Tag Archives: Hezbollah

Quote of the day: Tribal Arab dictatorships

“In fact, among tribal and sectarian Arab dictatorships, no value is ascribed to the state or the people. In a place where tribal or sectarian loyalties are more important than any other affiliation, people have no sense of being part of a people or country. In a tribal state, the people can go to hell. Hundreds of thousands can lose their lives and millions can be uprooted from their homes, scattering in all directions. None of this makes an impression on the tribal leader. There is no room for soul-searching in such a tribal social structure, because it would be perceived as a sign of weakness. And that would ultimately result in a loss of the reins of power, along with a loss of tribal hegemony, the country and its resources.

Even the Arabic term ‘dawla’ (meaning ‘dynasty’) is derived from the tribal tradition, implying the decline of one tribe and the ascent of another. It always involved the mass slaughter of the members of the losing tribe and their allies. […]

The man at the helm of this tribal mafia is not going to change his ways. His entire existence is based on his imposition of terror. Any letup in this apparatus would spell an end to his regime, and could also spell his end in the more physical sense. Brutal suppression is an inherent aspect of such a regime and social structure.”

We all know how something like this would be taken if it was written by a western commentator or, to imagine the worst-case scenario, by a Jewish Israeli commentator.  But thankfully, this was written by the Israeli Druze poet and Ha’aretz columnist Salman Masalha.

Reflecting on the carnage and destruction in Syria, Masalha also notes that the Arab dictators he describes will always “continue to proclaim victory and the defeat of ‘imperialistic’ and ‘Zionist plots’ to overthrow him.”

What Masalha doesn’t mention is that until not that long ago, this went down very well with the “Arab street.” As a poll from 2008 documents:

“Across the Arab world, Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, is…the most popular leader, followed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The three leaders are seen as the only ones standing up against US influence in the region.”

I think Masalha’s observation that “Brutal suppression is an inherent aspect of such a regime and social structure” applies not only to the Assad regime in Syria, but also to Hezbollah’s rule in Lebanon and to the Iranian theocracy. But at least until a few years ago, a majority of Arabs apparently felt that standing up to the “West” and of course Israel was more important than the brutal suppression of their own people by those “heroic” regimes. This is one major reason why the region is in such a pitiful state when it comes to economic and social development.

 

War, the western media, and Palestinian public opinion

When it comes to covering Israel’s efforts to rein in the rocket barrage that Hamas and other Islamist terror groups in Gaza have been directing at Israeli towns for years, the western media like to focus on stories and images that highlight the suffering of Palestinian civilians. As acknowledged in several Washington Post articles published during Israel’s November 2012 campaign against the activities of Gaza terror groups, this entails a more or less open appeal to emotions.

Addressing the controversy about a front page photo showing a grief-stricken father from Gaza cradling the shrouded body of his baby son, Patrick Pexton explained that the image was chosen because it “went straight to the heart.” In the same piece Pexton noted that while the rocket barrage from Gaza was “disruptive and traumatic” for Israeli civilians, most of the rockets could be dismissed as just “bee stings on the Israeli bear’s behind.”

Another related article by Max Fisher was devoted to “The Israeli-Palestinian politics of a bloodied child’s photo.” In addition to the photo of the grieving father from Gaza, Fisher contemplated two other images that showed a dead Palestinian boy and an injured Israeli girl.

WaPo Gaza-Israel child victims

Fisher argued that each of the three images “tells a similar story: a child’s body, struck by a heartless enemy, held by those who must go on.” In the case of the two dead Palestinian children, the assumption was of course that Israel was the “heartless enemy” responsible for the fatal injuries. Noting that there were controversies about the question if the two Palestinian children had really been killed by Israeli strikes, Fisher lamented that the “old arguments of the Middle East are so entrenched that the photos, for all their emotional power, were almost immediately pressed into the service of one side or another.”

But when it eventually turned out that all three children were indeed victims of Palestinian strikes, Fisher insisted that it wasn’t really all that important “whose rocket or missile” was to blame, asserting that “something as isolated as a single photo of a wounded or killed child offers a purer, cleaner, lower-risk way to talk about issues too messy to engage with directly.”

