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Despite the ‘Lebanonization’ of Hezbollah, It Still Wants to Destroy Israel

Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addresses his supporters through a screen during a rally commemorating the annual Hezbollah Martyrs’ Day, in Beirut’s southern suburbs. Photo: Reuters/Aziz Taher

Hezbollah began in 1982 as an Islamist organization founded and shaped according to the ideological model of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The organization was founded to establish an Islamist regime in Lebanon and conduct a jihadist war against the enemies of Islam: the West and Israel. Hezbollah gradually “Lebanonized,” meaning it claimed to limit the military struggle to Lebanese territory, integrated into the Lebanese political system, and established an extensive civil infrastructure. This transformation was accompanied by a new discourse stressing its role as defender of Lebanon.

But Hezbollah’s Lebanonization has not in any way diluted or moderated its conception of Israel, with which it believes itself to be in a doomsday war. Hezbollah’s military empowerment since the withdrawal of the IDF in 2000 does not correspond with its discourse about defending Lebanon. Hezbollah’s involvement in the fighting since October 8 is not mere lip service, but a demonstration of its total commitment to what it perceives as its deterministic conflict with Israel.

Hezbollah’s enduring enmity towards Israel reflects the ideological concepts on which it was founded. The organization was established by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, and its establishment might be considered Iran’s only successful exporting of its revolution. The establishment of Hezbollah would also not have been possible had it not been for Baathist Syria, which allowed Iran to operate in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley. Hafez Assad’s Syria enabled this as part of the “extensions” strategy it adopted after Operation Peace for Galilee, with the clear aim of exhausting the IDF and bringing about its withdrawal from Lebanon.

Iranian patronage has always been a pillar of strength for Hezbollah, but the most significant patronage it enjoyed was that of Syria. Damascus extended its protection to Hezbollah and guaranteed its continued existence as a military organization within the framework of the Ṭaif Agreement of 1989, which brought an end to the second Lebanese civil war. Syria has served for decades as a conduit for the supply of weapons to Hezbollah.

Since the 1980s, as the alliance with Syria tightened, Hezbollah underwent the process of “Lebanonization.” This process had three main elements. The first was the purported limiting of the armed struggle to within Lebanon’s geography, especially against the IDF’s continued presence in southern Lebanon. The second was the establishment of an extensive civilian arm that focused on providing for the needs of Lebanon’s Shiite community. The third was politicization, meaning the establishment of a political branch and integration into Lebanon’s parliamentary system.

Lebanonization did not, however, cause Hezbollah to forget its dual mission, anchored in its Islamist political and religious worldview: the establishment of an Islamist regime according to the model of the Islamic Republic in Iran on the one hand, and the continuation of the armed struggle against Israel on the other.

Hezbollah’s adherence to Islamist ideology, which in this case is distinctly anti-establishment, means striving to replace the sectarian regime with an Islamist one and perpetually bolstering its weapons supplies to support the armed struggle against Israel. Hezbollah made sure to present the IDF’s unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon as a military achievement of the “Islamic resistance in Lebanon” and not as the result of internal considerations by Israeli society. Following the withdrawal, Hezbollah had to place greater emphasis on the Lebanese dimension of its military struggle, and its discourse changed accordingly.

Until the IDF withdrawal, Hezbollah claimed that its military existence was in the name of liberating the soil of an occupied homeland. After the withdrawal, the organization began to stress the doctrine of defense of the homeland against “Israeli aggression,” with its military power aimed at creating a balance of terror between it and Israel.

As a result, Hezbollah engaged in a Lebanese political-national discourse that ostensibly placed its military existence at the heart of the Lebanese national consensus. This was summed up in three words: people, army, and resistance. The concept reflected the deepening of the Lebanonization trend and a real attempt on Hezbollah’s part to endear itself to Lebanese nationals under the pretense that its weapons were intended solely for defense of the Lebanese homeland.

