More on the Hizbullah Rally

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I received this report from my friend "Lubnani" in Beirut.  He is not Shia.  Attached find the BBC’s verbatim report of Nasrallah’s remarks at the big rally last week.
Pat Lang
Mon Colonel:
I was struck by a photos of a female Hezbollah supporter in yellow T shirt and tight jeans .. with hair blowing in the air … sitting on the shoulder of an equally modern male Hezb supporter …
Long gone are the days of exclusive tchador covered women and ferocious bearded men …
The NEW Hezbollah has Christian, Sunni, alcohol drinking, hip-hop listening, atheist, anarchists, bourgeois patriots.
HN understands the limits of his appeal and the open-sky potential of his movement. Forget the Islamic-state utopia and embrace Israel’s enmity and the idea of a strong and honorable state."  Lubnani
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45 Responses to More on the Hizbullah Rally

  1. Matthew says:

    I have some self-answering questions: (1) Does President Bush have any Arab-American advisers? (2) Has the media asked him if he has any Arab-American advisers? and (3) Does he think that people in foreign countries are going to thank us for facilitating the destruction of their cities? Lastly: Can you believe that I/we have to even ask these questions?

  2. Will says:

    Alas my Arabic is marginal. The poster in the pix I guess shows distressed Israeli soliders (?) and the Arabic slogan reads “We are Lebanese, You are AlGhabya-eh (???”
    Anybody know what that means?
    Best Wishes

  3. Will says:

    the rest of the poster has another Arabic slogan
    nasr min Allah
    Victory from God
    I think I got one right
    Best Wishes

  4. arbogast says:

    The speech is worth reading. I particularly liked this part:
    The problem is that when one is torn between two choices and is asked to choose between his people and his throne, he chooses his throne. When he is asked to choose between Jerusalem and his throne, he chooses his throne. When he is asked to choose between the dignity of his homeland and his throne, he chooses his throne.
    No wonder the Saudi’s don’t like this guy.

  5. Arun says:

    Won’t Nasrullah eventually turn on members of this coalition much like Khomeini did?

  6. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I take that to be Israeli soldiers grieving, and the Arabic says (as does the English “It is the Lebanon, oh you, the stupids.” (literal) pl

  7. ikonoklast says:

    Powerful stuff, and I suppose it comes off better in the original than in the translation. All the modern rockstar trappings, and it’s fairly moderate by the local standards of rhetoric. Too bad Washington will sell it as the rantings of a terrorist madman; if they’d pay closer attention to what he’s saying it might allow them some inroads for diplomacy. Hudna is still an option, it would appear.
    It’s interesting that Nasrallah makes it a point to express solidarity with Khamene’i while not mentioning Ahmadinejad. Showing obedience to the spiritual over the temporal, or maybe a willingness to help dump Ahmadinejad if he becomes inconvenient down the line.
    My ignorance of Islam is showing again. From the beginning of the speech: “We are the sons of that imam, who said: Are you threatening me with death? We are used to death and our dignity is derived from the martyrdom God grants us.” Who was the imam, and is this a Shia reference?

  8. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I am struck by how much this speech alludes to the notion of the “Lebanese Nation”. It seems that Sheikh Nasrallah is positioning himself and Hizbullah not as sectarian but Lebanese.
    It reminds me of two previous sectarian political leaders in Lebanon that also began to pursue a more Lebanese orientation: Kamal Jumbalat (Druze)and Musa Sadr (Shia). The first widely believed to have been assassinated by Syria and the second by Libya.

  9. Soonmyung Hong says:

    Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, is currently the highest-ranking muslim in G.W. Bush administration.
    He is native Afghan but also
    attained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon.
    He has strong relationship with neocons -Wohlstetter@chicago, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, etc-. In fact, he is a member of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

  10. Will says:

    who knows what Nasrallah’s future holds. he may yet go down in defeat. Or be ignominously defeated.
    But his name means God’s Victory. Nasr Allah. Similar to Gamal Abdul Nasser. That was after an attribute of God “the Victorious.” God is always Victorious, but Gamal was a loser.
    The tow most prominent clerics in Lebanon have the name Nasrallah
    1. The Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Butros Nasrallah Sfeir, age 86
    2. Hasan Nasarallah age 46
    40 years apart, both short in height, but both beloved by their people, and indefagitable fighters.
    (Boutros is an interesting Arabic name. it is from the Greek Petros or rock. English Peter. No P in Arabic. Similarly Boulos for Paulus. Paul is not a Hebrew derived name, it is actually derived Latin derived. I was always intrigued by the ill-fated 6th Army commander’s name von Paulus.)
    Best Wishes

  11. avedis says:

    It is reported that there were a large number of maonite christians either in attendance at the rally in the photos or, perhaps, a different one. Regardless, the Labanese christians are throwing in some cheers for Hizbullah.
    It is going to become difficult for Bush and the neocons to continue to portray all events in the M.E. that are not to their liking as the work of a monolithic “Islamofascist” network.
    Maybe it’s time for Bush to begin exploring the virtues of nuance.
    Ironically, if diverse Lebanese groups are pulling together in opposition to Israel, then something both cohesive and democratic may indeed be rising.
    If it’s anti-Israel will it have the right to exist?

