Encounter with a fighter


From Al Ahram: The late Eqbal Ahmad interviews Hassan Nassrallah in 1998:

Inside the Imam Al-Mehdi School in Ouzai, a Lebanese village near the Israel-Lebanon border, seven coffins lay in a row. Outside, men were preparing for their burial when a small convoy of cars arrived bearing among others the secretary-general of Hizbullah, the largest armed party which has for 15 years resisted Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon. In the coffins lay the Hizbullah fighters who had fallen in past battles. They were among the 40 Lebanese “prisoners”, dead and alive, who came home on that day, 26 June 1998, in exchange for the remains of an Israeli soldier.

Sayed Hassan Nasrallah entered the hall in solemn dignity accompanied by Jawad, his teenage son. He stopped before each coffin and offered the Fatiha (the Muslim equivalent of the Lord’s Prayer) until he reached the one marked 13. He beckoned an aide and spoke to him in a whisper. The aide summoned two workers of the Islamic Health Association, a Hizbullah outfit. They opened the coffin exposing a body wrapped in a white shroud. Sheikh Nasrallah’s eyes closed, his lips trembled as he offered the Fatiha. Slowly, he bent over and tenderly stroked the head of Hadi Nasrallah, his eldest son who was 18-years-old when he died in battle on 13 September. Jawad, the younger son stood still and pale next to his father. A deep silence fell on the room while his right hand rested on his son’s chest. It was broken by the clicking of a reporter’s camera but promptly returned when Sheikh Nasrallah looked up in cold surprise.

Our primary objective has been resistance to Israeli occupations. I993 was a watershed of sorts as Israel’s invasion then, and our resistance to it, brought us national legitimacy that made even Christians accept Hizbullah as an authentic national force. As for our ideological mission, to be Islamic in Lebanon entails the Islamisation of the Muslim individual and community, its values and way of life.”

Given the centrality of resistance against Israel to Hizbullah’s programme and party structure, we raised a question about the scope and future of armed resistance. What will happen when Israel withdraws from Lebanon which, in view of its recent demarche, may in fact occur? “We shall not accept a withdrawal based on Israeli conditions. Liberation cannot be conditional. Israel committed aggression, it occupies our land, it is our sacred right to resist, and this resistance shall continue until it withdraws.”

Does this principle apply to Palestine also, and to the Golan Heights? “The strategies of Syria and Lebanon are linked. As for the Palestinians, if their leaders compromise there is little we can do. We cannot substitute for their leadership. If they decide to resist we shall be on their side.”

What then is your vision of Palestine? “We wish for the liberation of the Palestinian people among whom we count Jews, Muslims and Christians.”

More here. (Thanks to Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy).