30 May 2008

the truth behind Hizbullah’s weapons

Posted in Comment tagged , , at 12:17 pm by lilithhope

Forget everything that you’ve heard. In an epiphany, I have realized why Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is so reluctanct to relinquesh Hizbullah’s weapons: doing so would entail the truly revolutionary act of changing Hizbullah’s icon, the kashlinikov-clutching alif (Arabic letter “a”) of “Allah” on its flag.

It is kind of difficult to imagine an equally-powerful symbol that could replace that image… A hand weilding an olive branch? Too predictable. A pair of hands with a dove taking flight from them? Too soppy.

They could get rid of the hand completely and just leave the alif but that would probably send very negative images about hands being chopped off in retaliation or punishment… So the hand has to stay. It could remain empty, in a closed fist, but that would be too reminiscient of ‘black power’. If it were unclenched, open-palmed, that would be replicating the symbol of Zimbabwe’s MDC.

So really, when you thinkabout it, all the good hand-images have been claimed already. And apart from merely imprinting a “void” stamp over the gun, Hizb really don’t have much choice but to keep the symbol and the weapons it represents. Poor blokes.

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Hizbullah’s existential dilemna

Posted in Comment, Lebanon Diaries tagged , , at 11:27 am by lilithhope

Nasrallah’s speech only reaffirmed that Hizbullah cannot find an exit to its existential dilemma, other than to coerce its hostile countrymen into accepting its armed mini-state. Very simply, the days of the national resistance are over. The liberation of the Shebaa Farms does not justify Hizbullah’s existence as a parallel force to the army, and it does not justify initiating a new war with Israel. After all, the Syrians have a much larger territory under occupation and have preferred negotiations to conflict in order to win it back […]

Nasrallah has started peddling what he thinks Lebanon’s defense strategy should be. Hizbullah’s model is the summer 2006 war, he explained this week. But if the defense strategy Hizbullah wants us to adopt is one that hands Israel an excuse to kill over 1,200 people, turn almost 1 million civilians out into the streets for weeks on end while their villages are bombed and their fields are saturated with fragmentation bomblets; if Nasrallah’s strategy is one that will lead to the destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure, the ruin of its economy, the emigration of its youths, the isolation of the Shiites in a society infuriated with Hizbullah’s pursuit of lasting conflict; if that’s his defense strategy, then Nasrallah needs to get out of his bunker more and see what is really going on in Lebanon […]

Nasrallah has a problem. Most Lebanese want a real state and most Shiites don’t want another war with Israel. Hizbullah, in contrast, doesn’t want a real state but needs permanent war to remain relevant. That’s Nasrallah’s trap.”

 

By posting this article I do not mean to participate in alot of the Nasrallah-bashing that has been going on over the past week, because I do think that the goals and means of Hizbullah need serious contemplation.

Obviously, Hizbullah’s resistance is not only against Israel, but the totality of American interests and agenda in the region, of which Israel is the principal proponent. And admittedly, resisting the global hegemon is a noble and worthy cause, to which Hizbullah has ensured the dedication of many souls.

I suppose the question that needs to be asked, then, is: to what extent is Hizbullah’s own prioritizing of resistance domestically hegemonic? It is fair to say that the discourse of Islamic resistance has been and remains extremely powerful mobilizing force for anti-imperial operations. Therefore, as with any discourse, by virtue of its power, it does marginalize those who are not in agreement with it. Particularly in Lebanon, with its infamous, and often volatile, mixture of ethnic and religious groups, Hizbullah’s monopoly over the analysis of the present ills and its vision for the future, and its claim that resistance is in the interests of all Lebanese, should be scrutinized in order to reveal whose voices are being either silenced or usurped by that narrative.

If one accepts that Hizbullah has two main agendas, one to end the systematic disempowerment of the Shi’a in Lebanon and ensure their representation, and the other to combat the forces of Western imperialism in the region; then we have to question the extent to which these are compatible. Does Hizbullah’s preoccupation with the ‘bigger picture’ of resistance to the Shaytan America, and its willingness to sacrifice countless lives and livelihoods in pursuit of that ideal, negate its commitment to the well-being of the population it claims to represent?

