By Amer Mohsen – Dec 6, 2023
“The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously.” -Henry Kissinger
I have always said that the United States made a monumental mistake when it came close to declaring war on Iran, announcing its intention of “regime change” during George Bush’s presidency. However, it did not wage war nor did it declare reconciliation. Logic dictates that either you initiate war early when the balance of power is strongly in your favor and your adversary’s tools remain limited (as in 2006, for instance,) or you make it clear that you have no intention of fighting and being hostile to these people (if that had happened at that time, the Iranian political system, and perhaps the entire region, might be in a different place today.). What you should not do is raise the banner of war against your adversary and then give them 20 years to prepare for it.
I argue that a similar situation is emerging between Lebanon and Israel, which means that the “great war” may actually be closer than ever, contrary to indications. In the 1990s, Israel “allowed” the resistance to conduct its operations against its forces and its proxies within the occupied area without the occupying army retaliating by shelling Lebanese civilians, villages, and cities—this was documented and became a “mutual understanding” following the 1996 war.
Looking back, it would have been impossible for Israel to accept such an agreement if it knew where things were heading. The entity entered into the April agreement in 1996 based on two assumptions: the first, that it would be a “temporary” arrangement until peace agreements were reached, and a second assessment that downplayed Hezbollah’s goals, its ambition, its military capabilities, and its capacity for growth and development. The enemy was under the false conviction that the emerging Lebanese regime would either swallow or suppress Hezbollah. By the way, all Arab resistance groups would prefer a thousand times over if the conditions of the war with the enemy were exclusively between the military, hitting their soldiers and being hit by theirs. But Israel could never accept such an equation (and if I were in its shoes, I would do the same; the ability for destruction and collective punishment is the primary privilege of the Israeli army, and nothing will stop it except deterrence of the same nature).
An important point here is that, in the recent period, a new basis has emerged on the northern front, somewhat resembling the understandings of April, but with a difference that operations are taking place within occupied Palestine itself. It is very difficult for the Israeli establishment, simply put, to accept this reality. Deterrence, of course, is what has maintained the situation so far. In the past, the killing and injury of a handful of Israeli soldiers in Palestine could have meant the Israeli army striking Beirut, so what about a hundred? This while the war still operates on a narrow scale and at the toughest point: the narrow border strip under constant surveillance and under the watchful eyes of Israeli preparations, and the weapons used by the resistance still remain “simple” (even the recently employed kamikaze drones are relatively “old” types and have a limited impact compared to the modern drones available).
And here lies the crux of the matter entirely: the difference in time and capabilities. It is not hard to see the vulnerabilities of the enemy. For example, in a country like Israel, there is no need to disable power stations, water desalination plants, and other vital sectors individually; striking gas facilities in the Mediterranean would suffice to shut them all down together (and I believe that the resistance’s display of naval missiles at the beginning of the confrontations was not directed against the US fleet as much as it was a reminder to Israel of the real dangers of initiating the war). Shutting down two power stations of the Zionist entity would shut down half of its economy, and it does not have many airports…
We are still at the beginning of this war and in the “fog of war,” and I will delay my judgement of military events, although it is not my nature to be optimistic. In the 2006 war, I did not believe that the Israeli army was genuinely stumbling in the South until after the war ended when it was proven with conclusive evidence that their tanks were incapable of advancing. Nevertheless, the scene today, where the residents of the southern villages remain in their homes while dozens of Israeli soldiers are eliminated at the borders, indicates that something significant has been achieved and new deterrence equation established over these years. Here, specifically, is the difference between the nominal country and the real one, to have “sovereignty” and “borders” on paper but they are nominal because the enemy crosses them whenever it wants. They are, politically speaking, entirely different categories between “existence” and “life,” and today the war revolves—first and foremost—around maintaining this achievement (and everyone understands its cost). The concept of “revenge” must be understood here: real revenge does not come through satisfying a primal desire for retribution and vengeance—something that, no matter how much you pursue it, you will never achieve—but rather by imposing yourself in your enemy’s eyes and making them fear you after they used to despise you.
