Mats Wärn: Staying the Course: the "Lebanonization" of Hizbullah

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4.0 Transformation: from clandestine to public

In the early years, then, Hizbollah functioned as a mere guerilla group, or rather as several, as they were dispersed all over the capital and the east and the south of the country in small armed units and cells. While Israel finally brought its troops back to the "security-zone" in early 1985, the success of the Islamist creed within the resistance would be more than just arms and slogans. In February that same year, Hizbollah announced itself officially by releasing a political program called The Open Letter Adressed by Hizbollah to the Downtrodden in Lebanon and the World.42 From then on, the Lebanese Islamists turned into a political movement with an organizational hierachy and a gradually increasing grass-roots' support. However, ravaged Lebanon was hardly in the mood for ordinary politics by that time, least of all Hizbollah that vehemently rejected any relation, tie or connection to the Lebanese state. Moreover, as the Islamist guerillas continued their warfare against the Israelis in the south, they were also keen on ridding Lebanon from Western influence by playing a clandestine role in the comprehensive abductions of Western hostages in Beirut throughout the 80s. Juxtaposed, the movement developed its social networks by establishing welfare services in areas neglected by a state that was unable to perform its social duties. But once transformed into a political movement with a natural quest for social support, Hizbollah had to compete with Amal and encounter the resentment among fellow Shiites who did not approve of the idea of "Islamizing" the areas residing under the control of Hizbollah. Moreover, Lebanon turned a corner in 1990 as the leading political elites of the country signed Ta'if Accord, or, The National Reconciliation Charter, mediated by the Saudis and approved by the Syrians.43 The accord implied an end to the civil war, efforts for civil peace, the release of all hostages, as well as the transformation and reinforcement of the Lebanese state authorities, albeit under Syrian tutelage. Of course, to Hizbollah, like everyone else in Lebanon, the accord brought about new circumstances and challenges. And as a movement true to its principles, it had to change posture and strategies. Keen on playing the game of mass-politics and on diffusing its message, Hizbollah has rather successfully adapted to the new environment. Today it counts among Lebanon's most popular political parties. Still, as was noted earlier, Hizbollah has, like most Islamists opting for integration, been through harsh controversy, external as well as internal. In this final chapter, I intend to examine these ideological standpoints of Hizbollah and connect them to the context in which they emerged. By following the changes in this context, one may also understand the way the Islamists are staying their ideological course by adapting - as smoothly as possible - to these changes.

4.1 The Islamist line of Hizbollah

The Arabic word hizb (party) does not imply the common political notion of the word "party"; it rather concerns "movement" or a "political trend". According to Hizbollah's present vice secretary-general, Sheikh Na'im Kassem, the ambition of Hizbollah has been since the beginning to shape a political trend and an Islamic current that derives its origins from certain beliefs and principles (Jaber 1997: 62). Hizbollah - i.e. the Party of God - thus implies a movement whose ideological sources are being sought in the Holy Writ, the words of Allah and his messengers. This thorough Islamic character can be spotted in the leadership of Hizbollah, the Majlis al-Shoura, an assembly of twelve persons, mainly constituted of clerics, many of them graduates from Najaf. Accordingly, just as Ayatollah Khomeini had developed the idea of a leading ulama in his theory of the Welayat al-Faqih, so did Hizbollah arrange its organizational structure with a leading ulama at the top.44 The ideological connection with Khomeini's Islamism is furthermore evident in the Open Letter that the movement released in 1985. "We, the sons of Hizb Allah's nation", it declares,

    whose vanguard has given victory in Iran and which has established the nucleus of the world's central Islamic state, abide by the orders of a single wise and just command currently embodied in the supreme Ayatollah Ruhollah al-Musawi al-Khomeini, the rightly guided imam who combines all the qualities of the total imam, who has detonated the Muslim's revolution, and who is bringing about the glorious Islamic renaissance. Therefore, we in Lebanon are not a closed organizational party nor a narrow political framework. Rather, we are a nation tied to the Muslims in every part of the world by a strong ideological and political bond, namely Islam...(Norton 1987a: 168-9).

Around two years after the release of the letter, Sayyed Nasrallah, then a leading cleric within Hizbollah (later on to be the secretery-general), specified the subject further: "The Faqih", he argued, "is the guardian during the absence [of the twelth Imam], and the extent of his authority is wider than that of any other person.

    We must obey the [Welayat a-Faqih]; disagreement with him is not permitted. The guardianship of the Faqih is like the guardianship of the Prophet Muhammad and of the infallible Imam. Just as the guardianship of the Prophet and the infallible Imam is obligatory, so too is the guardianship of the Faqih...His wisdom derives from God and the family of the Prophet, and he approaches the divine...When the [Welayat al-Faqih] orders someone to obey and that person disobeys, that is insubordination against the Imam (qouted in Kramer 1989: 11-12).

The wisdom of Khomeini was thus, undoubtedly, the leading light for Hizbollah during the eighties. However, the movement's manifesto, just as the emergence of the Islamic resistance, was released in an environment of war and conflict. And besides allegiances and standpoints, the letter truly breeds confrontation. Hizbollah, like Khomeini, blames the United States for being behind the catastrophes of the country; Israel is regarded as the "American spearhead" and the Christian Phalange party is viewed as an ally to both of them. The aggression posed by these three actors, Hizbollah ascertained, could obviously not be put at bay by the international community. Therefore, violence became the only possible way for attaining liberation and independence. As noted in the text: "We have opted for religion, freedom, and dignity over humiliation and constant submission to America and its allies and to Zionism and their Phalangist allies. We have risen to liberate out country, to drive the imperialists and the invaders out of it, and to determine our fate by our own hands" (Norton 1987a: 171). Islam - in this quest for resistance - is to Hizbollah both a solution and a source of inspiration and mobilization. Solution in the sense that the movement declares its allegiance to Islam as a political enterprise - just as it had been realized in Iran. "We are a nation committed to the message of Islam", the text goes on, "and a nation that wishes the downtrodden and all people to study the divine message because it will bring justice, peace, and serenity in the world" (ibid: 174). The movement stresses, though, that it does not "wish to impose Islam on anybody and we hate to see others impose on us their convictions and systems" (ibid). As a "minimum aspiration", therefore, Hizbollah wants to rescue Lebanon "from subservience to either West or the East, expelling the Zionist occupation from its territories finally and adopting a system that the people establish of their free will and choice" (ibid: 175). That is, the powers dominating Lebanon and the political sectarian system hampered the realization of a true Lebanese public will, and Hizbollah is therefore adressing the problem of public representation. On this basis, the movement also rejects any accomodation whatsoever to the Lebanese state. On the one hand because Lebanon is a part of the map "that is hostile to Islam", and on the other because any opposition role within the sectarian framework would merely serve the prolonging of the regime itself: "Any opposition moving within the positions where the regime wants it to move is an imaginary opposition that serves only the regime...we are not at all interested in any projection for political reform within the framework of the rotten sectarian system, just exactly as we are not interested in the formation of any cabinet or the participation of any figure in any ministry representing a part of the oppressive regime" (ibid: 176). Nevertheless, besides the rejection of the Lebanese state, the manifesto is also, as noted, a cri de guerre against Israel. Like Sayyed Fadlallah, Hizbollah regards Israel as something downright unjust and evil; an entity established because of the Palestinian exodus and a settlement project under perpetual extension and expansion. "Our struggle with usurping Israel", the manifesto notes, "emanates from an ideological and historical awareness that this Zionist entity is aggressive in its origins and structure and is built on usurped land and at the expense of the rights of a Muslim people" (ibid: 179). While Israel is to be driven out of the south Lebanon, Hizbollah emphasizes that the liberation of the south is a mere prelude to the final destruction of Israel. In this war of existence, furthermore, there is no room for compromises or meddling. Indeed, the movement even regards any mediator as "a hostile party" because "their mediation will only serve to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Zionist occupation of Palestine" (ibid).

As Khomeini, Hizbollah regards most regimes within the Muslim region as defeatist, subservient, and prone to negotiations with U.S. and Israel. Lebanon, of course, by this particular period of time and with its Maronite leadership, suits this perception. But while despising the Maronite leaders, Hizbollah acknowledges the potential for a common cause with Christians or whomever who desires to fight against the three-headed enemy, i.e U.S., Israel and the Christian Phalange party. The magnitude and debt of that battle demands unity, and Hizbollah is well aware of the vulnerability of standing alone. Thus, the movement urges Lebanese Christians and Sunni Muslims to drop sectarian loyalities - a main cause of the Lebanese tragedy - and thereby avoid the imperialist trap of dividing and ruling. Islam, Hizbollah notes, does not exclude the common ground of ideas, mere sectarianism does. The basic objectives of the movement rather craves unity among the Lebanese, whatever their belongings and origins. "You carry ideas that do not stem from Islam", the letter goes.

    This should not prevent cooperation between us for these objectives... Though formed through non-Islamic ideas, these motives must inevitably revert to their essence when when you find that revolutionary Islam is the force leading the struggle and confronting oppression and arrogance...You will find us eager to open up to you. You will find that our relationship with you will grow stronger the closer our ideas move toward each other, the more we feel that your decisionmaking is independent, and the more the interests of Islam and Muslims dictates that this relationship be bolstered and developed (ibid: 174).

To be added, however, is that while Hizbollah acknowledges its common ground with various Lebanese non-Islamic actors, it does also emphasize that Islam best bolsters the spirit needed for sacrifice and enduring resistance. Were this Islamic character to be effaced, "its patriotism would become extremely fragile" (ibid: 180).

