Ten years after U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 helped end the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war and required it to disarm, Hezbollah reportedly possessed more than 120,000 rockets and missiles targeting Israel. Ostensibly a Lebanese movement, it suffered hundreds of casualties helping Iran support Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Fundamentally anti-American and viciously antisemitic, it possess worldwide reach. This CAMERA Backgrounder provides essential details too often missing from news coverage of Hezbollah.
Hezbollah (“the Party of God”) is a Lebanese-based, Iranian-funded, Shi’ite Islamist terror group. According to the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), the name Hezbollah comes from a Koranic verse promising triumph to those who join the Party of God (“Terrorist Organization Profile: Hezbollah”). The organization also has used the names Islamic Jihad Organization, Organization of the Oppressed on Earth, Revolutionary Justice Organization and Islamic Resistance as nom de guerres.
Hezbollah was founded in 1982 by Shiite religious officials who were educated in Iran. The group emerged in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley amid Lebanon’s civil war (1975-1990). Matthew Levitt, a former terror analyst with U.S. Treasury Department and FBI, has noted:
“Hezbollah was the product of an Iranian effort to aggregate under one roof a variety of militant Shi’a groups in Lebanon, themselves the products of the domestic and regional instability of the time. On the one hand, Hezbollah was the outgrowth of a complex and bloody civil war, during which the country’s historically marginalized Shi’a Muslims attempted to assert economic and political power for the first time. Hezbollah was also a by-product of Israel’s effort to dismantle the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) by invading southern Lebanon in 1982 (Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God, Matthew Levitt, Georgetown University Press, 2013, pg. 11).”
Many Hezbollah founders were one-time members of Amal (Hope), the military faction of a Lebanese political party that was formed by Shi’ite cleric Musa al-Sadr. Al-Sadr later went missing after a 1978 trip to Libya; it has long been rumored that then-Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi had al-Sadr murdered (“Gadhafi and the Vanished Imam,” The Wall Street Journal, Fouad Ajami, May 17, 2011).
According to Levitt, after al-Sadr’s disappearance, “other armed factions representing various interests in Lebanon emerged…and many were disappointed by Amal’s moderate policies and the willingness of al-Sadr’s replacement, Nabih Berri, to accommodate Israel politically rather than confront it militarily. As a result, disaffected Amal members joined with other Shi’a militant groups—including the Muslim Students Union, the Dawa Party of Lebanon, and others—and established their on umbrella militia, Hezbollah.”
Despite being founded in 1982, it took several years for the various groups that comprised Hezbollah to become centralized. It’s estimated that by 1984, Hezbollah became fully operational—although it was carrying out terror attacks as early as the July 19, 1982 kidnapping of Davis Dodge, the president of the American University in Beirut. The Islamic Dawa Party in Lebanon also played an early and crucial role in the growth of Hezbollah. During its formative phase, clans such as the Musawis and Hamadis retained a dominant influence in the organization.
A close associate of Abbas al-Musawi, Subhi al-Tufayli helped al-Musawi and others found Hezbollah. Al-Tufayli served as the group’s spokesperson from 1985 until 1989, when he became the inaugural secretary-general. Al-Tufayli was the secretary-general until 1992, when internal disagreements forced him to step down in favor of al-Musawi. Al-Tufayli, who has retained influence within the Amal movement, has since been critical of the extent of Iran’s influence on Hezbollah.
Iran played a critical role in the new group’s centralization. Shortly after Israel’s 1982 incursion into Lebanon against the PLO, Iran sent approximately 1,500 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to train Hezbollah members. Initially, all Hezbollah members were required to attend IRGC camps in Lebanon (Hezbollah, pg. 12). START reported that shortly thereafter Hezbollah itself began to run “training camps in the Bakaa Valley and other parts of Lebanon that instructed members of Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations how to conduct assassinations, kidnappings, suicide bombings and guerilla warfare.” That Iran would dispatch military advisers three years after its own chaotic revolution and while fighting a bloody war with Iraq, is indicative of the Islamic Republic’s ideological commitment to sponsoring Islamist terror, and exporting its revolution abroad and fighting Israel.
