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.
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.
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.
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
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.