My dear friend, the brilliant and witty Emily Dische-Becker
The purported logic behind the #ISISMediablackout hashtag trending on Twitter is that we should deprive a media-whore like ISIS of attention. But the refusal to publish the obviously very disturbing imagery of Foley’s beheading belies an even more disturbing consequence, which is the sanitization and normalization of Israeli genocidal violence and terrorism. It is nothing less than an attempt to aestheticize Israeli terrorism as high culture violence to be contradisintguished from low culture violence.
The mainstream media’s depiction of ISIS violence as “grisly”, “gruesome” and “barbaric” against the backdrop of Israel’s daily terrorism against women and children, euphemistically labelled “killing” and “collateral damage” is intellectually and morally indefensible. One only need compare media coverage of Israel’s assassination of Hamas commander Mohammad al Deif’s wife and 7 month old child with headlines on Foley’s execution. It isn’t merely racist in so far as single white victims clearly elicit more international sympathy and their corpses greater revulsion than the mass deaths of poor darker skinned people whose greying corpses and frozen expressions of terror are met with desensitization on the part of media consumers. More than this, the logic of boycotting ISIS’ terror signals that killing is acceptable so long as it is conducted in a “civilized”, high tech manner as in targeted killings, drone strikes and precision-guided bombs. Axes and machetes NO, but OK to munitions. This completely distorts the definition of terrorism, which while far from universal, has customarily centered on the targets of the violence, rather than the specific means of violence employed. Terrorism is the deliberate [politically motivated] killing of civilians, irrespective of how squemish it makes us feel. And while I denounce the execution of journalists or anyone for that matter, I am not going to get worse nighmares than i do from recalling those fleeing Palestinian children on that Gaza beach playground. Please spare us your white liberal moral imperialism. Both your governments which arm Israel and ISIS are our enemies, whether they use machetes or F16s.
Here is a very important analysis by Radwan Mortada on ISIS’ silence on Gaza. From the excerpts below and based on my own reading of other jihadi literature, it appears (and this is my personal interpretation) that Palestine is only considered a just cause insofar as its is deemed to be Islamic territory, and not because of the inherently unjust and aggressive nature of Zionism; likewise, the US is the enemy not because it spearheads imperialism and capitalism, but because it stands in the way of an Islamic Caliphate. As such, we shouldn’t confuse jihadi anti-Americanism with anti-imperialism, which clearly does not provide the takfiris with an intellectual and ideological framework for action as it does for Hizbullah and the Palestinian resistance movement.
" In effect, the leader of global jihadism Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri had an interesting position, approaching the issue from the angle of priorities on the basis of “Dar al-Kufr and Dar al-Islam,” or the abode of disbelief and the abode of belief in jihadi lore. Zawahiri argues that fighting in Palestine should be on the basis that it is an abode of Islam, and that therefore, liberating it is a duty for every Muslim, as stated in his speech “truths about the conflict between Islam and infidelity” in 2007. But despite this, Palestine remains at the bottom of the list of priorities for most jihadis.
In form, most adherents of Salafi-Jihadism believe that “Shias are more dangerous than Jews.” In substance, they believe that liberating Palestine is irrelevant without the establishment of the caliphate in the countries surrounding Palestine first.The sources, who are based in the Raqqa province of Syria, enumerate these necessary stages, saying, “The priority is to liberate Baghdad, then head to Damascus and liberate all of the Levant, before liberating Palestine.” This is the principle that IS soldiers follow: “Fighting nearby apostates is more important than fighting faraway infidels.”
Full article here
Some preliminary observations—similarities and contrasts between Israel and the Resistance :
(1) Israel shares some important similarities with the Resistance movement in Lebanon and Palestine in that (a) the Zionist political-military apparatus enjoys organic popular support, between 86-91% to be exact (identical figures to Shia support for Hizbullah and, given numerous reports, I would assume similiarly high figures in Palestine for Hamas). Just as a culture of resistance characterizes Lebanese and Palestinians, a culture of aggression and occupation typifies the overwhelming majority of Israelis whose views both reflect and reinforce the actions of their military and political leaders. This is not a cultural over-generalization but an observation based on the shocking moral depravity Israeli teenagers, youths and other social media users are displaying on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram vis-a-vis Palestinian civilians. The examples are too numerous to list here but are now well documented in alternative media.