4.2. Making enemies

But Hizbollah's call for unity fell on many a deaf ear in sectarian and hate-ridden Lebanon. Too many interests had no wishes to get along or, for that matter, to embark on any Islamist-inspired political venture. In the south, north of the Israeli "security-zone", Amal tried to use its popular support for creating political supremacy with the prime ambition of keeping the area calm and quiet. The supremacy of Amal implied that no PLO guerillas still lingering in Lebanon would be allowed to return southwards. Neither was Amal keen on allowing Hizbollah's bold guerillas to enter the area and challenge the already fragile environment of security for the local population. Hizbollah, for its part, detested any efforts of curbing the continuing resistance against the Israelis in the "security-zone". Besides being a political antagonist within the Shiite community, Amal thus also appeared as an obstacle to the liberation of the south. In addition, Unifil, the UN force deployed in the south in 1978 in order to assist the Lebanese government when implementing UN resolution 425, also appeared as hampering the guerillas. In its political manifesto, Hizbollah had referred to Unifil as a force which obstructed the resistance and protected the security of Israel, thus concluding that, "We may be forced to deal with them exactly as we deal with the Zionist invasion forces" (Norton 1987a: 182). Indeed, the peace-keepers patrolling the area and manning the UN check-points were continuously enganged in dire conflicts with Hizbollah; and pretty frequently arguments ended up in downright firing between them. As the civil war after 1982 consolidated the division of Lebanon into sectarian enclaves, the nature of the battles transformed themselves from being inter-sectarian to becoming intra-sectarian. This was to be the notorious Lebanese "militia-land", a patchwork of sectarian homogenous pieces of areas and neighbourhoods in which clanslords and their affiliates ruled by alterating terror and welfare service, administrating the system of taxes and social infrastructure ordinarily managed by the state. As a result, the quest for power implied that Christians fought Christians, Palestinians fought Palestinians (in their refugee camps), and Shiites fought Shiites. The conflict between Amal and Hizbollah erupted already in 1985 when Amal sieged and shelled the Palestinian refugee camps around Beirut and in the south. Fighting Palestinians suited various objectives of Amal, but they ran contrary to those of Hizbollah. As Amal wanted to curb the lingering armed factions of the PLO and at the same time ride on the wave of "anti-PLOism" that had emerged and flourished among a great number of Shiites, the movement thought that these efforts would strengthen its supremacy within the Shiite community. "A return of the Palestinian masquerade to the south is strictly forbidden", Amal leader Nabih Berri underlined in 1984. "It's no longer permitted to anyone to fight until the last southerner...There's no question of a return to the situation that prevailed before 1982" (qouted in Sayigh 1994: 190) Such schemes, however, were despised by Hizbollah who regarded the Palestinian cause as a central pillar of its struggle. The nationalist aspirations of Amal thus clashed with the internationalist ambitions of Hizbollah - and as Hizbollah on various occasions also confronted Unifil in the south, the Islamists soon took on Amal, too. These clashes, however, were to no popular credit for the Islamists, especially not in the south where the local population mostly embraced the presence of Unifil and Amal's quest for local security (Norton 1990). Despite its well developed organization, Hizbollah found itself rather isolated on a popular level. A Shiite sociologist grown up in the south, noted that the locals identified far more with Amal than with Hizbollah as the latter's "ideology and line of behaviour differed too sharply from anything corresponding to a collective aspiration" (Beydon 1992: 47). True, most southerners may have supported the idea of armed resistance, but they were dead tired of bearing the brunt of Israeli reprisals. Neither were Hizbollah's Islamic codes of life approved of by a great number the local Shiites. As Jaber describes,

    Shortly after its arrival in the South, [Hizbollah] banned the sale of alcohol in shops and restaurants and prohibited parties, dancing and loud music. They also closed down coffee shops. The old men who used to frequent the coffee shops in the afternoons and early evenings were deprived of their simple pastime of paying cards and backgammon. A strict code of Islamic behaviour was imposed on the towns and villages bringing with it some extreme interpretations of what was considered permissible behaviour. Although there were those who were happy to abide by the new regulations and restrictions, many others rejected them (1997: 29-30).

Moreover, in Beirut, an escalation of hostage-takings of Westerners, mostly journalists, were conducted by various groups claimed to be affiliated with Hizbollah. Although denying any involvement in these affairs, spokesmen of the movement were often ambiguous whether to approve of them or not; something that further undermined the public reputation of Hizbollah. In 1996, the vice secretery-general Sheikh Na'im Qassem argued that Hizbollah never had any control over the abductions and that they did not know the identity of those responsible. On the other hand, in that "loose arena" of the time, he could see no reason why Hizbollah ought to bother about it. Any interference in the abductions, he argued, would merely serve the interests of the enemies of Hizbollah, i.e. the Western powers, while at the same time sewing a split between the groups opposing the Western hegemony in Lebanon (ibid: 142-3).45

4.3 The Ta'if Accord: in the grip of Damascus

In the early nineties, civil peace came to Lebanon. The price to pay for it was Syrian ascendancy. With troops and connections, Damascus had been a major player in the Lebanese killing fields for nearly fifteen years when the National Reconciliation Charter was signed in town of Ta'if, Saudi Arabia, in 1989. And without Damascus, any effort of signing - or indeed implementing - this so-called Ta'if Accord would most likely have been jammed down the drain. By the end of the eighties, the Lebanese quagmire was more messy than ever. Arbitrary misrule by militias, relentless intra-sectarian fighting, vast emigration and brain-drain (mainly among Christians) and an economy in ruins had brought the populace to utter, unbearable despair. In addition, since 1988, peculiarly enough, Lebanon had had two governments. As Amin Gemayel, who after the MNF withdrawal in 1984 had been more or less a president without a land, came to end his office in 1988, he could not appoint any legitimate successor. Lebanon was too fragmented and most Muslim politicians boycotted the presidential palace. As a result, Lebanon became plagued by two governments: one in the Christian dominated areas under the leadership of the former Lebanese army general Michael Aoun, and another in the Muslim dominated quarters under the leadership of the Sunni politician Salim Hoss. Whereas the former was Maronite-dominated and supported by Iraq, the latter was mostly composed of Muslims and enjoyed the back-up from Damascus. However, the ensuing crisis in the Gulf and the U.S.-led international coalition that was about to oust Saddam Hussein out of Iraq, provided leverage to break the stalemate. Syria sided with the Allies against Saddam, and as a service in return, Washington offered Damascus free reign to take on general Aoun and push forward for a new Lebanese order. The Ta'if Accord, signed by the old traditional guard of the pre-war Lebanese cabinet in October 1989 (the two governments in Beirut was not present), was a way to attain that order. On paper, the accord implied the extension of the Lebanese state's authority over all territory recognized by the international community, the disbanding of all militias, and constitutional reforms in order to reach an equilibrium with respect to the sectarian balance and accordingly relinguish the former Christian dominance in parliament. As the parlamentarian 6:5 ratio was changed to 5:5 and the former strong presidential role within the executive (still to be assigned a Maronite) was weakened on behalf of the Prime Minister post (still to be assigned a Sunni Muslim), the idea was to strike a balance between the political representation of Christians and Muslims.46 Hence, albeit reformed, the confessionalist formula was kept intact. Furthermore, the accord underlines the importance of implementing UN resolution 425 and the imperative of giving the Syrians a prominent role when carrying the accord through. While stipulating that the Syrian army should withdraw to the Bekaa Valley two years after its implementation, the accord stressed the need for cultivating relations with Syria in various fields of security, economics and politics. True, this Syrian factor brought resistance against the accord, mainly from the Christian camp, headed by Aoun, who regarded it as a sell-out of Lebanese independence. But Aoun's declaration of "War of Liberation" against the Syrians in 1989 brought mere death and destruction, leading nowhere than to his own eventual exile in France. Hence, Lebanon was in the hands of Syria. As one observer noted, left "to deal with Syria alone, Lebanon was unable to prevent Damascus from turning the Ta'if Accord into into an instrument applied in ways that suited Syrian interests" (Maila 1993: 41). Doubtless, he had a point. Shortly after the implementation of the Ta'if Accord, new treaties were formalized and realized. In May 1991, the Treaty of Brotherhood, Cooperation and Coordination deepened the relations further between Damascus and Beirut, and prior to the Arab-Israeli peace conference in Madrid the same year, the time was ripe for signing the Security and Defense Pact.47 Both treaties, like the accord in Ta'if, aimed at cultivating all Syrian-Lebanese relations of security, economy, political and social affairs. With "brotherhood" as a main repeating theme, however, a British correspondent drily commented that, Syria, between the lines, "is very much of a big brother" (Muir 1991: 3). He too, of course, had a point. Firstly, Beirut could hardly oppose Damascus, given Syria's long-term interests in Lebanese affairs and Lebanon's dependence on Syria when carrying the peace through. After all, around 40 000 Syrian troops were stationed on Lebanese soil at the end of the war; they had defeated Aoun and without their assistance the Lebanese state would not be able to restore law and order by disarming the militias.48 Secondly, the appointed post-war cabinet were to ninety per cent "pro-Syrian", including the President, the Prime minister and the Speaker of Parliament. In the face of such institutionalized powers, a great number of players who initially rejected the increase of Syrian hegemony, threw in their towels. "While they may not like the Syrian stamp on the peace", the correspondent concluded, "most Lebanese accept it as better than war" (ibid: 4). Equally important, the new order provided the opportunity for national elections in 1992, the first to be held in twenty years. However, although these elections signed a new era of tranquility, they also consolidated further the ascendancy of Syria (Khazen 1993). A new electoral law that extended the parlamentarian seats from 108 to 128 were to the favor of Damascus as the electoral districts to be expanded were districts where Syrian control was most present. Furthermore, most Christian politicians and voters boycotted the elections as they viewed them as just another phase in Syrian quest for hegemony. They indeed had a case. Clearly, Syria had facilitated peace in Lebanon for no altruistic reasons. Syria was not prepared to leave Lebanon alone. Rather Damascus aspired to control it, which it did. Just like the Cabinet appointed before the elections, the executives of the 1992 elections formed a motley crowd of notables and former warlords, all with eminent ties to the Syrian establishment.49 In any case, by making Lebanon calm and comparatively quiet, at least north of the "security-one", Damascus secured various interests. Firstly, through the Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, a Sunni billionaire and business man with a vast network of connections in the Gulf and Europe, the Lebanese state would enjoy the credibility and resources needed for becoming "a more effective Syrian agent" (Harris 1997: 281). Secondly, above the heads of the Lebanese government, Syria concluded an agreement with Iran which implied the release of all foreign hostages in exchange for the continuation of the armed resistance against the Israeli occupation of the Lebanese south (Norton 1991: 471). This was a strong card for Syria. By giving Hizbollah free rein in the south, Damascus would indirectly bring pain and suffering upon the Israeli troops residing in the "security-zone" and thus force the Jewish state to negotiate over the Golan Heights. With this calculus in mind, Syria also joined the comprehensive Middle East peace negotations in Madrid in 1991. Thirdly, Damascus made clear that it was prepared to conduct a partial withdrawal from Lebanon, as it was stipulated in the Ta'if Accord. As a condition for a withdrawal, however, Damascus demanded that the political system of Lebanon ought to be deconfessionalized. This was a non-starter for the Christians. To them, the parity in parliament was a guarantee that they did not end up as a minority. However troublesome Lebanon had been for Syria during the years of the civil war - now, the small neighbour to Damascus had turned into a reliable asset.

