Saturday, July 22, 2006

Naswallah, the almighty

I haven't seen any decent analysis in the western media of Nasrallah's rhetoric, his appeal and leadership qualities. You might not know him from Bin Ladin or Ahmedinijad, if you consult western media sources and don't watch Arabic TV. My brother tells me Fox described Hezbollah as "Al Qaeda with a country". The Al Qaeda part is laughable; and, in fact, if it weren't for Hezbollah, Israel would have had Al Qaeda along its northern border a long time ago. Let's not forget that Zarqawi's dying words, before he was blown to bits by F16 fighter jets and then sent to the plastic surgeon for his photo op, were that Hezbollah should be disarmed. In fact, Zarqawi (of the eminent “Mesopotamian” branch of Al Qaeda) accused Hezbollah of upholding the status quo between Israel and Lebanon on the border and condemned the group for not allowing Al Qaeda and other groups to attack Israel from Lebanese territory. There are many many fundamental differences between Hezbollah and Al Qaeda, which I won't go into now.

For those of you not familiar with Nasrallah, the public persona and politician (and he is first and foremost a politician, not an armchair cleric), picture the appeal of a really articulate 12-year old genius with a lisp. Although he is in his mid-40s, and most 12-year olds don't sport full beards and turbans, he seems talented beyond his years and -- at the same time-- youthful. And he does have a bit of a speech impediment, which affects the way he pronounces "R"-- a crucial letter indeed.

Although he might be better known in the west for his firey "Death to Israel!" remarks, which make for popular cellphone ringtones here, he is very confident, calm, collected, even soft-spoken and personal when he is interviewed. And the rhetorical device he avails of most frequently is logic and rationality, as well as-- occasionally-- humorous jibes to disarm his enemies. He recently suggested that the Israelis consult the old guard, or something to that end, which is -- of course-- a reference to the comatose Ariel Sharon (who is drueling on his pillow, dreaming of Lebanese falafel, as I write).

In a very long interview on Al-Jazeera Thursday night, Nasrallah casually rattled off facts and figures regarding Israel's military performance and refuted claims that he is doing the bidding of Iran, that Hezbollah's leadership has been harmed by the Israeli military campaign, and that Hezbollah's arms and infrastructure have sustained serious losses, in a convincing manner. And indeed, unlike the other Lebanese leaders’ inflated and self-important wishful thinking vis-à-vis their foreign patrons, I get the sense that Hezbollah has realistic expectations of Iran. They have a mutually beneficiary relationship, and Nasrallah no more does the bidding of Tehran than Olmert does for the US. In fact, arguably less. Nasrallah responded to the accusation that he is doing Iran's bidding by saying something akin to, would I put my children and wife in danger and lose my home for some other country? Unlike Bin Laden, Nasrallah doesn't much like living in a cave. He's a family guy. That shit is for bachelors or polygamous Saudi weirdos.

Nasrallah also responds to every accusation of "terrorism" or "adventurism" that is leveled at him by Israel, the US, the Saudis and his internal political enemies, and he justifies every attack against civilian infrastructure in Israel as a response in the interest of balance and deterrence, rather than wrath, retaliation, anti-Semitism, etc. [And indeed, terminologically, one might excuse a "crude missile" for performing less accurately than a "smart bomb" or "precision bomb".] He also always promises "surprises", which makes every day of this war feel like Christmas! But not really.

In short, Nasrallah re-inspires confidence amongst his supporters, whenever he makes an appearance on TV; and Israel has not been able to stop him from giving interviews, even though Lebanon is not much larger than Sharon’s pre-feeding tube belly. Despite the repeated bombardment of Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV station, its still up and running (because its underground. Duh.) A friend of mine-- a secular leftist type—goes stark raving mad when he sees Nasrallah perform: "He's a political genius!" And Nasrallah also plays the anti-imperialist card, and he plays it quite well. His supporters do not think that they are dying in vain, nor do they all seek death or martyrdom. They trust that he knows what he is doing. I'm just not sure they'll be around to find out what exactly that is.


Anonymous said...

Hey there, I found your blog from angryarab. I'm a Lebanese student who immigrated to Canada 4 years ago and I still visit Lebanon once a year. You certainly got the Banana Republic part right, and your observations for a Westerner are incredibly astute- it's almost as if you're a native Lebanese who has lived there for years, following the local media. I don't mean that in a condescending manner, it's just that I'm fed up with Westerners reporting (well before this Tammuz war anyway) that Lebanon, and especially Beirut, is soooo cosmopolitan and modern now just because we have a couple of Starbucks. Sheesh. Oh and let's not forget our "fledgling democracy" post-Hummus revolution (to steal angryarab's phrase).

Even though I'm quite depressed and frustrated right now, some of your entries managed to crack me up :) Asaad's scathing wit also produced a few giggles.

I'm disturbed by reports of thugs roaming the streets, so try to be careful, ok? I guess you heard about the mob of idiots who assaulted two British journalists and two Lebanese, thinking the journalists were spies.


Nadia (in Montreal)

Dr Victorino de la Vega said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

Hola Lili,

Your last two posts have been amongst the best I’ve seen on AFBR so far.
And on the wider Middle-Eastern blogosphere for that matter…

Is it the eye-opening ultra-realism (some might say “cynicism”) borne out of despair?

More likely what general de Gaulle used to call “the strength of character one sees when exceptional individuals are confronted with adversity…”

Stay safe, and switch to EVAC mode as soon as you can: I fear (what’s left of) Downtown Beirut might soon be razed by Yahweh’s barbaric hordes.

EDB said...

Dear Nadia, Dear Dr. Vic,

Thank you for your kind and encouraging responses. Maybe after this round i'll qualify as an *honorary* Lebanese. I doubt my neighbors (new and old) think so. Maybe there will be nothing left to be a part of. I wish the IAF would just take my advice, which I am dispatching right here, and take out An-Nahar building in Beirut and a few other architectural atrocities, and leave the roads and bridges, homes and apartments buildings intact. I would mention a few more but I don't want to get killed by the Sunni thugs roaming the streets!


Anonymous said...

Thank you! Now please, get your voice heard in the West.

Al Doktôt Al Hakîm Al Muntaser said...

“…take out An-Nahar building in Beirut and a few other architectural atrocities, and leave the roads and bridges, homes and apartments buildings intact”

Yeah…The pseudo-modernist Al-Nahar Tower and other neighboring “Riyadh chic” architectural scars raping the subtle skyline of Old Berytos.

There would be a lot to say about Al-Nahar’s Chairman, “Monsieur Ghassan Tueni”, the mere shadow of what he once was in the early 1950s’: young, witty, staunchly secular, Harvard-educated, brilliant, daring are the first adjectives that come to mind.

But, sadly, (the soul of) this elder Tueni died long before (the body of) his ever hapless Haririst son Gebran.

Today, we’re left with a dead man walking: a senile journalistic whore doing the bidding of his sinister Saudi paymasters.

All this, of course, always in the name of “liberty”, “al Haqîqa”, and “freedom of speech”.

Truly, we live in rotten times.


Dr. V

D. Ghirlandaio said...

in re: Urp needes u

Amerka 2

Anonymous said...

can you post a link to Nasralla's death to israel ringtones or was that just a joke?
I would put up my email address but last time I did that on Blogger I really got spammed. Thanks

Anonymous said...

I love your website. It has a lot of great pictures and is very informative.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work. thnx!