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Congress Observed Moment of Silence for Hezbollah and Its Supporters

Lee Smith

Yesterday, members of Congress observed a moment of silence to commemorate casualties suffered by a community aligned with Bashar al-Assad in his exterminationist war against Syria’s Sunni Arab population. Last Thursday, two suicide bombers killed 46 people in Burj a-Burajneh, a Beirut neighborhood that is a well-known Hezbollah stronghold, and this Wednesday the representatives of the American people reflected.

Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan who represents Dearborn, which has a large population of Lebanese immigrants, paid tribute to three of her constituents killed in the attacks. “For me these were attacks on my town, my community,” she said.

Various media organizations it seems have avoided labeling the community as a Hezbollah stronghold, perhaps in fear of suggesting that they’re fair targets in the region’s sectarian conflict. They’re not, of course, but the reality remains that Hezbollah is fighting a war against its Sunni neighbors across the border in Syria, where they, too, are slaughtering innocents.

To further obscure the issue, some Lebanese waged a spontaneous social media campaign to complain that Facebook’s “Safety Check” mechanism wasn’t employed for the attacks in Beirut but only kicked in the day after with the Paris attacks. What? The lives of White Europeans are more important than those of Arabs? What racism, what orientalism! Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained that they just hadn’t gotten to it before and “now plan to activate Safety Check for more human disasters going forward as well.”

Let’s set the record straight: there is no comparison between what happened in the City of Light last Friday and at the headquarters of a terrorist death cult last Thursday. In fact, back in the 1980s a group of young men from this same neighborhood formed the nucleus of the Hezbollah cell responsible for a deadly wave of terror in Paris. It’s a terrible thing that innocents were killed in the Beirut bombing, but this human disaster is of Hezbollah’s own manufacture. They’ve dragged the entire community into a war, and it does no one any favor to lie about it.

It’s not just Rep Dingell who has a hard time figuring out what Hezbollah is about—so it seems does John Kerry. Yes, the party of God is designated by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization. But for the purposes of the negotiations now under way in Vienna to end the Syrian civil war, Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization. According to the Statement of the International Syria Support Group released by the State Department last week, ISIS is a terrorist group, as is Jabhat al-Nusra “and other terrorist groups, as designated by the UN Security Council, and further, as agreed by the participants and endorsed by the UN Security Council.” Since Iran, and two of its clients, Lebanon and Iraq, as well as its ally Russia are among the participants, that means an international group in which the United States is playing a leading role does not consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization. And that’s in spite of the fact that the group has killed Americans dating back to the 1983 attacks on the U.S. embassy in Beirut and the Marine barracks at the airport.

Since that time, an academic industry has grown up around Hezbollah explaining that it can’t possibly be a terrorist organization since it represents so much of the Shiite community. According to this reading, Hezbollah is just another Lebanese political party, and certainly voting results show that the party of God regularly wins the vast majority of the community’s electoral support. Yes, it’s true that the Lebanese state long neglected and abused the Shiite community, but now Hezbollah has become the state, setting it on course for war with its neighbors, the Sunnis of Syria, and Israel, to drag the entire country down with it.

Hezbollah is a resistance group, say its defenders. The resistance and the people are one, says Hezbollah. This formula is apparently not applicable when the people are caught in the middle of one of the resistance’s wars and killed. Then, anyone who does not sharply distinguish the people from the resistance is wrong and likely immoral. The people and the resistance have it both ways.

Lebanese authorities have arrested seven Syrians and two Lebanese allegedly responsible for plotting and funding the bombings. The suspects revealed that the bombers’ missed their actual target, the Rassoul al-Aazam Hospital. The facility, referred to as the “resistance hospital,” serves the community at large, including Hezbollah fighters wounded in the war in Syria. In other words, ISIS, or whoever was responsible, may have seen it as a military target.

Of course, according to the Geneva Convention, a hospital is not a legitimate military target. (In Israel’s 2014 war with Hamas, for instance, Israel did not strike Shifa hospital even though Jerusalem is well aware that Hamas has a command and control center in the basement of the Gaza hospital.) Still, the southern suburbs is effectively a garrison, with key Hezbollah sites throughout the neighborhood. That’s why Israel turned the neighborhood to rubble in the 2006 war, in another instance of how Hezbollah serves the community.

“We love death more than life,” says Hezbollah general secretary Hassan Nasrallah. And true to his word, a thousand Lebanese died in the 2006 war, including hundreds of Hezbollah fighters. Still, Hezbollah called it a “divine victory”—perhaps because of the money that poured in from Iran and the Gulf States to rebuild the area. The people and the resistance started to enjoy the high life as the southern suburbs became a gold coast, with shopping malls, restaurants, big cars, stylish clothes, new homes, and a large expansion to the “resistance hospital.”

Many in the Shiite community believed, or at least hoped, that there was no more need for resistance after the “divine victory,” and could now enjoy the spoils of war. Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons had other plans. They sent fighters across the border to help Assad hunt Sunnis. In return, Sunnis targeted Hezbollah and the Iranians (their embassy in Beirut) in their own neighborhoods, just like the attack last week. When your fighters cross a border and kill those who live there, it’s a war. When they return fire across your border, it’s not terrorism. If you seek to protect your civilians from getting caught in the middle, you have little standing to object if you do not yourself observe the rules of war.

Of course, it’s not just Hezbollah fighters who have been mobilized for war. As anti-Hezbollah activist Lokman Slim told me last year in Beirut. “Let’s say there are 3,000 Hezbollah combatants in Syria, but then take into account all the other things you need, everything from intelligence to logistics, and there are perhaps 20,000 committed to the war. For instance, a father and his two sons have a bulldozer, and Hezbollah needs them and their machine in Syria, so they pay them double to be there.”

The bombings in Beirut last week were part of a war in which Hezbollah has embroiled all of Lebanon’s Shiite community. The reason that it is evidently difficult to have clarity about this fact is because over the course of thirty years the people and the resistance, as well as countless journalists and analysts, have obscured reality. In the context of Hezbollah, the terms war, terrorism, and resistance mean whatever Hezbollah says it means.

For instance, Samir Kuntar was a terrorist. He was in an Israeli prison for killing four Israelis including a little girl whose skull he crushed with the butt of his rifle. And yet when he was released in 2008 in exchange for the corpses of two Israeli soldiers, thousands of people thronged the streets of the southern suburbs to celebrate this hero of the resistance, and throw him a welcome home party.

It was terrorism when a suicide car bombing killed former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri along with dozens more in February 2005. And yet the Shiite community filled the streets of downtown Beirut a few weeks later to “thank” the Syrian regime, widely believed even at that time to have been responsible for Hariri’s death. And it was still terrorism when the Special Tribunal for Lebanon named several Hezbollah members as suspects in the assassination.

It was war Hezbollah waged against Israel in 2006, not resistance. And it not resistance they are waging now against the Sunnis of Syria, but war.

Pity the residents of Burj al-Barajneh and all the Shiite regions of Lebanon, all under Hezbollah control. The innocents don’t deserve to be targeted for death where they live, work, and play, but neither do the innocents on the Syrian side of the border. Lying about the people and the resistance is of no use to the Shiite community, for their only hope is in separating themselves as soon as possible from the resistance.

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