|[Prev] [Contents] [Next]|
Summary and Conclusion|
In this essay, I started out with an analysis of certain factors that brought about the Lebanese war: the political system, the informal power structures of the zu'ama, the socio-economic discrepancies and the entrance of the Arab-Israeli conflict on the Lebanese stage. No doubt, I would say, the Shia community had endured miserable conditions at the pre-war stage, and the Shiite political mobilization, converged in many ways alongside and inter-linked with the regional environment of warfare and the polarization within the Lebanese society. This, of course, contributed to radicalization. As the state was breaking down and the civil war erupted many Shiites chose to join various radical Lebanese left wing groups that allied with the Palestinian movements, challenging the state and the traditional establishment that had neglected the Shiites for so long. However, the sectarian climate fostered by the war and the way Shiite leaders utilized the Shiite doctrine and paradigm for mobilization resulted in the Amal movement and in the Shiites strengthening their ties and loyalities within their own communtiy.
Moreover, the disappearance of Sayyed Musa, the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Israeli invasions and occupation further boosted the self-image of the Shia and contributed to a deeper radicalization of the community. Hence, the Israeli invasion of 1982 and Amal's accomodating posture towards a regime in which Israel's allies, Bashir Gemayel and his Phalange party, formed an integral part, were unacceptable for certain elements of those radicalized Shiites. To them, Lebanon as a state had begun to integrate into the big Israeli schemes for the Middle East; a development Amal, secular and moderate, did not seem to oppose. At the same time, Syria and Iran saw the advantages in supporting the new radical sentiments and thereby containing any Israeli aspiration of gaining control over Lebanon. As a result, Hizballah was formed (even if the basic ideas of their ideology had been represented among certain Shiite clerics since years). Indeed, the resistance, that bursted its way forward between 1983-85, was successful, forcing the MNF out of Lebanon and the Israelis all the way down to their 10 km deep "security-zone", eliminating the last intention with the grand scheme of the Israeli 1982 invasion. Visions of "liberating Jerusalem", however, or raising an Islamic state were not realized. Instead, the second half of the eighties was distinguished by hostage crisis, conflicts with Amal, a continued resistance against the Israelis and SLA in the south, alongside an overhelming atmosphere of the "wild-west" in Lebanon as a whole.
The Ta'if Accord was a main turning point. As we have seen, the war north of the "security-zone" ended. Syria sealed its influence over Lebanon at the same time as Iran moderated, and Hizballah chose to join the new political framework that the agreement in Ta'if succeded in creating.
Thus, undeniably, the context confronting the view and ideology of Hizballah has indeed changed since the days of the Lebanese war during which the movement was born. Its basic ideological principles, however, advocated in the "Open Letter" in 1985, have not changed. That is, the perceived "threat" of Israeli expansionism and power ambitions, supported by the US, and the "call" for Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic state model as a resistance and a divine solution. From the view of Hizballah, imperialism (i.e. American schemes) still strives to dominate the Middle East through Israeli hegemony. At present, this "threat" has two faces: one is approaching on the wings of a dove by the peace negotiations and the other is standing behind on Lebanon's own backyard, embodied by the Israeli forces and their proxy, the SLA, in the occupied "security-zone". Accordingly, every measure of Hizballah is aimed at oppose those threats.
With respect to negotiations and a possible peace settlement, Hizballah have chosen "between two evils" and have thus indirectly accepted that the Lebanese regime is negotiating in the same track as the Syrians with the Israelis. In addition, the movement has also conceded that the Syrian presence in Lebanon is a necessity during this stage. The accompanying track with Damascus, Hizballah spokesmen say, constitutes a shield against a settlement which in their eyes would be just as imbalanced as those other agreements currently concluded between Israel and the Arab states. Considering the alliance - although fragile - between Syria and Hizballah during the eighties, this cooperation is not that strange. Nevertheless, Damascus and Beirut also support - at least verbally - the armed resistance in the south as long as Israel has not complied to the UN resolution 425.