Since May 2000, the doctrine of defense of the Lebanese homeland has been the common discourse among Hezbollah and its supporters in Lebanon. The adoption of this doctrine coincided with a political reorganization and a more prominent integration within the Lebanese political and public spheres. This was reflected in political alliances with Lebanese political parties and movements, especially among Maronite Christians, and the publication of a second political document in 2009 that for the first time declared Hezbollah’s renunciation of its mission to establish an Islamist regime in Lebanon.

As a military organization and a political movement, Hezbollah represents a totalitarian ideological-religious movement whose worldview is the bedrock of its existence. Whatever it may have said during the Lebanonization process, it is still as committed as it ever was to its two overarching original goals: the establishment of an Islamist regime in Lebanon and the continuation of an endless struggle against Israel. Giving up these goals would mean erasing its ideology, which would amount to destroying its existential essence as a totalitarian movement.

By claiming to have renounced its desire for the establishment of an Islamist regime in Lebanon and redefining its formidable arsenal of weapons as intended for defensive purposes, Hezbollah is conducting a sophisticated pragmatic campaign. Its object is first and foremost to neutralize internal opponents who fear a theocracy and to justify the continued possession of a vast store of weapons outside the state’s authority.

The strategy of balance that has characterized Hezbollah since the end of the second civil war remains a powerful statement of the movement’s adherence to its goals. The balance between maintaining the existence of the Lebanese state and continuing to possess an enormous supply of weapons is a practical formula that produces chronic crisis but does not constitute a renunciation of the struggle against Israel. Similarly, the omission of the demand for the establishment of an Islamist regime in Lebanon in no way implies that Hezbollah has renounced its Islamist ideology, as such a move would contradict its very soul.

Hezbollah joined the Israel-Hamas war one day after the Black Sabbath of October 7. Its participation, even on a local scale, so soon after the barbaric attack by the Hamas criminal terrorist organization on Israel, an attack that was conducted primarily against Israeli civilians and without any provocation on Israel’s part, puts Hezbollah’s doctrine of homeland defense into question. Its limited participation in the current fighting against Israel proves that Hezbollah remains faithful to its worldview and the indoctrination that has accompanied it for four decades. Its support of Hamas in its war against Israel shows that the amendment of a founding document or political-pragmatic discourse that takes circumstances into account does not reflect moderation or a fundamental change.

Indeed, Hezbollah’s joining of the fighting proves its adherence to its primary ideology of eternal struggle against Israel. Hezbollah’s secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, said in his first speech after October 7 that while the time is not yet ripe for an all-out confrontation, he is convinced that day will come. It is highly doubtful that the huge arsenal of weapons Hezbollah has amassed over the past two decades is intended solely for defensive purposes. While it has adapted its discourse to the needs of time and circumstance, no one should be deceived into believing it has lost sight of its ideological totalitarianism.

Hezbollah retains a conviction that it is capable of delivering a crushing blow to Israel. Following the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the scenes of Afghan citizens being crushed under the wheels of airplanes, Nasrallah assured his supporters that such scenes would be repeated at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Hezbollah is preparing, as it always has, for the doomsday battle with Israel. Its involvement in the fighting right now, however limited, proves that it remains committed to fulfilling its messianic mission to inflict a decisive defeat on Israel.

The process of Lebanonization has created a deceptive smokescreen of moderation that is entirely lacking in Hezbollah. Instead of trusting in false interpretations of Lebanonization, Israel should focus on Hezbollah’s obsession with military power and unwavering determination to destroy the Jewish State.

Dr. Yusri Khazran is senior lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Shalem College and a research fellow at the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University. He received his Ph.D. from Hebrew University, after which he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship at Harvard University. Dr. Hazran is the author of The Druze Community and the Lebanese State: Between Resistance and Reconciliation (Routledge, 2014). A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.

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University of California Student Government Passes BDS Legislation

Graphic posted on a social media account administered by University of California-Davis chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine on February 17, 2024. Photo: Screenshot/Instagram

The University of California-Davis (UC Davis) student government passed on Friday legislation adopting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions, (BDS) movement and falsely accusing Israel of genocide.

