Don’t ask me exactly why but I changed my mind. I woke up this morning thinking about the blog. I thought that the beast could probably heal. For those who know me personally, they have seen how lunatic I can be. So I will start with Ms Levantine’s note. I will summarize what I think should be remembered following Mughnieh’s assassination. There are several events that need to be taken into consideration:
1- Hizbullah’s reaction to the assassination
2- Hizbullah’s reaction to how the assassination was reported, and how Mughnieh was represented in the press and through other producers of information
3- Israel’s reaction and US reaction
First of all, it is with few hesitations that I think that Israel carried out the assassination. By that I mean secret service cells working for the Israeli or Mossad in one way or another. Syria killing a guy of that stature for some hypothetical deal with the Americans especially with the given power configuration is just absurd. But let’s leave this consideration as an open question so that I am not taxed of dogmatism. However, trying to answer this question distances us from the more important political and social development happening on the ground, post-assassination.
1- Hizbullah has focused on its likely constituency. What the party calls its Mujtama’ el Muqawama, its “the society of resistance” (an interestingly changing discursive construction that scholars on Hizbullah mistakenly read literally, at its face value, more on that later). Mughnieh was quickly transformed into the greatest hero in the line of Ragheb Harb and Abbas Musawi. Billboards, ceremonies, and an elaborate discourse on martyrdom and how important it is to the community, was quickly deployed in all directions. This formidable production of meaning for events is in a way fascinating. It is not much different from any type of media production although here the narratives and the issues at stake are specific to the particular geography of the party. Dying for the cause becomes a triumph, a victory for the community. “the more you kill of us the stronger we become and the weaker you show yourself to be”. This is what Hizbullah constantly tries to elaborate. The blood of the Shahid is imagined to feed into this organic whole that nurtures the bond of the community. That is the modern elaboration and practical political use of the concept of Shahada. And although it is translated as “martyrdom” I don’t think it refers to the same political dynamics. Just check the recent history of state formation in Europe, nowhere is there something resembling this culture of the Shahid. This I think is one of the particularities of Post-Colonial State-formation, i.e. in the backdrop of occupation and prolonged oppression. But the end-result of these political discursive articulations are probably the same in the age of the “nation”-State (again nation here is not in its European meaning): Strenghtening the sense of belonging to the same imagined community.
This is why, most importantly, the campaign of Hizbullah is geared towards its own constituency, and here it gets tricky because Hizbullah is trying to maneuver between a discourse aimed at the Shi’a constituency and one that targets all the “Lebanese”. So now Hizbullah adds a “nationalistic” dimension to its construction of the community. If you read the (constantly proliferating) publications of party members, intellectuals, etc. Like the vice-secretary general Naim Qassem, or simply the last couple of speeches of Hassan Nasrallah then you can clearly see that (and especially post july 2006 war) the resistant society is not just the ‘downtrodden’ but all the segments of the “Lebanese people” (on these discursive shifts I will write more later on). The party is trying by all means to push forth this ‘unitarian’ version of resistance. There is this idea that “we lived it this way. we know it is possible to lift ourselves from the opressed state, and so you can do the same”. Although resistance is based on Shi’ite idioms, the cause now encompass all those who think that Israel is not the invincible enemy that it was once supposed to be. Hizbullah wants to spread this idea also as a fighting force against ‘confessionalism’. People come from different religious backgrounds, but everyone should be concerned with the political problems this country is facing, and understand the big issues being played out in the region.
2- Western representation (and through that other “Lebanese” representation) have been stupidly concerned with the question of whether Mughnieh was a “terrorist” or not. Hizbullah has been arguing vehemently the contrary making the argument that there was no centralized Hizbullah organization in the beginning of the 1980s, which is totally true (although Hizbullah ideologues try paradoxically to push forth a very coherent image of the organization across time, so it really depends on the situation). What’s truely remarkable is that Hizbullah is not justifying as much as it was doing before. Probably for the simple reason that it has lost interest in what “the west think”. So the focus is completely on the ‘national’ constiuency, the region (Arabs and others), and the Israelis. This whole discussion is making Hizbullah loose a lot of time and Western medium to stay biased and wrongly moralistic. I participated as a discussant at a conference that was supposed to ‘shed light’ on who the hell was Mughnieh (in vain, nobody said anything new amongst the brilliant speakers we had which is rather promising for those who want to write about Hizbullah!). Moreover, the debate turned to be focused on these ideological concerns, geared for a western audience that needs to distinguish between the bad guys and the good guys, or probably help their policy makers define the bad guys in order to aim better next time they shoot.
3- Hizbullah quickly entered in a psychological war with Israel. It does not mean like many have said, that Hizbullah will attack Israel. It just means that it tried to quickly achieve a symbolic position of strength in the face of a hypothetical US, Israeli attack. This comes at a time when Cheney was arriving in the Middle East, the Gaza murderous adventure was a total failure, and in the advent of the Arab summit. Hizbullah is always trying to convince the rest of the Arab States that Israel is not the threat it was, that Israel can be beaten or at least neutralized politically and diplomatically, that Israel could be forced to compromise and accept a fairer settlement of the Palestinian question. The most important way this was done at the symbolic level (the most virulent and for me the most interesting) is to elaborate the argument that Israel as it is today cannot last. Nasrallah makes sure in his last speech to say that beating the “Zionist project” is not a “Lebanese responsibility” but that it should be its “culture”, that Lebanese “awareness” should be geared towards this evidence. In all his last speeches, Nasrallah argued this idea forcefully. Many Hizbullah members and people around the party are avid readers of Israeli politics and society. Nasrallah speeches contained a wrap up of these analyses. I will write more on Nasrallah’s recent speeches, and other key party members’ discursive articulations.