Meet Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, chief of Hezbollah and — as such — the culprit most responsible for triggering the latest war in the Middle East.
PARTY OF HATE: “If they [Jews] all gather in Israel,” says Hezbollah chief Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, “It will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”
Nasrallah is the new Saddam, the new Bin Laden. Although he is neither a megalomaniac (like Hussein) nor a prophet of international jihad (like Osama), he may yet prove to be a greater threat to international peace than either one.
Hezbollah, bankrolled by Iran and logistically enabled by Syria, is — even by terrorist standards — a political curiosity. Like Al Qaeda, it is extra-national, but it appears to have permanently insinuated itself into Lebanon’s political DNA and seems immune to expulsion. Unlike Hamas, its junior partner in this latest round of fighting, Hezbollah is not Palestinian, although Hezbollah supports the principle of Palestinian statehood. Hezbollah is Shi’a, while Hamas is Sunni. In Iraq, the Sunni and Shi’a are killing each other in a civil war that is escalating with each passing month.
Today’s alliance of convenience between Hezbollah and Hamas appears to prove the old Middle Eastern saw that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Because Israel has endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state in exchange for a Palestinian pledge to recognize Israel’s political legitimacy and its right to exist, those who oppose such acceptance assume that Hamas — like the Palestine Liberation Organization before it — will sooner or later make a deal (even a tepid, half-hearted one) with Israel.
No one in his or her right mind would harbor such a suspicion of Hezbollah, which, in Arabic, means “Party of God.”
Hezbollah is, pure and simple, an agency of hate. That is what makes it appealing to Islamofascists in the East and anti-Semites in the West.
Hassan Nasrallah’s Party of God was founded with the blessing of Ayatollah Khomeini, who in 1979 sanctioned the hostage-taking of 70 Americans. It drove US Marines from their Lebanon peace-keeping mission in 1983 with a massive terrorist bombing that killed 241. And it then went on to pioneer the use of human bombs, the walking, talking, bus-riding bombs that the daily newspapers and television networks refer to as “suicide bombers.”
But Hezbollah should be as well known for its words as for its deeds. Here are just three representative statements made between 1992 and 2002, the first and the third by Nasrallah himself:
“If they [Jews] all gather in Israel it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”
“It is an open war until the elimination of Israel and until the death of the last Jews on earth.”
“They [Jews] are a cancer which is liable to spread at any moment.”
This is — or should be — sobering stuff. But for much of the world, it isn’t. This is not Hitler lite, this is Hitler again.
Remember the name Hassan Nasrallah. We’ll be hearing more of it in the weeks and months to come. He’s done something — or is in the process of doing something — that neither Saddam nor Bin Laden could do. He’s turning back the clock.
Ever since 1977 when Egypt’s Anwar Sadat made his historic visit to Israel to seal with his body his soulful recognition that Israel had a right to exist, the world’s conception of the struggles in the Middle East changed. It was no longer a question of whether Israel would survive. It became a question of accommodation.
This is, of course, an overly optimistic and simplistic gloss. But Sadat was the first Arab leader to establish a new frame of reference. The new context, the new reality he helped found was based on the ideas of hope, coexistence, and — ultimately — peace.
That frame of reference survived his assassination by Islamist extremists in 1981. And it has been sorely tested many times since — as it was after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by a right-wing Israeli extremist. But it was never destroyed. There is not a chance that Hezbollah today can destroy Israel, although it wants to. What it can do, and is doing, is destroy hope for a lasting peace in the region — the very hope Condoleezza Rice is seeking but fewer today believe is achievable. Hope nourishes. Despair destroys. It’s a stark equation, but there it is.
There is no doubt that the United States is going to have to intervene diplomatically even more strongly than it already has. There is little doubt that Israel is — sooner or later — going to have to make accommodations.
But those facts are asides. The central fact, as it appears to us at this moment, is that the forces of darkness are gaining currency in the world of public opinion, and that could be as threatening in the long run as any military action is in the present.
The reality is that there appears to be no acceptable and achievable outcome. So the best we can hope for is a peace that keeps hope alive. That may be a small victory, an almost negligible victory, but even that could prove to be an irrecoverable defeat for Hezbollah.