April 14, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1277

Arab Assessments of the War in Lebanon

April 14, 2008
Special Dispatch No. 1277

Following U.N. Resolution 1701 and the ceasefire in Lebanon, the Arab media published differing assessments regarding the outcomes of the war. Many writers declared that Hizbullah had won, and that its resistance is a source of pride for the Arab and Muslim nations. Others stated that both Hizbullah and Lebanon had received a crushing blow in this war, which had been conducted indirectly by Syria and Iran, and denounced the lack of self-criticism in the Arab world.

The following are excerpts:

Hizbullah Won the War

*If All the Neighboring Countries Fired Rockets on Israel Simultaneously, It Would Cease to Exist

Columnist Zaghlul Al-Najjar wrote in the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram: "I say to the courageous resistance [fighters] in both countries [i.e. Lebanon and Palestine]: You have brought enormous pride to both nations - the Arab [nation] and the Islamic [nation]... I say to the Arab and Muslim peoples that the recent Israeli invasions in the Gaza Strip, the [West] Bank, and Lebanon have demonstrated the weakness of the Zionist entity and of its army. A handful of jihad fighters succeeded in responding to the [invasion] attempts, despite the superiority of the [Israeli] air-force...

"Imagine what would [happen] to this oppressive entity if an oil embargo was imposed on it, if its air force was destroyed in a surprise attack, and if all the Arab countries around it fired rockets on it simultaneously and decided to put an end to its crimes and its filth. [If this happens], this criminal entity which threatens the entire region with mass destruction will not continue to exist on its stolen land even one more day." [1]

*Hizbullah has Shown That Resistance is the Most Effective Weapon Against Israel

In a column titled "Contragulations! Hizbullah has Won," Saudi columnist Musfir bin Saleh Al-Wadi'i wrote in the Saudi daily Al-Yawm: "On the political level, Israel achieved nothing and did not realize any of [its] goals. Hizbullah continues to exist, only stronger and with greater presence. The [kidnapped] Israeli soldiers were not released, and Israel is compelled to negotiate and exchange them for Arab prisoners. In the domestic arena, the war and the defeat have pitched the current [Israeli] government into turmoil, and the global condemnation of the Israeli barbarity has formed a solid foundation which strengthens the [Israeli] opposition.

"Hizbullah has proved once again, as expected, that resistance is the most effective weapon against Israel and against any imperialist expansion plan. Those who wagered on the weakness of the resistance and thought that this war would be an opportunity to eliminate it are in an unenviable position, since they [now] see, with their own eyes, that resistance has won a double victory. [It has won] not only in South Lebanon but also in Gaza, because Israel has agreed to release prisoners in exchange [for the soldier who is being held] there..." [2]

*The Lebanese Resistance is a Source of Inspiration in Lebanese History

Egyptian columnist Ragab Al-Bana wrote in the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram: "The determination and courage displayed by the Lebanese people's resistance will [forever] remain a source of inspiration in Arab and Lebanese history. This is a new beginning, [an opportunity] to reverse the harm created by the Arab's political mistakes and to oppose the imperialist plan for a 'New Middle East'...

"Israel thought that the invasion of Lebanon would be [an opportunity] for its soldiers to play with their powerful American technology, but was surprised by the determined stand and by the fierceness of the Lebanese resistance, which lasted longer than any war that Israel has fought in the past. Israel also had more losses than it [ever] had in its wars against the armies of the Arab regimes. The most important point is that the myth of Israel's long arm and its invincible army has once again been cast into doubt...

"Hizbullah did not become isolated. It was backed by the [Lebanese] government, and by the [various] parties and sects [in Lebanon]. The Lebanese people backed it with more persistence and patience than expected. Israel and the American administration lost their wager." [3]

Hizbullah and Lebanon Lost the War

*Everybody Lost the War

Jordanian columnist Fahd Al-Fanek wrote in the Jordanian daily Al-Rai: "All [sides] claim to have won, so who lost [the war]? All three sides [Israel, Lebanon and the Hizbullah] received crushing blows; all three would be wise to start counting their failures and to try and learn from the difficult lessons [of the war].

