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Choosing between Israel and Hezbollah

Hezbollah troops at a supporters rally [Anadolu Agency]

The title of this article may seem strange to some, and the subject will certainly stir up a “hornet’s nest” in the eyes of many, and they are right. Addressing such sensitive issues in light of the current intense state of polarisation is a risk, but it is a calculated risk.

There is much heated debate about the position that should be taken in the event of a military confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Such debate did not happen, with a few insignificant exceptions, in 2006, before Hezbollah interfered in favour of the regime in Syria.

Today, there are loud voices saying that the movement has committed criminal acts in Syria, leaving no room to sympathise with it or stand by it, even if it is attacked by Israel in Lebanon. These voices are heard in several states, and are not limited to the Syrians who suffered at the hands of Hezbollah, or to a specific political trend.

This is the most important observation in my opinion that Hezbollah, before anyone else, must think about and consider carefully. After adopting a completely opposite approach in Syria, in the eyes of much of the Arab world it has lost its moral standing and credibility as a resistance movement against the occupation and a party seeking freedom. Hezbollah will say it was forced to interfere in Syria and that there have been exaggerations in the portrayal of this intervention (and I believe that there has been exaggeration in some details), but the issue is not measured by what the party did quantitatively in battles, or its casualties, as much as how it is viewed in the context of its support for the Assad regime. The Syrian President and his forces are the main cause of the death of hundreds of thousands of people, the displacement of half of the population, the destruction of Syria, and the attraction of foreign military intervention.

Read: Hezbollah says Israel pushing region to war

The movement needs to think wisely about this; to think more about the way back from this path; and not think of this as “finishing business in Syria” and declaring its “withdrawal after victory”. It should think about this in terms of revision, evaluation, apology and correction as much as possible. At the end of the day, it is a Lebanese party and part of the country and region, and so it must take into account its credibility, popular base and grassroots support, regardless of how much politics and militarisation dominate its calculations and considerations.

While Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria cannot be justified — it is condemned and criminal — this does not mean that we encourage a Zionist (or Saudi, as some have claimed) attack on the group. At the very least, should we should remain neutral in the possible war ahead, based on the belief that it is an oppressor attacking another oppressor, as some say?

This is all hypothetical at the moment, of course; we must not forget that an Israeli war against Hezbollah in Lebanon is not certain, and I do not even believe it is likely in the near future, despite the fact that there are several signs suggesting otherwise. The issue may ultimately simply be Israel’s way of applying pressure to obtain a better deal, as ex-Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in his interview with Future TV.

This discussion is about the principles that must form our position on a war if and when it arises. Such a discussion is more important, I believe, than merely declaring a position that does not influence the scenario.

Read: Israel is scared of Hezbollah. The submarine scandal conceals that

We cannot criticise those who see Hezbollah not as a resistance movement but as a part of the Iranian forces in several Arab countries, especially Syria. However, the issue is not that simple; it is very complicated, especially since the other party in the equation is Saudi Arabia.

There are a number of relevant points which, with respect to all concerned, I think are important for a clear understanding of the situation. For a start, Hezbollah’s role in confronting Israel does not excuse its role in Syria, nor does its intervention deny its role against the occupation state. Many political entities have several facets, roles and affiliations, and none in this case cancels the others out. I believe that Hezbollah has two faces: one confronts Israel (albeit not necessarily in the form that we would like), while the other is as part of the Iranian project, which does not deny the fact that the party is affiliated with Tehran and follows its orders.

Any Israeli attack on Hezbollah is really an attack on Lebanon, and so the position we are talking about is where we should stand in the event of an Israeli attack on any Arab country. This position does not require much thought or calculation in my opinion, since Hezbollah cannot be separated from Lebanese society; it is very much a major part of the Lebanese people with popular support and institutions. Hence, any attack will demand a great human price, let alone the military, political and economic toll.

If our position is to reject any foreign intervention anywhere, then we not only condemn Hezbollah’s interference in Syria, in favour of the regime and against the people, but logic also dictates that we should back the movement and the people of Lebanon if they are attacked by Israel.

Read: Hezbollah to ‘surprise Israel’ at any time

The Zionist state is a Western imperialist settlement project and the biggest threat to the entire region. The conflict with Israel is a zero-sum game, which can only be resolved by the removal of the state. Hezbollah, though, is a part of the region and its states, and despite any rivalry against it, the solution ultimately is co-existence and mutual respect, even if this comes after wars and confrontations. Many civil wars and bloody military confrontations end in historic compromises in which everyone offers concessions, avoiding zero-sum games that exhaust all and benefit none.

