Posts Tagged ‘eyal zisser’

On Samir Quntar’s homecoming and Lebanese/Arab Culture

July 22, 2008

[Being Civilized]

Comment: Those familiar with the field of Middle Eastern Studies know the culture debate (i.e. blaming all the ills of Arab/Muslim society on culture, rather than on hard political, economic factors etc.) is nothing new. French scholar Maxime Rodinson referred to the tendency of ‘Orientalists’ (or scholars of the Orient, which has now become a dirty word) to attribute all actions of Muslims to their religion as Theologocentrism. Mahmood Mamdani of Colombia University has a good survey of the culture debate in his Foreign Affairs piece Wither Political Islam?, in which he sides against the culturists.

While it’s clear that culture cannot account for all of these ills, let’s face it, the ‘victory’ rallies for Samir Quntar in Beirut and elsewhere in Lebanon — given what he did — epitomize a deep sickness in Arab culture and society. In what other region would the populace consider ‘victory’ as involving a war that results in 1,200 deaths and many more maimings, a ruined country and $5 billion in economic damages, all for the perceived humiliation of Israel and the successful return, among other lesser prisoners, of this unsavory character, Quntar? What kind of inferiority complex must there be for that to constitute ‘victory’?

To be fair, as the below Jerusalem Post article points out, not all Lebanese are in fact happy about Quntar’s release — not because he killed a baby — but because many of them who are opponents of Hizbullah worry about the domestic implications of another Hizbullah victory.

(Jerusalem Post) — “(Eyal) Zisser said the response in Lebanon was completely different from one that would have been seen in Israel due to cultural differences. Israel wouldn’t use the return of soldiers for political gain, and the celebration in Israel would have been about “the return of the individual,” and not victory, he said. “This is something you can only find in primitive societies,” said Zisser.

So why is there a need to celebrate the return of a terrorist known to have killed a child? “When you have an ideology that Zionism is the epitome of evil, when you dehumanize your enemy, you can justify anything,” said Litvak. “He didn’t kill a child. He killed a Zionist.”

Moshe Maoz, a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at Hebrew University, said the need to defeat Israel was deeply entrenched in the Arab culture.

“Anything they can recover from the feeling of humiliation [following past losses against Israel] is welcome,” Maoz said… Click for full article


‘Lebanese Carlos’ Killed in Damascus Blast

February 13, 2008


My immediate reaction to Imad Mughniyah’s assassination is that it was almost certainly the Israelis, who have had a long-standing and well deserved grudge against him. It appears Israel has adopted the now common Al Qaeda and Hamas post-attack practice of praising the event while denying responsibility for it. Thus, Israeli Environment Minister Gideon Ezra, formerly a senior intelligence officer, stated today, “I, of course, do not know who carried out the assassination of Imad, but he should be blessed.” If it was Israel, it also proves the Mossad still maintains extensive intelligence and operational capabilities in the region for which the organization has become famous. This man, Mughniyah was very difficult to kill. Read for example, about the last botched attempt to kill him in the 1990s when they got his brother instead, a car shop owner in Beirut.

One note of caution however: There were a number of other countries and players who were after him. Thus, the possibility someone else could have carried out the assassination, while not likely, can not be ruled out. Dr Eyal Zisser, head of the the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University (who is a personal friend of mine) said today that Mughniyah “was wanted by 42 countries, most of the world was after him. Israel’s official denial just adds another question mark to all the others raised by the assassination.” Nonetheless, it remains largely irrelevant because Hizbullah will not wait for an investigation.

Some analysts will probably point to the timing of Mughniyah’s killing to implicate Israel, noting that just this week Israel announced it may launch targeted assassinations against the Hamas leadership in response to ongoing Qassam rocket attacks against Israeli towns in the western Negev — Hamas and Hizbullah being two completely different organizations notwithstanding. Some may conclude it was meant as a signal to Damascus-based exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal that the Qassams must stop, or perhaps there are other recent events to which they will discover a link. But on the contrary, I think timing has very little to do with this. Israel and possibly other players have been trying to kill the elusive Mughniyah for years without success, until today. In the world of intelligence, it’s well understood that when you have a valuable target in your sights, you pull the trigger. The longer you wait, the higher the chance of your plot being uncovered, the greater the danger to your operatives on the ground. Frankly, if it were so easy to assassinate Mughniyah at a given time Israel saw fit to send a message, he would have been killed years ago. Speaking to the Jerusalem Post today, retired Israeli Brigadier-General and senior Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) research fellow Shlomo Brom stated, “As far as timing is concerned, it’s probably little more than grabbing the opportunity. If you read James Bond novels you might think that reaching someone is easy, but in reality a security service can be tracking a person down for years and years before getting a chance to strike.”

Remember that scene in Scarface when Tony Montana is enlisted by Sosa to help his assassin dispose of a journalist who is about to expose the drug trafficking industry? As they sit and wait for the journalist to come out of his hotel, his wife and children get in the explosive-laden car along with him. At this point Montana refuses to allow Sosa’s assassin to push the detonator, despite his insistence to carry out the operation, and Montana shoots him a few moments later in a fit of coked-out rage. Montana turns to Sosa’s man and says, “What’d you think of that, huh? What you think, I’m a fucking worm like you?… I told you, no fucking kids! No, but you wouldn’t listen, why, you stupid fuck, look at you now.” Afterwards the explosive device is found under the journalist’s car and the plot is uncovered.

Mughniyah was truly vicious and nobody should shed a tear for him although some in the Arab world undoubtedly will. But before you go celebrate, know that there will be consequences. Hizbullah has a proven track record of tit for tat responses to Israeli attacks. We don’t know yet when, where or how many dead. First of all, there is the possibility of retaliation against captive Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, two cards Hizbullah currently holds against Israel. At the very least we should not expect their return anytime soon. However, much more likely is that Hizbullah will retaliate either with a high profile assassination of their own, as predicted by Timur Goksel, lecturer on international relations in Beirut and a former United Nations official in south Lebanon, or will opt for a larger and more gruesome attack against Jewish or Israeli targets abroad, resembling the 1992 attack on the Israeli embassy in Beunos Aires and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center, also in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people. These attacks are seen as retaliation for the Israeli assassination of former Hizbullah leader Abbas Musawi in 1992, and for Israel’s 1994 raid on Hezbollah’s Ein Dardara training camp in the Bekaa Valley. Musawi was then replaced by the more charismatic and effective Hassan Nasrallah.

Only in this case, there is no chance any replacement for Mughniyah will be more effective than he was. And Mughniyah won’t be planning the retaliation this time around.