Thursday, February 14, 2008
Tens of thousands of Lebanese mourners and supporters of Hizbu'llah, the country's most powerful Shi'i socio-political movement and political party, took to the streets of south Beirut at the funeral of Imad Mughniyya, a senior party military commander. Mughniyya, who once headed Hizbu'llah's foreign operations wing and masterminded airplane hijackings in the 1980s, was assassinated in the Syrian capital city of Damascus. The Israeli government, which at first refused to comment, soon denied that it was involved in the murder. Israeli commentators and their allies in the U.S. were quick to try and point the finger elsewhere, claiming that many countries sought to capture Mughniyya and thus could have carried out the killing. Some news reports have called Mughniyya the party's deputy secretary general (second-in-command). Although he was a member of its military council, it does not seem that Mughniyya held the #2 position, which is held by Shaykh Na'im Qasim.
Note: In the above photo, the first portrait on the lamp post is of 'Abbas Mussawi and the second behind it is of Ragheb Harb. See below for more details.
Israel is suspected of carrying out so-called "extra-judicial killings" abroad in Syria and Lebanon. In 1998, it tried and failed to kill HAMAS political bureau chief Khaled Misha'al in the Jordanian capital of Amman. However, after Israel's Mossad agents were captured by Jordanian security forces, the government of the hardline Likud Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was forced to release HAMAS spiritual leader Shaykh Ahmad Yassin in order to secure the release of their agents. Israel later assassinated Yassin in 2004 as he was leaving a Gaza City mosque after the pre-dawn prayers. In the same year, it carried out the assassination of half of HAMAS' original founding leadership including 'Abd al-Aziz Rantissi and Isma'il Abu Shanab. Ironically, HAMAS is more popular and influential today than it was in 2004. The assassinations did not break the Palestinian group as was hoped.
At Mughniyya's funeral [above], Hizbu'llah secretary general (leader) Shaykh Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah was defiant. Below are selected parts of his fiery eulogy which I took from the party's official web site. The above photo was released by the party's press office yesterday, the day of his killing. I have included notes for further explanation of certain points within the quoted text below.
"They [Israel] see in his martyrdom a great accomplishment and we see in it a good sign for the coming victory. This was the case with the martyrdom of our leaders Shaykh Ragheb Harb and Sayyid 'Abbas Mussawi....When Sayyid Mussawi was martyred the resistance grew stronger and a few years later the Israelis withdrew from most of Lebanon, humiliated and broken. Today they killed Hajj Imad and they think that killing him would cause the resistance to crash down in the course of the July 2006 war that is not over yet on the political, media and material levels and still backed by the same people. But they are mistaken. With the blood of martyr Imad we must begin to write the history of fall of Israel in the very near future. The blood of martyrs Harb and Mussawi drove them out of Lebanon and the blood of martyr Imad Mughniyya will drive them out of existence....."
Notes: Ragheb Harb was an influential Shi'i leader in southern Lebanon in the early 1980s. He was one of the first Shi'i leaders to call for open resistance to the Israeli military, which invaded civil war-torn Lebanon in 1982 and occupied large swaths of the country for over 15 years until it retreated under cover of darkness in late May 2000. Harb was assassinated by the Israelis in 1984.
'Abbas Mussawi was Hizbu'llah's second secretary general who was assassinated with his wife and children in 1992 by the Israelis. He was succeeded by Nasrallah and the Shi'i party entered its "golden age," much to the Israelis' chagrin.
"You have killed Hajj Imad outside the natural battlefield. You have crossed the border. With this murder, its timing, location and method - Zionists, if you want this kind of open war, let the whole world listen: Let this war be open. Like all human beings we have a sacred right to defend ourselves. We will do all that takes to defend our country and people."
Personal Note: I hope to conduct in-depth research on the political mobilization of the Lebanese Shi'a and particularly Hizbu'llah during my doctoral studies. I still remember fondly my travels and experiences with my father in southern Lebanon.