To put it cynically, Fisher has a point: it would obviously be quite “messy” to squarely deal with the fact that all the three images – which, according to his own characterization, “defined … the renewed fighting between Israel and Gaza-based Hamas” – really showed the victims of Palestinian rockets.

But cynicism aside, it is downright obscene to suggest that it would be much “purer, cleaner, lower-risk” to let the “emotional power” of images of dead children work its magic. One just has to recall the hatred and fanaticism incited with the al-Durah-footage from 2000 to understand why some critics call this approach “lethal journalism.” One could also argue that less emotion and more reason would easily produce the realization that there wouldn’t be any photos of wounded or killed children from Gaza if Palestinian terror groups stopped using the territory they control as a launching pad for mortars, rockets and terror attacks on Israel.

The media’s eagerness to elicit empathy with Palestinian suffering is also problematic because there is plenty of evidence that confrontations with Israel are rather popular among Palestinians – and needless to say, this evidence is generally ignored.

For years, Palestinian public opinion has been regularly monitored. The most recent poll from Gaza and the West Bank shows that “40% support a return to an armed intifada.” A previous poll published last December, shortly after the end of Israel’s recent military campaign against Hamas, highlights among its main findings that the “events of the past several weeks have given Hamas a significant boost […] The fourth quarter of 2012 shows a dramatic change in public attitude favoring Hamas. Haniyeh’s popularity increases significantly allowing him to defeat Abbas if new presidential elections are held today. […] Needless to say, the outcome of the latest Gaza war between Hamas and Israel is responsible for this change.”

A detailed analysis of the poll documents that “Hamas has gained a great political victory in its war with Israel: 81% believe that it came out the winner and only 3% believe that Israel came out the winner […] Percentage of those who believe that Hamas came out a winner stands at 75% in the Gaza Strip and 84% in the West Bank. […]

Similar findings have been documented for years. Take for example a poll published in the wake of the war between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. Even though the media were dominated by reports and commentaries decrying the destruction and hardships inflicted on Lebanon, a staggering 86% of Palestinians viewed Hezbollah as the “winner in the Lebanon war.”  Fully 90% rejected the view that the war had been the result of “an uncalculated adventure by Hezbollah;” 73% believed the war “strengthens the resistance option in Palestine;” 75% expressed support for emulating Hezbollah by “taking Israeli soldiers prisoners in order to exchange them with Palestinian prisoners” and 63% said that “the Palestinians should emulate Hezbollah’s methods by using rockets against Israeli cities.”

It is noteworthy that Palestinian enthusiasm for firing rockets from Gaza was obviously not diminished by Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the territory in September 2005 and the fact that in spring 2006, Israeli voters handed an election victory to the Kadima party that had been newly formed to promote the disengagement from Gaza and additional withdrawals from the West Bank. In this context, it should also be recalled that just two months earlier, Palestinian voters overwhelming endorsed Hamas.

One of the successful Hamas candidates for this election was Mariam Farhat, better known as the proud and defiant “Mother of Martyrs” or “Umm Nidal,” named after her son Nidal who was considered the inventor of the Qassam rocket. An Israeli reporter who commented on Farhat’s recent death recalled his encounter with her during the election campaign:

“The scene was unforgettable. I saw a woman in her mid-fifties, full of bluster, wandering among the people of the refugee camps with a semi-automatic rifle in her hands and a white veil covering her head. Crowds of admirers tagged along, clearing a way for her wherever she went, as if she were some living saint.”

Umm Nidal had become a celebrity when she declared in 2005, at the funeral of her third son killed due to terrorist activities: “I have four sons left … I hope that they all become martyrs.”

When she passed away in mid-March, she was reportedly honored not just with a full military funeral and a eulogy by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, but also by words of praise and appreciation from Palestinian officials in the West Bank.

How many Palestinians really share the gruesome views of “Umm Nidal” is debatable, but given the pervasive glorification of “martyrdom” achieved through terrorism and “jihad” in Palestinian society, she can hardly be dismissed as a fringe figure.

A rare glimpse of this widely ignored reality could be caught when New York Times (NYT) reporter Jodi Rudoren noted in a Facebook post last November that it seemed to her that Palestinians in Gaza were sometimes rather “ho-hum” about their casualties. Needless to say, Rudoren’s observation caused great outrage, followed by a swift apology on the part of the NYT, which assigned a social media supervisor to the appropriately contrite Rudoren.

