For the record

We do not want to clash with the regime, with those who neglect us. Today, we shout out loud the wrongs against us, that cloud of injustice that has followed us since the beginning of our history. Starting from today we will no longer complain nor cry. Our name is not mitwali [a name for the Shi’a that has taken on a derogatory connotation]; our name is “men of refusal” (rafidun), “men of vengeance,” “men who revolt against all tyranny” (kharijun), even though this costs us our blood and our lives. Husain faced the enemy with 70 men; the enemy was very numerous. Today we are more than 70; and our enemy is not the quarter of the whole world….
We do not want sentiments, but action. We are tired of words, feelings, speeches… I have made more speeches than anyone else. And I am the one who most often called for calm… From today on I will not keep silent. If you keep quiet, I will not… We want our full rights completely. not only our posts, but the twenty demands… in the petition, and we will accept nothing else in exchange.

You would think this is taken from a speech made by SG of Hizbullah Nasrallah. Actually it was given in February 1974 by Imam Musa Sadr founder of AMAL (Cited in Norton, AR. 1997. Amal and the Shi’a. Austin: Texas University Press). In a way, Lebanese history can be read as a lesson of political conduct in life. At the end of the day, unequal structures once politicized must be corrected, no demands just disappear (here my emphasis come from the assumption that things must become demands, they must be made socially conscious). And where AMAL failed to address certain of these demands (the half successful piece meal clientelistic recipes of Nabih Berri), another organization arose (Hizbullah), and is hell bent on having a share in the decision making process. What Sadr was asking for, Hizbullah will eventually get.

The particular ways in which this formation of social consciousness is inscribed in specific symbols and language idioms, are what I am after.

3 Replies to “For the record”

  1. Hi Bech,

    I have to confess that I think the “disappearance” of Iman Musa Sadr was a huge loss for Lebanon. One our a very few big losses.

    I also sgree (not very difficut), that Amal under Berri is a failure.

    But I am just not sure HA is the solution if only for the Shi’a of the South.

    For eg. in the speech above 20 demands are metioned. What are they, and what are the 20 demands of HA?

    Bech, you are studying the topic, could you pls give more details?

    Also, you posted that HA turned into a Leb. sectarian party. Do you know of any such parties who ever did anything except for its leaders and cadres? Why would HA be any different?

    You mentioned Majlis al Shura once, does it have any type of expertize in social, economic, environmental… policies?

    ‘Amilis have been persecuted by Mamlouks, Ottomans, Ahmad al Jazzar… They have the first and second Shahid… HA seems to be playing on that promising Karameh, Mukawamah… and Iranian handouts.

    Pls note that the Mamlouks, Ottomans, Jazzar were equal opportunity persecutors and all other Leb. sects also have their martyrs. They have just disappeared from their narrative.

    I might be mistaken but I think you are wise to concentrate on symbols and language idioms. Your thesis will be of encyclopedic proportions.

    Had you chosen programs, substance, national vision, you would have had a hard time filling a single page. And this does not only apply to HA BTW.

    Sorry for lenghty comment.


  2. hey ms levantine,

    first i don’t know if Sadr’s disappearance was a ‘huge loss’ all I know is that it really changed the course of events for sure.

    re the 20 demands, I don’t know all of them, but some of them have to do with petty politicking of the time (like choosing this or that president etc.), something resembling the current demands explicit or implicit Hizbullah has addressed to the Siniora government. So some contingent to the time and others symbolizing long existing structural imbalances.

    Also, I never said that I think that Hizbullah is addressing all social demands in the best possible ways.

    All I have been saying is that Hizbullah is a symptom of a non-resolved social, economic, and political situation and that at least they have been taking things in a different as it was done under Amal at least on these fronts:

    1- occupation/resistance
    2- addressing ‘constructively’ social concerns, yaaneh not just giving out money or co-opting but actually having on-going social institutions educating, doctoring, etc. constituency

    In the process HA had in effect to become more and more “lebanese” in its practices as I talked about it in earlier posts. But this is something else.

    Now in terms of social, economic and environmental policies, I don’t think Hizb has anything planned really because they are still not confronted with these challenges. the social concerns Hizb had to deal with are localized on a micro-level. The policies you are refering to involve a specific ‘national’ practice awareness, and that’s too early to talk about yet. Although we already saw Hizbullah people in Ministerial position taking very technocratic stands. So it looks promising but Hizbullah will need to address a couple of questions before being a full-blown mature political actor on a national level and this has more to do with its lived experiences than with any specific “intent” the Hizbullah “mind” (whatever that means) may have.

    The flexibility to adapt comes from the party’s marginalized background. Its social acute awareness too, something no existing political organization in Lebanon (and probably in most of the Middle East) shares.

    It is this coincidence that a whole sect was also mostly representing one class that subsequently got politicized (for so many reasons) that makes this political organization so special.

    The social economic and political status of this sect historically and today is at the same time its greatest blessing and curse.

    And thank you very much for the encouragements… I pretty down actually these days… not much is making sense, and I have to write 20000 words soon…

    By the way, I am sceptic about Ottoman ‘persecuting’ the Shi’a, actually, I am skeptical about any version of History that tells a totalizing, uniformed story. In general, it epitomizes the ideology of a specific dominant class (as all history books are written). I am pretty sure that if someone digs in Ottoman archives, he may find some interesting surprises concerning Ottoman-Shi’a (Jabal Amil, surely different from Iran and Iraqi regions) relationships. But that’s just a thought.

  3. assuming that cultural justice will occur, yes.

    but then the assumption jumps to lebanese shia = HA

    they will achieve cultural justice, and althouh HA seems to be the obvious political vehicle for such, others may arise later.

    i may be an old fashioned agnostic, but i distrust religious organizations. that said, my reality is not that of the lebanese shia, and HA has been the most forthright and honest of all of the political players there, that again said, doesn’t take much.

    bech, i miss your peers in arms, it created a nice intellectual dymamic, but i do enjoy reading your input.


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