Writing after the resounding defeat of Arab armies in the six-day war with Israel in 1967, the celebrated Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, blamed “the generation of failure” for the territorial losses and put his faith in young Arabs.
Time has passed and a new generation has risen to prominence across the region. Born in 1960, Hassan Nasrallah grew up in Lebanon and became the leader of Hezbollah in 1992. Under his guidance, the Party of God outgrew its sectarian basis to ignite the “Sixth Arab-Israeli war”, as Al Jazeera referred to the latest conflict, and to inspire two UN resolutions on Lebanon. Most recently, the Security Council issued resolution 1702, after more than 30 days of death and destruction, brought about by the fighting between Hezbollah and Israel.
The generation tasked with avenging the defeat might have grown up but has it really triumphed?
Let us leave Hezbollah alone for a moment and consider the children of 1967, such as Nasrallah or Osama bin Laden, who was born in 1957, or Khaled Meshaal or Ayman al Zawahiri. Also included in this group are Moqatada Sadr, born in 1973 and Mohammed Atta, the September 11 mastermind, born a year after the six-day war.
These men are now at the helm of the confrontation with “the enemy”, each in their own way, either by bombing embassies in Africa and a commercial center in the USA, and attacking public transport systems in Madrid and London, as Al Qaeda did, or by hijacking the decision-making of an entire country and making it subservient to the administration of the wilayet-e-faqih, or attempting to export the Iranian revolution, as is the case with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Meanwhile, others continue to dream of an end to sectarianism and the day when political fundamentalism is no more.
Both fundamentalist conducts result in the same outcome, with varying degrees. Just as the militias of Moqtada al Sadr succeeded in reinforcing extremism and fighting off dissent in southern Iraq, so too did the Taliban before them in Afghanistan. Both Sunni and Shiaa fundamentalist camps include different levels of extremism. The backwardness of the Muslim Brotherhood’s discourse in Jordan and Egypt is, of course, less than that of the Taliban or the Salafis in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan. Similarly, Hezbollah’s social discourse is less backward than that of Moqtada al Sadr in Iraq.
After the cessation of hostilities in Lebanon, the country supposedly entered into a new era, more difficult than the previous one. We ought to ask ourselves whether we are facing yet another defeat or a victory for Hezbollah or Nasrallah’s party, or a victory for Lebanon and its people. Has Israel won the war or have the forces of development and enlightenment been defeated? Is a victory achieved when the media proclaims so? Away from the roar of the battle, Hezbollah has been celebrating victory; in his speeches, throughout the crisis, Nasrallah has reminded the public of his win and blamed the Israeli media for downplaying the country’s defeat. It seems that, in this conflict, media representation is as important as events on the ground.
Israel has launched an inquiry into how its latest military campaign was conducted and will investigate what went wrong during the war. Politicians might be held accountable and lose their posts. Yet, across the border, Hezbollah members and supporters are celebrating victory and Arab journalists are cheering. Political accountability remains conspicuously absent while everyone in Lebanon speaks of postponing the settlement of scores. Will the central question of who rules Lebanon be asked? Is it Hezbollah or the government? What about the implementation of UN resolution 1701? What about the future of Hezbollah’s weapons?
What will be made of the 1000 dead, the one million displaced and the widespread destruction? Are they considered victories as well?
Let us imagine, for the sake of the argument, that Hezbollah won and achieved an outright victory, which Israel and the rest of the world acknowledged. What then? Is a win measured by military gains and regaining one’s honor?
Is this what Lebanon and the Arab world are in need of? If Hezbollah were to rule over Lebanon, in recognition of its achievement, and Bin Laden were to rule the rest of the Arab countries, in recognition of its great victory over the Crusaders, what then? What is this honor we are seeking? Which is more important: that we become strong and that our societies become politically, scientifically and economically advanced or that we export honor, weapons and martyrs, while others enjoy money, science, freedom and strength.