For this precise reason, Israel has every incentive to “drive them back,” and even though the cost of war on the entity today is heavy, waiting five more years will only make it even more difficult for it. This is the sentiment of many commentators in the entity: “Lebanon after Gaza.” But this is an arrogant mistake made by the enemy, because every time it tries to “address” our situation from its perspective, it inevitably pays the price. October 7 was a monumental price, a cumulative bill for the blockade against Gaza, and God knows what the price of its destruction today will be. Israel fought against Fatah in Lebanon, and Hezbollah rose from the ashes; it oppresses Ansarallah, and find the group ruling Sana’a; it assassinates Gaza and discover that whole Palestine becomes Hamas. As Hassan al-Khalaf always says, “Look to your Lord, O Muslim.”
Just because Resistance is not a football match does not mean that everyone must bear arms and participate, nor is it one’s personal duty to plan or anticipate resistance. Rather, it means that it is one’s duty to genuinely understand the actual resistance on the ground as it is, within its context and challenges—not just as you view it through your “supportive” lens. Otherwise, your support or lack thereof is futile (and in our current situation, it is enough of a good deed to sit on the sidelines and not engage in the campaign against the resistance). Hence, radicalism does not arise from empty boasting and the voices of those —often in diaspora or from normalized countries—who continuously call upon resistors to prove their seriousness at the cost of suicide.
There are patterns of boasting: there are “harmless” boasts (like asking someone or an organization to be more honest or humble… or encouragement and advice coming from an ally who participates with you in the battlefield), and then there are foolish boasts, and there are malicious boasts. As Asaad Abu Khalil says, those who infiltrated the ranks of revolutionary organizations in the United States in the ’60s, on behalf of intelligence agencies and the police, were not members pushing within the group for moderate or reconciliatatory positions with authority; they were the ones advocating consistently for crazy, extremist, and confrontational actions against law enforcement. Some demand specific and dangerous actions, such as striking Israel or showering it with rockets, but without providing any alternative plan or a comprehensive strategic vision. “Strike to prove you’re a man,” “Strike back, whatever the consequences, so that we respect you.” Such advice comes from the illusion that the resistance has reached where it is today by following the tactics of “neighborhood kids’ brawls.”
One day, quite literally, I found myself staring into the face of a visitor to Beirut who came from Europe, angrily and earnestly saying to me: “They have missiles in Lebanon, why don’t they strike Israel? What are they waiting for?” This was around 2014 or 2015, at the peak of the war on Syria. I asked for specific details: strike what, for what purpose, and what would be the next step? He responded with the same certainty: “It doesn’t matter, they should strike and that’s it. Everyone will stand with them.” I, on the sidelines, am accustomed to such requests, especially from people far removed from our context: one would hand me a letter to deliver to Mr. Hassan Nasrallah; another would treat me as a representative of all the Shias in the world (when Hezbollah officially entered the war in Syria, one “friend” summoned me to warn me—threaten me—about the consequences of that decision).
The first issue here is that these “football coach-like behaviors” are the offspring of the romanticized, oversimplified theory of “liberation,” which believes that reclaiming Palestine is nothing but a courageous decision, a “heroic moment” we endlessly await, that will dismantle Israel and Zionism in one fell swoop. This culture is the product of decades of departure from action, reality, and impact, crafted for the masses by the propaganda of the Arab regime and the dialogues of generations from TV shows and series. Liberation is available at the push of a button, and it will happen in one major decisive battle where the curtain of history will fly open and return to us our first pre-colonial state Andalusia, I mean Palestine. The problem with this culture is not just its simplification or its lack of realism, but primarily, because it is a “comfortable” and “suitable” narrative for those who want to believe that liberation can happen without profound changes in the structure of the region, its systems, and its culture; that liberation can happen without sacrifices, tough choices, and confrontations with those who hold power and money around you. There is a prevalent idea that Arab regimes betray Palestine and cozy up to Zionism for fear of Israel. I believe it is the other way around—that what truly alarms these regimes is the idea of liberating Palestine, representing a far greater existential threat to them than the existence of Israel.
The second, and most important, problem with this rhetoric is that it actually sets the stage for its opposite—the “liberal” and “peaceful” solution to the Palestinian issue and eventual surrender. When your discourse about armed struggle is depicted as futile, suicidal, or unrealistic, its opponents appear in a position of being “rational” and logical. And those opponents, whether they acknowledge it or not, perpetually anticipate the defeat of the resistance until their day comes, and their logic prevails. The scenario here is clear and simple: the military resistance is defeated, Fatah is annulled or diminished, and the struggle against colonization is handed over to the “Palestinian civil society” (meaning Palestinians in Qatar and the Gulf, and those connected to global capital within and outside the borders).