Therefore, Hizballah see no complications in joining the Lebanese political framework. In contrast to the past, the Christian political hegemony is eliminated, and the balance of confessionalism has tipped in favor of the Muslim communities under the patronage of Syria. Indeed, Hizballah also note that the Ta'if Accord draws up the guidelines and a certain timetable for a deconfessionalization of the political system which - as shown - is one of the outspoken aims of the movement.
Then, in what way are those issues being used as "measures" in opposing the "threat" of the US and Israel? Well, as one Hizballah official noted, the movement is "surviving through pragmatism". That is, the alternatives are few. The Syrians call the shots at present and Hizballah have accepted that as a fact, fully aware that opposing Damascus only would be futile and headless. However, a possible peace settlement does not mean the end of the race for Hizballah. As deputy secretary-general Na'im Kassem declared, the "danger of peace" is greater than the "danger of war" because peace implies a glimpse of "normalization" - an establishment of the Israeli concept as legitimate in the Arab world. Hence, the political integration and the digging into the administrative structures of the country is a way for the movement to oppose any such condition of "normalization" with Israel. As we have seen, this has also been clearly revealed by the spokesmen of the movement. By being a part of the formal structures of Lebanon, Hizballah will be able to find the lowest common denominator with other political parties and groupings in order to oppose any efforts of the regime to "normalize" its relations with the Israeli state. In addition, within the state structures, the values and norms of Hizballah will probably be more easily accepted in the Lebanese society. Thus, in case of peace, the movement will make every effort in order to make it a "cold" one.
Meanwhile, Hizballah are eager in mobilizing political support for their armed resistance against the Israeli occupation of the south. By stressing this issue in both parliament and the street, the movement - on the political and social level - can counter the sentiments within the Lebanese society that prefer negotiations to armed resistance. In the chapters dealing with the armed struggle of the Islamist guerillas and the social services the movement is distributing, I have also shown that liberation through battle is imperative for Hizballah and that the movement is working hard in not letting this issue exhaust the civilian population of the south. By spreading their messages alongside the social services, Hizballah want to implement their values according to their own holistic vision: that certain principles are supreme, worth enduring - that there is a need for sacrifice and that there is no value in a "life in humiliation". The services, moreover, are aimed at making the needed endurance less painful.
Therefore, contrary to the assumption of the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, I do not believe that the Islamic Resistance would continue its armed struggle if Israel withdrew its forces. Why? Because that would ruin all legitimacy the movement has gained in the Lebanese society. Firstly, with respect to such a fundamental issue as armed actions, Hizballah cannot by violence oppose a policy set by a regime of which they themselves constitute a part. Indeed, a policy even laid out by the UN resolution 425. Secondly, even if they did, the Syrian and the Lebanese army would for sure clamp down on the organization in order to show that they can secure the international border. Thirdly, to attack Israelis across the border in this scenario would definitely - as also Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah conceded - imply a "big problem", i. e. renewed warfare and escalation of human distress for the southerners. It would deprive Hizballah's actions of any legitimacy, as an enterprise such as "liberating Jerusalem" most likely enjoys a minor support among the tormented people of south Lebanon. Security, as shown, has ever since the days of the Lebanese war been at the top of the southern population's list of desiderata.That wish was also, as we have seen, one of the main contributing factor to the creation of the Amal movement and its stance against the Palestinian guerillas. Lastly, in military terms - as the prominent Shiite mentor Sheikh Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah reasoned - every offensive by the Islamic Resistance into Israel would only result in "mere acts of martyrdome". The means would never realize the goal.
Anyhow, even if Hajj Yuossef Merhi stated that "it was wrong" to discuss this issue, Dr. Abdallah Mortada conceded that the armed actions would stop if the Israelis withdrew - on the condition that the Jewish state ceased its hunt for the movement. If not, retaliatory measures would be considered. This latter reservation leaves the question open and the movement thus still keeps its cards close to its chest.
As I see it, this ambiguity makes sense. Hizballah cannot really tell the public what to do after an Israeli withdrawal. And why should they? To express guarantees and commitments to "Yazid" would run contrary to their whole ideological agenda. In addition, it would most likely be regarded as treason among the hard-liners within Hizballah's own rank and file. To stay non-committal is therefore a way to keep the ranks together.
