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The problem with calling Hezbollah a terrorist organization

In Israel the question of whether Hezbollah is a terrorist group or an army boils down to the racist idea that Arabs do not have the right to defend themselves. Even asking is considered treasonous.

By Lilach Ben-David

A Lebanese and Hezbollah flag fly side by side. (Illustrative photo by John Grummitt / Shutterstock.com)

A Lebanese and Hezbollah flag fly side by side. (Illustrative photo by John Grummitt / Shutterstock.com)

The Balad (National Democratic Assembly or A-Tajamou’) Hadash and Hadash (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality or Al-Jabhah) parties, the respective liberal-nationalist Palestinian and socialist parties in Israel’s parliament, publicly condemned a GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) decision to define Hezbollah a “terrorist organization” last week.

The announcement gave the Israeli media another chance to join the merriment of incitement and lies hurled at the political leadership of Palestinian citizens of Israel and depict them yet again as parties of Israel-hating terrorists out for Jewish blood. This is the same Israeli media that, whenever it comes to “security” issues, behaves less like democracy’s watchdog and more like the Israeli army spokesperson’s fan club.

As a result, in its coverage of the Hezbollah issue the Israeli media intentionally failed at its duty to report the political, historical and factual context of that condemnation.  Deeper familiarity with such context might expose the reason this is not support for terrorism. It might even justify the observation that Hezbollah is a significant Arab army.

The right to self defense

In order to understand why the political leadership of Palestinian citizens of Israel does not view Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, we must first rid ourselves of one of the unspoken conventions of internal Zionist political discourse and ask ourselves a simple question: do Israel’s Arab neighbors — be they Palestinians, Lebanese or others — have the moral right to defend themselves against Israeli (and American) military aggression?

The only answer in the Israeli political consensus is such an unequivocal negative that merely posing the question is considered treasonous. According to the same political consensus, Israel has the supreme moral right to behave in the Middle East like a thuggish child behaves in a playground, and the moral obligation of the neighboring Arab peoples is to suffer quietly from Israel’s attacks and not raise any military entity that might deter Israeli aggression and defend the lives and land of the Arab peoples.

Most of the Arabs in the world at large, and in Israel in particular, however, do not share this basic racist assumption. For them, Arabs are human in the fullest sense of the word, and they have a right to defend themselves no less than any other human being.

Casus belli

Israeli soldiers train for battle along the Lebanese border. (IDF Spokesperson)

Israeli soldiers train for battle along the Lebanese border. (IDF Spokesperson)


Note that the last Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, which once again destroyed the southern part of the country and left behind 1,400 dead Lebanese citizens, was Israel’s fifth invasion of the “Land of the Cedars.” Israel’s most deadly invasion of Lebanon began in 1982, left over 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians dead, and continued as an 18-year-long occupation of its south.

That invasion, which was actually a meticulously planned military operation that sat waiting in the desk drawer of then-defense minister Ariel Sharon, was thought up in order to forcibly silence the PLO leadership, which was based in Lebanon at the time and was pestering the Israeli regime with its insistent demand to sit down for negotiations.

The weak excuse for which the Begin government waited in order to carry out the invasion came in the form of an attempted assassination of Israeli ambassador Shlomo Argov by activists of the Abu Nidal Organization. Though the identity of those responsible for the assassination was known immediately to be Abu Nidal activists rather than PLO, and although the PLO leadership had issued a death warrant against Abu Nidal years before, the Israeli government decided to carry out the planned attack against Lebanon anyway. Or as the Israeli chief of general staff at the time Rafael Eitan put it: “Abu Nidal Abu Shmidal, we have to screw the PLO!”

Note that at the time of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Hezbollah as an organization was still in its diapers. Only after no few years of Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon did it establish itself as the main guerilla force fighting the Israeli occupation and eventually brought about Israel’s retreat from that area.

Since the end of the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon in May 2000 and to the present, except for the lethal invasion in 2006, UNIFIL forces have documented thousands of Israeli violations of the Lebanese border, on an almost daily basis, a fact that simply doesn’t exist as far as the Israeli media is concerned.

An army, not a guerilla force

If we set aside for a moment the racist basic assumptions of Zionist political discourse, and look at things from the perspective of Arabs who refuse to take their racial inferiority for granted, there is no escaping the realization that if any people on earth deserves its right to self-defense against Israeli aggression, it is the Lebanese people (along with the Palestinians, of course).

And here the question arises, if the Lebanese people have a right to defend themselves and deter Israel from perpetrating a sixth invasion, who then has the military capacity to take this role upon themselves? The Lebanese army is out of the question: it is hopelessly weak and busy trying to prevent the Syrian civil war from sliding into Lebanon. Furthermore, that army is suffused along its entire chain of command with pro-American officers.

As Haaretz commentator Amos Harel remarked last week, Hezbollah of 2016 is no longer a small sophisticated guerrilla organization, but rather a real military force positioned along Israel’s northern border and threatening to sow much destruction in the north of the country if Israel decides to launch another military adventure into Lebanon.