In other words, what the resistance offers you, at the very least, is a chance to return to history. So why insist on living in a Sesame Street world? After people have been estranged from political action, have left the battlefield to become arrogant, and have turned away from action to talk, cafes, and social media—after all this, you still have, even if only mentally, the possibility to return to actual reality with all its intricacies, twists, difficulties, and contradictions, where there are no instant heroics or easy victories (and this opportunity to return to the real world is the most that you can demand of the Resistance).
Furthermore, I understand that every movement in any era needs to instill hope—and even certainty—of an imminent, inevitable victory among its supporters. But I see the matter slightly differently. In every choice you make in life, there is an element of a “bet,” including in politics and existential warfare. We understand—everyone here is mature enough—that no one knows the future or can guarantee what will happen, and history has not always favored the just cause. My “certainty” is that when you believe in something, when you are convinced and committed to it to the extent that you accept the possibility of victory just as you accept its opposite because it is the right choice or the only choice, and that is all the certainty you need. In fact, no matter how dark the days may be, the truth is not as bleak as it once was; we have more allies than ever in Palestine and Lebanon, alongside Syria and Iran, forces in Iraq, and the guardians in Yemen, along with the spirits of the martyrs.
“Our rights” in the West
The issue with the alternative discourse to armed resistance, in all its forms, is that it relies on a formalist concept of rights, law, “international community,” and “civil disobedience,” among other tools in its arsenal. It is enough for us to understand, in the real world, what “Palestinian” means to these powers that we are supposed to court and rely on in a war against one of the most formidable colonial forces in the world today. I am talking here about the European official discourse, not the US, and about the statements that exhibit the most “sympathy” towards Palestinians. In this narrative, the Palestinian possesses rights, such as the right to life (thanks), the right to “dignity” (a vague word, lacking specific content)… These “rights” all stem from the idea of the Palestinian as a “human”—biologically, a being “like us,” belonging to the same species. But certainly not a political entity with a homeland, will, and collective ownership of a historical heritage. Moreover, these “rights” exclusively apply to “civilians,” children and those in their status, i.e., the politically neutral, isolated individuals. Any Palestinian engaged in actions against the occupation becomes, according to the European Union, a legitimate target for killing. Here, the concept of “Palestinian” becomes equivalent to the concept of “locals” by which the French colonialists used to describe the Algerian people, merely “human beings” existing in the background, happenstance occupants of the land, but not a people, citizens, or decision-makers.
There is no need to point out that Israel (and here we are talking about the Zionist regime, the official state, and the army), in contrast, possesses in the official Western discourse “fundamental rights” that have no equivalent in the world. For instance, the “right to exist”—no other state in the world holds a guarantee, a pre-existing, absolute right to maintain a certain ideological status quo. What if its inhabitants in the future decide to change its identity? Or divide it, or integrate it? What if it was built on injustice and exclusion? What if a meteor fell on it? Even worse, “Israel’s right to self-defense,” which in Western political language has expanded to become the right to imprison millions of Palestinians and destroy their lives, and the right to bomb and intimidate the entire region surrounding the entity, all to make Israel feel safe. (As a side note, the Chinese government recently re-introduced the concept of Palestinians’ “right of return” into its annual statement on the Palestinian issue after the concept had been absent from its statements for years).
Here is something that must be said about some people’s confusion between Western institutions and their internal critics, or when they attempt to cover the former with the latter. A friend of mine often complains that a crucial role played by the European left today is to represent, alongside their coffee and Marx, the “friendly face” of Europe abroad. Western diplomacy has heavily invested in this portrayal in recent years. So much so that many individuals you might meet within European institutions, media, and organizations in our countries could personally identify as “leftists,” express solidarity with Palestine, perhaps having visited and been moved by what they have seen, vehemently criticizing their governments and policies. The aim is to implant the equation in our minds that despite the savage role of “official” Europe in our countries, we “should not forget that there are many people in Finland and Denmark who support us and demonstrate for us.” (Just as in Israel, there are many individuals who reject Zionism, or in Nazi Germany there was humanitarian opposition to the regime, but what relevance does all this have to these countries’ policies and their conflicts with us? And precisely what are they trying to achieve by conjuring up these examples?)
