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.
A report forecasting Israel’s strategic future looks positively at Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East though it fears instability along Israeli borders. Israeli Major General Amos Yadlin concludes
By Israeli officials’ own accounts, the Syrian uprising/war and even the rise of al-Qaeda on Israel’s doorstep have generally boosted Israel’s position in the region: “an increase in terrorist activity on Israel’s borders by terrorist groups … has thus far not materialized into a strategic threat….the opportunities presented by the upheavals in the Arab world outweigh the risks they incur. Foremost among these opportunities is the worsening relations between the Sunni axis led by Saudi Arabia and the Shia axis led by Iran. The weakening of the Shia axis, primarily as a result of the civil war in Syria, has broadened Israel’s room to maneuver in the Middle East and created an opportunity to expand its cooperation with the Sunni axis countries.”
Read al-Akhbar’s summary of Israeli Major General Amos Yadlin’s conclusion for the “Strategic Survey for Israel 2013-2014” here
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for celebrating the death of Sharon, but so long as we remain mindful of mainstream media’s attempt to draw a false distinction between good and bad (using the euphemism “controversial” as an epithet to Sharon for example) Zionist leaders. Yes Sharon was responsible for heinous crimes against humanity, but as a “soldier-politican” and a war criminal, he embodied the very ethos of that military-state project we call Israel whose very existence is an act of aggression in itself. Nor should we forget the countless massacres and invasions into Palestinian and Lebanese territories which Labour “doves” like Barak can take credit for. Every Zionist official and every Zionist occupier is an Ariel Sharon, who in turn, was nothing but a personification of the evils of the Zionist regime, aka “Israel”.
It is beyond the realms of irony and symbolism that a Saudi-backed takfiri suicide-bomber targetted Ahmad Kassir Street in Dahyeh today, a street dedicated to the resistance fighter, Ahmad Kassir who carried out the first martyrdom operation against Israeli soliders in South Lebanon in November 1982. Nor is it a coincidence that the bomb was detonated in front of the Kazma building, the first building Hizbullah’s reconstruction company, Waad, rebuilt after the Zionists flattened Dahyeh in 2006. These syncronicities epitomize the takfiri-Saudi-Zionist nexus and aptly illustrate how al-Qaeda’s affiliates are serving Israel’s interests, irrespective of their intent. Hizbullah is neither “fighting fellow Muslims” as claimed by its enemies, nor merely “defending the Shia” from annihilation as argued by some of its supporters. In fighting the takfiris and their backers, who are attempting to achieve what Israel failed to accomplish in 2006 , only with new means, Hizbullah is continuing to resist Israel as part of its expanded concept of Resistance.
Fuck any journalist or observer who calls today’s bombing in Dahyeh a “spillover” effect of Syria’s war on Lebanon, as though the violence is a spontaneous and local reaction to Hizbullah’s role in Syria which would never have occurred otherwise.. This misnomer is a gross distortion of reality given that Hizbullah’s involvement in Syria was triggered by the presence of takfiri and Syrian rebels in Lebanon, and attacks on Lebanese Shi’a in Syria and on Lebanese territory. It also ignores the targetting of Sunni areas and officials, like Mohammad Chatah last week. This is nothing less than a Saudi-Zionist plot which aims at replicating the Iraqi and Syrian template by sowing sectarian strife in Lebanon, and at eliminating/wearing out the Resistance by opening multiple battle fronts and overextending its security and military forces.
The following assertion Nasrallah made in today’s speech, probably won’t be reported in mainstream media, but it is extremely important as it is one of the rare occasions when Hizbullah has described the war in Syria in similar language to its war with Israel: “No amount of pressure can change our position on Syria because it is an existential battle for us; I don’t just mean for Hizbullah, but for Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and for the entire resistance project in the region.” Nasrallah’s deputy, Sheikh Naim Qassem elaborated on this point last week when he said: “Wherever our resistance is, it is ultimately a resistance to the Israeli enemy, because our enemy fights us directly in some places and it fights us indirectly in others with groups and proxies who either serve its agenda or are controlled without knowing it, which is an even greater calamity.”
I have been trying to hold back on deconstructing mainstream media reports on Syria and Hizbullah, mainly because it is just too time consuming in light of the constant supply of glaring inaccuracies and fabrications. But this piece in AP today “Car Bomb Hits Hizbullah Stronghold in Lebanon”, was just too much. Excerpts and my commentary below:
"Hezbollah’s participation in the civil war in Syria is highly divisive and unpopular in Lebanon, where many feel it has deviated from its original purpose of fighting Israel and that it has exposed the Shiite community to retaliation."