On Feb. 16, 1985, Hezbollah made clear its ideological inspiration through its announced “platform” in “An Open Letter: The Hezbollah Program” that was addressed to “all the oppressed/downtrodden in Lebanon and the world.” The letter, in addition to declaring the formation of its military wing, Islamic Resistance, stated, “We view the Iranian regime as the vanguard and new nucleus of the leading Islamic State in the world. We abide by the orders of one single wise and just leadership, represented by ‘Waliyat el Faqih’ [rule by Islamic jurists] and personified by [founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomieni (Hezbollah, pg. 12).”
In addition to vowing loyalty to Iran’s supreme leader and calling for the establishment of an Islamic state, Hezbollah’s 1985 manifesto demanded the expulsion of the United States, France and Israel from Lebanese territory.
Importantly, the manifesto makes clear that the destruction of Israel is a foundational objective of the group. The document states:
“Our primary assumption in our fight against Israel states that the Zionist entity is aggressive from its inception, and built on lands wrested from their owners, at the expense of the rights of the Muslim people. Therefore 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 (“Council on Foreign Relations Backgrounder: Hezbollah,” Jan. 3, 2014).”
Hezbollah is not only vehemently anti-Israel, it is also deeply anti-American. Authors Joshua Gleis and Benedetta Berti pointed out in their 2012 book Hezbollah and Hamas: A Comparative Study (Johns Hopkins University Press) that the February 1985 open letter stated, “Let us put it truthfully; the sons of Hizballah know who are their major enemies in the Middle East—the Phalanges [a Lebanese Christian party and militia], Israel, France, and the United States.” Gleis and Berti noted:
“Hezbollah’s anti-American and anti-Israel sentiments have been echoed over the years and are still uttered today by Hezbollah’s leadership and spokespersons in speeches, books, and newspapers, as well as on television and radio. Though its anti-Israel sentiment is perhaps better known today, the group continues to evoke rabidly anti-American language. In a video confiscated from a
captured Hezbollah cell operating in the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina, [Hezbollah leader] Hassan Nasrallah is seen yelling to an exultant crowd, ‘We are people whose slogan was, is, and will remain to be, ‘Death to America!’”
Since the organization’s beginning, Hezbollah has instituted Islamist rule under many areas directly under its control. In 1987, the CIA reported that the sale or transport of liquor were prohibited in the Bekaa Valley, women were also forbidden from interacting with men in public, civil crimes are punished according to the Koran and Western education and influences are prohibited (Hezbollah, pg. 13).
Hezbollah is vociferously antisemitic. In addition to targeting the world’s sole Jewish state and Jews throughout the world with terror attacks, Hezbollah engages in Holocaust denial and the spreading of antisemitic conspiracy theories. Among many examples:
On April 9, 2000, Secretary General Nasrallah said, “The Jews invented the legend of the Nazi atrocities. Anyone who reads [Islamic and other monotheistic holy] texts cannot think of co-existence with them, of peace with them, or about accepting their presence, not only in Palestine of 1948 but even in a small village in Palestine, because they are a cancer which is liable to spread again at any moment (The Road to Fatima Gate, Michael Totten, Encounter Books, 2011, pg. 56).”
The Jewish Telegraph Agency reported on Nov. 9, 2009 that Hezbollah had successfully pressured a private Beirut school to “drop from its curriculum a textbook containing excerpts of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ (“Hezbollah pressures school into pulling Anne Frank”).” Hezbollah supporters claimed that including an excerpt from the diary of a teenage victim of the Holocaust was “tantamount to a step toward normalization” with Israel.
The Anti-Defamation League has noted that Hezbollah’s TV station, Al-Manar, has broadcast shows based on the Protocols of Zion, a Czarist forgery that purports to show an international Jewish conspiracy. ADL noted:
“The extremely hostile depiction of Jews and the propagation of age-old anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in …is a frightening demonstration of the deeply entrenched anti-Semitism in much of the Arab and Muslim world.”
Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic has observed that Hezbollah is “getting better at adjusting their rhetoric for Western ears so as not to sound anti-Semitic.” However, the group remains a “very, very radical, anti-Semitic organization (“’New Yorker’ Writer Warns of Hezbollah’s Radicalism,” NPR, Aug. 16, 2006).”