As a resident of the North, I certainly pray Israel ceases its series of provocations aiming to drag this organization into yet another military clash, for as Harel writes: “It is doubtful the average citizen has digested what the officers understand – that any additional war in the north will cost the IDF many losses, that the mass of rockets Hezbollah will fire into communities along the border will require a partial evacuation of inhabitants and that missile damage to the center of the country will be far worse than what we experienced in the previous wars in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.”

Thus, as far as the leaderships of Balad and Hadash are concerned, Hezbollah is for all purposes an Arab army and the only deterrence against further Israeli aggression in Lebanon. Its definition as a “terrorist organization” is hypocritical and self-righteous, at least as long as the strongest and richest terrorist organization in the Middle East — which is of course the Israeli army — is not defined as such, and certainly as long as some of the member states of the GCC either covertly or overtly support the terrorist organizations ISIL and Jabhat Al-Nusra. Taking all that into account, it is easy to see why Balad and Hadash might be justified in their argument that defining Hezbollah as a terrorist organization is aligned with the Israeli-American agenda in the region.

Lilach Ben-David is a transgender and feminist activist based in Haifa. Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call. Translated from Hebrew by Tal Haran.

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    1. Leffe

      I thought Hezbollah was an Iranian proxy force. How does Hezbollah involvement in the Syrian civil war constitute Arab ‘self defense’.

      972Mag has turned into a rag.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Farragut

      The problem with calling Hezbollah a terrorist organization, in the eyes of Israel’s enemies, is that goes against the racist idea that Jews are do not have the right to defend themselves.

      Reply to Comment
      • Carmen

        Farragut excuse me but I think you got that completely ass backwards. Calling Hezbollah a terrorist organization is to continue the fantasy that only israelis have an army and everyone else are terrorists and only israelis have the right to defend themselves, start wars, etc., and when they meet the opposition they’re dealing with ‘terrorists’ and not other soldiers.

        Reply to Comment
        • Samson

          “In Israel the question of whether Hezbollah is a terrorist group or an army boils down to the racist idea that Arabs do not have the right to defend themselves”.

          Did you miss that part, or, perhaps you did not even read the article you are ranting about? Does Israel consider the Jordanian, Egyptian, Syrian, Saudi Arabian, Lebanese armies terrorists groups? Do you even know what an army is? Do you are any idea what a terrorist group is, or, are you just satisfied with opening your jihadi mouth to defend outright stupidity and make a fool of yourself – just like the author of this article who has only but demonstrated that she has no clue what she is writing about?

          Address those question. You are allowed to melt away and re-emerge as one of your aliases: “Ben”, “BruceGould”, “Andrew R” etc. to respond. ROFLMAO …

          Reply to Comment
          • Carmen

            Yeah dumbass I read the article. Did you read the comment guidelines? In brief – you don’t make the rules and you run nothing but your filthy mouth. Get it?

            Reply to Comment
          • Samson

            Going cucu? Getting nasty? See, it wasn’t that difficult to get you to be yourself and be true to who you are: a nasty jihadi man posing as a woman. ROFLMAO …

            Reply to Comment
          • Carmen

            Gustav, honey is that you? Gustav/Samson/whonoze – you’ve been nasty from the get go. I’ve tried not to get to your level, with the exception of calling you a zionist pig. And that makes me a ‘nasty jihadi man’? I guess that’s the inspiration you need to stroke your ego, picture every woman as an old man. Got it.

            Reply to Comment
        • Mario

          “Calling Hezbollah a terrorist organization is to continue the fantasy that only israelis have an army and everyone else are terrorists and only israelis have the right to defend themselves, start wars, etc., and when they meet the opposition they’re dealing with ‘terrorists’ and not other soldiers”

          No it’s NOT. Israel (and the US, Canada, Austrália, EU and….. the Arab league!!!!!) does NOT consider any Arab country a terrorist organization, not eve the Lebanese army. Btw, if there is a Lebanese army, how should we call Hezbollah? Lebanese Army II?

          Reply to Comment
    3. Lewis from Afula

      “Lilach Ben-David is a transgender and feminist activist”
      Translation – this woman is a cuckoo extreme left degenerate, self-hater or hardened communist.
      Such people represents less than 1% of the Israeli electorate – i.e. a tiny radical fringe.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Oh the point isn’t anymore to try to convince the Israeli electorate. In case you hadn’t noticed, this article is written in English. And you just hate that.

        Reply to Comment
        • Jacob

          The article has been *translated* into English.

          Anyway this article is mostrously biased. Hezbollah placed bombs in an Israeli tourist bus in Burgas, and organized a terrorist attack in Argentina against Jewish targets. By any standard it is a terrorist organization.

          And even that the focus of the article is just to do speculations about naming conventions is stupid. Reframing the situations does not change a yod. Just rhetoric rambling.

