Sep 7, 2006

Anti-Arab Racism, Islam, and the Left

Rami El-Amine, founder and editor of Left Turn has been active in and reporting from Lebanon. He has published an article entitled, Anti-Arab Racism, Islam, and the Left. Below is an excerpt critiquing Three Way Fight and particlary the article, Defending My Enemy's Enemy,

"the anti-capitalists who blog at posted an entry titled 'Defending My Enemy's Enemy' during Israel's recent invasion of Lebanon in which they argued that while Israel is the clear aggressor in the conflict and needs to be opposed, it doesn't mean the left should support Hezbollah. The bloggers argue:

…Hezbollah is essentially a right-wing political movement. Its guiding ideology is Khomeini-style Islamic fundamentalism. Hezbollah's political ideal, the Islamic Republic of Iran, enforces medieval religious law, imposes brutal strictures on women and LGBT people, persecutes religious and ethnic minorities, and has executed tens of thousands of leftists and other political dissenters.

If it's not already, this argument will one day become part of one of Hillary Clinton's or even George Bush's (minus the part about LGBT people) speeches justifying a war on Lebanon and Iran. Even though the entry is insignificant in terms of the number of people who probably read it, it articulates a political view that a lot of the left, particularly anarchists and anti-authoritarians, subscribe to but are not as open about -- hence their conspicuous absence from a lot of the organizing against Israel's invasion".


Matthew N Lyons said...

Rami El-Amine is right to criticize widespread anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism, but he misrepresents my essay "Defending My Enemy’s Enemy," published on Three Way Fight on August 3rd. I criticized Hezbollah as right wing but clearly called on leftists and anti-war activists to join in defending Hezbollah and the Lebanese people against Israeli/U.S. aggression. I specifically rejected characterizations of Hezbollah as "terrorist" or as an organization that supposedly exists to kill Jews.

Mr. El-Amine dismisses my description of Hezbollah as a proponent of Khomeini-style Islamic fundamentalism. It's quite true that Hezbollah cooperates with members of many ethnic, religious, and political groups, and its day-to-day program is largely secular. The party has consistently argued that an Islamic state can only be established when a large majority of the population wants it. But Hezbollah considers advocacy of an Islamic state to be a religious duty, and it regards Iran's brutal theocracy to be the closest thing to a perfect political system anywhere in the world. Although Hezbollah is far from being a puppet of the Iranian government, it is formally subordinate to Iran's supreme authority (first Ayatollah Khomeini, now his successor, Ayatollah Khamenei), who it considers the religious, legal, and political leader of all Muslims worldwide. (For details, see the book Hizbullah: The Story from Within by Naim Qassem, the party's deputy secretary-general.)

No question, Hezbollah is an important opponent of U.S. imperialism, but its anti-imperialism is interwoven with a right-wing philosophy. We can and should criticize the right-wing philosophy even as we defend Hezbollah against U.S./Israeli aggression, the vastly larger threat. As the U.S. government cranks up its drive toward war with Iran's Islamic Republic, this approach becomes increasingly urgent. If defending a target of U.S. imperialism means we have to gloss over the target's political flaws, how in the world are we going to mobilize people to defend Iran against U.S. attack?

Saddam Khomeini said...

What I don't understand is this tendency on different segments of the left towards an "either/or" perspective when it comes to national liberation groups. I've always been annoyed with this, as it glosses over important political questions regarding "the day after."

While Arabs and these leftists get a hard on for Hezbollah, many Iranians inside and out of the country are irritated by Tehran's support for the group, mainly because the economy sucks but also because many Iranians oppose the Islamic Republic and therefore don't want to see it spread.

(It should be said that a lot of Iranians oppose Hezbollah for all the wrong reasons, too. There are huge pro-Shah communities in California and New York as well as in Europe, along with supporters of the Mojahedin E-Khalq, who are actively collaborating with U.S. imperialism.

Also, there's a long standing anti-Arab prejudice among Iranians who regard them as culturally inferior Semites who don't deserve their help. There are even some who go as far as advocating reconstituted relations with Israel: I've heard it from a couple of FOB dudes myself.)

Anybody who knows anything about Hezbollah knows that the group would establish a theocracy if the chance arose, but it can't for one obvious reason - Lebanon's "multi-ethnic and -religious state."

Rami makes it seem like it's due to Hezbollah's grace, but it's actually a recognition of the reality of the constraints Lebanese society places on the group's goal. Not only are there 18 official religious sects in the country, but there was also a 15-year civil war.

What this means is that, while most Lebanese don't want to go back to that, the same Lebanese were are probably are still willing to defend their narrow confessional interests if they perceive them to be in danger.

Not only would Hezbollah like to avoid that (especially considering that Israel could exploit that situation like they did the last time) the group's patrons Iran and Syria would as well because of the regional implications of such a scenario. Sure, Hezbollah works with other groups - so did Khomeini and the Islamic Republican Party. But I guarantee that if the conditions are ripe, they will dispose of their allies in the same way Khomeini did in the eighties.

It's also pretty lame of Rami to accuse Three Way Fight of being Islamophobic, when it's clear that this blog opposes everything Israeli and American. I'm Middle Eastern of Muslim origin, and I don't support Hezbollah, nor do I have to. All I have to do is stay black and die.