By Batool Subeiti

Hezbollah between resistance and anti-corruption crusade 

August 17, 2020 - 23:7

Hezbollah is a military and political party that was established in Lebanon during the early 1980s, subsequent to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, as there was a need for a resistance movement that made its focal goal the liberation of Lebanon from Israeli occupation.

The party emerged with a handful of free-minded individuals, who mounted the courage to say NO to foreign occupation of settler-colonial nature in their land. Indeed, the acceptance and popularity the party holds today were not experienced in its early inception.

 The party's emergence

During the initial stages of the party’s existence, it was viewed with much suspicion, whether it was the Syrian forces that had leverage in Lebanon and feared the party was seeking to take over, through its Iranian backing at the expense of Syria’s domination, or the Shia party of Amal that saw the emergence of a new Shia party as a threat to their power and influence. Hardly anyone knew what this new, small, yet the highly efficient party was about, steadfast in a movement that championed the slogan “Islamic resistance in Lebanon,” a new line the Lebanese parties and sects had not yet been exposed to. The party also lacked popularity due to their unwavering support for Palestine, at a time when various Lebanese factions were in direct conflict with the Palestinian bases and their general presence in Lebanon. 

Syria's presence in Lebanon

This was also during a time when Syria considered Lebanon to be the main base for consolidating its power, as well as driving Lebanese politics in the direction that suited their interests, considering it essential to secure their surroundings in Lebanon from any potential security threats or harm that may come from that front, as Lebanon was a country open to the world. Indeed, it took time for the resistance party to prove they were not seeking to take away the political influence of other entities in Lebanon, but rather Israel was their main target and proved that even in that regards Syria was at an advantage, as the resistance can repel foreign attacks on Syrian land. 

Eventually, a strong direct connection was made between Syria’s Hafez Al-Assad and the resistance party, and it was crucial for the resistance party to have a kind of political cover/backing that would give it a sense of security and protection, manifested through Syria’s presence in Lebanon. At the same time, since the party’s creation, until Syria pulled out of Lebanon in 2005, the resistance party did not occupy cabinet positions within the Lebanese government, and that is simply due to the fact that the party was not interested in governing, as the focal aim of its creation was to resist the Israeli occupation of Lebanon.  

Hezbollah's entry into the Lebanese government

When Syria left Lebanon (due to the pressure that mounted against it in the wake of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri’s assassination and the ensuing Cedar Revolution), the resistance party could no longer rely on Syria to act as a political cover and needed to protect itself from the decisions of the Lebanese government- decisions that would directly affect them, as well as to prevent any decisions being made that were against them and that were out of their control. It was for this reason that the party entered the government cabinet for the first time during the 2005 elections. 

Uniting the Shia voices

The utmost priority of the resistance party was to unite the Shia voices, consisting of itself and the Amal movement, in order to forge a strong covenant within the government, such that the government cannot take any decision without the representation of the Shia bloc. If the Shia bloc in parliament is not united, this threatens the resistance party as it is not strong enough on its own, and the decisions of the majority government against the resistance will override that of the party. The resistance, therefore, believes the unity of the Shia parties is essential to protecting their mission, such that parties opposed to the resistance in government cannot seek the support of other Shia representatives against the resistance, which is likely if unity was not present. 

Forging inter-faith alliances

It was also essential for the resistance party to forge an alliance with the Christian party in Lebanon, and in 2006 it signed a memorandum of understanding with the Christian Free Patriotic Movement that was headed by the current President Aoun. All these parties subsequently formed a coalition named the March 8th alliance, that currently holds the majority in government, occupying 60% of the cabinet positions and who are united in their opposition to the Western-backed March 14th alliance, consisting of the Future Movement led by Hariri, Lebanese Forces by Geagea and the Phalanges led by Gemayel.

Hezbollah and the ensuing government corruption

A question here arises. Since the resistance party has entered the government, what has it done as a collective to confront the widespread corruption? The first thing that needs to be made clear is that the absolute priority of the resistance party is to protect Lebanon from foreign aggression; hence the issue of corruption within the government is not their issue to tackle (in the very least, not their priority), nor is policing and maintaining order in the land their duty. Securing a political cover from the government is the reason the resistance party chose to enter the government, so as to forge alliances, for if the resistance party did not find a political cover and security, it would be in danger of decisions made by the government against it. Therefore, the resistance party cannot directly confront the present corruption within the government, because if the party begins to take active measures to hold parties culpable of corruption to account, this threatens and creates a hole in the political coverage of the party, as the various parties within government will turn against them.
It is under this context that we have to understand that if the resistance party is silent on corruption, whether it is within the Amal party or beyond, then it is for the protection of the resistance in Lebanon, as their role in defending the country from foreign aggression is more important than confronting the never-ending issues of corruption within the government. Indeed, corruption is so widespread that it simply will not go away without dismantling the political system at large.

Distinguishing the military and political wing

However, I will end by stating that there needs to be a distinction between the military and political wing within the party. For the representatives of the party in government, they are representing their people who have elected them, and it is essential for them to speak comprehensibly about the issues that affect their people and the corruptions prevalent within the regions, without using the military wing of the party as a cover for them. It is more befitting for the resistance party’s stance to be on resistance, and the political representatives of the party’s stance to be on addressing corruption within the government. The decisiveness in dealing with such issues is important for the resistance to take care of its targets, to reach the points they want to without any disturbance, and without destroying themselves in political arguments. The aim is to create circumstances such that the people themselves will hold the individuals within the system culpable of corruption to account.

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