One could argue that the root cause of Shi’a disempowerment is the colonial legacy which institutionalized Christian political superiority in Lebanon, and therefore that destroying the cause will remedy the consequence. However, one has to be wary of conflating the Western imperialism of 80 years ago with that of today: imperial power is not a timeless monolith, but the forms it takes from one place and period to the next change drastically. It is deciphering and understanding those ever-shifting forms that should lead to Hizbullah’s assessment of how to resist, which could mean, for example, as Nasrallah alluded to his speech, becoming involved in the resistance in Iraq.

But would that really be a way of serving the disempowered of Lebanon? Is ‘solidarity’ enough to want to enmesh a population in more suffering, more bloodshed? After 15 years of civil war, 10 years of occupation and another devastating conflict six years later, surely Nasrallah’s support-base is finally entitled to a period of calm that allows them to experience some degree of the peace that they have been fighting for. Moreover, with the increasing possibility of peace talks between Israel and Syria, the ‘threat from the south’, ie the possibility of another attack from Israel, could be significantly reduced.

Therefore in many ways, I cannot help but interpreting Hizbullah’s dogmatic dedication to anti-imperial rhetoric as a compromise of its more immediate goals (ensuring stability in order to allow the Shi’a of Lebanon to benefit from the political gains that the opposition can forge in parliament), in favour of bolstering its own interests as a regional power.

The balance between pragmatism and idealism is a delicate one and needs to be constantly readjusted. Too often, history has shown the latter to lose out to the former, with tragic consequences. Will Nasrallah forge a new path in that regard, or will we witness, once again, the lessons of history not being learned and returning to haunt us?

28 May 2008

Post-Doha death toll: 1

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 2:30 pm by lilithhope

A soldier was killed during a gunfight between Hezbollah supporters and pro-government loyalists on Tuesday, Lebanese security officials said.

Hussein Mohammed Janadin was caught in the crossfire in the clash at a military post in the village of Aramoun, south of Beirut, officials said.
 
The soldier is the first person to die as a result of fighting between supporters of political factions since the power-sharing deal.
 
Tuesday’s fighting came a day after nine people were injured in a gunfight in Beirut, shortly after a speech by Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary-general.
 
The clashes suggest that while Lebanon’s leaders have worked out an accord, their respective supporters may be more reluctant to observe the political détente.”(Al Jazeera)
The Daily Star mentioned that Hizbullah had accused two brothers inovlved in the fighting as being members of Walid Jumblat’s Progressive Socialist Party. And interestingly enough,
“the Future Movement issued a statement “firmly” denying all media rumors of its involvement clashes with Hizbullah supporters.”
That makes one thing clear: that Saad Hariri is not ready to put his ass on the line for Jumblatt, even in order to maintain apparent unity in the governing coalition… It is clear that individuals here in Lebanon act according to the interests of their specific party, not according to the larger political group (government/opposition) to which they momentarily belong. Coalitions here are only a means to an end, not any viable act of power-sharing.
I wonder how long it will take for these fragile coalitions, including the Nasrallh/Aoun alliance, to dissintegrate. I give them another year, until the 2009 elections.

UK ready to scrap cluster bombs

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:35 pm by lilithhope

The government is preparing to scrap Britain’s entire arsenal of cluster bombs in the face of a growing clamour against weapons that have killed and maimed hundreds of innocent civilians.

Officials are paving the way for the unexpected and radical step at talks in Dublin on an international treaty aimed at a worldwide ban on the bombs.

Well-placed sources made clear yesterday that despite opposition from the military, the government is prepared to get rid of the cluster munitions in Britain’s armoury: the lsraeli-designed M85 artillery weapon used during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and in attacks on Lebanon two years ago; and the M73, part of a weapons system for Apache helicopters.”

Even though I have realized the Israeli’s fondness of these little metallic agents of maiming, amputation and death, I did not realize that they had actually come up with the idea. Although, with their embarassing records of civilian casualties (deliberate?) in every military campaign they have ever engaged, in  it doesn’t surprise me.

In fact, they probably have a copyright on the M85 and therefore profit according to how many weapons are produced and used; an undeniable economic argument for their aggression.

Well, glad to know that for once the UK is putting its money where its mouth is.

