In the Aug. 25 issue of National Catholic Reporter, a lengthy article by Margot Patterson discusses the prospects of disarming Hezbollah in the aftermath of the recent round of violence it initiated in July. The article offers commentary from experts about the group’s newfound political "sophistication," its role in providing social services to people in Lebanon and its growing popularity in the Middle East.
What is most remarkable about the article is the author’s willful omission of key and well-documented facts about the organization. Hezbollah is a virulently anti-Semitic organization openly dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Not a hint of the group’s genocidal agenda made its way into Patterson’s story, "Disarming Hezbollah next stage in Middle East Drama."
The article, which is an extended whitewash of the threat Hezbollah represents to Israel, downplays key facts about the organization.
• Readers are not told Hezbollah is committed to the destruction of Israel. Its charter explicitly calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. It reads in part:
We see in Israel the vanguard of the United States in our Islamic world. It is the hated enemy that must be fought until the hated ones get what they deserve. This enemy is the greatest danger to our future generations and to the destiny of our lands, particularly as it glorifies the ideas of settlement and expansion, initiated in Palestine, and yearning outward to the extension of the Great Israel, from the Euphrates to the Nile.
... our struggle will end only when this entity is obliterated. We recognize no treaty with it, no cease fire, and no peace agreements, whether separate or consolidated.
We vigorously condemn all plans for negotiation with Israel, and regard all negotiators as enemies, for the reason that such negotiation is nothing but the recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist occupation of Palestine. Therefore we oppose and reject the Camp David Agreements, the proposals of King Fahd, the Fez and Reagan plan, Brezhnev's and the French-Egyptian proposals, and all other programs that include the recognition (even the implied recognition) of the Zionist entity.
More recently, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has been quite explicit in his hostility toward the Jewish homeland. In June 2002, Nasrallah gave an interview on Egyptian television in which he stated:
As we see, this [Israel] is an illegal state; it is a cancerous entity and the root of all the crises and wars and cannot be a factor in bringing about a true and just peace in this region. Therefore, we cannot acknowledge the existence of a state called Israel, not even far in the future, as some people have tried to suggest. Time does not cancel the legitimacy of the Palestinian claim. (Hasan Nasrallah, interview, Egyptian television, June 2, 2000)
Patterson obscures Hezbollah’s commitment to the destruction of the Jewish state, noting only that: "Early in its history, in 1985, Hezbollah made an open declaration of its enmity against the state of Israel." Later in the article, Patterson asserts Hezbollah "is committed to the Palestinian cause," another misleading euphemism that shields readers from the virulent nature of the organization’s goal — fighting until "this entity [Israel] is obliterated."
• Readers are not told Hezbollah is an anti-Semitic organization. Its leader, Hassan Nasrallah routinely inveighs against Jews. For example, Nasrallah told Shiite scholar Amal Saad-Ghorayeb that "If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice I do not say the Israeli." (New Yorker, Oct. 14, 2002)
And on October 23, 2002, the Daily Star in Lebanon quoted Nasrallah saying:
If they (Jews) all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.
Nasrallah has also described Jews as the "grandsons of apes and pigs" and "Allah’s most cowardly and greedy creatures." (MEMRI: Al-Manar, Feb. 3, 2006)
Patterson does not mention Hezbollah’s virulent hostility toward Jews, but instead portrays the organization as having embraced a "more complex, nuanced stand on religion" in regards to dealing with other religious groups in Lebanon. It appears that contempt for people of the Jewish faith does not disqualify Hezbollah from being portrayed as a font of religious tolerance.
• Readers are not told Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that perpetrates violence against civilians on a regular basis, a fact Patterson downplays by quoting anti-Israel "scholar" Stephen Zunes to buttress the case that portraying Hezbollah as a terrorist organization "is simplisitic and even inaccurate."
"Their last major act of terrorism, as far as I know, was 1994. They are a case of a terrorist group that has evolved into a legal political party, which would include a lot of ruling governments," Zunes was reported as saying.
However, Hezbollah has attacked Israel 18 times between the time Israel withdrew from Lebanon in May 2000 and Hezbollah's most recent escalation on July 12, 2006. In those earlier attacks, Hezbollah murdered 9 Israeli civilians, 14 Israeli soldiers and one UN officer; injured 6 civilians and 29 soldiers; and abducted 3 civilians and 3 soldiers (the latter were returned dead in a prisoner exchange). Additionally, two more Israeli civilians were murdered during this time as part of initiation rites into Hezbollah-linked Palestinian terror groups. (For a list of Hezbollah's attacks between 2000 and 2006, click here.) The article quotes an Israeli who refers to just two attacks.
Moreover, Zunes’ suggestion that Hezbollah is transforming itself from a terrorist organization into a legal political party ignores the fact that Hezbollah’s July 12 attack that precipitated the most recent round of violence, which included rocket attacks on Israeli civilian towns, was itself an illegal act of terrorism. Hezbollah has not renounced the use of violence, has indicated that it plans to keep its weapons, and acts without regard to the sovereignty of the Lebanese government. Lebanese Finance minister Sami Haddad acknowledged this when speaking to the Australian two weeks ago:
'"'The Government can't force Hezbollah to abide by the ceasefire,' Economics Minister Sami Haddad said. 'It's unnatural to have an armed political party in cabinet that does not abide by what the Government of Lebanon wants'" (Aug. 15).
Patterson downplays Hezbollah's extremism by repeating the assertion from Marwan Francis, second secretary of the Lebanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., that after Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah restricted its shelling to the disputed Shebaa Farms area. "[A]ll along the rest of the Blue Line, there was complete respect for the blue line. There was no violation but from the Israeli side." To buttress Francis’ false assertion of Hezbollah respect for the Blue Line, Patterson cites "reports by UNIFIL, the UN Peace keeping force based in southern Lebanon."
If Patterson would have bothered to verify this claim, she would have easily found that these UNIFIL reports make clear that Hezbollah has violated the Blue line outside of the Shebaa Farms area (e.g. the sniper attack that killed two Israeli soldiers in Moshav Zarit in the Western Galilee, which is nowhere near the Shebaa Farms).
And in October 2004, Hezbollah abducted Israeli citizen Elhanan Tannenbaum — not from the Shebaa Farms area, but from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Moreover by failing to acknowledge numerous Israeli fatalities at the hands of Hezbollah attackers along the Blue line, while at the same time describing the "frightening sonic booms," Patterson suggests that Israeli flyovers of Lebanon are more of a problem than Hezbollah’s lethal attacks against Israelis.
In short, Margot Patterson's (and National Catholic Reporter's) report on Hezbollah is an unacceptable whitewash of the group's anti-Semitic, genocidal agenda and its murderous terrorism.