A Lebanese Abroad

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Can Hezbollah Fix Its Image Abroad?

The Hezbollah reality is now every Lebanese’s problem. After the July war, Hezbollah succeeded in spreading the South Lebanon/Israel conflict into the rest of Lebanon, by making each one of us (via Israel’s attacks) feel it. They succeeded in influencing a larger segment of the population who was previously indifferent to them to take notice and to start feeling for them.

Assuming that the Hezbollah reality is with Lebanon to stay, there still remains a major issue facing Hezbollah: its “bad” image with the Western world (and to some degree- with Arab moderate governments). Here’s how Hezbollah is painted or seen by the West:
- a “terrorist” organization
- a powerful “state-within-a-state” that dwarfs the Lebanese government’s power
- an “Iranian-influenced” group, Iran’s proxy
- a “radical Islam/Islamic fundamentalist” party
- a group of “Shiite trouble-makers”
- a source of instability to the region
- a group that inspires trouble in the Palestinian Territories and doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist

Contrast the above list with the following messages that the late Hariri was promoting about Lebanon, and which the Seniora’s Lebanese government wishes they could just focus on:
- safe for investments
- booming economy
- construction renaissance
- excellent for tourism, world-class services and hospitality
- economic renewal
- banking and financial center for the middle-east
- a model democracy, multi-cultural, multi-confessional, open society

Let’s face it: Hezbollah’s image with the West is an anchor to Lebanon’s economic future because the above messages, when put together contradict themselves.

We should ask: What will Hezbollah do about it? Will they change their name or re-brand themselves? How will they shake-out their “bad boy” image”?

If Lebanon were to be at peace with Israel, (as it “almost” did from 2000 to 2006), would Hezbollah’s bad image just “go away”? Can they eventually become a normal political party that doesn’t endanger Lebanon’s future anymore? Can their military apparatus effectively integrate itself inside the Lebanese Army and become a deterrent force that’s controlled by the Lebanese State, and not by Iran or Syria?

If we, Lebanese are to “accept” and integrate Hezbollah into the Lebanese political system, we have to deal with Hezbollah’s external image issue. We have to ask them the tough questions:

What is Hezbollah’s vision for Lebanon? What is the “end-game”? What happens when Israel agrees to return the Shebaa farms and Lebanese prisoners? Will Hezbollah accept peace thereafter? Once more, how will Hezbollah get rid of its bad image with the West?

Hezbollah succeeded in making their agenda Lebanon’s agenda for 32 days. During the July war, “we were all Hezbollah” meant that we were all united in the fight for Lebanon’s survival, since we suddenly all became victims of the Israeli aggression. Going forward, can Lebanon find its own voice in the aftermath of this war, amidst the brouhaha of Hezbollah’s high octane agenda?

In today’s globalized world, interdependencies matter. We can’t just ignore what the Western world thinks about Lebanon and only focus on the fact that Iran and Syria love us for our resistance to Israel. Why does Lebanon have to be “more Catholic than the Pope” in the fight against Israel? If anything, the July war served a backlash to the Palestinians, since Israel slowed down their disengagement and withdrawal plans from the West Bank and Gaza.

Let’s get real. How will Hezbollah get rid of its bad image with the West?

(Note: Comments are moderated. This means that you will experience a delay between posting and publishing. Please do not post multiple times.)

4 Comments:

Blogger steve said...

sorry.you bring up some fine points,but if you share a home with a gang of hate-filled mass murdering terrorists,decent people will quite sensibly avoid your home and not wish to visit you.And the mass murderers may someday smile nicely, but nice people will still keep well away. And they should.

I feel for the good people in Lebanom,but those are the facts.

3:00 PM  
Blogger JoseyWales said...

TM,

Hezbo is not interested in its image, nor in making the Lebanese economy work the way you suggest.

The Shebaa/prisoners question was asked of Hezbo a while back and answered with "No peace/no armistice" FOREVER.

That's what we have to deal with.


PS Please stop comment moderation, TM and other bloggers.

5:10 AM  
Blogger Charles Malik said...

TM,

Once their weapons are taken away, I don't think image will matter much.

The main concern is creating a stable state. Even if religious political parties calling for war with other countries still exist on Lebanese soil, there is little to deter a market.

We all know the Lebanese propensity to spend lavishly on useless goods. What person would want to stay out of that market when he knows he can make a quick buck and have few risks of losing his investment?

11:43 PM  
Blogger Neil Williams said...

Don't miss George Galloway Respect MP - Live from Beirut on Saturday and Sunday.

George Galloway's weekly radio talk-in shows will be broadcast live from Beirut this weekend.

George has gone to Lebanon to show his solidarity with the many families who have had family members killed and injured and who have lost their homes, their work and their businesses, and also to show his support for the Lebanese resistance that the Israeli military was singularly unable to defeat.

We hope you will tune into his programmes and that you will also phone in (UK phone numbers: PHONE THE SHOW ON: 08704 20 20 20
TEXT YOUR COMMENTS TO: 81089) support, especially as there will no doubt be an attempt by apologists for the Israeli government and Blair and Bush to try to flood the programme with calls.

"I'm the first British political figure to visit the wreckage of Beirut and the south of Lebanon, seeing for myself the enormous toll taken by 33 days of aerial bombardment. I'll be reporting to Talksport listeners on just what I've found here and inviting guests from across the spectrum in Lebanon who know what they're talking about. I'll be taking calls as normal and we'll make it a two day special on the conflict in the Middle East, its fundamental causes and, a way forward for peace."

George Galloway MP

George is live on talkSport 1089/1053 AM
Saturday and Sunday between 8pm and 10pm

Live Internet link (click the LISTEN NOW button in the side bar) at:
http://www1.talksport.net/index.asp

PRESS Contact:
Phone Rob Hoveman on (UK) 07749 411191

More information on Respect and George Galloway the Respect MP at the Respect Supporters Blog:
http://respectuk.blogspot.com/

Neil Williams
Respect Blog
http://respectuk.blogspot.com/

3:50 AM  

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