CAN YOU PASS THE HEZBOLLAH QUIZ?
By Jeffrey Rudolph (July 2012; last update July 2013)
Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia Islamic organization, has evolved over the last three decades from a guerilla movement to the most influential political and military power in Lebanon.
Given that Hezbollah is a crucial part of the Iran-led “Axis of Resistance”, it is not surprising that the mainstream media in the West uses simplistic stereotypes to demonize it. However, whether the West likes it or not, Hezbollah is clearly fated to continue playing an important role in Lebanon’s future.
The purpose of this quiz is to explore the roots and evolution of Hezbollah, a sophisticated organization that effectively combines pragmatism and militancy, social services and religious faith.
THE HEZBOLLAH QUIZ
1. Did Hezbollah exist before June 1982?
2. Did Hezbollah exist after June 1982?
3. What precipitated Hezbollah’s creation?
- “Israel invaded Lebanon on June 5, 1982, following an eleven-month cease-fire with the PLO, which Israel claimed had been broken by the attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom Shlomo Argov…It made little difference to the Israelis that the assassination had been carried out by a renegade Palestinian group led by the infamous Sabri al-Banna…, a blood foe of the PLO. The invasion gave Ariel Sharon, then the Israeli defense minister, carte blanche to pursue his own dream of destroying the PLO as a political force in the region [thus consolidating Israel’s hold of the Occupied Palestinian Territory] and putting in place a pliant government in Beirut that would become the second Arab state, after Egypt, to enter into a formal peace agreement with Israel. Within the Israeli government at the time—as within the American foreign policy establishment—there was little understanding of the developments under way among the Shi’i Muslims of Lebanon and no analysis was made of the impact of this invasion on them. Even if Israel had not launched its invasion of southern Lebanon in 1982, the young would-be revolutionaries among the Shi’a would have pursued their path of emulating Iran’s Islamic revolution. Undoubtedly, however, the invasion pushed the Shi’a further in this direction, creating conditions for the establishment and flourishing of Hezbollah.” (Augustus Richard Norton, Hezbollah: A Short History, Princeton University Press, Princeton: 2007, 33. Hereinafter referred to as, Norton.)
- “After Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, the Amal Movement’s secular leadership exhibited a pragmatic willingness to deal with the Israelis if it could make a deal that benefited the Shia by bringing stability and economic growth to the South—a flexibility that appeared to the Islamists as a rank betrayal, swiftly driving them to resign en masse from Amal. By then a member of Amal’s politburo, Nasrallah [the current leader of Hezbollah] was one of dozens of Amal leaders who quit in 1982 just as Iran was looking to export its Shia revolutionary fervor and establish a proxy in Lebanon. The Islamic Republic sent 1,500 Revolutionary Guards to Baalbek, and the confluence of interests quickly gave rise to Hezbollah.” (Thanassis Cambanis, A Privilege To Die: Inside Hezbollah’s Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel, Free Press, New York: 2010, 184. Hereinafter referred to as, Cambanis.)
- “Iran and Syria share credit for sponsoring [Hezbollah]…although Iran certainly played the leading role. For Iran, the creation of Hezbollah was a realization of the revolutionary state’s zealous campaign to spread the message of the self-styled ‘Islamic revolution.’ From Syria’s standpoint, the new militant Shi’i party was a fortuitous instrument for preserving Syrian interests: supporting Hezbollah allowed Syria to maintain its alliance with Iran, gain the means for striking indirectly at both Israel and the United States, and keep its Lebanese allies, including the Amal movement, in line.” (Norton, 34-5.)
- “From where had this Shia surge sprung? For a millennium or more…Shia Muslims had struggled, with a few rare historical exceptions, on the margins of politics and wars. Their…senior jurists espoused the dogma of quietism…By the turn of the twentieth century, Shia thinkers had begun to question quietism [and thus argued that Shia should not resign themselves to passivity and injustice]…By the 1970s, a small coterie of passionate, competent, and intellectually formidable men already had begun a new movement among Lebanon’s Shia….Lebanon’s most senior Shia cleric, Ayatollah Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah, was one of the theological architects of the new idea of Shia resistance….[From 1985 onward,] virtually every Shiite who stayed in Lebanon entered some kind of relationship with Shia parties and eventually fell into Hezbollah’s orbit, willingly or not.” (Cambanis, 101-6.)
- As a result of the 1948-49 Palestine war, one hundred thousand Palestinians were expelled or fled from Israel to southern Lebanon. “[F]ollowing the civil war in Jordan in 1970-71, thousands of armed Palestinian guerrillas would move to Lebanon, where the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) would challenge the authority of the Beirut government and establish a virtual state-within-a-state encompassing west Beirut and much of southern Lebanon.” While many Shi’a had sympathy for Palestinian aspirations, they resented “actions that exposed Lebanese citizens, especially Shi’i citizens of the South, to additional suffering [from, for example, PLO fighting and Israeli reprisals].” (Norton, 14, 18.)
