What to make of Hizbullah and its July 12 attack on Israel? I established today in "Arabs Disavow Hizbullah" that there's an unprecedented criticism by the Arab states of a force engaged in fighting the Jewish state. At the same time, I cautioned against reading much into this: "Arab disavowal of Hizbullah represents not a platform on which to build, only a welcome wisp of reality in an era of irrationality."
Arab denunciations of Hizbullah suggest that the Muslim sectarian divide, already evident in the daily violence in Iraq, is deepening and intensifying across the Middle East. President George W. Bush's desire to shatter the Arab world's frozen societies was meant to pit the forces of modernization against the traditional elements in Arab and Islamic societies. Instead, he appears to have unleashed the region's most atavistic forces. Opening this Pandora's Box may have ushered in a new and even uglier era of generalized violence - what can only be called a "Muslim civil war."
July 28, 2006 update: According to Neil MacFarquhar of the New York Times, and as I predicted above, the "Tide of Arab Opinion Turns to Support for Hezbollah."
with hundreds of Lebanese dead and Hezbollah holding out against the vaunted Israeli military for more than two weeks, the tide of public opinion across the Arab world is surging behind the organization, transforming the Shiite group's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, into a folk hero and forcing a change in official statements. ... An outpouring of newspaper columns, cartoons, blogs and public poetry readings have showered praise on Hezbollah.
July 30, 2006 update:Likewise, Faiza Saleh Ambah finds in the Washington Post that "Many Arabs Applaud Hezbollah":
The United States' Arab allies—Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt—initially blamed Hezbollah for the violence, calling its seizure of the soldiers miscalculated adventures. But a high civilian death toll, widespread destruction in Lebanon and strong popular support for Hezbollah have forced a shift in their stance.
Les Arabes, même s'ils feignent le contraire, voudraient bien au fond d'eux-mêmes qu'Israël en finisse rapidement avec le Hezbollah. Car un Hezbollah qui gagne ou qui résiste longtemps face à l'armée la plus professionnelle du monde est un mauvais message aux mouvements islamistes dans le Monde arabe.
Aug. 7, 2006 update: The Middle East Media and Research Institute has collected statements from Saudi and Syrian leaders, as well as some press opinion, in "Debate in the Arab Countries – Is Hizbullah a ‘Resistance' Organization or Not?"
Aug. 21, 2006 update: Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, foreign minister and deputy prime minister of Qatar, on the popularity of Hizbullah: “After this war we will see who is the winner and the loser [among the Arabs]. Remember, in the first meeting of the Arab League in Cairo [at the beginning of the war] there was a different mood among some Arab countries. They were outspoken [against Hizbullah]. But they changed because of pressure from the Street. The Street is not with us.”