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Hamid Dabashi
Hamid Dabashi
Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.
Netanyahu, Nasrallah and their words of death
Nasrallah and Netanyahu each walk a tyrannical path as a pair of outdated warriors.
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2011 15:20
By choosing to side with President Assad, Nasrallah strips himself of any legitimacy he may have gained [GALLO/GETTY]

As with the two households of fair Verona, where from ancient grudge breaks new mutiny, the fate of Hassan Nasrallah is tied with his raison d'être, the garrison state of Israel. As a perfectly legitimate political project, Hezbollah emerged in the aftermath of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, giving momentum and purpose to the cause of millions of Lebanese Shia categorically disenfranchised from the pathologically sectarian politics of Lebanon - a gift of French colonialism that keeps giving. For close to three decades, Hezbollah has defended both the cause of the Lebanese Shia and the territorial integrity of Lebanon with steadfast determination - outmaneuvering the expansionist Jewish state, giving a renewed significance to asymmetrical warfare, whereby they have indeed managed to defeat the mighty army at their own game.   

But today, the Arab Spring has altered the very DNA of the geopolitics of the region. Nasrallah banks and thrives on Israel. But Israel is today in far more serious trouble than before, and picking a war with Hezbollah is not going to save its fragile future. After President Obama merely mentioned the term "1967 borders", Prime Minister Netanyahu had to give the US congress a full frontal AIPAC attack to assure himself (in vain) that he is still calling the shots. He is not. The Arab Spring is. Hamas leadership, as a result, has been infinitely wiser than Nasrallah in immediately reading the Arab Spring correctly and rushing for a rapprochement with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority - much to the chagrin of not just the Israeli leadership, but in fact of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its client project Hezbollah.

Changing geopolitics

Nasrallah's predicament in Lebanon cannot be any cause of celebration for Israel. Quite to the contrary: "The only democracy in the Middle East" is frightened out of its wits by the prospects of democracy in the Middle East. As you can tell from Netanyahu's merry-go-round in Washington DC in late May 2011, Israel is even more in trouble because of the Arab Spring. Israel and Hezbollah are the mirror images of each other: a sectarian militia adjacent to a troubled border of the Jewish state is a perfect justification for continued violent bluster. Two identical sectarianisms, two belligerent parties, can only understand the language of sectarian violence. That language is now exposed for the banality of evil that it espouses. Today, that language no longer speaks to masses of millions of human beings (if it ever did) arisen - in the magnificent words of Egyptians - for their huriyya, adalah al-ijtima'iyah, and karama ["Freedom, social justice, and dignity"]. Nasrallah's speeches in defence of Bashar al-Assad and Ayatollah Khamenei in fact echo Benjamin Netanyahu's speech at the US congress in May 2011 - desperate attempts by two outdated warriors, each clinging desperately to the illusion of their respective power bases. 

That Israel is in trouble is also evident by the way Pro-Israeli Americans are busy dismissing, when not frightened by, the Arab Spring. Ted Koppel is now pleading on behalf of Israel to come to Saudi's help. US allies can no longer rely on the US, Ted Koppel complains - he leaves it to your imagination that all these Arab allies are corrupt tyrannies. In figures like Ted Koppel, liberal Americans are completely outed for siding unabashedly with their conservative counterparts in actively opposing the rise of any democracy in the region - an eventuality that will ipso facto expose Israel for its constitutionally anti-democratic will in the region - and thus its cozy relationships with pro-US dictators like Ben Ali and Mubarak, and especially with the patrimonial tribalism in Saudi Arabia. "The canary in the coal mine on such matters," Ted Koppel moans," is Israel. None of America's allies is more sensitive to even the most subtle changes in the international environment, or more conscious of the slightest hint of diminished support from Washington." He is absolutely right - and that is the price a colonial settlement pays for making itself contingent on the combined calamity of globalised imperialism and localised tyranny. 

Ted Koppel pulled out his card of having reported "for 40 years from the Middle East" to assure that Wall Street reads that the Israelis "were anything but restrained in voicing their concerns". But the golden subordinate clause is here: "Overshadowing all other concerns is the fear that Iran is poised to reap enormous benefits from the so-called Arab Spring. 'Even without nukes,' one top official told me, 'Iran picks up the pieces. With nukes, it takes the house.'" Indeed, "the so-called Arab Spring!" Koppel (who will go down in history precisely for that "so-called") and his Israeli friends are still flogging the dead horse of Iran's nuclear program, desperate to pull the evolving events back to the status quo ante, away from "the so-called Arab Spring". Iran itself is out of step with the Arab Spring, as much as - if not more than - Israel. But Koppel could not care less about the Islamic Republic. Koppel's recommendations on behalf of Israel are positively pathetic: "Just as enemies such as Iran need to be cautioned, America's traditional allies need to be reassured. That's why Israeli officials are recommending a Marshall Plan for Egypt. The overthrow of Hosni Mubarak may have been no loss in the annals of democracy, but under Mr Mubarak Egypt was a pillar of stability and a reliable if not always warm partner for Israel." Tahrir Square, Mr Koppel, look it up on Google Map! That pillar went up in smoke, and masses of millions of brave Egyptians have just forced their military to open Rafah crossing. Imagine that.

