Hezbollah leader and reclusive former socialite Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah made a shrewd return to the public eye this week at the launch party for the new Hezbollah manifesto, dubbed Hezbofest 2009.
Sheikh Nasrallah, who was recently re-elected to a sixth term as Hezbollah secretary general from an undisclosed bunker where he's been hiding since the 2006 war with Israel, dropped a bomb--no, no, figuratively speaking--when he announced that "People evolve, Lebanon has changed. The whole world order changed over the past 24 years [since Hezbollah's first manifesto was proclaimed in 1985]."
By engaging in one of Lebanon's most cherished national pastimes--public manifesto reading--Sheikh Nasrallah demonstrated that he is serious about a live-and-let-live political policy that, for example, no longer seeks to subject the country's large Christian and Sunni-Muslim populations to a Shi'ite theocratic republic.
He offered assurances that Hezbollah will continue supporting parliamentary democracy in Lebanon and has no immediate plans to use its massive arsenal of Iranian weapons to destabilize the country.
Hezbollah's original manifesto, proclaimed on February 16, 1985 from the al-Ouzai mosque in suburban Beirut, was a standard, Mad-Lib style document of contemporary political zeitgeist urging perpetual armed resistance to everything and everyone in the name of God and high-yield returns on weapons smuggling and money laundering.
The new document is softer, happier and less Persian. While still affirming the group's self-proclaimed inalienable right to shit on Israel, the new Hezbofest calls for a new era of inclusivity and tolerance within Lebanese borders: consensual democracy, the end of sectarianism, rights for Palestinian refugees, freedom for all under the protective umbrella of Hezbollah's surface-to-surface missiles.
Or, as the Sheikh himself put it nicely, "cohabitation between a strong [Lebanese] army and popular [armed Hezbollah] resistance."
So the new Hezbollah is a check-and-balance on the system. How delightfully Jeffersonian!
[Read the entire Hezbollah manifesto, translated into English by Hezbollah media itself!]