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Hizbu’llah (Party of God)
Courtesy of http://www.theflamingblog.com
July 27, 2008

Clarifying terms

You may see the word Hizbu’llah written several different ways, for instance, Hezbollah, Hizbollah, Hizballah. These are all names of the same group and the difference has come from how the names have been translated into English from the Arabic. Here, I have chosen to use the spelling Hizbu’llah because it represents the best Arabic translation, although in news media, you will usually see the word written as Hezbollah, which is also how it is often pronounced.

Regions of Operation and Influence

“Hizbu’llah represents the largest and most prominent political party in Lebanon,” says Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, author of Hizbu’llah: Politics and Religion. The Shi’ite group, Hizbu’llah, initially gained recognition in the early 80s and mid to early 90s where kidnappings, attacks, and bombings began to define the organization as a terror group. Since then, they have been a popular entity in Lebanese politics especially with regards to removing the Jewish influence in southern Lebanon. In recent history, Hizbu’llah has increased its sphere of influence politically and through radical means as well. The use of terror and militarism when the group has failed in its political exploits has become common. The group’s actions have given it a sort of ticking time bomb image, so to speak. In May of this year the militant group seized several Lebanese cities including large parts of western Beirut.

“Hezbollah allies also forced a government-allied satellite television station off the air and burned the offices of its newspaper affiliate, as Sunni fighters loyal to the government largely melted away, outnumbered and outgunned, during a third day of armed clashes here.

Those humiliating blows made clearer than ever the power of Hezbollah and its allies, which have links with Iran and Syria, over the government majority in the political stalemate that has crippled Lebanon for 17 months.”

Their continued transitional behavior has been the cause of recent frustration. The group’s shifts into radicalism have made their conflicting demands to be recognized as a legitimate political group hard to take seriously. U.S. President George Bush, in one of his speeches to the press after Hizbu’llah taking control of areas of Beirut, demanded that Hizbu’llah make up its mind. “Either it is a political group or a terrorist organization, but it can’t be both,” he said. In an interview, the President later clarifies the U.S. position on Hizbu’llah. “They’re a terrorist organization. They’re not a state. They act independently of, evidently, the Lebanese government, and they do receive help from the outside.” The President also goes on to explain Hizbu’llah’s source of power and confidence.

“But, as well, there’s a diplomatic mission that needs to be accomplished. The world must now recognize that it’s Iranian sponsorship of Hezbollah that exacerbated the situation in the Middle East. People are greatly concerned about the loss of innocent life, as are the Americans . . . We care deeply about that, the fact that innocents lost their life. But it’s very important to remember how this all happened. And Hezbollah has been emboldened because of its state sponsors.”

Hizbu’llah was the creation of Abbas al-Musawi, a former school teacher. Dissatisfied with the Shi’ite party at the time, Musawi created the organization based on the Iranian model. He traveled to a town that had been the hub of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard where 1500 soldiers had volunteered to fight the Israelis in Lebanon. “The Iranians provided weapons and training to Hizbu’llah,” says David Lawrence, author of Islamic Fundamentalism. In the 1980s, Hizbu’llah was receiving as much as 10 million dollars a month from Iran through their Syrian embassy. They used this money for various social programs in the Shi’ite community. They also used it to wage jihad against the west and organizations they saw as against Islam.

Stated Purpose

Hizbu’llah’s purpose has been to create a sustained Islamic state in Lebanon. The party was formed in response to civil war in the 1980s and an invasion by Israel. Lebanon had been ruled by Christians and Sunni Muslims, while the Shi’ite Muslims represented the poor and discriminated sector of society.

Lawrence sums their agenda up in three points:

1. The overthrow of the Lebanese state and its replacement with an Islamic Republic along the lines of Iran.
2. The waging of jihad, or holy war, against the enemies of Islam and Lebanon. These included Lebanese Christians and Sunni groups, Israel, France, and the United States.
3. The acceptance of martyrdom and self-sacrifice to attain these goals.

Below is a manifesto from the early creation of Hizbu’llah stating its desires and purposes:

We, the sons of Hizbu’llah’s nation, whose vanguard God has given victory in Iran . . . abide by the orders of a single wise and just command currently embodied in the Supreme Ayatollah Khumaini . . . We have opted for religion, freedom, and dignity over humiliation and constant submission to America and its allies and Zionism. . . .We have risen to liberate our country, to drive the imperialists and invaders out of it and to take fate in our hands.