"Israel lost the war, in that it lost its deterrence [capability], as well as many soldiers, tanks, and planes [sic]. [Furthermore,] it could not stop the rocket fire on the cities and villages of its northern [region], which [forced] thousands of people to flee south or to stay in [bomb] shelters.

"Hizbullah lost, in that it [had to] withdraw from the area south of the Litani and did not get its prisoners back. Instead of liberating the Shab'a Farms, it brought about the re-occupation of South Lebanon. Its facilities and offices and the homes of its commanders were destroyed, an unknown number of its fighters were killed, and it was held responsible for the destruction in Lebanon.

"Lebanon lost, in that a third of its citizens [had to] leave [their homes], its infrastructures were destroyed, and its economy was badly hurt by the siege and by the damage to tourism. Over 1,000 people were killed and entire neighborhoods were destroyed...

"Each one [of the sides] claims victory based on its adversary's defeat. The result is that no side [actually] had any achievements, but only failures that are regarded as achievements of the other side." [4]

*Nasrallah Himself Admitted That the Kidnapping was a Mistake

'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, CEO of the Al-'Arabiyya TV network and former editor-in-chief of the London Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote a response to Nasrallah's August 27 interview with the Lebanese television station New TV: "...Nasrallah announced that the [kidnapping] operation was an error in judgment. He clearly stated that he would not have authorized this operation if he had known the extent of the catastrophe that it would cause. This was a brave statement on his part... To the same degree that we praise the resistance leader for his bravery, his candor, and for the fact that he revealed the truth, so we should condemn those who wanted to distort the facts in the eyes of the Arab citizens by referring to [Hizbullah's operation as an act of] courage, as a proper move, as a strategic choice, and as a war for liberty. The painful truth is that the kidnapping was a huge gift for Israel, which was laying in wait for the Lebanese, and for Hizbullah in particular - because the operation granted Israel a 'legitimate' pretext to invade, bomb, and kill, with the powers either supporting or ignoring [its actions]." [5]

*"The Destruction of Lebanon Can Never Be Described as a Victory for Hizbullah"

Ahmad Jarallah, editor of the Kuwaiti dailies Al-Siyassa and the English-language Arab Times, which consistently take a stand against Syria and Iran, wrote in an editorial in the Arab Times: [6] "The destruction of Lebanon can never be described as a victory for Hizbullah. After the issuance of U.N. resolution 1701, no one has the right to claim victory or play with words to change their meanings. Once again we Arabs have been defeated in Lebanon. The responsibility for the destruction of Lebanon and for playing with its future rests with a segment of the Lebanese [people], which is serving the interests and greed of Iran… Unfortunately Syria and Iran view the U.N. resolution as biased. This means [that] our dream of seeing a stable Lebanon is still so far from coming true…

"In this situation, there is no sense in talking about victory. Syria's claim that the U.N. resolution doesn’t reflect the magnitude of Hizbullah’s victory is farcical. Syria cannot claim victory, since it didn’t officially fight this war - unless Damascus thinks that Hizbullah has been fighting its war. If this is the case, it must be denounced in no uncertain terms."

*"Israel Can Only Be Defeated Through Science and Knowledge"

Dr. Shamlan Yusuf Al-'Isa wrote in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa: "The Lebanese [people] found themselves alone on the battlefield. Neither the Arabs nor [the rest of] the Muslims stepped up to help them in their difficult hour. The talk about mutual Arab defense never became a reality... Today, it is clear that the moderate Muslims - represented by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Gulf states, Morocco and Tunisia - were right to demand an immediate ceasefire and an end to the reckless and uncalculated wars.