  12. Will says:

    “Won’t Nasrallah eventually turn on members of this coalition much like Khomeini did?”
    I don’t think he can. The Shia themselves are split, then there are the Sunnis and the Xtians. Gen Michen Aoun, the Xtian fiesty general who stood up to the Syrians in 1991, has a working relationship with him and a compact. Even though the Muslims are now a majority in lebanon, the Shiites are not a majority.
    the key cleric of the Shii is Fadallah. From reading Juan Cole at, who is indispensible for understanding the Shia, there are two theories of governing
    1. that of Khomeini- jurisprudence of the guardians
    where the clerics are supreme in the state; and
    2. that of Sistani- where the clerics interfere minimally in goverment
    Although Nasrallah is the chief political cleric in Lebanon, Fadallah is still the senior religious cleric. Sistani and Fadallah are pretty close and Sistani stopped in Beirut airport to confer with him on a stopover to his London medical operation.
    Best Wishes

  13. John Howley says:

    Nasrallah’s enemies seem to be banking on restarting the Lebanese civil war.
    Casual observation suggests that communities do not quickly revert to the savagery of civil war. While sectarian tensions may persist, Lebanese political leaders would find it very difficult to rally their followers to shoot their neighbors as they did 20 years ago.
    Nasrallah seems to understand this; his appeals, in this speech, are to NATIONAL INTERESTS.
    This would seem to lead him away from the Islamist path, no?

  14. parvati_roma says:

    Let’s not forget that anti-Syrian, pro- Lebanese independence Maronite Christian general Michel Aoun, the head of the “Free Patriotic Movement” allied with Nasrallah upon his return from exile in France a few months ago, and unlike the “Lebanese Forces” and “Kataeb” maronite factions (heirs to the Phalangists), Aoun and his supporters remained closely at Hizbollah’s side throughout the recent war – reportedly to the extent of fighting together with Hizbollah against the IDF – and back his demand for a national unity government. Here’s a link to how Aoun’s mainly-Christian party is reporting on Nasrallah’s rally-speech and its political implications:
    So IMHO, one of the main objects of the rally was an “intersectarian” show of strength to push for the national unity government and reform of the still-unbalanced sectarian electoral system Nasrallah and his allies have been demanding -as a prior condition for merging Hizbollah’s forces and weaponry into the Lebanese army??

  15. Will says:

    Yes, the Nasrallah Imam remark in his speech is religious. He says words to the effect ” Do not threaten us w/ death, we are the sons of the Imam who welcome martrydom.” The allusion is to the Prophet’s grandson, and Ali and Fatima’s second son Husayn who was slain by the forces of the Ummyad Caliph Yazid at Karbala. This would be the third Imam and his death is mourned in Ashura ceremonies where some Shiites make gashes in their heads. The Khomeinists have a fatwa against this practice.
    Mahmoud Ahmed Nejadi also made an allusion in his UN speech at the end to the ” perfect man who will come and restore justice to the world” or words to that effect. He was referring to the 12th imam, the last one. this imam is in occultation or is hidden. He is also the Shiite Mahdi. Sunnite have a different eschatology. Their Mahdi is not yet born (?). But in both version the Mahdi’s name must be Muhammed.
    In Shiaa eschatology he will return at the end times after Jesus or with Jesus and punish the evil doers and restore the righteous.
    I learned all this in a 90 minute Juan Cole online streaming lecture from the Mershon Center at Ohio State but the link is dead.
    This is the next best link.`a_Islam
    Best Wishes

  16. Will says:

    Yes, Nasrallah has been magnaminous in victory. there was little retribution against members of the proxy South Lebanon Army in 2000 upon the Israeli pullout. Officered by Xtians and 70% Shia!
    Part of the compact with Aoun is that the SLA members in exile in Israel are pardoned and can come home. And Aoun insists that HA must surrender arms/ merge with Leb Army but not until Shebaa farms is regained. Which is as Col. Lang points out- a WATER resource that Israel will not easily give up.
    Back to names-fascinating. the honorary title Sayeed in front of Nasrallah’s name is reserved for those claiming descent from the prophet even though it is used as “Sir” in everyday speech.
    But it is much more complicated than that. The prophet had two grandsons Hasan and Husain. Those claiming descent from Hasan are Sharifs and Hassanites or Hashemites (as in the Sharif of Mecca or the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan). The ones claiming descent from Husain are the Sayeeds and Husainittes.
    Further differntiation is made passing down thru the line of descent and sometimes incorporated in the name. Does Jaffari (the 12 imam) sound familiar?
    Best Wishes

  17. m.hasan says:

    Soon you will be an expert on Shia Muslims. At first, I thought the Imam mentioned in the speech was Ali ibn Abi Talib , but Al Hussain is also plausible. If it is Al Hussain , then he should have said it on his route to Karbla’.
    Best wishes

  18. Will says:

    @m. hasan
    w/ the web and wikipedia resources, it’s like always been in a library and exposed to learning.
    The referece to martrydom could be to Ali (named to honor one of the 99 attributes of God, Al Ali- the high one). I went with Husain because of the Ashura martrydom celebration and the gashing.
    This would be speculation. As Khomenists HA would not do the gory self blood lettng, but Amal members might.
    Ashura (Arabic for tenth) is the tenth day of the Muslim lunar month of Muharram. Haram means forbidden b/c fighting is discouraged during this first month of the year. Everybody is familiar with the root word harram as in “harem,”- the forbidden private quarters.
    Note the parallel to Yom Kippur which is the tenth day of the Jewish first lunar month Tishri.
    I checked but they don’t co-incide.
    Muharram starts January 20, 2007
    And Rosh Shannah (Any speaker of Arabic would recognize that as Ras Sanna- head of the year) started this last Saturday September 23, 2006. Tishri 1
    And Yom Kippur should be at the end of the month in a few days.
    Best Wishes