Reportedly, Rudoren readily acknowledged that she “should have talked about steadfastness or resiliency” and that she “just wasn’t careful enough.”

Rudoren clearly broke a taboo by making an observation that didn’t quite fit with the media’s mission to focus on Palestinian suffering caused by Israel.

But another remark that doesn’t quite fit with this mission went largely unnoticed – perhaps because it was made in “The Gatekeepers,” a film that was widely praised for providing harshly critical views of Israeli policies and the fight against Palestinian terrorism. However, one of the film’s seven segments is entitled “Our Victory Is to See You Suffer” – and this title quotes a remark by the well-known Palestinian psychiatrist and award-winning peace and human rights activist Eyad Sarraj. According to Ami Ayalon in “The Gatekeepers,” it was Sarraj who explained to him during a meeting devoted to developing a peace initiative at the time of the bloody Al Aqsa Intifada that, irrespective of the price paid by Palestinians, they saw it as their “victory” to make Israelis suffer.

As amply documented by the many polls and plenty of other evidence studiously ignored by the media, Sarraj was clearly telling the truth – though it is of course a truth that the western media don’t want to tell.

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First published at The Algemeiner.

 

Defending Judith Butler in the Ivory Tower

The controversy that erupted when it became known that the prominent American post-structuralist philosopher Judith Butler will be awarded Frankfurt’s prestigious Theodor Adorno Prize has already resulted in a large volume of writings. The website of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East provides a long list of critical commentaries; if you’re looking for voices defending Butler, one place to go to is Mondoweiss – a site that, for good reason, has often been criticized for publishing antisemitic material and views. Yet, Judith Butler chose Mondoweiss to publish her first response to the critics of her Adorno award, and since then, the blog has been quoted by highly respected sites, including the publisher of Butler’s recent book, Columbia University Press (CUP). This illustrates in a nutshell some of the major problems that the defenders of Butler – prominently among them her fellow-academics – are trying to ignore or downplay.

Imagine for a moment that there was a controversy about a prominent academic who just published a book with CUP, and she would choose to respond to her critics on a site that is single-mindedly focused on the failings of the Muslim world and is known to often publish material that can be legitimately described as bigoted against Muslims. Would CUP happily link to the site?

Unfortunately, it seems fair to assume that Butler chose to have her response to her critics published on Mondoweiss because she knows the blog and agrees with its view that the world would be a better place if there was no Jewish state. Indeed, according to the advertisement for her new book Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism, she “affirms Edward Said’s late proposals for a one-state solution within the ethos of binationalism.” Moreover, Butler also offers the “startling suggestion” that “Jewish ethics not only demand a critique of Zionism, but must transcend its exclusive Jewishness in order to realize the ethical and political ideals of living together in radical democracy.”

It’s indeed a “startling suggestion,” but of course Judith Butler is entitled to her own interpretation of Jewish ethics. At the same time, her critics must be entitled to point out that when Butler claims to merely “criticize” Israeli policies, she does so within the context of her view that Israel shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state.

While Butler seizes every possible opportunity to fight the popular straw-man argument that thanks to Israel’s mindless defenders, anyone who dares to criticize Israeli policies risks being denounced as an antisemite, she ignores the very real problem that her views about the illegitimacy of a Jewish state are not only shared by the Mondoweiss crowd, but also by bizarre Jewish fringe groups like Neturei Karta, and of course by Islamist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, whom Butler once described so controversially as “social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left.”

To be sure, Butler makes her case for a “world without Zionism” in very different terms than the “anti-Zionist” Jew-haters in the Middle East and elsewhere, but she also seems strikingly unwilling to wrestle with the fact that she advocates a vision cheered and shared mostly by people who justify their views with blood-thirsty Muslim texts and ideas that reflect a Nazi-like demonization of Jews.

Given Butler’s apparent lack of concern about the motivations of those who will be thrilled that a prominent Jewish intellectual and academic lends her prestige to the cause of doing away with the world’s only Jewish state, there is little justification for Todd Gitlin’s view that in the controversy about the Adorno prize, Butler is a victim of the “gotcha habit of seeking the author’s clumsiest, least defensible moments and waving them in the air like chunks of raw meat.”