What’s more, Israel does not engage in any military confrontations except in its own interests to serve the goals of its project. Hence, nothing will be gained from harming Hezbollah or Iran, and the alternatives in Lebanon are not necessarily better than Hezbollah.

The moral position affected by emotion must not be absent in the practical and logical calculations about end results. The issue is not merely a confrontation with Hezbollah (certainly not its punishment for interfering in Syria), but is a major regional project, the preparations for which are in full swing. These include the elimination of the Palestinian resistance and their cause. It will also have consequences for the entire region, especially in Syria. It may be useful to think in depth about the reasons for “confronting Iran” in Lebanon in particular, and not in Syria, Iraq or Yemen; the reasons why the US imposed sanctions specifically on Hezbollah; and US attempts to add the group to terrorist lists and not other factions affiliated with Iran. I believe that the real reason is Israel’s interests, and not the confrontation with Iran.

In conclusion, I did not write this because I am Palestinian and do not care about the blood of our Syrian brothers and what happens to their country and their cause. Nor have I written it because I am looking through a narrow lens that only sees Palestine and does not care about the other Arab and Muslim issues. Those who read my articles know what my positions and opinions are. It is unfortunate that we have to emphasise positions before expressing an opinion, in order to minimise the inevitable insults. I am only speaking out because I feel a sense of responsibility; someone needs to call for careful thought about what is being planned for the region.

No one is required to stand by Hezbollah in the literal sense, as if we are in a football match between two teams; rather, we must stand against the Israeli attack if and when, God forbid, it occurs. We must also reject the suspicious normalisation and other projects and stand, first and foremost, against any attack on an Arab country waged by Israel or any of its new allies. This perhaps, does not involve much complex and complicated calculation.

This article first appeared in Arabic on Arabi21, 13 November 2017 

ArticleIsraelLebanonMiddle EastOpinionPalestineSyria
  • Forbes McCreery

    I cannot agree with much of what you have written. First is the proxy war happening now between Saudi and Iran. It is only going to get hotter, eventually resulting in direct confrontation. I suspect this will happen within the next 12 months. Next is Israel. Israel is tasked with controlling roughly half of Syria and all of Lebanon. She will attack the Iranians in Syria and fight Hezbollah. This will be in return for Saudi recognising Israel. Both countries will return to sovereign with Saudi approval of timing and leaders. The US will supply arms etc to Saudi, Israel, and others supporting their cause. The US will also supply naval and air support. Saudi and her allies will end their support of the Palestinians, they will become ‘citizens’ of whatever country they live in. This will close out that region. Last is Iran. A coalition of Saudi allies will put Iran back in a box, essentially reducing them back to 3rd world status. I doubt this will bring peace to the mideast as this is a religious war which will never end. The wild card in all this is Russia. So long as they remain on the sidelines this will end well. If they do not, well it will be very bad

    • Helen4Yemen

      The Ashkenazi who is 100% of European origin faked his way to the region as “returning”, did he not? How can this European be “returning” and not other Europeans? This European was hated by other Europeans, it was totally a European affair and the Arab and Muslim world must make it their priority that this white man is safely returned to Lithuania, Hungary, Germany – or wherever else he stampeded from or else expect no peace in the region.

  • Juan Miguel Delgado

    Israel is a Western settlement project, indeed. But all these three words are just features, not flaws. The missing label “imperialist” you use here as a slur (I guess, as a desperate attempt to engage the numerous victims of true imperialism around the world with the Palestinian cause), is not supported by facts. The entire area they occupy (or wish to) is smaller than Lesotho. No political entity this size can possibly be imperialist. I suppose you don’t realize either the irony of demanding the complete removal (?) of the Jewish state next to co-existence and mutual respect towards Hezbollah, while claiming to speak from a non-sectarian and non-ethnocentric point of view. This is as middle ground as the popular Youtube meme “remove Kebab”.

    • Helen4Yemen

      I do not give a damn how small the vile European entity is! Goddamned Europeans arrived and took Arab land by force! If the Christian West hated its Jews – which it did- it had no right to transfer its hated Jews to our region. The Ashkenazi is 100% of European origin. What the he!! connects this white man to the Arab region. Tell me?