- “[W]hile the PLO might have been weak…militarily, it had in recent years been making steady headway diplomatically. Its spirit of compromise, its readiness to settle for…less than a quarter of [Palestine]…won it international credit. The Soviet Union was soon to ‘recognize’ it; it looked as though Europe might one day…It was President Reagan’s special envoy, Philip Habib who had negotiated an end to the ‘artillery war’ [between the PLO in Lebanon and Israel]…At the same time, Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd, a close friend of Washington, was trying to interest it in a ‘two-state’ Middle East ‘peace plan’. If things had gone on like this, Israel might have found itself dragged into peace talks to which the PLO would have been a party.” Thus Israel had to choose between stark options: “a political move leading to a historic compromise with the PLO, or preemptive military action against it.” (David Hirst, Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East, Nation Books, New York: 2010, 132-3. Hereinafter referred to as, Hirst.) (Norman G. Finkelstein, Knowing Too Much: Why The American Jewish Romance with Israel Is Coming to an End, OR Books, New York: 2012, 234. Hereinafter referred to as, Finkelstein.)
4. Who said the following? “When we entered Lebanon [in June 1982]…there was no Hezbollah. We were accepted with perfumed rice and flowers by the Shia in the south. It was our presence there that created Hezbollah.”
- Ehud Barak: Prime minister of Israel from 1999 – 2001 and former Minister of Defense. (Another Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, made the same point in 1987.) (Norton, 33.)
- Israel had expected the Shiites to greet them with tolerance; and, “thanks to their prior hostility to the Palestinians, most Shiites did at first manifest a kind of ‘positive indifference’ towards the Israelis….But this reception did not last very long….It was Israel itself that changed the Shiites, which turned rice and flowers [tossed mainly by southern Maronites] into grenades and home-made bombs. [While the Shiites had not been Israel’s main target] they had nonetheless suffered more than any other community if only because, as inhabitants of the South, they stood directly in its path. Mainly theirs were the villages—nearly 80 per cent of them—that were damaged or destroyed, theirs the majority of the 20,000 killed.” (Hirst, 197-9.)
- From 1985 until its withdrawal in 2000, Israel maintained its ‘security zone’ in southern Lebanon which comprised 10 per cent of all Lebanese territory and 6 percent of its people. The Israelis set up a 2,000-man South Lebanese Army (SLA) that was overwhelmingly Maronite-officered, and Israeli ‘advisers’ remained in the security zone to oversee it. “If the situation in the South quieted, as it did periodically, Israeli officials held up the zone as a success that could not be safely terminated. When the situation became hotter, the zone became a necessity. [Hezbollah officials reasonably argued] that, without effective…resistance…Israel would have little incentive to consider withdrawing…” (The Egyptians in 1973 and the Palestinians in 1987 and 2000 came to the same conclusion.) (Norton, 81.)
- Israel’s general strategy in Lebanon from 1985 to 2000 was two-fold: “militarily to smash the guerillas themselves, their bases and their personnel; politically to persuade the Lebanese state and people, by punishing them too, to turn against Hizbullah, and then to make a final peace with Israel independently of Syria.” For an example of civilians being punished, consider Israel’s 1996 “Grapes of Wrath” campaign which caused “some 500,000” Lebanese to flee north. During the 16-day campaign “25,132 artillery rounds and 2,350 air sorties” resulted in killing only thirteen Hizbollah fighters. “Once again…it was Lebanese civilians who bore the brunt; 165 died, compared with not one Israeli, military or civilian.” (Hirst, 249, 257-8.)
5. Who wrote the following in 1954? “It is clear that Lebanon is the weakest link in the Arab League…[The Christians] are a majority in historical Lebanon and this majority has a tradition and a culture different from those other components of the Arab League…The creation of a Christian state is therefore a natural act…It seems to me that this is the central duty…of our foreign policy. We must act in all possible ways to bring about a radical change in Lebanon…”
- Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister, was expressing his hope to capitalize on tensions that existed in the Middle East at the time to promote a grand design for Lebanon. “On this occasion Sharett [the foreign minister] prevailed: there was no attack on Lebanon…But the idea of one would not go away. In May…1955, Ben-Gurion once again demanded that something be done about Lebanon….Dayan leapt to his support and…outlined a plan by which it should actually be carried out: ‘[T]he only thing that’s necessary is to find an officer…We should either win his heart or buy him with money, to make him agree to declare himself the saviour of the Maronite population. Then the Israeli army will enter Lebanon, will occupy the necessary territory, and will create a Christian regime which will ally itself with Israel. The territory from the Litani southward will be totally annexed to Israel…’” This plan by Dayan eerily anticipated Israel’s 1982 war on Lebanon. (Hirst, 65-6.)
- Bashir Gemayel, a Maronite Christian leader, had been impressed by Israel’s 1978 invasion of Lebanon. In fact, he “wanted another, and larger, one….Gemayel resolved that, with Israel’s assistance, the Maronites would regain” their dominance of Lebanon. (Hirst, 122.)
6. Why did Israel withdraw from Lebanon in 2000?
- Hizbullah’s resistance operations against Israel were relentless and effective. From “an average of about 200 a year before 1996” such operations rose to “1,000 a year thereafter, peaking at 1,500 in 1999-2000.” Hizbullah lost 1,248 men between the 1982 invasion and 1999; while the Israelis, between 1985 and 1999, lost 332. And the trend favored Hizbullah: In 1997, Hizbullah “lost 60 men in combat, compared with 39 Israelis…There was only one way the ‘slow bleeding’…could be staunched, and that was to get out…[Israel’s] leaders started to think about…a unilateral [withdrawal] incorporating none of the conditions—the disarming of Hizbullah, the deployment of the Lebanese army along the frontier…on which they had always insisted.” Israel would “do what it had never done before—relinquish Arab territory it had conquered and occupied for nothing in return.” (Hirst, 263-5.)