(b) Just as it’s a misnomer to call Hizbullah or Hamas/IJ etc. political movements with military wings, when in fact they are military/ resistance movements with political wings, it’s erroneous to call Israel a state with an army, when it is more akin to a military base with political and civilian wings, as Nasrallah has described it on numerous occasions. The sole purpose of the Israeli state is to serve Israel’s expansionist aims; similarly, the political parties formed by Hizbullah and Hamas are in the service of the resistance priority, as exemplified by the alliances and unity governments they are often compelled to make.
(2) In contrast to the policy of Israel’s genocidal war machine which is used as a means to pressure Hamas into submission and to undermine popular support for the resistance, the military strategy of the Izzedin al -Qassam Brigades is to pressure Israel by exclusively targeting IDF forces and neutralizing civilians, as asserted by its commander, Mohammad Deif who is quoted as saying that the movement chooses “to confront and kill Israel’s military and elite soldiers rather than attack civilians in neighboring villages.” This is evidenced by the casualty toll (2 civilians killed vs. between 60 and 80 Israeli soldiers) and is further corroborated by several reports on Iron Dome’s failure to intercept weapons. As reported by Reuters, “only about 5 percent of Iron Dome engagements result in the targeted rocket being destroyed or even sufficiently damaged to disable its explosive warhead. In the other 95 percent of cases, the interceptor either misses entirely or just lightly damages the enemy munition, allowing the rocket’s intact warhead to continue arcing toward the ground.” This means that large numbers of Israeli civilians are escaping death not because of the much vaunted defense shield, but because Hamas’ rockets are not intended to inflict mass civilian casualties, but merely function as a form of psychological warfare by forcing civilians into shelters, paralyzing the economy, laying siege to the airport etc. In a similar vein, and as acknowledged by an Israeli intelligence source to the Times of Israel, the attack tunnels target soldiers and not civilian communities: of the nine cross-border tunnels detected, none actually stretches into the grounds of a civilian community: “They could have gone 500 meters more, into the kibbutz,” he said. “Why didn’t they do that?” asks the source.
Israeli media quotes Moussa Abou Marzouk, Meshaal’s deputy, as telling Ria Novosti “We hope the Lebanese front will open and together we will fight against this formation [Israel]…There’s no arguing that Lebanese resistance could mean a lot”.
Given the warming of relations between Hamas and Hizbullah, and the latter’s ongoing military assistance and coordination with Hamas (recently acknowledged by Osama Hamdan) and other Palestinian factions, it is unlikely that Moussa Abou Marzouk’s comment was meant to be divisive or intended to shame Hizbullah which has never actually intervened militarily in Palestine. A more likely explanation for his quote is that it is psychological warfare against Israel whch would surely be threatened by the prospect of its northern front, and possibly Golan front, being activated. This seems all the more likely when one closely reads Nasrallah’s declaration on on Quds Day: “We tell our brothers in Gaza we are with you and beside you and WE WILL DO ANYTHING THAT WE PERCEIVE IS A DUTY on all fronts. We tell the Zionists, you are in the circle of the frail spider web, do not move further to approach the circle of suicide.” Nasrallah’s words were clearly a pledge to the Palestinians to militarily intervene if and when the need arose, and a threat to Israel, that if they “moved further”, i.e. escalated beyond a predetermined threshold, then this would draw Hizbullah into the battle, hence Israel’s imminent “suicide”. Back in 2009 I wrote that Hizbullah would militarily intervene if Hamas’ military capacity were considerably weakened, the resistance emasculated and the Palestinian people left without protection. It doesn’t seem as though we are anywhere near that stage yet, but, if Hamas fails to secure a lifting of the siege and the Sisi regime and its Saudi backers make it impossible for the resistance to replenish its rocket supply, then I think Hizbullah would be forced to step in. Hamas cannot be left without an ongoing flow of weapons; if they dry up then we are faced with the specter of a wider regional war, where Hizbullah will have to fight on 3 fronts simultaneously, especially considering ISIS and Jabhit al Nusra will indirectly collaborate with the Zionists by striking the Resistance and its supporters. But liberating Palestine, rather than Lebanon, is not just Hizbullah’s priority, it is its raison d’etre….