      • Juan Miguel Delgado

        The idea of an homogeneous and continuous “Muslim Arab” region the size of Russia is a product of dangerous and delusional ideologies. It may come as a surprise for you, but no land is reserved to a certain skin color, culture or religion. No migration in history is wrong, for it is a common phenomenon: Hungarians moved to Panonia, Slavs to the Balkans, Romani to Spain, Persians to Sweden, Somalis to the US, Maghrebis to France, Circassians to Turkey, Lebanese to Argentina, Ukrainians to Brazil, Japanese to Peru, Vietnamese to Australia and, of course, Ashkenazim to Israel. In related news (to you), currently more than 50% of Israeli Jews are of Mizrahi or Sephardic extraction, so please, inform yourself better before spreading sectarian propaganda.

        • Helen4Yemen

          Why is the European known as the Ashkenazi on Arab land?

        • Helen4Yemen

          and what % of the “Mizrahi or Sephardic” of European Jews who settled in North Africa?

  • Helen4Yemen

    The ODED YINON PLAN to break up the Arab countries. Document was written in 1982

    1- The Arab world is too fractured to pose a threat to the Jews in Palestine
    The Arab Moslem world, therefore, is not the major strategic problem which we shall face in the Eighties, despite the fact that it carries the main threat against Israel, due to its growing military might. This world, with its ethnic minorities, its factions and internal crises, which is astonishingly self-destructive, as we can see in Lebanon, in non-Arab Iran and now also in Syria, is unable to deal successfully with its fundamental problems and does not therefore constitute a real threat against the State of Israel in the long run, but only in the short run where its immediate military power has great import. In the long run, this world will be unable to exist within its present framework in the areas around us without having to go through genuine revolutionary changes.

    2- The Arab world is made up of ethnic groups hostile to one another
    The Moslem Arab World is built like a temporary house of cards put together by foreigners (France and Britain in the Nineteen Twenties), without the wishes and desires of the inhabitants having been taken into account. It was arbitrarily divided into 19 states, all made of combinations of minorities and ethnic groups which are hostile to one another, so that every Arab Moslem state nowadays faces ethnic social destruction from within, and in some a civil war is already raging.

    3- Algeria, Morocco,Tunisia are made up of Arabs and non-Arab Berbers
    Apart from Egypt, all the Maghreb states are made up of a mixture of Arabs and non-Arab Berbers. In Algeria there is already a civil war raging in the Kabile mountains between the two nations in the country. Morocco and Algeria are at war with each other over Spanish Sahara, in addition to the internal struggle in each of them. Militant Islam endangers the integrity of Tunisia and Qaddafi organizes wars which are destructive from the Arab point of view, from a country which is sparsely populated and which cannot become a powerful nation. That is why he has been attempting unifications in the past with states that are more genuine, like Egypt and Syria.

    4- Sudan is made up of four groups hostile to one another
    Sudan, the most torn apart state in the Arab Moslem world today is built upon four groups hostile to each other, an Arab Moslem Sunni minority which rules over a majority of non-Arab Africans, Pagans, and Christians.

    5- Egypt: Christian minority may want a state of their own
    In Egypt there is a Sunni Moslem majority facing a large minority of Christians which is dominant in upper Egypt: some 7 million of them, so that even Sadat, in his speech on May 8, expressed the fear that they will want a state of their own, something like a “second” Christian Lebanon in Egypt.

    6- Syria: Shia minority ruling over majority Sunni
    Syria is fundamentally no different from Lebanon except in the strong military regime which rules it. But the real civil war taking place nowadays between the Sunni majority and the Shi’ite Alawi ruling minority (a mere 12% of the population) testifies to the severity of the domestic trouble.

    7- Iraq: Sunni minority ruling over Shia majority – Kurdish minority will make it easy to break it up
    Iraq is, once again, no different in essence from its neighbors, although its majority is Shi’ite and the ruling minority Sunni. Sixty-five percent of the population has no say in politics, in which an elite of 20 percent holds the power. In addition there is a large Kurdish minority in the north, and if it weren’t for the strength of the ruling regime, the army and the oil revenues, Iraq’s future state would be no different than that of Lebanon in the past or of Syria today. The seeds of inner conflict and civil war are apparent today already, especially after the rise of Khomeini to power in Iran, a leader whom the Shi’ites in Iraq view as their natural leader.

    8- Bahrain, UAE, Oman: Sunni minority rules over Shia majority, Kuwait: 75% foreign, Saudi Arabia: 50% foreign
    All the Gulf principalities and Saudi Arabia are built upon a delicate house of sand in which there is only oil. In Kuwait, the Kuwaitis constitute only a quarter of the population. In Bahrain, the Shi’ites are the majority but are deprived of power. In the UAE, Shi’ites are once again the majority but the Sunnis are in power. The same is true of Oman and North Yemen. Even in the Marxist South Yemen there is a sizable Shi’ite minority. In Saudi Arabia half the population is foreign, Egyptian and Yemenite, but a Saudi minority holds power.

