Hassan Nasrallah

A sustainer recently asked Noam the below question on the ZNet chat board, where Noam hosts a forum:

Sustainer: Professor Chomsky,

If you were Nasrallah would you give up Hizbollah’s weapons?  Do you think they ought to?  Barsamian asked you…what you think of him and you responded that he is a very pragmatic man. Could you possibly elaborate?  Does he seem like an honest, compassionate man?

Noam Chomsky: My impression is about the same as others who have met him: for example, Edward Peck, White House official responsible for terrorism in the Reagan administration, who described Nasrallah, after an interview, as having given "a logical, reasonable presentation…just an educated intelligent man talking about serious issues that he perceived." On Hizbollah’s weapons, his position, as I understand it, is pretty simple.  The first question is whether Lebanon has a right to have a deterrent against US-backed Israeli aggression.  If the answer is "No," then Hezbollah has no right to weapons.  But it’s a strange answer after five such invasions, each murderous and destructive, one of which killed some 15-20,000 people and destroyed much of the country, all of them without credible pretext.  Suppose, then, that the answer is "Yes." Then what would the deterrent be?  One answer would be a credible US guarantee, but that’s not in the cards (to our shame).  Could it be the Lebanese army?  No one believes that.  We’re left with one deterrent: Hezbollah.  When I was in Lebanon in 2006, before the latest Israeli invasion, I spent a fair amount of time with some of the strongest opponents of Hezbollah, and continually raised this question.  No one had an answer.

I’d like to see a credible international guarantee against further US-backed Israeli aggression.  Short of that, it’s hard to see what the argument would be for Hezbollah to give up its weapons, though no doubt it is highly undesirable for a state to harbor an internal non-state military force.

The outstanding Lebanese journalist Rami Khouri, writing in the major English language Lebanese newspaper, captured the basic point rather well: "Hamas and Hizbullah are among the most effective and legitimate political movements in the Arab world: They have forced unilateral Israeli retreats that no Arab army could induce; won elections democratically without resorting to the gerrymandering or ballot box stuffing that most American-supported Arab regimes live by; provided efficient service delivery and local governance to their constituents; and sustained resistance to Israeli occupation that appeals to the desire of ordinary Arabs to restore dignity to their battered lives and to their shattered, hollow political systems."

That’s exactly why they are hated and feared by the US and Israel.


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