Full story here
According to the latest news reports, between 7 and 10 Palestinian children have been massacred today by the Zionist enemy with its precision-guided munitions, as they sought to escape Israeli bombardment in 2 seperate incidents which targeted a refugee camp and a hospital. Of course, Israel will argue that Hamas arranged for more “telegenically dead” children to die, while pervesely begrudging the emotional impact these deaths will have on the western public psyche. This “Israel against the whole world” besieged mentality will only increase the proportion of Israelis who support the genocide against the Palestinian people from its current level of 85-87% according to various polls. these numbers will keep rising even though it has now become public knowledge that Hamas was not responsible for the killing of the 3 Israeli settlers. Meanwhile, western media will attempt to whitewash this heinous crime as “collateral damage” and will desperately try to achieve “balance” in its reports by reminding us that “Israelis” have also been killed; as though over 43 IDF soldiers who were killed in combat as they invaded Gaza and 2 civilians who were killed by Hamas’ primitive and hence, imprecise rockets, is somehow quantatively and morally equivalent to over 1000 Palestinian CIVILIAN deaths, including hundreds of children who were deliberately targeted while playing and/or fleeing or hiding from Israeli missiles. In these cases as in others, the concept of “balance” is as methodologically meaningless and morally bankrupt as its sister concept of “neutrality” which maintains that not taking sides in situations of barbaric cruelty is the right thing to do.
There is clearly no Israeli “public” we can coexist with, nor an Israeli state we can ever recognize on moral grounds, or accept on strategic, existential grounds. As I have written before, killing is not a mere tactic or strategy for Israel as it is for repressive states, but is a requirement for Israel’s physical security and the security of its identity as an invincible military power. It is for this reason that Palestine can never merely be a human rights cause or a humanitarian cause; its liberation is a strategic and existential necessity for the Arab world. Death to Israel is not a mere slogan, it is the only solution.
Reuters reports that Britain’s Foreign Secretary basically urges Israel to act more like a liberal imperialist than a histrionic Zionist nut-case which is alienating a once sympathetic western public: "I am appealing to my Israeli counterparts, to their Western values, to do everything they can in exercising their legitimate right to self defense to minimize the casualties that are caused….As this campaign goes on and the civilian casualties in Gaza mount, Western public opinion is becoming more and more concerned and less and less sympathetic to Israel.”
Apprently, the daily massacres of women and children holed up inside their homes with nowhere to run, the bombing of hospitals and UNRWA schools, the deliberate targeting of children playing football, the calls for the “extermination” of Gazans by Zionist rabbis, Zionist politicians’ and academics’ calls for the killing and rape of Palestinian mothers, the depiction of Israel’s war crimes as [Palestinian] “self-genocide”, the reference to Palestinian child victims as “telegenically dead”, the Israeli public’s macabre rejoicing over the slaying of Palestinians (AP reports that those who oppose the invasion are a “minority”), the bloodthirsty social media campaigns launched by Israeli teenagers and youths, all this has started to embarass Israel’s western liberal allies. The Zionist regime’s denunciation of the United Nations Human Rights Council as a “kangaroo court” and its portrayal of Brazil as an “irrelevant” “diplomatic dwarf” have only reinforced the world’s growing awareness that Israel is bat-shit crazy.
Full report here
If the 2006 July War shattered the myth of Israel’s invincibility, this latest war on Gaza has shattered the myth of Israel’s sustainability. I am not just referring here to the military performance of Hamas, IJ and other groups, or to the demonstrable failure of Iron Dome, but to the ultimately self-destructive nature of Israel’s military strategy of genocide. When a people have been subjected to such relentless barbarity, there is no worst case scenario that the oppressor can threaten them with. They have everything to gain and nothing left to lose from resisting to the end. The more ground troops Israel sends into Gaza, the more opportunities it presents the Resistance with to abduct and kill them. The only thing that is now preventing a cease-fire is Israel’s inability to find a face-saving exit strategy. Israel’s identity as an invicible power and its physical security are entirely dependent on its ability to commit genocide at minimum human and economic cost, and that is no longer possible. Israel is on its death-bed, regardless of what a long miserable death it will be.
