After Terror

By Hamad, Rita | Harvard International Review, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

After Terror


Hamad, Rita, Harvard International Review


Abstract:

Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shi'ite militia has gained international attention since it began car bombing near Israeli-occupied buildings in the early 1980s in an effort to liberate South Lebanon from the Israeli occupying forces. Over the past few years, however, Hezbollah has begun to develop a dual role. Formerly known only as a terrorist organization, the group might now more accurately be described a something larger than a party, yet smaller than a state.

Text:

Hezbollah's New Directions

Our struggle with Israel stems from an ideological and historic understanding to the effect that this Zionist entity is an aggressor in its development and formation and is existing on a land usurped at the cost of the rights of the Muslim people.

"And so our confrontation with this entity should end only when and after it has totally been eliminated from existence."

This excerpt from Hezbollah's manifesto, released on February 16, 1985, embodied the purpose of the group when it was founded in South Lebanon in 1982. The Iranian-backed Shi'ite militia has gained international attention since it began car bombing near Israeli-occupied buildings in the early 1980s in an effort to liberate South Lebanon from the Israeli occupying forces.

Over the past few years, however, Hezbollah has begun to develop a dual role. Formerly known only as a terrorist organization, the group might now more accurately be understood as something "larger than a party, yet smaller than a state," as it was described by Hussein Al-Shami, Hezbollah's head of social services.

The creation of Hezbollah has its roots in the 1970 expulsion of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from Jordan; it subsequently relocated in Lebanon. In an attempt to destroy the PLO, Israeli troops invaded Lebanon in 1982. Israel has since occupied a 15-kilometer strip of land in South Lebanon contiguous with the Israel-Lebanon border as a self-proclaimed security zone. Hezbollah emerged in the wake of the invasion in order to drive out the Israeli military forces.

Along with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Hezbollah had to contend with a Christian militia known as the South Lebanon Army (SLA), which had taken up residency in the south to help Israel maintain its security zone in South Lebanon. During the beginning months of the invasion in 1982, Israel was associated with several heinous acts that contributed to the Shi'ite uprising and ultimately to the formation of Hezbollah. Among these were the infamous massacres at the Sabra and Shatilla Palestinian refugee camps, where an Israeli-sanctioned operation by Lebanese Christians to uncover PLO operatives hiding in the camps culminated in the massacre of almost 1,000 refugees; the war deaths of 18,000 Lebanese civilians; and the attack on the Southern town of Nabatiyeh during Ashura, the most important Shi'ite religious holiday.

The Lebanese population, which had been relatively passive prior to the invasion, rose up in violent anger, forming a guerrilla group so powerful that Lebanon was given the unofficial title of "Israel's Vietnam."

Over the past 17 years, Hezbollah, also known as the Islamic Resistance, has gained its reputation as the primary military defender of South Lebanon. Its members have killed hundreds of civilians by driving cars loaded with explosives into buildings occupied by Israelis. They have set up roadside bombs to ambush IDF soldiers on their way into the South and have launched attacks on Northern Israel, sometimes provoked by Israeli aggression. Onse such case was the assault on Hezbollah guerillas camped near a UN base in Qana in April 1996,which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian and Lebanese bystanders. …

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