- Hizbullah’s resistance focused on military targets in Lebanon. “But for the Israelis, this, as ever, was ‘terrorism’….Rabin, the defence minister, declared that, in order to ‘completely break’ this maddeningly resurgent resistance…‘we feel free to use every means, attack helicopters, aviation, artillery and tanks’. And they did, along with occasional ground incursions to boot. Not surprisingly it was mainly Shiite villagers who died. And as a result of that, back too came the Katyushas. They were the only means by which Hizbullah could deliver an important message: if Lebanese civilians were targeted, Israeli ones, inside Israel proper, would be as well.” (Hirst, 218-9.)
- In 2006, “Israeli Brigadier General Guy Zur…described Hezbollah as ‘by far the greatest guerrilla group in the world’…” (Norton, 140.)
- After Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, its military “never turned over mine maps, and left behind thousands of buried bombs.” (Cambanis, 74.)
7. After Israel’s withdrawal in 2000, what was Hezbollah’s policy toward Lebanese who had collaborated with Israel?
- When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, “it left behind thousands of collaborators, including men who had beaten and tortured Hezbollah fighters on behalf of the Israelis. Nasrallah ordered his followers to keep their hands off all collaborators, leaving their judgment to Lebanese courts.” Nasrallah “emphasized that there would be no retaliatory killings or revenge attacks….[In fact, following the withdrawal,] there was a remarkable degree of calm….Overall, that time will be remembered as a remarkably orderly and humane period, especially when measured against the history of internecine violence that scarred Lebanon for much of the preceding few decades.” (Cambanis, 5; Norton, 89-90.)
- Hezbollah’s decency and efficiency “was so remarkable that those whom much of the world still looked upon as ‘terrorists’…now earned a grudging respect in unfamiliar quarters, including European officialdom…” (Hirst, 267.)
8. During the period between the Israeli withdrawal of May 2000 and the war in July 2006, how many Israeli civilians were killed by Hezbollah?
- One. “Nine Israeli soldiers died in Hezbollah attacks in the contested [Shebaa] farms area”, a disputed territory in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights that is recognized to belong to Lebanon, “and eight others were killed in six clashes along the ‘Blue Line’ demarcated by the UN after Israel’s withdrawal. Some of the attacks were in retaliation for Israeli-caused deaths in Lebanon….Generally, however, this six-year period was relatively quiet…and this was frequently commented on by Israeli officials prior to the summer of 2006.” (Norton, 91.)
- The six years of relative quiet “confounded the predictions of many experts who had predicted that the Israeli exit would leave a vacuum that would likely be filled by mayhem.” (Norton, 117.)
- From 2000 to 2006, the great bulk of Katyusha rocket firings into Israel proper, according to Israeli sources, came from Palestinian fedayeen not Hezbollah. (Norton, 92.)
9. What was the “pretext” for Israel’s 12 July 2006 invasion of Lebanon? What was the “context”?
- “Since Israel’s withdrawal in 2000, Hezbollah and Israel had clashed sporadically….Nasrallah had said again and again that Hezbollah’s primary military goal was to secure the release of Lebanese prisoners held in Israel and the return of Lebanese dead. The way forward, he said, was to seize Israeli captives and trade them. [In a typical incident, Hezbollah fighters] attacked an Israeli military post in an attempt to capture soldiers. The Israelis fended them off, and not much came of the incident.” Nevertheless, Israel exploited a successful Hezbollah operation to justify its 2006 invasion of Lebanon. On 12 July 2006, Hezbollah commandos succeeded in capturing Israeli soldiers; the commandos had tried similar raids in the past without success. Nasrallah expected that Israel’s response would be similar to past experience. (Cambanis, 63.)
- Hezbollah had negotiated a January 2004 prisoner exchange with Israel. And, “when its fighters attacked an Israeli army unit on July 12, 2006, and captured two soldiers, Hezbollah announced it would exchange them for…Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners in Israel.” (Assaf Kfoury editor, Inside Lebanon: Journey to a Shattered Land with Noam and Carol Chomsky, Monthly Review Press, New York: 2007, 97. Hereinafter referred to as, Kfoury.)
- The context, as opposed to the pretext, of Israel’s invasion was clear. The desire within Israel’s “leadership to have it out with Hezbollah increased markedly in 2005 and early 2006.” Israeli officials had had to endure “Hezbollah’s taunting ever since their unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000” and thus desired to reestablish their deterrence power in the eyes of Hamas and Hezbollah in particular. This factor coupled “with reports by respected analysts that Hezbollah was developing a ‘first-strike’ capacity to unleash massive, preemptive rocket attacks on Israel…[made] the prospect of inflicting a devastating blow on Hezbollah very appetizing.” (Norton, 133-4.)
- “Israel, said Olmert, was now engaged in a two-front struggle whose objective was to create two ‘new orders’ on Israel’s borders, one a Gaza without Hamas and the other in a Lebanon without Hizbullah.” (Hirst, 332.)
