The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Wondering about Hizbullah

Earlier today I put a post that a very critical of Hizbullah -- too critical, I thought after some well thought-out comments from friends -- and I decided to pull it down.

I find the current frustration incredibly frustrating, partly because of the never-ending despair of the situation in Palestine, but also because of a fundamental ambivalence I have about the policies pursued by Islamist groups in the region. Hizbullah, like Hamas, was born as a resistance organization. It successfully fought a war of attrition against the Israeli occupation, and caused them to eventually move out. For this, it has been cheered throughout the region because it appeared to have struck a blow for an Arab cause after a seemingly never-ending string of defeats. It helped restore some dignity to what, from an Arab perspective, is a humiliating situation. And it put a lot of people like me (nominally Sunni secularists) in a position of admiring a fundamentalist Shia group.

My first instinct after I saw this morning that Hizbullah had conducted a raid on Israel's northern border was to think, shit, the Israelis are going to bomb Lebanon like they're bombing Gaza. And, sure enough, the bombing started. My reaction was anger at Hizbullah for provoking Israel to do this -- which clearly it has wanted to do for a while -- and dragging the rest of Lebanon into a mess. I don't really see the point of the raid beyond a symbolic gesture of support for the Palestinians -- which, fair enough, considering the icy silence or hypocritical posturing of most Arab governments, is a welcome change. I don't think this will either distract Israel from Gaza (it's quite capable of waging war on two fronts) nor do I think it's a clever form of asymmetric warfare. I doubt Israel will release any prisoners because of it.

Maybe I'm wrong. Israel doesn't even need excuses anymore to do what it wants. Maybe signs of resistance will make it think twice about its policy. Yet, in the current situation of David vs. Goliath, I don't think that symbolic operations accomplish much beyond allow Israel to kill more people. The lack of balance of power in the region and the refusal of Western states, especially the US, to moderate Israel's winner-takes-all attitude makes me think that when I'm 80 (if I live that long!) this region will still be in the same mess. In the meantime, a steady trickle of people will die. It's a depressing thought.