Yasser Arafat said time and time again that Palestinian blood was a red line. Sheikh Ahmad Yassin agreed, may they both rest in peace.
After that, the highest Shiite reference, Mr. Ali al-Sistani, stated that Shiites would not respond to the atrocities carried out by al-Qaeda in Iraq “even if they were all exterminated” because infighting was a red line!
In Lebanon, there is no party that has not declared its “absolute” objection to their country slipping into a civil war. This party issues a fatwa banning infighting, while that party issues decrees, and all of them accuse the other of being the source of the current tension.
How then do these civil wars, which nobody wants, continue to break out?
There are of course, the sinister policies of the United States in the region, which, if they do not intentionally ignite these civil wars—that is to actually plan them, which is not completely certain—they cause them as a result of the interactions of their administrative methods and their indifference to the final outcome.
Two British university researchers said in a recent book, entitled Iraq in Fragments: The Occupation and Its Legacy, that the opportunity to build a state in Iraq was sabotaged by the US government’s inclination to control this process more than it was by the weak points already present in the Iraqi social and political structure. The authors maintain that the key contradiction lies between the claimed American aspiration to make Iraq a model, which would supposedly be the greatest challenge and the strategic goal for the Americans, and their actual focus on achieving this control in a direct and more fundamental sense, and that this contradiction has always been for the benefit of control. Hence, the US’s primary interest was on determining the cooperation that might take place between the different sectors of Iraqi society and controlling their contribution to the “project of building the state,” so that no party could ever threaten American control. The study illustrates the methods the Americans put into action to administer this control, which provoked a variety of factional rivalries and deepened the conflict between the central powers and the local ones. It created institutions and then limited their roles. It pushed parties and tribes into clashes with each other. The same results could happen, with local variation, in Palestine and in Lebanon.
But is this enough to explain the ease with which the eruption of violent civil strife is possible today in any part of the Arab world?
It would be arbitrary, ridiculous and disingenuous to disregard another element that has facilitated this American behavior: the internal breakdown of Arab societies has never before reached the point it is at today. It is more like a skeleton, stripped of its clothing, standing there fragilely in the face of a hurricane. The first signs of this extensive disintegration are indicated in the nature and methods of opposition. The disunited resistances produced by these societies are closer to relief groups than to organized work. In Palestine, women’s organizations called for forming a human chain in protest of the infighting and in the hopes of preventing it, while the majority of people condemn the infighting of the conflict between Fatah and Hamas. In Lebanon, it appears that the dangerous ramification that followed the spark of confrontation at the Arab Beirut University truly surprised some of the leadership. This is not something to be happy about because it means a lack of an accurate assessment of the situation. That is, this fear of an uncalculated eruption of violence seems to have pushed everyone towards lowering the sound of the current war drums. In addition, a petition campaign was launched, aimed at achieving the maximum level of inclusion and variety possible. This campaign was initiated by a group of youths, hoping to create a non-sectarian, non-violent body that could penetrate the current mechanisms or even rise above them. It hopes to embody a single voice that could perhaps stop the catastrophic spiraling. This initiative, as much as it is necessary, is equally still hovering around the peripheries.
The most striking sign of the extent of this internal exposure of Arab societies is represented in the departure of any search for solutions to these explosive situations, instead relying on outside initiatives. There are direct and public international negotiations about Lebanon represented in the intense current diplomatic maneuvers to get the Lebanese situation back on track. There is a parallel regional track represented in the Saudi-Iranian negotiations, which is searching for possible formulas for a truce in Lebanon if not for a solution. Sometimes, this departure takes on the nature of a barter or gamble that dominates all else. This is exactly what happened following the Paris 3 convention, endorsed by President Bush’s speech, in which he attacked Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, boasting about the sums of money the US has earmarked for Lebanon. This seemed to be specifically directed to President Siniora.
Neither the international efforts nor the regional framework are the problem, in spite of the implications that each takes on, and which necessarily call for evaluation and variation. The problem really lies in the lack of ability of the local forces—who are directly involved, whether in terms of their potential to develop their own possible solutions or even more basic issues—to play that role.
The material for the re-clothing of the skeletons of these societies are the projects that they adopt, which reflect the images of themselves and their aspirations. Iran’s secret for example, is this more than its oil or its seeking to own nuclear technology. Even more developed and stable societies in the world possess such self-perception. Without this, there is no reprieve and the situation will continue to lead to disturbances, some that can be contained and some that will eventually explode.
*This article was originally published in Arabic in al-Hayat, and translated into English by the Alternative Information Center (AIC) by request of the author.