Tuesday, August 08, 2006

For Lebanon, not Hizballah

[For more informed opinions than mine go here and here. I am not a specialist on the Middle East, nor do I have time to be one at the moment. What follows is simply an attempt to sort through the political choices we seem to be confronted with at the moment based on what little I know. Please feel free to comment, refute, challenge.]

George Galloway's simple-minded resistance is beginning to annoy the shit out of me. On Saturday he proclaimed to the anti-war rally at Parliament square: 'We are all Hizballah!' We are emphatically not all Hizballah. I did not march on Saturday in support of Hizballah or Nasrallah. I marched for Lebanon, for a restoration of the conditions that will allow politics in Lebanon. Among the most important of these conditions are an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory and a return of all Lebanese political prisoners. I actually do think this is the most important pre-condition for the restoration of politics in Lebanon because its accomplishment will deny Hizballah (and Syria and Iran) the opportunity to embed their self-interested claims for power in a legitimate discourse of resistance.

If what I am fighting for is a restoration of politics in Lebanon, for a future in which the Lebanese can decide for Lebanon, for Lebanese popular sovereignty - if this is what I am for, why do I have to decide whether to give my support to Fouad Siniora or Walid Jumblatt or Hassan Nasrallah or anyone else? I do not think I am required to have an answer to this question before demanding a ceasefire. A ceasefire is a precondition for making those kinds of choices. They cannot be made in the shadow of Israel's brutal war crimes.

Even if I was required to have an answer to this question before marching on Saturday, my answer was emphatically not Hizballah. I am not marching for Lebanon so that it can be transformed into a Shia theocracy tomorrow. This is Lebanon we are talking about - a multi-religious, multi-ethnic country, the only Arab country with an open queer scene as Verbal Privilege keeps reminding me. (If Hizballah's gender politics is anything like that of the clergy in Iran, we can expect Lebanon's relative liberalness to be stamped out in no time at all. I am not suggesting that a space for queer politics is the lodestar of political freedom in any country - I'm merely using it as a proxy for all kinds of other freedoms.) Hizballah does not own this country, nor does it own its resistance. It is the current face of that resistance because it is the only group in Lebanon that is prepared to advance widely-held demands through the use of force. But it does not own those demands, it does not own the cause.

Further, if what I am marching for is Lebanese sovereignty - a Lebanon in which the Lebanese make political decisions for themselves - then equally, I have to demand a severing of Hizballah's links with external sponsors. Hizballah needs to become a political force that is embedded in Lebanese Shia society (or Lebanese society more broadly, if it is able and willing to rise above sectarian identities). That means not responding to instructions from Syria and Iran. These external remote controllers (whomever they may be - and I really don't know what the evidence of this is) are not accountable to Lebanese Shia society and they have no business making decisions, the consequences of which are so brutally visited upon Lebanese Shia.

The key in all this is sequencing - which steps first - and this is where I am taking sides. Hizballah's raison d'etre as a group devoted to resistance against Israel and its external sponsorship towards this end can be legitimately dealt with only after the reasons for their resistance are removed. I think this because I agree with their professed motivations for resistance. Let me say that clearly: I agree with their professed motivations for resistance. I disagree with their methods and with their political vision for what Fanon would have called 'life after the last white policeman has left'. George Gallway's simple-minded resistance forgets the very thing that was supposed to have made anti-colonial resistance superior to colonial oppression. The great thing about Negritude was that it did not confront white supremacism with black supremacism. Resistance was emphatically not supposed to imitate the oppression of the powerful - it was not supposed to take the form of anti-racist racism. I am not fighting a Jewish theocracy (yes it is one, with its odious discourse of the 'demographic problem', its insistence on being a state only for the Jews, its apartheid legal system with differential rights and movement restrictions) - I am not fighting this Jewish theocratic apartheid state just so that 'liberation' movements can go and set up Shia theocracies in opposition.

In the meanwhile, as Edward Said would have said, never solidarity before criticism.

If Hezbollah had not captured 2 and murdered 8 Israeli soldiers would there be a need to resist at all?
There will be a need to resist as long as Israel sits on occupied territory and holds political prisoners in its jails whose only 'crimes' are that they have resisted an illegal occupation. Galloway may be wrong about many things, but he is absolutely right to say that the roots of this conflict do not go back 4 weeks (as your question implies) but much further back in time, and the conflict will never be resolved unless those underlying grievances are addressed. So yes, there would be a need to resist and there is still a need to resist.
you might want to check out this site
also this article which i saw in the hindu on aug 7
Excellent post Thariel (same goes for the links you provided). And I agree about the need to resist, but I also believe in the power of non-violent resistance. Violence had become so central to the anti-colonial struggles that it became hard to purge once independence was gained.

All best,

The west like to think that people in the middle east just hate the WEST because it is a so call land of the free.What a joke you are hated because you take there lands away and call them the terroists because they fight back.If your lands were taken and you fight back I WONDER would you call your slef terroist or a freedom fighet.
Only people with a I.Q. of homersimpson would think and nowing how stupid the west is they have the homer curse.
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