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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le Hezbollah : parti politique ou organisation terroriste ?

by Hassane Zerrouky

The Hezbollah: A Political Party or a Terrorist Organization?

Translated Saturday 22 July 2006, by Henry Crapo

The alliance of the Hezbollah with General Aoun, rather than the capture of two Israëli soldiers, is surely the element that sparked the Israëli offensive.

The strength of the Hezbollah ("the Party of God" in Arabic), founded in 1982 in the midst of a civil war, resides in the opacity of its party structure. "The Islamic resistance in Lebanon has no military bases, no barracks", affirms its leader, Hassan Nasrallah. The manpower of its military branch is unknown. Its budget is kept secret. And the types of arms it has at its disposal is not revealed.

This political and religious Shiite movement is the result of a two-sided development, with respect to identity and politics. With respect to identity, because it has succeeded in exploiting the fact that the Shiites, who represented some 30% of the population, were long kept in a second-class position, and that the party of Nabih Berri, pitted with corruption, failed to defend the interests of that community. With respect to politics, regrouping several tendancies, the Islamic Amal and the Lebanese branch of the Daâwa Party, it was able rapidly to impose itself socio-politically and militarily by ousting its rival Shiite Amal in the south of Lebanon in 1987 and south of Beirut in 1988, not hesitating to confront the Syrian army allied with the Amal, before launching an armed resistance to the occupation of southern Lebanon by Israël between 1990 and 2000. In the zones that it controls it imposes a social and religious order comparable to that of the Mollahs of Iran.

At the same time it is the suicide attacks against the marines (200 dead) and against the French paratroopers (58 dead), the 28th of October 1983, attributed to the Hezbollah, which constitute the veritable birth of the group, and this despite the fact that they have never completely claimed responsibility for those attacks. And although they deny it, there remains no doubt that behind the Islamic Jihad, author of most of the 150 kidnappings of foreigners, among whom the Frenchman Michel Seurat, hides the Hezbollah. For this reason, the Party of God is thus quickly catalogued as a "terrorist movement". Starting in 1985, the Hezbollah shed its first political skin and transformed itself into a political-religious resistance movement, outlawing any paramilitary action (kidnappings or bombings) within or outside the territorial limits of Lebanon. One should remember, in this respect, that in the aftermath of the attacks of 11 September 2001, the Hezbollah was placed by Washington on its list of terrorist organizations, whereas prior to that time it had figured on the list of liberation movements. Although Khomeiny’s Iran had aided it financially and militarily from its creation in the plains of the Bekaa, it would be erroneous to consider the Hezbollah to be an instrument of the Iranian mollahs or of the Moukhabarat, the Syrian secret services.

In reality, the Hezbollah is above all shaped as a political and military force, taking its place at the head of the armed resistance to the Israëli occupation of southern Lebanon between 1990 and 2000, not without eliminating other components of the resistance, in particular the armed communist groups.

Led by Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah heads up several charitable organizations:
the association Al-Jarih, which aids the wounded and handicapped, the association Al-Shahid, which cares for the families of the "martyrs", and the association Jihad and Binaa, which rehabilitates sites destroyed by the Israëli military. It maintains a vast network of schools, dispensaries and hospitals, has a radio station and a television network, Al-Manar.

On the political side, the Hezbollah has converted to pluralism. In the aftermath of the legislative elections of 2005, it has a group of 28 deputies, 11 of which are from their own ranks. It has three ministerial portfolios, the Energy portfolio being handled by one of its own leaders. Finally, and most prominently, it has concluded a political alliance with the Free Patriotic Movement (CPL) of General Michel Aoun. This agreement stipulates that the disarmament of the military branch of the Hezbollah is to be decided in the context of a "national dialog". This unexpected alliance, which caught the "anti-Syrian camp" off guard, has radically altered the Lebanese political scene. It is without a doubt that this alliance, and not the capture of two Israëli soldiers, that was the element that sparked the current Israëli offensive.

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