Hezbollah, an oxymoron by reputation


Lebanon, a tiny spot on a world atlas, has been gaining more and more fame as it has been making world news headlines. Elie Saab, Jebran Khalil Jebran, Georgina Rizk, Nadine Labaki, and Fairouz may resonate as Lebanon is brought up but Hezbollah is “the” word that has guaranteed the tiny spot on the map a prominent position in the international scene. 

There are indisputable facts surrounding Hezbollah such as the year it was established (1982), its sectarian nature (Shiite), their sources of support (Iran and Syria), and their political agenda (resistance against Israel). 

What triggers the intense debate on Hezbollah is when one is forced to complete the following statement: Hezbollah is a _________ group; and as the two most obvious choices are “terrorist” and “resistance”. 

Several factors influence the choice of term. But, to those living outside Lebanon, their media absorption is decisive in the selection process. Western media portrays Hezbollah as a powerful force in Lebanon. And, that’s true. It can be seen as Hezbollah has been gaining more legitimacy through increased presence in the Lebanese government. 

For the Lebanese, Hezbollah is an internal issue. It is the national resistance force against Israeli aggression. Given the Lebanese army inadequate preparedness, Hezbollah is considered to be more powerful than the army as it was able to drive off Israel in 2006. The 2006 victory provided Hezbollah with a platform of increased national support. Hezbollah was able to prove its authenticity when it comes to its resistance agenda as it fought Israel. This increased national support has been translated in the media as increased political support. And, in the media, Hezbollah seems to want to build a Muslim state and use weapons internally. However, if they did have as objectives or practices, they would have done so already since their possession of weapons is non-debatable.

The religious political group is complex in nature, which explains why it is so hard to explain and grasp its reality. One can’t assume all Hezbollah supporters support it for the same reasons. That is, some separate the party’s religious ideology from its politics, while others don’t. And, this fact justifies the presence of the two contradicting adjectives associated with Hezbollah; resistant an terrorist. Juxtaposed, these terms represent the intensity of the global debate which has put Lebanon back in the international news circle.

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7 thoughts on “Hezbollah, an oxymoron by reputation

  1. Reading this post has helped me gain a bigger perspective of Hezbollah. Through my own research I found that the United States regards Hezbollah as a terrorist group. It was very eye opening to read about the view of Hezbollah from inside Lebanon and now I feel I have a greater understanding of why people would support the group. The word terrorist is always found in news headlines but I realize that I’ve never heard a definition of this word that is so frequently used and accused of people. It would be interesting to do future research into what aspects or acts and organization or person must have committed to be considered a terrorist by the United States. Taking into account the spin of the media, hearing diferent views of this complex organization has brought up uncertainties such as, what will Hezbollah do or be able to do with their power?

    1. I’ve never really heard a sound definition of “terrorism” either. You made me realize that. It’s subliminally defined by what the media marks as terrorist, which of course should be looked at critically. The media has the power to influence people’s opinions, that’s known. And, as media consumers, we should all try detach ourselves from it so we could formulate less dependent opinions based on what we watch and hear.

  2. I really enjoyed this blog post, I find it interesting that most foreign groups see Hezbollah as a terrorist group, while internally they are looked as a resistance group, protecting Lebanon from the wrath of Israel. I understand that the United States is only willing to assist Lebanon if Hezbollah is diminished, but I feel that if the Lebanese are happy with what Hezbollah is doing, then the United States should step back and let the country fight Israel on their own.

    I also found it interesting that you mentioned the fact that some Hezbollah followers separate their political and religious beliefs from one other. I have always thought of Hezbollah as a strong Muslim based community all holding the same political views. I never considered the fact that not all Hezbollah followers should be pinned as extremest Muslims, many people see Hezbollah as a way to make a change and don’t necessarily make it their way of life.

    1. What you stated towards the end of your first paragraph is what makes sense, but international politics isn’t as simple as that. At the end, internal politics should be left to the sovereign state. And, international interference hinders a state’s sovereignty. It’s very complicated, and no international interference only exists in an ideal political world (at this point).
      The nature of Hezbollah’s supporters is a controversial one, even in Lebanon. And, that’s why it is hard to really define Hezbollah’s power and political support in our country.

      1. I agree with you, I feel that internal politics should be left in the hands of that sovereign state, but it is easier said than done. I am not well versed in the relationship between Lebanon and the U.S. which is why I said that I feel the U.S. should step back and let Lebanon deal with Hezbollah as they chose. Having said that it is quite possible that the United States has ties with Lebanon that I am unaware of. Fatima, I am interested to learn more about the topic so if you would like to, send me an e-mail. I have just started learning more about Hezbollah and would like to know the opinion of a native Lebanese student.

  3. This post helped me understand Hezbollah in greater detail than I did previously. When I was writing my blog post I was very confused by the topic and did not think I would ever understand. You helped explain it the first day in class and this went to even more detail. When you first read about Hezbollah they sound like a terrorist group and I could not tell whether they were for or against Lebanon. Now it is clear that they act as Lebanon’s army when someone is going to attack because Lebanon does not have a strong army. The religious aspect is still confusing, but this cleared it up. While Hezbollah support the Shi’ite not all support them. This blog post opened my eyes to some of the internal conflicts that are based in Hezbollah. We only receive one view in the United States and it is good to get the Lebanese perspective.

    1. Ashtyn, that’s what I blame the media for. The term “Shi’ite organization” describes Hezbollah in most searches, and it is easy to just assume that all Shi’ite support Hezbollah and that Hezbollah’s supporters are Shi’ite, when it isn’t the case at all. Not only is this overgeneralizing, but it is also undermining Hezbollah’s influence. As I said, its supporters do not follow them for the same motives.

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