The Religious Entity and the Political Entity

Hizbu’llah, at least in theory, accepts the roles that Christians in Lebanon will play. As long as they exist in society, they have a role to play according to Mohammed Fnaysh, MP for the Loyalty to Resistance bloc of Hizbu’llah. To Christians, I’m sure the emphasis on, as long as they exist in society seems to have its own connotations. The expressed idea of Hizbu’llah’s involvement in the secular government is to bring Islam into a ruling position, but with other groups, respectful of Islam’s ways, living in harmony beside them. Here, “Respectful of Islam’s ways” means practicing the rules of Islamic government and society. While Christians may be tolerated as a part of society theoretically, they must accept the rules of Islamic law to be truly welcomed. This typically provides a direct conflict of interest to Christians, though other groups might find this pill easier to swallow. Based on the political philosophy of this group, the only people who would ultimately be able to wield power would be Shi’ite Muslims. Though the expressed views of the party are mild acceptance or tolerance of other religious and political groups, the actual observed behavior of the party has been less than convincing. Some have said that even the slightest disagreement is proscribed, which seems to indicate a far more rigid group than Hizbu’llah would like to come off as publicly. If even minor differences are discouraged, the wide gap between the Christian ideology and Muslim ideology, like everywhere else in the world, presents a huge challenge to reconciliation.

Activity

Hizbu’llah is thought to have been responsible for the kidnapping of over 80 westerners during the 1980s, including the kidnapping of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Terry Waite’s envoy. Hizbu’llah is also thought to be responsible for the 1983 attacks on the U.S. embassy in Beirut in which 63 were killed and the bombing of the U.S. Marines’ barracks in Beirut in October of 1983 as well. That attack claimed the lives of 241 people. Hizbu’llah is thought to be responsible for the 1992 attacks on the Israeli embassy in Argentina, killing 29 and the attacks on the Jewish Cultural Center in London where another 100 people were killed. They also gained continual attention during the 18-year period where they fought the Israelis over Southern Lebanon, a conflict that ended with the Israeli pull-out in May of 2000, gaining an unexpected victory for Hizbu’llah. The group was also involved in the 1985 TWA 847 flight hijacking in Beruit.

In Regards to Israel

Hizbu’llah does not recognize Israel as anything but an imposing entity on Palestinian land. Hizbu’llah never refers to Israel as Israel but as ‘Occupied Palestine’ or ‘The Zionist Entity.’ Ghoreyah quotes Al-Sayyid Hassan Nasru’llah as saying ‘[Hizbu’llah] does not know of anything called Israel. It only knows a land called ‘Occupied Palestine.’ The continued resistance to acknowledge the existence of Israel is not unique to Hizbu’llah. Even Islamic states refuse this basic fact, which continues to fuel the frustration and keep Palestinians in a refuge mindset as opposed to moving forward and settling peacefully, whether it is a part of Israel (which was the agreement right after Israel declared independence) or a neighboring Islamic state (who all but refused to take any Palestinian refuges after Israel declared independence). There can be no basis for peace with Israel in Hizbu’llah’s mind because Israel (1) does not exist and (2) is considered an al-batil or falsehood and cannot be tolerated. According to Hizbu’llah, the grievance with Israel is existential and not necessarily territorial.

In 1975, a U.N. resolution equated Zionism with racism and added further fuel to the fires. Hizbu’llah’s claim that Israel was filled with arrogance and superiority (essentially racism) was validated, thus the right of Hizbu’llah to attack Israelis has been justified in their minds. Hizbu’llah has stated that it does not choose to attack civilians, yet they have not been successful on this end. Their claim that civilians are innocent does not match with the many outspoken members of Hizbu’llah and their statements against Jews in general. Unfortunately for all, attacks have often included ordinary citizens. When these people are killed, it is said that they are not innocent, but enemy Zionists. This is perpetuated by the ideas of Hizbu’llah leaders like Nasru’llah who refers to the Israeli casualties as Zionist casualties.

