ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A 'New Regional Order'?


A ‘New Regional Order’? Entire villages in south Lebanon have been wiped out; whole neighbourhoods in the southern suburbs of Beirut have been razed to the ground. Roads, power plants, ports, bridges, petrol stations, TV transmitters and cellphone towers, factories, indeed, even dairy and wheat silos, trucks carrying medicines and medical equipment, ambulances and vans packed with civilians have been targeted and destroyed. Even the Qana massacre has not made Israel stop its destruction of Lebanon. But if one were to go by what US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice thinks, these are supposed to be only the “birth pangs” of a “new regional order” that the US and Israel are ushering into the region. To understand the masters of war and the death and destruction they have unleashed, one needs to be updated on the dominant discourse, which has indeed moved from “terrorist groups”, designated by the US state department, to “terrorist states”; next it will be “terrorist peoples”. But with the concentration and centralisation of the global media, the majority of the public, whether in India or in the US has been fed a certain script. At the risk of simplification this is: the “terrorist organisation” Hizballah, a “creature” of Iranian and Syrian sponsorship, is to blame; it is in violation of UN security council resolution 1559; Israel is merely defending itself from “terrorism”; indeed, it is in the forefront of the war against jihad in west Asia and therefore needs the support of the “international community”; Israeli military brutality needs to be overlooked, for such “terrorism” needs to be confronted by any means. These are the ruling ideas, the dominant discourse. The world had just witnessed the bombing and the siege of Gaza, the abduction of elected representatives of the Palestinian people, the reduction of the offices of the Palestinian National Authority to rubble. Then on July 12, the Hizballah militia attacked an Israeli army convoy on the Israel-Lebanon border and captured two soldiers. According to the Hizballah, these soldiers were captured so that they could be used as bargaining chips for the release of three Lebanese political prisoners, illegally detained in Israeli jails in defiance of orders from the Israeli supreme court. The Hizballah also launched a rocket attack on Galilee on the morning of July 12. But Israel retaliated in a manner totally disproportionate to the Hizballah attack, unleashing an aerial bombardment, accompanied by a naval blockade, and then a ground invasion. It is reminiscent of their 1982 invasion of Lebanon. The Hizballah and other fighters of the Lebanese Communist Party and Amal have fought back. But the hundreds of rockets that the Hizballah has fired into Israel, condemnable insofar as they are indiscriminate as between military and civilian targets in Haifa and other cities in northern Israel, are insignificant compared to the scale of the Israeli air attack. All the same, it is Hizballah that is being demonised. Besides its militia that fights the Israeli military in south Lebanon, the Hizballah leads the Lebanese shia movement as a political party, and organises a network of social welfare activity that provides important social services for the poor across the religious sectarian divide. It is an influential actor in Lebanese politics, with roots going back to the resistance during the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon during 1982-2000. The Hizballah was formed in 1985, and its present secretary general, Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah came to head the party in 1992 after the assassination of his predecessor by Israeli agents. As is well known, political office and power is allocated in Lebanon on the basis of religious background; the marionite Christians and sunni Muslims have the upper hand. Quite simply, the shias are under-represented in the government, but it is Hizballah that has given them a powerful voice in Lebanese politics. It is not only inaccurate to dismiss the Hizballah as a “terrorist organisation”, but also politically imprudent to persist with that label. Hizballah military activity arose and grew in the context of the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, and has been kept alive in the absence of a credible defence of Lebanon’s sovereignty in the face of Israeli threats.

The so-called international community, led by the US, has to accept Hizballah as an Arab nationalist party with a vision of Lebanon as an Arab state that cannot remain unmoved from the question of Palestine. The US needs to discard the “neoconservative” vision and strategy of a “new regional order” in west Asia (the Middle East as it is called in the west) and overcome its illusions of handing down a military diktat. The Israeli defence forces need to be withdrawn from all the occupied territories, the settlements must be dismantled; a peace agreement has to be put in place between the state of Palestine and the state of Israel, and the sovereignty (including territorial integrity) of all states in the region, including the state of Palestine, needs to be respected. But that is not the “new regional order” that the US wants and it is capable of forcing its way. This tragically implies more war crimes and further deliberate targeting of civilians, for US imperialism and its junior partner Israel seem to be driven towards military solutions. It is, after all, the heyday of the neo-cons.


Economic and Political Weekly August 5, 2006

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