September 29, 2006

Nasrallah said what?

I blogged an LRB article by Charles Glass on Hizbullah a few weeks ago. Have a look at the post or the article itself here. It was about how Hizbullah had come of age over the past couple of decades. Well the article elicited an angry response in the letters page in the next edition. See this:
I do not support the terrible excesses of Israel’s bombing of Lebanon, nor do I regard all criticism of Israel as an expression of anti-semitism, but Charles Glass’s defence of Hizbullah is beyond the pale (LRB, 17 August). Is Glass familiar with these statements, made by Hizbullah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah? ‘If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide’ and ‘They [Jews] are a cancer which is liable to spread at any moment.’ The leader of the Party of God (a grotesque conception of a political party, although that doesn’t seem to bother Glass) is not simply a resistance fighter. He is an anti-semite with fantasies of genocide. Glass makes Hizbullah sound like a rational movement that does little harm, but on the contrary does a great deal of good and learns from its mistakes. What lessons had it learned from the debacle of the 1980s when it provoked a war that has brought so much havoc to its own country, without even consulting the government in which it serves? Glass tells us that he was kidnapped by Hizbullah. Has he succumbed to Stockholm syndrome?

Eugene Goodheart

Waltham, Massachusetts
Well Charles Glass wasn't having any of that:
Eugene Goodheart asks whether I am familiar with two statements he attributes to Hizbullah’s secretary-general, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah (Letters, 7 September). Goodheart uses the inflammatory quotations to accuse Nasrallah of being ‘an anti-semite with fantasies of genocide’. If I am unfamiliar with the statements, it is because they are in all likelihood fabrications. The first (‘If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide’) was circulated widely on neo-con websites, which give as its original source an article by Badih Chayban in Beirut’s English-language Daily Star on 23 October 2002. It seems that Chayban left the Star three years ago and moved to Washington. The Star’s managing editor writes of Chayban’s article on Nasrallah, that ‘I have faith in neither the accuracy of the translation [from Arabic to English] nor the agenda of the translator [Chayban].’ The editor-in-chief and publisher of the Star, Jamil Mrowe, adds that Chayban was ‘a reporter and briefly local desk sub and certainly did not interview Nasrallah or anyone else.’ The account of Nasrallah’s speech in the Lebanese daily As Safir for the same day makes no reference to any anti-semitic comments. Goodheart’s second quotation – ‘They [the Jews] are a cancer which is liable to spread at any moment’ – comes from the Israeli government’s website at For the record, a Hizbullah spokeswoman, Wafa Hoteit, denies that Nasrallah made either statement.

Goodheart wonders whether, as a former captive of Hizbullah, I may have succumbed to Stockholm syndrome; may I ask in return whether he is succumbing to the disinformation that passes for scholarship and journalism in certain quarters in the United States?

Charles Glass
What's fascinating here is that these statements attributed to Nasrallah have been doing the rounds, unchallenged, for a few years now. Googling the whole sentence throws up over a hundred sites and googling chunks of it yields thousands. I can't be bothered to check right now but I'm sure there were many zionists who justified the recent Israeli onslaught against Lebanon simply by reference to these statements.

One of the sites running the first quote is Normblog. Norman Geras very helpfully provides a link to the original article. The site has been acting up today but I have seen the article and it carries no disclaimer, retraction or health warning. I've written to them suggesting that they should publish some kind of disclaimer or retraction.

Frankly when I heard about these things I just wished he hadn't said them. It now looks like my wish came true.

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