"As part of our support for the new Lebanon, we Arabs now need [to develop] a collective awareness - humane, cultural and scientific - which respects the individual and his freedoms. That is, we must recognize that we are backward people [living in backward] third-world countries, and that Israel can only be defeated through science and knowledge, and by rebuilding the Arab individual through development of Arab states and societies that are democratic and respect the individual." [7]

Criticism of Those Claiming a Hizbullah Victory

*"The Arab Intellectuals Have a Serious Problem [in Defining] the Criteria for Victory and Defeat"

Columnist Muhammad Al-Seif wrote in the Saudi daily Al-Iqtisadiyya: "The war currently being waged in Lebanon has shown that many of our Arab intellectuals have a serious problem [in defining] the criteria for victory and defeat. Some of them are still convinced that Hizbullah, despite its losses, has brought a humiliating defeat upon Israel and has shattered the myth of Israel as an invincible state.

"The problem repeats itself, in the exact same form, in every war fought by the Arabs. The criterion for victory is [as follows]: As long as the emblem, or the heroic commander, still lives, [the outcome is pronounced to be] a victory - regardless of the consequences of the war for the peoples [in terms of damage to] property and loss of lives and capabilities. Former Egyptian president Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser led the Arabs to a crushing defeat in 1967, but some of us did not perceive it as such... Despite this defeat, 'Abd Al-Nasser retained [his status] as an Arab symbol and [his image as] an undefeatable Arab leader...

"I do not think that Hizbullah gained any victory at all. Lebanon, rather than Hizbullah, suffered losses whose price will be paid by the Lebanese [people]." [8]

*"Israel Sees the War Realistically While the Arabs Continue to Market Illusions"

Qeinan Al-Ghamdi, former editor of the Saudi daily Al-Watan, wrote: "[Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert announced that the ceasefire was a diplomatic victory [for Israel], and that he and his government were about to enter a difficult [process of] self-examination, which would be carried out at all levels of the Israeli society. At the same time, Hassan Nasrallah announced a historic and strategic victory. [This victory was achieved] at the expense of Lebanon's territory and people, whose only crime is [living in a land that is used] by other [forces] as an arena for score-settling and pretentious announcements.

"[Syrian President Bashar] Assad, for his part, was not content with this intoxicating 'strategic and historic victory,' which he achieved single-handedly from the very first day of the war... The intoxication of victory led him to open additional, verbal, fronts vis-à-vis other Arab regimes that the war had 'exposed.' Having achieved his 'historic victory' against the historical enemy [i.e. Israel], and having expelled the enemy and liberated the [occupied] territories, he decided to turn to his treasonous brothers, in order to educate them and teach them the meaning of 'honor' and 'resistance,' and the 'language of the powerful.' He should have also added the 'language of the dinosaurs' and [the concept] of profiteering at the expense of the masses.

"That is the difference [between Israel and the Arabs]. Israel sees reality [as it is] and assesses the data and the opportunities sensibly, while the Arabs market illusions, sanctify heroic lies and foster hostility in order to cover up scandals that can no loner be concealed." [9]

*The Lebanese are Refusing to Admit Defeat in Order to Avoid Responsibility

In an article titled "Who Will Pay the Price of Defeat," 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed wrote in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: "In our region, [whenever] anyone manages to be defeated, [people] carry him around on their shoulders and shower him with wishes of longevity. No one, without exception, [ever] pays the price. What happened in Lebanon was an enormous tragedy, whether we label it 'victory,' 'defeat,' or 'steadfastness.' [But] I do not imagine that anyone will be held accountable. On the contrary, [the one responsible] will get to impose his rule by using his propaganda machine to justify his actions, saying that what happened prevented something worse [from occurring]. [The problem is that] the people have no part in starting or stopping wars. Nobody asks them... In short, the opinion of millions of people carries no weight, even when their lives and the lives of their children are at risk.