Hezbollah’s yellow flag features a clenched fist holding a Kalashnikov assault rifle, both in green. A globe, a book, a sword and seven-leafed branch are also featured in green on the flag. That a globe is featured and not, for example a map of Lebanon, seems to contradict Hezbollah’s claims to be a primarily Lebanese “resistance” movement—it indicates ambitions that vastly exceed that small Middle Eastern country. Arabic writing, often in red, says “Then surely the party of Allah are they that shall be triumphant.” (for an example see here).
The image on Hezbollah’s flag can also be seen on headbands, posters—even tattoos—displayed by the group’s members and supporters.
Shiite imagery and phrases also are seen, commonly in conjunction with Hezbollah paraphernalia. As Jihad Intel, a project of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank, has noted: “While not automatically a sign of Shi’a jihadi tendencies, the portrait of Imam Ali as the ‘Conquering Lion of God’ (Assad Allah al-Ghalib) is nonetheless important to Shi’a jihadi groups.” “Oh Hussein” and “Ali grant aid” are also common slogans employed by Shiite jihadist groups, including Hezbollah and its affiliates.
Given the group’s extensive Iranian sponsorship and funding, it is perhaps unsurprising that leaders of the Islamic Republic, such as Ayatollah Khomenei, also are featured in Hezbollah imagery and propaganda.
The United States State Department designated Hezbollah a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in October 1997. Israel has banned Hezbollah as a terrorist organization since June 1989. The United Kingdom, Canada, Holland, Australia and New Zealand similarly have labeled Hezbollah a terrorist group. Notably, Russia does not classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
In July 2013, the European Union (EU) decided to classify Hezbollah’s “military wing” as a terrorist organization—maintaining the fiction that the military and political wings of Hezbollah are separate. Yet, Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem has said, “We (Hezbollah) have no military arm without a political arm (“EU Designates Hezbollah Terror Organization,” July 23, 2013, Consulate General of Israel in New York).” Indeed, in its 1985 letter announcing the group’s objectives, Hezbollah said “Our military apparatus is not separate from our overall social fabric. Each of us is a fighting soldier (Hezbollah, pg. 10- 13).”
China’s maintains a “neutral” policy towards Hezbollah, continuing contact with the terror group and—like Russia—supplying it with arms (“China’s Ambassador in Lebanon: Hezbollah Arms a Trade Matter,” Al-Akhbar English, May 4, 2012).
Hezbollah is headquartered in the Dahiyeh neighborhood of Beirut. Hassan Nasrallah, is the current head of the organization, operates under the title of secretary-general. Gleis and Berti noted:
“The role of secretary-general has traditionally been somewhat of an honorary title, as the majority holds on power was collectively shared in the hands of the seven-member Shura Council (Majils al-Shura) that is responsible for the ‘overall administration, planning and policy making’ of the organization. Members of the Shura Council are elected for a period of three years by the Central Council (Majils al-Markazi), a group of nearly two hundred senior leaders and founders of the organization. Though it is not technically required, the Shura Council tends to be composed of one lay leader and six clerics, in keeping with a ratio that ensures that the group’s religious ideology is never compromised (Hezbollah and Hamas, pg. 61).”
The Shura Council elects the secretary-general and his deputy. The council also oversees five groups: the Executive Council, Politburo, Parliamentary Council, Judicial Council and Jihad Council. Gleis and Berti reported that the Executive Council and Politburo are the most influential. Decisions taken by the Shura Council are done unanimously or via majority; all decisions are religiously binding for members. The secretary-general presides over the Shura Council. He functions as the leader under the authority of the “Jurist Theologian,” currently Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Hezbollah, pg. 14).
h has been Hezbollah’s head since 1992. He took over following the death of Abbas al-Musawi, who was killed in an IDF helicopter strike.
The Executive Council oversees daily operations including cultural, educational, social and political affairs. The Political Council oversees external relations, propaganda efforts and interface with Lebanese political groups. The Parliamentary Council examines proposed legislation before the Lebanese government and oversees Hezbollah’s political efforts in the country.
The Jihad Council, according to Levitt, “is responsible not only for Hezbollah’s formal militia activity (the Islamic Resistance) but also for its covert activity—at home and abroad—under the auspices of the IJO [Islamic Jihad Organization]. To accomplish its mission the Jihad Council is divided into several smaller units in charge of protecting the leadership, carrying out internal and external surveillance, and overseas operations. The party security branch is further divided into three subgroups: central, preventive, and overseas security. In 2000 a dedicated counterintelligence branch was reportedly founded as well (Hezbollah, pg. 14-15).”
