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What was the General doing in South Lebanon?

The whole world is made to believe in the uproar caused by the death of an Israeli general in South Lebanon. Please read it correctly again, an Israeli army commander perished in South Lebanon. Benjamin Netanyahu wants us to believe that his death in combat, we suppose makes northern Israel insecure. Israeli women and children as always are shown entering well built bunkers. The battle rages on but the general died, was killed, ambushed in South Lebanon.

Now the battle rages not between two national armies but between the revered Israeli Defence Forces and the rag tag but becoming formidable Hizbollah. Where is the Lebanese or the intriguing Syrian army in all of this? Hopefully, it has not joined the league of Arab armies where their prime function is to put down mass unrest, stymie political discontent and curtail dissent, or they are courageous enough fight each other or collaborate with the West as in the Gulf War. These are the armies (or their Turkish counterparts) which pursue Kurds and others but never ever confronting the dreaded IDF. No wonder someone has to step in and take over. Here its the Hizbollah because there is no competition and no one really wishing to take its place especially in that frontline of death and destruction.

First, the Hizbollah is up against a devastating war machine which has subdued all Arab armies it has ever faced. This war machine had before raced all the way to Beirut to drive out the now already mellowed PLO guerrilla fighters. It teamed up with the Phalangists to massacre thousands of innocent Palestinian refugees in Shabra and Shatilla. Then it retreated when it began to feel the Lebanese resistance, a resistance that is much feared and well experienced. For Lebanon as in Afghanistan was much about a nation ravaged by internecine war and suffering. Who has not fought each other in Lebanon. What more than a waiting oppressive regime invading its turf offering itself as an open target?

In this peculiar part of the world, as the so called battle of attrition occurs, we have the ubiquitous United Nations observers to oversee and report on the situation due to some obscure mandate, they call it. We have seen it before in Bosnia and most of any other combat or crisis ridden arena. They will somehow be mentioned in the news and the reports but no one knows their relevance anymore not even the UN itself.

Next, the Hizbollah is up against major political, public relations and diplomatic problems of recognition and status. It has no legal nor political standing except in the eyes of the people they represent, the suffering people and victims of occupation in South Lebanon. Why are they fighting and what they are fighting for is not internationally nor acknowledged by the world including the official Arab world. Even though their exploits are heroic folklore and looked upon highly by the Arab masses as symbols of resistance and fighting back to regain that moral loss.

Furthermore, they have been categorised (according to the US State Department - the only terrorism standard around, these days) and much publicised as terrorists. This terminology if applied by the US and their western allies will sound the death knell for any fledgling movement for liberation or revolution. Thomas Fuller in answering questions on US policy concerning freedom fighters in the Muslim world admitted the unfairness in classifying those fighting a regime or system occupying them as terrorism. But by association with Islam as a political force for change and freedom, such a movement becomes reduced to the level of terrorism. Naturally Hizbollah links itself to Iran as it represents a middle east revolution as often movements link themselves to and in their bond of religious faith. This again automatically condemns them to terrorism by association! As if all Muslim liberation movements are monolithic bomb making, West hating and militant zealots.

In the days of old, where freedom and liberation was much a cherished word, we could seek shelter, refuge and asylum in the free world. The cause of the struggle to free ourselves from colonialism and oppressive dictators would be welcomed. Nowadays, collecting charity in New Jersey for an orphanage in Bethlehem might land you in jail for aiding and abetting terrorists! You should check out the advocacy group Voices in the Wilderness who are facing US Treasury charges for among other dreaded humanitarian deeds, supplied toys to the children of Iraq for Christmas. They are not even in the business of liberation.

For a freedom fighter to renounce violence as a means to achieve its ends is something quite preposterous considering the odds and the military might of the adversary they face. For there is no political nor legal recourse or viable alternative in this conflict. We all remember the ANC and Mandela's consistent refusal to give up the armed struggled to free South Africa until the end, until they had to concede to the ANC's political demand. In South Lebanon, the demand is for the Israelis to leave the country. In fact, all Arabs want them to leave per se.

But the Hizbollah are in South Lebanon, so are the precision devastating bombings and massive so-called retaliatory air strikes raining upon ordinary poor Arabs seeking shelter in the hills or in the exoduses. A brief respite from the shrieking sky full of killer aircraft, concurring artillery shells, buzzing cannons of flame spouting helicopters and shearing tracer bullets does wonders for what they can do in their daily life negotiating the dreaded landmines and the scattered antipersonnel explosives, the SLA stooges violent and demeaning interrogations or arbitrary detentions and jointly degrading Israeli checkpoints. What is there to them if another Israeli soldier bites the dust be it a mighty general. The Arabs, they, their children and their grandparents and anyone related in Lebanon have long lost many lives, limbs and their souls to these soldiers who should not have been here at all, if not for that black mark of history.

So tell us, why was that Israeli general there in the first place?

Hamdan Muhammad Hassan

3 March 1999.

[Currently, he is a Senior Civil Engineer at the University Science of Malaysia. He is involved in youth activities with the Muslim Youth Movement in Malaysia. He is also the President for the Muslim Staff Association in his university.]

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