"Everyone in Lebanon has promised that, after the war, there will be a rigorous investigation - but these are empty words since no one will [actually] lose his position. Hassan Nasrallah will not resign since he is head of a party that does not hold elections; [Lebanese Prime Minister] Fuad Siniora will not resign [either], since he had no role in [making the decisions concerning] war and peace. The government will not resign since it does not want to acknowledge defeat, and even if it does acknowledge [defeat] it will not agree to take responsibility for Hizbullah's adventures. The worst thing of all is that nobody [is willing] to call it a defeat, not to mention take responsibility [for it]." [10]

"There is a Need to Form an Arab Investigation Committee"

In an article titled "Arab Investigation Committee to Investigate the Lebanon Crisis," 'Abd Al-Mun'im Sa'id, director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Research, wrote in the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram: "Israel was the only side that immediately set out to investigate what happened in [this] crisis and war. [Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert acknowledged that Israel's performance had been unsatisfactory, and Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz appointed a committee to investigate the performance of the Israeli military. The press and public in Israel were not silent [either], but criticized the performance of the government and army. The entire Israeli society moved from a state of solidarity to [a process of] investigation and questioning...

"Therefore, [we too] must form an Arab investigation committee, official or unofficial, that will investigate the crisis and the war, as Israel is doing. [The investigation] will raise questions regarding everything that happened during the war, from beginning to end. The first issue might be the decision [to start] the war. Nasrallah said at the beginning of the war that his party will be the spearhead of the Arab and Muslim nation in liberating Palestine. Who appointed him to this role?... Even if we accept [the claim] that Hizbullah is permanently empowered by the Lebanese government to continue the resistance until the Shab'a Farms are liberated, [we can still ask whether] Hassan Nasrallah assessed the situation correctly when he decided to kidnap the Israeli soldiers...

"It has [also] been proven that Hizbullah... did nothing to prepare the [Lebanese] home front [for the war]. When asked about this, [Hizbullah] replied that this is the responsibility of the Lebanese state, i.e. of the side which was the last to know about the [impending] war, as [Lebanese Prime Minister] Fuad Siniora said...

"Many questions [also] arise as to [Hizbullah's] military performance, such as why it did not fire its Zilzal, Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 missiles, which it [promised] to fire in retaliation if Beirut was attacked. After all, the Lebanese capital was attacked repeatedly, especially the southern neighborhood where 'Hizbullah state' is located.

"[And] the most important question of all is why the rockets used by Hizbullah were of such limited effectiveness that some 30 rockets had to be fired for every Israeli victim ([some of these victims] being Arabs). This ratio makes the war very expensive, and [we] should consider equipping the rockets with a mechanism to improve their accuracy..." [11]

Accusations Against Syria and Iran

*Syria's and Iran's Declarations of Victory Prove Their Involvement in the War

Tareq Al-Humeid, editor of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote: "Didn’t we say that this war was nothing but a Syrian and Iranian war? Whoever wished to deny this may deny it, [and whoever wishes to] doubt it may doubt it... We noticed the timing and the tone of the speeches made by the Syrian president, who declared his full support for Hizbullah - after the war, of course - and demanded that it not be disarmed. [And we heard the speeches of] the Iranian president, who also spoke yesterday about Hizbullah's victory. At the same time, a cleric in Tehran threatened to attack Tel Aviv with Iranian missiles which had been tried by Hizbullah in Lebanon...

