Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s Speech on Martyr’s Day (11 November 2023)
November 11 is celebrated by Lebanese political party and movement Hezbollah as Martyr’s Day in remembrance of those who fought and died for Lebanese resistance and self-determination against Lebanon’s enemies (internal and external). The martyrs also include those who were killed through no fault of their own, save that they were designated as targets for destruction for simply being who they were. On 11 November 2023, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah gave his annual speech, and this speech – the second he made after war broke out between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza enclave on 7 October 2023 – was widely followed and reported by news media in the Middle East. English-language transcripts of the speech are available online: this essay follows the transcript published by Nour News in Iran.
Nasrallah starts his speech by explaining why November 11 is observed annually by Hezbollah as Martyr’s Day: it commemorates the suicide car bomb operation made by Ahmad Kassir against Israeli military headquarters in Tyre, southern Lebanon, on 11 November 1992. From there Nasrallah praises martyrs as people who sacrifice comfort and their lives for others who are oppressed or who are under attack from genocidal enemies. Nasrallah also praises the families of martyrs, for having to carry the burden of sorrow and other difficulties, be they physical, financial or psychological, associated with losing children and other family members before their time. He extends his praise to the martyrs (and their families) who sacrifice themselves for Gaza and its survival. From there, Nasrallah turns his attention to recent events in Gaza since Hamas fighters invaded Israel on 7 October 2023 and Israel retaliated with a full-scale onslaught on Gaza itself.
He describes what Israel is doing in Gaza as an annihilation of the Palestinian people living there, pushing the Palestinians to give up and abandon their homes, and to live as eternal refugees and wanderers. This brutality has been ongoing for 75 years (and has been aided and abetted by Western governments) but the Palestinians and other peoples living in the Levant have not given up. Nasrallah laments that Arab and international news media outlets have taken Israel’s side in its excuses, lies and manipulations of past evils and horrors done to Jewish people to silence criticism and dissent. He acknowledges that public opinion in Western nations has changed over the years despite the overwhelming propaganda to favour the Palestinian side and that this puts pressure on Western governments to force Israel to agree to a ceasefire with Hamas. Nasrallah singles out the United States and the United Kingdom for being unwilling to push Israel to the negotiating table.
Nasrallah notes that Israel is facing having to fight on multiple fronts, in the north, against Gaza to the southwest and the West Bank to the east, and even against Yemen which has sent weapons to the Palestinian territories. He observes that Iraq is holding down US forces in its territory – US forces who might otherwise come to the aid of Israel in its savage repressions – and that Syria, despite its much weakened state after a decade fighting Western-backed ISIS and other jihadi forces, provides moral support to Gaza.
Interestingly, though Nasrallah praises Iran for providing moral, diplomatic and humanitarian support, he is at pains to say that Iran does not direct any resistance in the Palestinian territories against Israel, and that all decisions to resist Israeli violence are made by Hamas. Likewise, Nasrallah says that he does not make military decisions; the Hezbollah leadership follows what happens on the ground and whatever decisions those who lead the fighters make, Hezbollah will adjust its policy and strategy accordingly on the results of those decisions. The result is that Hezbollah strategy is one of pragmatic patience, waiting for the enemy to make hasty decisions and mistakes, and for the enemy ultimately to be broken by its own stupidity and collapsing economy, society and politics which even before October 2023 were in a bad and dysfunctional state.
As the Western war against Russia since 2014, using Ukraine as its battleground, has shown, warfare can take many different forms, not just the obvious physical one; to gain the upper hand and eventually to win, nations must be prepared to fight on many fronts, including the most important front and that is time.