Lyons Replies

Rami El-Amine is right to criticize widespread anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism (“Anti-Arab Racism, Islam, and the Left”), but he misrepresents my essay “Defending My Enemy’s Enemy,” published on 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?

Matthew Lyons

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