4.4 Hizbollah joins in

Hizbollah at first rejected the Ta'if Accord. On the one hand because it did not end the confessionalist formula ruling the country, and on the other because the movement feared being disarmed and thus without the means and crucial political milieu for keeping up its resistance against the Israeli occupation. Pretty soon, however, the movement grasped the sign of the times: it was better to hang on within the system instead of remaining outside of it. Maybe more important: it acknowledged that Syria approved the continuation of resistance activities. As the elections narrowed in 1992, Hizbollah therefore decided to participate. Hence, from having "flourished like a weed in an untended garden", as one author puts it, Hizbollah joined the fray of mass politics (Kramer 1997: 156).50 The integration of the movement was, of course, one part of Syria's ambition to become the captain of Lebanese politics. In the late eighties, Damascus had made blatantly clear to the Islamists who was in charge. In 1987, for instance, Syrian troops had entered the Hizbollah strongholds in the southern surburbs of Beirut, killing 22 Islamist guerillas in order to squash what Damascus viewed as a quest for autonomy on behalf of Hizbollah (Harris 1997: 216) Later on, the Syrian Minister of Defence General Tlas adressed the Islamists saying that "even if a cat dares to breathe in the surburbs, it will be strangled" (Hunter 1993: 216 n.17). Hizbollah, no doubt, got the point. But integration was not mere submission. Unmistakably, the Hizbollah gained from the new environment imposed by the Ta'if order, as the resistance became legitimate. Instead of encountering Amal and, to some extent, Unifil, the resistance was thus acting with a consent from Beirut, now under the auspices of Syria. According to Timor Goksel, a long-time spokesman for Unifil since the inception of the force in 1978, Hizbollah drastically changed manners in the south as soon as the implementation of the Ta'if got started. "Before 1991, we couldn't talk to these guys", he said.

    We had a big problem with that, very difficult communications. When we had a communication, they were very angry with us, very suspicious. In 1991, they came themselves and said, 'Look, let's forget the past and start again. We will have a dialogue, we will talk to you guys. We have decided that you are not our enemy'. Before that they were actually treating us like enemies, in the mosques, in their lectures, songs and so on.51

From then on, he also noted, Hizbollah changed its attitude towards the locals, dropping its dogmatic ways of imposing what it viewed as Islamic codes of life. With respect to the elections in 1992, moreover, Hizbollah regarded its participation as an obligation to a self-perceived public mandate. Political activity was useless during the eighties due to its "framework of divisions", Sheikh Qassem had argued. Now, Hizbollah recognized the new environment as a political opportunity. Considering that the ideas of the movement "represent a large part of Lebanese society", he said, "we had a duty to take part in the elections".52 The participation proved to be a success. Out of 128 seats, 27 of which reserved for Shiites, Hizbollah gained eight. Together with two Sunni and two Christian M.P.s Hizbollah then formed the largest parlamentarian bloc in opposition, called "The Bloc Loyal to the Resistance". The Islamists certainly benefited from the Christian boycott of the elections, but the result nevertheless showed that Hizbollah had abandoned its former rejectionism and had become part of the political picture. It did not pass painlessly, however. Hizbollah's former secretary-general, Sheikh Subhi Tufayli, who led the movement through the militant eighties and was succeeded by the more moderate Sayyed Abbas Musawi in 1991, condemned the participation. At the eve of the elections, he was even reported as having called upon his followers to burn down the voting centers as there was no fatwa (edict) to support participation (Hamzeh 1993: 325). Tufayli appeared to belong to the past, though. The new leadership could not, as noted, see any illegitimacy in integration, even if it did not necessarily support the government.53 Sayyed Fadlallah promoted electoral participation, arguing, on Hizbollah's behalf, that without parlamentarian representation, others would "harvest the fruits" of the forthcoming liberation of the south, conducted by the Islamic Resistance (qouted in Kramer 1997: 158) And what did the rejectionists offer as an alternative, he asked? Just to "sit in their seats, waiting for the Prophet to send down angels to clear the way for them to take power here and there?" (qouted in ibid.).

4.5. The abolishment of confessionalism

In parliament and in the new political milieu of Lebanon, Hizbollah set out to spread and clarify its cause. The principal pillars, however, as manifested in 1985, were to be proclaimed within a context where the state now played a new role and the Lebanese in general craved improved living standard, tranquility and security. From having capitalized on the alienation felt by parts of the Shiite public during the war, Hizbollah now had to accommodate both to the state, to the public, and, indeed, to the Syrians. In this regard, the environment of post-war Lebanon (albeit the conflict in the south continues) has provided both constraints and opportunites. Arguably, the domestic scene of Lebanese politics suffers from bad performance. As a leading analyst on Lebanese affairs told this author, the current political order of the country very much lacks ideologies and visions.54 Before the civil war, he said, Lebanon flourished of ideological parties, most often engaged in debating values and future national directions. There was an Arab nationalist and leftist trend versus a so-called political "right", i.e. a capitalist trend. Now the left is almost absent, he maintained, and Lebanon is trapped within a political quarrel between clansleaders who, within the framework of the confessionalist system, represent their own sects and whose main concern is the amount of money to be provided to their own constituencies. "Partly this is due to the presence of Syria", he said. "You are really not allowed to speak out clearly about these issues, so we have politics without ideology. You know, politics without politics". But it is also the result of the structures created by the war, he added, as all parties by that time "ended up as confessional mafias". When the state broke down, clansleaders built their own powerbases within their constituencies under the barrel of the gun. Now, the guns are replaced by portfolios in Cabinet and seats in Parliament, although the idea of power and of patronizing is very much the same. As a whole, he said, Lebanon these days is very reminiscient of the laissez-faire project it was before the war. Then, the state structures were created by Maronites mainly for Maronites; there was "simply an elite that took the advantage of and set the economic policy". The French supported that project as it hampered the potential of Arab nationalism. These days, however, it is a Sunni elite class, instead of a Maronite, "that takes advantage of the state in order to promote its own business interests: as state-owners, as traders, making money in the Gulf. Thus it is very much as it was: an open economy; very laissez-faire, not much of a welfare state, no big role of the public sector. Not much of that has changed".55

Since its entry into parliament, Hizbollah has heavily criticized these state of affairs. Besides the issue of armed resistance against Israel, social policy is a top priority for the movement. As the post-war government has invested a lot for reconstructing Beirut to what it once was, i.e. a central junction for trade and finance, the Islamists acknowledge that the impoverished areas of the country remain unchanged to a large extent. A spokesman of Hizbollah told this author that the government is more interested in displaying a nice front to foreigners and investments instead of helping the needy.56 During the election campaign of 1996, Hizbollah promoted a change in policies: investments ought to be directed into productive sectors such as industry, agriculture, animal feeding and fishery.57 In general, the movement regards the problem of poverty to be both structural and ideological. Firstly, the confessionalist system, Hizbollah spokesmen say, invites sectarianism and short-sighted policies merely aimed at consolidating the powerbases for the governing elites and their client networks. "In this respect", a Hizbollah official argued, "citizens will lose the aspect of citizenship and every sect will seek to improve their own situation, not to act with others in order to improve society as a whole".58 Areas being poorly represented among the authorities will be neglected for the same reason. But this discrimination does not only apply to Muslim areas, he pointed out. Even Christian areas are being discriminated. Secondly, on a more ideological level, the movement blames the era of marketism and competition as detrimental to social solidarity. The spirit of sharing and care, according to Hizbollah, has become lost in a world of raw individualism, fostered by the logic of capitalism. In an official message to the Pope in 1997, Hizbollah stressed the importance of returning to the norms given by religion, a common route to walk for both Muslims and Christians. "Today", the message reads, "as has always been the case, we need the spirit of prophethood and mission to restore the spiritual beam of divine values in a world suffering from the crises of hunger, crime, anxiety and frustration".59 Such a lack of spiritual values does for sure apply in Lebanon, the movement notes, as corruption is abundant and social discrepancies alarming.60 Hizbollah thus aims at establishing a platform for the sharing of values with Christian groups in order to counter trends of secularism that encourage indulgent lifestyles.61 In this context, Hizbollas spokesmen emphasize that it is crucial to distinguish religion from sectarianism. Loyality to a sect, Christian or Muslim, does not qualify as a religious concern. Religion is universal and all-encompassing and does not bother about sectarian loyalities, as religion concerns common humanitarian values.62 Another point is that sectarianism hampers national unity. As Sayyed Fadlallah told this author, "sectarianism is preventing the Lebanese from being related to their homeland - because every sect believes that [the sect] is its own homeland. That is why the sectarian system prevents or bars the feeling of national unity".63 With respect to the resistance, he noted that sectarianism is the reason to why this issue mainly is restricted to one sect (the Shiites) and one area (the south). He moreover asserted that confessionalism as a system, with its quotas and norms of sectarian representation, "prevents many qualified people from assuming certain positions in the country". Unmistakably addressing the ruling government, he remarked that the nature of the system "even paves the way for unqualified people to assume positions and gives them prestige of being heads of state themselves".64

4.6. Struggling against isolation

Observers in Lebanon mainly agree that the ideological weight of Hizbollah distinguishes the movement from most other political players in contemporary Lebanon. Since its volte-face in the early nineties, Hizbollah has gained a clean reputation for having high moral and integrity in a political environment commonly known for being jammed with corruption, mudslinging and a general lack of credence.65 There is, however, an awe-inspiring ambivalence concerning Hizbollah among a great number of Lebanese. They regard as Hizbollah's fundamental idea the implementation of the Welayat al-Faqih, an Islamist concept alien to pluralist Lebanon, not only to Christians but to Muslims as well. Salem argued that, nowadays, Hizbollah is indeed accepted as a player in the Lebanese political game, but "it does not have any appeal beyond its own constituency". People may sympathize with its achievements as a resistance in the south or its social welfare work, its establishing schools and hospitals, he said, "but the bulk of the Lebanese population is just not in accord with that ideology".66 Indeed, the rethoric of the eighties still haunts the impression of Hizbollah. Besides the declared loyality to Ayatollah Khomeini during that period of time, the movement would also, from time to time, display a certain degree of ambivalence towards Lebanon as a concept. In its view, national borders were the creation of the colonial heritage. Sayyed Abbas Musawi, for example, once stated: "Our interpretation of Islam could not be reconciled with geographic considerations. We follow the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, and this leadership is as compelling in Lebanon as it is in Iran, or in any other Muslim land. All boundaries dividing up Dar al-Islam are artificial and will soon disappear" (qouted in Salamé 1988: 10).67 The internationalist cause of Hizbollah, issued from Teheran, was too great for being confined and restrained by borders these Lebanese Islamists did not acknowledge anyway. Nevertheless, while such rethoric may have boosted Islamic steam during the civil war, today it breeds isolation. In line with Salem, another analyst of Hizbollah argued: "It does not make sense for them to shout about an Islamic republic - that scares the hell out of everybody here".68 Instead she noted that Hizbollah - now being within the system - must think of ways to promote Islam without degrading it. This is for sure an uphill road, she argued, but it forces Hizbollah, more than other parties, to announce concrete political programs that show what it wants to do. That is one way of ridding itself of this surrounding suspicions. Indeed, confronted with this problem, Hizbollah M.P., Husayn Hajj Hassan, did not deny the movement's commitment to Islam or desire of establishing an Islamic state.69 He claimed, however, that this was not a top priority of the movement, let alone a concrete one. "When we move into the framework of reality, an intellectual, politician or statesman will be forced to couple theory with reality", he said.

