Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hezbollah - a primer

The word Hezbollah is composed of the two words hezb and allah, meaning "party" and "God" respectively, or simply "party of God". It is also commonly referred to as "the party" or el hezb.

Created in 1983, after Israel's invasion and occupation of Lebanon and it's capital, Beirut, in 1982 (the first ever occupation of an Arab capital by Israel,) its stated goal at that time was the creation of an islamic state in Lebanon, widely believed to be modeled after the Iranian revolution, but an alliance with a Christian party in Lebanon, Aoun's Free Patriotic Current, shows their tolerance to Lebanon's multi-sectarian culture. Its top priority historically however has been attacking Israeli soldiers on Lebanese soil.

Hezbollah's method of sustenance is unknown. The exact nature of this backing is presumed to be financial, technical, and military backing, with reports sometimes surfacing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards visiting Hezbollah in Lebanon to provide assistance. Military supplies had been shipped through the Syrian army supply lines when Syrian troops were stationed in Lebanon, yet Hezbollah's methods of rearmament now are through the black market.

As a way to remain popular with the local population mostly of the south, Hezbollah has involved itself in charity work, often compensating the families of fighters who have died and those whose homes had been destroyed by Israel. The lack of an equivalent system of providing help from the Lebanese government has been a key ingredient in remaining popular. Yet, the government is learning. Whilst Hezbollah will provide the rent of an apartment for a period of two years with furniture included (a sum amounting to US$12,000 per houshold), the government has decided to give LL50m (US$33,333) for every family that has lost a home. With 1500 lost homes during the war, that's the equivalent of the entire donation of Saudi Arabia, and of also the entire stated goal for the Stockholm donor's conference.

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