Policy based on arrogance can backfire [Archives:2006/974/Opinion]

August 21 2006

The new situation created by this latest war on Lebanon is bound to have an enduring effect on the region, which no one can deny and moreover the prospects of which no one can visualize as of yet. For one thing the long endurance of Hezbollah amidst all the ugly and gory efforts of Israel to crush it – which only succeeded in destroying Lebanon instead – threw away a thousand and one myths that Israel has relied on for its very existence and for fooling the world that it is the true representative of western civilization and progressive social and political thought in the region, not to mention its hold on supernatural grandeur of military might in the area (No. 5 in the world). Efforts to portray this as somewhat similar to the United States defeat in Vietnam may be misleading in several ways. First of all, Israel is a fairly recent robbery of real estate and the fight in Lebanon is only part of an ongoing struggle to right a recently imposed wrong. For another, the battles are taking place in the very area of the real estate that is subject to dispute and not an “overseas” military engagement. This in itself is indeed a serious challenge to Israel's past abilities to project Israel's “wars of survival” on turf that is not a part of Israel proper (1948 Israel) and come out unscathed, or rather a winner.

Hezbollah has indeed shown that Israel, despite all its claims to power and might is no more than a timid thief seeking to project itself as a mighty gangster that can impose itself in the region through terror and hold on elements of sheer superficial might. Albeit this might has proven vulnerable by the simplest of means and an excellent use of intellect and intelligence that Hezbollah has managed to acquire in a very short time frame of twenty-three years since its establishment.

Furthermore all the myths on Israel being a model democracy and advocate of human rights have been shattered by another even smaller democracy next to it, which indeed had proven democratic institutions and a well entrenched civil society that in fact helped to save Lebanon from the calamities that Israel tried to impose on it rather clumsily, as even some Israelis have noted on more than one corner of the Israeli media. Let us not forget that Hezbollah was born out of this tiny democracy and this civil society that has flourished in Lebanon.

The phenomenon that is Hezbollah should never be taken so lightly now that the most powerful military machine in the region failed to even dent its capacity for giving Israel more than just a “hard time”. On top of showing that the imbalance of the Arab World vs. Israel has been now laid to rest. A small element to which even some of the established states in the former are not even willing to recognize, has challenged not just the might and power that Israel likes to have everybody thinks it has, but also the fallacy of power and influence these states like to think they have. Moreover Hezbollah has projected itself as the true champion of the “Arab cause” that its leaders have literally abandoned and thus has become a successful claimant to the leadership vacuum that has dominated the Arab World for the last three decades. Although Hassan Nasr-Allah (Nasrallah in many media circles), in his desire to maintain a modest posture refuses to openly aspire for such stature, he has in fact won it by capturing the hearts of not only the majority of people in the Arab World, but the Moslem World as well. The indefatigable leader of Hezbollah has even succeeded in claiming a niche in the hearts of Christian Arabs in Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Syria and other Arab states where there are Gentile minorities, for his moderation and appreciation of their affinity to their Arab nationalist aspirations, which should take in all Arabs regardless of their religious affiliation.

An interesting hypothesis has also evolved out of this senseless and mind-boggling insistence by Israel that it can always impose the will of its demagogic military and political establishment and that of the international Zionist establishment that backs it. Could it be that the United States may have grown really weary of Israel's efforts to steer its own course in the world, especially after having railroaded the former in a cavalcade of ugly violence in Iraq, and a long endless tunnel that: the so called “war on terror”. Perhaps the Americans have decided that it is about time that Israel starts to get a taste of its own medicine, and thus goaded Israel into the Lebanese-Hezbollah trap and the thus kept the fire burning for more than a month before finally softening its stance in the UN Security Council. In discussing this hypothesis with many other opinion makers in the Arab World, it was not hard for many to see the sensible logic that this could have. Following the Mearshiemer and Walt Study of the Israeli Lobby, such thinking should not be considered far-fetched.

Hassan Al-Haifi has been a Yemeni political economist and journalist for more than 20 years.