Hazem Saghieh

Stop Criticizing Hezbollah and Hamas!

As some voices call on Hezbollah and Hamas to become more open to criticism, increasing numbers are demanding that no criticism be made of either groups while they fight Israel in Gaza and Lebanon.

Faced with such an appeal, one would assume that one of two things has happened:
● Either the matters of dispute with the two militant groups (democratic change in Syria, reform in Lebanon, and decisions of war and peace being returned to the state's hands) have been resolved and these demands shared by the majorities of both countries have been achieved,
● or the militant groups have changed, walking back on the stances behind the antagonism in parallel with the struggle they have waged against Israel.
However, neither of these things has occurred; what has occurred is that the status quo, in its worst possible fashion, has prevailed, even before accounting for the Gaza war, which cannot be seamlessly associated with anything the region has witnessed in recent decades and the immense costs that have been paid over these decades.

It is probably the critics calling on us to reconcile with Hamas and Hezbollah who have changed. Rather, they have reverted back to the easy, inherited, and familiar stance that they deludedly convinced themselves they had abandoned in 2005 or 2011. Their “awakening” has rekindled a zealous fervor that fills the void entirely and leaves no room for anything else. As we all know, when it is time to get serious, frivolous matters fade into the background.

Indeed, the previous issues, which had once been thought to be important, are irrelevant: they have been raised louder than the cry of battle. Those issues are not a Principal Contradiction, as the immortal revolutionary martyr Mao Zedong would have put it, anymore.

Three interrelated factors have led us here: on the one hand, there is the genocidal brutality of Israel’s assault on Gaza, and as all know, the Jewish state’s munificence in reinforcing the worst in us has always been part of modern Arab history. On the other hand, we have the defeats of every attempt to bring about change in the region and the despair and frustration that sprouted from these defeats. The last factor is the astonishment engendered by the October 7th attack, which can only be compared to the astonishment with 9/11. In both instances, the prevailing narrative became that "what comes after" ruptured completely with "what came before,” or in the language of believers, a chasm with the past had emerged.

More profoundly, however, the laxity and weakness towards a culture that was built, and then consolidated, by the broad Arab pattern, not only our political regimes, seems to have had the most consequential implications. This pattern has magic that allows for sticking everything together in the face of the "enemy," who is "foreign" one time, "imperialist" another, and "demonic" a third. It also has magic that erases differences between eras, countries, and generations. At the same time, this way of life gives us - we who have been defeated by trivial, oppressive forces - the sense of grandiosity that comes with belonging to the "Global South," elevating us above trivial local and parochial matters. Anyone defeated in a particular place will triumph everywhere, that is, across the world, after withdrawing from this chunk of it that they had reluctantly operated in, to sit atop the tower of universality.

However, this detachment from every location and exclusively clinging to this supposed global podium from which rhetorical missiles are launched at the “white man" could ultimately lead nowhere. It could lead only to utopia, which is another word for nowhere here.

Thus, for instance, it stops concerning us that Hezbollah could, at a whim, lead us, with our eyes wide open, into a war of its choosing on its terms. As for us, we have no choice but to pledge our allegiance and grant it the mandate to do so, as our local struggles with it are petty and have become obsolete with the passage of time, while in reality, time has changed nothing. Indeed, "he who has died is dead, and all that is coming will come," as a pre-Islamic orator would say.
Utopia strikes in many directions, but, despite the breadth of its movement, remains no less innocent than innocence itself. At a recent conference in which he had been invited to speak, a former leader of a Syrian revolutionary institution, with overwhelming enthusiasm, declared that "the West popped Syria." He seemingly endorsed the Syrian regime's argument that the country had been perfectly fine until a Western conspiracy doomed it to ruin. With his claim, our friend has apparently given cause for accusations of high treason being raised against him, since he had supposedly colluded with the West against a state and regime that deserve nothing less than roses thrown at its feet.

In fact the Syrian revolution was not an idle endeavor pursued before things got serious, nor were the successive Lebanese uprisings since 2005 cries that were raised louder than the sound of battle. That would be the case even if we were on the verge of liberating Palestine, and we are in the midst of what some are calling a “second Nakba."