Note the term “highly unpopular” which falsely indicates that an overwhelming majority of Lebanese oppose Hizbullah’s role in Syria. This connotation is further corroborated by the allusion to Hizbullah’s Shia supporters as turning away from it: “many feel….it has exposed the Shiite community to retaliation.” The first insinuation is misleading as the same polarization and antipathy towards Hizbullah has been in place since February 2005 in the wake of Hariri’s assassination—a good 8 years before the movement’s participation in the Syrian war. The very same March 14 supporters who decried Hizbullah’s alliance with Syria which was initially blamed for the assassination, continue to oppose it today for siding with the Syrian government and fighting alongside it. Nothing new there. Implying that Hizbullah has lost support among its core Shia constituency is a gross fabrication of reality and even lacks the anecdotal “evidence” mainstream media customarily uses as the basis for its Hizbullah narratives.
My argument is based on easily observed indicators such as the massive turnout for the Ashura commemoration it organized this year, as well as the unprecedented number of secular and non-observant Shia who partook in the event and campaigned for it on social media. As a longtime participant observer of the resistance movement and its supporters, I can confidently say that while Hizbullah has lost Arab Sunni support in the region as whole, it has not suffered any loss of Shia support in Lebanon. In fact, one of the unfortunate consequences of the war on Syria is that the Shia have increasingly come to view themselves as an embattled sect facing an existential threat and have rallied in even greater numbers behind Hizbullah for that reason. Moreover, the notion that the Shia feel Hizbullah has “deviated from its original purpose of fighting Israel” is an outright lie as they do not extricate the Saudi-Takfiri onslaught against the Resistance from the US-Israeli Zionist project to eliminate it; Hizbullah’s constituency is very much aware of the Saudi regime’s open alliance with Israel, and of the direct or indirect collusion between the takfiri fighters and the Zionist enemy, as the bombing of the Iranian embassy and Hassan Lakkis’s assassination demonstrate. The downfall of the Syrian government, the defeat of the Syrian Arab Army and the wholesale destruction of Syria are viewed as serving Israel and furthering the Empire’s divide- and- rule strategy. For Hizbullah’s supporters, the loss of Syria and its government not only poses an existential threat to them personally, but to the Resistance and by extension, the Palestinian cause.
"The group’s open support of Assad has enraged Sunnis and left it with no shortage of enemies eager to strike at its strongholds and leadership. Dozens of people have been killed in deadly car bombings claimed by radical Sunni groups."
While it is true that Lebanon’s Sunnis are indeed virulently opposed to Hizbullah’s alliance with the Assad government and the Syrian Army, AP’s attempt to translate this public animosity into Sunni militancy against Hizbullah and the Shia in general (note that the concept of the Hizbullah “stronghold” is information warrior shorthand for Shia civilian areas which have been repeatedly targeted) is nothing less than sectarian agitation. As the author admits herself, the bombings have been the work of “radical” not mainstream Sunni groups; asserting that angry Sunnis have left Hizbullah with no shortage of enemies eager to strike at its strongholds and leadership” suggests that Lebanon’s Sunnis are all potential car and suicide bombers.
"Most recently, on Dec. 4, gunmen assassinated a senior Hezbollah commander, Hassan al-Laqees, in the garage of his building in a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Beirut. And last month, two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, killing 23 people. An al-Qaida-affiliated group claimed responsibility, saying it was payback for Hezbollah’s support of Assad."
This backgrounder is intended to obfuscate Israel’s continued intelligence war on Hizbullah as it completely ignores the Zionist regime’s very obvious culpability in the Lakkis killing and its highly probable collaboration with the Saudis and their jihadi agents in masterminding the embassy bombing, especially considering it occurred days before the imminent US-Iranian nuclear agreement which both parties were trying to sabotage for months. Also noteworthy is how AP completely ignores the two suicide attacks on Lebanese Army posts in Sidon and Majdalyoun on Sunday night, which, like the Bekaa car/suicide bomb against Hizbullah today, were also carried out by takfiri groups. The failure to contextualize today’s bombing with events that occurred just a day earlier by the same type of perpetrator is not only sloppy journalism or omissive reporting, it is a crude propagandistic attempt to portray takfiri groups in a purely reactive light— Hizbullah is a target solely because of its participation in the Syrian war. If the reader is reminded of the attacks on the Lebanese Army, which is obviously not party to the Syrian war, then Hizbullah cannot be blamed for terrorist acts committed against it and its supporters.
Hizbullah announces the assassination of a Resistance commander last night, in front of his home in the St.Therese area in Haddad, Beirut. Hajj Hassan Hulu al-Lakkis was a fighter in the Resistance since its early days, and was father to of one of the Resistance martyrs in the July War. Hizbullah lays full responsibility for this crime and its implications on the Zionist enemy, who had made several attempts on his life in the past. May he rest in power.