  19. Nabil says:

    Pulled from Saudi newspapers miss more than they hit with speculation like this, but if true, this report is the next bombshell for Lebanon:
    Report: Brammertz to Implicate Syria for 1st Time in Hariri’s Murder
    Chief U.N. investigator Serge Brammertz will reveal in his report Monday Syria’s direct involvement in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri’s assassination, the Saudi Okaz newspaper reported.
    The report, that Brammertz will hand over to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York at 9:30 am Monday, will disclose details about a tape that former Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan had recorded about the planning of the Feb. 14, 2005 murder.
    The newspaper did not mention whether the recording was made on a videotape or a cassette. But it said that senior Syrian officers and former Lebanese Environment Minister Wiam Wahhab planned the assassination.
    It added that Kanaan cut a deal with Brammertz’s predecessor Detlev Mehlis to escape to Cyprus via the Lebanese northern port city of Tripoli. But a close person to Kanaan had reported him to the Syrian authorities that later announced his suicide.
    Okaz also said that Brammertz will disclose in his second report in-depth information about the planning and execution of Hariri’s assassination.
    It added that the report will also reveal the names of those involved in the murder, including Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law Gen. Assef Shawkat and Bahjat Suleiman, the former head of the Security Department.
    The newspaper said that the name of an Iraqi, who detonated the white Mitsubishi van that was seen at the site of the one-ton bomb explosion on Beirut’s seafront, will be made public.

  20. john stack says:

    My problem is that a bunch of pirates has stolen my dream of the new Camelot (not new jerusalem or Mecca) with its honour, freedom, innovation, respect (wait George, I will explain them later) superman, science, Arts…..
    My family has people there. My Parents have people there. My Grandparents have family still living there. I have a stake in the US. This dangerously incompetent man and his handlers do not have the right to hijack my hope for a better world. The present reality seen by most countries is power, arrogance, bullying, brutality, selfishness, my country right or wrong.
    The UK is not a friend, just an “I’ll hold your coat sir while you kick him” fairweather toady. No principals and totally immoral. As a previous PM said “We have no principles only interests”
    Your friend questions what you do in your interest.
    Our USA is better while using its strength through the UN for all our benefit. When I think of the US I do not want to have a picture in my head of a screaming, choking, prisoner being tortured by cowardly CIA for my benefit. How could the US descend to the terrorist level ?. The children loyalty swearing is not right. It creates a climate where ‘my country right or wrong’ is acceptable. (1945 Nuremberg-Nazis). It becomes difficult to criticise the President or Army even when they are wrong. They can be wrong.
    Whether US get out of the mid east now really depends on the real reason for the invasion. Control. Dominance. Israeli foreign policy (which is not the US’s).
    Does George really want captured US citizens to be put to the techniques he wants legalised ?. I find his use of ‘Eliciting information’ a torturous euphemism.
    The Mid East has Oil. They must sell it. You want to buy it. The US has Pharmaceuticals, Computers, Luxuries and necessities. They want to buy these . It is called trade. You do not arrogantly kick the ass of your trading partner. You frighten the world which will welcome a counterbalance. It will arrive. Jaw, Jaw, not War,War. Talk to your enemies. Iran is a reality. Talk. There will be a solution. Threats of brute force will not work. Stop it. What Bush has done is not just wrong , it is so stupid. if there were a super super power would it make the USA go home and pay for the wrongful invasion, say 350 – 500 Billion?. And Israel pay say 10 Billion for its childish destruction. Yes and the Arabs….
    If the Arabs gave the price of Oil in US gallons , instead of Barrels, it might help take the anger or fear of Arabs out of the equation. (In a barrel you can get 500 – 700 – 900 litres of petrol plus by-products so say 11 cents per litre or 41 cents per US gallon) . The cost is mainly the Oil COs and Government tax. If people are annoyed at the Arabs (etc.) charging $75 for a full barrel how much does the US charge for US oil in the US???. Cheaper or a premium ?. Why not hold the price down to $20 for a US barrel??
    Real America, stand up with courage and honour and see how you are being manipulated and destroyed by a small-minded bunch of selfish people. We all deserve better.

  21. Got A Watch says:

    I am always informed by the learned commentary here. Not knowing that much of the details of Lebanese politics, when is the next election? How many seats can Amal/Hizbullah plus allies like Aoun hope to capture? Enough to form a majority government? How would Israel/USA react? (badly, I would expect)

  22. The media coverage of the Hizbullah rally has been v. interesting. Far and away the best account in the western media that I’ve seen has been this piece by the WaPo’s Anthony Shadid. In the clips that were shown on the only two western TV news shows I watch– ABC and BBC– Naasrallah was shown gesticulating wildly and talking in a generally “ranty” way.
    Shadid, who of course understands quite a lot of Arabic, describes Nasrallah as “perhaps the most skilled orator in Arabic today” and writes this account of his performance at the rally: Nasrallah has an almost innate sense of a crowd. He builds an argument with highly formal Arabic vocabulary, then delivers a point in almost conversational slang. His most emotional refrains are delivered bluntly, in a stentorian staccato. Then he mixes in jokes, a few words in a softer voice, and sometimes a quick aside…
    I can certainly remember all those same rhetorical skills when I watched a couple of his public speeches on Manar TV in Lebanon.
    Nasr min Allah by the way, means literally “A victory from God”, which means we may expect more… As opposed to An-nasr min Allah, which would have meant either “victory” (in general) is from God, or “The victory is/was from God.” H’mmm.
    By the way, at my Justworld news blog yesterday I posted a quick description of what the whole 33-day war had been about, with some questions about UNIFIL’s role.

  23. Matthew says:

    Soonmyong Hong: You confirmed what I thought. Bush’s only Muslim adviser, Khalilzad, is Afghani, not Arab. Spaniards and Irish are Catholics too–but nobody goes to Madrid for advise about the Emerald Isle.