Hezbollah’s hierarchical structure does not carry over to its on the ground operational capabilities, which are purposefully loose and informal as a precaution against infiltration by intelligence agencies. Gleis and Berti note that “in order to more effectively conduct irregular warfare… [Hezbollah] fighters are covert, its operations are highly secretive and its command-and-control incredibly mobile (Hezbollah and Hamas, pg. 65).” Thus, the high level of autonomy that Hezbollah operatives possess, allows an enhanced capability that makes their discovery—and thus prevention of terrorist attacks—more difficult.
The External Security Apparatus (ESA sometimes referred to as the Islamic Jihad Organization or Special Security Apparatus) is separate from Hezbollah’s military wing and is tasked with conducting terrorist attacks and other operations, such as drug smuggling and money laundering, throughout the world. The ESA frequently works with the IRGC and Iranian intelligence, as well as members of Syrian intelligence. ESA often uses Iranian embassies and diplomatic postings to conduct its operations.
ESA oversees several different “units,” each tasked with different operations abroad. Unit 3800 (formerly Unit 2800) was responsible for training Shiite fighters who attacked U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. Unit 1800 is responsible for operations in Israel and areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, which rule the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and the Gaza Strip, respectively. Unit 1800 works with Palestinian terrorist groups, such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas, providing military training and funding—while also recruiting Palestinian Arabs to work directly for the unit (Hezbollah and Hamas, pg. 66). Unit 1800 was created by Imad Mughniyeh, responsible for attacks including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, during the late 1980s. Mughniyeh continued to lead the unit, as well as its “military wing,” until he was killed in February 2008—allegedly in a joint U.S.-Israeli operation.
In their 2012 book Israel Vs. Iran: The Shadow War, authors Yaakov Katz and Yoaz Hendel noted that, “Mughniyeh was perceived to have too much power since he was the liaison to the Revolutionary Guards, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad; had been in charge of Hezbollah’s military arm; and commanded the guerrilla group’s extensive international infrastructure and terror cells. So instead of appointing a single successor, the Iranians split up Mughniyeh’s responsibilities among a few men.”
Terror analyst Matthew Levitt appears skeptical of claims that Mughniyeh’s responsibilities were largely divided after his death. In his book on Hezbollah, Levitt noted that such claims originate with the terror groups’ deputy secretary-general Naim Qassem—and as such may be an attempt at obfuscation. Levitt stated that Mustapha Badreddine, Mughniyeh’s brother-in-law and a longtime IJO member, took over as head of the “military wing” following his death (Hezbollah, pg. 6). Similarly, Talal Hamiyeh has reportedly overseen the ESA since Mughniyeh’s death (Hezbollah, pg. 10). Badreddine—who was indicted for charges relating to the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri—was killed on May 13, 2016 while fighting in Syria.
Mughniyeh—who got his start as a member of the Palestinian Fatah movement’s Task Force 17—was involved, in addition to the Marine barracks bombing, the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847airliner and murder of U.S. Navy Seabee diver Robert Dean Stethem, and the Hezbollah-Iranian bombings in the 1990s that are detailed below (Israel Vs. Iran, pg. 86-87).
Hezbollah denies the existence of Unit 1800—dismissing accounts about it as Israeli or Western propaganda. However, evidence of the group’s existence is abundant.
It is largely through the ESA that Hezbollah operates far away from Lebanon, in Europe, North and South America, East Asia and other parts of the Middle East. The ESA’s existence, like much of Hezbollah’s activities, contradict the organization’s propaganda of being a Lebanese resistance movement whose objectives are focused on Lebanon.
Area of Operations
Hezbollah has “a wide, increasing global reach, with an ability to harm U.S. and other Western interests across continents,” according to Sept. 28, 2006 U.S. congressional testimony by Frank C. Urbancic, then serving as the U.S. State Department’s principal deputy coordinator on international terrorism.
