Motorcycle Diaries Part XVII

I was seeking sanctuary from the scorching heat of an Aqaba July afternoon in my hotel room when I tuned in to the live footage of the arrival in south Lebanon of the freed prisoners from Israeli jails. Unshackled from their jailors by force, Hizbullah delivered what it promised to do two years ago and coerced Israel to release those whom its top politicians and generals declared will never be set free.

The other story in the news on the very same day was the gun attack at the Roman Amphitheatre in Amman, where a deranged Islamist opened fire at the audience of a musical concert. How the two stories are closely connected, I shall reveal after I share with you the totally new kind of emotion that enveloped me as I followed the parade of the liberated men on TV (alongside the coffins of the fallen fighters, inside one of which lay Dalal Mughrabi, whose corpse Ehud Barak personally mutilated in 1978 and invited the cameras to record his primeval act).

As I watched this historic event, I didn’t know how to define the overwhelming jolt of elation that swept my own sun-mutilated corpse. Why did it seem so unusual to belong to a nation that gave birth to a dedicated group of fighters who refused to abandon their captured comrades, I asked myself? Why was I so surprised to feel that way? Indeed, the extraordinary nobility of those who persevered and offered their lives to twist the arms of the captors of their brothers-in-arms was a manifestation of military valor and gallantry in combat that I have not witnessed in recent memory from my own nation folk. Then I realized what this sensation was like

The only people in this region who have always lit a candle of solidarity for their missing sons and daughters were not the Arab countries. Finally, I could feel as privileged as Jews do. For the first time in my life, and although I never wished for it, I felt like an Israeli. Indeed, one of the reasons the Israelis have always conquered their Arab adversaries was because their soldiers go into battle knowing that their leaders and their people shall never rest until they return them to their families, whether living or dead.

And now, this most honorable trait with its noblest values of gratitude to your fighting brethren combined with the solemn vow to leave no man or woman behind, is no longer monopolized by our enemies. The sweltering Aqaba sun became cooler all of a sudden as the refreshing breeze of redeemed dignity penetrated my soul.

But some people want to snatch that pride away from us, using the most ridiculous and shameful of arguments to tarnish the only bright spot of hope across a demoralized and defeated nation. They keep shedding their crocodile tears over the wanton destruction that Israel inflicted upon Lebanon in its aggression two summers ago, and never cease to blame Hizbullah for inviting such a war on that beautiful Mediterranean nation. But how can Hizbullah be responsible if an irrational beast chose to punish all of Lebanon for no justifiable reason? What would the Cypriots have said if Israel decided to bomb Cyprus in July 2006 because there is a substantial Lebanese community living there? Would you imagine having one single Cypriot clown coming out and blaming Hizbullah for such unprovoked attacks by Israel?

Did Britain blast Ireland to smithereens to fight the IRA? Did Spain flatten the Basque country to avenge the actions of ETA? Nevertheless, you have rabid local columnists – the ones who still insist that Israel did not lose the last war despite Israel’s own admission of defeat – who took it upon themselves to advocate the US stance in demonizing anyone connected to the new public enemy no. 1, the evil Persians.

To perform their new dirty role, these agitators must, against all evidence and reason, keep undermining the role of Hizbullah in Lebanon, despite the fact that this Shiite group is allied in an unprecedented manifestation of national unity with the majority of Lebanon’s Christians against a gang of war criminals and warlords who still have not been held to account for their cruel devastation of their entire nation during 15 years of civil war. Hizbullah is implementing a Shiite Iranian agenda in Lebanon, these quasi-journalists would tell you, and not a whimper you would hear from them about the sponsors of the Fateh Al Islam Sunni group that burnt down Nahr Al Bared refugee camp last year (for a full exposé of the parties behind the funding and arming of Shaker Al Ibsi and his followers, read Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s article in the New Yorker magazine, March issue, 2007).