'Zionism has gone too far'

With friends like Ted Koppel and the AIPAC-padded US Congress, Israel needs no enemies. The geopolitics of the region is changing, and Ted Koppel and company have no clue in which way. The Islamic Republic of Iran is losing both its allies and its nemesis, so is Israel, and so is the United States. These revolutions are happening across the board - in countries hostile to the United States and Israel and in climes friendly to them. The net result is not just the fact that the Islamic Republic is losing the power it had not gained but inherited; but that the United States is losing the power it had gained, not merited. Israel is now completely exposed, and there is no weapon on planet earth (or beyond) that AIPAC can procure for the Jewish state from the United States that can protect it from what is coming its way. Nothing could defeat Zionism - the Zionist pact with US imperialism, turning the Jewish garrison state into the largest aircraft carrier on the Mediterranean, made sure of that. But Zionism went just too far in its greed and began swallowing its own logic, and stole so much of Palestine that has now finally got indigestion. 

What is coming Israel's way is not a military attack, or a terrorist strike, in the violent language that the apartheid state understands and speaks very eloquently. What is coming its way is not even more flotilla of brave peace activists its navy can murder with impunity and then launch a propaganda campaign to blame the victims (that too is an art Israel has perfected). What is coming its way is something entirely different, for which Israel is never prepared. Imagine masses of millions of Egyptians just walking from Tahrir to Jerusalem. Then what? Not with guns, or tanks and such - but with bread and water and food and medicine for millions of Palestinians incarcerated in their own homeland.   

That is not a threat - that is an eventuality: if not by Egyptians then by Palestinians themselves. Early in June, Haaretz reported, the Israel Defense Forces Northern Command was "on high alert ... ahead of a possible attempt by thousands of Palestinian refugees from the Damascus area to storm the border of the Golan Heights as a way of marking Nakba Day, the anniversary of the beginning of the Six-Day War." The critical part of the story was that the march was cancelled by pressure from Hezbollah! "Pressure from Hezbollah," Haaretz reported, "which does not want escalation with Israel, apparently also played a part in the cancellation of marches, as did pressure on the Lebanese army by United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon."

The real resistance

Haaretz is wrong in its assessment that Hezbollah wants to avoid confrontation with Israel. Why would it? It thrives at the prospects of such confrontations. Hezbollah's leadership was opposed to the Palestinian initiative because it did not sponsor it, for it is outside its domain, and above all it is beyond its imagination. The non-violent character of it, which would render Israel defenceless, would put Hezbollah out of business too. Both Israel and Hezbollah are always ready for violent encounters, and never for nonviolent emancipation from the politics of despair they have spent all their history fostering. 

The Arab and Muslim world is changing and with it the mood of Palestinian resistance - the real "resistance", and in a spirit beyond the comprehension of both Zionism and militant Islamism. "Freedom, justice, dignity and equality are the demands of a new generation of Palestinians," according to Hazem Abu Hilal, a young Palestinian activist, "seeking to redefine their national struggle in a way that could threaten both Israel and their own leadership". This generation will not allow not just their own corrupt leadership but, a fortiori, Hezbollah leadership and the Syrian and Iranian regimes to take advantage of their struggles. "As far as we are concerned, our issue is one of rights," say Hazem Abu Hilal. "It's not that important if there is a state or not. What matters is securing these four demands. We suffer from racial discrimination, we suffer from restrictions, and we don't have the freedom to move. We are talking about a human rights movement." While people are still debating the one-state or two-state solution, Palestinians are speaking the language of no-state solution. Hasan Nasrallah, Ali Khamenei, and Bashar al-Assad have no claim to "resistance", when Palestinians defined it in these terms. And this resistance frightens Netanyahu and his neocon supporters in the US out of their wits. There is no weapon in the US arsenal that AIPAC can buy against that resistance. It is called non-violent civil disobedience, demanding and exacting civil liberties. 

Will the Israelis have the courage to think themselves outside the apartheid walls they have built around their bodies and souls so thick and foreboding, outside the garrison state, outside the nightmare of Zionism? 

Imagining a world otherwise

"The difference between the Arab uprisings and Syria," Hassan Nasrallah surmises, "is that President Assad is convinced that reforms are necessary, unlike Bahrain and other Arab countries." It no longer matters if "President Assad" is or is not convinced of anything. He stopped being "the president" of Syria when his security and military forces shot the first bullets at defenceless Syrians. There is not an iota of difference between what Syrian people want and what the rest of the Arabs want: the dignity of self-representation in a free and democratic republic. The Syrian uprising is integral to the Arab Spring, and after Egypt it will be its greatest achievement. And so far the Syrian junta has acted even worse than the corrupt regimes in Bahrain and Yemen combined. The trouble with Hassan Nasrallah and Benjamin Netanyahu is symptomatic of a larger malady that has now afflicted even segments of the Arab and Muslim left that cannot quite bring to themselves to denounce the criminal atrocities of Bashar al-Assad's regime, for, they say in moments of astounding banality, they should not denounce "the resistance". The depth of moral depravity and intellectual bankruptcy of such a position is hard to fathom. 

As tired cliches and old politicians are lagging behind, Arabs and Muslims from one corner of their world to another are leading the way and shining like a rare gem, as the measure of all the mixed metallurgy of their leaders and intellectuals. Hassan Nasrallah stopped being a revolutionary leader and joined the ranks of corrupt politicians of the sort of Mubarak, Ben Ali, Gaddafi, and the rest of them long before he sided with the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad and when he sided with the vicious regime of Ali Khamenei. But that hypocrisy has now hit home, and it has hit hard, and it has discredited not just the thuggish opportunism that has passed for revolutionary leadership - but the bankrupt intellectuals who lack the moral imagination to match their people's courage. The blood of every innocent Syrian falling to the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad is now on the hands not just of Hassan Nasrallah but of every single Arab intellectual who does not come unequivocally to side against him and Assad, in solidarity with the noble Syrian people joining the liberating flowering of the Arab Spring. 

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. He is the author, most recently, of Shi’ism: A Religion of Protest (Harvard University Press, 2011).   

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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