Ned Temko (Comment, last week) is right to differentiate between the present Israeli incursion and Sharon’s categorical refusal to heed cabinet decisions in 1982. By marching instead on Beirut, Sharon brought out 400,000 protesters in Tel Aviv in 1982. Today, demonstrations against the conflict from the Israeli far left can only muster hundreds. There is a recognition from the broad Israeli peace camp that, unlike the PLO, Hizbollah does not recognise that the Jews have a right to national self-determination. For Hizbollah, it is ‘a clash of civilisations’ and Israelis are a hateful symbol of ‘Westoxification’. Unlike the PLO, which went to strenuous lengths to distance itself from accusations of anti-Jewish – as opposed to anti-Zionist – sentiment, Hizbollah has no qualms about espousing an anti-Judaism ideology.According to Lebanese academic Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, Hizbollah representative Hasan Nasrullah is prone to diatribes such as: ‘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. Notice I do not say the Israeli.’ Similarly, in a recent discussion with Nasrullah’s deputy, Naim Qassem, Professor Fred Halliday found such views to be profoundly racist, central and not peripheral.
Many on the left mistakenly believe that Hizbollah is dedicated to a vague notion of national liberation. Many carried banners proclaiming ‘We Are All Hizbollah Now’ at last week’s Stop the War Coalition march. A US administration under Clinton would have brought Syria in from the cold, but that does not lessen Tehran’s desire to liquidate Israel and to push back enlightenment thinking and socialist values in Europe.
Dr Colin Shindler
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, London, WC1