It is no longer acceptable not to speak out with outrage against this nauseating vilification of Iran’s role in our region, for the Wahabist alternative we are asked to swallow is downright horrendous and, frankly speaking, absolutely indigestible. And let me begin here by reminding everyone that I am not a fan of any group that proclaims religious values in its earthly endeavors, whether it be Sunni or Shiite, Judaic or Christian. I have in fact risked myself several times in the past by taking a public stand against the excesses of religious zealotry, and have endured my fair share of defamation in the process.

But in this case, I sense there is something profoundly perverse in the current campaign to denigrate all Shiites as subversive agents of an expansionist Persian empire, as it serves only one divisive purpose obvious for all. The latest blatant exaggerations of this off-beat circus band betrayed its members when one usual suspect wrote recently that moving the exhumed bodies out of Israel in the latest prisoners swap was deplorable in his opinion. This columnist, who shifted in his late life to the extreme right wing ranks, and in order to score a cheap point against Hizbullah, suddenly proclaimed that those buried in Israel, meaning the land occupied in 1948, were in fact laid to rest in “Palestine”, because “Israel never demarcated its borders”, and therefore the dead should have stayed there (although this shifter would never even be heard referring to land occupied in 1967 as Palestine, let alone to now deny Israel’s existence in order to make his sanctimonious argument).

For the shifter who made a career for himself out of his daily Iran-bashing rants to claim that Dalal Mughrabi was dignified in her unmarked Israeli grave is quite astonishing, since he knows too well that Dalal was displayed by the mutilators of dead corpses in a glass coffin at the Judicial Institute of Autopsy for Zionist students to peek at her before she was dumped without ceremony in an anonymous graveyard in what Israel termed the “Enemy Combatant Cemetery”. To pretend now that the fact that her family can finally afford her a proper burial is somehow lamentable, defies all human norms of decency and simply beggars belief.

But let me get back to the imaginary Iranian threat being propagated by the scaremongers in our midst. As I said, I have absolutely no interest or desire to defend the Iranians or what their revolution stands for, but we owe it to ourselves to examine in depth what the ideological counterpart that is being offered on the menu for our children’s future is all about.

If it’s going to be the reinforcement of the Wahabist stranglehold of the Sunni sect of madness that produced the likes of Bin Laden and Zarqawi; if it’s going to be the stream of insanity that wants to ban all aspects of beauty, art and splendor in Islam; if it’s going to be the deformed version of our great religion that prevents women from driving cars and has a grudge against all elements of refined civilization; if it’s going to be the cult of hate and death that declares all Shiites, Christians and Jews as apostates who must be killed; if it’s going to be the same ignorant hordes who have bulldozed and erased every single physical remnant of Islam’s history in Mecca and Medina; and, finally, if it’s going to be the uglification brand of Islam that brainwashes our youth to become cold-blooded murderers by opening fire at a musical concert in downtown Amman on a peaceful summer night, then without a doubt, I salute the glorious brigades of Hizbullah in this battle of ideologies.

To be totally honest, I am not too concerned to take sides in an historic squabble that took place more than fourteen centuries ago, and don’t particularly enjoy the sight of bloody chest-beatings today by those who still can’t get over the outcome of that dispute. But if I am seriously asked today whether I would stand with Mu’awiya or his enemy in that ancient battle, then by all means I solidly stand with the Hashemite household of the Prophet Muhammad, the Shiites of Ali and his sons, as any human being with any sense of justice would.

And today, despite all its shortcomings that I would be the first to denounce, Iran is still a country that at least has a cinema industry competing in Cannes and Venice, and its Tehran Philharmonic Orchestra leaves a lot to be desired in the Sunni dominated world. They not only allow their women to drive, but they have women Ministers and women Members of Parliament, and you would never hear that an Iranian woman would get sentenced to one hundred lashes after she was gang-raped by seven men, or that little school girls would be forced back to their deaths inside a burning school to avoid them exposing their hair in public.

Iran never invaded any Arab country, nor has it facilitated the invasion of an Arab country, and if its only crime is in supporting the first and only Arab party to give Israel its first taste of defeat and humiliation, then I smell a rotten rat in all this dubious war-drumming, Persian-punching extravaganza.

May all our martyrs rest in peace, wherever in God’s earth they may be resting.

Take care, and if you ride, do it safely.

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