New Mideast unity backs Lebanon’s fighters
The U.S.-Israeli slaughter of Lebanese people and destruction of the Lebanese infrastructure has badly backfired for imperialism and all its agents in the Middle East. A new spirit of struggle is rising in the region, targeting all the oppressors in that area.
After decades of U.S., French and Israeli attempts to divide them, today the population of Lebanon stands united in a way not seen since the 1970s. From Christians to Sunnis to Shias, from urbane Beirutis to rural farmers, “We are all Hezbollah now!” is the mood of the day.
“We are all Hezbollah” is also heard in the streets from Yemen to Saudi Arabia to Egypt. Support for the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance has turned to anger against Arab regimes that have stood by and let this happen.
The “wheels of change may already be churning in the Middle East as the rift between official government policies and popular sentiment on the ‘Arab street’ becomes increasingly evident,” reported the Arab news service Al-Jazeera on Aug. 3. (english.aljazeera.net)
BBC correspondent Hugh Sykes wrote on Aug. 5 from Beirut that when Israel started bombing that city, people kept saying to him, “We are not Hezbollah—why are they bombing our homes?” But that has changed. Now people tell Sykes: “We were never Hezbollah. But we are all Hezbollah now. The Israeli response is completely unjustified.”
Sykes continued: “I don’t think ‘But we are all Hezbollah now’ is just talk. ... There is a sense that now is the time for unity in the face of Israel.”
Southern refugees embraced
According to Al-Jazeera of July 31, “Thousands of Lebanese have reached across the sectarian and religious divide to help hundreds of thousands of mostly Shia refugees fleeing Israel’s bombardment in the south.”
In one East Beirut district, refugees found sanctuary in a school in an area dominated for decades by the Christian Lebanese Forces, an ultra-right wing group. “Locals from the area have accepted the presence of the newcomers and some have even embraced them,” continued Al-Jazeera.
“We feel their reaction has been very positive. They have brought us things like milk for the children. I feel like I am home,” said Ali Hassan, who fled the Haret Hreik area in the southern suburb of Beirut.
“We have been expecting something different because of the political differences in Lebanon. But here I found that we are all Lebanese and I found a spirit of humanity. If you leave the politicians out of this, then we are all unified,” said Moham mad Kafani, a refugee at the school.
In West Beirut, Fatima Hachem, who works with the refugee help group Samidoun, said: “Everyone was expecting to have some problems between Sunni and Shia. But a lot of Sunni people have been cooking food and taking it to the refugees. We didn’t expect this to happen.”
Faced with widespread shortages of food, oil products and other necessities, many Lebanese are taking pride in helping each other.
Even the impoverished Rashidyeh Palestinian refugee camp near the city of Tyre fed and sheltered 82 families who had fled villages near the Israeli border. Ghada Ajawi, a Palestinian refugee from Rashidyeh, said, “You feel with them more than anybody because we understand what they have been through.”’
In further signs of unity, key Sunni religious figures have issued edicts, binding to the faithful, backing the mostly Shia-based Lebanese resistance. Qatar-based Sheik Youssef el-Qaradaqwi, one of Sunni Islam’s most prominent religious scholars, called support for Lebanon’s fighters the “religious duty of every Moslem.”
Defying his own government’s position, Egyptian Gran Mufti Ali Gomma’s edict defended Hezbollah, calling its strikes on Israel “defense of its country and not terrorism.”
Anger turns against U.S.-client regimes
For decades, Israel has attacked neighboring countries at will. Now, from Tehran to Cairo, the oppressed watch, electrified and proud, as a small Lebanese people’s militia inflicts more punishment on Israel in a month than hundreds of thousands of regular Arab troops have in over 50 years. In Cairo, protesters praised the Lebanese resistance leader with shouts of, “Tell Nasrallah we are all Hezbollah.”
Regimes like those in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which originally condemned Hezbollah and were praised for it by the U.S. and Israel, are now isolated from their people. Mustapha Bakri, a member of Egypt’s People’s Assembly, told Al-Jazeera, “The Arab regimes have been exposed to their populations as the epitome of subservience and followers to their American masters.” He added that “relations between Arab leaders and their peoples now stand at the edge of total estrangement.”
“Hezbollah’s potency and their ability to bombard Israel’s cities and their capacity to withstand Israel’s onslaught for the first time in Arab-Israeli conflicts, led the Arab people rallying to their cause while divorcing their governments,” political writer Mahmud Kalil told the Arab news service.
Take Egypt, for instance, a nation of 70 million people, the lynchpin of U.S. policy in the area and the first regime to sign a separate peace with Israel. What did the Egyptians get out of it? Today 23 percent live below the poverty line, almost half cannot read and write, and infant mortality is 60.46 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 6.3 in the U.S.
In the past, demonstrations against Israel aggression, when permitted at all, have served as a safety valve for the Egyp tian government, taking attention away from conditions at home.
Today, however, demonstrations in Cairo supporting the Lebanese and Palestinians are not just chanting “Long live your struggle, Lebanon,” but also, “Down, down with Mubarak!” referring to the Egyptian president. (New York Times, Aug. 6)
“The regular man on the street is beginning to connect everything together,” said Kamal Khalil, director of the Center for Socialist Studies in Cairo. “The regime impairing his livelihood is the same regime that is oppressing his freedom and the same regime that is colluding with Zionism and American hegemony.”
According to Gasser Abdel Razek, a board member of the Egyptian Organi zation for Human Rights, “Everything making people angry is coming out.”
The New York Times report on the situation in Egypt concludes: “People look at Lebanon and complain about gas prices. They look at Lebanon and complain about government corruption. They even used Lebanon to attack the government’s efforts to control the political message delivered by imams across the country.”