- “In leaked testimony to the Winograd Committee investigating Israel’s mismanagement of the summer 2006 Lebanon war, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert admitted that the war had been carefully planned at least four months ahead of time…Facts such as that Hezbollah fired no rockets into Israel until after Israel’s savage aerial attacks…had begun, or that Israel had left unresolved for years the bitter issues of Lebanese prisoners of war and the occupation of the Shebaa Farms region, only generate more questions when one considers how easily negotiations could have defused growing tensions.” (Kfoury, 157.)
- “In confidential discussions with the White House, Israel promised President Bush a ‘quick and decisive result’ that would end with Hezbollah’s demise.” (Norton, 139.)
- “Whereas Israel launched the invasion primarily to undo the damage done by Hezbollah’s rout of it in 2000, the Bush administration hoped the murderous Israeli assault would ‘weaken Iran’s spreading influence’; ‘stick it to the Iranians who had brazenly intervened in Iraq and Syria and were assisting terrorist cells operating against the American army’; and, by ‘neutralizing’ Hezbollah’s fighting capabilities, prepare the ground for an attack on Iran.” (Finkelstein, 51-2.)
- After the widespread destruction inflicted by Israel, “Hezbollah emerged with its support intact…Its…rapid response to the needs of those whose homes and lives were ravaged…further consolidated Hezbollah’s impressive base of support.” (Norton, 140.)
- “Measured by the initial expectations of” Israel and the US, Israel lost the war. “The Israelis failed utterly in their ambition to destroy Hizbullah and kill its leader.” By 2008, Israel estimated that Hizbullah had 42,000 missiles in its possession—this estimate was corroborated by the UN and Nasrallah himself—“making it the tenth largest ‘missile power’ in the world….All in all, the Jerusalem Post estimated, Hizbullah was now four times stronger than it was before the… war.” (Hirst, 343, 389.)
- “Between them, Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah have missiles that can hit every inch of Israel….[The] best way to combat that threat is through sophisticated missile defense systems…; through a credible deterrent…; and ultimately, through peace deals like the ones Israel reached with Egypt and Jordan. Occupying the West Bank, by contrast, offers less protection at much higher cost.” (Peter Beinart, The Crisis of Zionism, Times Books, New York: 2012, 62.)
- After the 2006 war, Hizbullah recognized that it “simply could not afford the risk of provoking more hostilities in any foreseeable future. Less than ever would its own Shiite constituency, let alone the Lebanese people at large, now stand for that.” Thus when Israel conducted its brutal war against Gaza in 2008-2009, Hizbullah, unlike in 2006, did not provoke Israel. (Hirst, 380.)
- The war split Lebanon between i) A “coalition of mainly Sunnis, Druze, and Christians” that accuse Hezbollah of “being an agent of Syria and Iran, with the ultimate aim of installing a theocratic Islamic Republic”; and, ii) A coalition, consisting of much of the Shi’i community and large elements of the Christian community that share “a profound sense of victimization” and cooperate “to expand their share of power in significant measure at the expense of the Sunni Muslims.” (Norton, 152-3.)
10. True or False: Human Rights Watch reported that in the twenty-four cases of Lebanese civilian casualties which it examined in detail, it found no evidence that Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect its fighters from retaliatory Israeli attack.
- True. (http://www.hrw.org/reports/2006/lebanon0806/2.htm.)
- Hezbollah, as Nasrallah admitted on a 21 July 2006 broadcast, underestimated Israel’s grossly disproportionate attack: “strikes on roads, bridges, [hospitals, schools, densely populated areas,] seaports and airports throughout Lebanon…” “Even a member of [Tony Blair’s] cabinet, Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Howell, was moved to declare, during a visit to Beirut, that it was ‘very, very difficult to understand the kind of military tactics that have been used…You know, if [you’re] chasing Hizbullah, then go for Hizbullah. You don’t go for the entire Lebanese nation…’” (Norton, 135, 138; Hirst, 360-1.)
- Israel (like other states) regularly flouts international law. For example, Israel “routinely sends F-16 fighter planes over Lebanon, in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution that ended the 2006 war. The Israeli planes have often broken the sound barrier over Beirut and other places as a show of strength, most recently after” a Hezbollah drone flew over Israel. http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2012/10/11/world/middleeast/ap-ml-mideast-downed-drone.html?hp&_r=0
11. True or False: Just before the launch of the July 2006 Lebanon War, Israel’s Chief of Staff Dan Halutz instructed his stockbroker to sell certain investments that were likely to be negatively affected by the war.
- True. “In the afternoon of 12 July, after the abduction of Goldwasser and Regev [by Hezbollah], and as more soldiers were dying in a futile bid to rescue them, Halutz found time to confer with his stockbroker and instruct him to dump a $36,000 investment portfolio liable to be adversely affected by the war into which, unbeknown to anyone else, he was about to send his nation.” (Hirst, 345.)
- “Within a few months [of the end of the war]…Halutz and key commanders had resigned in disgust or disgrace; the reputation of the Israeli army, most sacrosanct of institutions, fell to an unprecedented low.” (Hirst, 381.)
