Lebanon’s political, religious and cultural diversity was reflected in a two-day seminar held in Beirut on April 14 and 15. Organized by the Islamic Culture Centre, it brought together diverse opinions in the Arab and Muslim world to consider the future of the Arab-Israeli struggle in the context of the rapidly-changing Middle East situation.
While reflecting the diversity of opinion that has characterised the Middle East landscape, there emerged a definite consensus on the core issues: defence of the homeland as a sacred duty, and resistance to Zionist occupation as not merely the responsibility of the people of Lebanon but of all the Muslims and indeed every human being regardless of their religious or political affiliations. Such a rare unanimity may not have emerged but for the valiant resistance of the Hizbullah to zionist occupation and brutality since 1982.
Ably conducted by Seyyed Hussain, the seminar participants shed light on different dimensions of the problem. There were two clear trends: the Islamic and the nationalist. The Islamic point of view was presented by Mohamed Fneish, Zafar Bangash, Dr Abdallah al-Nafisi and Dr Ahmed Millie while the secular proponents included Amin Howeidi, Munh Solh and Dr George Jabour.
Mohamed Fneish, a Hizbullah member of parliament, said the Islamic Resistance had forced the Zionists to revise their plans, hatched as early as 1919, to occupy South Lebanon. He said that the Resistance also discovered its own significance when it made impressive gains against the massive Zionist military machine. He called for proper lessons being drawn from the achievements of the Resistance.
Amin Howeidi, a former Egyptian defence minister during the Nasser regime, presented the Arab perspective to the Arab-Israeli struggle. He felt that despite the weakness of the Arab governments’ stance vis-a-vis Israel, there was still hope. He reposed much confidence in the present American government headed by Bill Clinton, saying that it was serious about peace. He also saw hopeful signs in some segments of the Israeli society.
The former Egyptian defence minister was followed by Zafar Bangash, editor of Crescent International, who outlined the responsibility of the global Islamic Movement towards the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon. Admitting that it had not done nearly enough to support the cause of the oppressed in Lebanon, this however did not diminish the significance or achievements of the Resistance.
He urged that the lessons of the Resistance be fully internalised pointing out that nationalist, sectarian or other narrow approaches were not workable. He also proposed that Muslims take steps to overcome their weakness in the field of communications. In the military field, Muslims had achieved impressive victories - in Lebanon, Chechenya etc - yet these had not been communicated to the rest of the Ummah nor proper lessons learned from them, he said. A lively discussion followed.
The second day opened with an address by Munh Solh, brother of a former Lebanese prime minister Rashid Solh. Both Munh Solh and Dr George Jabour, a former adviser to Syrian president Hafez al-Asad, presented the Arab nationalist perspective to the struggle. Solh said that the Muqawama (resistance) could only flourish in the ‘free’ and ‘democratic’ environment that the Lebanese society provided. He said that it had now had an impact throughout the Arab world.
Much the same argument was presented by Dr George Jabour, a Christian and member of the Syrian Ba’ath Party. He said that a Lebanese Maronite Christian, Najib Azour, had pointed to the Zionist threat as early as 1904. He said that there were three options before the Arabs: an all-out confrontation; the Peres track (of integrating Israel into the fabric of the Middle East without offering anything to the Arabs), or the status quo of Netanyahu. Jabour, of course, advocated an all-out confrontation but through the Arab regimes.
The sorry record of the Arab regimes in confronting zionist aggression is obvious just as the glorious victory of the Islamic Resistance is clear. In fact, the Hizbullah, in an impressive gesture of magnanimity, has offered to share its glory with the rest of the people in Lebanon, be they Muslims or Christians, Islamically-committed or secular. It is this gesture that has earned the Hizbullah immense respect in Lebanon.
Dr Ahmed Millie, director of the Islamic Cultural Centre and the principal organiser of the conference, gave an overview of the Islamic Resistance taking Ben Gurion’s categorization of Lebanon as the ‘weak link’ in the Arab chain. He said that the zionist leader had also proposed cutting Lebanon down to size by confining it to Mount Lebanon and handing it over to the Maronites, who are allied to Israel. It was this mindset that led the zionists into the Lebanese quagmire and the emergence of the Islamic Resistance which is the leading edge of the resistance in Lebanon.
Dr Abdallah al-Nafisi, an academic and former member of parliament in Kuwait, gave an interesting and highly informative talk on the significance of reviving the strength of Muslims by following the teachings of the Qur’an and the sunnah of the noble Messenger of Allah. He postulated two arguments for the Muslims’ position: political and Shari’.
Politically, there has been an age-old struggle between imperialism and Islam with the former always resorting to violence. He said that imperialism’s violence had to be confronted with force. The Muslims had no choice in this matter. Similarly, Muslims could not abandon any land usurped by the enemy - Israel. It is unlawful in Islam to abandon any Muslim land. He urged the liberation of Jerusalem as an Islamic duty incumbent upon all Muslims, describing it as hukm-e Shari’.
He asked why it was necessary to adopt any other ideology - be it nationalist, socialist, Ba’athist or any other variety - when Islam alone is sufficient. Dr Abdallah also rejected the division of the Muslim Ummah into nation-States. He said that the Islamic Resistance could not remain confined to Lebanon; it had a responsibility to strive for the liberation of al-Quds, as indeed Muslims throughout the world had a responsibility towards it.
This was a most positive note to close on. Following a brief discussion among the participants, the seminar concluded. It was emphasized that the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon had transcended geographical boundaries by its noble example and glorious achievements. It was now the responsibility of other Muslims to convey this message to the rest of the Ummah.
Muslimedia: May 1-15, 1998