Wars against women

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:13 am by lilithhope

Truth is often said to be the first casualty in wartime. But if the real truth is told, it is women who are the first casualties. In conflict zones, the United Nations children’s agency Unicef recently observed, sexual violence usually spreads like an epidemic. Whether it is civil war, pogroms, or other armed conflicts, all too often women’s bodies become part of the battlefiled.”

Despite some claims made without reference, this is a good piece, and I’m sure that an interesting dicsussion will ensue. The authors link to another article about filmmaker Lisa F Jackson, who makes an essential point about the masculine domination on the discourse of war:

Why isn’t every woman who is raped front-page news, like I was? … War is always described from a male point of view. Male survivors of war have bragging rights. They get to write books, they get to be heroes, they get ticker-tape parades. And the women survivors of war have nothing equivalent.”

no more marigolds

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:50 am by lilithhope

Much to my dismay, I realized yesterday that all the cute little marigolds that had been planted by the Hizb elves had been trampled by the masses who gathered to see Haifa Wehbe sing in Monday’s celebration.

Such a shame.

27 May 2008

Mulling over the Doha Agreement, ice cream and all

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 12:53 pm by lilithhope

For those of you unfamiliar with the specificities of the Doha Agreement, here is some ‘at a glance’ info:

1)Election of consensus candidate Michel Suleiman as president
2) Majority to get 16 cabinet seats and choose prime minister
3) Opposition to get 11 cabinet seats and veto power
4) Three cabinet seats to be nominated by president
5) The use of weapons in internal conflicts is to be banned
6) Opposition protest camps in central Beirut are to be removed
7) New law to divide country into smaller electoral districts
So far, two of these, the dismantling of the protest camps and the election of Suleiman, have been accomplished. 2/7, not bad considering less than a week has passed since te document was adopted. And Saad Hariri is expected to be elected as Prime Minister very soon, so that’s 3.
The thornier issues will prove to be the electoral constituencies and the question of Hizbullah’s arms. On the complexities of the former, check out this interesting table and map which compares past Beirut election laws with the present proposal (thanks zentor). In a way, it makes one think that the confessional system that exists in Lebanon will inevitably generate increased sectarianism: every aspect of political life is inextricably linked to one’s religion, and therefore any political manoeuvre or expression relies on a consolidation of that religious identity.
And in terms of Hizbullah’s weapons, Nasrallah made clear in his speech last night (see my post yesterday), which marked the 8th anniversary of the end of the ISraeli occupation of southern Lebanon, that the Islamic resistance  is de facto DEFINED by its weapons, to the extent that those who oppose its right to arm as those who oppose its very existence:
“He is trying to show that the battle and the power struggle in Beirut was not a Sunni-Shia clash – it was simply a power struggle between those who support the resistance and the other, who do not believe in the resistance’s weapons
The fact that Hizb’s right to weapons is being framed as an existential matter is worrying, because any attempt at rethinking the issue will be seen as a threat to Hizb’s very being. While at the same time, it allows other factions in Lebanon to use the same rhetoric, one of self-defence’, in order to legitimize their own weilding of weaponry…
It’s tricky, hence my aforementioned skepticism. I have therefore vowed to make the most of downtown while it is still open by eating Haagen Dazs every day, in the fear that discontent will inevitably arise and the protesters will return, and I shall once again be barred from the delectable delights of that coyly opportunist retailer.

Haagen Dazs cashes in on peace

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:31 am by lilithhope

 

Celebrate good times

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 11:11 am by lilithhope

The Lebanese definately know how to party like no other people I’ve known.

The festivities that have followed the election of Michel Suleiman as president on Sunday have been electric and spontaneous: dazzling fireworks displays infront of Hariri’s mosque; thousands of people jammed into a downtown decorated in balloons with Lebanese flags and posters thanking Qatar for its role as mediator in the peace agreement (the latter complete with grammar mistake); heaving masses of fans gatheringto see Haifa Wehbe (think Lebanon’s Cristina Aguilera), so consumed with excitement that they stormed the stage and led to its collapse, leading to the injury of 5 people…

Yes, unfortunately even in this country’s most elated moments, there are events to dampen the mood. Like the fact that several others have been wounded across the country because of celebratory gunfire, or the last night’s skirmishes in Cornishe Mazraa that injured approximately 16 people.

