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Were the IAWM right to invite Hezbullah to an anti-war meeting?
Short summary of the debate around the decision of the IAWM to invite a representative of Hezbollah to an anti-war public meeting in Dublin on Saturday 4th November. The article also includes copyrighted photos of the meeting by R Whelan.
The visit of Ibrahim Mussawi of Hezbullah (Lebanon) to Ireland over the past week as a guest of the Irish Anti War Movement has raised some eyebrows among anti-war activists and regular contributors to Indymedia Ireland. MichaelY from the IAWM began by outlining his organisation's position: "Perhaps the most crucial political point of them all. The IAWM is NOT a "Peace organisation" - there are, at least, 10-12 Peace organisations in this country, some of them anti-war/some of them not. The IAWM, as stated in its constitution, is an anti-imperialist organisation whose main objective is to stop the use of Shannon and other Irish facilities by the forces of the Empire, while simultaneously extending support and solidarity with those who are invaded, and those who fight against that invasion and occupation by any means at their disposal.
"It is in this context that we invited Ibrahim Mussawi and it is this context that many of us, especially the older members of the IAWM, supported the Vitenamese NLF and the Catholic inspired armed national liberation movements in Latin America. It is in this context many of us served time for being supporters of the ANC in South Africa , Frelimo in Mozambique or closer at home, the armed Irish movements. We don't see as our role to pick and choose...who is secular and who is not, who is anarchist and who is not, who is armed or not/peaceful, who is for NVDA and who for elections. Who is Gandhian and who Gramscian. Who is a Trotskyist and who Marxist Leninist. Who is a nationalist and who a republican. We support all of them...those who fight, those who resist, those who dream of a better world, those who block and protest while singing the Rosary. All of them."
Fintan Lane of Anti-War Ireland spoke up first on the issue: "In my opinion, inviting a person from an organisation engaged in (defensive) war is a problem only if one is promoting their political position. I don't know if the IAWM or SWP sang the praises of Hezbullah at yesterday's meeting, but one would hope not. My personal political position (as a non-pacifist) is that Hezbullah and any other Lebanese group were perfectly entitled to defend their country against Israeli aggression. I would also be understanding of actions taken in defence of Palestinians. However, that's definitely not the same as embracing the conservative, religion-soaked politics of Hezbullah, which I have no time for.
"The anti-war movement needs to be absolutely clear in its rejection of Christian and Islamic fundamentalism, and the associated bigotry. I'm a socialist and I'm not interested in promoting a conservative religious movement that frowns (I'm putting this very mildly) upon women, gays, socialists and societal tolerance. It's easy, when you're not on the ground, to declare one's admiration for certain Islamic conservatives (in opposition to Israeli and US aggression), but the reality is different for those struggling for left-wing ideas, gay rights, women's emancipation, and so on in societies dominated by these conservative political movements. It also should be remembered that Hezbullah deliberately fired missiles into Israeli civilian areas during the recent conflict and, while the provocation was immense, this still constitutes a war crime."
One anonymous annoyed activist thanked MichaelY for his contribution, yet saying while s/he could "sympathise with the idea that the IAWM is not so much anti-war as anti-imperialist, I still can't see how you can justify inviting a Hizbullah speaker. This is an organization that, as other people have pointed out, has engaged in attacks on civilian targets in Israel that have been widely condemned as war crimes, it's an organization whose leaders have frequently spouted extreme anti-Jewish rhetoric (don't believe me? read Amal Saad-Ghorayeb´s excellent and not unsympathetic book "Hizbullah: Politics and Religion") and of course it's also an organization that benefitted from and sought to prolong the corrupt and brutal rule of Lebanon by the Syrian regime's secret police apparatus. No-one can deny that Hizbullah is a major and genuinely popular political force in Lebanon, or that it played the principal role in ending the Israeli occupation of the South, or indeed that it was the only force that engaged in capable resistance during the recent Israeli invasion, but is this an organization that a group calling itself the Irish Anti-War movement should really be associating itself with? Surely we can get a bit beyond "my enemy's enemy is my friend"?"
MichaelY responded again: "On Hezbollah....I have just finished reading David Morrison's excellent pamphlet 'Lebanon - Hezbollah Wins' - A Labour and Trade Union review pamphlet. Available from the IAWM for €3 if requested. From David's work, and my conversation with him yesterday, and talking to Ibrahim Mussawi, over the last few days, coupled with my few trips to Lebanon over the last few years, I've learnt an enormous amount. Of who they are, why they are, what their plans are, what their composition is, their solidarity work with the Palestinians [did you know there are over 250,000 Palestinian refugees living in camps in Lebanon] who are regarded by the 'democratic' Lebanese society as parasites to be got rid of? With all that baggage, I don't think the IAWM needs to 'justify' its invitation to a Hezbollah militant to come to Ireland and speak to us......over 1,000 activists went to listen to Ibrahim across the country....they, we, I, don't need a justification or a certificate of political 'correctness'' - I join the thousands upon thousands in the London pro-Palestinian demonstration last August who chanted 'We are all Hezbollah now'. I join my Palestinian friends in Ramallah and Jerusalem, and some locals in the Falls, who fly yellow Hezbollah flags.....I embrace a couple of young Eirigi activists who when we are postering in the streets last week, came up and asked us for Hezbollah tee-shirts...they were at the meeting yesterday and, Jaysus, were they welcome."
Cian of the Socialist Party was not impressed: "It is a sign of political degeneration and shifts rightward on the parts of the SWP and the IAWM that a Hizbullah speaker was invited and that political suport was offered to him. Hizbullah offers not only no way forward for Lebanon (being a sectarian based oranisation, currently experiencing broadened out appear, but inevitably this will revert back to sectarian tensions), but also offers no way to actually put an end to Imperialism. In order to defeat US and Israeli Imperialism a mass, secular resistance movement is needed in Iraq, based on democratic defence committees and forces. In order to defeat it once and for all and establish viable independant states of Iraq, Palstine and Lebanon a class movement, including Israeli workers is needed to overthrow the war mongering elites, and the reactionary leaders. This means the Israeli Capitalist class and the Arab elite. That means the job of true anti-imperialists in Lebanon is also to create a force in opposition to Hizbullah, a CLASS force, a new party which wll show Hizbullah up to be the right wing islamic fundamentalist, sectarian, anti-women, anti-worker, homophobic organisation it is. SWP, however, in the interest of token 'broadness' are throwing class out the window and blocking out questions about how to actually DEFEAT imperialism."
The debate continues below - keep to the editorial guidelines