We had gone past the iconic shelled out buildings of central Beirut. It was soon obvious we were in Hezbollah territory. My guide and guardian angel Yasmine had told me about how the city was clearly divided, but I hadn’t expected as clear a demarcation as the one I’d seen in Falls Road in Northern Ireland many years ago.
Predictably, we were stopped along the way, our identity ascertained. My credentials helped but the real turning point was the ping pong table. Yasmine and I took on the Hezbollah team at table tennis and we won. Our rating had suddenly gone up.
Dr. Ibrahim el Mousawi was well spoken, articulate and persuasive. He also knew his job very well. Deftly sidestepping some of the awkward questions, he took me to his turf with well measured arguments. I had dealt with PR people and spin doctors across the globe, but the professionalism of the Hezbollah media cell was of a standard I was not used to. Ogilvy and Mather could not have presented a better case. Dr. Mousawi did have another advantage. The Hezbollah had built their reputation on solid community work over the years. And after the recent Israeli attacks on Lebanon, they had delivered, on all fronts. On this particular occasion, he didn’t need much spin.
The upcoming elections took up a major part of our interview. ‘Votes’ being flown in from the US, being part of the conversation. More importantly, one got a take on the violence and the occupation of Palestine that was simply never presented in mainstream media. One might have disagreed, but important words were being spoken.
The references to Nelson Mandela having been on the?US terror watch list until 2008 and while still on Robben Island, and how Britain?s Margaret Thatcher had described the ANC as a ?typical terrorist organisation? were not inappropriate.
The following article, forwarded by a friend in response to the Hezbollah now being branded a ‘terrorist’ organisation exposes some of the hypocrisy of the west, and the convenience of their labelling.
In Defense of Hezbollah, a ?Terrorist? Organization
By Ahmad Barqawi
July 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House?-??Arab liberals and GCC-sponsored ?intellectuals? and media pundits could not contain their delight this past week as they all went into jubilant throes of rapture over the EU?s acquiescence to American pressure to black-list the Lebanese Resistance Group Hezbollah (or its Armed Wing as it were) as a terrorist organization.
Full-blown joy was in no short supply as Gulf funded newspapers and media outlets went into celebratory overdrive, practically sharing a “moment of great relief” with the one entity that, in a word-association game, elicits “terrorism” for the majority of the people in this region: Israel.
Of course the reactionary monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Counsel have themselves designated the Lebanese Shiite party as a terrorist organization last month, fashioning measures and sanctions to target the party’s (non-existent) interests in the Gulf, these measures will most probably translate into wholesale arbitrary expulsions and random terminations of residency permits of Lebanese expats earning their livelihoods in these Sheikhdoms, especially those with the ?wrong? religious affiliation.
Saudi Arabia has been spearheading a vigorous anti-Hezbollah screed ever since the assassination of their favorite Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al Hariri, with blatant secterian incitement and torrents of weaponized religious Fatwas as staples in the Kingdom’s armory, but for a country whose main exports include religious fanatics of the Al-Qaida variety along with crude oil; labeling the Lebanese party as a terrorist organization takes their hypocrisy to a whole new cosmic level.
Ultimately, the EU?s decision to ban the ?Military Wing? of the Lebanese Resistance as a ?terrorist organization? will most probably have minimal effects on the Party?s political (and yes military) activities, but one has to wonder; what criteria were used to lump the Lebanese party in the same crowd with Al-Qaeda and its ilk? What constitutes as ?terrorism? and what does not?
What if Hezbollah swapped its arsenal of ?primitive? missiles and Katyushas for a bunch of drones and F-16s? What if the young men of the Lebanese resistance decided to pick up remote joystick terrorism instead of putting their lives at stake by being on the front lines defending their own towns and villages? Would they then still be considered terrorists?
What if Hezbollah took a leaf out of the CIA?s playbook on how to ?humanely? treat prisoners of war? What if they pulled a Guantanamo, or a Bagram or an Abu Ghraib on Israeli captives, where water-boarding and sexual humiliations are matters of course? Would it be considered terrorism then or just standard operating procedures? Harsh Interrogation Techniques perhaps?
What if Hezbollah conducted a massive illegal surveillance and private online data collection crusade not only on its own fellow Lebanese citizens but on the entire world population, wouldn?t it be considered a parasitic terrorist entity then? Nah. That would be just too obvious for the EU.
Imagine the uproar if Hezbollah ran large scale bogus vaccination programs in other sovereign states only to illegally and forcibly obtain DNA samples from local residents (including children) on their obsessive manhunt for a ?wanted? fugitive, wouldn?t hot-headed Eurocentrics trip over themselves to deem that a form of terrorism? How about spying on UN officials and diplomats -including the Secretary General himself-, hacking their E-mail addresses, collecting fingerprints and stealing their credit card numbers? Wouldn?t that instantly earn them a pariah status by the self righteous EU?
What if Hezbollah had an arsenal of more than 250 nuclear warheads? What if Hezbollah carpet-bombed Tel Aviv with cluster munitions and white phosphorous shells to kingdom come? Would that constitute as terrorism or just a preemptive ?self-defense? routine?
What if Hezbollah leader Hassan Nassarallah clumsily mounted an air craft carrier with a giant “Mission Accomplished” banner attached to it after his ?Military Wing? had illegally invaded, pillaged, occupied and decimated a sovereign country and looted its oil and natural resources leaving nothing but biological plagues and radioactive dust in their soil and water, under some trumped up weapons-of-mass-destruction pretext no less? Would the corporate world consider him a hero and hail him like he was the Second Coming?
What if Nassarallah followed the ?fine example? of the double-tongued Barack Obama and fashioned a secret ?Kill List? of his own -which included minors and civilians- for impulsive targeted drone annihilation and extrajudical assassinations? Would he then receive a Nobel Peace Prize for that? How about if he rendezvoused with Israeli war criminals on the White House lawn to sign a humiliating peace treaty with the Zionist entity? I’d wager he would be then declared the Time?s “Man of the Year”.
Imagine if the Lebanese resistance movement employed gut wrenching force-feeding and coercion against their hunger-striking political detainees as a matter of course by shoving tubes up their hemorrhaging noses and down into their bellies, would that make them less terrorists and more civilized and liberal?
What if Hezbollah fighters took machetes to their victim?s chests and cannibalized their remains and internal organs while smiling through their blood soaked teeth to the camera, would they then be considered bona fide ?Freedom Fighters? deserving of western support and millions of dollars of military “non-lethal” aid? What if Hezbollah fighters staged photo-ops and smooched with hardcore right-wing Zionists of the John McCain and Joe Lieberman variety, would they be praised as moderate peace-loving democrats and true models for upright humanity?
What if Hezbollah resorted to car bombings, booby-trapped micro vans and suicide attacks in heavily populated civilian neighborhoods just like those head chopping, throat slitting FSA darlings of the West? Would it be elevated to the pantheons of ?legitimate? Arab Spring, GCC-sponsored rebel movements?
Why can?t Hezbollah leaders take their cue from those feuding Gulf States? Sheikhs and Emirs whom are gluttons for anything American and Western? Why can?t they just play good hosts to a gigantic American military base in South Lebanon? This sure would get their name yanked off of that list of terrorist organizations.
Can?t they just forsake their Turbans and traditional Thobes for million-dollar suits and silk neckties? What if Hezbollah leaders were white men with green eyes, and spoke with perfect, unaccented English? Would the EU still slap that “terrorism” label on a legitimate resistance movement?
Shouldn?t we all be grateful that we have the European Union to tell us what constitutes as terrorism and what does not?
Ahmad Barqawi, a Jordanian freelance columnist & writer based in Amman, he has done several studies, statistical analysis and researches on economic and social development in Jordan