Yet despite those things, the mood in Beirut these past few days has been one of euphoria. The raw exhilaration here far exceeds any other celebration I have witnessed: France’s 1998 World Cup win, Egypt’s 2006 African Nations Cup win, Trafalgar Square on New Years; they all pale in comparison.

And though I am skeptical about the longevity of the current peace here, I cannot but be humbled in the face of Lebanon’s undying optimism and unequaled joie de vivre.

26 May 2008

excerpts from Hassan Nasrallah’s speech

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 4:31 pm by lilithhope

7:24pm Nasrallah called followers of slain premier Rafik Hariri in the Mustaqbal Movemengt to benefit from the recent experience.
7:22pm Nasrallah vowed that the opposition would be represented in the government by Hizbullah, AMAL, FPM and others.
7:20pm Lebanon’s victory is in forming a national unity government, Nasrallah said.
7:18pm Nasrallah said electing Gen. Suleiman President renews hope of the Lebanese people and his Oath Address calls for entente.
7:16pm Nasrallah said we accepted the election law as a compromise to exit Lebanon out of the crisis.
7:14pm Nasrallah said state weapons should not be used to settle accounts with the opposition or to target the resistance and its arms.
7:12pm I support the Doha Accord’s call to prevent the use of weapons in internal disputes, Nasrallah said.
7:11pm Nasrallah called for launching the post May 25 era.
7:09pm Nasrallah said the recent developments lefts wounds, our wounds and their wounds. We want wounds healed in favor of Lebanon’s unity.
7:06pm Nasrallah said he accepts constitutional amendments to safeguard Lebanon’s Arab belonging.

more 7:02pm The performance of the opposition proved that it did not organize a coup, but only wanted the illegal government to withdraw its two decisions, Nasrallah said.
7:00pm Nasrallah declared: I am a member of the Faqih Rule. The Faqih Rule tells us Lebanon is a pluralist nation that you should safeguard.
6:59pm Nasrallah declared: We do not want to rule Lebanon.
6:58pm Nasrallah said all resistance movements throughout history rule their nations, but we did not want power.
6:57pm Nasrallah said we did not ask for amending the regime.
6:55pm Nasrallah said Hizbullah did not try any collaborator with Israel.
6:53pm He said Lebanon needs a strategy to liberate Shebaa Farms.
6:52pm Nasrallah called the Arabs as well as Lebanon to agree on a defense strategy.
6:51 Nasrallah said Israel would cease to exist and the United States would be defeated.
6:49pm Nasrallah said the Resistance defense strategy is being successfully applied in Gaza.
6:47pm Hizbullah’s 2006 war against Israel decreased war possibilities in the Middle East, Nasrallah said.
6:45pm Nasrallah urged Iraqis to adopt Hizbullah’s resistance option to fight the Americans.
6:43pm The Americans want the elected Iraqi regime to give them sovereignty rights over Iraq, Nasrallah added.
6:42pm Nasrallah said Hizbullah supports resistance in Iraq against the Americans.
6:40pm Nasrallah said the resistance choice is the nation’s only option.
6:38pm Nasrallah said only armed resistance forced Israel to withdraw from Lebanon and Gaza.
6:34pm The resistance should not expect unanimous backing by the society, it should take up arms and liberate, Nasrallah said.
6:33pm Nasrallah said a nationalist elite opts to liberate the nation.
6:32pm Nasrallah said the educated elite cooperates with the occupiers to limit losses.
6:30pm Lebanon is no exception, people differ over occupiers, Nasrallah said.
6:28pm Nasrallah said Imam Moussa Sadr had launched the resistance.
6:26pm Our message today is dual, liberation and defense, a message from our resistance to all their brethren in Palestine, the Arab World and Iraq, Nasrallah said.
6:25pm Nasrallah said the eighth anniversary of the liberation coincides with Israel’s 60th anniversary.
6:23pm Nasrallah describes his supporters as the most honorable people.
6:20pm Hizbullah supporters open fire heavily in support of Nasrallah.
6:19pm Nasrallah starts Liberation Day address in south Beirut.

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