Across the Bay

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Nasrallah's Self-Righteous Rant

On the eve of the annual Hizbullah rally, Michael Young wrote a really excellent op-ed on Hizbullah and Shiite isolation:

Surely, the camp of murder suspects is not where Hizbullah and Lebanon's Shiites even objectively want to be, let alone deserve to be. At the March 8 demonstration at Riad al-Solh Square, Nasrallah turned himself into the primary sentinel of the Syrian order in Lebanon; his party's television station, when it paid any attention at all to the "Independence Intifada" gatherings, tried to depict them, most notably the massive March 14 demonstration, as a Trojan horse for alleged Christian extremist groups. This was not only insulting; in retrospect it was foolish.

No good will come to the Shiites if, following Hizbullah's and Amal's lead, they side with Syria against the consensus in Lebanon building up around the Mehlis report. No good will come to Hizbullah and Amal if they use skepticism directed against the report to protect themselves from their foreign foes. Certainly, if Syria becomes increasingly entangled in its own contradictions on the Hariri assassination, Hizbullah will lose a vital ally; but that only makes it more urgent that the party transcend the alliance, not latch on to it irresponsibly so that it will sink if the Syrian regime does, while damaging domestic communal relations in the process.

Yet, placing itself above Lebanese consensus is Hizbullah's trademark, along with it self-righteous claim to a monopoly on nationalism (backed of course, by a threat of arms!), which I've touched on before, linking to pieces by Hazem Saghieh on the subject. What that really amounts to is Hizbullah seeking to dictate foreign policy.

Nasrallah did not disappoint, delivering the usual self-righteous rants, the thinly veiled threats, and the standard ritual stoning of the devils. Highlights of his speech can be found here (Arabic) and here (English). Leave it to the typically stupid editorial of the DS to call it "the right message." The piece of garbage editorial left out that for all his talk about the "popular agenda of the Lebanese people," Nasrallah stood against it in his own pro-Syrian rally on March 8, offended it with a tasteless photo-op with murderer Rustom Ghazaleh, and continues to stand outside Lebanese concensus with his stance on the Mehlis report, and his defence of the Syrian leadership, hiding behind that disingenuous talk about "concrete evidence." I'd like to see Nasrallah's reaction should Hariri or Seniora make a speech defending Mu'ammar Qaddafi, and exonerate him of all charges in the disappearence of Imam Musa as-Sadr, on the basis that no "concrete evidence" was ever brought against him.

But once again, this is merely a case of HA self-righteousness and haughty absolutism. So while indeed Nasrallah's focus was more on Roed-Larsen's report (on the implementation of UNR 1559), Nasrallah took enough tasteless jabs at Mehlis as well, accusing him of trying to sow strife among the Shiites and Sunnis through the "Mr X" (Nabih Berri) reference. If there is tension it's because of HA's insistence on undermining consensus and directly opposing (and offending) the national sentiment. The Lebanese bloggers saw right through his hypocrisy. See here, here, here, and, earlier, here and here.

Nasrallah launched yet another indirect attack at Seniora, essentially accusing him of betrayal. He veiled it by making it seem like an attack on Roed-Larsen:

"When officials talk to us about their policies, they tell us exactly what they state in their ministerial statement; they are not with 1559, and the Cabinet confirmed this stance in its latest session," he said.

"However, the report claims the officials told Larsen in private just the opposite," he added. "Larsen wants to plant the seeds of suspicions and cause trouble."

First, the cabinet did not say it is against 1559. The cabinet's statement actually ignored 1559 altogether, and that was its hapless way of rejecting HA's pressure through its ministers to oppose it outright, and has also called for it to be handled internally through "dialogue." Seniora reiterated this stance after HA's fanfare:

We have clearly said that we seek the continuation of dialogue, and this is the position of the Lebanese government. We have always expressed that Lebanon respects the decision of international law. Lebanon is not at all in conflict with international law. We undergo this process through our respect for international resolutions on the one hand, and on the other hand, through expressing that some articles in UNR 1559 require consensus among the Lebanese, and this consensus comes about through a process of dialogue that we seek and continue to do. (Emphasis added.)

So Seniora contradicted Nasrallah's interpretation of the government's position. But Nasrallah turned it on Roed-Larsen, and that he was seeking to sow divisions among the Lebanese, and adding that he lied in making it seem as if Seniora was telling him one thing and telling HA another. That last part was an attack on Seniora, not Roed-Larsen, and it was meant to dictate Nasrallah's interpretation of the government's position as the official stance: rejection of UNR 1559.