12. True or False: Saudi Arabia supported Hezbollah during the 2006 conflict.
- False. Saudi Arabia voiced “quick disapproval of Hezbollah’s actions…and Jordan, Egypt, and United Arab Emirates followed suit. The Sunni Arab governments were understandably apprehensive about the rising profile of the Shi’ite power Iran in the Arab world, the emergence of a Shi’i-dominated government in…Iraq, and the influence of Hezbollah in Lebanon. All these forces might well inspire domestic opposition forces in their own countries, especially as Hezbollah gained enthusiastic support even among the vast Sunni population of the Arab world” primarily because it provided the only effective Arab opposition to Israel. (Norton, 136.)
- “In Saudi Arabia, during the…war, in an attempt to forestall Shi’i-Sunni solidarity, the regime reiterated the admonition of some anti-Shi’i clerics that Saudi Muslims were not permitted to pray for Shi’i Hezbollah.” (Norton, 148.)
- At least Egypt and Saudi Arabia were being consistent. While “President Mubarak of Egypt denounced the [1982 Israeli] invasion [of Lebanon] as ‘illegal, inhumane and contrary to the spirit of the Camp David agreements’,…he resisted all guerrilla appeals to repudiate the agreements in retaliation. [And,] King Faud [had] steadfastly rejected Palestinian appeals to use its oil and financial power against Israel’s incorrigible superpower supporter [the US].” (Hirst, 145-6.)
- “Many secular Arabs, Sunni Muslims, Christians—forces for moderation who had suffered at the strengthening arms of the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas ‘Resistance Axis’—yearned for a death blow to Nasrallah’s movement. But as the arc of Israel’s punishment expanded, the outrage toward Hezbollah subsided to a chirp. After Qana it fell silent completely.” The “Israeli bombing of Qana on July 30” that resulted in the deaths of “twenty-eight civilians” ended the “support for Israel’s campaign in” Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Egypt due to “the heat of public outrage”. In Saudi Arabia, for example, “by late July, public expressions of solidarity with the Lebanese and Hezbollah were expressed by Saudi officials, albeit grudgingly.” (Cambanis, 81; Norton, 140, 149.)
- “Across the Arab and Islamic world people on the street began hoisting Hassan Nasrallah’s portrait into the air. Here was a leader who resonated like no one had since Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 or Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s and 1960s.” Hezbollah had shown that resistance, not the accommodation of states like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, worked against Israel. And, as all Arabs knew, “in 1967 Israel had vanquished all the Arab armies in six days, but in 2006 [Israel] had fought thirty-four days and failed to take control of a thin sliver of South Lebanon” despite a massive ground offensive of some 30,000 troops in the last two days of the war. (Cambanis, 119, 120, 122.)
- For the confluence of interests between the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel, see the Saudi Arabia Quiz.
13. Does Hezbollah receive substantial support from Iran?
- While much of the funding for Hezbollah’s extensive “social and medical infrastructure is raised domestically…Hezbollah…receives significant subsidies from Iran. The amounts are often estimated at $100 million a year…A significant portion of Iranian support is for Hezbollah’s militia wing.” (Norton, 110.)
- Hezbollah does have meaningful sources of funding besides Iran. “Donations from Lebanese Shia in West Africa, from Shiites in the Gulf, and in the form of Islamic tithes have made the organization largely self-sustained.” (Kfoury, 96.)
- “Nasrallah [makes] no apologies for his party’s links to Tehran and Damascus, publicly thanking Hezbollah’s patrons in speech after speech.” In fact, “Every Lebanese faction [has] received money, weapons, and political cover from foreign powers” such as Saudi Arabia, the CIA and Israel. (Cambanis, 113, 182.)
- Hezbollah’s capacity for force that has made the party so important depends almost entirely on Iran and Syria, not just financially but logistically. According to Juan Cole, the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, “The fall of the Baath regime in Syria would leave Hizbullah high and dry. Its rockets and other weapons, and some of its communications and code-breaking abilities, depended on Syrian help….The downside of any weakening of Hizbullah is that it could encourage Israeli expansionism in South Lebanon, as in the 1980s and 1990s (Israel’s leaders have long wanted to steal the water in south Lebanon’s rivers).” (http://www.juancole.com/2012/07/top-ten-implications-of-the-damascus-bombing.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+juancole%2Fymbn+%28Informed+Comment%29)
- As a mature organization, “Hezbollah is no mere proxy, and seems to enjoy something closer to the status of a junior partner or favored ally with Tehran.” “The speed with which Hezbollah [has] attacked, counterattacked, and improvised during clashes with Israel [makes] clear the local command in Lebanon [makes] its own decisions.” “[W]ithout Hezbollah, Iran would lose much of its ability to project power, pose an active threat to Israel, and perhaps most important, influence Arab politics.” (Cambanis, 223, 225.)
- Iran’s assistance to Hezbollah is dwarfed by US assistance to Israel. According to the 12 March 2012 US Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $115 billion in bilateral assistance. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although in the past Israel also received significant economic assistance….In addition to receiving…foreign assistance, Israel also receives funds from annual defense appropriations bills for joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs.” (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf)
14. Is the following an official Hezbollah statement? “Israel’s final departure from Lebanon is a prelude to its final obliteration from existence and the liberation of venerable Jerusalem from the talons of occupation.”
- The statement is part of Hezbollah’s 1985 open letter addressed to the “Downtrodden in Lebanon and in the World.” “There have been periodic hints from leading Hezbollah officials, including Nasrallah…, that the 1985 open letter is obsolete…” and belongs “to a certain historical moment that” has passed. In any event, despite what it may wish, Hezbollah cannot destroy Israel. (Norton, 39, 46.)