Psychopathologize this: my latest piece for Al-Jazeera English on the psychological disorders of the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Excerpts: “One has to first understand the US’ pathology and how it affects the behaviour of its partners who share diagnostic “Cluster B” traits with it. As a Malignant/Classical/Grandiose Narcissist (not to be confused with the Compensatory/Vulnerable narcissism exhibited by the likes of France and the UK), the US imperium is characterised by “an obsession with one’s self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one’s gratification, dominance and ambition.”…….. As expected of borderline personalities, Saudi Arabia reacted to this neglect with fits of rage, impulsivity and a destabilisation of the relationship - a kind of “I hate you, don’t leave me” phenomenon - which only serves to push the narcissist further away from the borderline personality. In the case of the Saudi borderline personality, existential fears are especially pronounced as they directly relate to regime survival, which, in no small measure, is dependent on US military and political support….. The histrionic’s penchant for “hysteria”, “self-dramatisation, theatricality, exaggerated expression of emotions”, and discomfort when “not the centre of attention”, has been showcased by Israel’s “borderline hysterical response” to the interim agreement with Iran, as one Foreign Policy writer described it. These theatrics were most vividly illustrated by Netanyahu’s meme-generating, Looney Tunes-inspired, Iranian bomb cartoon which he somberly displayed at the UN last year - a textbook case of the histrionic’s “highly impressionistic” style of expression.”…
Many are concerned that Iran’s nuclear deal in Geneva will lead to a wider regional agreement whereby Iran will be forced to relinquish the Palestinian cause and support for Hizbullah’s resistance. There is no room here for a response that refers to political identity, ideology and historical precedents, nor to the implications of the deal on Iran’s foes and allies, which I will leave for another time. For now I just want to highlight one fact: had it not been for Iran’s resistance-driven foreign policy and its regional alliances—in short, Iran’s supposed liabilities—the US would not have been compelled to recognize Iran as a nuclear power, and more importantly, as THE leading regional power. Only an irrational and suicidal state would relinquish the very forces and alignments which were responsible for its ascendance on the world stage. If anything, the Geneva agreement has proven that the path of dependency and Arab “moderation” will earn its members little more than a regional spoiler role. This deal only confirms the logic of independence and resistance as the soundest path to national security and power.
All those naysayers out there can go suck it. If Netanyahu’s “historic mistake” outcry wasn’t enough, other Zionist officials have been waxing lyrical about this historic breakthrough: “Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said “there is no achievement in this agreement. This is the biggest diplomatic victory Iran has known in recent years – since the Khameini regime (came to power).” When asked if the deal contains any positive aspect, Lieberman replied “no, there is no such thing.” The tone was echoed by a government spokesperson who said “This is a bad deal. It gives Iran exactly what it wanted – a significant reduction of sanctions while preserving the most significant part of its nuclear program,” a official from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni addressed the deal during a special Ynet broadcast: “This is a terrible deal that will threaten not only us, but the entire world….”
Any attack on Syria that aims to severely or significantly degrade its military capabilities, and in so doing, reverse all the Syria Arab Army’s hard-won military gains and shift the balance of power in the rebels favour, will further draw Hizbullah and Iran in the conflict. The Syrian Army is a red line for both Syria’s allies; for Hizbullah, the weakening of the Syrian Army is both an existential issue for the resistance and a national security issue for Lebanon and Iran, in stark contrast with the US which has no security presence or “security interests” in Syria or in our region, just hegemonic designs. When the takfiri rebels attacked Lebanese villages and Lebanese civilians inside Syria, Hizbullah’s response was to openly engage them in Qusayr. When they staged terrorist attacks in Dahyeh, Nasrallah threatened them with doubling the number of Hizbullah fighters in Syria. It doesnt take a huge leap of the imagination to fathom just how much more of an existential threat an American-Zionist-Arab scheme to destroy the Syrian Army would pose to Hizbullah’s resistance and Lebanon’s internal security. And Hizbullah wouldnt’t even need to retaliate against Israel from Lebanon, but would do so from Syria itself, alongside the Syrian Army and with Iranian military assistance. Make no mistake about it, the response of the Resistance Axis will once again preoccupy the same military strategists who were busy studying the “hybrid warfare” model that the Imad Mughnieh Schoolof Warfare introduced in July 2006. If I were a Zionist right now, I would be praying for nothing more than a “slap on the wrist” strike, from the safety of my bunker.
I don’t want to question in what moral universe would a state like Israel, which is the very embodiment of genocide and moral obscenity and whose very existence is a crime against humanity, be deemed fit to judge alleged war crimes committed by other nations. Of course this question applies equally to the US as well but we are talking about Israel now. I dont want to employ any moral or value-laden arguments; i simply want to refer to euro-american standards of justice like ”fair trial” and “neutral arbitration” (which is why the west created not-so neutral institutions like the UN), as well as scientific standards for inquiry like “impartiality”. In what western legal universe would it be deemed fair to use as legal “evidence”, information provided by a party to the conflict, which has occupied the territory of the state in question, repeatedly attacked and threatened it, and publicly called for the overthrow of its government? In what legal universe would “evidence” or “intelligence” provided by such a state be deemed credible and reliable? In what legal universe would such a state be deemed an impartial observer of alleged war crimes? In what legal universe would it be considered fair to completely bypass a supposedly neutral arbiter of justice like the UN in favour of Israeli [mis] information?