    9- Jordan: Palestinian majority ruled by Bedouin minority
    Jordan is in reality Palestinian, ruled by a Trans-Jordanian Bedouin minority, but most of the army and certainly the bureaucracy is now Palestinian. As a matter of fact Amman is as Palestinian as Nablus.

    10- Syrian army is Sunni, commander Shia; Iraqi army is Shia ruled by Sunni
    All of these countries have powerful armies, relatively speaking. But there is a problem there too. The Syrian army today is mostly Sunni with an Alawi officer corps, the Iraqi army Shi’ite with Sunni commanders. This has great significance in the long run, and that is why it will not be possible to retain the loyalty of the army for a long time except where it comes to the only common denominator: The hostility towards Israel, and today even that is insufficient.

    11- Iran is composed of Sunni, Shia Alawis, Sunni Kurds, it faces Ethnic and religious tension,
    Half of Iran’s population is comprised of a Persian speaking group and the other half of an ethnically Turkish group. Turkey’s population comprises a Turkish Sunni Moslem majority, some 50%, and two large minorities, 12 million Shi’ite Alawis and 6 million Sunni Kurds.

    12- Afghanistan: 33% Shia, 67% Sunni
    In Afghanistan there are 5 million Shi’ites who constitute one third of the population.

    13- Pakistan: 15 million Shia (1982 figures)
    In Sunni Pakistan there are 15 million Shi’ites who endanger the existence of that state.

    14- The Muslim world made up of ethnic minorities is like a house of cards
    This national ethnic minority picture extending from Morocco to India and from Somalia to Turkey points to the absence of stability and a rapid degeneration in the entire region. When this picture is added to the economic one, we see how the entire region is built like a house of cards, unable to withstand its severe problems.

    15- Jews should have given Jordan to Palestinians and removed them from Palestine
    We could have saved ourselves all the bitter and dangerous conflict since then if we had given Jordan to the Palestinians who live west of the Jordan river. By doing that we would have neutralized the Palestinian problem which we nowadays face, and to which we have found solutions that are really no solutions at all, such as territorial compromise or autonomy which amount, in fact, to the same thing. Today, we suddenly face immense opportunities for transforming the situation thoroughly and this we must do in the coming decade, otherwise we shall not survive as a state.

    16- Jews should never have lost the Sinai peninsula
    The loss of the Suez Canal oil fields, of the immense potential of the oil, gas and other natural resources in the Sinai peninsula which is geomorphologically identical to the rich oil-producing countries in the region, will result in an energy drain in the near future and will destroy our domestic economy: one quarter of our present GNP as well as one third of the budget is used for the purchase of oil. The search for raw materials in the Negev and on the coast will not, in the near future, serve to alter that state of affairs. (Regaining) the Sinai peninsula with its present and potential resources is therefore a political priority which is obstructed by the Camp David and the peace agreements. The fault for that lies of course with the present Israeli government and the governments which paved the road to the policy of territorial compromise, the Alignment governments since 1967.

    17- Hoping for Egypt to give Israel the excuse to start a war and take back Sinai.
    Israel has two major routes through which to realize this purpose, one direct and the other indirect. The direct option is the less realistic one because of the nature of the regime and government in Israel as well as the wisdom of Sadat who obtained our withdrawal from Sinai, which was, next to the war of 1973, his major achievement since he took power. Israel will not unilaterally break the treaty, neither today, nor in 1982, unless it is very hard pressed economically and politically and Egypt provides Israel with the excuse to take the Sinai back into our hands for the fourth time in our short history. What is left therefore, is the indirect option. The economic situation in Egypt, the nature of the regime and its pan-Arab policy, will bring about a situation after April 1982 in which Israel will be forced to act directly or indirectly in order to regain control over Sinai as a strategic, economic and energy reserve for the long run. Egypt does not constitute a military strategic problem due to its internal conflicts and it could be driven back to the post 1967 war situation in no more than one day.

    18- How to break up Egypt
    Breaking Egypt down territorially into distinct geographical regions is the political aim of Israel in the Nineteen Eighties on its Western front. Egypt is divided and torn apart into many foci of authority. If Egypt falls apart, countries like Libya, Sudan or even the more distant states will not continue to exist in their present form and will join the downfall and dissolution of Egypt. The vision of a Christian Coptic State in Upper Egypt alongside a number of weak states with very localized power and without a centralized government as to date, is the key to a historical development which was only set back by the peace agreement but which seems inevitable in the long run.