Whatever comes out of the future, Hizballah have implemented a process for gaining legitimacy within the Lebanese society in order to safe-guard its own existence. If the occupation of the south continues, the movement will see to it that its armed resistance continues. In case of an Israeli withdrawal, Hizballah will continue to oppose the Israeli state on political, economic, social and public relation levels. Hence, the process of legitimation within the Lebanese society is a way to fight the "threat" and preserve the ability to distribute the "call". Moreover, in this process Hizballah have no reason to advocate or stress the need for an Islamic state, even though that is, undoubtedly, their final goal. As the majority of the Lebanese society most likely would despise such a state, a claim like that would only undermine the efforts of the movement to legitimate itself. The demand for deconfessionalization of the political system, on the other hand, is a measure for gaining a tighter grip within the political structures. Considering that the Shiites now constitute the single largest community within Lebanon and that Hizballah are seriously challenging the support for Amal, a proportional electoral system would definitely favour the Islamist movement.
However, as I have also shown, Hizballah have always regarded themselves as a part of the vast Islamic revolution initiated by Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranians. The two main goals of this revolution, the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state in the Middle East, must accordingly occur on a wide front. That is, Islamist forces have to seize power in all Muslim countries concerned before realizing those goals. This is the distinction between the national and regional discourse of Hizballah, that I mentioned earlier. The process of legitimation in Lebanon is a measure to secure the role on the national level while waiting for upheavals on the regional level, envisaged by Ayatollah Khomeni.
As we have seen, Hajj Youssef Merhi expressed the same perception as the "Open Letter": the treaties between Israel and the Arab states have been signed by "regimes" and not by "peoples". In addition, as Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah declared, what is now going on in the region - i. e. the peace process - is "unjust", even "humiliating", and it "cannot continue in the future". Hence, as I see it, the upheavals that Ayatollah Khomeini envisaged are connected with the "regime-people" paradigm and the regional discourse of Hizballah. Revolutions will erupt on a wide front, overturning those "brittle Arab regimes" and thereafter the "people" will grab power. The peace now being formed is of "Versailles"-character. The "unjust" and "humiliating" notion it offers will be used as a tool for future mobilization of the Islamic cause. (Whether the Shia and the Sunnis ever would be able to reconcile their differences in such a future scenario remains although a highly hypothetical question.)
Accordingly, by enjoying a broad sense of legitimation in Lebanon, Hizballah will use the arena of their own country as a platform for a social, political and military (as long as the occupation of the south continues) struggle against the Israeli state. Thereby the movement will be a "voice of resistance" and a moral example for all Islamic and anti-Israeli sentiments throughout the Muslim and the Arab world.
Like most other political movements, though, the visions of Hizballah are - at present - strangled by reality. However, the movement has accepted to cooperate with this reality. It avoids pushing its own fate too far and challenge destinies it cannot handle. Instead, it has chosen to act according to certain rules laid down by this reality.
In a way, Hizballah enjoy a fortunate position. They can appear as morally pure and determined by fighting the Israelis in the south, a cause with which many Lebanese - Hizballah or not - are sympathizing. The efficiency and non-mercy of the Islamist guerillas function as a substitute for the lack of potence and self-respect that citizens of the country might feel due to the occupation and the history of Israeli onslaughts. In parliament, the movement is in opposition against the Lebanese government. Unlike Amal it has no seat in the cabinet and is therefore unprevented from demanding improvements of governmental social welfare policies. Equally important, Hizballah - with their fundings and their idealistic camp - are eager to help and to create social progress in the poor areas, outside the framework of any mediocre governmental plan. Without doubt, this kind of popular measures will most certainly strenghten the position of the movement in the field.
Hence, the goals and aims Hizballah first articulated in 1985 are still valid and present. Their strategy of securing a position within the Lebanese society and its political system aims at being prepared for action when a regional upheaval will transform the Middle East into a context more in line with their own basic agenda. Indeed, if that would occur, we might be watching a new kind of ball game.
Like a surfer patiently standing with his board on the beach, Hizballah are thus waiting for a better wave to ride on. In the meantime, the movement will make sure that it enjoys an unobstructed view.
|[Prev] [Contents] [Next]|