The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

More on the Hizbollah debate...

As long as there is occupied Arab land, Hizbollah has the right to continue fighting Israel. What is good about Hizbollah is that they have limited their attacks to Israeli military targets. And, they’ve been successful. The group, since its establishment following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, have fought a successful guerilla campaign against the Israeli occupation, which managed to bring finally a humiliating retreat by Israeli troops, with an even more disorganized flight of their proxy SLA agents.

Hizbollah, a Shiite based group and sure has its agenda in Lebanon’s sectarian matrix, has acted to its credit in a largely responsible way vis a vis other sects. The party worked hard to portray itself as a “national� party, and thus limited its military operations to the Israeli occupation troops, hoping, and at times indeed winning, the support outside their sect in Lebanon, mainly among Sunnis, but more importantly had a wider support in the Arab World—a Sunni dominated region, with a clear dislike for Shiites in general.

But “praising� Hizbollah depends on the political context. If Hizbollah is fighting the Israeli army, demanding the release of the detainees, or fighting to liberate Sheb3a, then I’m on Hizbollah’s side. If Hizbollah members go around enforcing moral codes on population under their control, then I’m with that population against Hizbollah.

On another note, for someone who wants to see change in Egypt, the logic is very simple: We have an autocratic regime that is clearly unwilling to democratize. The Arab regimes, royal or republican, may be warring brothers, but still brothers at the end of the day. And it’s become a law of history, that when change happens it is inevitable that with the domino effect would spread to other places. The radicalization, or at least the current politicization in the Arab world is moving rapidly thanks to the communications revolution. If change happens in one Arab country, it is highly likely to be copied by others. We have other examples of the domino effect in the Central Asian revolutions, the Eastern European revolutions. If the current political system in Egypt is changed, as the biggest Arab country it’s likely to have a great impact on the region.

It’s clear also however that the program of the change movement is contradicting with the US agenda in the region. When it comes to the Middle East, the US' main interests are oil and the security of Israel. The US sponsors the Arab governments. It’s true the latter are an embarrassment sometimes, it’s true they breed terrorists, but they can keep stability, and secure Israel's existence, the US thinks. Very short sighted, as always. And despite brief flirting with the idea of “democratizing� the region, it’s clear the US has turned it’s back on that rhetoric, following the Islamist electoral successes in Egypt and Palestine, and in the absence of the nice pro-western liberal suits the Americans conceive “democracy� to be. These liberals are around, but they are weak, and clearly do not have presence in the “street.�

Though I'm secular, I’m not paranoid of all Islamist groups in the region. They can’t be all put in the same basket. There are clear variations and there are groups that secular activists seeking change could reach out to. One of them is the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which is clearly despite the talk about the iron grip in organizational structures, is full of different tendencies, including youth who joined the MB for working in politics, other than enforcing an austere social customs of Islam. There are at least common grounds both secularists and Islamists could work on, including stopping police brutality, and making sure there are no government rigging of votes in elections. Part of the spread of torture in the Arab world at this current stage is the silence (and sometimes cheering) of leftists towards the torture happening to Islamist terror suspects in the 1990s. Well, what we got ourselves at the end of the day, are mammoth security apparatuses which have become accustomed to nothing but torture and mistreatment of civilian populations, and political groups of all spectra.

It may sound strange that I started this posting talking about Hizbollah, but then I ended up speaking about Egypt. This may sound as confusion of ideas for some people, but for me, it is because all political projects of change in the region are, and have always been, linked organically.

On a final note, these are just remarks, not an academic paper, which I hope can start a debate in a more calm manner about the state of change in our region. I would like to apologize to the readers who were offended by my or Issandr’s strong language in the previous postings. Indeed it was a mistake to write and rant about what’s happening while we were still in a state of provocation.