  24. Will says:

    In response to Nabil for expert commentry on Syria and sometimes Lebanon read
    This is Prof. Josh Landis’ expert blog. The red headed youngster is quite good and has some personal interest being married into an Alawite family.
    Speaking as an attorney, a tape would be pure hearsay. And Kannan would have been an interested witness having been bounced out of running Lebanon because he was skimming the operation with Abdul-Halim off the top. Moreover, there is the problem of his death, no opportunity for cross-examination.
    Nevertheless, it may all be true. Lebanon has to be careful though about trying to go all the way to the top. Without peace w/ Israel, it is landlocked but for Syria. Lebanese products rot whenever Syria closes the border.
    Best Wishes
    Best Wishes

  25. Will says:

    The Helen Cobban write up on the Israel-HA war is excellent. The emphasis on restoration of deterrence credibility by both sides is very insightful and cuts to the core.
    It quotes the Col. at one instance on the victor as the one remaining on the field.
    There is one part that is unclear. Some blame Halutz for keeping the war going. I blame Dumbya. Excuse me Bush. This is because i have seen a report in Haaretz stating that Halutz informed Peretz and Olemert that all the objectives had been accomplished in 6 days.
    I read “objectives” as in Ms. Cobban’s report as the restoration of deterrence credibility.
    Again I blame our POTUS (President of the U.S.) for prolonging the War. I think the Israelis expected and prayed for a quick cease fire resolution. Worse, Dumbya and the civilian pentagon tried to egg them on to attack Syria.
    Best Wishes

  26. Mo says:

    A long overdue post from me. Apologies. I went to Lebanon at the end of August and was supposed to return on the 12th but stayed to attend the celebration. A combination of lack of access to the net, the lack of posts that seemed apt to use when I did have access and touring the destruction sites is to blame.
    Before talking about the situation a quick answer to the Arabic in the poster. The top Arabic as stated is the Arabic of “its Lebanon, stupid (or you fools as it says). The second part translates as The Divine Victory or Victory from God or Nasr min Allah which has been HA’s slogan and is a clever play on Nasrallah’s name. In fact HA seem to have bought every other billboard in the country running a campaign based on that theme (Men of God, Soldiers of God etc.)
    The atmosphere at the rally itself was like nothing I have ever seen. When Nasrallah appeared men all around me broke out in tears, and some cried through the entire speech. I have read reports of 800,000 people there. I would say that is a gross underestimate. HA say they put out 750,000 chairs and to have got a chair you had to have arrived at least 4 hours before hand.
    And as noted, there were people there from all walks of Lebanon, it certainly wasn’t a shite only gathering.
    The speech itself was very good and Nasrallah is probably one of the best orators i have ever seen. In regards to the weapons the message was simple: HA will keeep them until there is a govt. and army able AND willing to take its place. Until such time, anyone who thinks they can take the weapons away is living in a dreamworld.
    Politically, HA want a national unity govt. In the short run, i dont think this has much to do with increasing Shia presence in govt. as it does with removing the Seniora-Harriri alliance with Bush and all the damage that is causing to the country.
    Politically the nation is now tense. The HA-Aoun alliance means that some 50% of the country is officialy behind them. I would say another 20%-30% of the country also support HA now, made up of Sunnis and Christians not officialy Aoun supporters. There is therefore on the one hand a political force with a clear majority of support against a political force that is in power without popular support but is relying on international and US support and relying on the fact that HA cannot and will not do anything against the state.
    Ironically, this essentialy means that the survival of the govt. is now in Sunni hands. If the support from the Sunnis starts to really ebb away and ebb away in a manifest way, the govt. will fall. If it doesnt, it will be a case of who blinks first.
    However, there is now a much greater threat, which you may or may not have heard about. The Israelis are stealing water from the Wazzani river in southern Lebanon. HA have said that UNIFIL is there and it is there job to put a stop to it. They have also added that if UNIFIL do not put a stop to it in a fast enough manner then it is HA’s right to defend the water of Lebanon. This has potential to heat up very quickly.

  27. Will says:

    “I have some self-answering questions: (1) Does President Bush have any Arab-American advisers?”
    Most Arab-Americans are predom leb Xtians. Some are right wing NeoKons. Some are pro-Palestinians. The highest ranking present is Gen. Abizaid.
    He follows Gen. Joulawan (SACEUR before Wes Clark)(“the Coach” who played center on the football team at West Point) in a hi profile mil job.
    While on the military, the first recognized jet to jet ace was a Leb-American. His parents were from the town of Marajayoun (Marj Ayoun- Field of Springs). This town is the capital of Southeast lebanon and has been prominent in the July war.
    There is a Malouf(sp?) who is on some neocon lists.
    In No. 43’s first term former Sen Spencer Abraham served as Sec. of Energy.
    In. No. 42′ term (Clinton) Shalala was head of HEW.
    Sen. George Mitchell was majority leader for part of the time. Mitchell has a Leb mother but his father though born Irish had been adopted by a leb family while a baby. Mitchell helped broker the Irish peace. He has worked on Mid-East. When people talk about the intractability of the problem he replies that conflicts are created by human beings and can be solved by human beings.
    Under the first Bush, John H. Sununu was Chief of Staff. He was of mixed ancestry, quarter leb, quarter Palestinian. It was George W. that booted him out of Daddy’s govt so that probably cools relations with his son, the present senator John E. Sununu. The Col. may have an opinion on John H. as their paths may have crossed in the WH. He has often been portrayed as abrasive and quick to make enemies.
    Under Reagan, there was a Deputy secy’ of State Phillip Habib (lover), He actually worked on the Leb file.
    Quite impressive representation in light of their numbers, but pales to the influence and contribution of their Southern kinfolk
    Best Wishes

  28. m.hasan says:

