By Ben Cohen/JNS.org
In July 2006, Israel fought a bitter defensive war against the Lebanese Islamist organization Hezbollah. The hostilities, which saw thousands of rockets fired at Israel by Hezbollah terrorists, as well as the displacement of nearly 500,000 Israelis from their homes, ended one month later with a United Nations-brokered cease-fire.
Hezbollah had been temporarily chastened, but the disarmament demanded by the U.N. Security Council never happened, and the threat it poses has only grown during the intervening decade, most recently demonstrated by the terror organization’s participation in the atrocities that accompanied the conquest of Aleppo in Syria.
Throughout 2006, the global left adopted Hezbollah as a cause célèbre, embracing the group as the advance guard of the justified resistance against “Zionist aggression.” In this imagining, Hezbollah was depicted as a Middle Eastern equivalent of the plucky leftists who courageously fought the fascist armies of General Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War—and not as the anti-Semites, homophobes, misogynists and fascists that this collection of stormtroopers truly are.
Some readers won’t need reminding of the character of those demonstrations, but for those who don’t recall that long, hot summer, here is a flavor of the protest chants that echoed through the streets of cities around the world (courtesy of the Anti-Defamation League’s archive):
July 13, 2006, San Francisco—“Black, Red, Brown, White, We Support Hezbollah’s Fight!”
July 19, 2006, Los Angeles—“Long Live Hezbollah!”
Aug. 5, 2006, Boston—“Hezbollah has brought dignity and valor,” a speaker told a rally.
Aug. 5, 2006, London—“We are Hezbollah Now!” (Placards carried by demonstrators.)
Aug. 12, 2006, Washington, D.C.—“Nasrallah, Nasrallah, the martyr is the beloved of Allah!” (a reference to Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah.)
Aug. 12, 2006, Paris—“Nous Sommes Tous Des Hezbollah!” (“We Are All Hezbollah!”)
There were similar spectacles in other cities, with participant numbers ranging from the low hundreds to the tens of thousands. And the principle of solidarity with Hezbollah persists even now; at this year’s “Al Quds Day” demonstration in London, the “We Are All Hezbollah!” signs were again out in full force.
So: Who are “we?”
“We”—Hezbollah, that is—revealed our true nature once more in the combined Russian-Iranian-Syrian regime onslaught that led to the fall of Aleppo, and the launching of countless atrocities against the starving, besieged population of that city. Even the normally mealy-mouthed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the assault “nothing short of a massacre.”
As with Bosnia, as with Rwanda, as with the ethnic cleansing of Iraq’s Christians and Yazidis by Islamic State terrorists, the international community—led by the U.S.—has been a pathetic bystander to the carnage in Aleppo. Some of the reports emanating from the city—for example, young girls pleading with their fathers to kill them before they are raped by militias backing Syrian tyrant President Bashar al-Assad—will haunt us for years to come.
Since Aleppo fell to the Russian-Iranian-Assad-Shi’a militia axis—a devilish number of actors, but all of them are pursuing the same goal of ensuring that Assad’s dictatorship is reimposed upon the corpses of Aleppo’s men, women and children—the atrocities have proceeded unabated. Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed Shi’a militias, such as the PMU organization from neighboring Iraq, have been up to their waists in blood.
In one of the most gruesome incidents, a convoy of 20 buses carrying hundreds of evacuees, and accompanied by officials from the Syrian Red Crescent and International Red Cross, managed to persuade Russian occupation forces to allow them through their checkpoint. But then the buses arrived at another checkpoint, this one controlled by Hezbollah.
“The convoy was halted for 15 minutes,” reported Voice of America (VOA), “then tanks and Hezbollah militiamen surrounded the convoy, fired indiscriminately in the air and expelled the accompanying Red Cross and Red Crescent workers. The militiamen forced all the men to get off the buses and confiscated their weapons and mobile phones.”
The VOA report continued, “Accompanied by his pregnant wife, a fighter who tried to resist was killed along with four others. They seized some of the civil defense cars and ambulances and forced the rest of the convoy back to the besieged pocket in eastern Aleppo.”
We should expect nothing less from these “Shi’a totalitarians,” as the prominent French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy aptly described them in a recent interview with me. Hezbollah’s operating codes revolve around punishment and death. Mercy is a quality that they mock. For that reason, Hezbollah is no different to the savages of Islamic State. Both are the Sunni and Shi’a sides of an Islamist coin that wreaks untold suffering on Westerners, Christians, vulnerable religious minorities, Jews and, in the largest numbers, Muslims themselves.
But do those who chanted “We Are All Hezbollah” understand the nature of the organization they so heartily embrace? Do they grasp that “We Are All Hezbollah” means “We Are All Executioners, Rapists and Child Murderers?” These are not the poorly armed fighters of the POUM communist political party in Spain, of whom George Orwell wrote so marvelously in his Spanish Civil War classic “Homage to Catalonia.” They are a well-armed, well trained force of killers, as we have known for too many years now. The 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut? It was the work of Hezbollah, in an operation backed by their paymasters in Iran. The 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires? Ditto.
Look upon Aleppo and then imagine, please, what would happen if Hezbollah was unleashed upon the people of Israel. Sometimes, you need an apocalyptic scenario to bring you to your senses.
Ben Cohen, senior editor of TheTower.org & The Tower Magazine, writes a weekly column for JNS.org on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics. His writings have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Haaretz, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. He is the author of “Some of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism” (Edition Critic, 2014).