Hizbullah Victorious Again
To get a sense of how Hizbullah is emerging after their most recent defense against the Israeli army (what most people in the region seem to be cleary seeing as a victory), check out this interesting article in todays New York Times.
It is hard for most people in the US, even the most conscious left activists, to break out of their internalized anti-arab, anti-muslim, hysteria and see the importance of the recent developments in Lebanon. Hizbullah has proved to indeed be the last remaining resistance force in the Middle East, the most strategically important region in the entire world, that is able to stand up to US/Israeli imperialism. In the face of a silent international community, a long row of Arab puppet regimes falling over themselves to get in line with the US response, and a (as usual) paralyzed UN, Hizbullah was the only group standing in the way of the oncoming Israeli tanks and US "precision guided" missles heading towards civilian targets throughout Lebanon.
While Israel, with as always full US support, moved in to occupy and destroy much of Southern Lebanon over this past month, most progressives were paralyzed and did not know how to respond. Some decided it would be useful to write essays on how Hizbullah represented a "right-wing" force. While making some important points (Hizbullah is in fact not a "left wing" force and holds many values that would contradict our notions of equality and social justice, duh!), these critiques seemed a little out of touch and somewhat cold and calculated in the face of what was actually going on in Lebanon at the time.
Other anarchist activists I happened to be on a discussion list with forwarded bizarre statements like this one from England, which basically wanted to "call out the left for supporting Hizbullah", a claim which is so ridiculous it is hard to know where to start. From what i saw pretty much everyone, from the new york times to progressive zionists, to liberal anti-war coalitions, were pointing out how somehow Hizbullah started this "conflict" by kidnapping two Israeli soldiers and that people needed to be clear on that as they went out to protest the "disproportionate reaction."
Now it is true that my perspective is heavily influenced by the fact that several of my political mentors happen to be long time Lebanese activists, including Bilal El-Amine who has been couragously reporting from the front lines in Southern Lebanon over the past few weeks on Flashpoints Radio every weeknight. I heard first hand what it was like for their family to go through this horrifc past month. What is was like to get their sick elderly father airlifted out of Lebanon, their aunt staying behind because she did not have the will to move out of her home yet again at her age. You could hear in Bilal's voice, as he reported every night, what the Hizbullah resistance meant to him and the majority of the Lebanese people. Where as usually, as a local media activist in Lebanon, he would be dealing with all of the problems that they presented as a political movement, now he saw that they were the only ones to defend the country and could appreciate their heroic resistance against great odds.
Now does this mean that we go and hang our green and yellow Hizbullah flags out of our Lower East Side apartments? No, i dont think so. It simply means that we have to work harder to understand the complexities of resistance to foreign occupation forces (whether in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq...) and to have the decency to not dictate the politics or terms of those forces from behind our computer screens as we sit on our IKEA couches.
Political Islam emerged in the Middle East through a complicated process that was very different then for example the Nazi facists in Europe or the Christian fascists here in the US. Trying to impose our analysis of how those movements grew and our opposition to those movements onto a region like the Middle East will fundamentally be flawed. We have to understand the role of US intervention in the suppression of secular democratic and left forces in the region, and what that means for our political movements right now.
In the meantime, for more background reading check out the following interviews with Gilbert Achcar:
Besides this older interview with Achcar back in 2000, check out the recent one hour radio interview he recently did on Against the Grain together with Lara Deeb who recently authored an informative primer on Hizbullah on MERIP's website.