Urbancic told the U.S. House Committee on International Relations that “Hezbollah maintains the only significant armed militia in London, despite requirement under U.N.S.C.R 1554 [United Nations Security Council Resolution 1554, passed in 2004, that calls for Hezbollah to be disarmed].” Hezbollah has also violated U.N.S.C.R. 1701 (2006), adopted in the wake of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war and which, among other things, calls for Hezbollah to disarm.
Despite violating U.N. Security Council resolutions, Hezbollah has maintained a political arm that has been active since the Taif agreement. As Urbancic testified, although Hezbollah is aShiite terrorist group, it has maintained a cross-confessional appeal in Lebanon.
While, as Urbancic noted, Hezbollah is “most robust…in the Levant,” it is truly a global terror network. Retired Israeli Colonel Eitan Azani has stated that Hezbollah maintains an active presence and terror infrastructure in more than 50 countries (Israel vs. Iran, pg. 90). Hezbollah is known to operate extensively in West Africa, Latin America and, increasingly, Southeast Asia. The Shiite terror group has also been extensively involved in the Syrian civil war, fighting alongside Iran on behalf of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad
Fundraising networks and Hezbollah operatives also have been discovered throughout North America and Europe.
As CAMERA has noted (“Timeline of Hezbollah Violence,” July 17, 2006), Hezbollah has perpetrated numerous worldwide ter
rorist attacks. In the 1980s through the early 1990s, Hezbollah kidnapped—and frequently murdered—numerous Westerners, among them, journalists, academics, CIA officials and the head of the U.N. truce monitoring group in Lebanon, U.S. Marine Col. William Higgins.
On April 18, 1983 Hezbollah attacked the U.S. embassy in Beirut with a truck bomb, killing 63 people, 17 of whom were American citizens. A subsequent terrorist attack, employing a truck bomb, killed 241 American military personnel on Oct. 23, 1983 stationed in Beirut as part of a peace-keeping force. The complex operation also included a nearly simultaneous attack on the French military compound in Beirut, killing 58.
Other operations seemed to indicate Hezbollah’s growing sophistication, including several plane hijackings and the April 12, 1984 bombing of a restaurant near the U.S. Air Force Base in Torrejon, Spain, which killed 18 servicemen and injured 83 people.
In addition to waging near-constant war against the state of Israel, Hezbollah has also targeted both Israeli and Jewish people and institutions abroad. On March 17, 1992 Hezbollah—aided by Iranian operatives—bombed the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 and injuring more than 200. On July 18, 1994, Hezbollah and Iran bombed the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 86 and wounding more than 200.
Since the mid-90s Hezbollah has—on several different occasions—fired Katyusha rockets into northern Israeli towns and kidnapped Israeli soldiers and civilians (for a partial listing of these incidents see CAMERA’s “Hezbollah: A Timeline of Violence,” July 17, 2006). Despite its pretensions as an authentic Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah refused to disarm after Israel, on May 23, 2000, withdrew all troops from its “security zone,” a strip of land in the south of the country.
Although Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon was certified by the U.N. in June 2000, Hezbollah continues to allege that the Jewish state occupies part of the country. Hezbollah claims, contrary to the United Nations and recognized international boundaries, that the small Shebba Farms area Israel captured from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day war is Lebanese territory. The terror group has continued to maintain a “state within a state” and refuses to disarm—despite the fact that U.N. Security Council Resolutions noted above and the Saudi-mediated Taif Agreement (which ended Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war) call for it to do so.
Richard Armitage, the U.S. deputy secretary of state during President George W. Bush’s administration, has referred to Hezbollah as “the A team of terrorism (“Hezbollah Finances: Funding the Party of God,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, February 2006).” Indeed, in addition to its global reach, Hezbollah has considerable experience in carrying out terrorist attacks, extensive intelligence and counterintelligence capabilities and massive armaments.
As of mid-2016, Hezbollah reportedly possessed an arsenal of nearly 120,000 rockets, some with advanced guidance and extended range that could allow it to hit all major Israeli cities. The group’s “top regional command center” is located in the Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras (Israel Vs Iran: The Shadow War, pg. 13). According to journalist Michael Totten, “Hezbollah is better armed, better trained and better equipped” than the Lebanese army (The Road to Fatima Gate, pg. 31).
