It’s two years now since the assassination of top Hizbullah operative Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus. Hizbullah is still promising retaliation ‘at a time of its choosing’. Meanwhile, Israel’s assassinations of resistance figures continue – most recently Hamas’s Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was murdered in Dubai. The Emirati regime has taken no retaliatory action. I wrote the following in the immediate aftermath of Mughniyeh’s killing.
In this post I will jettison my chances of ever being granted an American visa (update: I have since been granted an American visa), by committing imperially-defined thought crime and supporting the strategy, if not all the tactics, of the martyred resistance leader Imad Mughniyeh. In today’s sad world you can be demonised, even prosecuted, for refusing to sing the ideological chorus with Israel (specifically Danny Yatom) that assassinations of resistance fighters represent “a great achievement for the free world in its fight against terror.” But I believe it is important not to be cowed by such hypocrisy and intimidation.
First, the strategy. Mughniyeh was a key member of Jihad, an earlier, rougher incarnation of Hizbullah which pushed Western forces out of civil-war Lebanon in the 80s. He then became a founding member of Hizbullah and took part in its campaign to drive out the Israeli occupation from most of the south by 2000. This was the first real victory that any Arab force had won against the Zionist state. The strategy was one of well-organised, intelligent, committed resistance, and the strategy paid off. In the summer of 2006, when Israel and America tried to destroy Hizbullah and the affront to their hegemony that it represents, they were again defeated. The first-world hi-tech army that had defeated Egypt and Syria in six days in 1967, that had taken only a week to reach and demolish Beirut in 1982, spent five weeks floundering in its own blood in the villages on the Lebanese border.
And then the tactics, which are perhaps more questionable. If the 1992 attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires was a Hizbullah response to the Israeli assassination of its leader Abbas Moossawi, it can certainly be justified. South Lebanon was under occupation, and the embassy was sovereign Israeli territory. The 1994 bomb attack on an Argentinian Jewish cultural centre, in which 85 civilians were killed, cannot be justified. It should be emphasised that Hizbullah has denied responsibility for both attacks, and no firm proof has been presented for its involvement, only Israeli propaganda and insinuation.
In a particularly messy period of the Lebanese civil war, Mughniyeh was responsible for taking foreign hostages. Again, this tactic was undoubtedly morally wrong and politically counterproductive. However, we should be aware of the hypocrisy of official Israeli and American ranting about such despicable terrorism. Israel took hundreds of Lebanese men and women hostage and tortured them in Khiyam prison (this was the context for Mughniyeh’s hostage taking). America has taken thousands of Iraqis hostage and subjected them to grotesque physical, psychological and sexual torture in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. One of Mughniyeh’s hostages was killed: a CIA man. A CIA operative is not an innocent bystander. In fact, I will use the language used by a White House rat describing the Mughniyeh assassination and say that the CIA man was “brought to justice.”
When Mughniyeh hijacked a TWA airliner in 1985, one passenger was killed: a member of the US Navy. (Apparently the Greek singer Demis Roussos was on the hijacked plane. The hijackers helped him to celebrate his birthday, and once released Roussos expressed sympathy for his Arab brothers’ plight).
Mughniyeh’s most effective operations were in 1983, against the US embassy and then the US and French military barracks in Beirut. These attacks killed hundreds of foreign troops and were successful in ridding Lebanon of Western military interference. They are what elevated Mughniyeh to the status of ‘terror mastermind’, and provoked much handwringing over the abstract evil that drives barbarians to murder innocent peacekeepers. But Western ‘peacekeeping’ in Lebanon involved implementing Israel’s plan of expelling Palestinian forces and appointing a traitor as president who would sign a peace agreement with Israel while it was still occupying Lebanon’s capital city. American ships bombarded villagers in the Shuf mountains. American forces guaranteed the safety of Palestinian civilians once the PLO fighters left the country, and then watched the Israeli-organised and Phalange-perpetrated Sabra and Shatila camp massacres. Up to 3500 old men, women, children and babies were raped and hacked to death by coked-up militia under a night sky lit by Israeli flares. But that’s not terrorism, viewers.
On the theme of what isn’t terrorism, let me pick a few more examples… On July 17th 1981, Israel murdered 300 civilians by bombing residential tower blocks which may or may not have housed PLO offices. On March 8th 1985, the CIA failed to kill Ayatullah Fadlallah with a car bomb in Beirut, but succeeded in killing 80 of his neighbours. On April 18th 1996, Israel bombed a UN compound where the civilians of Qana, South Lebanon, were sheltering, killing 106. In July 2006, Israel killed another 28 civilians, half of them children, in the Qana shelter. Remember, sons and daughters of the free world, none of this is terrorism. It is legitimate military action on behalf of civilisation and democracy.
Mughniyeh was assassinated in Damascus. In his speech at the Beirut funeral yesterday, Hassan Nasrallah said that Israel has now acted beyond the usual battlefield of Israel-Lebanon and has thereby invited the resistance to “open war,” suggesting that the Hizbullah response could come anywhere in the world. It will be fascinating to see what happens next. Nasrallah is the most intelligent Arab politician there is, and he knows that a high-profile act of ‘terrorism’ beyond the Middle East would lead to an unpredictable chain of events, even to the long-threatened US-Iran confrontation. And Hizbullah’s freedom of action is severely limited by internal Lebanese politics. Although the resistance defeated Israel’s war aims in 2006, adroit US and Saudi manipulation of Lebanese sectarian and class divisions has tied Hizbullah’s hands.
The funeral, which I watched on al-Manar, was very moving. It demonstrated once again the power of the crowd, the great unity, loyalty, discipline and commitment of Hizbullah’s core supporters, these people who have offered so many martyrs, who have suffered so much and fought so hard. The success of Hizbullah derives ultimately from the fact that it is a popular movement, the only organisation or ruling force in the Arab world that is not scared of its people. When you watch these people you wonder how America and Israel can even dream of defeating them. But switch channels, and you understand. Jumblatt, with his usual absurdity, blamed Syria for the assassination, and said, ‘the wild animals are eating each other.’ Hariri’s Future TV didn’t show the funeral or Nasrallah’s speech. The clients in Riyadh and Cairo kept quiet, no doubt secretly exulting. There’s a Middle Eastern saying: Al-Arab Jarab. The Arabs are scabies. (update: two years on, Jumblatt is easing his way back towards the pro-Syrian camp, and Saudi-US influence has retreated in Lebanon.)
The Western media says what it’s supposed to, all it is capable of doing. The increasingly boring and predictable Robert Fisk writes about Mughniyeh’s staring eyes and steely grip (of course, the main character in Fisk’s article is, as usual, Robert Fisk). Journalists from London to Los Angeles put the word ‘martyr’ inside smirking inverted commas, denying the victims even psychological consolation.
Meanwhile the villagers of the Lebanese Shabaa Farms and the Syrian Golan continue to live under occupation. In Palestine on Thursday a woman died after suffering a stroke when Israeli occupation troops refused to allow her to enter a waiting ambulance. On Wednesday a mentally disabled Palestinian died of Israeli gunshot wounds. Gaza continues to starve.
The struggle against terrorism continues.