The leader of the Lebanese party Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has articulated a defence of territorial unity across the Arab world while also calling for respecting the human rights of all non-Arab minorities across the region. In a speech which invoked the ideals anti-imperialist Arab nationalism, Nasrallah made it clear that the opposition to the recent referendum by Kurds in Northern Iraq among those calling for Arab unity, is based on considerations regarding political survival and one that rejects ethno-nationalism in all its forms.
Hezbollah’s official news outlet Al-Manar reports the following (Nasrallah’s quotes are indicated by bold lettering)
“Following the defeat of ISIL, the region is before a dangerous scheme of division, Sayyed Nasrallah said, warning that such scheme is represented in the secession of Kurdistan region in Iraq.
“We say to our beloved Kurds that the issue is not about deciding your fate, but about dividing the region according to sectarian and ethnic belonging.”
The Lebanese resistance leader called on people of the region to confront such scheme which echoes the “New Middle East”, which was plotted by former US president George W. Bush.
“The people of this region bear responsibility of confronting this scheme of division.”
His eminence also called on people of the region to refrain from resorting to ethnic bias.
“There should not be ethnic bias between Arabs, Kurds or Iranians, the problem is not with Kurds, it’s political one.”
Sayyed Nasrallah in this context warned that wars in the region are in favor of ‘Israel’ and US along with the latter’s arms companies”.
This view which embraces an all encompassing anti-imperialist Arab nationalism, one that rejects the ethno-nationalism of any one group, is consistent with the traditions of the great secular Arab nationalists movements including Ba’athism, Nasserism and Gaddafi’s Third International Theory. While Hezbollah is a religious party, it is careful to reject faith based sectarianism let alone ethno-nationalism.
As I wrote yesterday in The Duran,
“The 20th century witnessed the birth of Arab nationalism, a series of movements and political parties which aimed to restore independence and unity in the Arab world after centuries of Ottoman rule, as well as more recent decades of western imperialist occupation and aggression.
Arab nationalists were anti-tribal, progressive and anti-sectarian. Arab nationalists sought to retain the traditional harmony in which Arab Muslims lived with one another as well as with their Christian and Jewish neighbours. Likewise, Arab nationalist parties did not favour discrimination against ethnic minorities. In many cases, Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians welcomed Arab nationalism as a progressive respite against late Ottoman realities that were increasingly ethnocentric and genocidal.
The progressive realities of Arab nationalism contrast with the aggression of western imperialism, the backwardness of Wahhabism, the settler colonialism of Zionism and the ethno-nationalism of present day Kurdish secessionists.
In this sense, while the Kurds have spun a narrative that they are oppressed freedom fighters, the reality is rather different. Iraqi Kurds are attempting to break apart the unity of the Arab world and in so doing, threatening the survival of what remains of the Arab nationalist ideal. If the Kurds got their way, many Arabs and other minorities such as Turkomen would find themselves becoming refugees in their own country as a result of Kurdish ethno-nationalism. By contrast, in the modern Arab world, Kurds are not threatened. One could say that they are fact, in a privileged position.
Furthermore, with many Arab nationalist governments being the victims of neo-imperialism from the west, Wahhabi terrorism from Saudi Arabia and its allies, in addition to Israel occupation and intimation, one can easily see why Arab states like Iraq have clearly stated their opposition to a further dagger in the heart of the Arab world”.
In this sense, while Turkey has approached the Kurdish issue from the understandable perspective of national security concerns, for the wider Arab world, it is a matter of opposition to the division of more Arab land, creating more Arab refugees and allowing Israel, a sworn adversary of Arab unity, to gain a geo-strategic foothold in the heart of the Arab world, so as to better execute the Yinon Plan calling for further Israeli annexation of Arab land. This is as unacceptable to Arab leaders as a Kurdish statelet on Turkey or Iran’s borders, is to the leadership in Ankara and Tehran.
Iraq and Syria have both worked to make life for Kurdish citizens not only acceptable but prosperous. In Iraq, Kurds have enjoyed generous amounts of autonomy, more so that almost any minority group in any other country. Meanwhile Syria which gives full citizenship rights to Syrian Kurds has pledged to review Kurdish autonomy when the war against Takfiri terrorism is over.
Syria’s statement as well as that of Hezbollah, shows that the Arab world does not seek to exclude minorities. It is a matter of defending multi-cultural Arab lands from a creeping neo-imperialism which seeks to disenfranchise Arabs in their own homes, one hundred years after the the Balfour Declaration and one hundred and one years after the equally infamous Sykes-Picot agreement.