In his April 19, 2016 testimony before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, Middle East analyst Dr. Michael Rubin warned that Hezbollah has upgraded its technological capabilities, including using artillery more effectively and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS, also known as drones).
Hezbollah, like many other terrorist groups, obscures and obfuscates the size of its membership. Prior to the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, Hezbollah’s Islamic Resistance militia alone was thought to be able easily to field 400-800 full-time operatives as well 5,000-10,000 part-time reservists. It is since thought to have grown significantly.
Hezbollah possess the ability to carry out terrorist attacks in multiple locations, throughout the world—including the United States. A CIA report cited by Levitt reported that Hezbollah has been seen “actively casing and surveilling American facilities.” In 2007, the U.N. National Intelligence Estimate warned that Hezbollah could attack the U.S (Hezbollah, pg. 16). In 2006, the FBI concluded an investigation in Detroit that resulted in 107 indictments, the seizure of $5 million in property and the arrest of 58 Hezbollah operatives (Israel vs. Iran, pg. 90).
Prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks committed by al-Qaeda, Hezbollah had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group (Hezbollah: The Face of Global Terror, American Jewish Committee, July 2006).
Cooperation with other Terror Groups
Hezbollah has trained with other, non-Shiite terrorist groups. As of 2007, Hezbollah, along with Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the Taliban were reportedly receiving training from IRGC officials at a base near Tehran (Israel vs. Iran, pg. 29). Additionally, as noted above, high-level Hezbollah operatives, like Imad Mughniyeh, belonged to other terror groups prior to joining Hezbollah.
Hezbollah is extremely well-funded. The organization’s principal state sponsor is Iran. Estimates of Iranian funding range from a minimum of $200 million to $1 billion a year—not including military assistance. Much of Hezbollah’s money is managed via Iranian state-owned banks, for example the Saderat. The funds are later issued to Hezbollah through Lebanese and Gulf offices (Hezbollah and Hamas, pg. 69).
On June 24, 2016 Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah stated “We say openly that our funds come directly from Iran. As long as Iran has money, so will Hezbollah have money (“Nasrallah: As long as Iran has money, we’ll have money,” Israel National News, June 24, 2016).”
Other Arab and Middle Eastern countries, for example Syria, provide substantial funding to Hezbollah. So do Iranian diaspora communities and places with a strong Shiite presence. Former U.S. Treasury analyst Matthew Levitt has noted that “Hezbollah receives significant financial support from the contributions of Hezbollah supporters living abroad, particularly from Lebanese nationals living in Africa, South America and other places with large Lebanese Shia expatriate communities. Hezbollah’s main income, according to Hezbollah parliamentarian Mohammad Raad, comes from the group’s own investment portfolios and wealthy Shiites.” This includes, Levitt says, “Hezbollah supporters living in the U.S” (“Hezbollah Finances: Funding the Party of God,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, February 2006).
Hezbollah, like other
Islamist terror groups, for example Hamas, also receives money via zakat (charity). Khums (an Islamic tithe that is supposed to be up to one-fifth of a person’s income) is a form of zakat and one which allows individual donations—often very hard to trace—to various “charities” that raise money for Hezbollah. In addition to individual donations, companies, banks and businesses around the world contribute. Gleis and Berti note that “the organization can still legally fundraise in much of Europe as well as nearly all other countries in the world”—largely due to many nations and organizations, such as the EU, differentiating between Hezbollah’s social welfare and political party and the group’s “military wing (Hezbollah and Hamas, pg. 70).”
Hezbollah also engages in extensive illicit activity to self-finance. As The Washington Post has noted, the terror group uses protection rackets and the smuggling of arms, ivory, diamonds, and narcotics in West Africa (“Hezbollah Profiting from African Diamonds,” June 29, 2004).
As CAMERA has pointed out (“DEA Uncovers Hezbollah Drug and Money Laundering,” Feb. 3, 2016), Hezbollah also participates in extensive drug and money laundering in Latin America. These operations ae overseen by the group’s ESA Business Affairs Component (BAC). The BAC was founded by Imad Mughniyah and is currently overseen by Abdallah Safieddine. Hezbollah operatives have been arrested in Latin America in connection with fundraising activities. For example, in June 2010 Paraguayan officials arrested Moussa Ali Hamdan, a Lebanese-American, on charges of conspiring to finance Hezbollah via the sale of stolen goods and counterfeit U.S. money (Hezbollah and Hamas, pg. 73).