Indeed, when it comes to Judith Butler’s views on Israel, the real challenge is arguably not to find the least defensible moments, but to find defensible ones.

To pick just one of the many particularly indefensible “moments,” let’s consider some of the implications of the idea that Israel’s Jews should give up their state “in order to realize the ethical and political ideals of living together in radical democracy.” It may not matter in the post-structuralist Ivory Tower inhabited by Judith Butler, but in the real world, the Middle East’s ancient sectarian and ethnic hatreds continue to make the region one of the most dangerous conflict zones in the world.

If this is not enough to illustrate the fact that the Middle East is not really a good place for minorities, let alone for a newly disempowered Jewish minority that has to play the guinea pig for some bi-national experiment in radical democracy, one could also consider the poisonous effects of the endless glorification of terrorism that has long been a regular feature of Palestinian political culture.

Since Butler will receive the Adorno prize on 9/11 – the birthday of Adorno – it is perhaps most appropriate to recall in this context the PEW surveys that monitored Muslim views of Osama bin Laden for several years, beginning in 2003. The specific survey question inquired “how much confidence you have in [X – from a list of named leaders] to do the right thing regarding world affairs.”

Throughout the surveys, it was the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank that expressed the highest confidence in bin Laden, starting with an astonishing 72 percent in 2003, and ending with a hardly less remarkable 34 percent in 2011. When bin Laden was killed, Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the left-wing progressive social movement Hamas in Gaza, condemned “the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior,” adding: “We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs.”

A commentary in the German publication taz anticipated sorrowfully that the controversy about Judith Butler’s Adorno prize could ultimately mean that Butler will suffer the same fate as French philosopher Michel Foucault “after his undifferentiated jubilation about the Iranian revolution in 1979” – that is to say that Butler could no longer expect to be taken all that serious as a political thinker. As far as her views on Israel are concerned, that would certainly be a well-deserved fate.

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This article first appeared in The Algemeiner.

By way of an update, I would like to note that this evening, the Jewish Museum in Berlin is hosting a discussion with Judith Butler on the problematically formulated question: “Gehört der Zionismus zum Judentum?” – literally: Is Zionism part of Judaism? Obviously, this slants the playing field in favor of Butler, because it’s easy to argue that you can be a religiously observant Jew without being a Zionist.

According to a related post on the popular German blog Die Achse des Guten, the Jewish Museum will NOT allow questions about Butler’s views on Hamas and Hezbollah. Don’t ask, don’t tell, Judith-Butler-style, I suppose.

So here’s something that should cheer up Butler’s critics: The always very angry Angry Arab recently had a short post where he noted:

“A reader sent me a quotation by Adorno on Israel after the 1967 [war]. This brilliant man sounded like Abraham Foxman when he talked about Israel.”

And no, the very angry Angry Arab of course doesn’t mean that as a compliment – after all, in his calmer moments, he considers the director of the Anti-Defamation Leaguethe clown of the 20th century.”

Needless to say, the Angry Arab has a cozy place in the Ivory Tower.

Last but by no means least, anyone who wants to read up on the Butler controversy should check out the bibliography at the blog of Richard Landes.

 

Judith Butler and the politics of hypocrisy

German prize award committees seem to have a weak spot for outspoken Jewish critics of Israel: writer and activist Uri Avnery has accumulated multiple German awards over the years, and the staunchly pro-Palestinian attorney and activist Felicia Langer was awarded Germany’s Federal Cross of Merit, First class, in 2009. Now it is the turn of Judith Butler, an American philosopher and professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley, who will receive the prestigious Theodor Adorno Prize on September 11 in Frankfurt.

To be sure, the Adorno Prize is awarded to “acknowledge outstanding performances in the fields of philosophy, music, theatre and film” – which is to say that it is Butler’s academic work, and not her political activism that are being honored with the prize. However, it is obviously Butler’s academic fame and her status as the “reigning queen” of Queer Studies that make her activism very valuable to her political allies in the BDS-movement that targets Israel. Critics who argue that it is therefore disingenuous to pretend that Butler’s contribution to philosophy can be honored irrespective of her political activism obviously have a point.

There are indeed several problematic political implications of honoring Butler with the Adorno Prize.  First and foremost, it has to be noted that, while we cannot know how Adorno would feel about Israel now, we do know that he was very concerned about the antisemitic and anti-Zionist tendencies that became acceptable and even fashionable on the left in the 1960s.  At the beginning of the Six-Day-War in 1967, Adorno expressed great alarm about the danger Israel faced and explicitly stated that he hoped that Israel would prove militarily superior to the Arabs. Shortly before his death in 1969, he worried that the open hostility to Israel displayed by the student movement might indicate fascist tendencies.  [See: Stephan Grigat, Befreite Gesellschaft und Israel: Zum Verhältnis von Kritischer Theorie und Israel; a shorter version is: Kritische Theorie und Israel: Adorno, Horkheimer und Marcuse über den Zionismus]

It is therefore hard to imagine that Adorno would have been anything but horrified by Judith Butler’s view that “understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important.” While Butler also emphasized that there were “certain dimensions of both movements” that were problematic and that she herself was firmly committed to “non-violent politics,” she also eventually clarified that in her view, Hamas and Hezbollah qualified as “left” because “they oppose colonialism and imperialism.”

How completely inane this view is will be readily apparent to anyone who has ever glanced at the Hezbollah or Hamas Charters, and there is arguably a strong case to be made that somebody who is able to see anything “progressive” in groups that define themselves in the most reactionary religious terms and advocate an unbridled Jew-hatred should automatically be disqualified from winning a prize named after Adorno.

Unsurprisingly, Butler has reacted to criticism of her views regarding Hamas and Hezbollah by complaining that her remarks “have been taken out of context.” She mainly emphasizes now that she has “always been in favor of non-violent political action” and explicitly declares: “I do not endorse practices of violent resistance and neither do I endorse state violence, cannot, and never have.”

But it is arguably revealing that Butler chose the Mondoweiss website to publish her most recent rebuttal. Surely an academic of her standing had many other choices and did not have to turn to a site that has often been criticized for hosting antisemitic posts and comments as well as antisemitic cartoons? On such a site, it is somewhat strange to read Butler’s lament:

“For those of us who are descendants of European Jews who were destroyed in the Nazi genocide (my grandmother’s family was destroyed in a small village south of Budapest), it is the most painful insult and injury to be called complicitous with the hatred of Jews or to be called self-hating.”

And how come that somebody who evokes such a family history has nothing to say about the Jew-hatred espoused by Hamas and Hezbollah, and their acknowledged ideological sponsors, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian regime?

How come that somebody who evokes such a family history would eloquently speak out in favor of boycotting Israeli universities, but would have no problem to lecture at Birzeit University, which has a well-earned reputation for fostering extremism? One former student of Birzeit University is Ahlam al-Tamimi, the exceedingly proud collaborator in the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing whose release in exchange for Gilad Shalit was publicly celebrated by the Islamic bloc at the University of Birzeit.

Adorno prize winner Judith Butler can only imagine to speak at Tel Aviv university once it is a “fabulous bi-national university,” but she has no problem lecturing at Birzeit University, where Ahlam al-Tamimi is a much admired celebrity.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

Quote of the day

“Since 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has designated the last Friday of Ramadan “Al-Quds Day,” leading worldwide protests calling for the destruction of Israel. In that spirit, over 1,000 protesters […]  marched through downtown Berlin on Saturday denouncing Israel and praising Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy army in Lebanon.

Unlike the neo-Nazis rocking out to “white power” music in a secluded cornfield [during a NPD event at a remote location a week earlier], the Islamists calling for the destruction of the Jewish state in the heart of the German capital did not stir the consciences of the country’s major political parties. As opposed to the 2,000 people who trekked out to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern [to protest the NPD event], only 300 or so anti-Islamist protesters, the majority of them affiliated with Jewish organizations, held a separate counter-demonstration, where the only political figure to speak was a former member of the German Bundestag.

In a free society, extremists ought to be able to say whatever they like. But a graver issue was highlighted by last Saturday’s open support for Hezbollah. The European Union, unlike its allies in Australia, Canada and the United States, refuses to treat the faction as a terrorist group, allowing it to organize and raise funds. The New York Times describes Germany as “a center of activity” for the group.

[…] Sixty-five years after the end of World War II, it’s reassuring to know that Germany has “no place for Neonazis.” A more pressing question is why it has room for those carrying on their legacy.”

James Kirchick in a Ha’aretz article entitled “A perverse quid pro quo.” This title (which may well have been chosen by Ha’aretz editors) refers to Kirchick’s argument that “European governments have fashioned a perverse quid pro quo whereby they permit a foreign terrorist organization to operate on their soil, provided that its targets are Israeli, not European.” However, this point is arguably secondary to Kirchick’s much more important argument that both German officials and the German public can be counted on to take a firm stand against German neo-Nazis,  while remaining apparently oblivious to the Nazi-style antisemitism that is so openly championed by the Iranian regime and its allies like Hezbollah.

Reading through any list of statements by Iranian officials on Israel will quickly reveal that, just as Nazi propaganda relentlessly repeated the slogan “Die Juden sind unser Unglück!” – i.e. the Jews are our misfortune –, Iranian regime officials relentlessly incite hatred and revulsion against the Jewish state.  Yet, supporters and allies of this regime can freely march through Germany’s capital to celebrate a day dedicated to anticipating the annihilation of the world’s only Jewish state.

Iran’s proxy war against Israel

The ample media coverage on Israel rarely addresses the fact that Iran has long supported the jihadist war against the Jewish state.  Yossi Klein Halevi spelled this out very clearly in an article in March 2008, where he argued that even in Israel, there was too little awareness and acknowledgment of Iran’s central role in the constant attacks on Israel:

“The jihadist war against Israel has shifted from one front to another–suicide bombings inside Israeli cities until 2004, Katyushas on Haifa in the north in 2006, and now Katyushas on Ashkelon in the south. All are battles in the same war. So far, it is a war without an all-encompassing name, and that linguistic failure reflects a larger Israeli failure to treat this as a unified conflict.”

But recently — and perhaps not coincidentally – both Hezbollah and Hamas have acknowledged the support they receive from Iran.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah emphasized in a recent speech that his group has received “all possible forms of moral, political, and material support from the Islamic Republic of Iran since 1982. In the past, although we didn’t lie about this, we only told half of the truth. We said we have moral support and political support, but when we were asked about material, financial, or military support, we kept silent.”

Similarly, Gaza’s Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh stated during his recent visit in Iran that “the Palestinians are under occupation and the Islamic Republic of Iran has faithfully heeded their appeal for help.”

Interestingly, both Haniyeh and Nasrallah claimed that Iran’s support came without any strings attached – all too obviously an attempt to counter criticism that they were puppets of their sponsor. But the fact of the matter is that Iran has helped Hezbollah to build a militant mini-state within fragile Lebanon, and while Palestine is not yet a state, Iran has already helped Hamas to develop Gaza as a military base.

Both Iranian proxies have already demonstrated that for them, Israeli territorial withdrawals are simply a reason to boast about victory – and hold out for their ultimate victory, which they define in exactly the same terms as their Iranian sponsors.

Much more hypocrisy to be discovered

A recent NYT/IHT op-ed that decries the hypocrisy of Hezbollah’s resistance will disappoint any reader who hopes for a cogent analysis of the hollow “resistance” rhetoric of the militant Islamist group that has built a state within a state in Lebanon.

Larbi Sadiki, a senior lecturer in Middle East politics at the University of Exeter, argues that by failing to support the Syrian uprising against the Assad regime, Hezbollah’s leaders “expose themselves as hypocrites.”

Reminding his readers that not so long ago, the “Syrian masses […] worshiped the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah,” Sadiki points out that they now “curse him when they parade in public squares. The posters of Mr. Assad and Mr. Nasrallah that once adorned car windows and walls throughout Syria are now regularly torched.”

Sadiki then explains why the Hezbollah leader had been so popular:

Until recently, Mr. Nasrallah, a Shiite, was a pan-Arab icon. His standing as Hezbollah’s chairman and commander of the 2006 war against Israel elevated him to new heights of popularity among Shiites and Sunnis alike, reminiscent of the former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser’s political stardom following the nationalization of the Suez Canal in 1956.

Not only did Mr. Nasrallah fight Israel next door; he defied pro-American Arab states, trained and protected Hamas in Lebanon, backed Moktada al-Sadr’s Shiite militia as it killed Americans in Iraq, and showed absolute loyalty to Iran. His fans were in the millions. The Arab multitude from Casablanca to Mecca saw him as a genuine hero who talked the talk and fought the good fight.