"When the world said that this was a Syrian and Iranian war, Tehran and Damascus denied it vehemently. [But] now that the war has ended, Nasrallah, Ahmadinejad and Assad have come out and announced a 'strategic victory.' Whose victory was it? Lebanon's or [perhaps] Syria's and Iran's?... The truth is that the war was Syrian and Iranian, [but] the price will be paid by Lebanon and by the Arab countries which are opposed to adventures and adventurers..." [12]

*Hizbullah Must Sever Its Ties With Syria and Iran for Lebanon's Sake

Muhammad 'Ali Ibrahim, editor of the Egyptian government daily Al-Gumhuriyya, wrote: "Syria and Iran said explicitly that Hizbullah had fought in their stead, and not in defense of Lebanon. The proof is that [Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad] Siniora, who represents the legitimate and official Lebanese [state], accepted [U.N.] Resolution [1701], while Iranian [Foreign Minister Manuchehr] Mottaki and Syrian [Foreign Minister] Walid Al-Muallem thought that the Lebanese people and [the Lebanese] government were not [authorized] to accept the international resolution... Syria's and Iran's statements reveal that they are [trying to] talk for the Lebanese people, which is not acceptable. It also emerged that [Syrian and Iran] do not respect the Lebanese government's political wishes and are trying to impose their [control] over Lebanon's legitimate decisions...

"This is the real courageous war that Hizbullah [should be fighting] - the war for Lebanon's existence. Hizbullah must now agree... to become part of a Lebanese government which exerts its sovereignty unfettered by Iranian dictates and Syrian justifications. Or else we can write Lebanon off for good." [13]

Hizbullah After the War

*Acceptance of Hizbullah as an Armed Organization has Come to an End

In an article published in the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, columnist Hazem 'Abd Al-Rahman discussed the significance of the demand to disarm Hizbullah: "It is clearly understood from Resolution [1701] that there can be no acceptance of an armed organization which is more powerful than the state's armed forces. [The resolution also clarifies] that the international community refuses to make light [of the fact] that the leader of this organization usurps the state's [authority to make] decisions regarding war and peace... The most dangerous thing about the Hizbullah model is that it conveys the message that armed and secret militias, which [operate] outside the [official] frameworks of the state, are the solution. [According to this approach,] any political party or organization which is displeased with the state's policy must [simply] form a militia and buy weapons - from arms smugglers, from some evil country, or from a country that wants to use [this militia] to achieve its aims. Political parties thus forsake their basic duty of conducting political activity... and their goal becomes to stockpile weapons and to annihilate their political opponents and [anyone else who] disagrees with them." [14]

*"The U.N. Resolution Does Not Prevent the Resistance From Continuing"

Lebanese columnist Hassan Hirdan wrote in Al-Hayat that Resolution 1701 "does not prevent the resistance from continuing [its operations] and from holding on to its arms. The reason for this is simple: The resistance is being conducted from its own land and from among its own people, and is drawing its legitimacy from the continued occupation of Lebanese soil. If the Israeli forces, with all their might, could not [suppress the resistance], UNIFIL forces will [certainly] not be able to do so, [even] if they decide to use force against the resistance.

"Resolution 1701... will therefore bring about a hudna [i.e. a truce], providing that Israel complies [with the resolution] and withdraws from the Lebanese territories that it entered on July 12... [But] the truce will not last long if Israel continues to occupy the Shab'a Farms and the Kafr Shuba hills, [continues] to violate Lebanese sovereignty [by] refusing to return [these territories], and refuses to liberate prisoners through an indirect exchange [deal]..." [15]

[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt), August 14, 2006.

[2] Al-Yawm (Saudi Arabia), August 15, 2006.

[3] Al-Ahram (Egypt), August 13, 2006.

[4] Al-Rai (Jordan), August 17, 2006.

[5] Al-Ahram (Egypt), August 13, 2006.

[6] These excerpts are from an English translation of the editorial on the Arab Times website., August 14, 2006.

[7] Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), August 14, 2006.

[8] Al-Iqtisadiyya (Saudi Arabia), August 14, 2006.

[9] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), August 16, 2006.

[10] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 14, 2006.

[11] Al-Ahram (Egypt), August 21, 2006.

[12] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 16, 2006.

[13] Al-Gumhuriyya (Egypt), August 14, 2006.

[14] Al-Ahram (Egypt), August 13, 2006.

[15] Al-Hayat (London) August 20, 2006.

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