After all these experiences and all this bloodshed, one would assume that we have moved beyond such discourse. However, what is striking is that these illusions are more prevalent as individuals’ education and class levels rise. Those who feel elated when they learn that a “globally recognized intellectual” has spoken in support of Palestinians, or when they realize that there are documented historical arguments that affirm the justness of the Palestinian cause, and that ethnic cleansing occurred in 1948, and that the Zionists were much stronger than the Arabs… They might not know that these details were articulated by Israeli historians, in Israel, since the 1990s. These Israelis are allowed to research and publish them without much interference, as it is understood that these matters influence debates in academic circles but do not change reality.
This remains acceptable even to the Arabs who believe in the “system” even as it perpetrates massacres among the Arab people. They declare–with anger–that “international law” and the “principles” of the global system will lose their legitimacy after Gaza–as if issuing a threat. Our Arab brother here believes that the international system and its “laws” are an optional association, entered willingly, and that people can shun and boycott it when they discover its “hypocrisy,” rather than it being a system that is imposed upon you whereby you have no voice; you simply obey it, or face punishment. This model is just like the troublesome prisoner who constantly writes messages and complaints to the prison management.
Hereis an idea I will present in a simple and concise way, which occurred to me during these days that force us to redefine concepts and language. The idea of the “party” as an indispensable tool for change was inherited by the Arab revolutionary generation in the 20th century—despite their differing inclinations from the Marxist-Leninist tradition—and it became a magic word. “The party” this, “the party” that; if you want change, all you need is the party. My question here is both theoretical and empirical. On one hand, I understand that Marx, in his circumstances and context, considered the party as the available means to transform a structural problem (like injustice, for instance) into collective will. Marx wrote in the mid-19th century when modern centralized states emerged, along with security apparatuses, intelligence services, tools for societal control and domination, leaving no possibility for organization outside its “legitimate” structure. However, does this mean that the party is the only eternal form to achieve people’s collective demands? And what was the result of applying this Marxist concept when transferred to our context and elites?
In principle, if we take history as a guide, Marx should have directed the working class to seek armed organization, as it was the basis of all legitimacy. From Ibn Khaldun to Charles Tilly, thinkers explained that weapons and force are the foundation of any new system and, even if it began as an opposition movement, you will find them in the ancient roots of any state or empire. Armed organization creates theory and “the party,” not the other way around. This choice might not have been available in industrial Europe, and it was part of Marx’s debates with anarchists and advocates of direct action or terrorism in his time. But our reality and era are different, and experience points to weapons as the source of political power. Look at the applications of the concept of “the party” and its fate when implanted in our society.
I have a theory that the emerging Arab elite in the 20th century–generally those who became party cadres–found the concept appealing and embraced it because it suited their social status and class ambitions. The party meant meetings, theorizing, speaking, and representation, something scholars excelled at more than others. It did not require sacrifice that would prevent one from balancing it with a job, office life, and social ascent. “Violent” actions were often left to those “below” in the organization. When party life became genuinely dangerous, as happened in Iraq after 1963, Hanna Batatu says most former party members suddenly disappeared (or were forced to flee, having no means to defend themselves when the state and its troops targeted them).
The issue here is not just a love for weapons, but fundamentally that armed organization attracts different segments of society and operates according to a different logic. Imagine the difference between a party group and a “militia” group. The fighting organization attracts those with a cause where fighting is their only choice; it repels café-goers, theorists, plotters, political enthusiasts, and protest lovers. It has to consider funding and sustainability from the outset, choose the geographical and human space that will receive and embrace its advocates, granting them a degree of independence. It must engage in politics to the fullest from its inception and will eventually emerge as an entirely different entity.
Historically, empires sow the seeds of their own opposition, giving rise to what can be likened to “piracy.” Those who oppose the empire either develop their own forms of dominance, turning from pirates into empires themselves, or instead reveal that the empire was, at its core, the true pirate. The fact remains that, when domination leaves you with no other choice but to die silently, honor lies in defiantly raising the black flag.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
- dzorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/dzorinoco/February 15, 2024
- dzorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/dzorinoco/December 30, 2023