To most of the Arab public, the debate over who won the war
between Israel and Lebanon's Hizbullah is already settled.
Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah is being feted through song in
Syrian nightclubs and on Palestinian radio. In Egypt, his name is
being given to babies. On Baghdad streets, posters celebrate his
"victory." Islamist and secular groups are united in declaring Mr.
Nasrallah the new "lion" of Arab causes.
The long-term political fallout of this euphoria over Hizbullah's
ability to withstand Israel's superior firepower is still uncertain.
In Lebanon, suffering brought by the war has seen support for
Hizbullah split along sectarian lines. But there are signs that
opponents of authoritarian regimes in the region have been
emboldened by Hizbullah's actions, linking their struggles against
their own states to the Lebanese guerrillas' fight with Israel.
What's more, the perception of Nasrallah as the Arabs' new
champion - replacing secular leaders of the past like Yasser Arafat -
has accelerated the regional shift of support to Islamist leaders
seen as less corrupt than their secular counterparts.
The biggest boost to Nasrallah's popularity appears to be among
Palestinians and Syrians.
Alaa Abul Heijah, the leader of Firkat Ishaman, a band in the
West Bank city of Jenin, says that he decided to write a tribute to
Nasrallah after watching footage of Israel's attack on the village
of Qana. The result was a song that dubs Nasrallah "the Hawk of
Lebanon," and has quickly become one of the more popular war songs.
In Damascus, posters of Nasrallah with young children or of
Nasrallah flanked by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad, adorn shops and cars. Singers have
even brought the "resistance" into popular nightclubs where alcohol
flows and Syrians dance to popular songs found throughout the Arab
To be sure, Sunni Syrians and Palestinians aren't necessarily
enamored of the hard-line Shiite alliance of Iran and Hizbullah.
Some see them as outsiders who use the Palestinian cause to further
their own interests. Abdel Majid Sweilem, a political-science
professor at Al Quds University in Jerusalem, says many Palestinians
feel caught in the middle of the Iran-US standoff. "We don't want to
be in the Iranian coalition, but we don't want to be involved in the
American'" one either, says Mr. Sweilem.
But for most Palestinians, little seems to dampen their elation
at what's perceived as a victory against Israel through mere