Seniora quietly refrained from adopting that. But he needs to be much more forceful and not be bullied by Nasrallah's threats. Bshara Sharbel said the same thing:

The duty of the cabinet of the problematic majority is to be aware that while the turtle pace gives the impression of patience and wisdom, it also could be seen as losing the race.

Now you understand what I meant when I said that HA's weapons destroy all semblance of internal balance. And this is also why I keep calling on Aoun not to undermine Seniora.

Furthermore, calls for properly defining the framework and mechanisms of this "dialogue" are on the rise, including from Seniora himself, and rightly so. Of course, what the rest of the country means by dialogue is different from what Hizbullah means. Their understanding is: don't talk about it, don't even think about it, it's not happening, toe our line on the matter. In essence, we are witnessing (contrary to the stupid assertions by twit HA groupie Helena Cobban) HA's conception of government, and it's in no way "democratic."

Moreover, a separate rally in the Bekaa included the highly unpopular Syrian-backed PFLP-GC (yet another provocative and offensive move by HA), and saw Hamas banners alongside HA ones, in yet aonther assertion of HA tying the fate of the Palestinian factions' weapons with its own. That was emphasized in the speeches, including this gem by the PFLP-GC representative (whose speech was followed by HA's representative), which echoed Ahmadinejad's remark:

We say to the world, especially to the Lebanese, that we will not abandon our weapons, our resistance, and our Jihad. We will not back down until Israel is eliminated from existence, and the withdrawal of the last American soldier from the region. Short of that, the weapons will stay in our hands to defend our nation, our land, and our Jerusalem. We warn against any attempt to touch the Islamic state in Iran and Syria. We will defend them together in the Islamic resistance in Lebanon, and the Intifada inside Palestinine, hand in hand, through the Mohamedan arsenal.

In light of all this insanity, I found Michael's conclusion perfectly on target:

Lebanon's future will be intimately affected by how Shiites decide to shape it. They can, like Hizbullah, dream of turning the country into a Hanoi rather than a Hong Kong, to paraphrase Walid Jumblatt; into a citadel of rejection opposed to whomever Nasrallah brands a mortal enemy. But the fact is that only a minority of Shiites (indeed of the Lebanese in general) has such an aspiration, hostility toward Israel and the U.S. notwithstanding. That's why its time for the community to more clearly define its aims and set out its demands, in such a way that all the religious communities can agree. There is no sense in turning Detlev Mehlis into a bone of domestic contention, not if the upshot is that others will think you are shielding criminals.

But I'd like to end with this brave piece by Shiite cleric Hani Fahs, using remarkably strong terminology, and which echoed Hazem Saghieh's argument (see links above):

The existence of the weapons, outside government [control], is in itself a temptation for internal strife (fitna), superiority, elimination [of the Other], and ostracism (takfir). It is perhaps the single official proof for those who carry it of the apostasy (kufr) of the Other and his/her unpatriotism.

For Lebanon to move forward away from, to use Sharbel's words, a "balance of terror" between the communities, brought about by the Syrian-imposed 2000 electoral law, and the Jumblat-Hizbullah tactics (they specifically imposed the 2000 law, with Berri, to marginalize southern voters, particularly Shiite voters, who were not expected to vote for them. They had no confidence they would be able to win all Shiite seats, let alone non-Shiite seats, alongside Berri at the qada level. On the eve of the elections, the late Samir Qassir lamented the fact that the opposition was not going to run in the south, even if it was going to lose under this law. HA is still trying to amend its relations with all the parties it bullied in the last election because of that strategy.), and into more intra-communal diversity, more dissenting Shiite voices need to make themselves heard.

Update: For the absolute dumbest, most ridiculous, anachronistic, psychologically issue-laden, and disingenuous piece of crap presented as "analysis" of Hizbullah and Nasrallah's speech, you need to enter the bizarro world of the Angry Hair. It's remarkable in its stupidity and dishonesty, I don't even know where to begin. I can't decide which is worse, him or Cobban. Both are equally useless and wrong. Be warned, before you click. The level of stupidity is alarmingly high.

Update 2: Ghassan Tueni wonders (in his typical jabby style) why, among other things, didn't Nasrallah issue a single statement of condemnation of the targeting of civilians and civilian areas after the Syrian withdrawal, and why there was not a single word of solidarity with them. And as he hails the calls for defining the dialogue with the Party and the Palestinians, he chastizes HA for resorting to demagoguery, "which has caused and continues to cause Arabs to pay a heavy price in land and blood."