    So for Lebanon, which is a pluralist society with many faces, where there are Muslims and Christians, among whom there are many different divisions and sects, I don't know of anyone of us who has proposed an Islamic state the Iranian way, or even the Saudi way...[I]n our country, there is a large per cent of Christians. We respect their history and we live our present together. We also look forward to the future together. They are our fellowmen. We will build our state together. We also know that some Muslims adopt ideas that do not necessarily suit Islamic thought.

He furthermore argued that Islam was an intellectual concept which promoted certain principles that all Lebanese could agree upon. An Islamic state, on the other hand, was an "idealistic solution", but Hizbollah realizes, he said, "that we will not be able to achieve its application in Lebanon".70 Moreover, with respect to borders, Hajj Hassan pointed out that there were no such borders in the region seventy years ago: they were imposed by the French and the British in order to instigate contradictions and conflict. Now these borders are facts, however, and he noted that they must be taken into account. But borders should not exclude cooperation between states. Globalization reduces the significance of borders, he said, and this is imperative because the U.S. utilizes the era of globalization as a pretext for domination. "When the Americans talk of globalization, the Gatt and the economic world order", he argued, "they just want to tighten their grip on the world because [they] are the strongest on the economic and military levels.

    There is no other pool to confront them...So would it be shameful or wrong to propose that we should melt the borders among ourselves, abolishing our borders as Arabs or as Muslims or as Third World countries? All in order to build a new force or a power to be able to confront [the Americans] - or just to be able to go on, to remain, to survive in this brutal system which is crushing the poor all over the world...When we propose our ideology which calls for all people to unite against the American imperialism, we don't only talk about Muslims...The issue of borders does not mean abolishing the national identity; it means uniting efforts and forcing powers within a system which may produce strength.

On this topic, moreover, Hajj Hassan referred to the state of Israel as "cancer". Palestine is the heart of the Arab world, he pointed out. It lays next to the Suez canal, separating the Arab east from the west. It has Jerusalem, the door to Asia, and it is close to Africa. Palestine borders to the Red Sea as well as to the Mediterranian. In this context, the role of Israel as an entity is to strike at all Arab environments. "We are 200 million Arabs in the face of 5 million Israelis and they are defeating us," he said. "They are taking our resources, they are occupying our land, killing our people. There are five million displaced Palestinians in refugee camps, [living] in misery". The reason for this, he argued, is that the Americans penetrate the Arab world by ideology and media in order to provoke contradictions and conflict among Arabs and Muslims.

    [They say] that 'you have your identity, you must remain Lebanese, Palestinian, or Egyptian'. Our borders are artificial, made up in order to tear us apart. Thereby, controlling us will be easier. We don't call for formal unity, we don't call for unbalanced unity, meaning that some treat others from above. We just need to know that our disunity is the reason for our weakness. We know that when we are proposing unity that will provoke fears among the Christians and all the other minorities all over the Arab world. But until when must our disunity remain in the face of our Zionist enemy?

According to Hajj Mofak Gamal, editor of al-Ahd (the pledge), a weekly distributed by Hizbollah, the rejectionism during the eighties mainly concerned the Lebanese regime. The obnoxious slogans of the eighties were required by the situation at that stage, he argued.

    Hizbollah was successful in bringing down the negative aspects of the regime during that period of time through its performances and through the slogans it made. It brought down the alliance between Israel and the regime and all other surrendering plans...for example the 17th May Agreement. It was also able to bring down the plans of some to deal with Israel...The slogans formed a sort of mobilizing rethoric that suited the stage by that time.

He furthermore acknowledged that politicians all over the world are dealing with political issues according to the present balance of power. The early eighties were the heydays for the Israelis and the people dealing with them, he said, and Lebanese politicians tried to arrange their interests according to that fact. Hizbollah, however, aimed at, and succeeded in, overturning that balance.71

The new environment has provided the opportunity for a change in approach. The internationalist discourse from the eighties is still kept intact although in a new form; accomodating instead of rejectionist. Hizbollah is at present working from within the system to put Lebanon, as a whole, on the same track with the internationalist ambitions of the movement. This is also a strong point to consider when noting Hizbollah's cooperation with Syria. The alliance with Syria, the movement argues, is a move in line with its quest for regional unity. Here, there is, as we have seen, a mutual interest between Syria and Hizbollah as Damascus provides legitimacy and leverage to the resistance fighting Israel. Currently, this fight is no doubt the top priority of Hizbollah.

4.7 A legitimate resistance

As the Israelis withdrew from the outskirts of Beirut down to its current "security-zone" in the south, the idea of armed resistance gained momentum. Hizbollah strongly conceives that mere resistance, no negotiations, will drive the Israelis out of Lebanon.This is a main point the movement never tires of stressing.72 A spokesman for Hizbollah underlined that the top priority given the armed resistance is due to the Lebanese need of fighting Israeli aggression against Arab land, the recapturing of resources and defending the national dignity:

    Why is resistance priority number one? Because no state can be established on a good basis unless the occupation is removed. How can one build a school in a village when you know that it will propbably be shelled the next day? How can a farmer go to his field while he is being sniped at by the Israelis? Indeed, the resistance and the liberation of land has to do with national dignity as well. Occupation means suppression, injustice, the taking of resources, external control of land. We are accustomed to the fact that whenever the Israelis occupy a territory, they will build settlements there and steal this land.73

Well aware though that a war-weary Lebanese public has for a long time remained ambivalent towards the resistance in the south, Hizbollah puts a great deal of efforts on various levels in order to convince the public that the burdens of a continued armed struggle are absolutely necessary. The head of Hizbollah's student organization, for instance, told this author that they are busy in providing activites on Lebanese campuses which are aimed at attracting all students. This implies giving lectures, showing films and even arranging bus travels down to the front line villages in order to facilitate an understanding of the resistance among students who do not belong to Hizbollah.74 A similar kind of lectures are also arranged by Hizbollah's female branch among women, particularly housewifes, in the neighbourhoods and villages around the country.75 According to Sheikh Nabil Qaouk, the leader of Hizbollah in the south, it is important to portray the resistance as fighting for a just and national cause. The Israelis, he has noted, usually describes the war in the south as merely being fought between Israel and Hizbollah. "[I]t is more important for us to show [the war] in its true form - a war, not just between Hizbollah and the Israeli soldiers but one in which the whole of Lebanon and its people are in danger" (Jaber 1997: 43).76 In this vein, Hizbollah at the end of 1997 formed a new guerilla unit called The Lebanese Resistance Brigades in which Lebanese citizens of all religions are welcome to join. At the eve of its inception, secretary-general Sayyed Nasrallah said that the "purpose of this resistance is to give the opportunity to anyone who is Lebanese and wishes to participate in the resistance, to fight through the framework regardless of his beliefs".77 Any martyrs or wounded - and their families - within this framework, he reassured, would be given the same care as the fighters of the Islamic resistance.78 With respect to the realization of these brigades, Sayyed Nasrallah a few weeks later argued that "[a] day will come when no one can say that the resistance is Shiite or Islamic. It will be recognized as a serious framework in which all Lebanese from all sects are involved".79

The efforts of Hizbollah have gained considerable ground. Analysts in Lebanon agree that there is a change in the public eye on the resistance. Nizar Hamzeh, an analyst on Islamist affairs at the American University of Beirut, argued that this is on the one hand due to the Syrian surveillance and on the other due to the resistance having "proved itself", i.e. it has become more professional and efficient.80 Likewise, Issa Goraib, editor of the Lebanese daily Le Orient Le Jour, argued that Hizbollah's guerillas of today are of different character than before.81 From being looked upon as a "bunch of excited fanatic people lined up and trapped with TNT on their way to jihad and martyrdome" they have, he said, during the past years managed to conduct a very modern and efficient resistance against the Israeli occupation. "There is a lot of admiration for them among the village people [in the south], both among the Christians and Muslims", he argued. After a heated period during which five Israeli soldiers were killed in south Lebanon, an editorial in The Beirut Daily Star praised the resistance in the same vein for its "bravery, superb professionalism and, most of all, repeated successes of [its] fighters." "We salute them", the editorial ended.82 Another notable show of unity around the resistance occurred when 18-year old Hadi Nasrallah, the son of Hizbollah's secretary-general, was killed in action in a confrontation with the Israelis autumn of 1997. As a soldier of the elite core in the Islamic Resistance, Hadi Nasrallah was hailed as a national martyr by vast sentiments among the Lebanese public. During a seven-day mourning period, an estimated number of 200 000 well-wishers a day - including politicians, religious leaders and Lebanese of "all walks of life" - were reported to have visited the commemoration reception hall in Hizbollah's stronghold of south Beirut.83

But beyond the bullets and bombs and the quest for consensus in Lebanon, Hizbollah is also reaching out to the Israeli public through various media networks. Al-Manar (the source of light) is a television station loyal to Hizbollah whose prime aim is to counter what it regards as distorted facts concerning the war in the south.84 While charging Israel for trying to conceal its defeats, the Islamist guerillas nowadays frequently film their attacks against Israeli targets in the "security-zone". This coverage is then broadcasted on al-Manar's evening news. An ambition is to "protect and consolidate the internal Lebanese front", but Dr. Moshen said that the coverage also served as psychological warfare against the Israeli public opinion. Israeli TV journalists will pick up these video-clips from the battles, he said, together with Hizbollah promises that the resistance will continue and that more Israeli conscripts will return home in bodybags. In that way, al-Manar can forward the message to Israel that its army is fighting "a modest power, but an effective one," and thereby "encourage the [Israeli] public opinion to call for a withdrawal from Lebanon."85 The station moreover runs a site on Internet which, among other things, provides daily news from the perspective of the resistance.86

The war in the south is taking a heavy toll of Israel. 1998 saw 21 Israeli soldiers killed by the resistance, a far larger amount were wounded. The year before 39 Israeli soldiers were killed. And the guerillas are increasing their activities. Whereas Hizbollah initiated 670 attacks against the occupation forces in 1997, it staged 1200 attacks in 1998. In 1996, in addition, the movement conducted 460 attacks.87 A report from the Israeli Foreign Ministry's Political Research Center noted in February 1999 that Hizbollah has never been as "well off" as now.88 Besides the increase of guerilla attacks, it acknowledged that the Lebanese Islamists have expanded their social, economic and political activities, that they enjoy an increasing support from the Lebanese government and that the public dissent is growing within Israel. Hence, from having regarded the "security-zone" as a success in the early nineties, when the area was comparatively quiet, there is now a growing conviction within the public of Israel that the presence in Lebanon is a lost cause. Various Israeli lobby groups demand an immediate unilateral pull out, and it is reported that fifty per cent of the Israeli opinion are now ready for a withdrawal.89 Meanwhile, the political and military establishment is split.90 A senior veteran of the Israeli intelligence, Revuen Merhan, has openly stated that Hizbollah "are freedom fighters in every respect, an authentic expression of the deep desire to eject Israel from southern Lebanon".91 Adressing hawks of the establishment, who oppose a unilateral withdrawal, he maintained that if these had been born Lebanese Shiites, they would have fought the occupation with the same zeal as does Hizbollah.92 In the political opposition, moreover, Yossef Beilin, a prominent member of the Israeli Labor party and architect of the Oslo Accord, heads a parlamentarian group that demands a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon.93 At the same time, though, an common view in Israel is that Hizbollah would not, given the opportunity, hesitate to breach the border in order to commit dreadful deeds against Israeli civilans in the north, similar to the assaults committed by Palestinian guerillas during the seventies. The legitimacy for Israel to counter such a threat thus gains priority over the moral abomination of violating the sovereignity of another country, including the casualties of Israeli conscripts. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made that clear when saying that Israel's "purpose in being in Lebanon is to defend the north of Israel, so that children, buses and tourists are not subjected to the murderous attacks of terrorists. We pay a heavy price in dead and wounded soldiers for this protection...only after we find all the ways to achieve this objective will we be able to leave Lebanon."94 Therefore, Israel is still, as in the mid-eighties, looking for a formal settlement in order to be provided the demanded arrangements of security. But as Beirut in general is regarded to be under Syrian surveillance, the key to such a deal is believed to be found in Damascus.

