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The real “new Middle East” in the making

Zafar Bangash

Hizbullah's stunning victory over Israel has boosted many people's morale, especially Muslims who are struggling for peace and justice all over the world. By defeating the most powerful military machine in the Middle East, Hizbullah has not only demolished the myth of Israel's invincibility but also shaken the Arab potentates in their huge palaces to their boots. There is indeed a new Middle East in the making, but not the one declared by US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice with a toothy smile during her visit to Israel on July 23.

Israel's aerial bombardment of Lebanon was designed to turn the civilian population against Hizbullah, thereby depriving it of public support and making it easier for Israel to destroy it.Israel had planned to occupy Southern Lebanon up to the Litani river and install a pliant Lebanese politician in power in Beirut to do its bidding. Lebanon would then serve as a springboard from which to attack Syria. They also calculated that eliminating Tehran's supporters in the region would make it easier for the US and Israel to attack Iran. This diabolical plan would have materialized but for Hizbullah's valiant resistance, changing the strategic balance of power in the Middle East dramatically

Despite claiming "victory", Israel is in turmoil. In a poll published on August 25 in the Israeli Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot, 63 percent of Israelis want Ehud Olmert to resign as prime minister. Israeli reservists have also held demonstrations against the government's handling of the war, in which 118 soldiers were killed, the highest casualty figures Israel has ever suffered in any war. In the past, Israel not only defeated Arab armies, killing thousands of soldiers, but also occupied vast Arab territories. In the recent 34-day war on Hizbullah andLebanon, Israel failed to achieve any of its stated objectives; instead, Hizbullah delivered stunning blows—militarily, politically and economically—with material resources that were no match for Israel's. The myth of Israel's invincibility was shattered in the villages of South Lebanon at the loss of only 68 Hizbullah fighters. True, Israel destroyed much of Lebanon's infrastructure and turned a million people into refugees—these constitute war crimes—but such criminal acts merely show up Israel's failure to confront and defeat Hizbullah

By standing up to Israel and surviving a brutal aerial bombardment in which more than 4500 sorties were carried out, Hizbullah changed the rules of military engagement. Israel's shock-and-awe operation, aimed at destroying Hizbullah, left Israel itself shell-shocked. More importantly, Hizbullah's steadfastness exposed the impotence of Arab rulers and their huge armies, which are used to oppress their own people but cannot fight Israel. No Arab government will now be able to advance the excuse that its army cannot fight because it cannot match Israel's weapons. Hizbullah possessed neither planes nor anti-aircraft weapons to fight Israel's US-supplied F-15 and F-16 planes, yet it shot down four Israeli helicopters and an F-16 fighter plane, as well as defeating the Israeli army on the ground. This stands in sharp contrast with Israel's invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, when it destroyed 100 Syrian aircraft without losing a single one of its own.

Hizbullah's victory has sent a chill down the spines of Arab rulers, who can now see power slipping from their hands. That explains why, far from supporting a fellow Arab State under Israeli attack, they parroted zionist propaganda about Hizbullah's starting the war and condemned it for "irresponsible adventurism". It was, however, such "adventurism" that defeatedIsrael, not the "responsible" (read cowardly) behaviour of Arab rulers. But power is addictive; those who possess it cannot give it up even if they have outlived their usefulness: hence their desperation to show that they are still relevant. On August 20, Arab League foreign ministers met in Cairo to revive the long-dead Middle East "peace process" by appealing to the UN Security Council to put it on its agenda when the new UN session starts this month. While twenty-two Arab regimes and their armies cannot stop Israeli brutalities against Palestinians and Lebanese civilians, and beg the UN to save their collective hides, a few thousand Hizbullah fighters have knocked Israel's front teeth out. None of this is lost on the masses in the region.

The secret of Hizbullah's success lies not in sophisticated weapons but in the iman of its fighters and muttaqi leadership, who willingly offers sacrifices before asking others to do so. Hizbullah leader Shaikh Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah is not detached from the people; he lives among them. Gaining people's trust is an essential prerequisite for the success of any movement such as Hizbullah, which is supported by Shi‘as, Sunnis, Christians and Druze alike, a remarkable feat in Lebanon's deeply sectarian politics. It is this kind of wisdom that has today madeLebanon immune to sectarian violence, which has been used by the enemies of Islam to divide Muslims.

While Muslims savour Hizbullah's victory, it is vital that we guard against US/zionist attempts to create discord. Their minds are capable of every conceivable evil, and even some that are inconceivable. It may well prove, however, that the Middle East has undergone a permanent and irreversible change.

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 35, No. 7

Sha'ban 08, 14272006-09-01

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