In much of the Islamic world, if not all, the stems of anger towards the Jews has formed as a result of religion. Islam sees Jews as those who turned away from their true path of accepting Jesus (a prophet in Islam) and their greatest prophet, Mohammed.

Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, ‘We are Christians’; because amongst these are men who are devoted to learning, and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant. (Qur’an 5:82)

The message is, according to the Qur’an, that Allah dislikes the Jews, as they are the people who show the strongest negativity or dislike for Muslim believers. It is very important to note the actual beliefs of these various political and militant organizations because they present the iron foundation from which few minds can be shaken. If the Qur’an says that the Jews are evil, if Allah despises them for their blasphemy, disobedience and idolatry, there is no guilt that can exist in killing a Jew. Hizbu’llah has also viewed Israel as a racist and exclusionary group thus adding to the personal aspect of this. If it is imbued in each Muslim that the Jews hate them personally or harbor a deep bigotry for all non-Jews, then the personal responsibility that each Muslim is willing to take is sure to increase. Recently released Lebanese terrorist, Samir Al-Quntar sums up the idea of Hizbu’llah’s feelings towards Israel after recently being released from an Israeli prison in exchange for four dead Israeli soldiers. “There is a disease in this region called “the state of Israel,” which we refer to as “the plundering entity.” If we do not put an end to this disease, it will follow us, even if we flee to the end of the world. So it’s better to get rid of it.”

Such deep-rooted ideologies have lead to statements amazingly unbelievable to the west. For instance, Hizbu’llah constantly purports that the Holocaust was a Zionist trick. The idea that six million Jews could have been murdered, they have said, seems like an exaggerated figure. The proof offered in supporting these views is typically of an unbelievable nature, for example, citing that there was no actual proof of the gassing of the Jews in World War II. One Hizbu’llah leader even stated that the bodies discovered after the U.S. bombing of Germany were used by Zionists to make people believe they were the bodies of Jews.

It is obvious that Hizbu’llah, in its nature and at its very roots, cannot have positive ties to Israel. Their ideology is based on a deep-seated religious, cultural, and racial hate for the Israelis. Mark Silverberg, author of Quartermasters of Terror: Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Jihad writes of Quntar’s release:

“There is something to be learned from the frenzied love-fest given in Beirut in mid-July to the most notorious of the Lebanese prisoners released by Israel. Samir Kuntar was sentenced to 542 years in prison for killing four people during a raid in 1979. Kuntar executed a father (Danny Haran) in front of his 4-year-old daughter, then killed the little girl by smashing her head against a rock with a rifle butt.

But to the Lebanese, Kuntar is a returning hero. He walked down a red carpet in Beirut. He was kissed by the Hezbollah leader and cheered like a rock star. In the southern port city of Sidon, posters of Kuntar adorned the streets and walkways as children rode by on their bicycles, no doubt dreaming of the day that they too could become “heroes” by murdering “Zionist” children.”

Analysis

With the idea in mind that Hizbu’llah, as an organization, cannot officially recognize the state of Israel, it is hard to imagine that ties between the two could ever solidify long enough to overcome a centuries long spite that is constantly being renewed in each generation of young Muslims in Lebanon. Hizbu’llah will also continue to see the west as an agitator in the affairs of Lebanon and the Middle East as long as it supports Christians and secular political groups in Lebanon. As President Bush has stated, Lebanon and Hizbu’llah’s future will depend on whether they decide to operate as a political entity or a terrorist group. In recent months, the latter has been the stronger leaning for this group of Lebanese Mujahideen.

Sources:

Mujahideen , Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mujahideen.
Excerpt, “Hezbollah seizes control in west Beirut,” May 9, 2008, http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/05/09/mideast/Lebanon.php.
President George W. Bush, State Department “Global Diplomacy,” August 2006
Davidson, Lawrence, Islamic Fundamentalism; Greenwood Press, London 1998.
Saad-Ghorayeh, Amal, Hizbu’llah: Politics and Religion; Pluto Books, London 2002.
Al-Sayyid Hassan Nasru’llah, Jerusalem Day, 1997.
Samir Al-Quntar speech, Al-Manar TV, July 17, 2008.
Excerpt, “The Third Lebanon War” July 27, 2008, http://web.israelinsider.com/Views/13016.htm.

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