    1- I checked for the Imam whom Nasr Allah quoted. He is the fourth Imam. He is the son of Imam Al-Hussein and his name is Ali, so his full name is Ali ibn Al-Hussein ibn Ali. He is also known as Imam Zainul Abedeen, Zayn ul-Abidin, or Zayn Al- A’abideen. He was with his father at Karbelaa but was extremely ill and did not participate in the fighting and was the single male who survived. He was taken with the women to the governor (Wali) of Koofa . The Wali (Ibn Yazeed) did not like the way Ali talked to him, so he threatened to kill him. Ali responded with the words that Nasr Allah used in his speech.
    2- Muslims usually fast on Ashora but this is not because it is the day that Imam Al-Hussein was killed. It was the order or the habit of the prophet Mohammad because he noted that the Jews in Al-Madina (Yathrib) fast on this day. When he asked for the reason, he was told that this is the day that God rescued the Jews and Moses from the Pharaoh. To distinguish themselves from the fasting of the Jews, Muslims usually fast one day before and one day after the Tenth of Al-Muharram making a total of 3 days but usually one is enough. Some Shia does not like to fast on the tenth of Al-Muharram but those are a minority. I do not know the difference between the Jewish and Muslim Lunar calendars. Probably I must consult Wikipaedia but I found the following sentence in the book by david Ewing Duncan titled “Calenddar” :” the Jewish calendar intercalates a month every three years, inserted just before the month of Nisan, though this system still leads to a gradual drift that requires a second extra month to be added now and then by Jewish elders.”

  29. Mo says:

    I missed Got A Watch’s questions which don’t seemm to have been answered.
    The next elections are scheduled for 2009 and under current electoral law, the HA-Aoun alliance would find it hard to translate their popularity into major gains, as the law was seen to be very biased when drawn up and there is considerable debate on the need for it to be reformed. The current law allows the govt to gerrymander voting districts and therefore ensure certain results go their way. This is mostly to the detriment of the Christians and Shia in Beirut and the more heavily populated areas of the country (which also have more seats). This is one of the reasons Nasrallah refers to the legitamicy of the govt in his last speech. It is also a longer term reason for a national unity govt.

  30. Will says:

    Very good research m.hasasn. Thanks.
    That explains why the two luna caledars sllip by each other, a pity.
    I noticed that the Lebanese solar calendar uses some of the same month names as in in the Jewish lunar calendar. Tammuz for July, Ab for August. Tishrin for October (?).
    Here you can see the consonant shift between the two languages Ab in Arabic, Av in Hebrew. I don’t think there is an original Arabic letter for V. Of course Ts? Av (9th of Lunar August) is a very calamatious day for the Jews, the anninversary date of the destruction of all three teimples.
    And Tammuz of course is named after the Ancient Semitic goddess. A vestige like our Tuesday (Tews(Deus)day, Wednesday Wotansday, Thursday Thorsday). March, Mardi for Mars.
    Best Wishes

  31. Matthew says:

    Will: Thanks for the info. However, I did not see that any of these individuals were advisers to the current President Bush. I know that Abizaid is the head of Central Command, but the generals don’t see to have much sway as “advisers” right now. As to any Lebanese Neo-Cons, recent events in Beirut demonstrate the extent of their influence in Washington and the ME.

  32. zanzibar says:

    Mo, Looks like you had a good trip.
    Reading the translation of Nasrallah’s speech it seems clear that he was making moves to change the political dynamic in Lebanon. Although he emphasized that Hizballah militia and arms will not be used internally isn’t that his real “weapon”. Wouldn’t it be in the interests of Israel and the US to keep Lebanon divided by encouraging a civil war that keeps all parties occupied and also weakens them?
    The Hariri camp will have tremendous support both financially as well as politically from the Sunni Arab regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan as well as the US and Europe. It seems to me as a lay observer that Nasrallah took advantage of the current situation to demonstrate mass appeal to counter the March 14th mass appeal. How are the local media reporting about the political discord? What is the sentiment of the people in the different sectarian groups?

  33. Will says:

    Thanks Mo. That Electoral law question was one that needed to be answered. I couldn’t find an answer for it.
    That definitely sets up a pressure cooker that’s going to blow some steam if there’s no relief until 2009 and even then popular will could be thwarted.
    The end run would be the Michel Aoun presidency coming up I believe at the expiration of Lahoud’s term in 2007. Cardinal Sfeir had been quoted to be opposed to another military man but amended the remark that Aoun was no longer military. Lahoud has used the March 14 (Hariri-Jumblat) forces distate of Aoun to taunt them and volunteer to oblige them by stepping down early- knowing they prefer a hamstring Lahoud to a dynamic Aoun.
    Aoun, a short man like Napoleon, and said by some to have that complex is complex indeed. I prefer him myself. He has a reputation for incorruptability and is a pragmatist.
    About Abizaid. I just don’t know. As a ranger some would call him a snake-eater as opposed to an officer specializing in Armor or Artillery. Some reserve that title for Special Forces. I think he’s got the courage to bite the head off a snake and he’s told the truth on Irak when Rummy and Bush hadn’t.
    But he’s wedded IMHO to the classic mistake of throwing more good lives after lost good llives in Iraq. I agree with the Murtha plan.
    This is really interesting what looks like a coming co-ordinated attack by the Turks and Iranians on the kandill{sp?} in Iraki Kurdistan. Will the Turks take the opportunity to grab Kirkuk? Will U.S. occupation troops defend Kirkuk from the Turks? Kurdistan?
    Somebody better be coming up w/ some answers.
    Landis at has some good stuff today about the Brammertz report.
    Best Wishes

  34. Mo says:

    Will, have you traveled much in the ME? Your passion and knowledge on the area puts me to shame!

  35. The “Lebanese” solar calender is fairly general through the entire Levant and common usage for the solar year in much of the Mashreq.