    19- Break up Lebanon into five provinces
    Lebanon’s total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precendent for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian peninsula and is already following that track.

    20- How to break up Syria and Iraq into ethnic and religious components
    The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unqiue areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target. Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon, so that there will be a Shi’ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the Aleppo area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor, and the Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan, and certainly in the Hauran and in northern Jordan. This state of affairs will be the guarantee for peace and security in the area in the long run, and that aim is already within our reach today.

    21- How to break up Iraq along ethnic/religious lines
    Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against us. Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi’ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north. It is possible that the present Iranian-Iraqi confrontation will deepen this polarization.

    22- How to break up Saudi Arabia
    The entire Arabian peninsula is a natural candidate for dissolution due to internal and external pressures, and the matter is inevitable especially in Saudi Arabia. Regardless of whether its economic might based on oil remains intact or whether it is diminished in the long run, the internal rifts and breakdowns are a clear and natural development in light of the present political structure.

    23- Transfer power in Jordan from the King to Palestinians
    Jordan constitutes an immediate strategic target in the short run but not in the long run, for it does not constitute a real threat in the long run after its dissolution, the termination of the lengthy rule of King Hussein and the transfer of power to the Palestinians in the short run. There is no chance that Jordan will continue to exist in its present structure for a long time, and Israel’s policy, both in war and in peace, ought to be directed at the liquidation of Jordan under the present regime and the transfer of power to the Palestinian majority.

    24- Change the regime in Jordan and expel Palestinians from Palestine to Jordan
    Changing the regime east of the river will also cause the termination of the problem of the territories densely populated with Arabs west of the Jordan. Whether in war or under conditions of peace, emigration from the territories and economic demographic freeze in them, are the guarantees for the coming change on both banks of the river, and we ought to be active in order to accelerate this process in the nearest future.

    25- Jews must remove all Palestinians and send them to Jordan
    The autonomy plan ought also to be rejected, as well as any compromise or division of the territories for, given the plans of the PLO and those of the Israeli Arabs themselves, the Shefa’amr plan of September 1980, it is not possible to go on living in this country in the present situation without separating the two nations, the Arabs to Jordan and the Jews to the areas west of the river.

    26- Palestinians must understand that Jews must rule over all Palestine-and they need to move to Jordan
    Genuine coexistence and peace will reign over the land only when the Arabs understand that without Jewish rule between the Jordan and the sea they will have neither existence nor security. A nation of their own and security will be theirs only in Jordan.

    27- Palestinians consider all of Palestine stolen irrespective of 1948 or 1967 and Jews consider all of Palestine theirs – even beyond Jordan River
    Within Israel the distinction between the areas of ’67 and the territories beyond them, those of ’48, has always been meaningless for Arabs and nowadays no longer has any significance for us. The problem should be seen in its entirety without any divisions as of ’67. It should be clear, under any future political situation or military constellation, that the solution of the problem of the indigenous Arabs will come only when they recognize the existence of Israel in secure borders up to the Jordan river and beyond it, as our existential need in this difficult epoch, the nuclear epoch which we shall soon enter.

    28- The West Bank must be populated with Jews or else Jews will be defeated like crusaders.
    Dispersal of the population is therefore a domestic strategic aim of the highest order; otherwise, we shall cease to exist within any borders. Judea, Samaria and the Galilee are our sole guarantee for national existence, and if we do not become the majority in the mountain areas, we shall not rule in the country and we shall be like the Crusaders, who lost this country which was not theirs anyhow, and in which they were foreigners to begin with. Rebalancing the country demographically, strategically and economically is the highest and most central aim today. Taking hold of the mountain watershed from Beersheba to the Upper Galilee is the national aim generated by the major strategic consideration which is settling the mountainous part of the country that is empty of Jews today.

    29- No force can remove the Jews from Palestine
    Our existence in this country itself is certain, and there is no force that could remove us from here either forcefully or by treachery (Sadat’s method). Despite the difficulties of the mistaken “peace” policy and the problem of the Israeli Arabs and those of the territories, we can effectively deal with these problems in the foreseeable future.

  • Helen4Yemen

    The author of this article suffers from Shia phobia! That is for sure. Syria, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon ..are all about Palestine. The goddamned predatory Europeans are there to cause havoc among the people of the region. The Ashkenazi can no go home, his Europe is safe for him to return to but he loves leeches off Arab soil.

  • Honestly, I can’t bring myself to sympathize much with either Netanyahu’s government or Hezbollah. It does not always have to be “either-or”.