The deputy-speaker of the Israeli Knesset calls for the occupation of Gaza and the expulsion of all its inhabitants, using the following measures:
1) Don’t spare any civilian lives: “Attack the entire ‘target bank’ throughout Gaza with the IDF’s maximum force (and not a tiny fraction of it) with all the conventional means at its disposal. All the military and infrastructural targets will be attacked with no consideration for ‘human shields’ or ‘environmental damage’. It is enough that we are hitting exact targets and that we gave them advance warning.”
2) Starve and strangulate the Palestinian population: “a total siege on Gaza. Nothing will enter the area. Israel, however, will allow exit from Gaza.”
3) Repeat, don’t spare any civilian lives: “attack with full force and no consideration for ‘human shields’ or ‘environmental damage’.”
4) Conquer Gaza with no mercy for civilian lives :”the IDF will conquer the entire Gaza, using all the means necessary to minimize any harm to our soldiers, with no other considerations”
5) All supporters of the Resistance should be killed, including children related to Resistance fighters and kids who throw stones: ” ..eliminate all armed enemies from Gaza. The enemy population that is innocent of wrong-doing and separated itself from the armed terrorists will be treated in accordance with international law and will be allowed to leave.”
6) Palestinians will be denied even this open-air prison because every inch of historic Palestine must be usurped: “Liberation of parts of our land forever is the only thing that justifies endangering our soldiers in battle to capture land. Subsequent to the elimination of terror from Gaza, it will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews.”
It’s important to bear in mind that this is not a minority view but represents the aspirations of the political mainstream and the majority of Zionist “civilians”, all of whom would be actively pursuing this were it not for the heroic Resistance and the resilient Palestinian people.
Full op-ed here
Children aside, the concept of “Israeli civilians” is an oxymoron. This meme created by Israelis is circulating on Twitter, depicting Gaza as a woman waiting to be raped by the Zionist army. The meme reads: ” “Bibi, finish inside this time! Signed, citizens in favor of a ground assault”.
Well before the dissemination of memes like this, not to mention selfies of Israeli teenage girls calling for the death of Palestinians, and images of Israelis relaxing atop hilltops as they eat popcorn and cheer on their invading army massacre Palestinians, Hizbullah was well aware of the Zionist aggressor identity of Israeli “civilians”. In chapter 7 of my book on Hizbullah (2002) I write: “In principle, the party maintains that it ‘prefers to deem Israeli civilians neutral’….[Sheikh Naim] Qasim admits that this is virtually impossible to maintain in reality…Hizbullah rationalizes that it is not killing innocent Israeli civilians, but hostile militant Zionists…[it] perceives Israeli society as an essentially Zionist and ideological monolith, characterized by an inveterate animosity towards the Arab Muslims….Nasrallah’s reference to dead and wounded Israelis as “Zionist” [casualties] implies that Hizbullah does perceive Israeli civilians as detached from the Zionist project, and therefore ‘innocent’, but as co-conspirators in this malevolent scheme…”
We are not beasts like them, so we do not call for their deaths, only that they leave historic Palestine as all occupying armies are eventually forced to do.
Given Arab outrage at Israel’s latest round of aggression against the Palestinian people, some Arab leftists and Palestine solidarity activists have been attacking Hizbullah for fighting jihadis in Syria while abstaining from intervening militarily in Palestine. Aside from ignoring the existential nature of the far less manageable conflict with the takfiris (who are accountable to no one), such accusations ignore the fact that Hizbullah has never directly intervened in Palestine.
