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Hizb Allah, Party of God
Posted on Oct 3, 2006
By Nir Rosen
And unlike many of his counterparts in Iraq, Nasrallah is ingenuously urging a course of national unity in Lebanon. During his Sept. 22 speech, he went out of his way to use the rhetoric of Lebanese nationalism while condemning sectarianism. In previous speeches Nasrallah had declared that he was fighting for the umma, the world Muslim community, which is vastly Sunni. He charmed the Lebanese in a recent television interview when he looked his female interviewer in the eyes, allowed her to interrupt him and smiled with her, practically flirting. His posters can be found in Iraq, Palestine, Egypt; his name is spoken with pride in Saudi Arabia. In Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, I recently saw shops named in his honor, and heard a local cleric compare the conflict the cleric’s Islamic court militias were facing with Ethiopia and U.S.-backed warlords to Hizballah’s conflict with the American-supported Israelis.
The details of that conflict are instructive, because in it I again saw the tragic error inherent in the Bush administration’s policy of viewing the entire Muslim world through the “war on terror” prism, rather than judging each conflict on its own. In Somalia, it is widely believed that the CIA is funding a slew of unpopular and criminal warlords against a popular Islamic militia movement (which the CIA neither confirms nor denies, of course). This suspected U.S. support comes despite the fact that most analysts believe the militias are not harboring any significant terrorists nor are they likely to set up a Taliban-style regime in the country. As a result, the perception in Somalia is that the U.S. has allied itself with warlords who are terrorizing the populace in an attempt to stamp out a popular Islamic uprising.
It is this same distorting war-on-terror prism that has led the Bush administration to view resistance fighters in Iraq as mere terrorists—as opposed to elements of a popular movement made up of Sunnis and Shias with real grievances against an oppressive and increasingly onerous occupation. As a result, the inhabitants of entire towns and provinces have been branded as terrorists and “anti-Iraqi forces”—and treated as such. When I was visiting Falluja in the spring of 2004 it was clear that the vast majority of the defenders of that city were locals who believed they were fighting in self-defense against a foe that sought to destroy their city and oppress them. They were nationalists, fighting against foreign occupation. Their city of 300,000 was virtually destroyed—turned into the proverbial parking lot. Falluja became legendary in the Muslim world for its resistance to occupation and for its martyrs—much like the people of south Lebanese villages such as Aita al Shaab, who boast of their willingness to die for their ideals and of their sumud, or steadfastness.
During his Sept. 22 speech Nasrallah paid tribute to their sumud, but he also spoke of national unity, insisting that the resistance had prevented civil war from recurring in Lebanon. He called for the Lebanese state to become strong, just, capable and free of corruption. When the state became able to protect Lebanon, the resistance would give up its weapons, he promised. Hizballah was not a totalitarian movement, he insisted, and he was not a ruler—nor would his sons be.
Square, Site wide
Support for Hizballah transcends economic class divides and the divide between religious and secular Shias. Hizballah is one of the few movements in Lebanon addressing substantive issues that transcend sectarian identity—issues like corruption, social justice, rejection of America’s new Middle East project, resistance to Israeli occupation, and support for the oppressed Palestinians.
Hizballah now has strong allies and supporters among most of Lebanon’s Christians (who make up some 40% of the population); it also enjoys the support of most of the 400,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanese camps. Indeed, the war has only increased Hizballah’s supporters. I spoke to Sheikh Maher Hamoud, a powerful Sunni leader in Sidon, who told me that although he had objected to many of Hizballah’s positions before the war, he had supported them during the war and had no disagreements with them now. Hizballah’s victory was a victory for Lebanon, Arabs and all Muslims, he said, adding that “our pride was restored.” I spoke to Joseph Moukarzel, owner of the newspaper Addabour, and a leading organizer of the March 14 movement that was Hizballah’s main opponent in Lebanon. “I was for taking Hizballah’s weapons before the war, and I still am,” he told me, “but in the war I had two choices, to be with Hizballah or to be with Israel. I chose Hizballah. Hizballah was David and Israel was Goliath.”
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