It seems that as far as Sadiki is concerned, everything would have been fine and dandy if only Hezbollah, this “wildly popular resistance movement,” had been clever enough to voice some support for the Syrian protesters – or if Hezbollah had at least been as “politically savvy” as their fellow resisters in Hamas, which, according to Sadiki, impressed “onlookers by what it didn’t do and say rather than what it did or said.”

It is also instructive to check out another op-ed by Sadiki on the same subject, entitled “Hezbollah and the Arab revolution” that was published last June by Al Jazeera.

There, he recalls Nasrallah’s “victory” speech after the war with Israel in August 2006:

The sea of people I saw in August 2006 that came to greet and listen to Nasrallah after the 34-day war with Israel related to these messages [i.e. what Sadiki calls the “Che-Khomeini rhetoric: the language of ‘world imperialism’ mixed with meaning about ‘the oppressed’, ‘down-trodden’, ‘justice’, ‘self-determination’ and ‘liberty’”]. They still do. Many more do the same from Rabat to Sana’a.

Nasrallah’s oratory in the “Divine Pledge” [al-Wa’d al-Sadiq] before hundreds of thousands, was electrifying – as ever, the oracle of the down-trodden, crushed by injustice and occupation. In Nasrallah’s mantra of change via resistance, or muqawamah, they find solace, a kind of redemption, and hope for reconstitution as equals to all free human beings.

It’s almost pathetic to contemplate this mindless cheerleading for a “hero” that recklessly provoked a war that brought considerable devastation and suffering to Lebanon.

What Sadiki overlooks in his romantic ravings about Hezbollah’s “resistance” is the fact that, once Israel had withdrawn to the internationally recognized border in May 2000, Hezbollah’s “resistance” could hardly be regarded as promoting Lebanon’s interests or the concerns of Lebanon’s poor. But since it was in Hezbollah’s narrow partisan interest, the group continued harassing Israeli positions near the border and, in October 2000, also crossed into Israeli territory to kidnap three soldiers. It was later established that the three soldiers had been killed and that their attackers had posed as UN personnel; after many similar “resistance operations,” Israel finally responded in 2006 to these attacks that, after all, constituted acts of war.

In an interview with a Lebanese TV station, Sadiki’s erstwhile hero Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged shortly after his supposedly “divine victory” in August 2006 that he had not expected “that the capture [of Israeli soldiers] would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me if I had known on July 11 … that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not.”

Obviously, this also implies a justification for Israel’s forceful response, because Nasrallah’s message is that as long as they could kidnap Israeli soldiers and stage cross-border attacks with impunity, they would continue to do so.

To be sure, Sadiki has a point when he emphasizes how truly popular Nasrallah and Assad were not so long ago – and one could add Ahmadinejad, who also ranked among the most popular leaders in a 2008 Arab opinion poll. But while Nasrallah and Assad now have their pictures torched, they and their regimes are no different now than they were when they enjoyed broad popular support for their “resistance” pose.

Ultimately, the “resistance” ethos that Sadiki so ardently defends can only be sustained if millions of Arabs willingly continue to serve as “useful idiots” for political leaders who expect their constituency to subordinate mundane concerns about the lack of economic opportunity or social and political development to an ideology that demonizes Israel and the West as the enemies of the Muslim world. As long as this ideology is popular in the Arab world, the Arabs will get the leaders they deserve – no matter how many springs pass.

Quote of the day

In the meantime, people puzzled by widespread American popular support for Israel need to take a long hard look at Hezbollah. Over and over again, the most vitriolic enemies of Israel turn out to be hypocritical slimeballs: think of Butcher Assad, Hezbollah’s close ally and patron next door. At the same time, there are reports that Iranian and Venezuelan diplomats plotted cyberattacks against US targets including nuclear power plants. Israel’s enemies are determined, unscrupulous enemies of the United States as well, and as long as this is so, public opinion is going to see Israel as an embattled ally worthy of support.

Walter Russell Mead in a comment on a New York Times report on the “murky” – that is to say Mafia-style – sources of Hezbollah’s plentiful funds. Mead’s reference to “Butcher Assad” seems almost too polite when you read this sickening report on “Syria’s torture machine.”