- In the “modern Middle East racist attitudes thrive even among populations that coexist peacefully…Whether sincerely or not, [Hezbollah] has excised hatred of Jews from its official doctrine….[However,] Hezbollah’s updated manifesto declares Israel ‘an unnatural creation that is not viable and cannot continue to survive.’” (Cambanis, 9-10.)
- Hezbollah “will wage unyielding war against Israel as long as that approach expands its power base. If war with Israel were to become more costly, or if by some change in circumstances it endangered Iranian support, Hezbollah could shift its focus to other enemies.” (Cambanis, 227.)
- When asked whether he “was prepared to live with a two-state settlement between Israel and Palestine, Nasrallah said he would not sabotage what is finally a ‘Palestinian matter.’” (Kfoury, 97.)
15. Why hasn’t Lebanon had an official census since 1932?
- Following Lebanon’s independence from France in 1943 the “political system…was formalized into a system of sectarian communities…Each of the country’s seventeen recognized sects was accorded political privilege, including senior appointments in the bureaucracy, membership in parliament, and positions in high political office, roughly proportionate to the community’s size….Thus, the Maronites, considered the plurality, were accorded the presidency, which carried preeminent prerogatives and powers, and the second largest community, the Sunnis, won the premiership, decidedly second fiddle to the presidency. The Shi’i community, third largest, was awarded the speakership of the parliament, a position with far weaker constitutional powers than either the presidency or the premiership. The provenance of this allocation of power was a 1932 census of dubious reliability and, in fact, the last official census ever conducted in Lebanon….The imbalance of power…was rectified significantly by” the Ta’if accord; however Ta’if left in place the destructive sectarianism of the original constitution. “As a result of the Ta’if accord of 1989, which marked the end of the civil war [which claimed 150,000 lives], seats are divided equally [in parliament] between Muslim [including Druzes] and Christians, in contrast to the prior distribution that favored Christians by a 6 to 5 ratio. The 128 parliamentary seats are subdivided along confessional lines: 27 seats each for the three largest sects—Shi’a, Sunni, and Maronites…” (Norton, 11-12, 97.)
- In 1932, Shiites were “a mere 16 per cent of the population”. However, by 2005, they had risen to “35 per cent of it.” (Hirst, 308.)
- It should not be surprising that the domestic Maronite-Sunni-Druze coalition that opposes Hezbollah want to stop it from using its arms and political standing from changing the sectarian system’s political and economic balances. Lebanon’s dilemma is that while the percentage of Shi’a in the population has grown over the past decades, “the constitution does not” enable this fact to “be translated at the level of politics….So, every time a sect wants to move…upward in the political hierarchy” strife results. “In a regular democracy” votes would address the issue. (Norton, 155.)
- “Not a single powerful political party in Lebanon, with the exception of Hezbollah, argued for a wholesale redesign of the political system because all of them knew that a more fair, just, or representative system would cast them from their perches. None of the movements allied with the moderates or with Hezbollah had anything resembling internal elections or party congresses. They were run like family mafias.” (Cambanis, 261.)
- “The presence of Palestinians in Lebanon has long been a source of major internal tension, as the Lebanese state has consistently dealt with Palestinian refugees as foreigners neither to be integrated nor awarded citizenship, but rather to be tolerated until such time as they return home….For Lebanon’s political elites, the integration of Palestinian refugees represents an unacceptable political risk, lest it upset the favorable status quo guaranteed by the retention of the confessional system for those in power….The majority of the [almost 400,000] Palestinian refugees are Sunni Muslims [with roots in northern Israel].” They suffer from various restrictions such as being barred from employment in scores of professions. (Kfoury, 84.)
16. What percentage of the popular vote did Hezbollah and its allies receive in the 2009 elections?
- In the June 2009 parliamentary elections, “Hezbollah and its allies…decisively triumphed in the popular vote, denying Saad Hariri and his backers an opportunity to trumpet the election as a great victory for the moderate axis….Of the roughly 1.5 million people who voted, 54 percent voted for Hezbollah [and its allies], and 46 for the governing coalition.” In June 2011, Lebanon’s new prime minister, Najib Mikati, announced a government dominated by members and allies of Hezbollah. (Cambanis, 286.)
- In March 2013, Mikati resigned largely due to domestic fall-out from the ongoing civil war in Syria. “His decision to step down was caused by an apparent Hizbollah attempt to exert wider control of the country’s security…[L]ebanon has followed an official policy of ‘dissociation from Syria’. But in practice, both Hizbollah and the Sunni opposition have been actively involved, backing opposite sides of the Syrian conflict.” (Financial Times, 25 March 2013, World News 4.)
- “Hizbullah…has members of parliament and cabinet positions…so it is part of the Lebanese political establishment.” All over the Arab world, the “old Muslim fundamentalist movements have for over a decade been…drawn into parliamentary, Westminster-style politics.” We see this with Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and other states. (http://www.juancole.com/2012/05/romney-wants-to-fight-whole-muslim-world-not-concentrate-on-bin-laden.html)
- “Israel had pushed for decades to secure its northern border through an amicable government in Beirut. Its interventions instead had midwifed the opposite outcome….Two years after Israel had failed to destroy the party’s infrastructure [in the 2006 war], Hezbollah had made a deal through which it gained control of one-third of Lebanon’s ministries, and approved a president who believed in Hezbollah’s right to bear arms.” (Cambanis, 252.)
