Opinion |

Netanyahu and Nasrallah, the Middle East’s Two Messianic Leaders

Shi’ite messianism these days is confronted by Judeo-Christian messianism. The question is whether a countdown has started to another destructive war

Salaman Masalha
Salman Masalha
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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gives an interview on al-Manar TV, September 19, 2018.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gives an interview on al-Manar TV, September 19, 2018.Credit: AFP
Salaman Masalha
Salman Masalha

Unlike other voices in the media, I suggest we believe the words of messianic leaders like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. In these two we’ve got leaders well versed in the occult.

“There is more here than meets the eye,” Netanyahu told the media at the beginning of the campaign to destroy the tunnels that Hezbollah has dug into Israel. Earlier, in promoting the calm vis-à-vis Hamas in Gaza and with the departure of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu hinted at Israel’s security challenges, ones that demand sacrifice.

Across the border, Nasrallah has repeatedly said he ultimately hopes to die a martyr’s death. Anyone with those aspirations has no intention of resting on his laurels or retiring to religious studies like a yeshiva student. Anyone with such faith will take it to its ultimate conclusion until he ascends to heaven in a storm. This way he’ll ensure he’s remembered as a shahid in the Shi’ite pantheon of martyrs, and his grave will be a pilgrimage site attracting the entire Shi’ite world.

>> Hezbollah's attack tunnels prove Nasrallah has cracked Israel's DNA | Analysis ■ What does Hezbollah want? | Opinion

In recent years Nasrallah has repeated that in the next confrontation his soldiers will be ordered to capture the Galilee. This wasn’t just something he said to raise morale. He surely knows in great detail about the attack tunnels reaching into Israel, not to mention his organization’s plans. More than Nasrallah being tethered to the ayatollahs, it’s the other way around, seeing that the messianic Shi’ite doctrine in 16th-century Iran was crafted in part by Shi’ite scholars who had immigrated to Iran and took up senior positions there.

Shi’ite messianism these days is confronted by Judeo-Christian messianism. Netanyahu, though not a religious person, is infused with messianic beliefs. He sees himself as the bearer of a historic mission to save the Jewish people living in Zion. He and the right wing are tightly linked to the messianic right in the United States the ultra-nationalist right in Europe.

Netanyahu obtained his sense of shouldering a historic mission at home. Things you learn in childhood are etched into your soul forever. “We must realize that there is a deep cultural disparity that separates us and the Arabs,” Prof. Benzion Netanyahu told Haaretz in an interview many years ago.

He said that “Zionism, in essence, is a Western movement, it’s a movement living on the border with the East but always facing West. In some respect Zionism has always been a forward post of the West in the East. It is still today an outpost opposing the East’s natural tendencies to penetrate the West and subjugate it …. Arabs see us as a foreign implant …. They feel we endanger their culture and religion as well as the structure of their society and regime. This is why they mark us as a target.”

In his meetings with Western leaders, Benjamin often repeats his father’s words, stressing even more strongly Israel’s holy mission. As he told his soulmate Viktor Orban during the Hungarian prime minister’s visit to Israel, “by being here, in this county here, at the front line of the battle against radical Islam, in many ways Israel is defending Europe.”

In a recording that leaked from a meeting with European leaders in Budapest, Netanyahu can be heard repeating his mantra about how Israel is “the one Western country that defends European values” in a very benighted region.

Indeed, this is a very benighted region. The source of darkness is a life lived in myths of the past. There is an abundant past in this region, and from too much past it’s hard to see a future. The question is whether a countdown has started to another destructive war with its blood, sweat and tears.

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