  36. Mo says:

    Zanzibar, yeah it was so good I have pretty much decided to move back there!
    HA want, along with the majority of Christians, a definite change in the political dynamic of the country. The Sunnis and the Druze are mostly against it for two reasons. Firstly, they would be the ones who would lose out the most and secondly, having run the country for so long, they are used to lining their pockets quite deeply. In fact they are probably more worried about the personal financial consequences of an HA dominated parliament than the political consequences.
    On the face of it limited civil discord definitely plays into US/Israeli plans for the country for so long as the argument is raging then groups like HA are out of power. They would not want the discord to become violent because they know that the HA alliance has both the military strength and popular support. Of course, and as usual, the plans are short sighted, as the more civil discord exists, the easier it will be for HA to extend and consolidate its power and it allows the Syrians a way back into the country.
    Nasrallahs militia and weapons are his strength yes but only figuratively. A small section of the Christian community is fearful of HA’s military strength and harbour deep suspicion that HA has plans to force them out of the country. The rest of the country though acknowledge that HA won’t attack the state in any way other than politicaly. Its not just Nssrallah’s word, which is famed for its honesty (even the Israelis agree he was the most honest leader in the war according to recent polls), but also histoically, as HA’s only participation in the civil war were defensive battles, ironically against Nabih Berri’s Amal. I think the rally was meant partly as a message to the govt. but there is also a maturity that knows that some of those present will have been supporters of HA on the battlefield but not at the ballot box. But like I said, it is currently a strange situation with a govt. with minimal local support and, like you say, massive external support versus an opposition with massive local support and limited external support.
    In terms of local media, lets just say that for some 95% of the media, political bias is a given and therefore will report accordingly.
    In the secterian groups, obviously the Shia, who are at least 35%(most in the country believe it is closer to the 40% mark) of the country are pro HA give or take 1%. 70% of the Christians (another 30-35% of the country) are pro-Aoun who is allied with HA. The Druze are mostly anti-HA. The big unknown right now is the Sunni vote. The Sunnis practically worshipped Hariri(the father) but his son is burning through the goodwill he inherited very very fast. The govt is very wary of calling any kind of rally for fear of the resultant turn out and no-one is quite sure what it would be.
    Is your knowledge on the area a result of proffessional interest?
    Aoun was a man I disliked intensley during the 90’s and his attempt at declaring himself President after the end of the civil war definitely betrays a Napoleon complex of some sort. However, while not entirely trusting him now, I agree he is the best man for the job of President in charachter and in popular support. His alliance with HA is quite easily the single biggest factor in why there is no serious talk of civil war today.

