Across the Bay

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

It's Not About Shiite Representation After All!

The ICG has a new report out on Hezbollah. At one point (though not always!) the report goes against quite a few cliches and myths that we often heard from pundits, clueless western journalists, and, naturally, the dishonest sinister flacks of the Syrian regime (who tried to sell their repugnant agit prop and criminal apologetics as a defense of the Lebanese Shiites' rights!), regarding Hezbollah, especially when they mounted the offensive against the Seniora government. The report reads:

The presumed dichotomy between politics and resistance is misconceived. Far from being a substitute for armed resistance, Hizbollah’s political involvement has become its necessary corollary. Given rapidly shifting internal and external landscapes, the Shiite movement calculates that deeper political engagement is the best way to safeguard its armed status.127

As the vice president of Hizbollah’s research centre put it, “paradoxically, some want us to get involved in the political process in order to neutralise us. In fact, we intend to get involved – but precisely in order to protect the strategic choice of resistance and political participation”.128 Resistance is and remains Hizbollah’s priority, its raison d’être...

Unlike Amal, Hizbollah does not view politics as an end in itself and has not made Shiite representation its priority. For an expert on the movement, “Hizbollah has only two priorities: the Palestinian question and resistance against U.S. regional projects. All other objectives, including Shiite empowerment, are ancillary”.130 Likewise, a sheikh sympathetic to Hizbollah said, “What matters to Hizbollah is its culture of resistance. Hizbollah never advocated a strong presence on the local political scene other than in order to allocate services at the municipal level. That’s why Hizbollah parliamentary members rarely are the people the movement truly values”.131

It follows that the movement’s relation to the central state has always been assessed in terms of its impact on the resistance. ... Through various steps, it adjusted to Lebanon’s shifting political situation with an eye toward safeguarding its weapons and special status. Thus, in the wake of the 1989 Taef Accords, which among other items called for the disbanding of armed militias, Hizbollah participated in the 1992 legislative elections in order to protect its weapons,132 calling its ensuing parliamentary group the “bloc of loyalty to the Resistance” – the name it continues to carry to this day. (Emphasis mine.)

Of course, the ICG didn't just discover sliced bread. All the myths in vogue about Hezbollah, about its arms, about its culture, about Shiite representation, and countless other asinine assertions, are all ridiculous baloney. You could've read Michael Young, Emile el-Hokayem and myself. For instance, here's what I wrote in a piece on Hezbollah as the Pasdaran of Lebanon:

Hezbollah strives for one thing and one thing only: maintaining its armed status and parallel existence both within and above the system. Think Iran's Pasdaran. In other words, Hezbollah has not joined the political process in order to integrate in it, but rather, to use it to protect its anomalous existence outside it. Under the Syrian occupation, Hezbollah was able to solidify this status, and it used its weapons as a means of intimidation.

Or, far more simple, just read and listen to what Hezbollah itself says and has been saying and, more importantly, doing all along.

Addendum: See this statement from Hezbollah flack-in-chief, Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, back in August:

Ms. SAAD-GHORAYEB: Hezbollah's call for a national unity government is not, in any way, driven by a demand for a larger share of the political pie for the Shiite community. The constitution does not grant the Shiites any more power than they currently enjoy, which is far less than their proportion in the population, actually.

What Hezbollah is calling for is a veto-wielding third, which means they would like a national unity government in which one-third of government seats would be allocated to the opposition. The opposition could then veto strategic decisions made by the government. And, of course, by strategic, what Hezbollah is really concerned about is its armed status, and, at the same time, any plans that the government might make to curtail its activities. Those are the types of decisions which Hezbollah is very keen on having a say in.

I rest my case.