In 2009, I wrote this piece explaining why Hizbullah couldn’t militarily intervene in the 2008/2009 war on Gaza. I think the excerpts below are even more relevant now, considering Hizbullah is currently fighting on 2 other fronts, over and above its deterrent strategy vis-a-vis Israel:
"While Israel fervently attempts to terrorize the Palestinians into submission in Gaza, many observers have started to wonder why Hizballah has refrained from stepping in militarily to assist its brothers-in-arms, Hamas. Such musings fail to take account of the constraints on Hizballah’s room for action, as well as the circumstances under which Hizballah would ignore such constraints. The question that should be posed is not so much if Hizballah will act, but when.
As things currently stand, Hizballah is not in a position to directly help Hamas militarily by opening a new front with Israel. In the first place, Hizballah and its supporters have only recently recovered from the devastating impact of Israel’s war against them in July 2006. A Hizballah offensive against northern Israel would surely be met with “disproportionate” force on Israel’s part, which Israel has been threatening as much for several months now. Mass destruction and devastation aside, Hizballah would once again be faced with intense domestic pressures to disarm, and possibly, more externally manufactured, locally-executed conspiracies hatched against it that could drag it into the kind of civil warfare that the movement found itself in during May 2008.
Armed action by Hizballah would not only hurt the movement but would also harm Hamas whose status as a nationalist resistance movement, capable of defending its own people, would be greatly undermined and its raison d’etre called into question. Furthermore, since Hamas has thus far managed to withstand the Israeli onslaught on its own without suffering any significant damage to its organizational hierarchy or military infrastructure, Hizballah does not regard an intervention on its part as an exigent need…..
Hamas’ fighting style also seems to bear the hallmarks of the military tactics Hizballah used during the July War such as its use of underground bunkers and tunnel networks, as well as adopting similar rocket tactics, all of which suggest Hizballah’s extensive training of Hamas’ military forces. Nasrallah came close to admitting as much when he claimed on 31 December that “the resistance in Gaza benefitted more from these lessons [from the July War] than the Israelis.” More than simply receiving military training, Hamas’s military strategy appears to conform to the “new school of fighting” founded by Hizballah’s assassinated military leader, Imad Mughniyeh (himself rumored to have personally trained and equipped several Palestinian groups over the years), which combines conventional and non-conventional, guerilla warfare that functions not only to liberate occupied territory, but to defend it from aggression.”
Full article here
Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah introduced a new strategic and political motivation behind Hizbullah’s involvement in the war on Syria, which goes beyond its defense of Syria’s territorial integrity and the Syrian state’s support for resistance movements, and even beyond the existential threat takfiri-jihadis pose to Syria and Lebanon; Hizbullah’s defense of the Syrian Arab Republic today aims at preventing a repetition of the imperialists’ creation of Israel, only this time in Syria and the region as a whole: “the spectre of Palestine’s usurpation is being repeated today”. By arming and supporting takfiri groups (Nasrallah even drew parallels between their deployment and mobilization throughout the region and the mass migration of Jews to historic Palestine) the imperialists seek to fragment Syria and destroy the Resistance Axis, and in so doing, protect Israel. Basically, Hizbullah will never allow Syria to become a second Israel or a neo-colonialist outpost in the region designed to protect the first Israel.
Cool. A French-Algerian reader kindly informed me that I have the dubious honour of being quoted by the IDF’s French website (http://tsahal.fr/2013/07/15/hezbollah-parti-politique-ou-organisation-terroriste), and also on the IDF’s special English language website for Hizbullah linked below:
"As explained by Lebanese writer Dr. Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, these efforts may strengthen the social contract between Hezbollah and its followers, though “it would be a mistake, however, to think this is the main reason why Hezbollah’s followers are attracted to [the movement].” The organization’s message of resistance against Israel is what resonates the most among Hezbollah’s supporters." In other news, death to Israel soon Inshallah.
I am copy-pasting this very important Haaretz analysis since it is protected by a firewall. Here is the full piece:
The “room for denial” doctrine — under which Syria, Hezbollah and Israel all deny that Israeli attacks have occurred so as to avoid the need to respond — was dealt a blow on Wednesday. Hezbollah’s announcement that one of its bases in Lebanon was hit by Israeli jets and that the organization will respond when and where it sees fit, attests to a tactical shift, and perhaps even a new strategy.
