Study: ‘Nasrallah sways Israeli opinion’

The results of a study (reported by Israeli daily Haaretz, July 12, 2010) conducted by Colonel Ronen, the chief intelligence officer for the Central Command of the Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) – showed that Lebanese Islamic Resistane Hizbullah’s leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is the first Arab leader since the former President of Egypt, Gamal Abdul Nasser (1918-1970) – who has become the most ‘influential’ Arab leader among the Israeli public.

On April 16, 2008 – the same daily had reported a survey taken by the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland which showed that Hizbullah Chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is the most admired leader in the Arab world followed by Syrian and Iranian Presidents.The survey also found that the majority of Arab public – in contrast to their governments – does not view Iran as a major threat.

Colonel Ronen studied Sheikh Nasrallah’s ten speeches during the 34-day Israeli invasion of Lebanon in July 2006 – during which the Jewish army suffered its second military humiliation at the hands of Hizbullah fighters.

Ronen wrote that the speeches were the only means by which Nasrallah could deliver his message to various audiences. In fact, he argues, apart from the rockets it lobbed into Israel the speeches were the only offensive weapon that Hizbullah used in the war.

Nasrallah’s speeches were widely covered in Israel during the 2006 war and drew harsh responses from senior political and military officials. Ronen says the content of the speeches were influenced by Nasrallah’s understanding of the development of the war, based on information from the field. He argues that had Israeli decision makers analyzed these speeches in real time it could have altered the course of the war.

The main term that Nasrallah repeated throughout the war in his speeches was “sumud,” Arabic for “standing firm” or “steadfastness.” Ronen says that Nasrallah’s term was aimed at supporting and strengthening the “steadfastness” in terms of social unity and solidarity among the Lebanese; among the Hizbullah fighters and the Shi’ite civilian population; and in the context of deterring Israeli attacks.

Ronen says that in his speeches Nasrallah “moved like a pendulum” between arguing that the war was the result of Israel’s over-reaction to the capture of IOF soldiers, Regev and Goldwasser, as well as a desire to avenge its humiliation over its 2000 withdrawal from South Lebanon after 18-year of occupation, on the one hand, and on the other hand arguing that it was part of an American and Israeli plot to exterminate Hezbollah, a plot foiled by killing three and capturing two Israeli soldiers who were patrolling in a tank on the Lebanese-side of the Israel-Lebanon border (Professor Anders Strindberg in The Christian Science Monitor, August 1, 2006).

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