I’ve been to a lot of peace demonstrations lately involving support for the Lebanese and Palestinian people and denouncing Israel’s attacks upon civilians in both Lebanon and Palestine. At the last two demos I attended -- one in Sacramento and another in San Francisco -- I brought a Hamas flag and a sign with Hassan Nasrallah’s portrait. At both events, many people came up to me and asked if they could hold my sign and flag. In San Francisco, so many people asked me if they could hold each display that I had to start saying, “No, sorry, I just got this back, and I want to hold it for a while.” There were many times when I was standing empty handed waiting to get back either my flag or my sign. If anyone had been there with a table selling Nasrallah posters or Hamas flags, he/she might have made a small fortune.
Even before Israel’s recent invasion of Lebanon, Hezbollah was already popular for its resistance to Israeli aggression, and Nasrallah, as the leader of Hezbollah, enjoyed widespread support. But after the onslaught of Israel’s recent military attacks, Hezbollah began experiencing a huge surge of popularity throughout the Middle East, because it was the only organized group of people willing risk their lives to defend the Lebanese people from Israel’s campaign of slaughter. Hezbollah essentially came to the rescue when the Lebanese army (and UN support) was nowhere in sight.
It is certainly not sufficient to say that one should support Hezbollah or Nasrallah just because they’re popular. What’s important is to consider the substantive reasons why they deserve our support.
Many people erroneously refer to Hezbollah as a “terrorist organization,” mostly because that’s the label that the Bush administration, the pro-Israel lobbies, the corporate media and the Republicans and Democrats have given it. However, Hezbollah arose as, and remains, a purely defense-oriented organization. Hezbollah’s existence is completely legitimate as a proper deterrent to Israel from attempting to bully the Lebanese people. Hezbollah only seeks to defend the Lebanese people from Israeli aggression and to defend Lebanese soil from Israeli incursions and occupations. Generally speaking, Hezbollah, as a group, could care less about the “state of Israel’s land.” If the Israeli military stayed out of Lebanon, Hezbollah would pose no threat to Israel.
Some people in the West who regarded Israel’s actions as outrageous were nonetheless reluctant to side with, or seemingly embrace, Hezbollah. Part of this had a lot to do with the way that Americans have been conditioned by the corporate media to use the words “Hezbollah” and “terrorists” interchangeably. If we think about it, though, just about every policy that the Bush administration has implemented has relied upon similar word associations perpetuated by the media.
The other reason why some peace activists were slow to support Hezbollah was because, in response to Israel’s slaughter of huge numbers of Lebanese children and other civilians, Hezbollah also fired rockets into Israel. But since peace activists don’t condone violence of any kind, supporting Hezbollah, at first blush, seemed inconsistent.
Surprisingly, however, many of the activists I spoke with who were reluctant to support Hezbollah acknowledged that they voted Democratic in the last election and intended to do so again in the next one. These were people who agreed that what Israel was doing was egregious and amounted to mass murder, but they voted for Boxer and Feinstein, two of the one hundred U.S. Senators who voted to support Israel’s killing spree in Lebanon.
Peace-loving people seeking to curtail violence should understand that supporting Hezbollah involves supporting a position that promotes the most peaceful outcome among the readily available choices.
Most of us who vote typically end up choosing a “lesser of two evils” candidate or party. Doing so doesn’t produce the most optimistic outcome, but there’s nothing wrong whatsoever, in the context of analyzing the rationale of Israel and Hezbollah, with doing exactly the same thing. As it turns out, objective and informed Progressives who have considered this balancing test usually have no problem acknowledging moral support for Hezbollah. Again, the real trick for most people is to ignore labels and to realize that the approach is no different from what they already do when they choose candidates.
The pro-Israel groups also improperly refer to Hamas as a “terrorist organization.” However, analogous to Hezbollah, Hamas is the defense-oriented Palestinian group that has gained substantial popularity for providing social services (medical, educational, spiritual, and housing) to Palestinian people.
Only three months ago, Hamas announced that it would agree to provisionally recognize Israel until a more detailed agreement could be reached. This presented a huge new milestone in the potential for some lasting peace in the region, but Israeli officials apparently didn't want there to be any such agreement. Within days of Hamas’ landmark announcement, Israel launched a new deadly offensive in the Palestinian territory and again killed many civilians. Israel used the (justifiable) capture of an Israeli soldier as a pretext to invade, notwithstanding that Israeli soldiers routinely kidnap Palestinian civilians and Israel continues to hold hundreds of them in Israeli prisons.
Israel’s military offensive in Gaza has continued over the last several months. Not only has the offensive claimed many lives of Palestinian children and other civilians, but it has also included the kidnapping of over 60% of the democratically elected members of the Hamas political party. Israel’s message has been clear: its action is intended to punish the Palestinian people for their political choices in the last elections.
But Israel’s concern about the rise of Hamas’ popularity seems misplaced. Ironically, ever since Hamas has gained control in the Palestinian Parliament, there hasn’t been a single suicide bombing in Israel. But Israel has killed hundreds of Palestinians and kidnapped hundreds more since the elections. Hamas has shown great restraint, and Israel has shown the real meaning of “terrorism.”
Finally, Hamas has stated many times that it would recognize Israel if Israel will recognize Palestine, including East Jerusalem and the 1967 borders. Nonetheless, the U.S. corporate media, invariably and falsely, states that the goal of Hamas is to annihilate Israel. The media’s goal is obviously to make dumb listeners think that Hamas wants to kill off all of the Israeli people. But it’s the state of Israel, and the corrupt manner in which it is governed, that troubles Hamas (and the majority of the international community). No corrupt state has the “right to exist.”
People have rights to exist, but corrupt states don’t. Did Nazi Germany have the right to exist?
Stephen S. Pearcy is an attorney and peace activist in Berkeley, CA. You can email him at: email@example.com.