Hezbollah supporters launched a fierce campaign against the Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, and threatened his life after the latter urged a stop to missile launches from the South and called for peace and neutrality in the regional conflicts.
“We can’t accept, by virtue of equality before the law, that a party decides on peace and war outside the legitimacy decision and the national decision entrusted to two-thirds of the members of the government in accordance with Article 65, No. 5 of the Constitution,” the Patriarch stated.
In response, Hezbollah supporters launched their fierce online campaign against the Patriarch.
They used hashtags accusing him of non-neutrality (راعي_الإنحياز) and being the “Patriarch of Zionism” (راعي_الصهاينة), which touches as well the religious community he heads, an estimated 22% of the Lebanese in the country, not counting the expats in the diaspora.
Their defaming and threatening posts swarming social media in Lebanon sparked animosity and anger beyond the Maronite community.
Some of these posts pictured the Patriarch with a noose around his neck. “You don’t think we know how to hang?” a supporter of Hezbollah posted on Facebook in Arabic addressing the Patriarch.
Somehow, to the call for peace to spare a war on Lebanon that it can’t possibly endure with all the crises, the same individual threatened with “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth…The initiator [Patriarch] shall bear the brunt of the blame.”
Some of these posts even sneered at the Patriarch for stating that the Lebanese people are tired of war.
People in Lebanon are, in fact, exhausted with all the crises and the current economic and social disasters sinking the country, let alone adding a war and its consequences on them.
The recent incidents at the south border, initiated by Hezbollah launching missiles into Israel, triggered people’s fear of war since the destruction will inevitably plunge the country to its demise.
Israel responded with missiles and airstrikes, hitting some areas in Southern Lebanon, and threatened to escalate the conflict, holding the Lebanese government responsible.
Patriarch Al Rai called for an end to the missile attacks in order to maintain peace and avoid further worsening the catastrophic status-quo of the country.
Many political figures in Lebanon and abroad are expressing their support to the Patriarch since then, condemning the Hezbollah supporters’ campaign against him, including President Michel Aoun who deemed it unacceptable and against the constitution.
“Freedom of speech is guaranteed in the constitution, and opposing opinions should remain within the political frame, instead of insults,” Aoun stated.
However, that hasn’t been the case for a long time in Lebanon where freedom of opinion has been a right exclusive to some, particularly Hezbollah‘s supporters, and forbidden to others, including all who disagree in a way or another with that party and any of the ruling political party.
In addition to online attacks and defamation by pro-Hezbollah people against the citizens expressing opposing opinions, arrests of civilians by the authorities have been numerous, whether for expressing their frustrations at the untackled crises or for allegedly offending or insulting the president and/or the state.
The now violation of the freedom of opinion of the Maronite Patriarch, a highly respected religious figure in Lebanon with important influence, has revealed the alarming extent of unlawful freedom the authorities are allowing Hezbollah supporters.
That includes threatening lives and civil rights, launching hate campaigns, and causing unrest.
Accordingly, the Independence Movement in Lebanon took it upon itself to track down the social media users of the threatening posts against the Patriarch and has filed a lawsuit against several of them.
The lawsuit includes allegations of threatening local peace and civil rights.