The Lowdown on Hezbollah
Hezbollah makes no secret of its objective, namely, the destruction of Israel. It committed an act of war by crossing the international border and attacking soldiers in Israel and kidnapping two of them. It escalated the war by indiscriminately firing missiles at Israeli cities.
Toward the end of 1982, Iran sent fighters to assist in the establishment of a revolutionary Islamic movement in Lebanon. The radical Shi’ia Muslim group that emerged was Hezbollah. Led by religious clerics, the organization aspires to create an Iranian-style theocracy in Lebanon and, ultimately, establish an Islamic government across the Arab world. In recent years, Hezbollah has become part of the Lebanese political process, but it also uses terror as a means to achieve its goals.
As the organizational infrastructure developed, Hezbollah, with Iranian and Syrian assistance, began to establish an extensive military network in the Ba’albek area. Its militias have since spread into the Shi’ite neighborhoods in southern and western Beirut as well as into southern Lebanon.
- Hezbollah held David Dodge, acting president of the American University in Beirut, captive for a year; kidnapped and murdered Malcolm Kerr, a Lebanese-born American who was president of the American University of Beirut; abducted Jeremy Levin, Beirut bureau chief of CNN, who later escaped; held Rev. Benjamin Weir for 16 months; seized diplomat William Buckley and he was never heard from again; kidnapped Frank Reed, director of the American University in Beirut, and held him 44 months; held Joseph Cicippio, acting comptroller at the American University in Beirut, for five years; and abducted and murdered Col. William Higgins, the American chief of the United Nations Truce Supervisory organization.
April 18, 1983
- A truck-bomb exploded in front of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 employees, including the CIA’s Middle East director, and wounding 120.
Oct. 23, 1983
- A truck loaded with a bomb crashed into the lobby of the U.S. Marines headquarters in Beirut, killing 241 soldiers and wounding 81.
April 12, 1984
- Hezbollah bombed a restaurant near a U.S. Air Force base in Torrejon, Spain, killing 18 servicemen and wounding 83 people.
Sept. 20, 1984
- A suicide bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy in East Beirut killed 23 people and injured 21.
Dec. 4, 1984
- Hezbollah terrorists hijacked a Kuwait Airlines plane and murdered American pas- sengers Charles Hegna and William Stanford.
June 14, 1985
- Hezbollah members hijacked a TWA flight and murdered Robert Stethem, a U.S. Navy diver.
Hezbollah has repeatedly carried out terrorist actions against Israelis and launched rockets into northern Israel. Israelis have not even been safe outside their homeland. In 1992 and 1994, Hezbollah bombed the Israeli Embassy and the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires. Eight days after the AMIA bombing, the Israeli Embassy in London was car bombed by two Palestinians linked to Hezbollah.
According to Hezbollah, the United States was to blame for many of the country’s problems. Israel was seen as an extension of the United States and a foreign power in Lebanon. The immediate threat is to Israel, but Hezbollah has also repeatedly targeted Americans. There is a partial list in the chart below.
It is tragic that Lebanese civilians are harmed, but the only ones showing concern for noncombatants are the Israelis, who are pinpointing their attacks rather than carpet-bombing areas where they know Hezbollah has bases. Hezbollah has no regard whatsoever for innocents, and that is why it operates inside residential neighborhoods. Of course, Hezbollah terrorists care even less about innocent Jews than they do their own people and indiscriminately fire their rockets into Israeli cities.
Former diplomats are calling for political intervention, but just how is Israel supposed to negotiate with a group bent on its destruction? The diplomats’ answer is to capitulate to Hezbollah demands and trade dozens of Arab prisoners for two soldiers, a formula that would give the terrorists an incentive to continue to kidnap Israelis and do nothing to eliminate the ongoing threat that Hezbollah has proven now extends to the heart of Israel.
Diplomats also appeal to the major powers to take political steps to stop the violence, and emergency sessions are called at the UN. But we’ve seen this movie before. In fact, the world did come up with a diplomatic “solution” in 2004—UN Security Council Resolution 1559. The resolution specifically called on the Lebanese government to disarm Hezbollah and to deploy its army in the south. The international community did nothing, however, to enforce that resolution, and the Lebanese government proved unable and/or unwilling to fulfill its duty.
The violence can only be stopped if there is a clear, unified message from the world’s leaders that terrorism and unprovoked acts of war on sovereign nations will not be allowed to stand. Israel must be permitted to eliminate the rocket threat posed by Hezbollah. Then Hezbollah must release the Israeli soldiers unharmed and the Lebanese government must implement UN Resolution 1559. If the international community is to end the crises in the long-term, it must be prepared to deal with the countries that helped precipitate this war, Hezbollah’s patrons in Syria and Iran.
Israel is now being criticized for responding “disproportionately,” but what would be the proportionate response to a terrorist group trying to destroy you? Should Israel fire missiles indiscriminately at Lebanon because that would be equivalent to what Hezbollah is now doing? What would the United States do if rockets were raining down on its cities?
Some countries are also calling for Israel to exercise restraint. Does anyone believe France would show the slightest restraint if its cities were under attack? Just ask the people of the Ivory Coast, thousands of miles away, about French restraint there. And what about the Russian idea of restraint? We’ve seen it firsthand in Russia’s treatment of terrorists in Moscow and the prosecution of its war in Chechnya. These countries have no moral authority to lecture Israel.
The media has devoted much of its attention to images of the Lebanese. We’ve seen very little of the damage in Israel or interviews with Israeli families forced to live in bomb shelters. Every report has mentioned the American citizens who are in Lebanon, but nothing is being said about the thousands of Americans in Israel endangered by the Hezbollah missile attacks.
From Myths & Facts Online—A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Mitchell G. Bard <JewishVirtualLibrary.org>. Used by permission.