Hezbollah: Lebanese resistance force, not a proxy army

As the Israeli military continues its murderous campaign in Lebanon and Palestine, the imperialist propaganda machine continues to stand reality on its head. Israel, the leading sponsor of state terrorism in the world, is depicted as an innocent victim fighting for its survival against the onslaught of the ruthless attacks of Hezbollah.

Even without the benefit of historical perspective, a glance at the number of casualties reveals the utter falsehood of


Aid worker holds dead child after the Israeli massacre at Qana, Lebanon on July 30, 2006.

Israel’s portrayal as the victim. As of July 31, the Israelis have killed at least 700 Lebanese people, the vast majority of them non-combatants. According to a report by Jan Egeland, U.N. emergency relief coordinator, one-third of those murdered have been children. On July 30 alone, Israel killed nearly 60 civilians, including 35 children, in a bombing raid on Qana. By contrast, Israeli casualties total 52, 33 of them soldiers killed in combat.

Israel has deliberately destroyed the Lebanese civilian infrastructure—a war crime—and continues this practice unabated. Amidst a barrage of reports and images of children murdered, civilian convoys bombed and houses destroyed with their residents buried inside, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution offering unconditional support for Israel and praising it for “minimizing civilian loss.”

Reflecting this unwavering support of the U.S. ruling class for Israel, the U.S. media have done their best to hide the nature of this bloody Israeli campaign. Heart wrenching images of Lebanese victims rarely make it to the television screens in the United States. When they do, they are always “balanced” with images of suffering Israelis.

Blaming Iran and Syria

A claim made by the Bush administration and uncritically echoed by media pundits is that Hezbollah is a mere proxy for Iran and Syria. Some ruling-class analysts have even gone as far as saying that the entire conflict in Lebanon is part of Iran’s plan to distract world attention from its nuclear file in the U.N. Security Council. According to this caricature of reality, Iran simply ordered Hezbollah to fight Israel and could just as easily put a halt to Hezbollah’s resistance. Hezbollah is depicted as a pawn of Iran or Syria.

It is clear why such a mischaracterization of the relationship between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah serves imperialist interests. It seeks to hide the reality that Hezbollah represents the leadership of a genuine resistance force against the Israeli settler state. It also serves to blame the crisis not on the real cause—Israeli aggression—but on a foreign “terrorist” state. Additionally, it provides another lever for the imperialists to pressure Iran as it defends its absolute right to develop nuclear technology. But the reality is quite different.

When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, a people’s militia was formed explicitly to resist the occupation. Iranian revolutionaries, many of whom had received military training in Palestine in the years leading up to the Iranian revolution of 1979, played a role in the founding of Hezbollah (Party of God).

Under the leadership of Hezbollah, resistance forces in Lebanon engaged in guerilla warfare to drive out the Israeli


Hezbollah’s political leader, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah.

occupiers. It took a long, heroic struggle against the fifth strongest military in the world, an enemy far superior to the Hezbollah guerillas in terms of weaponry and training. After 18 years of struggle, and with the sacrifice of many, many lives, the seemingly impossible happened. The Israelis were forced to withdraw.

With this victory, Hezbollah gained immense prestige and popularity, not just among the Shiites of southern Lebanon, but in all of Lebanon and the entire Arab world. In the long history of the struggle of the Palestinians and other Arabs against Israel, there had been many defeats, but victories had been few and far in between. The Hezbollah victory stood in clear contrast to the many defeats suffered by Arab states, most of which have adopted increasingly collaborationist approaches to Israel.

Given Hezbollah’s sustained struggle and eventual victory against Israeli occupation, it was natural for Syria and Iran, two independent states in the region always threatened by Israel, to be supportive of Hezbollah. Israel had invaded the Golan Heights, part of Syria that it continues to occupy today. Having part of its territory occupied by Israel, Syria’s support for Hezbollah is not part of a “terrorist” plot but the result of having a common enemy.

Iran’s support for Hezbollah has been less tied to its direct national interests. Iran has no border with Israel, Syria or Lebanon. Therefore, it was never directly affected by the Israeli invasion of Lebanon or in eminent danger of an Israeli invasion. Nor does Iran have any economic interests in Lebanon.

However, as another independent state in a region dominated by U.S. client states, the Islamic Republic of Iran has never recognized the state of Israel and has always considered Israel to be its enemy. This animosity is not motivated by anti-Semitism, as bourgeois pundits would have us believe, but the result of Israel’s special relationship to the United States.

In pursuit of complete dominance over the Middle East, a strategy that long predates the ascendance of neocons in Washington; the United States has sought every opportunity to weaken independent states in the region. States like Iran that are on Washington’s list for “regime change” are also threatened by Israel.

Israel’s role in the Middle East is, and has always been, that of the henchman of U.S. imperialism. Israel can perform operations that the political exigencies of the day may not allow the United States to perform directly, such as bombing the Iraqi nuclear facilities while the United States was supposedly supporting Iraq in its war against Iran. This Israeli function extends beyond the Middle East. Israel militarily supported apartheid in South Africa long after the United States was forced by popular pressure to cease.

Iran’s opposition to Israel is part of its struggle for independence, an independence that was won by overthrowing the Shah’s regime—the U.S. puppet who ruled Iran after the 1953 CIA coup. Iran’s support for Hezbollah is a component of its struggle for survival. In the words of Iranian senior cleric, Ahmad Khatami, “Today, we should defend Hezbollah. This is in fact defending your own security.”

Deep roots in Lebanese society

Hezbollah is more than a guerilla army with deep roots among the people. Hezbollah has a wide network of schools, hospitals and social services in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah is not a puppet force controlled by either Iran or Syria. But the imperialists attempt to depict any support for Hezbollah as evidence of its lack of independence.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, claims that Iran contributes $100 million annually to Hezbollah. Of


Lebanese children at a school run by Hezbollah.

course, he offers no evidence to support his assertion. Iran, on the other hand, has stated repeatedly that it has provided no military or financial assistance to Hezbollah. According to Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hamid Reza Asefi, “The Islamic republic’s support to Hezbollah is open humanitarian, political and diplomatic support.”

But whatever the extent of Iran and Syria’s material support, the fact remains that Hezbollah is a force deeply rooted in Lebanese society. Hezbollah fighters are not mercenaries. They are volunteer militiamen who put their lives at risk against an overwhelmingly superior military force to defend their independence against Israel. Whatever Iran and Syria may gain from Hezbollah’s struggles, these Lebanese militiamen are fighting their own war with the strong support of their own population. And this is not a struggle that Iran or Syria could turn on or off at will. 

With U.S. airwaves full of speculation about alleged Iranian and Syrian support for Hezbollah, few questions are raised about the U.S. government providing Israel with $200 million worth of jet fuel and a new supply of bunker busters in the midst of this conflict. Referring to the U.S. government, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said, “They don’t have any right to tell us why Iran supports Hezbollah at all. The question is why do they support Israel?”

Although the Middle East conflict is playing out thousands of miles from the United States, it affects the American working class. The U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and its attack on Lebanon are funded by the tax dollars of workers in the United States. If the conflict widens, in addition to the 140,000 troops currently in Iraq, the U.S. government is likely to send more troops to the region.

The imperialists use their military, overwhelmingly comprised of working-class people, to subjugate the oppressed peoples of the world. If successful, the capitalist bosses reap the benefits of gaining control over the resources of the oppressed world. The working class would gain nothing from an imperialist victory. But win or lose, working class people bear the costs of these wars with their lives, their tax dollars, and loss of social benefits.

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