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August 02, 2006



I don't have anything huge to add to this - the downside of substantitively agreeing with you. But I do notice one effect of the shift to the popular/resistance frame: its emphasis on unity. Maybe this is an obvious point, but it feels like space for internal dissent and dialogue seriously constrict at times like this. Even those who aren't fond of the resistance, or of symbolic competition over who leads the resistance, are rather hard-pressed to say anything about it. Don't criticize the tactics of the resistance: we cannot handle division in a time of war (sounds eerily familiar, really). Which, from a public diplomacy point of view, is a nightmare.

If doing anything that popularizes the resistance frame - with its emphasis on unity and its ability to make people who, say, otherwise despise Hizballah at least visibly support it - can basically shut down internal dialogue and focus all attention on the actions of the crusader imperialist etc., that puts the Unites States in a place with very limited options for pursuing a reform agenda (assuming this administration is serious about it, which I am not willing to assume at this point).

Anyway, at least normatively, there's something troubling about the effects of the resistance frame, especially insofar as it makes it hard to even criticize the ones doing the resisting on tactical grounds (as happened with Siniora), let alone broader ones


That's a great point, and an important one - this is very much a populist, mobilizational moment and not a dialogue moment, which is understandable but still upsetting.

Paul Anderson

Nice overview. A valuable service to those of us who lack a broader perspective on what is being said in the East.

Best wishes


What about the effect of the Israeli land invasion? It is one thing to bomb from the air and quite another to actually invade and capture land, specially since much of this conflict involves competing claims to land. Perhaps the bandwagon got going after Israeli troops crossed the border and invaded Lebanon again. The fact that Hizbollah stood their ground and fought must have contrasted unfavorably with all those Arab states who seemed to simply collaps in the face of Israeli or U.S. invasions.

Joe M.

Actually, I think you are missing the bigger picture here. Rather then asking how each Islamist faction or personality is reacting, I think it is more important to emphisize what it is that they are reacting to. There may be some political considerations as to the exact timing of various responses, but do you really think there is much chance that the Egyptian Akhwan, Fadlallah, Qaradawi or Sistani, hell or even Nancy Ajram, Kathem Saher, Mahmoud Darwish or any other person in the Middle East would come out against Hizbullah?

I mean, I think the more proper analogy is the 1979 revolution in Iran. In that revolution, basically every faction and personality came out against the Shah at some point. The actual timing was often political, but the Shah was hated and did need to go, so how could anyone come out in his favor? Even the case of cartoons in Denmark, I think it is safe to say that the people were protesting the West more then they were protesting the specific cartoons (which most people didn't even see).

My point is that I think the points you raise about the "islamist bandwagon" are also a "red herring". rather then discuss which faction jumped on the "bandwagon" at what time, I would have focused on how Islamist are really the only nationalists left in the Middle East. The current leaders have pretty much castrated the other nationalist forces and Islam has become the most legitimate political vehicle for people to voice their dissent. As with the Iranian revolution, all people in the Middle East share the same grievances, but the Islamists have done a better job in building their roots and developing an method to express dissent. Even within Kefaya in Egypt, the big debate is about whether to join forces with the Islamists. The Islamists know they don't need the secular forces, but both sides share the same general grievences (at least, say, the top 5 or so). The seculars talk about being an ant riding on the back of an elephant.

Baheyya pretty much sums in up in her latest post when she says (http://baheyya.blogspot.com):
"there's a key difference between the 1950s and now. Today’s nationalists are far more formidable foes for the hell bent powers. Hamas and Hizballah are immeasurably more significant than Nasser and even Mossadeq. Why? Because unlike Nasser, their legitimacy rests on a firm electoral base and decades of dogged constituency service. As Nasserists are the first to admit, Abdel Nasser did things for the people, not by them. His legitimacy was real, his popularity was palpable, but his undoing was swift."

Joe M.

I will just add, this also happened in South America in the 60s, 70s and 80s when "liberation theology" became the most obvious nationalist force. that was, for that matter, a time when there were no "democratic" countries in the region, the USA is putting its nose deep into their business, and thee was a lot of repression.

Anna in Portland (was Cairo)

My kids and I (homesick) were listening to "Melody" (the Arab pop station) on the Internet and we heard a Shaaban Abdel Rehim song we had not heard before called "Two soldiers" (etneed asakir) which seems to be about Lebanon as well. To me, it's pretty impressive that pop stars can also get it together fast enough to issue out new songs that are topical about an Israeli offensive a bit more than a week after it starts.

Also just to echo what was being said up thread, I lived in Egypt for the past 8 years and I have heard a lot of grassroots sort of supportive statements regarding AhmediNajad and Hezbollah - without ANY "but then again they are Shia" sort of position taken. I think the Egyptian people (and probably the other peoples of the Middle East) have figured out the Divide and Rule technique a while ago (if they had not, they'd be real idiots, after all).


I have a question.

I've been watching the translated versions of the Arab tv's (you know, the ones where they're not blowing sunshine up our butt's), and what I would like to know is how much of the "OMG, WE SO HATE AMERICA! EVERYONE! DEATH TO AMERICA!" is really an expression of their hatred for the US, or is it just boiler plate rant that plays well to the masses?
I'm detecting a disconnect, and I would like to start sorting it out before I make up my mind about what I think should be done.


Are you talking about MEMRI's TV translations? I can't think of anywhere else that does what you are talking about. For starters, MEMRI is an utterly unrepresentative sample. I'd go fishing for a proper sample before you start trying to figure out the meaning of something a bunch of ex-Israeli spooks decided to claim was an accurate representation. If you want to know what the Arab media is actually saying from someone writing in English who knows and follows the original Arabic, spend some time here digging through Abu Aardvark's archives. That is about the best way to answer your question.

Anna in Portland (was Cairo)

Try actually reading the "Arab TV" (as you call it) English language websites. They all have them.

Abdurahman Warsame

It's a reasonable analysis of the media trends in Middle East. The masses that support Hezbollah in the Arab world are mainly Sunna because they see Hezbollah as an Arab force rather than Shia.

Anyone who stands against Israel and the US is nowadays seen as a hero regardless. That's most evident here in the gulf where the Shia are seen as threat because of the large iranian population but there is still tremendous support for Hezbollah.

I work for Aljazeera and I'm new to blogging, I hope you could drop by "civilexpression.blogspot.com" and let me know what you think i should improve.

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