4.8 Syrian management

As we have seen, the Syrian experience in Lebanon has been one of walking the tightrope, making and breaking alliances, never letting any Lebanese or non-Lebanese player gaining too much influence or freedom of movement. As the Syrian army entered Lebanon in 1976, it crushed the PLO-LNM offensive intent of taking over the country and thereby it saved the lame Maronite-dominated regime in Beirut. Afterwards, nonetheless, Syria gave the Palestinian guerillas free reins to take on the Israelis in the south, as Damascus did not bother to be the "policeman for Israel". The weakened Maronites, however, craved revenge with the assistance of the Jewish state and thus approved the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. But Syria bit that bullet, too. While the PLO embarked from Beirut, the Syrians confidently noted how the Israeli army got stuck in the Lebanese quagmire, eventually ending up as targets for a new Shiite resistance more lethal than the former Palestinian one. In addition, Syria supported and encouraged the same very resistance as it turned its rage against the MNF and the American political enterprise of wrenching Lebanon away from the grips of Damascus. Facing that ferment, neither the Israel army nor the MNF had enough stamina to stay. The success of the resistance - in which an emerging Hizbollah had a vital role - was thus as much a victory for the Syrian ambition of sustaining its influence over Lebanon. Accordingly, after the U.S. and Israel abandoned their most ambitious goals in Lebanon, Syria again became the ruler of the Lebanese roost; especially so in the aftermath of the Ta'if Agreement. This is no doubt acknowledged by the Americans, and to an increasing extent by Israel. Hence, as the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and between Israel and Jordan, continue, however precarious and unsteady, it has become almost an axiom that peace with Lebanon can not be realized without a simultaneous peace accord being signed with Syria. Whatever the average Lebanese view of this state of affairs, Damascus has made sure that a trilateral solution is the only one. That is, to be given security guarantees from Beirut, Israel must hand back the Golan Heights to Syria. But seeing the Golan as dear ground, Israel has tried to turn the tables on Damascus. In 1996, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered a deal he called "Lebanon First". The deal implied that Netanyahu demanded Hizbollah to be dismantled by the Lebanese army and the SLA to be integrated into the latter. Then, Israel would conduct a phased withdrawal and the stalled talks on the Golan would again be proceeded. Syria and Lebanon jointly turned down the offer, arguing that it was just an Israeli effort at driving a wedge between them.95 In January 1998 Israel's Minister of Defense Yitzhak Mordechai announced that Israel would acknowledge the UN Resolution 425 and withdraw accordingly.96 The crux of the matter, nevertheless, was the Israeli insistance on security guarantees, i.e. dismantling of Hizbollah, the acquittal of SLA from charges of treason in Beirut, and deployment of the Lebanese army alongside the border with the assistance of Unifil. 97 But Beirut and Damscus did not approve the proposal, both saying that the 425 resolution demands Israel's unconditional withdrawal. Repeteadly, Beirut has stated that it will not negotiate with Israel while its forces still occupy Lebanese territory.98 In Damascus, the Syrian President Hafez Asad declared that the UN resolution does not need elaboration, just mere implementation to the letter. "Israel has just to withdraw from Lebanon", he commented the issue. "The Israelis entered Lebanon so they can get out of it".99

With respect to the Syrian-Israeli negotiations, it is widely believed that these were close to a break-through during the legacy of Israeli Labor government (defeated by Benjamin Netanyahu and his right wing coalition in the elections 1996). However, a moot point complicating the negotiations was the actual meaning of "peace". Whereas Israel thought of peace in terms of normalization, i.e. developed relations in the fields of diplomacy, economy, politics and social relations, Syria was more hesitant. While still considering Israel as alien to the region on an ideological level, Damascus also feared that normalization with Israel would imply the latter's dominance and continued hegemony, albeit civil instead of military (Seale 1996; Hinnenbusch 1996).100 With respect to these peace-talks, a source close to Hizbollah told that the Islamists are confident that these will lead nowhere. Hizbollah, he said, knows that the Syrians will never agree to normalization with Israel. Therefore, they do not lose too much sleep because of these negotiations.101

4.9 Assailed and accused

As during the civil war, Hizbollah is still walking a rocky road. Despite the popular and institutional approval of a continued armed resistance, the Islamist movement wrestling at various domestic battle fronts. During the election campaign of 1996, for instance, Hizbollah denied an offer by Amal to cooperate. Instead, it declared that it would run in the elections together with various leftist, independent and Sunni Islamist groups (Usher 1996). As a result, the Lebanese political establishement, including Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, Amal leader Nabih Berri (also Speaker of Parliament) and Druze leader Walid Jumblat, unleashed a campaign against Hizbollah, assailing the movement for fragmenting the country by advocating a "Muslim state" and encourage "extremism" (ibid.). After being summoned to Damascus, however, Amal and Hizbollah decided to run on joint election-lists. As a result, Hizbollah degraded its chances of gaining more seats in parliament, and, rightly, the party lost one seat in parliament (from eight to seven). In addition, two of the candidates within the Bloc Loyal to the Resistance, one Christian and one Sunni, also lost their seats, thus leaving the opposition bloc with nine seats instead of twelve, as was the result in the 1992 elections. According to Salem, the campaign against the Lebanese Islamists was most likely orchestrated, or at least given the green light, by the Syrians. In other words, it was the Syrian way of telling Hizbollah that it had grown too big for its boots.102 Prime Minister Hariri would not have said a single word without the permission from Damascus, Salem said. Another source, close to Hizbollah, claimed that Syria did not fully approve of the new style of the Islamist movement. Hizbollah's ambition to reach a consensus across confessional barriers was too nationalist, according to this source. That would hurt Syrian interests as Damascus is pleased with the ordinary sectarian fragmentation of Lebanese politics. The Syrians want to contain the Islamist movement; it shall pursue the resistance but "remain within the sectarian arena of the Shiites".103 This is also why the popularity of the movement is hardly reflected in parliament. Despite various difficulties in estimating the concrete numbers, Salem assumed that Hizbollah today enjoys between 30-40 per cent of the Shiite support in the country.104

Hizbollah M.P. Hajj Husayn Hassan referred to the election battle of 1996 as the result of the "retarded political mentality" of Lebanon. This was a typical consequence, he said, of a sectarian system where politicians are merely looking for personal benefits and favors while they forget about ideological issues. Hizbollah's call for a non-sectarian state irk too many interests of the notables within the establishment, he noted. Thus they unite against Hizbollah. He denied any alledged Syrian involvement behind the scenes, though. "We and the Syrians are allies", he maintained. "We will remain on our own terms of understanding with the Syrians. The details will not disrupt the situation on the basis of what we [earlier] talked about: unity and strength in terms of confronting Israel".105


But Hizbollah has also taken some severe punches from within. In the Bekaa Valley, former secretary-general Sheikh Subhi Tufayli has remained a headache to the current leadership of the movement ever since he opposed the electoral participation in 1992. Although ousted and stripped of any formal post within the movement, Sheikh Tufayli still enjoys a considerably popular role among Hizbollah supporters, especially within the radical camp and, of course, in the Shiite constituency of the Bekaa. A vehement enemy of any kind of modus vivendi with Israel, Sheikh Tufayli has accused the current leadership of Hizbollah for accomodating to a political structure that most likely will sign a peace treaty with Israel in the near future. During a rally in 1995, he declared that if Palestine was the home of Muslims and if Hizbollah still clinged to Khomeini's decree that Israel was a "cancerous growth that must be cut out", then the resistance could not cease even in the case of a peace treaty. "If peace is made tomorrow with the enemy and you had the chance to kill the Zionist [Israeli] ambassador in Beirut, then it is your duty to do so", he told the crowd.

    You should not hesitate to undertake such a feat. The Resistance will be alive and you should know that the Resistance is continuous whether peace is made or not. We shall shred the peace documents and humiliate those rulers of ours who agree to sign them. We shall not be the supporters or helpers of the Zionists and we shall never permit the loss of our rights. We shall never allow the humiliation of our people and we shall never grant Palestine to the Jews (qouted in Jaber 1997: 209).

The sharpest protest, however, was staged in the summer of 1997 in the Bekaa area. Considered to be the most impoverished region of the country, Sheikh Tufayli headed a civil protest movement of the rural poor called the "Revolution of the Hungry". By cursing the government for neglecting the needs of the citizens in the Bekaa, he also blamed Hizbollah for cooperating with the government against his movement in opposition. "The brothers [Hizbollah] have taken a path that supports the authorities", he told a British daily, "if they continue in this way, no one will respect them".106 In early 1998, the Lebanese army pursued an operation in order to arrest Sheikh Tufayli. After an intense shoot out, leaving a number dead on both sides, the dissident Sheikh managed to escape. He has not been heard of since.107

4.10 Getting along...

The turbulence in Bekaa stirred a debate within Hizbollah; most likely, it also hurt the the movement's credibility among some sentiments. A source close to the party argued that the current leadership has been blamed by various progressive forces - leftist and Islamists - for paying too much attention to the resistance in the south while forgetting about social welfare issues.108 Dr. Mortada conceded this claim to have a point: Sheikh Tufayli was right in regard of the social issues, but then he made two grave mistakes: Firstly, he turned his arms against the government - and "these procedures we do mind". Secondly, Sheikh Tufayli did not consider resistance as a top priority. "For us", Dr. Mortada stressed, "the resistance is a great concern and a number one priority, and therefore we must have a strong and solid base". Assailing the state, he argued, would merely undermine such a base.109

Hence, the ambition of Hizbollah is to root the legitimacy of the armed resistance as well as the movemet itself on a popular and on an institutional level. Despite the backlash in Bekaa and the criticism following it, Hizbollah is busy providing its own network of welfare services in impoverished areas of the country. These social networks emerged during the civil war, as the state at that time was unable to provide any assistance in this regard (Harik 1988). The state is nevertheless still incapable of performing adequately in the field of social welfare. Various branches of Hizbollah, or organs affiliated to it, are therefore handling fields of medical care, scholarships, education, infrastructure, funding families of martyrs, orphans etc.110 Several projects are financed by the Islamic Republic of Iran and other external and domestic sponsors, but, according to spokesmen, the ambition is to make a number of them self-financed.111 Down south, the social organs of Hizbollah are busy in keeping people at place. That is, the aim is to make life in the south endurable despite the war of attrition against the Israeli occupation.112 The movement repaires roads and buildings damaged by Israeli shellings, it provides drinking water to frontline villages and enables farmers of the south to adopt new techniques and equipment. According to the UN spokesman Timor Goksel, the services have provided Hizbollah with tremendous support. Hizbollah is anxious for being present and able whereever something happens in the south. "People are noticing these things", he said. Whenever there is a shelling, Hizbollah will show up saying, 'what can we do for you?'. And besides reparations of damaged property, there are scholarships, medical services and so on so forth. "Then you'll become dependant upon them", Goksel noted. "You feel that you owe them something. You don't have to be a sympathizer...but there is [Hizbollah] - and where is the government?".113

Since the upswing of resistance activities after the implementation of the Ta'if Accord, the Israelis have tried to contain the resistance by conducting two large scale bombing campaigns in July 1993 and April 1996.114 The hundreds of thousands of refugees that the two campaigns pushed northwards to Beirut were meant to put pressure on the Lebanese government and make it quell the resistance. That aim was realized on neither occasion. The result was that both sides agreed not to strike at civilian targets, and, after the hostilities in 1996, a special monitor group - with Syrian, Israeli, Lebanese, American and French presence - would see to it that the agreement remained intact. According to Hizbollah, the agreement itself enjoyed legitimacy as its aim was to protect the civilians of the south. If Lebanese civilians continued to get wounded or killed by Israeli fire, however, the movement pledged to resume its policy of attacking civilian areas in northern Israel with so-called katyuscha-rockets.115 Even though the bomb campaign in 1996 seems to have triggered an upsurge in popularity for Hizbollah, there are also signs showing that the Lebanese government - more in 1993 than 1996 - were susceptible to Israeli pressures. There were, according to one observer, on both occasions doubts within the Lebanese administration on the wisdom of allowing the resistance to continue its hot pursuit against what is commonly known as the most powerful war machine in the Middle East, i.e. Israel (Harik 1997). But Syrian interference, Harik remarks, made sure that no clashes erupted between Beirut and Hizbollah. As the ultimate arbiter, she notes, Damascus made clear that whereas the Lebanese government would enjoy authority status north of the "security zone", Hizbollah would remain an armed resistance in the south. Thanks to this Syrian leverage, Hizbollah has been able to continue its lethal resistance against the Israeli occupation and further boost its popular image.116 In addition, the deal implied that the Lebanese state was forced to act in accordance with its obligations towards its fleeing citizens in the south. As a result, especially the 1996 bombings were perceived as a national endavour, i.e. it was not mere Hizbollah but the whole of Lebanon that was involved in the war. "This positive message", Harik notes, "generated a strong sense of solidarity among citizens and crystallized a national resistance. People throughout the country began to pitch into the war effort without regard of the confessional lines that generally divide Lebanese society" (ibid: 259). Observing this response from the public, Hizbollah secretary-general Sayyed Nasrallah proudly concluded that

    [The Israelis] wanted to weaken Hizbollah, and Hizbollah came out stronger. They wanted to reinforce the idea that Hizbollah are terrorists. They wanted to make a split between the people and the resistance. But the resistance is now more popular than ever. They wanted to create internal unrest in Lebanon, but we experienced national solidarity here that we haven't seen in 30 years. The failure of the enemy is our victory. Had it not been for the massacre of women and children, we would have the right to rejoice, but because of them we have to say that this is a sad victory.117

4.11 ...and staying the course

The municipial elections in the summer of 1998 displayed both the backlash in the Bekaa and the otherwise increasing popularity of Hizbollah elsewhere. A landslide victory in southern surburbs of Beirut was muted by a painful election defeat in Baalbek, a former Hizbollah stronghold in the Bekaa where Shiite Islamists loyal to Sheikh Tufayli ran as opponents to Hizbollah (Leenders 1998).118 However, observers on Hizbollah regarded the elections as a whole to be a test of Hizbollah's standing against its most serious rival, Amal. In that context, the Islamists rode further on its current wave of success. Despite some losses to Amal in the south, the Lebanese weekly Monday Morning now depicted Hizbollah as "the spokesman of the majority of Lebanon's Shiite community".119 According to Hizbollah, the elections were a manifestation of national unity. Under the banner of unity, it cooperated with its other arch-rival Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri on a joint list in the capital. After it was all over, the Islamists called upon all parties to forget the rancour that may have been generated by the elections.120 As we have seen, this quest for unity runs deep. One aspect of it, of course, concerns the legitimacy of Hizbollah itself. The movement wishes to wash off its image of a Lebanese enfant terrible and instead dig deep into the political milieu of Lebanon while avoiding rift and conflict.121 But the ambition domestic stability could also be seen as carrying a larger political design. This was to be seen at a gathering by Hizbollah of various Lebanese political actors - from the Communists to Amal and the Christian Phalange party - in August 1997. At this gathering, a future political line and common vision was discussed and agreed upon. Among other things, it affirmed that the armed resistance in the south would continue as long as the Israelis did not withdraw unconditionally. The meeting parties recognized that national unity was prerequisite if to create the needed "resistance society" and that "the interactive diversity constitutes the vital essence of this unity". It also emphasized that the economic policy must reorient itself in order to see social welfare as a top priority and a prime condition for the imperative of national stability. Defining Lebanese foreign policy as essentially Arab in identity and affiliation, it also called for a continued special relationship with Syria and the strengthening of relations with other states, especially the Islamic Republic of Iran. A comprehensive regional front ought to be a top priority if to challenge Israel and oppose any plan of a future normalization with the "Zionist project", the agreement reads.122 Such a posture elucidates the common political ground to walk for both Lebanese Islamists and other Arab-oriented forces in the country. Thus it confirms the argument that the interests generated within Arab nationalism and political Islam are very much of the same. As Ibrahim Bayan, a Sunnite M.P. and member of the Bloc Loyal to the Resistance told this author, the entry of Hizbollah into the arena of Lebanese politics has been a blessing for the Lebanese progressive forces. As a member of the Arab nationalist left during the seventies, he argued that this current could not provide a qualitative front against the social and political discrimination of the seventies. Instead, it went entangled in a destructive civil war that ruined most of the country. But Hizbollah, he maintained, has been able to improve and develop thoughts of life in the political, social and cultural spheres. "I don't see any difference between the political solution which was proposed by the Islamic revolution in Iran or by Hizbollah," he said, "and what I myself believe in."123

In this process of so-called "Lebanonization", Hizbollah nowadays denies any alleged subordination to the Islamic Republic of Iran. In 1997, the secretary-general Sayyed Nasrallah argued that Hizbollah has its own leadership and that it does not take any orders from Teheran. However, he maintained that because "the Iranian Government supports the Lebanese and Palestinian peoples and stands on the side of the Arabs and Muslims in their struggle against the Zionist design and hegemony over the region, it is natural that there are strong and good relations with an Islamic state that adopts such stands".124 Commenting further on Hizbollah's relation with Iran, Dr. Mortada told this author that the movement regards Ayatollah Khameini, the supreme leader of the Islamic republic, to be the guide for Hizbollah in "religious affairs". Concerning politics, however, he said that Hizbollah "was no teenagers" and that the movement could take care of its own decision-making.125 Nonetheless, Hizbollah has decided to follow the same line as the current Iranian President Muhammad Khatami. The movement has for example, like Khatami, decided call for a dialouge with the American people, albeit not the American administration. Michael Jansen at The Middle East International argued that this "indicated the extent to which the movement was prepared to in transforming its 'distorted image' as a 'terrorist movement' and showed just how closely Hizbollah has been trying to coordinate with the new administration in Teheran".126

Be that as it may, despite the current absence of Sheikh Tufayli, there are still critics from within that decry this "softening" approach and national orientation of Hizbollah. In April 1998, a close aid of Sheikh Tufayli assailed Hizbollah for having proposed a bill in parliament that would provide amnesty for defectors from the SLA. "We can't accept the bill to pardon the militiamen who collaborated against their people", he said.

    [And we] can't understand how the resistance movement, whose initial goal was to destroy Israel, can accept UN resolution 425 and hint that it may stop attacking Israel in the case of a full withdrawal from the south...What happened to the goal of liberating Jerusalem, the city revered by Muslims? Has the resistance movement limited its goal to the implementation of 425?127

Spokesmen of Hizbollah, however, refutes that kind of critique as a lack of understanding of concrete politics. Dr. Nabil Naim argued that the bill concerning the SLA made sense as it would encourage soldiers to defect and eventually make these units evaporate from within. Furthermore, he noted that the issue of ijtihad allows Hizbollah to change its stands according to changes in the context. "One must take into account the potential for acceptability of Hizbollah in the Lebanese society", he said, "stressing that we are not an Iranian community or Iranian mercenaries as the propaganda used to portray Hizbollah". The movement is keen on being accepted, he argued.

