OpinionIsrael at War

From ‘Lebanese Resistance’ to ‘Islamic Resistance’

Hezbollah's rebranding indicates its status as a full-fledged Iranian proxy.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.
Jacques Neriah. Credit: Twitter.
Jacques Neriah
Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly a foreign-policy adviser to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the deputy head for assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.

The war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and the active participation of Hezbollah in the conflict has produced a significant change in the language used by the Lebanese terror group. As can be observed from Hezbollah-affiliated media, the organization has replaced the nationalist slogan that characterized it since its establishment in 1982 with an Islamic slogan.

Hezbollah mouthpieces now state that the groups actions against Israel are conducted by the “Islamic Resistance,” a clear departure from what was defined in the past as a “Lebanese Resistance” or simply “the Resistance” against Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory. 

The second most important Shi’ite militia and political formation in Lebanon has since its establishment been known as “Amal,” an Arabic acronym for Afwaj al-Muqawama al-Lubnaniyyah, or Regiments of the Lebanese Resistance. That acronym has not changed, whereas Hezbollah, the premier Shi’ite militia and political formation in Lebanon, has now seemingly shifted from a nationalist to a religious ideology.

The use of the term “Islamic Resistance” is not coincidental.

To understand the difference between the two slogans, one must look to Hamas, a Sunni terrorist organization whose name represents the acronym of the Movement of the Islamic Resistance: Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya—an offshoot of the Egyptian Sunni Muslim Brotherhood. This has now been copied by Hizbullah, a Shi’ite organization that has fought against jihadist Sunni militias and factions since it intervened in the Syrian civil war.

The reasons behind the change are obvious. The war between Israel and Hamas has illustrated the dramatic change in the frontline militias facing Israel. Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and other Lebanese and foreign (Iraqi, Pakistani and Afghani) factions fighting Israel have become full-fledged Iranian proxies, receiving Iranian funding, training, sophisticated equipment and, most importantly, instructions. 

The metamorphosis of Hezbollah did not happen overnight. It is the result of a long process initiated by Tehran, with the active assistance of Hezbollah in Lebanon. The adoption of the Islamic slogan is meant to be ecumenical and symbolizes more than anything that the war against Israel is not only an effort led by Iran but also by Sunni factions which have rallied under the banner of Hezbollah in the war against “the heretics,” “the usurper,” or the so-called “occupation state” (the Dawlat al-Ihtilal).

It is no longer a war for the recovery of lost territory; It is, in fact, a holy war, an annihilation war, an Islamic war against a foreign heretic presence, comparable to when Arab troops led by a Kurdish-born commander named Saladin (Salah ad-Din, 1137-1193) defeated the Crusaders who had established themselves in the Holy Land for more than a century. 

Money talks

It is noteworthy to underline that in its beginnings as an Islamic Republic, Iran tried but failed to rally the Sunni Arab states under a pan-Islamic ideology. The formula is now meeting with greater success because the Palestinian terrorist factions are almost totally dependent on Iranian assistance. Both Hamas and PIJ received money and weapons with which to build a solid power base able to sustain Israeli attacks. In addition, Hamas and PIJ sent trainees to Lebanon, Syria and Iran, where they trained in the production of sophisticated weaponry.

Finally, fighting under the banner of the “Islamic Resistance” is the materialization of former Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani’s vision of “unifying the fronts” (Sunni and Shi’ite) to encircle Israel and create a choking belt that would undermine its existence. 

As for the Lebanese government and the Christian and Sunni establishment, the developments in the southern part of the country and the fact that Hezbollah has been waging an Islamic holy war against Israel since Oct. 8 proves once again the failure of the Lebanese state to exercise its authority.

Originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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