Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon, March 14

Hizbullah, Ashura, and the Art of the Political Parable

I’ve written something for the NY Times Global’s Latitude blog about one of Nasrallah’s Ashura speeches last month. In the interest of space, I couldn’t include extensive translations from the speech, so I thought I’d make them available here. For context and the broader argument, check out the original post here.

I’ve been criticized before for my admiration of Nasrallah’s rhetorical skills, but I found the speech in question deeply disturbing (and unfortunately, so did Saida’s Salafists).  This is an aspect of Hizbullah that its liberal admirers like to ignore, imagining that the Party of God is far more progressive and non-confessional than its “feudal,” “fascist,” “right-wing,” “clientelist” opponents. I’m always puzzled by this notion, because it seems fairly straightforward that Hizbullah is just as adept at anyone at deploying sectarianism in the service of politics.

I challenge you seasoned Lebanon-watchers to listen to the final segment of the speech (I’ve cued it to the right spot) and tell me that it is not one of the most blatant and unashamed examples of sectarian incitement they’ve heard coming out of the mouth of a Lebanese politician in recent memory. (The relevant section is translated below for English speakers, along with time stamps).

I leave you with this thought. If Samir Geagea were to give a speech calling Nasrallah a modern-day Judas Iscariot, or if Saad Hariri wrote a tweet accusing the Shi`a of being heretical Uthman-killers and Aisha-slanderers, how quickly do you think the March 8th media outlets would be down their throats, calling them bloody-minded sectarian feudal warlords? I’m no fan of any of the individuals attached to the proper names cited in this post, but let’s be serious for a moment and recognize demagoguery when we see it.


[1:06:38] “When we speak about al-Husayn, we are speaking about his suffering but also his steadfastness. We begin with his abandonment by the people despite the fact that he was the son of the daughter of the Prophet of God… This would cause any human being to suffer.

[1:06:58] For example, you felt, during the July War, that you were on the side of righteousness, and yet you were being killed and shot and [your homes] destroyed, and many people in the world left you, abandoned you, and even blamed you and insulted you. Did this not cause great pain in you?

[1:07:23] Al-Husayn’s abandonment is the first [cause of his suffering]. The second is the treachery of those who swore their allegiance to him and then abandoned him. This is even more painful. There were people who abandoned us and did not aid us [during the July War] but there were others who promised us help and pledged their allegiance to us and committed to us, then defamed us and attacked us… this was also the case of Husayn. At the very least, they could have sat on the sidelines and been neutral, but no: they attacked and killed him. This added to his suffering.

[1:07:51] The constant threat of being killed from Medina, to Mecca, to Karbala: this caused suffering. A severe siege, severe thirst… al-Husayn and his wives and his children and companions were prevented from drinking water for several days before they were martyred… You go to speak to [your tormentors] and they don’t listen to you; this causes suffering. Imagine if you were the grandson of the Prophet… Sometimes one goes through such an experience. Even if you speak for a hundred years or two hundred, it doesn’t matter. Some people are not interested in listening.

[1:09:00] The third thing [that causes suffering] is fighting with few supporters. This choice is also difficult. And finally, the arrival at the stage of martyrdom. Martyrs were falling right in front of al-Husayn. His loved ones, his brethren. Who were these martyrs?

[1:09:18] Some of you are the fathers, mothers, siblings of martyrs. Everyone knows that when one’s son or brother is martyred, one suffers. What if your son is killed in front of your eyes? Your feelings would be different. If people came and told you that your son was hit during the battle, he was killed, he was martyred, etc., you would suffer.

[1:09:51] But when we speak of Karbala, we are always speaking about the highest ceiling [of emotions]. Al-Husayn’s son was killed in his arms, Ali al-Akbar [Ed: I think he meant Ali al-Asghar here]. Imagine if your son was a young man who exceled and fought and was martyred… you would suffer. But this is completely different from one whose son is an infant, a baby, a few months old. You hold him in your arms, and ask for some water for him, and he is slaughtered in your arms. And his blood runs upon you. How much more painful is this?

[1:10:35] We have families who have lost one, or two, or three martyrs over the course of years; their brothers, their children. Those who were killed with al-Husayn at Karbala were his children, in his arms and in front of him. His brothers, all of whom were young. Al-Husayn was himself young, only 57. His brothers were all younger than him. They were killed, along with their children, their cousins; this is all painful. Then the weeping of the women; mothers bereaved of children, widows. When you go into the home of a martyr’s family, with the mother or the wife crying, your heart breaks. Al-Husayn looked all around him and saw these eyes full of tears; the weeping of orphans, from hunger, thirst, and pain. And on top of all that were the wounds inflicted upon him. And in the final moments, on top of the wounds, the screams of women and children, as the warriors attacked the tents and the fires were lit.

[1:11:58] How much pain did this one heart endure? And how much can a human heart endure? And yet, al-Husayn was not shaken, he did not retreat, he did not weaken, he did not stumble, he did not submit, and nor did his companions…

[1:12:41] This is our leader. This is Karbala, from which we learn the lessons of steadfastness, and honesty, and the loyal pledge [Ed: repeated in mid-stride to correct the case from accusative to genitive… amazing]. This is the school in which we sit these days and nights, learning, suffering, crying. You and I are the ones who pledged our allegiance to al-Husayn in our Resistance in Lebanon. We are the ones who went out to fight the occupiers, even though were only a small minority. And we are a minority that is accused of insanity, accused of committing ourselves to ruin, accused of not understanding balances of power, accused of acting with the zeal of immature young men…

[1:14:00] My brethren, on this night… we say to al-Husayn: “If only we were with you at Karbala, so that we could have won a great victory!” As one, we say to al-Husayn on this night, and repeat it on every night, and on the tenth day: “Oh great leader and martyr, we, men and women, in these difficult times, despite all the challenges, dangers, threats, insults, and the determination and trickery of the enemy, and despite the scarcity of our supporters, oh Abu Abdallah, we will not abandon you, or your religion, or your flock, or your Karbala, or your goals, even if we are killed and burned, and our wives and children are captured as yours were. We say to you that we – men, women, children, elderly, young – who were steadfast and withstood the July War, are not frightened by their war, their weapons, threats, and trickery. Just as we were steadfast before, we shall continue, as long as there runs in our veins a drop of your blood, and a breath of your breath is in our bodies, and your strength is in us, and your will, we will remain Husayns and Zaynabs, and we repeat with you until the end of time: “Hayhat minna ‘l-dhilla!”

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149 thoughts on “Hizbullah, Ashura, and the Art of the Political Parable

  1. Isn’t this a little bit like getting worked up by a Catholic priest speaking about the ordeal of Jesus, with respect to the Romans– and interpreting this as a reference to current day Italians?

    Posted by Pirouz | December 14, 2011, 8:13 am
  2. I think this small segment of the speech is being taken out of context and overly emphasized on. You mean to talk about the little second paragraph of this, whereas the shiites are being reminded that they are a marginalized community. This is essentially a religious speech on a religious occasion, and it naturally will draw parallels between religion and something more current, relevant to the people of today.
    it is in line with other Ashoura speeches of the past and nothing out of the ordinary.
    I don’t see how it’s especially sectarianist, other than this small paragraph in quite a long speech, and without particularly inflaming vocabulary. It did not incide to revenge, but rather to simply evoke past sufferings of the community and individuals. This is why I don’t see it as sectarian, but only in line with the theme of Ashoura. no need to accuse them of suddenly using a sectarian card…

    Posted by M. ES. | December 14, 2011, 9:03 am
  3. M. ES. and Pirouz

    When Nasrallah explicitly says that the people who betrayed Hussein have the same standing as those betrayed Hizbullah, this is a big deal. It plays into a long history of Sunni-Shiite grievances. It’s not a harmless morality fable. And by turning the struggle of the resistance from a nationalist one to an explicitly sectarian one (“We are the ones who have pledged our allegiance to Hussein in the resistance in Lebanon”), he is effectively circling the wagons, and telling the Shia: don’t look to the rest of this country to protect you. We are alone.

    Dangerous rhetoric.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 14, 2011, 9:28 am
  4. Sectarian, sure, but is it really a new thing? If you compare with previous Nasrallah Ashoura speeches, for example, rather than just his political speeches in general?

    Posted by aron | December 14, 2011, 10:21 am
  5. At Qifa nabki, you’re reading too much into your own analysis.
    is it the first time you watch/listen to an Ashoura ceremony. Nasrallah is telling the story in a sense so that people can understand how did AlHussein feel, it’s an explanation that AlHussein suffered like you people do and even more. and at the end(like any Ashoura) it was the time for the pledge to always be on the side of AlHussein.
    Ashoura is a ceremony that is practiced as the core of the Shiite sect.
    no names were mentioned, no sect, nothing, it is basically the Resistance and whoever is conspiring against it, which will automatically include Hamas and the syrian regime(who happen to include both Alawis and sunnis). don’t you think that if Hezbollah accused Samir GaeGae or Saad elHarriri of conspiring against the resistance, peoples reaction(people who are attending this same ceremony) are not going to react the same way?
    you are simply accusing Hezbollah of being Hezbollah.

    Posted by Fadi Youssef | December 14, 2011, 10:50 am
  6. QN,

    How does this fit with your thinking that Hezbollah can become “just another political party” in Lebanon?

    Posted by AIG | December 14, 2011, 11:21 am
  7. Well. This original posting deserves an eye-roll. The responses that follow deserve an even bigger eyeroll.


    One needs not listen to Hassan Nassrallah’s speeches to figure out that the party he represents is a sectarian one. His party is a sectarian one, by construct, and will permanently be stained as such, as long as the title it bestows upon itself is the Party of “God”. Which God pray tell.

    None of the above holds less true if atheist Resistance-Mongers or Christian ones count themselves as members of the said party of “God”.

    As for the rather pathetic responses that ensued, bravo. But try not to be too clever. I think there is a line between a speech littered with religious imagery and a speech that is inflammatory. It is perhaps surprising the QN has suddenly found this particular speech inflammatory, as opposed to many others that have come and gone before. But let’s not dress the pig with lipstick- inflammatory is what this speech is (no offense intended to the poor Pig). If you count yourself among the elite group who do not find such words inflammatory, it is not because of the speech, but rather because you agree with it (at some level).

    *Eye Roll*

    Posted by Gabriel | December 14, 2011, 11:37 am
  8. At Gabriel,

    can you identify a difference between a religious party and a sectarian party?
    a religious speech at a religious ceremony, and a sectarian speech at a nationalistic supposed to be secular rally.
    being an “Elite” and an “intellect” of your level you should be able to rationalize what’s what, and what’s not.
    so save us your “eye rolls” and try to engage in the discussion in a more productive and respectful manner.

    Posted by Fadi Youssef | December 14, 2011, 11:56 am
  9. Does Hezbollah’s “resistance” stance include Arab despots like Assad, or is it only the Zionists that aren’t allowed to butcher arabs?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 14, 2011, 12:08 pm
  10. Fadi said:

    ” Nasrallah is telling the story in a sense so that people can understand how did AlHussein feel, it’s an explanation that AlHussein suffered like you people do and even more. and at the end(like any Ashoura) it was the time for the pledge to always be on the side of AlHussein. Ashoura is a ceremony that is practiced as the core of the Shiite sect. no names were mentioned, no sect, nothing, it is basically the Resistance and whoever is conspiring against it, which will automatically include Hamas and the syrian regime(who happen to include both Alawis and sunnis). don’t you think that if Hezbollah accused Samir GaeGae or Saad elHarriri of conspiring against the resistance, peoples reaction(people who are attending this same ceremony) are not going to react the same way? you are simply accusing Hezbollah of being Hezbollah.”

    Perhaps I am accusing Hezbollah of being Hezbollah, but I think you are giving Nasrallah too much leeway. The point of the speech was not to help people understand Husayn, but to use the parable of Husayn to help people understand the current moment.

    There are many ways to understand the current moment. If you are a young Shiite man in a family that has always supported Hezbollah, perhaps you are confused by the party’s stance on Syria. Perhaps you’re confused by the allegations that the party killed Rafik Hariri. Nasrallah’s strategy is to sweep all of these inconvenient details aside and tell you that all you need to know is that we (i.e. Hezbollah and the Shi`a, who are one and the same) are being persecuted today, and our persecutors (i.e. Israel, America, and March 14th) are no better than the people who massacred the family of the Prophet. That’s all you need to know, my confused young man. So stop being confused and pick up the Hezbollah flag, and march in our cause (which is the cause of Husayn).

    As for the argument (made by Gabriel and others) that this is nothing new, I believe that it actually does mark a subtle change in rhetoric. Yes, maybe the messages have always been there, but the fact that they are becoming more overt is a troubling sign.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 14, 2011, 12:21 pm
  11. Dear Gabriel,

    your eye rolling and name-calling has still not changed my mind.

    When I read this post first, or rather the entry on the NYtimes blog http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/nasrallahs-fighting-words/#more-1751, the impression I got form the article was that the whole speech was about inciting a sectarian feud, or inciting hate to other sects.

    However, then, I actually took the time to watch the whole speech, all 1:18 minutes of it. an hour and 7 minutes later, there was a few seconds of parallel making between the suffering of then, and the suffering in the 2006 war by the shiites community, and this is where the part translated above starts.

    For me, yes, he means to emphasize the particularities of the shi3a community in Lebanon, and if by that you mean sectarianist, then sure. On the other hand, if you mean that he is trying to incite hate and violence towards others, and that it is sectarian in that sense, then sorry, I still don’t see it.

    His speech actually that hardly qualifies for incitement for hate that is implied by this article and the one posted in the NYtimes. It was in the context of telling the story of the shiite sect, of Ashoura, and was essentially a religious speech in accordance with the occasion.

    Nobody ever pretended Hizballah was not part of sectarian politics, but I don’t know why Qifanabki insisted on emphasizing this particular part of this particular speech.

    Sheikh Hassan was addressing the Shi3as about the story of Ashoura and shiites. it only makes sense. Don’t blame the pink panther for being pink in other words. did you hear him calling to arms against other sects?

    I don’t see a change of stance or a sudden surge of unprecedented sectarianism here, and certainly no more than others, sorry. I am by no means a Hizballah supporter, but especially when you compare this speech to Hariri’s especially sectarian fueling-tone speeches, and his supporters’ extra sectarian stance, does this speech look more and more moderate.

    Posted by M. ES. | December 14, 2011, 12:35 pm
  12. M. ES.

    Stop right there. Please provide me some examples of Hariri’s “especially sectarian fueling-tone speeches” that match the same level of religious rhetoric found in Nasrallah’s speech.

    As for blaming the pink panther for being pink, I don’t quite understand your point. When Pierre Gemayel said that the Kataeb had “quality” of supporters rather than “quantity”, would it have been ok to say: “Never mind this highly offensive statement. Don’t blame the pink panther for being pink.”

    Yes, we have to blame the pink panther for being pink when “pink” means engaging in this kind of disturbing political behavior.

    Yalla, I’m waiting for those samples… 😉

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 14, 2011, 12:47 pm
  13. I’m with QN on this one.

    Perhaps I am accusing Hezbollah of being Hezbollah, but I think you are giving Nasrallah too much leeway. The point of the speech was not to help people understand Husayn, but to use the parable of Husayn to help people understand the current moment.

    Looking at the speech excerpts. These are NOT JUST talking about the story of Husayn (as a religious speech would). They are drawing a parallel between the martydrom and suffering of Husayn AND THE PRESENT SITUATION.

    I’ll second Gabriel with the eyerolls. Nice to see so many folks suddenly jumping to the defense of Nassrallah’s speech. And here I thought this blog had a one-sided readership…

    But you guys are ignoring (perhaps intentionally) the parts where Nassrallah parallels Husayn’s trials to those of the current, present day, Shia (yes, sectarian terminology) and where the other players in Lebanon (read “other sects”) are being compared and paralleled to the people who martyred Husayn.

    The analogy from QN, of Samir Geagea comparing Hassan Nassrallah to Judas is EXACTLY on the money. That’s PRECISELY what Nassrallah is doing here. And he’s the only one who can get away with this kind of talk. Hypocrisy and double standards. As usual.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 14, 2011, 1:57 pm
  14. QN,

    Hezbollah is surely the ultimate sectarian party, no? While Hariri, Gemayel and so on representatives of a family rather than a sect.

    But more to the point, do you think Hezbollah winding back the clock? As Hezbollah feels the pressure because of Syria, do you think that this means a return to the days of the infamous letter and a ‘uglier’ Hezbollah….?

    Posted by deensharp | December 14, 2011, 1:58 pm
  15. can you identify a difference between a religious party and a sectarian party?

    This is an irrelevant question. But we can go down the philosophical discussion if you like. As per the above statements I made, it is very possible to have a speech that is laden with religious views, but that is not inflammatory regarding the “sectarian” card.

    a religious speech at a religious ceremony, and a sectarian speech at a nationalistic supposed to be secular rally.

    There is no need to be “clever” in the distinctions. I am no expert on Shiism, or Nasrallah, or where he stands in the secular/religious divide. Is he a poltiical leader? Is he a religious leader?

    The secular viewpoint should be that the leader of a political party would not use the occasion of a “religious” event to talk about current political events. Precisely so that folk such as yourself don’t misinterpret the intentions of the said speech.

    But by the very nature of his party/role, HNA and Hizballah have blurred the lines. From an outsider point of view, I don’t think we should help him cloud the issues. The speech is inflammatory pure and simple (as are many of his other speeches).

    What is positively offensive is not so much that HNA is in fact sectarian. He can be whoever he chooses to be. Bless him and may he live a thousand years. What is positively offensive is that he is given a Free Pass under the guise that such a speech is “Kosher” or “Hallal” or whatever word suits your dictionary best, simply because he belongs to a religious party!

    Hence the rather absurd logic you used in the above question: “Do I see a difference between a “religious speech” at a “religious ceremony” and a
    “sectarian speech” at a nationalist “supposed” to be secular rally.

    If you want to give his eminence (this one or that one- my statements are not directed at HA specifically, but apply to all groups equally) because your personal preferences don’t find this particular violation of “secular” “nationalist” prerogatives offensive. Fine. But at least say so, instead of coming here and making it sound as though there is a rational/logical argument to be made as to why this or that person should be given such a free pass!

    so save us your “eye rolls” and try to engage in the discussion in a more productive and respectful manner.

    This is not a remark to you personally (as none of my remarks are intended to be personal).

    In general, people ought to step off the high horse and approach a discussion with honesty. See above for my core issues with the logic that you’ve presented.

    In all my time coming to QN, this has been my central gripe with argumentation. If an argument is not acceptable if your “opponent” were to make it, then it is not acceptable when you make it.

    So apply the litmus test.

    Let’s talk if/when you pass this test.

    Posted by Gabriel | December 14, 2011, 2:28 pm
  16. BV said: “The analogy from QN, of Samir Geagea comparing Hassan Nassrallah to Judas is EXACTLY on the money. That’s PRECISELY what Nassrallah is doing here. And he’s the only one who can get away with this kind of talk. Hypocrisy and double standards. As usual.”

    BV and QN

    The analogy you mention is not Exactly on the money If GeaGea accused Nassrallah of being Judas it would be a false accusation. Nassrallah’s accusations on what happened in 2006 ARE accurate and not a figment of his imagination. In Karbala Hussein was abandoned and stabbed in the back by his so called allies. In 2006 Nassrallah was abandoned and stabbed in the back by his so called allies.

    I am not defending Hizballah: it IS a sectarian party but so is every other political party in Lebanon. As for inciting sectarian conflict, let me just mention a few things:”
    jouzou, Daher, Hariri, Sfeir. Wilyat el Faqih, etc etc. How fast we forget El Marid il Sinni ) what happened in Achrafieh. The sermon of last week in Saida

    It seems that we are holding Nassrallah at a higher standard.

    Posted by elsheikh | December 14, 2011, 2:38 pm
  17. M ES:

    “Inflammatory” speech is not necessarily speech incites hate and violence.

    In fact the speech may be considered inflammatory not based on its effect on the “Shiite” community (in this particular example), but rather, on its effect on the other communities!

    Speech that in general increases tension, or highlights divisions, or conveniently highlights divisions at trying political times is I think unquestionably “inflammatory”.

    Posted by Gabriel | December 14, 2011, 2:48 pm
  18. … and the point of all this?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | December 14, 2011, 3:03 pm
  19. QN,

    Why do you really bother ?

    What’s your point?

    Posted by R2D2 | December 14, 2011, 3:21 pm
  20. Good Luck trying to get cows to smoke Shisha pipes.

    Let us know how that works out for you..

    Posted by R2D2 | December 14, 2011, 3:38 pm
  21. … and the point of all this?


    The point of all WHAT?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 14, 2011, 4:01 pm
  22. Whether you like it or not … your living in the US and your tax paying dollar living in the US directly contributes to the pest that you think you can non-chalantly contribute about on your blog.

    Shut up .. or put up!

    Posted by R2D2 | December 14, 2011, 4:03 pm
  23. The problem is Israel !

    Posted by R2D2 | December 14, 2011, 4:10 pm
  24. AP, those of us with a modicum of perception and perspicacity have understood SHN and Hizbollah a long time ago. We don’t need a new revealing speech to become enlightened. To us all this new bewilderment engenders but yawns.
    And religious or for that matter tribal fanaticism in Israel is not too much better either.
    The conflict seems to be between the true secular humanists, the modernists so to speak on the one hand, and the religious/tribal fanatics on the other.
    Every community in the ME seems to have both.

    Posted by honestpatriot | December 14, 2011, 4:16 pm
  25. R2D2, THE problem is not Israel.
    There are many problems and any problem related to Israel is nowhere near as fundamental as the rest. Witness the Arab spring.

    Posted by honestpatriot | December 14, 2011, 4:21 pm
  26. By practically all standards the philosophy of Hizbollah is extreme conservatism and is essentially built on reactionary ideas that promote nothing but “irrational” and bigoted thinking.
    A group that is considered to be guided solely by the ideas of a religious leader whose only interest is to create a society according to ideas in a book that was written 1400 years ago is nothing short of paleoconservatism.
    There can never be room for religious zealots in a democracy or a diverse society. Hezbollah and the IRI ; besides the KSA and a few others, are systems whose time has come and gone decades ago. There ought be no room for religious ideas in the public square.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | December 14, 2011, 4:21 pm
  27. “And religious or for that matter tribal fanaticism in Israel is not too much better either.”

    Of course, our religious parties have militias and are funded by an outside state and supplement their budget by dealing drugs.

    Posted by AIG | December 14, 2011, 4:24 pm
  28. “There can never be room for religious zealots in a democracy or a diverse society.”


    You are just wrong on this issue. Ben-Gurion to his credit understood that a democracy MUST accommodate religious zealots. There is no other way. You need to co-opt them and make them play according to the rules of democracy.

    Posted by AIG | December 14, 2011, 4:31 pm
  29. AIG,
    In my rush I did misspeak 🙂 There is room for every one in a democracy including religious zealots. What I meant is that a society ruled by religious zealots cannot pretend to be democratic.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | December 14, 2011, 4:35 pm
  30. The problem is Israel!


    Stop plagarizing from Assad. Get original dude.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 14, 2011, 4:42 pm
  31. at QN,

    so basically your whole rhetoric and answer is based on identifying me as a member of the shiite sect, who is brainwashed and confused.
    how close minded can you be, I mean you take the liberty to yourself to label people, and then call others sectarians.
    you my friend are nothing better than any other screwed up lebo politician, who thinks that he is right and everyone else is wrong.
    so kindly step down from your pretentious self righteous position and handle basic criticism in a decent way.
    your understanding of the speech is yours only, and can only be considered one way to look at things, not matter how much you try to convince yourself it isn’t.

    Posted by Fadi Youssef | December 14, 2011, 5:03 pm
  32. Fadi habibi, 🙂

    I was not referring to you when I wrote about the confused young man. I was referring to the hypothetical young person to whom Nasrallah’s speech was addressed. Please believe me that I am not in the business of insulting my readers!

    I absolutely accept that my reading of the speech is subjective and I respect your opinion entirely. I was simply trying to explain my reading in a clearer way, but it seems that I made matters worse by insulting you inadvertently! This is the problem with having these discussions over a blog.

    Anyway, I hope you see what my point was: that Nasrallah is trying to address the current predicament of his party (which has been made vulnerable in the court of public opinion by the situation in Syria and the STL) by recasting the struggle as a sectarian one.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 14, 2011, 5:12 pm
  33. R2D2

    Yes I pay taxes in the US. So shoot me.

    What have you done lately to solve the great pest problem?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 14, 2011, 5:13 pm
  34. AIG, I did say “not too much better,” thereby implying “better.”
    No big militias but weapons and vigilante illegal actions nonetheless. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | December 14, 2011, 5:14 pm
  35. AIG, note also I was talking about fanaticism, which implies extremism. Religious parties don’t necessarily have to be extremists. Some are, as you well know more than anyone.
    The reasonable moderate folks must unite and mutually support each other, not retrench into the defense of the tribe.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | December 14, 2011, 5:20 pm
  36. Saba7o Ya QN.

    So you finally woke up to the fact that however you dress up a monkey; it is still a pig. Nassrallah could have looked like the mischief in his eyes hero post 2000. However, we all knew that he still was the wolf in sheep’s clothing. He is an extremist fanatical sectarian person. He has pledged his allegiance and the limbs of all Lebanese for safety of the Khameini…

    I agree with the HA apologists(lovers) above that there’s nothing new for US here. We all knew who he was since 1982!!!

    @16>>”In 2006 Nassrallah was abandoned and stabbed in the back by his so called allies. ”

    Seriously how? All of Lebanon took in the displaced people of the south (which you would be correcting in assuming will not happen again if your Supreme leader misadventures again). Who were his allies? Does he have any? He is a typical Mafia leader who people pay dues to to be in his good graces! Wake up! QN did. 😀

    Posted by danny | December 14, 2011, 5:55 pm
  37. ***”So you finally woke up to the fact that however you dress up a monkey; it is still a pig.” Wow I sound so mysterious here.( I meant a duck is a duck is a duck!!) You do get the meaning though.:P

    Posted by danny | December 14, 2011, 5:58 pm
  38. ElSheikh,

    Nassrallah was abandoned by his allies in 2006?
    I don’t remember it that way. I remember all of Lebanon putting its differences aside to stand together against the Israeli aggression. I remember people of all sects opening their homes to the refugees from the South.
    What’s this betrayal you talk about?

    Considering Nassrallah did not consult with any of his so-called allies, or any other Lebanese (including the ones he got killed in the process) before launching his war by abducting Israeli soldiers…I feel HE’s the one who betrayed the rest of us, his allies included.

    So I disagree with your very recollection of the facts. No one stabbed Nassrallah in the back. No one took up arms against HA during the Israeli war, did they?

    This aside. It’s actually kind of irrelevant to the argument at hand. My analogy does kind of stand. If Geagea accused Nassrallah (not necessarily by name, but using “they”, as Nassrallah does) of being Judases, for having sold Lebanon to Iran and Syria, for example ,or for having turned their weapons on fellow Lebanese in 2008 (all valid points of views, from a Geagea’s point of view, even if YOU happen to disagree)….he’d be accused of inciting sectarianism. I don’t think anyone here could argue that point. Come on!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 14, 2011, 6:06 pm
  39. This discussion or argument should concentrate on minute details surrounding the meaning behind Nasrallahs speech or part thereof, not to whirl out of control and cause sweeping generalizations.
    In this respect one cannot ignore QN’s reference to the “inflammotary” nature of Nasrallahs speech, if perhaps not neccessarily to incite sectarian feelings or animosity but to incite sensation and moral duty to ones cause when all else seems hopelessly lost. Think post 9-11 and the vile patriotism ” huddle around the flag”.
    QN’s observation, although seemingly obvious, is quite a sharp tell tale for things to come.

    Posted by Maverick | December 14, 2011, 6:14 pm
  40. This is a good analysis, QN, that can be supported by an op-ed from Larbi Sadiki (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/opinion/hezbollahs-hypocritical-resistance.html?hp) on the rise and fall of Hizbollah as a resistance movement. You are right to point out the rhetorical markers or indicators in HNA’s speeches of a transformed “HA”–and of its identity as a social movement.

    You highlight the sectarian and “us-versus-them” cutlural signification in HNA’s latest speeches–that reflect geopolitical alliances and not principled stances. Similarly, Sadiki highlights HA support for Syria as a radical deviation from the populist pan-Arab-Islamic identitiy that the movement built all the way until 2008.

    I also believe that HA was an exceptionally promising social movement of transformation only in its middle period. It was horrific and misguided at its inception and its initial period of development as a guerilla/military resistance movement (that went out of its way to assassinate prominent thinkers and intellectuals considered as a “threat”) and it has become a failed and unprincipled tool in regional geopolitical alliances (with little autonomy and independence or principled purposes) since 2007-2008!!!

    HNA followed a principled and a quite ingenious path in his early leadership of HA (notwithstanding its initial internicine relations with Amal and some Palestinian groups), where he developed a semi-autonomous position and mission purpose for the party (even from Iran, surprisignly) specifically in its overt operations and “image building” mechanisms! Since probably 2004 or 2005, (markedly after the fall of Khatami and the decrease influence of Rafsanjani in Iran), it seems that the covert operations and geopolitical alliances (with specific political sections, in control of certain military, intelligence, and “realpolitik” institutions in Iran and Syria) started transforming and influencing the “path” of development of HA as an institution with an image, a purpose, and a principled engagement with popular needs and desires–and local Lebanese and regional “politics.” Since 2004-2005, HA has become less autonomous and more directed–even though trying to create a semi-autonomous zone of operations within Lebanse politics by allying itself with the anti status-quo camps)! With the years, the price or toll of the covert operations and “client” relations has transformed HA irreparably (possibly lending out agents to groups or sections involved in various assassinations in Lebanon, undermining its own “honor” by turning its guns on other Lebanese factions to achieve political goals, using money and influence to control and dominate in “electoral” politics, turning a social and economic support system for the underprivileged with potential into a limited and sectarian political machine, etc.).

    In a nutshell, HNA and his current politburo/cadres have failed to develop into an influential movement with great influence on all “justice” inpsired movements/events in the region–precisely when they started following narrow geopolitical alliances and started turning to realpolitik as the foundation of social relations–undemrining populist promises of equaltiy, justice, and freedom! Since HA is not a rational bureaucratic machinery but a charismatic institution, and with the absence of the wiser Fadlallah (and similar Shia religious scholars who consider politics as a guarantee of a set of ethical and religious values–and not the other way around) to balance out the party’s social and moral obligations to the Lebanese Shia, the promise and relevance of HA (as a social movement) will be waning and it is returning to its brutish past as a military force with a political apparatus supporting military aims.

    What a shame!!!

    Posted by Parrhesia | December 14, 2011, 7:47 pm
  41. QN,
    While you are right about this being more than a parable i think you are mis-reading the message or at least the message that was recieved by those whom I know who heard it. One important line you omitted from your translation is when he says “Imagine if you were the grandson of the Prophet”. What he actually says is “You are just an ordinary person, so Imagine if you were the grandson of the Prophet”.

    That line is important as it tells the listner that he is not in fact drawing a comparison and if he is not drawing a comparison between the listner and Al Husayn then he is surely not drawing a comparison between his opponents and the opponents of Al Husayn.

    Where I think you are right is that this was a message to the faithful to be steadfast. That despite all the attempts to weaken Hizballah and to defame it, despite the treachery that happens, it is nothing compared to what Al Husayn suffered;

    Besides, considering the current situation Hizballah is in, considering the balls that it has in the air right now with allies suffering a potential civil war or a potential attack, I doubt any group half as smart as Hizballah have been will be looking to increase the number of things they have to worry about by inciting secterian problems.

    And who is this confused young man? I know of no Hizballah supporter that is currently confused, either by the stance on Syria or the STL..

    Posted by mo | December 14, 2011, 7:56 pm
  42. And apporpro to that, heres something doing the rounds that may help understand his supporters thinking:

    سعودي ، كويتي ، قطري و لبناني
    طلعلن المارد من الفانوس
    قلو السعودي بدي طيارة ؛ عطاه
    قلو الكويتي بدي برج أيفل ؛ عطاه
    قلو القطري بدي برج خليفه ؛ عطاه
    قلو المارد للبناني وأنت شو بدك؟؟!
    قلو سلامتك نحنا عنا السيد حسن نصر الله ؛ أنت لازمك شي

    Posted by mo | December 14, 2011, 8:12 pm
  43. Mo,

    To psychoanalyze a whole grouping is quite an undertaking. How would you go about measuring this? If someone expresses his opinion vociferously, does that automatically illiminate any confusion? How do you know what lurks beneath facades, especially in a society that looks down upon a man showing weakness.
    I have it the other way, I believe, the Shiaa sect of Lebanon are starting a phase of introspection for the first time in a long time. People might deny HA involvement in the Hariri assassination or shrug their shoulders to its importance, but I think HA’s persistence in supporting the Assad’s is going to prove detrimental. It is’nt the fall of Assad that will weaken HA, it is the hypocracy of Narallahs unflinching support of the regime that has already weakened the movement.

    Posted by Maverick | December 14, 2011, 8:34 pm
  44. In the end I think there is one major interesting question regarding Hezbollah: Will they agree to become just another political party in exchange for fairer distribution of power between the sects in Lebanon? I think the answer is no.

    Posted by AIG | December 14, 2011, 9:00 pm
  45. Hey AIG,

    I was just looking at some of my archives. I found this post on SC from Alex (who I rarely hear from these days):

    9. Alex said:

    “The heart of the matter” Chris, is that the United States has many of the so called “friends of Israel” …

    “friends of Israel” are the most experienced and successful lobbyists for “Israel”.

    “Israel” is … all the way to the right. There is no Labor or Likud politician, there is a nation that is still quite confident that it can convince its big American friend to see almost everything in the Middle East the way Israel wants America to see it.

    This will change … because the United States will not be able to continue to pay the steep price. The trillion dollar Iraq war is only one example.

    Syria will wait patiently until that change takes place, during the Obama administration’s term hopefully, but there is no rush.

    May 11th, 2009, 6:02 pm

    What a spaz…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 14, 2011, 9:55 pm
  46. AIG,

    NO!! HA exists because of the weapons it possesses. It’s mask has fallen a long time ago. How an organization or a person reacts in adverse circumstances define the its character. Nassrallah has proven to be nothing but a stooge of the mullahs and Assad ( his gun runner). People like him will have the same fate as Bin laden as they have no allegiance to a nation! He is a mercenary! But after all he is of Iranian roots and he is showing his allegiance to the masters there!

    Posted by danny | December 14, 2011, 9:57 pm
  47. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Syria that I don’t understand the sectarianism in the mentioned clip. Seeing QN’s explanation in comment 3, it sheds a little bit more light on what he was thinking, but I just want to remind him of something. During the July 2006 invasion, while only certain regions of Lebanon with people of a certain sect were being heavily bombed with all kinds of white phosphorus and cluster munitions, many Lebanese in other regions were blaming Hizbullah for that. Also, during the same events, we saw Lebanon’s honorable Prime Minster, Saniora, shedding tears on camera for the victims in those certain regions of Lebanon, while at the same time, as revealed in Wikileaks, he was encouraging the Zionist entity to keep bombing and occupying those regions to prevent Hizbullah’s popularity from exploding. That was Lebanon’s government….

    The people of south Lebanon don’t feel alone because the want to. They feel alone because they can’t depend on anyone else but themselves. This is the reality of different groups in Lebanon as a whole, and not just the Shi`a. Hizbullah is a deeply religious Shi`a organization, and they don’t hide that, but they don’t reject working with other sects, and they don’t go around killing other sects to stir sectarian tensions like some of our good friends mainly in Tripoli like to do.

    Posted by Murad | December 14, 2011, 11:23 pm
  48. Thug Watch

    …they don’t go around killing other sects to stir sectarian tensions…


    No, they just start wars for some unexplained reason.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 15, 2011, 12:26 am
  49. While I have admired all or almost all your posts QN, on this one I feel you got it totally wrong. That’s what Ashura for Shias is all about. The tragedy of Kerbala, how it relates to today and how one should learn from it. It’s one occasion that I believe triumphs all other days in a calendar year for Shias. There is nothing secterian or incendiary about it.

    I look forward to a better analysis next time!

    Posted by Critique | December 15, 2011, 3:18 am
  50. News flash: Shiah cleric speaks about Imam Hussein’s sacrifice during Ashura, and in an incredible twist, relates it to modern day affairs. I mean this is simply unprecedented. It’s definitely not like every Shi’a cleric in every Masjed of every country in the countries of the world weren’t giving the exact same speech that very night, and haven’t been giving that very same speech on that same night every year for the past 1400 years.
    Personally I expected Nasrallah to come out on his Ashura speech and say: Hussein; meh, I can take him or leave him.

    Posted by masoud | December 15, 2011, 3:49 am
  51. @33


    Yes I pay taxes in the US. So shoot me.”

    I am.

    “What have you done lately to solve the great pest problem?”

    More than you have on this blog, for sure!

    Posted by R2D2 | December 15, 2011, 4:22 am
  52. You say in your piece that this speech comparable to Saad Hariri and Samir Geagea calling Nasrallah an Uthman killing, Aisha slandering Judas. But Nasrallah never mentioned the names of any political leaders in his speech, nor the names of any political organization, nor the names of any country(aside from US, Israel, and Syria). Nor did Nasrallah, mention the names of any of the historical villains who are typically invoked on this occasion. I don’t understand how you think this is an apt analogy.

    Here are two passages from Nasrallah’s last two speeches. Does it really seem like the man is taking the issue of sectarianism lightly?

    “In this framework, we stressed and we still stress that we must avoid sectarian and factional speech or instigation because that serves Israel, America and the enemy of this nation; it does not serve this nation. We must all respect each other’s sanctities. Here I stress on the fatwa of His Eminence Imam Khamenai (May Allah prolong his lifespan) to respect all sanctities and symbols of every section and faction. ”

    “Brothers and sisters! This is a call to all the Lebanese: Let’s agree on an essential basis which says that what is taking place here is a political conflict and a struggle on political causes which have nothing to do with religious and doctrinal affaires. So it has nothing to do with what this group or that group believes or what this faction or that faction believes, or what the followers of this sect or that sect believe. It rather has to do with the political ideas, political conceptions, political projects and political programs.

    Second let’s also agree that criticizing leaderships, political or even religious authorities, parties, forces, organizations or currents is not a criticism for the sect. For example, the President of the Republic is Maronite. If anyone has any remarks on him, whoever the President of the Republic may be, that would not be a criticism for the Maronite sect or the Christianity in Lebanon? As another example we say that the Speaker in Lebanon is Shiite. This is according to the composition in Lebanon. Criticizing the Shiite Speaker in Lebanon, whoever the Speaker is – is not a criticism to the Shiite Sect in Lebanon. We as Shiites must not act as such. The same applies to the Premier who is from the Sunnite Sect. Criticizing him must not be considered a criticism or an attack or an aggression on the Sunnite Sect.

    The same applies as well to the parties and political movements no matter the scope it claims it represents. So if there is a political party which claims it represents its political majority, criticizing this party or having a conflict with it must not mean criticizing the sect or attacking the sect. That applies to the various sects including the Shiite sect. The same also applies to religious authorities with our respect to all religious posts. So criticizing any religious post is not an attack on the sect, the religion, the sect, the followers of this religion or the followers of this sect. “

    Posted by masoud | December 15, 2011, 4:25 am
  53. R2D2, THE problem is not Israel.
    There are many problems and any problem related to Israel is nowhere near as fundamental as the rest. Witness the Arab spring.

    What do you think the Arab Spring is a result of?

    What do you think the states of Egypt and Syria were/are a result of throughout the last 30/40 years ?

    Hezbollah exists because of what?

    The civil war in Lebanon was caused due to what?

    Take Israel out of the equation and tell me what history would have made out of Assad or Mubarak or the course of Arab history throughout the last 70 years.

    Israel is not the Elephant in the room.

    Posted by R2D2 | December 15, 2011, 4:50 am
  54. wow some interesting comments up there.

    if you wanted an example of sectarianism on Hariri, we don’t have to go back much in time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gv4ZSrNsP6Y

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gM3RfwUMbA as well. But, in fact all speeches in Lebanese politics are filled with the “we” vs. “them”. this is why I don’t see your argument that this speech marks a particular change of strategy for Hizballah or HN.

    that also reminds me, the sectarianism

    a little note to some comments above: no point of implying that people’s reasons for not condemning this speech is because they are HA supporters. that says a lot about openness to different perspectives, even here. why don’t we leave the “either you’re with me or against me” to our politicians, and let’s have some mawdou3iyeh 😉

    Back to your translation of the HN speech I think mo’s comment really helps make the point…. the “You are just an ordinary person, so Imagine if you were the grandson of the Prophet” changes a lot and we should put things into context before jumping to conclusions.

    Whoever is accusing the speech of being overly sectarian should take the time to watch the whole speech and then comment.
    So far, I got the impression that many people who are commenting here did not take the time to do that. Of course, if we only jump straight to this part, it will look sectarian.

    Ultimately, HA may be in a political hard spot, and it may be in decline, but that doesn’t mean we have to read too much into this particular religious speech. Just watch it all.

    Posted by M. ES. | December 15, 2011, 6:26 am
  55. sorry I accidentally took that off… but I meant to add, it also reminds me of the sectarianism that I normally see among Sunni supporters of Hariri. this is not to say that it doesn’t exist among the shiites towards HA.

    But this whole conversation reminded me of a group I once was shocked to see a friend join on facebook. It was called something along the lines of “Beirut is only for Sunnites / Beirut lal sunna w bas”. I think it was in 2008. Naturally, you had to request to be approved to join. And, thanks to my family name, I did, out of curiosity. There were 3000 people in that group…

    I still think that, compared to the other parties in Lebanon, it may be one of the most religious, but HA may also be the least sectarian, when it comes to propaganding to its supporters. I don’t think they have changed that, because at this point, it would do anything but help them get out of their ditch.

    Posted by M. ES. | December 15, 2011, 7:01 am
  56. Vulcan to R2D2 – No wonder it has been a total disaster, please stop whatever you have been doing.

    Posted by V | December 15, 2011, 8:06 am
  57. There is no doubt that politics and political analysis is very important and also very appealing. In the case of Lebanon, its immediate future is tied to what happens to Hezbollah irrespective of whether Syria unravels, which I think it would, or not. Yet I am afraid that the huge interest in everything political in Lebanon seems to have contributed to another potentially major development; the Lebanese banking sector.
    In a sense the major investigative journalism article about Lebanese banks , money laundering and the Lebanese central bank that appeared on page 1 of the NYT might be dismissed as old news. I am not so sure that this is the case. Lebanon rests on its commercial banking sector and in these troubled economic times, the world over, the sector cannot absorb many body blows that might be coming its way. If there is anytruth to the allegations about HA “illegal” financing activities then probably its clandestine operations have shifted from the Lebanese Canadian Bank to some other banking institutions.

    Posted by ghassan Karam | December 15, 2011, 9:35 am
  58. Ghassan,

    I was reading that article yesterday and if there’s any validity to that laid out scenario…Then my conviction that HA is nothing but a Mafiosi organization is reinforced. Their modus operandi be that in intimidating (Jumblat), “cuddling” (clAoun), assassinating (Hariri & others) and smuggling & money laundering is straight out of the books of mafia families playbook!

    BTW for those interested in the article that Gus eluded to:


    Posted by danny | December 15, 2011, 9:50 am
  59. Najib Mikati; the PM; has constantly reminded the world that the Lebanese government has every intention of honouring its international obligations including the funding of the STL. Not only that but Mr. Mikati basked in the glow of the positive press when Lebanon did finally pay his share of the STL bill.
    Apparently things are never what they seem to be in Lebanon. It appears that all of this was an orchestrated charade. The Lebanese government never intended to pay its share and honour its obligations but had arrange for a strange and an uncommon advance from a government agency and then today we learn the the commercial banks of Lebanon had transferred the funds for this governmental agency. What a crock.
    The Lebanese banking sector was held hostage by both HA and Mikati and forced to to subsidize a government obligation. Only in Lebanon. (I do not think that the story ends here)

    Posted by ghassan Karam | December 15, 2011, 9:55 am
  60. Great discussion. Nice to see so many old readers coming out of the woodwork, and new ones too.

    I’ll try to address everyone’s comments, and they I have to disappear for the rest of the day, at which point I’ll check back in.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 15, 2011, 10:12 am
  61. Mo

    Welcome back. I don’t see how you can argue that Nasrallah is not drawing a comparison. He spells it out very methodically! Husayn’s supporters were a small group, just like we are. Husayn was betrayed by those who swore allegiance to him, just like we were. Etc.

    Of course, he is not saying that we are Husayn; that’s not how parables work. He is saying that we are in the position that Husayn was in, and look at how he withstood it: honorably, nobly, with dignity and strength and bravery. That’s the lesson to us.

    As for confused young men, I will grant you that very few supporters are likely to be confused by the STL business but I think it’s unlikely that there aren’t some out there who are experiencing more cognitive dissonance about the Syria situation.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 15, 2011, 10:17 am
  62. PS: Just saw the joke; very cute.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 15, 2011, 10:18 am
  63. Masoud

    I’m glad you brought up Nasrallah’s anti-sectarian comments, which (if they are from the speech I’m thinking of) came two days after the one that I wrote about. This has generally been Nasrallah’s overall approach: to try to keep the sectarian genie in the bottle because ultimately Sunni-Shiite fitna in Lebanon works against Hizbullah in the long-term.

    That’s why I was very surprised by his Ashura speech, and it doesn’t quite matter that plenty of other Shiite imams have made a political parable out of Husayn’s passion. Nasrallah is not some two-bit shaykh preaching to a couple dozen believers in a crumbling Husayniyya in the Bekaa. After Khamenei, he’s the most recognizable and respected Shiite leader in the world. His audience is a national one, and sometimes a regional and even a global one. He does not usually resort to such heavy-handed rhetorical tactics.

    And as for your point about him not explicitly naming the source of his criticism — and others have made this point as well — let’s be serious… He didn’t need to name them. Everybody knows exactly who he’s talking about. Who are the people who promised their allegiance and then betrayed Hizbullah? It’s not Israel or the US. It’s clearly M14, and particularly the Future Movement.

    My problem with the speech is not that Nasrallah accused others of betraying his party; he has every right to do that, just as M14 have the right to claim that Hizbullah is a band of blood-thirsty lunatics. What is dangerous and irresponsible to me is to tie this political reading to a larger religious narrative. It’s one thing to say that you disagree with the opinions of your political opponents. It’s another to cast those opponents as religious apostates or criminals on a cosmological level. It’s one thing to call your resistance movement “honorable” or “noble” or “just”; it’s another thing to call it a religious movement that has pledged its allegiance to Husayn, as Nasrallah did. This is uncharacteristic, and therefore worth noting in my opinion.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 15, 2011, 10:31 am
  64. At QN,

    I will evade arguing about your previous witty response, but every Shiite political movement(and I repeat every) being religious is a “a religious movement that has pledged its allegiance to Husayn”. this is the core of shiism, which is as you know a political sect(shi3a means Hizb=party)
    and again what you’re missing is that this speech is to make people feel good about what they are doing and worry less about what they will or what they did suffer from. it’s not aimed towards inciting hatred towards other sects.

    Posted by Fadi Youssef | December 15, 2011, 10:38 am
  65. M. ES.

    Thank you for your very helpful comments.

    Saad Hariri’s speeches, in my opinion, are generally not very sophisticated but they are not what we would call “sectarian”. Does he mention a single religious figure or event or principle in his speeches? I can’t remember the last time he did. Yes, they’re full of “us vs. them” rhetoric, but this is no different from any political speech in Europe or the US. It’s one thing to draw attention to the differences between yourself and your opponents; it’s another thing to frame these differences in the context of a religious parable.

    The closest thing I would call “sectarian” in that speech you linked to was the enormous picture of King Abdullah in the background, but I would also point out that this was uncharacteristic of Saad and it actually angered a lot of M14 people. I have it on pretty good information that this was a personal decision made by Saad to ingratiate himself with the Saudi monarchy, which has been pretty furious with him for his lousy leadership.

    So, again: I think the key difference here is that while March 14 leaders regularly demonize their political opponents — particularly Hizbullah — they don’t usually use religious language to do so. (And neither does Nasrallah, which is why I was surprised this time.)

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 15, 2011, 10:40 am
  66. Fadi

    I’m glad you weren’t permanently scared away by our misunderstanding earlier. Ahla w sahla fik.


    Thanks for your comment. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this is a permanent change in Hizbullah. The party is very secure in its position and I think that Nasrallah’s speech is symptomatic of a much smaller and short-term uptick in anxiety about the situation in Syria.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 15, 2011, 10:43 am
  67. Ok, I’m out of here for now. Will check in later and will be curious to see where the discussion has ended up.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 15, 2011, 10:44 am
  68. and since this is post the period where israeli and CIA agents were caught infiltrating the body of HA, one can argue that his speech is aimed towards people who betrayed from within. another option are Regimes who were supporting and conspiring against HA and the resistance in the post 2006 period. it doesn’t have to be a sectarian call unless you want to actually read it as one.

    Posted by Fadi Youssef | December 15, 2011, 10:44 am
  69. It is really difficult to analyze speeches without being a bit subjective and not reading into it as we are unaware of the true intentions of the speech writer (unless someone can prove to me that they are psychic!).

    That being said, if we truly wanted to analyze the speech and understand if it has strayed beyond the normal “Ashura” speech we would need to compare the speeches that have been delivered before the assassination of Hariri and afterwards. There are several softwares that would allow content analysis of this nature.

    Until we can find a shift from the norm it may be premature to make any large sweeping predictions. Especially if this part of the speech was a very small segment of the overall speech.

    Posted by Fate | December 15, 2011, 11:15 am
  70. QN,

    I didn’t understand what you were getting at originally but, having read some of your replies, I do get what you are saying. HNA’s political speeches have tried to play down the sectarian issue in the past few years. I think it ties in with his appearance recently and it does feel like a circling of the wagons. They are responding to sectarianism with the same and this will alienate his Sunni allies, however, I think HNA knows the Syria stance has ruined that already.
    I think you miss out the amount of strength real belief plays. He is first and foremost a Shia religious leader. The story of Al Husain is the main pillar of the sect. With the 2006 war (which he considers a victory), the government take-over, the end of the Iraq occupation, the strength of Iran regionally, the spy network developments I think he feels confident. And with the pressure on the ‘resistance axis’ by America and it’s sectarian Sunni allies he has gone back to what he has always believed in, defense of the Shia and the war on the USA/Gulf States’ (and I am sure Israel plays a role) counter-revolutionary plans for the middle east and sectarian rhetoric. I think it’s quite understandable, given the current climate, especially what is happening in Syria and Iraq, that the lines are being drawn. We might be reading too much into it but it does look like he feels that what is coming up will be an escalation but I think his hand has been forced. I wonder what that will mean for Lebanon’s internal politics. Let’s see what happens in Iraq and the cold war between Iran and America/Gulf and hope not a single thing goes wrong. I am a pessimist.

    Posted by Mahmoud | December 15, 2011, 11:31 am
  71. Parhesia #40,

    You and I disagree quite often. And I am sure I misspell your name constantly, but damn if you didn’t nail it with comment #40.
    That overview of HA’s transformation over the years should be highlighted, written in large font, and published on rather large billboards!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 15, 2011, 1:16 pm
  72. Ghassan,

    I was not aware of that NYT articles. The issue interests me A LOT (the banking aspect of it, as you know from some previous comments or questions I’ve asked you).
    Thanks for pointing this out!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 15, 2011, 1:28 pm
  73. BV
    I am surprised ( maybe I shouldn’t be) that no Lebanese newspaper seems to have taken note of the fact that the Lebanese government is NOT the one that ended up in financing the STL. The Association of Lebanese Banks reimbursed the Lebanese Relief Agency for the money.
    This is a huge issue, or at least it should be. (1) Many of the Banks are publicly owned and so the question is whether bank management has the right to subsidize government obligations without the knowledge of the share holders. (2) Was the decision to finance the STL by the private sector the game plan all throughout? (3) Was the decision by the banks to carry this burden voluntary or were they threatened by Mikati and HA? (4)What kind of a government would accept to have a “collection” of only $32 million done on its behalf when it annual budget is in the billions? Something smalls in all of these dealings.

    Posted by ghassan Karam | December 15, 2011, 1:56 pm
  74. Let’s avoid talking about the Elephant in the room … and focus on momentary trivial matters in the ME which is what the Elephant would like us to … to buy time and suck QN’s tax dollars as much as possible.

    Posted by R2D2 | December 15, 2011, 2:01 pm
  75. Because the Arab street love the Elephant and all will be ok democratically.

    Posted by R2D2 | December 15, 2011, 2:23 pm
  76. Harvard and what ?

    Posted by R2D2 | December 15, 2011, 2:31 pm
  77. I guess we should tell these “folks” who have been living in refugee camps in Lebanon throughout the last 60 years that they are “fictional” characters that have caused us Lebanese a lot of pain and should just vanish … just like Newt and Bibi say … cause we have more serious headaches to deal with.

    Just ask QN.

    Posted by R2D2 | December 15, 2011, 2:44 pm
  78. He pays for the “right” education”.

    The rest of you don’t.

    Posted by R2D2 | December 15, 2011, 2:48 pm
  79. Let’s put Shi’ites and Jews head to head on their beliefs on what our corner of the world should be like … irrespective of “so called Atheists” that love to comment on this blog.

    Posted by R2D2 | December 15, 2011, 3:08 pm
  80. Sorry QN … I have been following your blog only for the last year or so.

    Posted by R2D2 | December 15, 2011, 3:11 pm
  81. Israel does not seem to be part of your analyses to the factual problem in the entire region.

    Posted by R2D2 | December 15, 2011, 3:20 pm
  82. R2D2

    My thinking is that there are more than enough outlets that spend 99% of their time talking about the Israeli (or Syrian or Iranian or American or Saudi) menace and its impact on the entire region. The goal of this humble blog is to address homegrown problems. Call me provincial, but I like to sweat the small stuff.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 15, 2011, 3:25 pm
  83. Really ?

    I beg to differ.

    You come back home to Beirut and pay your duties as a Professor at any University back home and we’ll have that discussion one on one anytime.

    You have no idea what it means to sweat the small stuff.

    After all … who are we to argue with a Harvard Professor ?

    Posted by R2D2 | December 15, 2011, 3:37 pm
  84. R2D2

    Take a break. And I’d be happy to meet with you next time I’m in Beirut, provided that you’re visiting too from Dubai.


    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 15, 2011, 3:44 pm
  85. What’s happened to you R2D2? You’ve gotten pouty

    Posted by Gabriel | December 15, 2011, 3:45 pm
  86. R2D2 fell off the wagon (or got on the wagon, I’m not sure)…

    Been a bit off his rocker lately…Kinda reminds me of a certain general (who may or may not be off his meds most times he speaks)…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 15, 2011, 4:00 pm
  87. Guys R2D2 has short circuited due to stormy weather off the coast of Dubai.:D

    Posted by danny | December 15, 2011, 4:35 pm
  88. GK,

    Who paid the STL in the end? It looks like the owners of the Lebanese banks, I am guessing Gulf Arabs but you know the details. Why would they be interested in bailing out Mikati? Not clear. Was there any move lately by the Lebanese central bank that improved the profitability of Lebanese banks?

    Posted by AIG | December 15, 2011, 4:39 pm
  89. R2D2 in his sorry state is an excellent representative of many Arab intellectuals over the years. I could never understand what their point is anyway. Let’s assume Israel is the the cause of all problems in the middle east. Ok, now what? It is such a useless argument, because even if they win it, it doesn’t spell out any worthwhile course of action.

    Posted by AIG | December 15, 2011, 4:47 pm
  90. AIG,

    Oh it’s actually quite clear to me. Now that you mention it.
    The gulf arabs are the ones who have the most vested interest in a stable banking system in Lebanon (ie, no international sanctions) and the ones who are the most pro-STL, really.
    If anyone was going to step in and fund the STL on our behalf it was going to be the Saudis and others like them. In fact, if I recall, the Saudis did shell out a large part of the initial funding of the STL when it was created.
    This time around, they used the circular and underhanded approach to give Lebanon a pass from sanctions by making it look like it was the government that fulfilled its obligation. As I’ve said before, it does not behoove either side to see a pariah Lebanon, so under the table deals like this have always been around to keep the country “afloat” in terms of day to day operations.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 15, 2011, 5:43 pm
  91. Ghassan, BV,

    Here’s the follow up in details about the laundering of drug money by HA through Lebanese financial institutions!


    Posted by danny | December 15, 2011, 6:08 pm
  92. AIG/BV/…
    My guess is that the banks have been blackmailed to pay this by being told that if Lebanon does not meet its obligations then there might be sanctions which will hurt the banks and obviously the country. Since the banks are the only relatively healthy institution in the land they had no choice but to pay this surcharge which is more like a holdup. The only other scenario is that the PM has used his own money to buy a continuation of his term in office. I doubt that the money came from the KSA or even the Gulf states since I imagine that there would have been a neater method for doing that such as their giving the PM office a grant that could then have been used for the purpose of financing the STL.
    In the final analysis this turned out to be another example about the lack of transparency, lack of rules and the deep roots of corruption and total absence of rule of law. This is not a government, it is a personal club with no rules.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | December 15, 2011, 6:30 pm
  93. He’s like the Energizer bunny…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 15, 2011, 7:43 pm
  94. And while we’re at it:

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 15, 2011, 7:51 pm
  95. ” We are growing in numbers ” , ” Our training is getting better, and our weapons are increasing”..Hezbollah, he said ” is here to stay” [WPR- Frida Ghitis quoting HA Chief Hassan Nasrallah].
    The rhetoric sounds like someone who is feeling the pressure trying to ward off rivals. Perhaps he felt he needed to appear in person for the first time in yonks, to up the morale of his followers.Perhaps, every Assura speech contains parables, but did HN need to make detailed parables by mentioning dates, events, hinting to groups and names? Did Moussawi’s slip up in parliament reflect HA’s growing concerns? Is the functioning of the present Govt and in particular the M8 alliance or lack thereof a cause for concern? Let alone the STL and the changing regional landscape.
    If you were to argue that HA is not effected even slightly, you might be among those ” confused” but pretend to believe that everything is fine.
    But the real question is what will HA with Nasrallahs leadership do when corenered with their backs to the walls. Fight to the last man? or relenquish their arms ?

    Posted by Maverick | December 15, 2011, 8:01 pm
  96. I love me some Uqab.

    Posted by Gabriel | December 15, 2011, 11:48 pm
  97. Walking on my street this morning (3aine el Mraisse) i read an AMAL banner which states something like

    ” The fight with Israel is the continuation of the Karbala fight ”

    So obivously this belief is part of the lore now. The only thing is that it did not used to be stated so bluntly and clearly by the leaders.

    Posted by rm | December 16, 2011, 4:34 am
  98. One way to maintain belief in a myth is to keep it relevant. There is nothing uncommon about making the parallel between say Karbala and a present day struggle. Lynn White, Chardin and Thomas Berry, to name a few, have been strong advocates of re telling the story in Christianity in order for it to be consistent with the new signs of the times. And let us not forget what Liberation Theology was about. It was essentially about retelling the biblical story as a story of liberation for the down trodden masses. Yes, the Latin American clergy used Marx in order to preach Christianity and liberation.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | December 16, 2011, 11:12 am
  99. Just a couple of observations on the unsurprising deluge of comments on QN’s original piece – which I think, for what it’s worth, showed a literary scholar’s appreciation of the ways subtle shifts in rhetoric can herald something more significant.

    One in response to those who have pointed that ‘Ashura always carries a message, and serves as a means of reflecting on the present circumstances of ‘Ali’s partisans. That is certainly the case.

    But it is also surely true that the message is not always the same. As scholars of Shi’ism have been at pains to point out, the meaning of the ritual changes with shifting political and social circumstances.

    While Husain remains the focus of intense grief, and a symbol of the continuing suffering of the Shi’a – aspects that are apparent in the Sayyid’s speech – he can be at times be an intercessor-like figure, whose forbearance and sacrifice stand in for those of others, and at others a more defiant symbol of resistance in the face of oppression. The shift between these two visions – one more passive, the other far more active – was visible, for example, before the Iranian revolution, when ‘Ashura was imbued with far more political symbolism than it had previously carried.

    And that is, maybe, the difference between the ‘religious’ and the ‘sectarian’ – between a speech that broadcasts a moral message to the community, and one that adopts more strident political tones.

    Another point, for those berating QN for studying in the States. As far as I know, there are many Lebanese of all confessions – and, yes, many Shi’a – living in the US, and working, and studying, and paying their taxes, just as there are also many Palestinians, and Iraqis, and Syrians.

    And many of them take a pretty dim view of their host country’s foreign policy, while also enjoying the economic opportunities it affords them. Let me be clear – I am not accusing them of double standards. On the contrary, it’s their absolute right to hold whatever opinion they wish of US foreign policy – and some of them have undoubtedly suffered in recent years because of their race, religion, and political convictions.

    But it does seem pretty inconsistent to have a go at QN for living in the States and holding opinions about Lebanon, when plenty of others who are doing just the same thing, warrant no comment.

    Posted by Andrew Bey | December 16, 2011, 11:44 am
  100. Thanks Andrew Bey, for your spirited defense… 🙂

    (And please convey my respects to the esteemed denizens of Jones Hall, who taught me a great deal.)

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 16, 2011, 12:08 pm
  101. QN, after reading your original posting & comments & your replies….. I’m still wondering why did you get so hooked up with a single speech given within the framework of Ashura. I would rather see you picking up speeches in the mainstream daily “speeches” in Lebanon. No offence…. I’m more than delighted to see you tackling the endless mysteries of the politics in Lebanon. Have been fully enjoying your page !

    Posted by Ritva Lehtinen | December 16, 2011, 1:07 pm
  102. Forgot to mention : I did not recognize YOU in the original posting. You are more open & objective ……. very, very seldom I have identified you being subjective —– the main reason I enjoy reading your postings.

    Posted by Ritva Lehtinen | December 16, 2011, 1:28 pm
  103. So. For all the people arguing that there’s nothing new in the speech, or it’s not really sectarian per se…
    Ghassan’s last post, about retelling Christianity for example, brought to mind an interesting parallel…

    Why are American commentators demonized when they bring in religious Christianity overtones to some of their discourse when it comes to the middle east? The whole us vs. them, cast in an “anti-Islamic” light….etc.

    I guess that’s not sectarian either?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 16, 2011, 2:14 pm
  104. BV,

    I wouldn’t sweat it. Circular arguments galore will just have you scratching your head, or trying to figure out the intricate details and differences of when something qualifies as “Religious” or it’s ugly cousin “Sectarian”.

    Typically, the distinctions are made wily nilly, as they suit one’s arguments.

    Yesterday, the Definitely Great Christopher Hitchens passed on. The world has lost a luminary.

    Or said differently, right from Uqab’s very mouth, here we are hearing discussions about Fulan or Fulana, as if we are still living in the Ice age.

    Posted by Gabriel | December 16, 2011, 3:56 pm
  105. Many of the criticisms of this post seem to imply that a) we should not be surprised to hear Nasrallah use such divisive rhetoric and b) to criticize Nasrallah is to take sides and lose one’s objectivity. There is something deeply troubling not only about the sectarianism at work in the speech but about the apocalyptic view of history that is at play more generally in such rhetoric. And there is something just as troubling about the resistance of some to seeing HA criticized.

    Posted by Jonathan | December 17, 2011, 7:21 am
  106. Jonathan : I wasn’t criticizing QN & his posting. I simply expressed my thoughts. Your alleged implications: a) we should not. b) no-one is above criticism ! Objectivity is another game 🙂 … in this game the floor is open !
    Jonathan, pls relax, don’t be so troubled.

    Posted by Ritva Lehtinen | December 17, 2011, 10:59 am
  107. SHNasrallah is the only man protecting Lebanon and Syria at this time. “Sectarianism” is therefore a false technique used to undermine the strength of the Resistance and advance the interests of the enemy.

    Posted by dontgetit | December 18, 2011, 10:46 am
  108. What is more hypocritical from Hezbollah was their shaykh, Yezbek, putting A’isha in the camp of the American and Zionists, when Hezbollah has been totally silent on the collaboration with the Americans of it’s Shi’ite allies in Afghanistan and Iraq and I haven’t forgotten how many of the Iraqi Shi’ites of the Iraqi National Congress like Chalabi and co used to incite American officials against Saddam because he backed Palestinian “terrorism” or those fake WMD’s and they were in bed with the Zionist Neocons in their ardour to attack Iraq. Mumaana’a in Lebanon and riding Americans tanks in a Zionist plan elsewhere.

    Posted by Abu Umar | December 18, 2011, 5:11 pm
  109. Ritva, “relax” isn’t really a legitimate move within an argument. Anyway, I don’t find the use of religious narratives to read history and so to determine political action a particularly relaxing phenomenon. I find it troubling and worthy of critique whether it comes from mouths of Texans, Zionists, or members of Hizbullah.

    As for the notion that it’s not surprising — that’s just patronizing. There is no reason to think that the Shi’a of south Lebanon are hard-wired for such rhetoric, as the pink panther is hard-wired to be pink, to push the absurdity of the earlier analogy further. It’s much more respectful to critique it then to say, “Well, poor things, what more do you expect?”

    Posted by Jonathan | December 18, 2011, 6:13 pm
  110. Abu Mos3ab !

    The Iraqi Shi’a didnt incite the Americans against Saddam because he backed palestinian “Terror” or for his WMD. They did so because Saddam was killing the Shi’a by the hundreds of thousands. where were you and Aljazira then?

    Those pesky little Shi’a Koffar are so problematic, they just refuse to lay down and die.

    Posted by Vulcan | December 19, 2011, 3:02 am
  111. is dongetit a bot?

    Posted by rm | December 19, 2011, 10:56 am
  112. Something like that…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 19, 2011, 1:30 pm
  113. If by bot, you mean to compare me to R2D2, then I am honored. He is one of the most sensible people here. At least neither of us are paid hazbara operatives like so many of the rest of you.

    Posted by dontgetit | December 19, 2011, 11:12 pm
  114. dontgetit,

    How many more years do you think it will take you to stop worrying about Israel?

    When do you suppose freedom of speech will be implemented in most Arab countries, or do you think that’s not important?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 20, 2011, 7:59 am
  115. QN,

    Like OTW’s website, it seems as though I’m getting a similar virus attack accessing your website. The AV software shows a virus called “framer”… Just FYI.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 20, 2011, 8:53 am
  116. AP,

    Dontgetit lives on a Kibbutz on Golan Heights lol…

    Posted by danny | December 20, 2011, 9:52 am
  117. danny,

    I stand corrected. I thought he was an Egyptian demonstrator.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 20, 2011, 9:59 am
  118. QN:

    On another note, that scene of Karbala you began the posting with is quite spectacular. Where is it from again?

    Posted by Gabriel | December 20, 2011, 11:58 am
  119. Gabriel

    I painted it myself, with the paintbrush of the great-great-great-great-great-grandson of the 12th imam, using pigments distilled from the soil and clay of Karbala.

    No, Wikipedia actually.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | December 20, 2011, 12:20 pm
  120. In other news, (albeit, sectarian related): The “issue” du jour in Lebanese news seems to be the “Orthodox proposal”. Nice to see Lebanon moving backwards into obscurantism (I won’t use “feudalism” out of respect for the feudal lords of the 1200 AD era).
    For those unfamiliar (our non-Lebanese readers), apparently the Orthodox gathering has proposed each sect choose its own representatives in the upcoming 2013 parliamentary elections.
    This proposal has now been endorsed by most of the major Christian players on the Lebanese scene (including that bastion of anti-sectarianism: Michel Aoun!)

    We should be moving away from sectarianism…Instead, we keep moving deeper and deeper into it.
    And the Christians should be the first and most vehement champions of a secular, laicized Lebanon. Instead, they continue to drive themselves straight off the cliff.

    Every time this kind of discussion comes up, I am told to have faith in the new generation of Lebanese, etc. etc…..Sadly, I see no reason for optimism here. Lebanon is a hopeless lost cause.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 20, 2011, 1:42 pm
  121. BV,

    Dont worry about these affairs too much, what is important is that we can ski in the mountains and ski on the Med all on the same day…..and for that we shall thank the glorious resistance from keeping the aggressors at bay.

    Posted by Maverick | December 20, 2011, 5:47 pm
  122. Maverick morphing into dontgetit?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | December 20, 2011, 6:24 pm
  123. QN,

    To continue our discussion, I really think you are completely off the mark here. You don’t need to be a ‘two-bit sheikh form the Bekaa’ to talk about Imam Hussein on Ashura. His sacrifice, betrayal and perseverance have always been part of the message of this day. As has relating the struggle of Ashura to modern day life. ‘Every land is Karbala, everyday is Ashura’ is not a new slogan. None of this is a new innovation on Nasrallah’s part. It is completely standard operating procedure. I’m not sure what you expect here.

    Your claim here is similar can be compared extremists Jewish groups claiming that the the Christian celebration of Easter is anti-Semitic because it scapegoats the Jewish Rabbinate as the cause of Jesus’ death, and that furthermore, if a preacher quotes Jesus’ directive to turn the other cheek on this day, this is a racist attack on the Jews, because the true meaning of such words is that the Zionist lobby is abusing the Christians. It’s completely zany.

    Read SHN speech again. He is saying ‘yes times look bleak, yes it does seem that some(Gov’s of Saudi A, Qatar) who should extend their friendship, have in fact betrayed us and are instead working to destroy us, sometimes it may even seem that we are standing alone. Do not despair, these are signs that we are on our teacher’s path’. There is nothing in this message that is remotely sectarian about this message.
    Last weekend a couple of friends and I were out quite late. We were discussing some outrage visited upon some third party, the specifics of which aren’t all that important. My one friend pipped up “That’s bad, that’s like getting slapped in the face”, another friend decided to up the ante “Slap in the face?, that’s more like getting a dick in the face”(He fancies himself as quite the wordsmith). “DID SOMEONE JUST CALL ME A DICK-FACE!!!!” came the menacing growl from behind us, as some belligerent drunk who thought his honor had been called into question raced up out of the dark to start a fight. No, none of us had called him a dick-face, we weren’t even really calling anyone a dick-face, but the poor man’s self image was so poor that this was his first assumption. It’s kind of sad, but that’s what happens when you don’t have much to love yourself for.
    (just to be clear, this last bit isn’t directed at anyone in particular)

    Posted by masoud | December 21, 2011, 2:34 am
  124. masoud,
    One of the key problems here is the question of whether religious doctrine and language can be judged within the public sphere (i.e. in non-religious, political terms). There’s no question in this case that Nasrallah’s use of Ashura to refer to the present political situation brings religious doctrine and language firmly into the political, public sphere. Believers and those who grew up with this kind of religious narrative may find it unsurprising, but the fact is that in a democratic country it must be exposed to wider public scrutiny.

    The example you give of Jewish-Christian conflict is far too different. There is a much tighter connection in this case than in the one you propose. An analogous case would have to create a parallel between a religious, historical narrative of enmity and a contemporary situation in which the same enemies are pitted against one another (i.e. “just as they attacked us then, they are attacking us now”). Nasrallah’s speech explicitly connects the Karbala massacre with the present situation and clearly refers to present-day enemies who are Sunni.

    Posted by Jonathan | December 21, 2011, 4:31 am
  125. Your claim here is similar can be compared extremists Jewish groups claiming that the the Christian celebration of Easter is anti-Semitic because it scapegoats the Jewish Rabbinate as the cause of Jesus’ death, and that furthermore, if a preacher quotes Jesus’ directive to turn the other cheek on this day, this is a racist attack on the Jews, because the true meaning of such words is that the Zionist lobby is abusing the Christians. It’s completely zany.


    Can you post links showing all these “extremist Jewish group claiming that the Christian celebration of Easter in anti-semitic”? I doubt these groups are mainstream watchdogs like the ADL or

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 21, 2011, 8:48 am
  126. AP:

    See reaction to Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.


    Yes, the analogy is quite a appropriate, though I doubt anyone has ever said that Easter specifically is “anti-semitic”. Perhaps they have issues when Christians retell the story by saying that “The Jews cried: Crucify Him, Crucify Him”.

    The point is that there are different sects/religions because at one point in time, people came to disagree politically or religiously over something or another. That’s why there are Christians. That’s why there are Jews. That’s why there are Muslims. And that is why there are various flavors of all those things!

    Some smart alec people earlier on tried to make a distinction between “Religious Talk” and “Sectarian Talk”. In my view, there really isn’t much of a difference. Religious talk can always be misconstrued to be sectarian, whether the intent was malicious or not.

    If Christians say the Jews crucified Christ, it may be that they meant that a segment of Jews called for his crucifiction. But maybe not all of them supported it. Or maybe, only some priests. Or maybe the story was incorrect. Or maybe the Jews were right all along, and the Talmudic injunction to kill False prophets was applicable in this case. The point is, there will always be segments of people- Christian in this case- that will derive from this story a moral. And as Christians the moral is “Jew Bad Christian Good”.

    I don’t know the story of Ali an Hussein. Or Aisha or Mustafa. Or Ashura. Frankly, I don’t care. But you are de-facto taking a moral position on Ashura. Imam Hussein was “betrayed”, he represents ‘Sacrifice” and “Perseverence”. Whether or not you intend it, the implication is that the Other does not particularly enjoy those qualities. Who is to say your reading of history is the correct one?

    It’s bad enough if people make dramatic speeches in their Churches and Mosques. There is no need to mix explosive politics with it as well. Hizballah willfully has mixed those two entities.

    It’s their prerogative of course. I support their right to do so.

    And you may feel this is “Standard Operating Procedures”. But between your position, and BV’s position, one can immediately see the stark difference in what people in Lebanon believe ought to be Standard Operating Procedures (I happen to agree with BV’s position here).

    Posted by Gabriel | December 21, 2011, 11:22 am
  127. QN#121:

    Touche et LoL. You should pride yourself as an ambassador and one-stop advertising machine for all things Oriental.

    Posted by Gabriel | December 21, 2011, 11:23 am
  128. Where is the resistance when Lebanese sovereignty is being violated!?


    Apparently it’s only important to protest to the UN and stockpile missiles when a poor shepherd in South Lebanon is harassed by the IDF.
    But when Lebanese sovereignty is being violated by Syria, the resistance is nowhere to be found. And what’s even more disturbing (well, not really, just sad) is our own defense minister’s statements on the matter.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 21, 2011, 1:22 pm
  129. OK, a serious argument in defense of the use of religious parables and analogies in political rhetoric, as described here.

    1) With the decline of “nationalist” discourses weaving the fabric of identities of populations (read the decline of the nation-state’s ideological powers in shaping individual and communal identities, as well as the decline of its cultural significance in shaping social meanings/values) and

    2) with the decline of “ideological” discourses driving political aims (read the decline of socialism and communism as alternatives to dominant capitalist ideologies–currently in their neoliberal stage–and the decline of Islamism, as an ideological alternative created by Qutb and Mawdudi,

    3) contemporary political discourses can only draw on (particular) cultural, religious, or ethnic myths to counter the contemporary dominant (universal) myths of neoliberal capitalism (“freedom” as reified economic choice; “democracy” and “justice” as some kind of systematic/bureaucratic framework of ‘law and order’ that disembowels any participatory and autonomous politics in the name of global ‘economic’ norms and global ‘ideological’ tools of control and domination–such as those associated with the “war on terror,” “cut spending/balance budgets,” “free trade,” etc.).

    What kind of rhetorics can a localized politics of resistance draw on today, when individual and communal meanings and values are increasingly produced and perpetuated by globalized capitalist and neoliberal dynamics?

    As for what rhetorics could/should shape future social imaginaries, I would always take the dreams of the oppressed demanding justice (whether inspired by Ashura or by any other historical or religious mythology) over the dreams of the oppressors as conveyed in “American Dream” mythologies à la Ayn Rand or Steve Jobs (of freedom as individual success measured economically and justice as growth of market dynamics)!!!

    Posted by Parrhesia | December 21, 2011, 5:00 pm
  130. “According to al-Hayat, ministerial sources in Lebanon said that Lebanese Army Commander General Jean Kahwaji had told President Michel Suleiman, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berry, and Prime Minister Najuib Mikati that a Lebanese citizen in the town of Ersal has connections with al-Qaeda and that the army tried to arrest him for interrogation but residents prevented them.

    Residents of the town said that the man the army tried to arrest is Syrian and has been living in Ersal for a year. They also stressed that he works there and has no interest in politics.

    The information about the man’s ties with al-Qaeda, Kahwaji said, was based on European sources. ”


    I wouldn’t be surprised if the “European sources” were Israeli or tightly connected (German?) to their intel services and passing on the messages.

    Posted by lally | December 21, 2011, 6:08 pm
  131. And the point of that is what?
    If there’s someone in Arsal connected to terrorism, or guilty of a crime, send in the authorities and arrest him.
    But what’s the excuse for not protecting Lebanon’s sovereignty, when the mayor of the town himself is begging the government to protect his town from Syrian incursion.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 21, 2011, 6:25 pm
  132. An important point is that there is wide acceptance that the intel about AQ influence in Arsal is credible and that the good citizens of that little burg have refused to let the Lebanese authorities arrest the suspected terrorist connection.

    Did you miss the part about DM Ghosn agreeing that Lebanese security forces should be deployed?

    “Ghosn explained that the militants enter Lebanon from the Beqaa Valley in the east and particularly through the border town of Ersal in the district of Baalbek.

    “It is the responsibility of the army and security forces to intercept those people and stop their activities.”

    Posted by lally | December 21, 2011, 6:39 pm
  133. I did not miss that. I am just completely flabbergasted that nothing is done about any of this.
    It shouldn’t be up to the locals to prevent a self-respecting armed forces to enter or not enter a town.
    It also shouldn’t be acceptable that the Syrian army can enter the town whenever it pleases to the abduct Syrians (if that is in fact what’s happening).
    One does not excuse the other.

    The bottom line is this: Once again – this isn’t the first or last time – I wonder why the Lebanese are willing to accept people who don’t do their jobs (be it the defense minister himself, or the army). People get fired from their jobs for not doing their jobs properly in most places. Except Lebanon, of course.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 21, 2011, 6:57 pm
  134. Sacre vache, P

    You threw everything and its mother into your impassioned defrnse of religious discourse. ayn rand capitalism libertaniasm.

    THe gods will be pleased.

    Seriously though, the question is not whether or not this discourse should be slowed.

    Posted by Gabriel | December 21, 2011, 7:29 pm
  135. The locals shouldn’t be conspiring to prevent the arrest of a suspected AQ terrorist in the first damn place. That’s a striking example of Lebanese chutzpah. I agree that those “mayors” should be arrested and removed from office.

    But, there appears to be more to this hinky business than meets the eye…which probably doesn’t interest you per se. In addition, you most likely don’t much care about the concrete (lack of men & materiel & $?) reasons why the LAF can’t be deployed along the borders to do the job as you define it.

    Posted by lally | December 21, 2011, 7:31 pm
  136. Sacre vache, P

    You threw everything and its mother into your impassioned defrnse of religious discourse. ayn rand capitalism libertaniasm.

    THe gods will be pleased.

    Seriously though, the question is not whether or not this discourse should be allowed. Who is any of us to contrll speech. it issimply a question of vommon vouttesy… to recognize that any such speevh ca. and typically does carry with it sectarian and divisive undertones!

    Posted by Gabriel | December 21, 2011, 7:32 pm
  137. My apologies for plethora of spelling mistakes. Swype keyboard wasn’t behaving well.

    Posted by Gabriel | December 21, 2011, 7:36 pm
  138. Yeah. I’m sure there’s more to this shady business. I guess that wasn’t my point. It just irritates me when I hear officials making ridiculous statements.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | December 21, 2011, 8:28 pm
  139. Do you watch American teevee, BV? “ridiculous statements” are the default mode of most American officials; especially those who would deign to rule us from the Oval Office.

    “It just irritates me when I hear officials making ridiculous statements.”

    More of the same?:

    “At the meeting, [LAF Commander] Kahwagi confirmed to sources close to the prime minister that some weapon smugglers who claim to be Syrian opposition are in fact al-Qaida members, The Daily Star said.

    Kahwagi added that when the army attempted to confront these people, groups in Lebanon opposed such a move in defense of freedom.

    According to The Daily Star, Kahwagi told those present at the meeting that the military needs the political support to carry out operations against the terrorists and cannot act in this alone.”

    Which “groups in Lebanon” are threatening to Lebanese sovereignty & safety while claiming to be waving freedom’s flag? The gist is that powerful interests are adamantly agin’ the proscriptive actions that you & I & most reasonable people would support. Which powerful interests would that be, I wonder?

    Posted by lally | December 21, 2011, 9:34 pm
  140. Lally,
    Whether it is HA, Al Qaeda or anybody else for that matter their members should not be harassed and threatened if they have not committed an illegal act. I do not need to remind you of the power of the 4th amendment in addition to the 14 and of Habeas Corpus do I? And please do not tell me that they are abused at times because I am interested in the principal more than the execution. Execvution can always be remedied as long as the principal is upheld.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | December 21, 2011, 11:29 pm
  141. GK.

    Sounds like you’re an advocate of style over substance ie “the principle more than the execution”.

    I want it all.

    The substance of the Commander’s remarks is that political meddling in matters of national security is a factor that Lebanese must contend with. That the interference is so often foreign-based is especially infuriating.

    That the stumbling blocks are manned by those who would style themselves as waving banners of “freedom” is an abomination.

    Posted by lally | December 22, 2011, 1:44 am
  142. See reaction to Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.


    Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ is a movie (with director interpretation) and has nothing to do with the “Christian celebration of Easter”, which, to my knowledge, celebrates the resurrection of Jesus.

    The New Testament teaches that the resurrection of Jesus, which Easter celebrates, is a foundation of the Christian faith.[9]


    I’m afraid Masoud made this up in his head, unless he can show proof. No jewish org. I can think of has claimed “the Christian celebration of Easter is anti-semitic”.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 22, 2011, 9:37 am
  143. AP,

    Could you explain the constant harassment that Christians & clergy in particular are subjected to by Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem?
    Just curious….


    Posted by danny | December 22, 2011, 9:58 am
  144. AP:

    The “Passion of the Christ” is a retelling of the story of “Easter”. The “resurrection” of Jesus is part of the Easter story.

    The other part of the story is what precedes it. The part where he gets nailed to a cross.

    I have little patience for clever commentary. Less so for quotes snipped out of Wiki articles, out of context, which begins its description by:

    “According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. ”

    Perhaps where Masood got “mixed up” and “confused” is he conflated the “Holy Week” with “Easter”. But these are petty semantics. And you are smarter than that.

    The question is what led to the “Crucifixion” itself is what is related to Jewish charges of antisemitism, see below if Wiki will help you out. It also references specific “ADL” comments if that’s mainstream enough for you:


    Posted by Gabriel | December 22, 2011, 10:59 am
  145. danny,

    Sure. Religious extremists exist in all religious communities including the Jewish (Haredi) community. It comes in all forms. I’ve lived in Israel, so I know.

    The harrassment can include a religious jewish man telling someone not to sit next to him in a loud threatening voice because the person is a woman or isn’t dressed in black. It could be an old arab woman in the market who throws a stone at a photographer taking her picture. It could be a religious jew throwing stones at a car driving threw his community of a Saturday.

    I’ve seen so many arguements between bus passengers to fill a book. It is almost always “bark and no bite”.

    Then there are the typical arab taxi drivers and vendors who speak perfect english and have chip on their shoulder who harrass their jewish-american customers. No laws are broken; they just overcharge!

    The Israeli police are usually around to deal with all this.

    The hard core stuff, knifings and stabbings are usually committed by Arabs on Jews, but not always.

    Hope that answers your question…

    Anyway, check out the Saudi educational system:


    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 22, 2011, 11:17 am
  146. Perhaps where Masood got “mixed up” and “confused” is he conflated the “Holy Week” with “Easter”. But these are petty semantics. And you are smarter than that.


    Thanks, but I’m not that smart!;)

    First of all, language is very important to Jews because when large jewish communities existed in Europe, they were hurt, physically from the protrayal of Jesus’s death and similar “passions”.


    Therefore, when Masoud said that “extremists Jewish groups claiming that the the Christian celebration of Easter is anti-Semitic”, I must unequivocally object. No jewish group claims Easter, or the celebration of Easter, is anti-semitic. If you find my statement to be “parsing” or “nit-picking”, that is really too bad.

    Christians celebrate Easter in Israel every year. They walk the many stations of the cross. They pray and they “celebrate”. If there was something “anti-semitic” about what the Christians do on Easter, the GOI wouldn’t allow it!

    Masoud, unfortunately, cannot point to “extremist Jewish groups” who claim “the Christian celebration of Easter is anti-Semitic”.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | December 22, 2011, 11:31 am
  147. Sorry I should stop using my android machine during work meetings to post. Stubby fingers clicked in the incorrect place and posted in incorrect thread!


    I don’t disagree. Language is very important. But in this case, I think where it is clear that english is not exactly everyone’s first language, then accommodations are certainly in order, and the gist of what masood was trying to say is clear. He was talking about the Passion.

    Whether wittingly or not, he tried to redirect the discussion in terms more familiar to christians. In fact, he demonstrated precisely the point that he was trying to argue against. The use of passion plays and religious symbolism has historically ended up in pogroms.

    Posted by Gabriel | December 22, 2011, 12:06 pm

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