  37. Will says:

    Michel Aoun wrote an Op-Ed for the Wall Stree Journal July 31 during the War. I can’t find a link to it. With my apologies for the length. here’s the full text.
    Res Ipse Loquitur
    ” History Will Judge Us All On Our Actions
    July 31, 2006
    Michel Aoun- Wall Street Journal
    RABIEH, Lebanon — While aircraft, sea-craft, and artillery pound our beloved Lebanon, we Lebanese are left, as usual, to watch helplessly and pay a heavy price for a war foisted upon us due to circumstances beyond our control.
    Considering that this crisis could have been avoided, and considering that there is — and has been — a solution almost begging to be made, one cannot but conclude that all of this death, destruction and human agony will, in retrospect, be adjudged as having been in vain.
    No matter how much longer this fight goes on, the truth of the matter is that political negotiations will be the endgame. The solution that will present itself a week, a month or a year from now will be, in essence, the same solution as the one available today, and which, tragically, was available before a single shot was fired or a single child killed. Given this reality, a more concerted effort is required sooner rather than later to stop the death and destruction on both sides of the border.
    From the outset, this dispute has been viewed through the differing prisms of differing worldviews. As one who led my people during a time when they defended themselves against aggression, I recognize, personally, that other countries have the right to defend themselves, just as Lebanon does; this is an inalienable right possessed by all countries and peoples.
    For some, analysis as to this conflict’s sources and resolutions begins and ends with the right to self-defense; for others, Israel’s claimed self-defensive actions are perceived as barbaric and offensive acts aimed at destroying a country and liquidating a people. Likewise, some view Hezbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers as fair military game to pressure Israel to return Lebanese prisoners; yet others perceive it as a terrorist act aimed at undermining Israel’s sovereignty and security.
    These divergences, and the world’s failure to adopt different paradigms by which Middle East problems can be fairly analyzed and solved, have produced, and will continue to produce, a vicious cycle of continuing conflict. If the approach remains the same in the current conflict, I anticipate that the result will be the same. This, therefore, is a mandate to change the basis upon which problems are judged and measured from the present dead-end cycle to one which is based on universal, unarguable principles and which has at least a fighting chance to produce a lasting positive result.
    My own personal belief is that all human life is equal and priceless — I look upon Israeli life as the same as Lebanese life. This belief stems not from my Catholic religion, but rather, from basic human values which have their historic home in Lebanon. It is no coincidence that a leading figure in the drafting and adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was Charles Malek, a Lebanese citizen.
    I ask, will other Arab countries and leaders have the courage to acknowledge that Israeli life is equal to Arab life? Will Israel have the courage as well to acknowledge that Lebanese life is equal to Israeli life, and that all life is priceless? I believe that most Israeli and Arab citizens would answer in the affirmative. Can we get their governments and their leaders to do the same?
    Acknowledgement of equality between the value of the Lebanese and the Israeli people can be a starting point and a catalyst. The universal, unarguable concept of the equality of peoples and of human life should be the basis upon which we measure and judge events, and should provide the common human prism through which the current conflict, and old seemingly everlasting conflicts, are viewed and resolved. This is the only way to peace, prosperity and security, which is, after all, what all human beings desire, regardless of their origin
    .The ideological, political and religious differences between the party that I lead, the Free Patriotic Movement, and Hezbollah, could have been addressed either through confrontation, or through internal dialogue. Recognizing the value of human life, the obvious choice was the second option. We sat down with Hezbollah to discuss our differences.
    After many months of extensive negotiations, we came up with an understanding that included 10 key items which laid down a roadmap to resolve 10 of the most contentious points of disagreement. For example, Hezbollah agreed for the first time that Lebanese who collaborated with Israel during Israel’s occupation of south Lebanon should return peacefully to Lebanon without fear of retribution. We also agreed to work together to achieve a civil society to replace the present confessional system which distributes power on the basis of religious affiliation. Additionally, Hezbollah, which is accused of being staunchly pro-Syrian, agreed for the first time that the border between Lebanon and Syria should be finally delineated, and that diplomatic relations between the two countries should be established.
    We also agreed that Palestinian refugees in Lebanon should be disarmed, that security and political decision-making should be centralized with the Lebanese government, and that all Lebanese political groups should disengage themselves from regional conflicts and influences.
    Last but not least, our extensive negotiations with Hezbollah resulted in an articulation of the three main roadblocks regarding resolution of the Hezbollah arms issue: First, the return of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli prisons. Second, the return of the Shebaa farms, a tiny piece of Lebanese territory still occupied by Israel. And third, the formulation of a comprehensive strategy to provide for Lebanon’s defense, centered upon a strong national army and central state decision-making authority in which all political groups are assured a fair opportunity to participate.
    This structure, if joined together with international guarantees which forbid the nationalization of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and which protect Lebanon from Israeli incursions, and if tied on the internal level to a new, fair and uniform electoral law, is the best hope for peacefully resolving the Hezbollah weapons issue.
    This is the essence of the comprehensive solution we seek. Because it embodies a shift from a policy based on military force to one founded upon human values and reconciling the rights of parties, it would stand the test of time. If rights are respected, and if parties are treated with the deference that they implicitly deserve as human beings, then the long-term result will be not only physical disarmament, but also a disarmament of minds on both sides.
    Our party presented this solution internally to all Lebanese political groups, the Lebanese government, and the international community — including the U.S. administration — repeatedly, for an entire year before this crisis began.
    Rather than help us to resolve the weapons issue peacefully and avoid the current agony our country is now enduring, the international community and Lebanese government flatly ignored the proposed solution. Many of Lebanon’s main political players cast us aside as “pro-Syrian” “allies” of Hezbollah. No matter. These are the same individuals who — only a year before — branded me a “Zionist agent” and brought treason charges against me when I dared to testify before a Congressional subcommittee that Syria should end its occupation of my country.
    You see, after Lebanon was liberated from Syrian occupation, the international community (apparently enamored by the quixotic images of the Cedar Revolution) demanded that the Lebanese elections take place immediately and “on time”; it brushed off our grave concerns about the electoral law in force, which had been carefully crafted by Syria and imposed upon Lebanon in the year 2000 to ensure re-election of Syria’s favorite legislators.
    This flawed electoral law — initially imposed upon us by Syria and then reimposed upon us by the international community — has had disastrous results. It brought to power a Lebanese government with absolute two-thirds majority powers, but which was elected by only one-third of the populace. With a legislative and executive majority on one side, and a popular majority on the other side, the result was absolute gridlock. Currently in Lebanon, there is no confluence of popular will with government will, and therefore the government cannot deal effectively with this or any other problem.
    History will judge us all on our actions, and especially on the unnecessary death and destruction that we leave behind. The destruction currently being wrought upon Lebanon is in no way measured or proportional — ambulances, milk factories, power stations, television crews and stations, U.N. observers and civilian infrastructure have been destroyed.
    Let us proceed from the standpoint that all human life is equal, and that if there is a chance to save lives and to achieve the same ultimate result as may be achieved without the senseless killings, then let us by all means take that chance.
    Mr. Aoun, the former prime minister of Lebanon and commander of its armed forces, is currently a deputy in the Lebanese parliament. ”
    Best Wishes

  38. Got A Watch says:

    Thanks for the very informative replies, kudos to Mo and Will. So it seems no election till ’09, and the government paralysed till then. The status quo will remain, which seems to favor Hizbullah. Not exactly the outcome Olmert and Bush looked forward to.

  39. Mo says:

    Thanks Will, I had not read that before. The political statements obviously I have heard before but his declaration of all life being equal is new. Most likely I have not heard that before as if he had said that in Lebanon, he would quite likely be reminded of his shelling of West Beirut when he was attempting to legitimise himself as an appointed Prime Minister in 1989. My other major problem with him is that he has changed his spots to a major extent and I am not sure a leopard can change his spots that much. his rhetoric now is very anti-Israeli but take a look at this picture where Aoun stands smiling as his Generals greet one of the invading israeli Generals in 1982
    Also for example, in 1989 he declared war on Syria for its “occupation” of Lebanon, but now, most likely for pragmatic and real politik reasoning, does his level best to not criticise the Syrians. It may be pragmatic but it still is a big pill to swallow from a man so ready to bomb fellow Lebanese in his fight against Syria.
    Of course, he is Lebanese and as i’ve said before, Lebanese politicians dont do double-talk, they start at triple talk when they say hello and work there way upwards!
    I dont fully trust the man, but like I said, his alliance with HA is vital to the country and is by far and away the best prospect for a President.