    Still there are dogmatic people who would not accept any change that will deliver such criticism. Take for example the issue of liberating Jerusalem. Since the Lebanese have only agreed upon liberating Lebanon, Hizbollah has not said that it will not liberate Jerusalem - we have just dropped that issue, in terms of that we are not talking about it. We will first liberate Lebanon, then we can talk about that issue. Just because we used to talk about it and now we don't, some people think that we have deviated from it. Which we have not.128

In the same vein, Hajj Gamal emphasized that Hizbollah maintains its policy of not recognizing Israel. The liberation of Jerusalem, he said, was an "invariable point" of Hizbollah: "Hizbollah has never retreated from this issue, not one inch", he told this author. "We maintain our right to reconquer what has been usurped, no matter how long it will take us", he said. But he also pointed out that Hizbollah has set up two stages concerning this issue. The first is a tactical stage that implies the liberation of the Lebanese south, i.e. to force the Israelies to withdraw unilaterally. The second stage is strategical and concerns the "maintainance of the conflict" with Israel. "The Crusaders who once ruled this area were strong", Hajj Gamal claimed, "they even ruled it for 400 years. However, the strategy of maintaining the conflict [by the local people] forced them to withdraw from here. We believe that in this perspective the 50 years Israel now is celebrating is not such a long time".129 In this vein, Hizbollah refuses to give any kind of commitments to the Jewish state in case of an Israel withdrawal. The Israelis, Sayyed Nasrallah claims, should leave Lebanon "without profit, without any conditions, without agreements, and in disgrace".130 Without any guarantees of its future security, an Israeli withdrawal would, no doubt, crown the final battle of the south - and most likely provide the Islamists with a great mount of future political prestige.131

With respect to Palestine, however, another spokesman of the movement argued that the prospects for the large-scale designs looked bleak at present. "To be frank, and this is important", he said, "one can predict that for our generation, it will be difficult to liberate Palestine. Let us just leave this issue to future generations. One can say that we are pessimists on this point - at least for the time being".132 Sayyed Fadlallah, the senior proponent for liberating Jerusalem, even argued in 1992 that "Israel has become an undisputed fact on the ground, indeed, one of the strongest facts on the international scene, whether we like it or not" (Kramer 1997: 154). Elaborating around this statement six years later, he stressed that his aim by saying so was to awake the Arabs. "I said that Israel represents strength", he told this author. "I was saying that it was a dream that became a reality, a fact.

    [Israel] is now the strongest fact in the region...[But] I was adressing the Arabs, saying 'look what they acheived, and do the same!' I was not talking about Israel as an eternal reality. But it is a reality at a realistic level. However, I also think that facts do change - the weak today may be strong tomorrow. Indeed, the strong may get weak as well. In the forties, the British were the masters of the sea. The U.S. by the time was a minor state. Now Britain is a fourth rate state and the US is on top. We think about the future, we don't let the present bring us down.

In this context, he said that the Islamists in Lebanon will cooperate will all parties concerned in order to strenghten the domestic internal front against Israel, even if the current regional or global environment do not favor the ideas of Islamists in general. Life develops and so do methods of life. "Past methods that used to be successful may not be so now,", he concluded. "That is why we call for developing methods in accordance with the changes in the social, economic and political fields. This is on the basis that strategies do not abolish tactics".133

42For the text of it in English, see appendix in Norton (1987a: 167-187).

43For the text of the charter in English, see Nasrallah (1992: 71-71).

44Hala Jaber describes the structure of Hizbollah as being divided into two groups. The first one consists of the officials who are regarded as the "subscribers" of Hizbollah. The second part "revolves around the masses", i.e. the supporters of Hizbollah. Very much like the fans of a football club, "they identify with the cause, and consider themselves to be affiliated to Hizbollah, but they cannot actually become a member of the team" (1997: 65).

45The issue of Hizbollah and the comprehensive hostage crises that to a large part dominated the Western coverage on Lebanon is of course a vital point concerning the history of the movement. Due to the scope of this essay, however, I can not penetrate the subject further. For analysis of the issue, see Jaber (1997: 97-107); Ranstorp (1997). For an analysis of Hizbollah's own reasoning around the issue, see Kramer (1987).

46This parity is not proportionally correct, i.e. with respect to the demographic considerations. In 1990, estimates showed that the Shiite community constitutes 35 per cent of resident Lebanese. As Christian Maronites are appreciated to constitute 21 per cent (other Christians 14 per cent) and Sunni Muslims 24 per cent and Druze 5 per cent, it is clear that the Shia is the largest confessional community in Lebanon (Harris 1997: 68-76). This is not reflected in parliament, however, where the Shiites, for instance, have to put up with mere 27 seats out of 128. But the parity is symbolic: its ambition is to show that Lebanon is a country for both Christians and Muslims.

47For the texts of these treaties in English, see Nasrallah (1992: 75-85).

48"The Lebanese government ", Theodor Hanf notes, "did not take a single important decision without consulting the Syrian government, and Syria then gave these decisions its loyal support. This close coordination made it possible to end the wars and restore security" (1993: 622).

49While the first post-war government was formed at the end of 1990, Norton commented that it was " a government of militias". The theory, he argued, was that as appointed ministers of the state, these leaders would "be willing to exchange paramilitary authority for a role in politics" (1991: 467).

50Of course, Iran had a role in the play. After the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, a more pragmatic wing within the Iranian political establishment, headed by President Hashemi-Rafsanjani, managed to outmanouvre an up to then influential and militant one, directed by Ali-Akbar Mohtashemi. This transformation in the Iranian leadership implied repercussions on the leadership within Hizbollah. Although this aspect is interesting and relevant, it would unfortunately be beyond the scope of this essay to see to it. However, for an analysis of the relations between the various factions within Hizbollah and Iran, see Hamzeh (1993); Ranstorp (1994).

51Interview, south Lebanon, 12th May 1998.

52Interview in Monday Morning 17th October 1994.

53Indeed, the Bloc Loyal to the Resistance denied confidence to the government established in 1992 as its Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, in his first ministerial statement avoided to specifically endorse the armed resistance in the south (Trendle 1996). For a further discussion on Hizbollah's view on participation, see also Wärn (1997).

54Interview with Paul Salem, Beirut, 23rd April, 1998.

55Likewise, Norton claims that although "some restructuring of the political system has occurred, there is little prospect for comprehensive political reforms while power remains in the grip of a coterie of politicians on good terms with Damascus. Instead the government operates like a giant patronage machine, enabling newly entrenched political bosses to create networks of clients and grow richer on sweetheart deals" (1997: 9).

56Interview with Dr. Abdallah Mortada, Beirut, 4th June 1998.

57For an overview of these issues, see the electoral program of Hizbollah on internet adress:

58Interview with Hassan Fadlallah, Beirut, 6th June 1998.

59An English version of the letter can be found on a site managed by Hizbollah on internet (

60On the socio-economic woes in Lebanon, see The Middle East International 11th June 1997; 24th April 1998.

61See for example a report on a symposium attended by Hizbollah officials and various Christians and other political delegates in Lebanon (

62Interview with Hassan Fadlallah, Beirut, 6th June 1998.

63Interview, Beirut, 8th June 1998.

64With respect to the Israeli invasion of 1982, Sayyed Fadallah also argued that the quest for sectarian supremacy made the Christian Phalange party to cooperate with the Israelis and enable the invasion itself. Interview, Beirut, 8th June 1998.

65Muhammad Mashoussi, deputy editor of Lebanon's daily al-Safir, even argued that the clean reputation of Hizbollah stretched back to the days of the civil war. While most militias were rife with corruption, attacking people, looting and confiscating others properties, Hizbollah was not. In Beirut, "they were dealing with people in a very clean manner", he said. Interview, Beirut, 27th May 1998.

66Interview, Beirut, 23rd April 1998. This was an opinion several other observers also stressed to the author.

67In the same vein, the secretary-general during the eighties, Sheikh Subhi Tufayli, also declared that "We do not work or think within the borders of Lebanon, this little geometric box, which is one of the legacies of imperialism. Rather, we seek to defend Muslims throughout the world" (qouted in Kramer 1987: 26).

68Interview with Judith Harik Palmer, Beirut, 19th May 1998.

69Interview, Beirut, 26th May 1998.

70Another spokesman of Hizbollah emphasized in the same manner that they did not propose any shar'ia bills in parliament. "Lebanon is a diversified country", he said. "We have the idea of first convincing poeople of Islam before proposing Islam to them. It is quite natural that to people who don't believe in Islam, we will not propose any laws of Islam. So the bills proposed by [our] bloc are bills that take into consideration the interests of the people. In Lebanon, it is not possible to propose the shar'ia law...So if it is not possible to propose the Islamic shar'ia, then we will propose laws which all the people can meet at, things which will achieve justice". Interview with Hassan Fadlallah, Beirut, 6th June 1998.

71Interview, Beirut, 29th April 1998.

72In 1996, Hizbollah's leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah explained the issue at prime time on a tv channel controlled by the Christian Lebanese Forces. Resistance is a right for all Lebanese, he said. The Israeli withdrawal in the eighties would not have occurred the way it did without such resistance. "If Lebanon", he argued, "has or wields any power in the peace process, it is solely because of the Resistance. Our conviction is that negotiations does not liberate land and the greatest example of this is what is going on between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Where has it got them? We believe and consider the Resistance to be the only way" (Jaber 1997: 46).

73Interview with Hassan Fadlallah, Beirut, 6th June 1998.

74Interview with Dr. Nabil Naim, Beirut, 4th May 1998. Especially within the private universities, he argued, there is a lack of understanding. A student "who comes from the north", he said, "a Christian, someone from a rich family, usually is quite far away from the resistance activities. These people are often unaware of it, and even not especially concerned about it". The ambition, therefore, is to make them aware of the legitimacy of an armed resistance against the Israeli occupation of the south.

75Interview with Sister Fatima Husayn, Beirut, 28th May 1998.

76To this author, Sheikh Qaouk told that Hizbollah's military performance in the field was partly aimed at displaying the weaknesses of Israel's legendary military might, thereby hampering the latter's perceived efforts of threatening the Lebanese to submission. Hizbollah acts like a man holding the hand of a monster in front of a group of children, he argued. By harassing the Israeli troops in the south, the Islamists can show their country fellowmen that the Israeli war-machine is not that scary at all. Thus the Lebanese should support the fight against it. Interview, south Lebanon, 30th April 1998.

77The Beirut Daily Star, 4th November 1997.

78Ibid. According to The Beirut Daily Star, the family of a fighter of Hizbollah who gets killed in action receive a house, free medical care and a monthly pension of $350.

79The Beirut Daily Star, 15th November 1998.

80Interview, Beirut, 4th May 1998.

81Interview, Beirut, 21st May 1998.

82See The Beirut Daily Star, 27th November 1998.

83See The Middle East Inernational, 10th October 1997. The paper moreover commented that the death of Hadi Nasrallah made the outpouring public "focus on the warm image of the young father of the dead Hizbollah fighter. More than any other individual, surrounded by Lebanese of all backrounds, [Sayyed] Nasrallah seemed to personify Lebanon's endurance and expectation of ultimate success."

84Interview with Dr. Mohammed Moshen, Beirut, 2nd June 1998. Dr. Moshen is a member of the board at al-Manar and assistent professor at the Lebanese University in Mass Communication and Journalism. He is also the co-writer of Media War: A Model of the Resistance Media in Lebanon.

85One official within the Islamic Resistance told Foreign Report: "On the field we hit one Israeli soldier, but a tape of him crying for help affects thousands of Israelis. Initially our tapes were used to galvanize our local audience. Then we realized the impact of our amateur work on the moral of Israel". 18th December 1997.

