understand that a guiding principle of the left is to support the
underdog. However, sometimes that support obscures the real underdog.
This is true in the case of the Middle East.
In the current Mideast turmoil, Lebanon and the Hizbollah are the
underdog. It's a David and Goliath scenario, with defenseless Lebanon
and ragtag Hizbollah confronting the Israeli Goliath. Never mind that
Israel is a tiny country of 6.2 million people surrounded by 150
million Arabs. If we disregard the facts, there is a romantic element
to this scenario.
But who is the David that Israel is fighting? Is Sheikh Hassan
Nasrallah the liberator of Palestine or a fanatic who despises Western
society and wants to reshape the world in his narrow vision of Islam?
His own statements clarify his goals. According to a 2002 article by
Badih Chayban in Lebanon's Daily Star, Nasrallah stated that 'if they
[the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going
after them worldwide.' Amal Saad-Ghorayeb in his book, Hizbullah:
Politics and Religion, quotes Nasrallah's view of Jews: 'If we
searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak
and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find
anyone like the Jew.' According to the New York Sun, Nasrallah claims
that 'Jews invented the legend of the Holocaust.' During another
appearance on Hizbollah's Al-Manar television in 2002, Nasrallah
praised David Irving for denying the existence of gas chambers.
Writing in the National Review, David Rubin claims that in 2000
Nasrallah declared, 'The Jews invented the legend of the Nazi
atrocities... Anyone who reads the Koran and the holy writings of the
monotheistic religions sees what they did to the prophets, and what
acts of madness and slaughter the Jews carried out throughout
history.... Anyone who reads these texts cannot think of co-existence
with them, of peace with them, or about accepting their presence, not
only in Palestine of 1948 but even in a small village in Palestine,
because they are a cancer which is liable to spread again at any
moment.' These statements don't exactly make me feel like Nasrallah is
a kindred spirit. They also don't make me sanguine about the long-term
prospects for peace in Lebanon.
with Ahmadinejad's Hizbollah's spiritual and military supporter
statements about the Holocaust being a myth. The also fit with the
recent international Holocaust cartoon exhibition in Teheran, where
the 'best cartoon' gets a $12,000 prize. Although Osama Bin Laden is
Sunni rather than Shiite, his words in an open letter to Americans in
2002 could be those of Nasrallah:
The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam. The
religion of the Unification of God.... of complete submission to His
Laws; and of the discarding of all the opinions, orders, theories and
religions which contradict with the religion He sent down to His
Prophet Muhammad.... It is the religion whose book the Quran will
remain preserved and unchanged, after the other Divine books and
messages have been changed.
The hypocrisy is that I know of no progressive who could stomach
living in the kind of radical Islamic state envisioned by Nasrallah.
Most couldn't even bear living in a moderate one. In fact, much of the
left are secular, or agnostic, if not outright atheists. We strongly
believe in the separation of church and state. We also like our
Pinots, our earthy movies, believe in living together before marriage,
in free sexual expression, and we frequently swear, sometimes even
taking God's name in vain. We value democracy, free speech, critical
inquiry and civil liberties; most of us wouldn't voluntarily give them
up. And what about gays and lesbians? The first ones to go? As
infidels we would be rounded up in an eyeblink.
are we supporting radical Islamic leaders that fight for a theocratic
state which is abhorrent to us in principle and practice? In my book,
that's tantamount to masochism.
Jimmy Carter's supported the Taliban over the Russians, a blunder that
eventually came back to haunt us. Cozy up to the devil and you end up
It's time for the left to shed its fantasies about struggling
underdogs and develop a sense of realpolitik about the Middle East.
Nasrallah, Ahmadinejad, and Hamas' Haniyeh are opposed to tolerance
and liberal civil societies. They cynically exploit democracy to
consolidate their power, and then discard it for a repressive
theocratic state that rewards corrupt religious leaders. (The rampant
corruption in Iran is a case in point.) Regardless of one's support
for Israel, the enemy of my enemy is not always my friend.
Howard Karger is the author of shortchanged: Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy (Berrett-Koehler, 2005) and a professor at the University of Houston.