failure

Hopefully, Lebanon will stop the 'Mariam.'

Gaza Sunset 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Gaza Sunset 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Samar Alhaj, a Lebanese lawyer and female activist with ties to Hizbullah, proposes transforming women into “the new secret weapon” against Israel.
That’s why, says Alhaj, the ship Mariam – named after the Virgin Mary – which is slated to set sail from Lebanon to challenge Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza, is making room for ladies only.
“We are [all] women in order not to give the thieving enemy [Israel] an excuse to use arms against the ship,” Alhaj told a local Israeli Arab-language radio station at the weekend. “The [Zionist] entity…will be defeated by women that will come on the boat…We don’t have Scud missiles or any other missiles and you will see what they will do to us.”
UNITED BY their hatred for Israel, Sunni, Shi’ite and Christian women from Lebanon, the US, France, Britain, Japan, Kuwait and Egypt hope to present a particularly thorny challenge to Israel’s predominantly male naval force, who will have to contend with a boat full of “the gentler sex” on the open sea resolved to force their way into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Alhaj and her colleagues know that video footage of almost any rough physical contact between IDF forces and the women would cause further enormous damage to Israel’s already much-battered image.
Though it has the trappings of a feminist endeavor, this new flotilla could not be farther removed from the egalitarian ideals of feminism. According to the Guardian, the organizers, which include Hizbullah, rejected a request by Haifa Wehbe, a Miss Lebanon runner- up and popular singer, to join. Wehbe’s “nudity, degradation and immodest dress” would “damage the reputations of all Arab and European women on board,” Hizbullah sources reportedly said.
For those uninitiated into a culture of honor killings and face veils, it is not immediately clear how Wehbe’s participation could damage the reputations of her fellow sea-goers. But apparently, for Hizbullah, even Israelbashing takes a backseat to misogynistic religious extremism.
PERHAPS THE banning of Wehbe also has something to do with the cover song of her popular album Baddi Eesh [I want to Live], released after the assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, which is about “freedom, considered to be the most basic of human rights,” according to an explanation provided online.
Wehbe’s song was a reflection of the hopes of the hundreds of thousands (perhaps over a million) of Lebanese who took to the streets in protest against Syria’s stranglehold on Lebanon through its security forces and through Hizbullah, its Iranian-backed proxy.
Known as the Cedar Revolution, the spontaneous grassroots uprising led to the resignation of Omar Karami’s pro-Syrian government and Syria’s effective withdrawal from Lebanon in April 2005, just two months after Hariri’s assassination, which, it was said, was perpetrated by Syria. It seemed for a short time that Lebanon would be the first Arab country in the Middle East to embrace a liberal democracy.
But the freedom from Syria’s influence was short-lived.
In the wake of the Second Lebanon War, Hizbullah has reasserted its control. Wehbe, in Lebanon’s best political tradition of knowing when to change sides, has publicly praised Hizbullah for protecting Lebanon from Israel’s aggression.
It should come as no surprise that Alhaj, who is cynically exploiting female vulnerability to delegitimize Israel, has ties to Hizbullah. Her husband was one of four high-ranking military figures arrested under suspicion of involvement in the assassination of Hariri. After being jailed for four years, he was released due to a lack of evidence.
On May 22 the Alhajs – husband and wife – met with Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who has recently called on Lebanese to break Israel’s blockade by sending flotillas to Gaza.
Lebanon might still prevent the Mariam from attempting to break the Gaza blockade. The Arab daily Al-Hayat quoted Lebanese sources at the weekend who said it was illegal for a vessel leaving Lebanon to dock in an Israelicontrolled port.
Hopefully, Lebanese officials will regain their senses and stop the ship. Then the very idea of dispatching the Mariam will merely remain another symptom of the tragic failure of Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution.