Filled With Grief
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The existence in any country of an armed political party that is not subject to the supervision and control of the central state authority is a prescription for chaos. That is why, in stating that his government would never have condoned what Hezbollah did by attacking Israel on July 12, the prime minister of Lebanon, Fouad Siniora, was expressing the views of the vast majority of his war-weary countrymen.
The overwhelming majority of Christians, all of the Druze, and a vast majority of Sunni Muslims oppose the actions of Hezbollah that led to the war with Israel.
Many reasonable people in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait raised their voices not only to condemn the mass killing of innocent civilians in Lebanon and the crippling destruction of its infrastructure but also to criticize the rash adventurism that opened the gates of Hell for no other reason than to relieve the international pressure on certain regional parties.
When I heard some of the Palestinians and Lebanese who appeared on television asking, “Where is the Arab support?” I could only shake my head in wonder. Why should a party that unilaterally embarked on a rash adventure, in defiance of all reason and logic, expect others, whom it did not bother to consult, to help it? It seems that in the eyes of some Palestinians and Lebanese, Arab societies are like firefighters who must comply when summoned to put out the flames. This attitude is a throwback to the tribal mentality that prevailed thousands of years ago when a tribe would fight for one of its members even if he was the one who recklessly provoked the battle in the first place.
Since Hezbollah sparked the crisis on July 12, I have been in daily contact with my many Lebanese friends. Over a hundred told me it was shameful for the world, the United Nations, and the Arab League to accept a situation in Lebanon that the Lebanese themselves did not accept, namely, the existence of a state within the state. Some said it was Lebanon’s curse to experience the existence of a state within the state more than once in its recent history. The first time was in the 1970s, when the Palestinians, together with their leaders and armed fighters, lived and ran amok in Lebanon, above the state and the law. This ultimately sparked off a civil war that dragged on for years and brought the country to its knees.
The second time was when the military and intelligence officers of Syria operated as a separate state within the Lebanese state, above its central government and its laws, for nearly a quarter-century. Now it is Hezbollah that has established itself as an autonomous state within the state, above the central government, Parliament and the law.
Arab brotherhood cannot possibly mean that countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kuwait should allow themselves to be dragged into a conflict that erupted as a reaction, albeit an excessively violent one, to an action that was reckless in the extreme and, moreover, one that was undertaken without their knowledge or approval. What it means, rather, is that we should not condone the uncivilized, unconstitutional, and unlawful situation in Lebanon that allows an entity other than the state to declare war without the knowledge of the Lebanese Parliament, cabinet or army who are then required, together with the civilian population, to suffer the consequences of a reckless adventure launched by a party with no constitutional capacity.
Any objective analyst must commend the Arab country that dared go against the tribal custom of supporting the members of the tribe even when they commit the most heinous of crimes. I am talking of Saudi Arabia which was the first Arab country to condemn the reckless adventurism of Hezbollah that Hezbollah and Hamas are responsible for what befell Gaza and Lebanon. In their quest for personal glory, they acted rashly and without regard to the consequences.
Those who think Hezbollah can achieve its goals need only remember the lessons of history. Certain images come to mind here. For example, the words of the former president of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser, to reporters at a press conference just days before Israel destroyed the armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, “Egypt may be forced to sink the American Sixth Fleet if the U.S. enters the war that will be fought between Egypt and Israel.” Nor can we forget Saddam Hussein’s warning that American forces would commit suicide at the gates of Baghdad if America attacked Iraq. The most recent images are of Hassan Nasrallah, who a few weeks ago derisively invited the American forces to enter Lebanon where they would be annihilated, and on July 12 vowed to “destroy Haifa … and what is beyond Haifa … and what is beyond what is beyond Haifa.”
I am filled with grief at the heavy price Arab societies have paid and continue to pay for patterns of thinking that can only be described as divorced from logic, objectivity, and the realities of the age. They have only to look at our recent history to realize that it is filled with thousands of examples proving that those who spoke in the name of “Arab pride and dignity” reaped only the bitter fruit of defeat and squandered God’s bounty and resources he bestowed on us to improve the living conditions of our societies — not to finance reckless adventures.
Mr. Heggy is an Egyptian intellectual and writer and is published regularly in the Arabic press.