This doesn’t mean that from now on, either Hezbollah or Syria is going to make a public announcement every time Israel attacks. But the “open account” between Israel and Hezbollah has now become public, and that grants the Lebanese organization double legitimacy.
First, if it decides to attack Israel, it will no longer be accused of starting a war; it can defend the attack as merely “settling accounts.” Second, it can parlay the Israeli strike into official government support for it to retain its arms, which have come under increasing criticism within Lebanon due to the organization’s participation in the Syrian civil war. On Tuesday, for instance, Nabil Kaouk, deputy chairman of Hezbollah’s executive committee, demanded that the newly formed Lebanese government offer support to the “resistance” and declare this a fundamental principle of its policy.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s statement that the attack was not on Hezbollah alone, but on all of Lebanon, poses a dilemma for the new government. The organization is trying to force the government into responding to an attack that at least some ministers see as a punishment aimed solely at Hezbollah, not the country. And for Israel, Hezbollah’s new tactic means the “room for denial” policy no longer provides an umbrella under which it can attack without claiming responsibility, and to a large extent, without fearing a response.
From a military standpoint, Hezbollah has not lost its ability to respond. It can still launch just as many rockets and missiles at Israel as it could before. But domestic political considerations, as well as strategic considerations related to the war in Syria, are dictating its moves these days. Hezbollah’s desire to keep Israel from expanding its military operations in a way that would aid the Syrian rebels — who are now waging fierce battles in Syria’s Qalamoun Hills, near the border with Lebanon — could be outweighing its fear of an Israeli attack on its bases in Lebanon.
In this context, the statement put out by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is interesting. The group, which is considered close to the rebels, said that Israel struck a Hezbollah missile base near Baalbek from which missiles had been fired at the Qalamoun Hills. That statement was denied by Hezbollah, but it portrays Israel as having become an active player in Syria’s civil war, on the rebels’ side.
This isn’t the first time rebel spokesmen have reported on “Israeli military aid” for their cause. A few months ago, for instance, they reported that Israel had helped a rebel force entering Syria from Jordan by disrupting the Syrian army’s communications system, thereby making it impossible for the local field headquarters to communicate with the Syrian high command. On another occasion, rebel representatives voiced hope that Israel would continue to attack Syria, saying its previous attacks had helped the rebel forces.
What does Israel really want?
Publicly, Israel insists it isn’t involved in the rebels’ military operations. The only aid it acknowledges openly is the humanitarian aid it gives the rebels — medical treatment for the wounded and limited amounts of food. But according to Jordanian sources, Israel is briefed on the coordination between the United States and Jordan, where soldiers and officers of the Free Syrian Army are being trained.
At the same time, some Syrian opposition representatives continue to accuse Israel of wanting Syrian President Bashar Assad to remain in power. Assad’s regime, for its part, accuses Israel of aiding the rebels, seeking thereby to undermine the opposition’s legitimacy.
The uncertainty over Israel’s strategy on Syria has so far served to keep the radical Islamist groups, including those affiliated with Al-Qaida, from opening another front against Israel. Their fear is that any attack on Israel, even an unintentional one, could grant Israel license to expand its military operations in Syria beyond attacking missile convoys and Hezbollah bases.
So far, this fragile balance has been strictly maintained, and aside from occasional errant shelling in the Golan Heights, Israel is considered off-limits for attacks. But the key word in that sentence is “fragile.” The balance could be broken at any moment.
I was just reading some of the reactions on Twitter to Hizbullah’s latest statement in which it confirmed that Israel had struck a Hizbullah base in the Bekaa on Monday, while denying the strike had caused any casualties or targeted any weapons’ caches. The problem with dismissing Hizbullah’s threat to respond at “a time and place of its own choosing” as empty rhetoric is part and parcel of the wider problem of all-purpose punditry and the industry of self-styled Hizbullah “experts” . This phenomenon has become all the more acute in the wake of the war on Syria, whereby Western pundits and Arab social media activists, emboldened by the mainstreaming of “citizen journalism”, have become overnight “experts” on Syria, Hizbullah and the Resistance Axis.