          Even the premise is wrong, since the Hezbollah is not exactly the defender of the Lebanese people, but a foreign armed militia with popular support from Muslims in the South of Lebanon. I doubt the Christians of Lebanon see it as a “national self-defense”.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Yeah, well, I was responding to Lewis’s “Translation.” And frankly, like it or not, as I read the author, Ben-David is not so much saying that Hezbollah is not partly a terror organization as that Israel’s army is also partly a terror organization and it is a kind of doubly standard to say otherwise. What the Israeli army does to Palestinian villagers in their sleeping villages, every night, is terror. What the Israeli army does to protesters is terror. The army calculates a softer, everyday form of it that it can get a pass on from the world because the world gives Israel a pass it gives nobody else.


            But make no mistake, it is soft terror and not a military exercise the Israeli army conducts in the territories. It does not blow up buses, it doesn’t have to. But it terrorizes innocent families in the dead of night and an awful lot of Palestinian protesters end up dead or maimed or in severe pain from IDF “crowd control practices” that serve to induce political cooperation by organized violent means. That’s the hard truth you don’t want to look at while you go around railing against “monstrous bias.”

            Reply to Comment
    4. Samson

      Lisa Goldman is quite weird and possessive. She is not only tracking and banning critical posters on this site, but also obsessing about Trump all day (she is from Canada!) and driving her cancerous self nuts because of Trump.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Yeah, Right

      This is a pretty easy issue to answer.

      Question: In times of armed conflict do Hezbollah fighters carry their weapons openly?
      Answer: yes

      Question: In times of armed conflict do Hezbollah fighters carry a distinctive emblem that is visible at a distance?
      Answer: yes

      Question: In times of armed conflict are Hezbollah fighters commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates?
      Answer: yes

      Then according to the Geneva Convention those Hezbollah fighters are soldiers, they are not terrorists.

      QED: Hezbollah is an army, it is not a “terrorist organization”.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Carlos Cohen

      Exploding the AMIA in Buenos Aires in 1994, together with Iran operatives, was an act of “self defense”?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        No I would not characterize that as an act of self defense. Now let me ask you, is shooting a West Bank protester in the head with a teargas canister at close range self defense? Is shooting protesters with live ammunition at a distance by snipers self defense? Is torture self defense? Is torture of children self defense? Is undercover officers egging on protesters to throw stones and then arresting, restraining and shooting them point blank in the thigh self defense? Is raiding an innocent family’s house at 2AM and terrorizing them for practice self defense? Is deliberately and needlessly making people’s lives miserable at endless checkpoints self defense? Is saturation bombing of civilian areas self defense? Was the Hannibal procedure carried out in Gaza self defense? Is destroying olive trees and water wells self defense? Is building relentlessly encroaching civilian settlements self defense? Is building a wall here but not there for no other reason than that it grabs Palestinian land and destroys contiguity–is that self defense? Is stealing land with forged documents self defense? Is using every dirty administrative and legal trick in your bag to further a race-based regime of confiscation and permit refusal in “united” Jerusalem self defense? Is systematically refusing building permits to Arabs but not Jews self defense? Is systematically bulldozing houses of Arabs but never Jews self defense? Is moving Bedouin out of their homes because the Jews moving in are too pure to live next to them self defense? Is a corrupt ‘legal’ system in which Supreme Court justices live in illegal ‘settlements’ and rule on shoving indigenous people off their land for those ‘settlements’ self defense? Is arresting 16-year-old Hamza Hamad
        and detaining him indefinitely and without charges, because you feel like it, and without any true appeal process or any transparency–is that self defense? You tell me. If you say these things, and much more, aren’t happening you haven’t been paying attention.

        Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, Right

        Well, there are two problems with pointing to that 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires.
        1) Hezbollah’s involvement in that bombing was – and still isn’t – proved.
        2) The year 1994 happens to be 22 years ago, and Hezbollah is no longer the organization that it was Way Back Then, so it would seem odd to be applying labels on them now for something that they did two decades ago.

        After all, in 1948 there was Irgun, which was a terrorist organization by any definition that you would care to name. Yet 22 years later gets you to 1970, and that organization was no longer a terrorist organization.

        It was still headed by the same people, though it went by a different name: Herut.

        And just three years after that it changed its name again, to….. Likud.

        Same organization, same leadership, but no longer a terrorist organization.

        Reply to Comment
        • Paulista1950

          1994 was 22 years ago, 2012 was 4 years ago.
          “The 2012 Burgas bus bombing was a terrorist[3] attack carried out by a suicide bomber[4] on a passenger bus transporting Israeli tourists at the Burgas Airport in Burgas, Bulgaria[5] on 18 July 2012. The bus was carrying forty-two Israelis, mainly youths,[6] from the airport to their hotels, after arriving on a flight from Tel Aviv. The explosion killed the Bulgarian bus driver and five Israelis [7] and injured thirty-two Israelis, resulting in international condemnation of the bombing.
          In February 2013, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, the Bulgarian interior minister, said there was “well-grounded” evidence that Hezbollah was behind the attack”

          Reply to Comment
    7. ThatSkepticGuy

      A pathetic and cowardly argument that deliberately conflates acts of terrorism with legitimate military bodies by pre-emptively slandering anyone who could out-debate the author of being racist. Typical.

      Reply to Comment