Building dissent

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a professor at Beirut’s Lebanese Arab University, got in a good sound bite in the New York Times today. Denying that Hizballah is a state within a state, she characterized the organization instead as “a state within a non-state.�

The piece reports on Hizballah’s rebuilding activities in the south, casting it as some kind of Iranian outreach program. Saad-Ghorayeb provides some balance, noting that Hezballah’s message is “We’re going to reconstruct. This has happened before. We will deliver,� but signally fails to note the content of her comment: that it has happened before, and that Hizballah did deliver (during and after the IDF / SLA’s occupation of the south).

Hizballah’s political organization is built on the provision of services (from schools to clinics to national defense) that were either not there in the first place or that the IAF and the IDF destroyed and that the Lebanese government failed to replace, and from this flows the political weight and staying power that no short term “torrent of money from oil-rich Iran� (as some NYT editor put it) could buy.

This has direct relevance to Maria Golia’s piece below on “new formulas for peaceful dissent.�

Large-scale peaceful protests aren’t going to happen spontaneously. Small demos may be an important showcase for state brutality, but they do not in themselves seem to be leading to anything bigger.

Providing services, however, is one way forward. Filling in as and where the state crumbles into non-state by providing clean water or a clinic or whatever (there is no shortage of areas in which this state fails its citizens), means developing administrative and communication capacity and building credibility and legitimacy. It also means building a constituency and opening up the kinds of opportunities to mobilize and to educate that will be required if the current demos are not only to grow, but to grow without becoming mobs.