Objective Arab realities
Hana Abdul Ilah Al Bayati
Multiple phenomenon across the Arab world and within Arab states point the way to a new future of Arab unity, determination and dignity, writes Hana Abdul Ilah Albayaty (09 September 2006)
When I said that a new Arab world was born during Israel’s aggression on Lebanon, some doubted or decided to doubt. Since the US declared it would attack Iraq, working with the BRussells Tribunal on Iraq, I have observed the struggle of the Arab people for peace, justice and democracy. There is an up swell in mass struggle in the Arab world, in each country and in the region as a whole. What are the realities of this struggle that heralds a new Arab world?
No one can deny that Arab unity was well portrayed by massive movements of opinion and action throughout the region in support of Hizbullah’s resistance to the Zionist state. Demonstrations gathered hundreds of thousands across the region, regardless of their political background, or their ethnic and religious identity. Pan-Arab political currents, Pan-Arab professional trade unions and workers organisations issued statements unequivocally supporting the resistance while calls for civil resistance emanated from all sorts of civil society organisations. Cultural events were organised in solidarity with the Lebanese civil and armed resistance. Even the position expressed by the Arab Diaspora in Latin America and Europe was uncompromising. It is not Hizbullah that created this expression of unity, although it contributed to creating it by its non-sectarian stand and policy. This unity is a result of a phenomenon that developed in the Arab world through the struggle of the Iraqi and Palestinian resistances against US-Israeli destructive, imperialist plans.
This unity of the Arab world behind Hizbullah has definitively buried US-Israeli plans as it destroyed the myths upon which they rested (the canard that Arabs cannot develop democratic movements, that Israel is invincible, and that nothing unites Arabs), exposing their imperial nature. Arabs are more and more aware — despite attempts to divide the Arab nation — that the people of this region are unified by their Arabo-Muslim identity and interests. Their interest lies in their unity. Only through a unified, common and integrated market in a democratic socio-cultural space can they develop economically, politically and culturally, and be able to live in dignity and participate in and contribute to the enhancement of world civilisation.
In reality, US-Israeli plans based on divisions between Arabs in one country, or between countries, failed. If we take Iraq as an example, we witness the following developments. First, the policy of charming some groups of the Iraqi resistance or their supporters in order to divide them and isolate the resistance has failed completely. Despite repeated declarations made by Jalal Talabani, resistance groups are united in their position. Second, the policy of dividing Iraqi movements into Shia, Sunni and Kurd, is cracking: large movements of opinion insist on the unity of Iraq. More and more groups in the south enter the struggle against the occupation and its government. When dealing with the subject of the future of Iraq, they increasingly appear as Iraqi rather than Shia or Sunni or Kurd, etc. Examples include the unity of Turkomen, Assyrians and Arabs on the fate of Kirkuk; the deepening of tribal solidarity; spreading demands for a large political national front; demonstrations in the north, ever unifying positions towards the occupation, Iraq’s oil wealth, etc.
We can observe the same phenomenon in Lebanon where secular forces such as the Lebanese Communist Party supported Hizbullah, civil society organisations declared the country opened for civil resistance in solidarity with Hizbullah and the South, sectarian voices were shut down throughout the assault. Christians organised masses to pray for Hizbullah’s victory, and Sunnis declared the distinction between Shia and Sunni irrelevant. This kind of unity didn’t become manifest since 1956 and heralds a new era in regional politics. At the start of the latest crisis, some Arab governments doubted or criticised Hizbullah but quickly changed their positions when the Arab street expressed forceful solidarity with Lebanon. Regardless of whether these governments changed their tune because they were convinced otherwise or because they were afraid of their peoples’ reaction, the u-turn proves the failure of US-Israeli plans even with regard to their closest allies.
Moreover, international civil society witnessed the blatant contempt of the Zionist state for human lives; it saw Israel bomb to rubble an entire country’s infrastructure, killing scores of civilians. The unity of the Arab world helped international public opinion and the American and European left understand that the forces developed by Arab societies resisting aggression, regardless of their respective ideologies, are anti-imperialist. The left understood that these forces had an interest in uniting against US-Israel colonial-imperial plans as nationalists defend sovereign control over natural resources, it is a duty for Islamists to fight foreign occupation, and leftists are ideologically opposed to unbridled neoliberal globalisation. This understanding was expressed by the rapid mobilisation in several Western cities, including London, Washington, Paris, and Berlin, condemning Israeli aggression. The adoption by 71 communist parties of a statement condemning the Zionist state shows the same pattern. Calls for cultural and economic boycotts of Israel echoed around the world. And leading moral authorities, public figures and intellectuals, including Eduard Galeano, Harold Pinter and Ken Loach among others, took rapid, clear and principled positions in solidarity with the Lebanese people. The voice of the anti-war movement radicalised. Whereas until now leftists across the world have not expressed unequivocal support for the Iraqi resistance, they felt confident in supporting Hizbullah despite its religious character.
The struggle for unity in the region will never end, as it is the social, economic and geopolitical interest of the people of this region. When characterising the identity of the people of this region as Arabo-Muslim it is neither ethnic nor religious but rather cultural, civilisational and geopolitical. It is a reality that cannot be altered. It is because the Lebanese defended their national rights rather than sectarian concepts that all the tendencies of the patriotic political movements present in the region supported it, including Islamists, Shia or Sunni, Nasserists, nationalists or Baathists of many shades, and communists or leftists. This unity destroyed the myth that there is a conflict of interest between people of different faiths: i.e., Christians versus Muslims; that secular forces and religious ones are opposed; that the different communities which constitute the region (Arab, Turkomen, Kurd, Assyrians, etc) do not share common interests and a common future, or that Sunnis and Shias cannot be allied. In fact, since 1991 US strategy has consisted in supporting minorities in given countries in order to control the whole. This strategy hit its mark in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in Sudan. But while in Lebanon it worked in 1982, it didn’t this time. Lebanon’s Christians uncovered American methods. This is the new Arab world: national interests before sectarian affiliations.
No one in the Arab world can anymore defend the Pax Americana. By attacking Lebanon, Israel destroyed the idea of its possibility to live in peace with the Arab people and the possibility of a two-state option in Palestine. As Amr Moussa foresaw, the peace process is dead. When witnessing the bellicosity of the Zionist state, its readiness to bomb Lebanese civilian infrastructure, use unconventional weapons, kill scores of civilians, how could one advocate for an unarmed Palestinian entity existing side by side with a fully armed and aggressive Israel? The only defendable position is an Arab Palestine consisting in a secular, democratic state of the citizens of all of Palestine after the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes according to UN resolution 194. The repetition of Israeli aggression against Lebanon and the Palestinians, and its continued occupation of Arab lands, leaves no doubt that Israel will never accept or make possible the two-states solution in Palestine proposed since 1973 by the international community.
The war on Lebanon demonstrated to Arabs that the only possibility for defending themselves and to build a democratic, advanced life is to unite behind the three resistances — Iraqi, Palestinian and Lebanese.
The writer is a member of the Executive Committee of The BRussells Tribunal (www.brusselstribunal.org).