Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Clarifying Remarks I made Years ago regarding Hezbollah

Point of Clarification regarding the comments I made after the 2006 Israel War on Lebanon:

A statement I made 5 years ago about the 2006 Israel War on Lebanon has been repeatedly used by my detractors to paint me into something I am not (see here). However let me clarify that at the time, Israel justified its indiscriminate bombing of Lebanon costing countless lives and billions of dollars in damage on the premise that Hezbollah was a terrorist organization. When I was asked in 2006 by the Generation if the war would have been justified because Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, my response was in no way meant to support Hezbollah but to clarify the reality of the political landscape in Lebanon and that the devastating bombing of Lebanon was not justifiable under international standards. Let us be mature enough to realize that a person explaining something is not the same as him supporting something.

 My detractors condemn me for having once said as a 19 year old that Hezbollah is a resistance organization; a guerrilla organization; that they have popular support in Lebanon; and that they offer political and social services in Lebanon. CNN and BBC have also reported the same things about Hezbollah. I said those statements, as an American student of political science, simply to explain the strong connection, whether we like it or not, that Hezbollah has with the Lebanese society. The moral: military might and violence is not the solution.

Anyway my detractors have blown those statements out of proportion and context in an effort to  marganilze me as some sort of radical or supporter of terrorism. The reality is, however, I have always condemned all terrorism and each statement I said was not based on my own knowledge, but what is accepted both by scholars of political science and the main stream media. Furthermore, there is a big difference between explaining what an organization is and blanket support for the organization. For example, I can explain that Israel is a  democratic Jewish state, that does not mean I support or approve of how it treats Palestinians. Nor does the fact that I disagree with current and past Israeli policy make me unamerican. Is not being American all about freedom of speech and thought? Can we not work together despite political differences

Michael Walzer, in his book Just and Unjust wars basically states that if an armed group has popular support of their home country,  have a base of operation, wear uniforms, etc. then they are technically a guerrilla organization. He also states that such guerrilla organizations cannot be defeated through military might alone.  Me stating the Hezbollah meets those criteria in no way amounts to be supporting terrorism! Since then as I have grown and matured I have learned that they may have engaged in terrorist acts in the 1980's (interesting to note that the BBC also reports that the armies which established Israel also engaged in terrorist acts in their early years), however I in no way, shape, or form condone such acts.   

Furthermore, there is no dispute generally as to the fact that Hezbollah has large support from the Lebanese people and offers many non-military servies in Lebanon.They are in fact a part of the Lebanese government and thus a key player. Steve Emerson has wrote that I have
A track record of defending terrorist groups and acting as an apologist for radical Islam. Following the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War, Shibly granted legitimacy to Hizballah by characterizing it as a 'resistance movement' that provides valued social services to the Lebanese people.

However,  CNN just published a few days ago that: "The group[Hezbollah] is a political party and a major provider of social services in Lebanon, in addition to operating a militant wing." Both the CNN and BBC and countless others have stated that Hezbollah was created as a resistance to Israeli occupation and that they provide valued social services to the Lebanese people. Does that make CNN and BBC apologists for radical Islam?

I am sorry but things are not as conveniently black and white as we may wish them to be. 

Yes, our government does classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, but that does not negate the reality that they meet the criteria of a guerrilla organization under international standards or that they have a large social/political presence in Lebanon. There can be no progress to peace if we do not fully understand who the key players are in the middle east, even if we do not like them. The fact is Hezbollah was started to end Israeli occupation of Lebanon and after succeeding in doing so, received wide spread support from the Lebanese people. This is generally an undisputed fact. I am not a supporter of terrorism for saying so and neither is CNN or BBC.

 I was definitely mistaken for having gone so far as to say as a naive 19 year old that "they are absolutely not a terrorist organization." Such a statement was only in response to whether the bombing of Lebanon was acceptable, and due to both my ignorance and the definition and implication that term has. I have grown and learned a lot since that time as is natural. See here for a discussion of the term terrorism

The reality is that there is a long brewing conflict between Lebanon and Israel...both sides have their views... and both have at times committed terrible unjustifiable crimes. The world is not simple and not black vs. white. As I have grown and matured, I have tried to view the conflict from the objective lens of law and political science.   For the most part, I do not buy the idea that one side is inherently good or evil. If a person is not intellectually mature enough to see things out side of  a black and white paradigm then they need to grow more. 

Peace cannot be achieved so long as wee see things as "us v.s them." While there are a few nutcases out there, we humans generally all want peace and security and freedom for ourselves and our families. Has the Arab Spring not taught us this? We (human beings) all share the blame for world suffering and we all ought to share in the work to peace and Justice. I want peace for everyone. I have no problem working with Israelis, Arabs, Americans, Jews, Christians, Muslims or people of any faith or culture to promote peace and justice. I condemn anyone and everyone who has ever taken the life of an innocent man, women, or child and believe that is never justifiable or acceptable. My statements in 2006 were not in anyway to support Hezbollah, but to explain the reality of the political landscape in Lebanon, so we know how to properly deal with situation and do not justify more indiscriminate bloodshed.

Finally I do not wish for the Middle East conflict to be the focus of my work. I only mention this story here because a few Islamophobes have used my statements to discredit my interfaith and civil rights work. Now that I have set the record straight, I hope we can put aside our political, cultural, and religious differences and work together to protect the civil rights of all Americans and build a better world for all our children. 


  1. [Below is a comment I received via email. I was requested to post it anonymously on the authors behalf. The point the author is making is that terrorist acts, though never justifiable, are a often-repeated result of foreign occupation and that many occupied groups, regardless of religion, have wrongly used terrorism in response to occupation. However, the author argues that the fact that the means by which the occupied go about fighting occupation is wrong, that doesn't make their cause (ending occupation) wrong. Michael Walzer argues the same thing when he distinguishes between Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello, or the fact that a group may have just cause to go to war but may fight the war in unjust ways (like by engaging in terrorism/killing civilians, etc.). Robert Pape in his books also argues that terrorism is not a result of religion but is a regular reaction to occupation. I leave you with the anonymous quote below. Please note: Understanding the political science root causes of terrorism, in no way justifies such acts. HS]

  2. Autonomous comment Below:

    "I agree, things are never simply black and white - even if we try to classify them that way.

    However, as a seperate issue, Hezbollah has the right to defend its country. A case example here would be going back to the late 1800's in western America. A small rag-tag group of Apache Native Americans where led by a man named Geronimo, who fought against the white settlers and American Union soldiers who were occupying his land. Today, he is hailed as a resistance leader and his name is used to express actions that are daring and praiseworthy (ex. US paratroopers are known to use his name when jumping of airplanes and into battle). However, a lesser known fact about him is that he also killed women and children, often of the white settlers that were moving in. Yet, still it is acknowledged that his fight against US was justified, but his killing of civilians was not. A similar case here could be made of the Seminoles of Florida, where the US govt manipulated isolated murders by Seminoles (many of them for revenge because of murders of Seminoles committed by American outlaws and squatters)and invaded Florida.

    For another example regarding terrorism and its causes, we could go to China right before its Anti-Western themed Boxer Rebellion. An excerpt from an excellent article from Tarak Barkawi (Cambridge):

    "In an earlier moment of resistance against the Western world order, the Hong Kong Chinese opened a front in the bakeries. They nearly wiped out the entire European community on the island by kneading arsenic into their bread. But the bakers were too generous with the arsenic, which caused the Europeans to vomit before the poison could take effect.

    The British were trying to open up Chinese markets for the sale of Indian opium. It took them two wars to do so in the mid-nineteenth century and the “terrorist bakers” provided part of the excuse to get the second war started. The prime minister, Lord Palmerston, railed against those who would kill British subjects by “murder, assassination, and poison”.

    The bakeries can clearly be seen as terrorism, yet they were a result of the Chinese people treated as sub-class humans. The injustices committed here were clearly not just "perceived", then were very real - as are injustices committed by Israel to Lebanon, Palestine, and the US in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, etc. Terrorism is not just limited to radical Islam; you could almost call it a desperate unjustifiable HUMAN reaction to occupation (detestable nonetheless).

    Numerous other examples of invading nations using certain incidents to try to justify their invasion and occupation, while most people today ignore the elephant in the room: The country's sovereignty.

    My point here is, it dosen't matter whether you were an impressionable 19 year old or not, older people than you, with plenty more research behind them acknowledge that there is basic principle, when an Nation A invades/occupies Nation B, Nation B has every right to defend itself and resist the occupation. Terrorist acts, though detestable, does NOT mitigate that right; invading nations use these acts to try to justify their presence - and this principle can be applied to different conflict areas in the world today." Anonymous Commenter

  3. Terrorism does not occur in a vacuum. When History can not be written with a pen it will be written with a gun-Farabundo Marti. Only by seeking to understand the motivations and personal history of the terrorists can we begin to fight terror. A stable and prosperous society does not breed terrorists i.e. Canada or the Nordic countries as an example.