By Qifa Nabki
Syria Comment [March 14, 2009]
In a speech Friday evening commemorating the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, Hizbullah secretary-general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah rejected the recent American offer of dialogue along with its pre-conditions (recognition of Israel and renunciation of violence).
This, in and of itself, was unsurprising. More noteworthy, however, was Nasrallah’s language concerning the Syrian-Saudi reconciliation and the strategic choices that face a more united Middle East, particularly vis-à-vis Israel. In the context of Syria’s peace negotiations, and coming on the heels of President Bashar al-Assad’s recent statement concerning his allies in Lebanon and Palestine (“I will work to involve Hizbullah and Hamas in the negotiations to achieve peace in the region”), one wonders whether Nasrallah’s words were not at least partially intended for Syria. Indeed, as he directed his comments “to those who delight in American delegations coming to Lebanon,” one could hardly help wondering what he made of the American delegations coming to Syria.
Here is the relevant paragraph, with translation below:
اليوم وغدأ وبعد سنة وبعد مئة وبعد ألف سنة، إلى قيام الساعة ، نحن وأولادنا وأحفادنا وأجيالنا ، طالما نحن حزب الله لا يمكن أن نعترف بإسرائيل. ماذا يعني إسرائيل، إسرائيل كيان غاصب ودولة غير قانونية وغير شرعية، دولة عنصرية ودولة معتدية ودولة إرهابية، بأي معيار يمكن لإنسان مسلم أو عربي أنّ يعترف بكيان من هذا النوع وأن يأتي ببساطة ويقول نعم هذه هي إسرائيل وثلاثة أرباعها أو أكثر أعطوه لشذاذ آفاق جيء بهم من كل أنحاء الدنيا، أمّا أصحاب الحق الشرعيون وأهل الأرض وأهل الديار وأهل المقدسات من الشعب الفلسطيني مسلمين ومسيحيين هؤلاء يجب أن يتركوا وأن يخرجوا وأن يستسلموا وأن يخضعوا! دلوني ما المعيار، في الدين ما المعيار، في الأخلاق ما المعيار، في الإنسانية ما المعيار، في الوطنية ما المعيار، في القومية ما المعيار، على أي معيار، نعم هناك معيار واحد هو معيار القبائل والعشائر العربية التي انهزمت أمام جيش أبرهة، أي ماذا نقدر أن نعمل فهذه إسرائيل وفي ظهرها أمريكا، كما قال أولئك هذا جيش الحبشة ولا نستطيع مواجهة الفيل، فلنهرب ونحيد ونترك أقدس مقدساتنا لأبرهة، يوجد فقط هذا المنطق منطق عام الفيل الذي يقول نحن لا نقدر على إسرائيل وإسرائيل بظهرها أمريكا وليس لدينا خيار فالواقعية والواقع والمنطق والتعايش والكذا والكذا ويفتشون عن تعابير ما أنزل الله بها من سلطان ليفرضوا علينا القبول بهذا الأمر
“Today, and tomorrow, and after one year, and one hundred years, and one thousand years, until the Hour of Judgment, we and our children and our grandchildren and our people… as long as we are Hizbullah, we will not recognize Israel. What is Israel? Israel is a plundering entity, an illegal and illegitimate state, a racist, belligerent, terrorist state. By what standard can a human being, Muslim or Arab, recognize an entity of this kind, and come and say, simply: “Yes, this is Israel,” while three quarters of it or more has been given to foreigners brought from all corners of the world, and while the people who are in the right, who are the legitimate ones, the people of the land and the holy places, the Palestinians – Muslims and Christians – have to let go, and leave, and surrender, and submit! Show me that standard! What is the religious standard? What is the moral standard? What is the humanitarian standard? What is the nationalist standard? What standard is it?!
“Yes, there is one standard, which is the standard of the Arab tribes and clans that were defeated before the army of Abraha, [the standard which says]: “What can we do? This is Israel, supported by America,” just like those who said: “This is the army of the Ethiopians, and we are unable to confront the elephant, so let’s flee and give up and abandon the holiest of our holy places to Abraha…” There is only this logic, the logic of the Year of the Elephant, which says: “We cannot overcome Israel, for Israel has America behind it, and we have no other choice, and we must be realistic, and common sense, and coexistence, blah blah blah… They search for baseless explanations so as to force us to accept this issue…”
Who was Nasrallah’s audience here? Was it merely the usual suspects (the ‘moderate Arabs’ and March 14th), or was he also firing a shot across Syria’s bow, sending the signal that this was all a little too much, too soon? After a week in which Britian announced a dialogue with Hizbullah’s political wing, the Americans made a similar offer with strings attached, and the Syrians stated publicly for the first time that they would work to bring Hizbullah to the negotiating table, it is not so hard to imagine that Nasrallah sought to lower expectations.
Hizbullah and its allies are in a good position to become the majority after the June 7 elections. While a victory for either side is unlikely to be a resounding one and will almost certainly result in a consensual government (i.e. one in which the opposition has a cabinet veto), the elections nevertheless promise to be hard fought. The last thing that Hizbullah needs right now is the public impression (created by offers of dialogue from Britain and the U.S., the American engagement of Iran and Syria, and Bashar al-Assad’s suggestion that Hizbullah will agree to negotiations) that the resistance movement is softening its stance vis-à-vis Israel.
Qifa Nabki is a Beirut-based analyst. He is a contributor to Syria Comment and also blogs regularly at qifanabki.com