[Marxism] Hezbollah comes to aid of embattled Palestinians, and LA Times ponders it strength

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Jul 13 17:42:56 MDT 2006

Hezbollah's heroic and timely action, whatever its consequences,
represents a desperately needed act of international solidarity with the
Palestinian people, against the US-bankrolled Israeli state and its
US-funded war. (Israel is one of the most purely dependent states in the
history of the world.)

Nonetheless this places Lebanon, Hezbollah, and its supporters in the
Iranian government, in the gunsights of Israel and, behind Israel, the
US government, which sees the most successful aspect of its offensive in
the Middle East -- against the Palestinian people and movement --
running into unexpected (but not unpredictable) challenges.

Israel has now demanded that the "world community" (the UN, the US, the
European Union, etc.) now intervene to carry out the disarming of
Hezbollah.  Iran's ties with Hezbollah will be used to refire up the
sagging campaign against Iran's nuclear program which all evidence
indicates is legal in all respects from the standpoint of international

Israel can appeal here to the strong identification that the imperialist
rulers feel with Israel -- racial, religious ("Judaeo-Christian"), but
most importantly, political--military: the imperialist fantasy of Israel
as the "tough little country" that shows how to cut through all
obstacles to ruthlessly attack "our" enemies, even more effectively than
Washington seems able to do in Iraq.  The idea that the Zionists know
how to deal with the Arabs better than we do is an element in US
imperialist relations with Israel, in my opinion.  To the extent that
Israel seems to succeed, as it has seemed to do of late, it becomes
easier to sell the whole pattern of militarist adventurism in the
Islamic world (Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, with Iran and Syria as
major targets, and Lebanon and Somalia forcing themselves into the

The following article attempts to drive home the point that the US-led
"world" confronts the power of Hezbollah as a major, not a secondary,
problem in reshaping the world in US (and subordinately, allied)
imperialist interests.
Fred Feldman

>From the Los Angeles Times
The Nation of Hezbollah
The militants' raid is a sign that it sees itself as an independent
force in Lebanon and beyond.
By Megan K. Stack and Rania Abouzeid
Special to The Times

July 13, 2006

BEIRUT - As Lebanon's largest political party and most potent armed
force, Hezbollah has long been described as a "state within a state" - a
Shiite Muslim minigovernment boasting close ties to Iran and Syria.

But Wednesday's move across the border to capture two Israeli soldiers
went a step further: Hezbollah acted as the state itself, threatening to
drag Lebanon into a war.

The country's elected government was still in meetings Wednesday,
arguing over what to say in public, when Hezbollah chief Sheik Hassan
Nasrallah went before television cameras with a pointed threat for the
ruling elite.

"Today is a time for solidarity and cooperation, and we can have
discussions later. I warn you against committing any error. This is a
national responsibility," the cleric said, looking every inch the head
of state.

Any criticism over the capture of the two Israeli soldiers would be
tantamount to colluding with Israel, Nasrallah said, making it clear
that he expected citizens and officials to heed his orders.

"To the Lebanese people, both officials and non-officials, nobody should
behave in a way that encourages the enemy to attack Lebanon, and nobody
should say anything that gives cover to attack Lebanon," he said.

Nasrallah was careful to frame the raid - which occurred less than three
weeks after Palestinian militant groups, including the Hamas military
wing, captured an Israeli soldier in a similar cross-border attack just
outside the Gaza Strip - as a noble strike on behalf of Lebanon and Arab
nationalism. Its goal was to free Lebanese and other Arab prisoners,
many of them Palestinian, held in Israel by forcing Israel into a
prisoner swap, he said.

Nasrallah was unclear on how many prisoners he was demanding be

Since Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah has
generally limited its attacks on Israelis to one small patch of disputed
land known as Shabaa Farms, which Hezbollah claims as Lebanese

But Hezbollah had long planned the audacious change to a cross-border
raid aimed at capturing Israeli soldiers. The group failed in a similar
operation late last year.

"It's a very dangerous escalation," said Timur Goksel, a former United
Nations spokesman and advisor who teaches at the American University of
Beirut. "You can't anymore claim it's an act of resistance. It's an act
of war."

The reasons behind Hezbollah's decision to flex its muscle so
aggressively may never be fully explained, but the hostagetaking carried
an unmistakable message of defiance that seemed aimed not just at
Israel, but at fellow Lebanese, neighboring governments and the West.

A Hezbollah spokesman in Beirut said the group had seized the moment
when it could.