Since 1984, Hezbollah—in partnership with Iran—has sought to emulate the Islamic Republic’s use of charity to ingratiate itself with key communities and to win supporters to its Islamist ideology. Many Shiite areas in Lebanon, particularly in Southern Lebanon, were historically both poor and neglected by the Lebanese state. This provided an opening for Hezbollah to gain support. As Gleis and Berti pointed out:
“Hezbollah’s social welfare network extends to all of the Shiite areas in Lebanon, comprises a wide array of social services, and is managed through a network of numerous NGO-like organizations. The groups focuses on poverty alleviation and economic and social development. Most of these interventions are implemented through the Construction Jihad )Jihad al-Binaa) organization, created specifically to help rebuild and revitalize Shiite communities….Construction Jihad has been involved in water sanitation, rural development, and construction projects…”
Hezbollah also operates educational and health care services—often free of charge. By not demanding payment for these services, Hezbollah has been able to win over supporters away from Lebanon’s notoriously unreliable—and frequently corrupt—government. The services also have “helped Hezbollah in building its identity as a Lebanese national movement” as well as an ability “to disarm potential critics of the organization… (Hezbollah and Hamas, pg. 68).”
Hezbollah routinely manipulates the media. As CAMERA’s Sept. 26, 2006 backgrounder “Hezbollah’s Media Weapon” concluded, “all serious journalists should display skepticism when reporting from Hezbollah-controlled areas…”
Hezbollah’s own media and public relations outfits are highly developed. Hezbollah’s Al Manar television station has spewed propaganda for the group since it began operations in 1991. CAMERA’s Senior Analyst Ricki Hollander noted that “By 2000, Al Manar had expanded its reach to the larger Muslim public and to a worldwide audience through satellite providers and around-the-clock programming. With a stated mission to wage ‘psychological warfare against the Zionist enemy,’ Al Manar employs news programs, documentaries, music videos and talk shows as vehicles of incitement against Israel and the U.S.’”
In, The Road to Fatima Gate, journalist Totten recounted how Hezbollah’s media relations department tightly controls press access, including photography. Hezbollah’s management of the press has a purpose as Totten noted: “Hezbollah got itself too much bad press in the West when its members and officials were allowed to say whatever they wanted, unfiltered to journalists.” For example, Totten noted that in 2002 the journalist Jeffrey Goldberg was shown by Firas Mansour, a film editor at Hezbollah’s Al Manar station, a movie being made called “We Will Kill All the Jews.” Goldberg told Mansour that such a title would encourage the recruitment of suicide bombers, to which Mansour replied “exactly.”
Totten also noted that Hezbollah arranges interviews for the Western press in which polished members of the group’s “political bureau” insist that Hezbollah is—contrary to its charter and routine comments before Arab media—not interested in destroying Israel. The propagandists further encourage journalists to visit Palestinian refugee camps.
Totten described how Hezbollah operatives were initially friendly—only to threaten and intimidate him after he posted a joke critical of the group on the internet.
Hezbollah violates international standards of warfare by constructing in civilian areas houses from which to launch missiles at Israel. The Shiite terror group also commandeered existing homes of Lebanese civilians to use for the same purpose. In addition to exploiting Israel’s extreme reluctance to create civilian casualties, such basing creates potential propaganda opportunities through the press in the event that property is destroyed and civilians are killed while being used as shields. This aspect of Hezbollah’s tactics is seldom noted—perhaps due to intimidation by Hezbollah and the possible harm that may befall journalists who detail it. On July 30, 2006 reporter Chris Link published revealing photographs of Hezbollah fighters wearing civilian clothes and operating an antiaircraft gun in a suburban neighborhood during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war (The Road to Fatima Gate, pg. 133).
Hezbollah shows no sign of changing or moderating. In February 2012, Al Manar broadcast a segment in which Imad Mughniyeh’s grandson—then no more than five years old—held his grandfathers’ gun and pledged to be “in the resistance.” According to the U.S. Treasury Department, that same year “witnessed Hezbollah’s most aggressive terrorist plotting outside the Middle East since the 1990s (Hezbollah, pg. 16).”