Gallery F


Page 2
Page 3

The Lebanese Hezbollah Organization

By James Donahue

Hezbollah came into existence because of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. It was primarily composed of 1,500 Iranian Revolutionary Guards, led by followers of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, who entered Lebanon with permission from the Syrian government to help drive the Israelis out of Lebanon.

At the time, Israel was occupying a strip of south Lebanon with a militia group known as the South Lebanon Army (SLA). Hezbollah waged a guerilla campaign. The SLA was defeated and Israel withdrew from the territory in May, 2000.

Early in that conflict, a Hezbollah suicide bomber drove a truck loaded with explosives into a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The blast killed over 200 marines.

During the 12 long years of conflict, Hezbollah evolved as both a military and political force, eventually becoming an organization with seats in the Lebanese government, programs for training fighters beyond Lebanon’s borders, and even operating its own radio and satellite television station. Hezbollah, which still receives military training, weapons and financial support from Iran, and political support from Syria, is comprised of Shi’a believers, who are in conflict with Lebanon’s Sunnis.

Thus we find the complexities within the Islamic religious system becoming mixed in with the governments of nations surrounding Israel, which are opposed to one another while joined in a general opposition to the very existence of Israel.

The United States and other world powers are obviously confused about Hezbollah. For a while the group was listed among the Islamic terrorists, and at other times is has not been. Hezbollah is seen by some as a state within a state, and obviously part of the Lebanese government, yet possessing an army considered more powerful than the official Lebanese Army.

The name Hezbollah in Arabic means "Party of Allah."

Over time Hezbollah’s position in Lebanon has grown even more powerful. When a national unity government was formed in 2008, it gave Hezbollah control of 11 of 30 cabinet seats and consequently veto power. In August of that year, the new Lebanese Cabinet approved a policy securing Hezbollah’s existence as an armed organization with a right to "liberate or recover occupied lands."

Hezbollah is now backing the Syrian government during the civil war that has been raging there since 2012. The organization leaders say the opposition forces are backed by Israel.

While growing in political stature, Hezbollah also shows its teeth as a powerful guerilla fighting force in the neighborhood. Hezbollah is said to have been the first Islamic resistant group in the Middle East to use suicide bombing, assassination, capturing foreign soldiers, murders and hijackings in its tactics. Hezbollah also possesses a deadly arsenal that includes Katyusha rockets and other missiles, which are now maintained along the Israel border.

The Hezbollah ideology is described as Shi’a radicalism. Members follow the Islamic Shi’a theology taught by Ayatollah Khomeini. It’s primary goal as always been the eradication of the State of Israel. Because the Jews moved into Palestine and seized Palestinian land, Hezbollah considers Israel to be an illegitimate state.

Group spokesperson Hassan Ezzedin once explained: "Our goal is to liberate the 1948 borders of Palestine. The Jews who survive this war of liberation can go back to Germany or wherever they came from. However, that the Jews who lived in Palestine before 1948 will be allowed to live as a minority and they will be cared for by the Muslim majority."

Hezbollah receives most of its financial support from Iran and Syria, although other nations are believed to be supporting the group. The United States Department of the Treasury once accused Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez’s government of giving support to Iran and Hezbollah.

While it has a fierce military wing, Hezbollah also has used its political influence to reach out to the people of Lebanon as well. A recent United Nations report stated: "Hezbollah . . . also boasts an extensive social development program. Hezbollah currently operates at least four hospitals, twelve clinics, twelve schools and two agricultural centers that provide farmers with technical assistance and training. It also has an environmental department and an extensive social assistance program. Medical care is also cheaper than in most of the country’s private hospitals and free for Hezbollah members."

The Islamic conflict with Israel and the United States has a religious foundation. While the U.S. and Israel operate on a capitalist system and a philosophy centered on the individual, people of the Moslem faith follow more of a group-focused philosophy. They fear that the capitalistic system will be found so attractive to the Islamic nations that people will be tempted to abandon their faith for a chance at the riches.