"It's a military thing. It has nothing to do with the political
atmosphere," Hussein Naboulsi said.

"Catching Israeli soldiers is not a joke. It's tough work, and it takes
a lot of planning," he said. "They found this moment, and they did what
they did."

That may be so, but the timing of the move could prove beneficial for
Hezbollah and its allies.

In Lebanon, the action solidifies the group's position as an armed
entity independent of government control at a time when it was coming
under increasing pressure to give up its weapons.

In the broader region, the move lends Hezbollah and Nasrallah the
credibility of taking up the Palestinian cause as other Arab leaders are
standing silently by. Today's Tehran Times, for example, ran the story
under the headline "Hezbollah Rushes to Help Palestinians."

But the capture of the two soldiers Wednesday could also force Hamas and
Israel deeper into their standoff. Some officials of the Hamas-led
Palestinian Authority had appeared to be edging toward a deal to release
Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier seized near Gaza last month. Now,
it seems unlikely that Hamas and Israel will be able to conclude any
such deal until Hezbollah is satisfied.

Internationally, the timing turns the captures into a symbolic strike
for Hezbollah's chief patrons, Iran and Syria.

The raid comes as Iran remains locked in a standoff with the West,
particularly the United States, over its controversial nuclear
ambitions. The Bush administration also has accused Iran of improper
meddling in the politics of oil-rich, war-ravaged Iraq. The Hezbollah
move into Israel may, at a minimum, distract U.S. officials from their
confrontation with Tehran.

Syria was publicly shamed last year when it was forced to withdraw
soldiers from Lebanon. The product of international pressure and an
eruption of Lebanese opposition, the Syrian withdrawal was widely seen
as the loss of the last piece of strategic value that a weakened
Damascus could claim - its last poker chip in case of peace talks with

Last month, after Shalit was captured, the Israeli air force further
embarrassed the Syrians by plunging its planes into Syrian airspace and
staging a flyover of a residence of President Bashar Assad. The buzzing
of the leader's home was widely interpreted as a warning to the Syrians
because of their support of Hamas.

Hezbollah's action Wednesday could be read, in part, as Syria's

In Lebanon, ever since overt Syrian military control was shaken off,
pressure for Hezbollah's disarmament has increased.

Dramatically linking Hezbollah with the cause of freeing Lebanese
prisoners may help deflect that pressure. As the Israeli occupation of
southern Lebanon slipped into the dimmer reaches of memory, many
Lebanese had begun to suggest that Hezbollah's weapons were more trouble
than they were worth. The guns drew scrutiny from the United States and
a warning from the United Nations.

Among Lebanese struggling to cast off the taint of their country's
1975-90 civil war and steer the nation back to prosperity, calls for
Hezbollah to lay aside its weapons and incorporate itself more fully
into the government and army have become increasingly vocal.

On Wednesday, despite Nasrallah's call for unity, opinion in Lebanon was
quickly divided.

Fireworks, cheers and cries of "God is great!" rang through the pocked
streets of the heavily Shiite southern suburbs of Beirut as word of the
captured soldiers spread.

But in the polished eateries of Beirut's downtown, newly rebuilt from
the ruins of the war, some diners grumbled through their lunch hour.

"What's happening now is dragging Lebanon into the unknown. Nobody has
the right to draw Lebanon into such a conflict," former President Amin
Gemayel, a right-wing Christian, told the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp.
"This is unacceptable, and we reject it."

Last year, when Hezbollah abandoned its usual low political profile to
take over two ministries and seat 14 members of parliament in the
current government, some observers believed the Shiite Muslim militant
group was preparing to reinvent itself as a purely political force.
Those hopes flourished in spite of Hezbollah's repeated insistence that
it would keep its guns and continue the fight against Israel.

Wednesday's raid made clear Hezbollah's position.

"Basically, they are saying, 'to hell with Lebanese politics.' I never
thought Hezbollah would disregard so much the Lebanese politics and
mood," said Goksel, the former U.N. advisor. "It is certainly a very
clear message that they are not going to disarm. It's quite a gamble for

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, author of "Hezbollah: Politics and Religion" and a
professor at the Lebanese American University, said it was apparent that
Hezbollah had never intended to give up its weapons.

"They joined the government for the exact opposite reason - to shield
the resistance. It becomes harder now for the government to turn around
and say, 'We reject [Hezbollah's guns],' because they'd be addressing
themselves," she said.

"The state is auxiliary to Hezbollah, which is really the army and the

Times staff writer Stack reported from Cairo and special correspondent
Abouzeid from Beirut.

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