86See ( The adress to the Israeli can be very straight forward. In a message to the relatives of Israeli soldiers serving in Lebanon another Internet site affiliated to Hizbollah stated, in English, in 1999: "Soldier's families: Be aware that you are dispatching your beloved ones to their destined final place. Death is awaiting them behind every rock, in every valley and mountain and on every inch of our soil on which they step. The land is ours. So get out.". See (

87See Ha'aretz, 26th February 1998.


89The Middle East, May 1999, p. 10.

90Linda Ben Zvi, a spokeswoman for the Fourth Mother's Movement to Leave Lebanon was quoted in The New York Times as saying, "We're bringing our boys back home in boxes, so we can't think in terms of macho and pride...It was a failed policy from the beginning, and the longer it gets, the clearer it gets, and the higher the price we're paying. We should unilaterally withdraw, and then, like every other country, defend ourselves from within our borders", 1 st Mars 1999.

91Ha'aretz, 27th December 1998.

92The same view of legitimacy on behalf of Hizbollah and the flawed policy of trying to fight it in Lebanon was reflected by the Israeli journalist Yoel Marcus. "[T]he simple fact is that Hizbollah has total control of the area", he remarked, "it is home to the fighters who are intimate with every clod of earth and every crevice. They inititate the moves and we only responds. When we initiate an offensive, the damage they suffer has no impact on their fighting ability or spirit - because they are fighting an occupation." Ha'aretz, 1st December 1998.

93Beilin outlined his view on how to end the occupation in an article especially written for The Beirut Daily Star, 21st April 1998.

94Ha'aretz, 30th November 1998.

95See Jerusalem Post International Edition, 17th August 1996. "I find myself in a kafkaesque, an almost unbelievable situation", Netanyahu commented the Lebanese refusal to his offer. "[Here is] a situation where the prime minister of Israel announces he wants to get out of the territory of an Arab state - Lebanon. And the Syrian government, together with the Lebanese, are opposing this withdrawal...The Middle East has seen a lot of strange things, but this I've never seen before..." (ibid).

96See Ha'aretz, 4th January 1998. See also The Middle East International 13th March 1998.

97On a specified view of Mordechai, see interview in The Middle East Insight, September-October 1998.

98See The Beirut Daily Star 24th April 1998. Moreover, Amal leader and Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, commented the proposal by saying that "Israel has to leave [Lebanon] without conditions, negotiations, arrangements or guarantees and Lebanon won't sign a peace treaty with Israel before Syria and all other Arab countries do so...This isn't an act of courtsey towards our Arab brethren but because we're aware of what happened to other Arabs who signed separate peace treaties with Israel and how they were cheated by Israel". The Beirut Daily Star 17th April 1998.

99The Beirut Daily Star, 16th April 1998.

100This issue was clearly revealed by Walid al-Moualem, head of the Syrian delegation in the peace talks. The Israeli insistence on open borders and open markets would have a clear effect on the Syrian economy, he said. To his mind, it was a non-starter to "integrate two economies when one has a per capita income of $900 per year and the other has a per capita income of $15000 per year". Such an integration is not possible, he argued. Thus Syria had discussed a transitional period during which the Syrian economy would develop itself to such a level that it may be able to compete with Israel "without undue hardship". See interview in Journal of Palestine Studies, no. 2 Winter 1997.

101Unattributable interview, May 1998.

102Interview, Beirut, 23rd April 1998.

103Unattributable interview, May 1998.

104Interview, Beirut, 23rd April 1998. Salem also estimated that Amal enjoys around 30 per cent of the Shiite voters. The rest is mainly distributed among independents and leftist movements. In South Lebanon, moreover, Hizbollah is said to have the support of about 60 per cent of the Shiite votes, i.e. if election contests are straight and fair. See Usher (1996).

105Interview, Beirut, 26th May 1998. This was also the view of Sayyed Fadlallah. "I don't think it is in the Syrian interest to keep Lebanon divided because the unity of the Lebanese would be more useful to Syria", he said. "No state in the world can not achieve their interests without other states in the region, including Lebanon. A united Lebanon, cooperating with Syria is better for Syria than a dismembered Lebanon". Interview, Beirut, 8th June 1998.

106The Independent on Sunday, 1st February 1998. For an in-depth interview with Sheikh Tufayli on the matter, see Monday Morning, 30th June 1997.

107See Middle East International 13th February 1998.

108Unattributable interview, Beirut 1998.

109Interview, Beirut, 4th June 1998.

110A spokesman for the Martyr's Foundation, an organ handling sponsor-programs for orphans and widows of fallen martyrs, told that during 1997 the foundation assisted 2332 families and 1450 orphans. Interview with Hajj Anis Harb, Beirut, 28th April 1998.

111Interview with Sayyed Molid Hejazi, Head of the Technical Department at The Hospital of the Omnipotent Prophet, Beirut, 9th May 1998. Sayyed Hejazi told that in aim is to charge the patients fifty per cent of the cost of treatment. If the patient is not able to pay, however, a bargain will solve the problem. In any case, he said, they receive no help from the government.

112See author's interview with the head of the Jihad al-Bina (The Holy Reconstruction Department) in Wärn (1997).

113Interview, south Lebanon, 12th May 1998.

114For a vivid account of the 1996 campaign, by the Israelis named "Operation Grapes of Wrath", see Jaber (1997: 169-204). See also an anthology composed of various Israeli, Lebanese, American and British scholars' view on the conflict in the south, with especial emphasis on the 1996 campaign. Shehadi & Hollis (1996).

115See author's earlier discussion on this issue in Wärn (1997). The senior Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk has argued that Hizbollah adopted the logic of this policy from Israel. In the past, Israel used to make Lebanese civilians pay dearly for harbouring anti-Israeli guerillas by shelling their villages. The idea was that Beirut then would be hard pressed to disarm the guerillas - and save the Israeli army the dirty work of war. "But now", Fisk notes, "it is Hizbollah that is threatening to fire salvoes of rockets into Israel if the Israelis do not cease their attacks. And it is the Israelis who are pleading with their government - to withdraw from Lebanon". The Independent, 2nd Mars 1999. Hizbollah's commandant of the south, Sheikh Nabil Qaouk also acknowledged that this policy of launching katyuschas against settlements in northern Israel in case of Lebanese civilian casualties had saved the southerners a lot of hardships. "Through all these years of aggression", he said, "we have been the only ones to be successfull in reining the Israelis from attacking civilians". Interview, south Lebanon, 30th April 1998.

116The same tendency appeared during the Israeli bombings of south Lebanon in July 1993. Then, Hajj Gamal argued, the Lebanese government displayed a willingness in making some concessions to Israeli demands - for example deploying the Lebanese army in the south and blocking some roads used by the Islamist guerillas. But Hizbollah, he said, could at an early stage detect these efforts and, with Syrian assistance, hamper that plan. Interview, Beirut, 29th April 1998.

117Interview in Time, 13th May 1996. With respect to the mentioned massacre, Sayyed Nasrallah was refering the Israel shelling of the Fidjian UN headquarters in the village of Qana where around 400 Lebanese civilians had taken refuge. The shelling implied the killing of 106 civilians. A a whole, estimates show that 165 Lebanese, most of them civilians, were killed and 401 wounded in the bombings and shellings. Shehadi & Hollis (1996).

118Leenders points to several factors contributing to Hizbollah's defeat in Baalbek. Firstly, the Shiite clans of Bekaa are feeling inscreasingly marginalized by Hizbollah's current leadership of which most members stem from the south of Lebanon. Secondly, Amal, which sided with Tufayli's supporters, stressed the slogan "no tourism with fundamentalism", meaning that the local business circles of the archeological Baalbek would suffer economically with Hizbollah at the wheel. Still, according to Leenders, the most important factor was most likely the critique Sheikh Tufayli had launched against Hizbollah. Nonetheless, it is worth to note that Hizbollah on the other hand squeezed victories in the rest of the Bekaa (1998).

119See Monday Morning 6th July 1998. For an analysis of the elections as a whole, see Lebanon Report no. 2 summer 1998.

120Monday Morning 6th July.

121Another indication of Hizbollah's caution not to bring domestic strife and at the same time appear as morally impeccable, can be seen, of all places, on the football pitch. The movement has it own team, Al-Ahd, in the Lebanese top league. "Fair play" is the banner waved by its players. In the season of 1997, the team did not suffer from one red or even yellow card. Its fans are also reported to be the best behaved. "The morals of Hizbollah are on the field and they reflect on how we play our opponents", one player told. "We have a moral responsibility". See The Beirut Daily Star 25th May 1998.

122A copy of the statement in English was handed to the author at the Foreign Relation office of Hizbollah in Beirut, April 1998.

123Interview, Beirut, 20th May 1998. Commenting on the fears of an Islamic state, Bayan told that the mosaic of Lebanon carries a "role and a message - that is, coexistence". In the near future, he added, there would be no changes in the Lebanese political system. "Therefore," he said, " there is no fear for domination by one party over another".

124Civil Society November 1997.

125Interview, Beirut, 2nd June 1998.

126The Middle East International 22nd May 1998. It ought to be noted that Hizbollah's secretary-general Sayyed Nasrallah already in 1996 stressed the importance of informing the Americans of the misdeeds conducted by their administration. "If America", he argued, "were to stop antagonizing the peoples of the region and cease its support for Israel and agree that rights be restored, we will have no problems with her. Even the symbol of the revolutionary trend in the region - Imam Al-Khomeini - who described America as the Great Satan, used to say if America were to stop its injustice toward peoples and would not interfere in our internal affairs, we would be ready to establish ties with her. We not only will go beyond the state of hostility but we will establish ties. Thus it is the U.S. administration that initiated hostility to the region." Interview in The Middle East Insight May-August 1996, p. 39-40.

127The Beirut Daily Star 21st April 1998.

128Interview, Beirut, 4th May 1998.

129Interview, Beirut, 29th April 1998.

130Qouted in The Middle East International, 12th September 1997. Sayyed Nasrallah has many times pointed out that there is no reason for Hizbollah to unveil if it would continue operations against Israel in case of an Israeli withdrawal. "We say we have no business in the peace process and the guarantees", he have told. "I tell you: My land is occupied, so get out. After you leave, you will hear from me". (Nasrallah 1996: 85).

131Sheikh Qaouk, the political and military commandant of Hizbollah in the south, also argued that an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon not necessarily will be a complete one. There are still, for instance, Lebanese villages along the border zone that Israel conquered between 1948 and 1967. These villages might be subject for a future conflict, he remarked. Interview, south Lebanon 30 April, 1998.

132Interview with Dr. Mortada, Beirut, 4th June 1998.

133Interview, Beirut, 8th June 1998.

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