OpinionIsrael at War

Hezbollah’s grip on Lebanon

The Iran-backed terrorist group is dragging Israel into a war Lebanon does not want.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, center, is flanked by Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhala (left) and Hamas deputy politburo head Saleh al-Arouri, Beirut, Lebanon, Sept. 2, 2023. Source: Twitter/X.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, center, is flanked by Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhala (left) and Hamas deputy politburo head Saleh al-Arouri, Beirut, Lebanon, Sept. 2, 2023. Source: Twitter/X.
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a think tank that specializes in the Middle East. She is the author of Saudi Arabia and the Global Terrorist Network (2011).  

Shavuot is one of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar, commemorating when the Jews received the Torah from Mount Sinai, forging us into a sovereign nation run by a series of laws, each one informed by profoundly penetrating ethics. These values, at their core, enhance the sanctity of human life.

It is not surprising, then, that when Shavuot was commemorated in Israel last Wednesday, Hezbollah launched more than 215 missiles, rockets and drones at northern Israel. This has been going on since Oct. 8, making it impossible for at least 60,000 residents of the north to return to their homes in relative safety and security. The latest barrage was the result of Israel’s elimination of Hezbollah’s second in command in Lebanon, Taleb Sami Abdullah.

Hezbollah, like Hamas, reveres the cult of death, while Jews and Christians cherish life. As its leader Hassan Nasrallah perfidiously exclaimed, “We are going to win because they love life and we love death.”  

Since Oct. 8, Hezbollah has linked forces with Hamas in hopes of completely obliterating the State of Israel, which they believe to be a growing cancer on holy Islamic soil.

Hezbollah has maintained an impervious, firm grip on southern Lebanon. Although Lebanon is a mosaic of many religions—Shiite, Sunni, Alawite, Eastern Orthodox, Druze, Copts—Hezbollah and their Iranian puppet masters hold dominance on the ground.

Since its establishment in 1982, Hezbollah has embedded itself into the cultural and educational life of Lebanon, focusing on seizing control of the confessional parliamentary system and on a constant and steady indoctrination of the youth to sacrifice their lives for Shi’ite Islam. The Iranian-funded Hezbollah youth movement, the Imam Al-Mahdi Scouts Movement, established in 1985, has brainwashed hundreds of thousands of Lebanese youth to die for the sake of Allah and to murder as many Jews as possible until the last Jew is eradicated from the earth.

This turns on its head the Scout movement’s dictum of “being active citizens, creating positive change in their communities and in the world, based on shared values.” The Imam Al-Mahdi Scouts Movement indoctrinates children as young as eight years old. By the age of 16, they are recruited into Hezbollah.

As Hezbollah swells its ranks, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) has been completely coopted by the terror group. The LAF is a relatively weak, midsized army.

During the 1975 to 1990 Lebanese Civil War that pitted Sunnis and Christians against Shiites, approximately 150,000 Lebanese were killed. It ended with the signing of the Taif Accords, which said that all foreign armies had to leave southern Lebanon. Israel, which felt it was necessary to go into Southern Lebanon to create a zone of protection for the residents of the north, withdrew all forces on May 24, 2000.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, as well as Resolution 1701, were then passed, affirming the Taif Accords and Lebanese sovereignty and stipulating that the only military force remaining in control should be the LAF. Hezbollah has remained, however, embedding itself within the frailer LAF and, through a complicated web of cultural and societal groups, within the hearts and minds of many of the Lebanese people.

According to former Defense Minister Benny Gantz, “Hezbollah is now stronger than any Arab army.” It possesses a vast arsenal of 150,000 missiles capable of hitting Israel’s major cities, including Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

In the most recent poll of the Lebanese people, 80% said they were in favor of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel and 75% said they did not want Lebanon to remain neutral. However, only 32% said they wanted Lebanon to actively participate in the war.

France and the U.S. have put forth various diplomatic solutions: The French proposal calls for the gradual withdrawal of Hezbollah to 10 kilometers north of the border between Israel and Lebanon—the Blue Line—with the LAF filling the void. The U.S. proposal calls for “freezing in place” the special units of Hezbollah—the Radwan forces—but also gradual compliance with U.N. Security Council 1701, with the deployment of 10,000 to 12,000 LAF troops south of the Litani River. Washington threw economic incentives into the proposal. 

We know that these proposals are beyond risible to Hezbollah, which remains the commanding player in the field, full of theological passion to obliterate Israel and unwilling to give up its political and military dominance. It feels like Israel has been severely weakened in the international community and that now might be the opportune moment to strike.

I am haunted by a photo of Israelis taken over Shavuot in a northern kibbutz as they were being faced with rocket threats and sirens. The women and children all dressed in white, little girls with floral crowns in their hair and young boys carrying baskets all seemed oblivious to what had taken place in the skies above them. They were celebrating the holiday together.

That is Israel and the Jewish people’s secret: Come what may, it is our love of life and not of death, our resilient and vibrant spirit, that is the enduring source of our survival.

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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