- “Hezbollah draws unrivaled reserves of power from the total devotion and trust it has won from its constituents, most of Lebanon’s estimated 1 to 2 million Shia. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese from other sects, including non-Muslims, have allied with Hezbollah, despite widespread hostility on the part of moderates and secularists toward the Party of God.” However, regardless of election results, “Hezbollah…established that it wouldn’t let any coalition rule the country without giving the Party of God veto power. It had the street power to back its demand.” (Cambanis, 13, 284.)
17. True or False: Hezbollah campaigns for votes primarily by promoting religious issues.
- False. “[M]ost striking about Hezbollah’s political campaigns is the extent to which nonreligious themes [such as economic and security issues] are habitually emphasized. Hezbollah’s electoral strategy does not dwell explicitly on religious themes at all, in stark contrast to, for example, Christian fundamentalist groups in the United States.” (Norton, 102.)
- The Shia in southern Lebanon “were known as an easygoing and hospitable lot, who liked their food…tobacco…liquor…Once in the 1980s Hezbollah tried to preach austerity, in the manner of the Iranian ayatollahs, and popular support plummeted. They retreated quickly, and never again tried to enforce any moral code on the general public.” (Cambanis, 58.)
- “Nasrallah and his colleagues have repeatedly declared that the prospects for establishing a state based on Islamic rule will probably never exist in Lebanon, as such a state could only be established on the basis of broad consent. Hezbollah, its leaders have promised, is committed to the survival of Lebanon as a diverse, multicultural society, because it is precisely Lebanon’s diversity that defines its unique appeal and character.” Hezbollah pragmatically recognizes that Christians, Druzes and Sunnis “combined still far outnumber the Shiites” in Lebanon; and, “according to one survey, only 13 per cent” of Shiites support a theocracy. (Norton, 158; Hirst, 241.)
- In municipal elections Hezbollah has engaged in “pragmatic political bargains [with] ideological opposites” and has done well. In municipalities where it has controlled the local council it has shown a capacity for good governance and it has not prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol. Hezbollah leaves it to individuals to choose whether to consume alcohol or not, and it recognizes that Christians have no prohibitions against alcohol. However, Hezbollah expects its members to not drink alcohol as Islam normally prohibits alcohol. (Norton, 103-4.)
- “Without ever shedding its Islamist character and conservative moral code, Hezbollah has in fact built alliances with other parties, secular and non-Shiite, in order to get a larger representation in the government. When it put up candidates in…parliamentary elections, some of those on its electoral list were Christians…” (Kfoury, 100.)
- Hezbollah operates a well-funded think tank that studies issues ranging from electoral reform to telecommunications regulation. The think tank is one element of Hezbollah’s efforts to enable its parliamentarians and ministers to be effective at governance. “And, unique among Middle Eastern Islamist movements, its political scientists…engage in intellectual dialogue with Westerners [by, for example,] sending delegates to meetings in Europe…” (Cambanis, 139.)
18. What are the two main reasons Hezbollah is supported by the bulk of Lebanon’s Shi’a and by many from other sects as well?
Hezbollah Provides Dignity:
- Hezbollah’s effective resistance against the legendarily effective Israeli military forces “embarrassed virtually all regular Arab armies and undermined the notion, deeply embedded in the Israeli psyche, that Arabs are inherently inferior in the arts of war.” Hezbollah thus gives Shiites a deep feeling of pride, for this it is honored. (Hirst, 247.)
- Lebanon in the 1980s was drenched in violence. “[I]n a landscape of nihilism Hezbollah understood the intrinsic appeal of spiritual clarity. Lost souls bobbing on a sea of violence, adrenaline, and Hobbesian political competition longed for meaning. Hezbollah taught not mere violence, but violent struggle in the service of a higher power. Hezbollah wouldn’t tolerate…thuggish, gang-style violence like many other Islamist and other militant groups…” (Cambanis, 110.)
- Consider the following words of an educated Lebanese Shiite to understand the deep support of Hezbollah: “The people of the South had grown accustomed to feeling downtrodden. But Hezbollah was able to give people a sense of pride so strong that people were willing to lose material things, and even to give family members as martyrs, so long as they could keep this sense of honor.” (Cambanis, 178.)
- What good, Nasrallah can fairly ask, have the many years of negotiations between the PLO and Israel achieved? While the Palestinians continue to lack dignity under occupation, Hezbollah’s long resistance has led to dignity and freedom from occupation for Lebanese. (Cambanis, 8.)
Hezbollah Provides Services:
- As the “Lebanese government offers paltry social welfare services for its citizens” Hezbollah’s welfare provision is needed. And, unlike other Lebanese parties and militias, its “discipline, integrity and dedication generate feelings akin to awe among many Lebanese, Christians and Muslims alike.” (Norton, 107; Hirst, 240.)
- Hezbollah engages “in a vast range of public services and infrastructural projects—from which Christians and Sunnis, not just Shiites, often benefited—such as hospitals and schools, cut-price supermarkets and pharmacies, low-cost housing, land reclamation and irrigation. [In some areas] it has assumed responsibility for most of the water supply, electricity, refuse collection, sewage disposal” and policing. (Hirst, 240.)