As someone who has been studying and writing about Hizbullah for the past 18 years, I have always been particularly wary of the western journalist or pundit who claims to have spoken to Hizbullah officials, let alone Resistance commanders. Not only are such claims usually flagrant lies, but the notion that Hizbullah trusts these people and is so eager to please the white man that its officials will gladly bypass the Hizbullah Media Office (which, incidentally has not granted a single interview to western journalists in years) and divulge the movement’s strategic plans in Syria and Lebanon, is both incredibly condescending and insulting to the intelligence.
I am equally skeptical of western “expert” claims of any special insights on Hizbullah, not least because THEY NEVER GET IT RIGHT. The depth of expert knowledge is not hard to measure, for as in the natural sciences, knowledge in the social sciences is gauged by its predictive value. And the fact is that the overwhelming majority of Western, Israeli , and colonized Arab “experts” just haven’t been able to reliably predict Hizbullah’s future actions. There are many reasons for this intelligence gap but the principal one is that they are outside observers who view Hizbullah from a western-centric lens. Their understanding of concepts like power and interest emanate from a Euro-American dominated political science tradition that is peculiar to western historical experiences.
As one of the more colonial disciplines, Western anthropology introduced the role of the “participant-observer” who both observes and participates in the life of the group she is studying . Despite the scientific and ethical shortcomings of this colonial “going native” approach, it did signal a recognition of the western observer’s limitations in understanding non-western cultures from a geographic and social distance. Unfortunately, today’s epistemic community of academics, policy wonks and journalists are far less cognizant of these limitations than some of their old-school colonialist predecessors.
Any meaningful insights into the mind of Hizbullah will continue to elude all those who do not share its worldview. By that I don’t simply mean the Hizbullah supporter in the abstract sense, but those who view political reality through the same lens, share the same purpose, and are deeply committed to the same cause. Only “committed-observers” can understand Hizbullah and predict its future actions because they do not have to second-guess its intent and motives, or make assumptions about its priorities; they know them because they live them.
They do not view Hizbullah as an organization that is external to them, nor do they support it on a partisan “Team Hizbullah” basis. Hizbullah is synonymous with Resistance which belongs to all its adherents. Supporters of Hariri don’t know the Future Movement in the same way that Hizbullah’s committed-observers know Hizbullah, and that is because the former are not bound by any shared cause, beyond a reactivity to Hizbullah cemented by sectarianism. In this sense, Hizbullah is a culture not a party with card-carrying members. And as a political culture it has its own unique mindset and rationality.
It is precisely this rationality that I invoke whenever I am interviewed by media on Hizbullah. Of course, as an analyst my knowledge of the movement is based on empirical evidence I have observed, but my assessment of Hizbullah’s actions and intentions, my prognostications of its future actions come from this resistance rationality that I share with it. When I am asked “how will Hizbullah respond” I essentially ask myself “how should we [who are committed to the Resistance project] respond?” And I am usually able to provide an accurate response or prediction, not because I possess any superior intellectual abilities, but because I, like many others in Lebanon and beyond, share the Resistance’s priorities and concerns, and my analysis is guided by the same political values and rationality as them. In fact, I am very confident that a committed 18 year old Hizbullah supporter would yield more valuable insights on the movement and offer more reliable predictions of its behavior than a western academic or journalist who claims expert knowledge.
And I am equally confident that if any committed observer is asked “will Hizbullah really respond to Israel’s attacks on Monday?” he or she will tell you that as the first such attack since the end of the July War in 2006, Hizbullah has no choice but to respond, irrespective of how deeply mired it is in the Syrian conflict and in safeguarding Lebanon from terrorist infiltration. It has to respond because confronting Israel will always constitute the larger part of its raison d’etre, even if its mission has expanded over the years. And it will respond because to not respond would upset its doctrine of deterrence and “balance-of-terror” with Israel which it painfully earned after two decades of blood and sacrifice. Hizbullah will respond because there is no precedent of Hizbullah not retaliating for an Israeli attack (I am not including assassinations here) and it is highly unlikely that it would want to set a new precedent for its enemies. We just have to wait and see when and how it will do so, because no matter how committed we are as observers we are not privy to Hizbullah’s military strategy.