  40. Will says:

    I hear what you’re saying Mo. Short politicians are at an advantage. The taller man usually win the election. It’s somehow related to likability.
    I had read Aoun had shelled largely Xtian East Beirut, so news that he shelled West Beirut builds up his reputation for even-handedness- an equal opportunity force applier.
    As far as the photo, I don’t see anything wrong w/ talking to your opponents. I regret they made such a big hulabaloo recently about the Lebanese Brigadier that had tea served to the Israeli occupiers of Marj Ayoun. Regrettably the evacuation convoy of the Leb Army and civilians still got bombed. Wasted tea, maybe, but still a good effort.
    I served on a fractured town council for six years. Triangulation is the the name of the game when seeking to advance your interests. You make allies, encourage defections, and try to get things done.
    It is easy to put politicians and democracy down, but as Winston Churchill oberved, it’s an awful system until you consider the alternatives.
    Best Wishes

  41. Will says:

    Excellent editorial in Beirut Daily Star
    Electoral Reform for HA arms.
    Taif Accord agreement (which evened the lopsided Xtian parliamentary representation in the unicameral legislature) envisions eventual movement to a deconfessionalized lower house (one man one vot) and confessional (allocated by religion) upper house. The editorial urges beginning talks on this with a quid pro quo for HA arms.
    Best Wishes

  42. Mo says:

    He may have been an equal opportunity sheller but it does somewhat dent his all life is sacred line. I’m not judging him today by his actions of 1989 just juxtaposing his comments today to his actions then.
    While you are absolutely right that there is nothing wrong with talking to your opponents, greeting them with smiles and handshakes after your opponent has just killed what is estimated to have been over 10,000 of your civilians takes the whole amity and reconciliation thing a bit far wouldn’t you say? The other problem is that while he smiles at a the occupiers here, he claims 7 years later to be fighting against Syria because he wants Lebanon to be free of occupation.
    For Lebanon right now, he is the right man at the right time in the right place. Had he been part of the March 14th alliance I think Lebanon would be heading to civil war and/or partition very fast, so his alliance with HA is vital and it is vital it holds and holds well.
    While I accept the picture was taken nearly a quarter of a century ago and it is entirely possible his attitude may have changed, I simply remain wary of someone who seems to have changed so much.
    One interesting side note, the area that is considered HA’s hq in Southern Beirut that was bombed so heavily in the recent war is in fact the area where Aoun was born and grew up.
    In regards to the recent Teagate incident in Marjayoun, while one would not expect a small battalion of men, mostly police and not army, to put up any kind of resistance to an invading army, serving tea to them is rather undignified. As Mr Churchill also said, an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.

  43. Will says:

    Lebanon is a complicated place. While most lebanese support the Palestinians rights in the abstract, their reactions to the the PLO as an armed force in lebanon was mixed.
    Even Muslim Jordan which had a large Palestinian population, say overwhelming, expelled the PLO. After Damour and the bus incident with the stupid Falange, most Leb Xtians welcomed the Israeli invasion. I understand the Shias in the South initially greeted them with flowers and showered them with rice until they overstayed their welcome. A lot of people don’t realize it was a Greek Orthodox from the Syrian National Socialist Party that assasinated Bashir Gemayel- it was not a Muslim. Leb is a complicated place.
    The Syrians initially came at the request of Xtian Prez Franjieh to save the Xtians and overstayed their welcome. It was the Israeli objection that prevented them from coming up to the Southern border and gave the opportunity for the creation of Fatahland.
    It is a complicated place, friends. I have Leb-American friends from Marj-Ayoun. Some are fervently anti-Israeli. Some are rabidly pro-Israeli. I met a youngster that was an SLA officer, a blue-eyed Leb, rare but not unheard of (Bashar Assad is blue eyed)that was exiled in Israel. He married a Jewish lady from NYC that was vacationing in Tel Aviv.
    The last Leb commander of the SLA (south Lebanon Army) opened a Falafel restaurant in Tel Aviv. There’s a standing joke about so and so should go open up a Falafel restaurant somewhere.
    The last one I read was that Olmert and Peretz need to open a Falafel restaurant in Paris.
    But getting back to Teagate. I think it’s appropriate in an evacuation negotiation to serve tea. But I’m sure Le General Charles de Gaulle would not have.
    Best Wishes

  44. zanzibar says:

    “Taif Accord agreement (which evened the lopsided Xtian parliamentary representation in the unicameral legislature) envisions eventual movement to a deconfessionalized lower house (one man one vot) and confessional (allocated by religion) upper house. The editorial urges beginning talks on this with a quid pro quo for HA arms.” – Will
    From a Lebanese perspective it would seem that HA are already their military force with respect to Israel. They have the trained manpower, strategy & tactics, arms and most importantly experience and motivation. Why wouldn’t they just become the Lebanese army instead of being co-opted into the current army which is basically toothless? It would seem that the Lebanese would do better by rearming HA forces with more modern equipment and armaments – tanks, artillery, air defense, etc.
    I am very interested to learn more about HA. I did not pay much attention to them and like most typical Americans categorized them as just another terrorist organization until the recent conflict. PL’s blog has really educated me in both military & ME matters. I think HA represent a new vanguard of Arab & Islamic organization that could spread through the region. I was quite impressed by Nasrallah’s speech and the photos of the audience at the rally. They are clearly packaging themselves as a tolerant nationalist organization as opposed to sectarian and fundamentalist. How do they square the Islamic & Khmomeinist leanings with their “new” facade?

  45. Mo says:

    Will, supporting the Palestinians doesnt necessarily equate to supporting the PLO, an organisation that was interested in liberating Palestine as GWB was in “liberating” Iraq.
    We will have to agree to disagree on teagate.
    Zanzibar,making HA the army or part of the army cannot happen until the army is trusted or at least its leadership is. And if they did, they would be better left as a type of special forces outfit as tanks, artillery etc. would be useless for their tactical style (although some air defence would be useful for Lebanon in general). Their Islamic and Knomeinist leanings are not discounted. However, their position is that they are not appropriate to Lebanon and therefore an Islamic state is no longer on their agenda.

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