- Deriving from Hezbollah and other Shi’a entities is “a palpable sense of community and religious commitment” which holds that “a mark of faith is to offer a helping hand to others and participate in the community….It is impossible to appreciate the striking durability and loyalty that modern Shi’i groups, such as Hezbollah (or comparable groups in Iraq, for instance) generate unless one understands that their strength derives from the strong social fabric that they have woven over the years.” (Norton, 111-2.)
- While support for Hezbollah is unquestionably genuine, Hezbollah does also deftly use “instruments of coercion” to maintain its dominance over its community. It has “its own intelligence network, its own army, police, court, and prisons…Shia political rivals who contested Hezbollah could be humiliated, slandered, or economically pressured. Social critics could face ostracizing, harassment, or loss of benefits.” (Cambanis, 179.)
19. Did Hezbollah praise the 9/11 terrorists?
- Hezbollah was placed on the US Terrorism list in 1999 but “was taken off the list a couple of years later following Hezbollah’s strong condemnation of the 9/11 attack on America. Hezbollah was returned to the list when Dick Cheney opined that a ‘presumed Hezbollah operative’ probably met with an Al Qaeda representative in South America in 2001.” “A study undertaken at the American University of Beirut in January – February 2007, benefiting from research and surveys from a variety of international and Israeli human rights organizations, tabulated no fewer than 6,672 acts of Israeli state terrorism directed against Lebanon and Palestine between the years 1967-2007. Not only is Israel absent from the US State Department Terrorism list, Israel appears to determine who is on it.” http://www.counterpunch.org/2007/04/06/why-is-hezbollah-on-the-terrorism-list/
- Thousands of Hezbollah “members and supporters operate with few restrictions in Europe, raising money that is funneled to the group’s leadership in Lebanon.” Essentially, “the European Union continues to treat [Hezbollah] foremost as a Lebanese political and social movement.” According to the foreign minister of Cyprus, “There is no consensus among the E.U. member states for putting Hezbollah in the terrorist-related list of the organizations…Should there be tangible evidence of Hezbollah engaging in acts of terrorism, the E.U. would consider listing the organization.” “[W]here the American and Israeli governments see Iran and Hezbollah gearing up their long-dormant capacity for international terrorism, Europeans strongly differentiate between an international terrorist network like Al Qaeda and what is viewed here as a conflict pitting Israel and the United States on one side against Iran, Syria and Hezbollah on the other.” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/16/world/europe/hezbollah-banned-in-us-operates-in-europes-public-eye.html?_r=1&hp&pagewanted=print
- In July 2013, European Union “governments have agreed to list the armed wing of Hezbollah as a terrorist group because of concerns over its activities in Europe. But the EU ignored pressure from the US and Israel to ban the Lebanese organisation outright, allowing contacts with its political representatives….The US and Israel have spent years urging the EU to outlaw Hezbollah outright. In 2008 the UK borrowed from its experience with the IRA and Sinn Féin to ban Hezbollah’s military wing while allowing contact with its political representatives. Elsewhere in the EU, only the Netherlands had previously banned the entire organisation.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/22/eu-ban-hezbollah-terrorist-wing
- For more information, see the Terrorism Quiz.
20. True or False: Hezbollah normally sends its most dispensable fighters on martyrdom (suicide) operations thus preserving its elite fighters.
- False. Only Hezbollah fighters “of exceptional battlefield prowess [can] apply for martyrdom operations, and only a small subset of that elite [is] accepted. A martyrdom operation was meant to cap a notable career…If Hezbollah deployed callow throwaway teenagers on martyrdom operations the party felt it would cheapen rather than ennoble the cult of death. The party’s military planners reserved death missions for otherwise unattainable military objectives.” (Cambanis, 164.)
- “Militarily, Hezbollah has evolved into a classic guerilla warfare organization, discarding the early tactics that branded it a terrorist organization in the eyes of America and Israel. Even though it cultivates a vibrant culture of martyrdom among its supporters, the party hasn’t launched a suicide bomber since December 30, 1999, when a Hezbollah fighter drove a car bomb into an Israeli military convoy.” If a US marine charged an enemy sniper position to save comrades under fire he might receive the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration awarded by the US government. (Cambanis, 12.)
- Ayatollah Fadlallah’s theology “permitted the Muslim to reclaim his political rights by force. The fighter who didn’t have access to an F-16 jet fighter…could deploy himself as a bomb…” (Cambanis, 110.)
21. Who made the following public statement after meeting with Nasrallah? “[H]is key concerns were essentially how to free his country from domination…and how to go about building the nation up again…So it was a logical, reasonable presentation….[J]ust an intelligent man talking about serious issues…”
- Edward Peck: Former American diplomat and former deputy director of the Reagan White House Task Force on Terrorism. Peck was part of an American delegation that met Nasrallah in February 2006. (Kfoury, 94-5.)
Jeffrey Rudolph, a Montreal college professor, was the Quebec representative of the East Timor Alert Network, and presented a paper on its behalf at the United Nations. He was awarded the prestigious Cheryl Rosa Teresa Doran Prize upon graduation from McGill University’s faculty of law; has worked as a chartered accountant at one of the world’s largest public accounting firms; and has taught at McGill University.
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