The origins of Hizbullah

The origins of Hizbullah lie in the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon led by war criminal Ariel Sharon. Israel’s aim was to destroy Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) resistance fighters based at the time in South Lebanon. Zionist forces bombed and shelled civilian populations, using barbaric phosphorous bombs and chemical weapons to massacre more than 25,000 people, wound more than 35,000 and make more than half a million people refugees. They sent the fascist Phalange militia into the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila in Beirut, murdering 2,500 civilians.

Hizbullah was formed from numerous Lebanese Shi’a groups that came together shortly after the invasion, and was based among the mass of the poor in South Lebanon and southern Beirut. It looked to the 1979 victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran for inspiration. Iran, with a majority Shi’a population, openly supported Hizbullah and provided it with both moral and logistical support.

In its founding statement, issued in Beirut on 16 February 1985, entitled An Open Letter to All the Oppressed People in Lebanon and the World, Hizbullah declared that its aims were:

‘To drive out the US, French and Israeli occupiers; to defeat the fascist Phalange Party, known as the South Lebanon Army (SLA), which had collaborated with the occupiers and to permit our people to choose in all liberty the form of government they desire’.

Whilst the statement called on the masses to ‘pick the option of an Islamic government’, it went on to say ‘we do not want to impose Islam upon anybody, we do not want to reign Lebanon by force’. Addressing Christians, it said: ‘Do not be deceived and misled that we anticipate vengeance against you.’ Hence whilst Hizbullah’s ideology fits in with the Islamic religion, it can never be described as fundamentalist, ie wishing to impose a reactionary way of life on the people. Hizbullah is an Islamist national liberation movement. The vast majority of actions taken by its military wing have been against Israeli occupation.

Between the spring of 1983 to the summer of 1985, Shi’a fighters launched a wave of suicide attacks including those on the US embassy and a US Marine base in Beirut which killed 242 US service personnel. These actions effectively drove the US and French imperialists out of Lebanon. Meanwhile Hizbullah fighters mounted sophisticated and ever more lethal guerrilla attacks on Zionist forces so that in 1985 Israel withdrew to a unilaterally declared security zone, a southern strip of Lebanon. Hizbullah continued to fight a guerrilla war for over 10 years against Israel and the SLA. One episode in this war of liberation was Operation Grapes of Wrath when Israel launched an air and land assault on Hizbullah, in April 1996. The campaign failed, but not before the Zionists had deliberately targeted a UN outpost in Qana where some 800 civilian refugees were taking shelter, massacring more than 100. However, worn down by continuous audacious Hizbullah attacks, Israel was effectively forced out of its security zone in 2000, remaining in occupation only of a tiny strip known as the Shebaa Farms.

After this victory, Hizbullah, which has 23 representatives in the Lebanese parliament, became a beacon of resistance against Zionism and imperialism. It remained as an armed force in South Lebanon and called for Israel to withdraw from all the land it occupies – including Palestine and the Golan Heights – and to free all prisoners held in Israeli jails, some for over 20 years. A measure of its achievement in the latest war is that 89% of Lebanon’s Sunni Muslims, 80% of its Christians, 80% of its Druze and 100% of its Shi’ite populations support Hizbullah’s resistance. At least as telling are statistics showing that 97% of Palestinians support Hizbullah, including 95% of Christian Palestinians. Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Iran are not the only places where support for Hizbullah has increased dramatically. Among the populations of the imperialist-backed Arab states, notably Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, there is also widespread support for Hizbullah, no small achievement given that Hizbullah is a Shi’a movement regarded with suspicion by many Sunni states.
Yehya Ayesh

FRFI 193 October / November 2006