One Hell of a Party

Hizbu’llah Politics and Religion by Amal Saad- Ghorayeb. Pluto Press 254 pages. £14.99Hizbullah calls itself “the party of God,” which exudes a whiff of undiluted certainty that it – and it alone – knows the pathway to heaven. It’s not surprising, therefore, that anti-Judaism is a tenet of Hizbullah truth. Indeed, as Sheikh Na’im Qasim, the organization’s deputy secretary-general said: “the history of the Jews has proven that regardless of the Zionist proposal, they are a people who are evil.”

Conspiracy theories abound in Hizbullah’s gallery of demons and infidels. Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah believes that since the Jews were never able to prove the existence of gas chambers, then there is clearly no proof to suggest that they were massacred by the Nazis.

Yet Hizbullah, according to Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, only hates Jews as a religious community rather than as “a racial group.”

Still, this did not stop Nasrallah from proclaiming that “if we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli.”

Hizbullah emerged out of the impoverished Shi’ite Muslim community of Lebanon. Despite their numbers, the Shi’ites had little power and were looked down upon by the Sunni Muslims and Maronite Christians.

In the 1950s, urbanization and an exposure to Arab nationalism led some Shi’ites to identify with Nasserism; others became active with the Lebanese Communist Party. Their treatment during Lebanon’s civil war in the 1970s, when tens of thousands of Shi’ites were evicted from Nab’a and resettled, together with unintended consequences of Israel’s Operation Litani in 1978 radicalized them.

But it was the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran that catalyzed the move to religious politicization.

Many Lebanese Shi’ites had studied at the religious academies in Najaf, Iraq in the 1960s under the Ayatollah Khomeini. The Ba’athists, however, deported many visiting Shi’ites when they came to power. Back in Lebanon these religious elements formed groups such as the Da’wa party and inhabited the power vacuum left by Israel’s expulsion of the PLO from Lebanon in the early 1980s. Using Da’wa, they infiltrated more secular groups such as Amal (with whom Hizbullah now has a competitive, sometimes violent relationship).

Hizbullah was established as an umbrella organization of like-minded groups and is now supported politically, financially and militarily by Iran.

Hizbullah, according to the author, comes close to confirming political scientist Samuel Huntington’s dictum that it is not political Islam that is a problem for the West, but Islam as a civilization.

The previous head of Hizbullah, Abbas al-Mussawi, who was liquidated by Israeli forces in 1992, believed that “Islamic civilization is desired as an alternative to all civilizations.”

This accounts for the virulence expressed toward the West. Hizbullah repudiates materialism and Western popular culture – deemed “Westoxification.” Muslims, they believe, have become “backwardâ because they have become afflicted with the same social malaise as the West – “moral dissolution,” “family disintegration,” and “exploitation of women.” Moreover, the Muslim self-image has been distorted by a Western media that is controlled by international Zionism.

MGM, Paramount, Columbia, Warner Brothers and United Artists all serve the advancement of the Jews, while the British media is infiltrated by Zionists such as Rupert Murdoch.

Martyrdom ranks high in Hizbullah’s value system whether such deaths are premeditated or not, “the most preferable death is to be killed for God’s cause.”

Nasrallah proclaimed that he felt “the greatest feeling of joy that a father can knowâ” on hearing that his son was killed in action in September 1997. He then went on to praise parents who beseeched God to bless their children with “the honor of martyrdom.” The prospect of an elevation to paradise seems to have become an end in itself, “greater than victory and liberationâ” according to Nasrallah.

Hizbullah’s war against Israel is waged mostly from its bases in south Lebanon. But the movement believes that Israel’s very existence warrants the violence of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Israeli children should not be exempt from attacks because Zionism means not only to dominate the Muslim “ummaâ but actually aspires to control the entire world.”

Notwithstanding the apparent cooperation between Hizbullah and Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority in the Karine A arms ship affair, Hizbullah considers Arafat a traitor for holding talks with Israel. There have even been calls for a Palestinian Khalid Islambuli (the assassin of Sadat).

The movement’s pan-Islamic philosophy is symbolized by the emphasis it places on Jerusalem and its identification with “our Muslim people in Palestineâ and the Philippines, Bosnia, Somalia and Chechnya.” Indeed, Hizbullah rejects the idea of Arab supremacy in Islam, arguing that Arab culture alone leaves Muslims in a state “of weakness, passivity and surrender.”

Although the author of the book, a Lebanese academic brought up in Britain, does not exhibit any understanding of the Israeli side of the conflict, her dissection of Hizbullah’s worldview is instructive. She treads carefully and her narrative is “parve” in the extreme.

The pan-Islamic world of Hizbullah is unthinking and blinkered. As with al-Qaida, the leaders of Hizbullah are ignorant about the history, culture and society of those they demonize. It is easier and safer to remain behind the shutters. To enter into dialogue would humanize the other. Instead, Hizbullah chooses to hide behind a smokescreen of self-inflicted death and ideological pomposity. At the end of the day, it is not Israel or the West which Hizbullah fears, it is education and the ability to think independently. These are truly deadly weapons in the struggle against medieval terror and self-righteous violence.

Jerusalem Post 8 February 2002

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