“This bill prohibits the purchase of products from corporations identified as profiting from the genocide and occupation of the Palestinian people by the BDS National Committee,” says the measure, titled Senate Bill (SB) #52. “This bill seeks to address the human rights violations of the nation-state and government of Israel and establish a guideline of ethical spending.”

Puma, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Airbnb, Disney, and Sabra are all named on SJP’s “BDS List.”

Powers enumerated in the bill include veto power over all vendor contracts, which SJP specifically applied to “purchase orders for custom t-shirts,” a provision that may affect pro-Israel groups on campus. Such policies will be guided by a “BDS List” of targeted companies curated by SJP. The language of the legislation gives ASUCD the right to add more.

“No ASUCD funds shall be committed to the purchases of products or services of any corporation identified by the BDS List as being complicit in the violation of the human rights guaranteed to Palestinian civilians,” the bill adds.

A notable provision of the bill regards the charter for the Special Committee on Ethical Standing. It says the committee must be “dissolved” in a year and its”responsibilities” absorbed by UC Davis’ Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission, a division of the student government that which describes itself as a special advocacy group for non-white students. The requirement makes BDS a permanent policy of the school and links it to the issue of racial justice, which, on a college campus, serves as a safeguard against any future attempt to pass legislation proscribing the adoption of BDS.

SJP praised the bill’s passing and signing by ASUCD’s president, Francisco Javier Ojeda.

“The bill that was passed prevents any of the $20 million in the ASUCD budget from being spent on companies complicit in the occupation and genocide of Palestinians, as specified by the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement,” the group said on social media. “From McDonald’s to Sabra to Chevron, none of our student feeds that fund ASUCD operations will be used to financially support 30+ companies that are complicit in Zionist violence.”

Students for Justice in Palestine at University of California-Davis is one of many SJP chapters that justified Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7. In a chilling statement posted after the world became aware of the terrorist group’s atrocities on that day, which included hundreds of civilian murders and sexual assaults, the group said “the responsibility for the current escalation of violence is entirely on the Israeli occupation.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters — which have said in their communications that Israeli civilians deserve to be murdered for being “settlers” — lead the way in promoting a campus environment hostile to Jewish and pro-Israel voices. Their aim, the civil rights group explained in an open letter published in December, is to “exclude and marginalize Jewish students,” whom they describe as “oppressors,” and encourage “confrontation” with them.

The ADL has urged colleges and universities to protect Jewish students from the group’s behavior, which, in many cases, has violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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‘Horrifying and Heart Wrenching’: IDF Releases New Footage of Shiri Bibas and Her Young Sons in Gaza 

Ofri Bibas Levy, whose brother Yarden (34) was taken hostage with his wife Shiri (32) and 2 children Kfir (10 months) and Ariel (4), holds with her friend Tal Ulus pictures of them during an interview with Reuters, as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas continues, in Geneva, Switzerland, Nov. 13, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The IDF released “horrifying” new footage on Monday showing Israeli hostage Shiri Bibas and her two children flanked by gunmen in the Gaza Strip, filmed shortly after their abduction during the October 7 Hamas-led attack on southern Israel. 

Captured by surveillance cameras in Khan Younis, the footage shows Bibas wrapped in a sheet and clutching her red-haired sons, Ariel, aged 4, and Kfir, who was only 9 months old at the time of their abduction, and is the first proof of life since October 7. The children’s father, Yarden Bibas, was separately abducted and his condition remains unknown.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari expressed the military’s deep concerns over Shiri and her children’s fate. 

“Seeing this young mother clutching her babies surrounded by a group of armed terrorists is horrifying and heart wrenching,” he said at a press conference on Monday. 

“Those who have the audacity to question our need to operate in Gaza, but don’t have the basic decency and humanity to demand that Hamas release our hostages first of all, they all should take a good look at this terrified mother, Shiri, clutching her babies,” he said, adding that the IDF would “leave no stone unturned” in returning the hostages. 

The IDF, according to Hagari, lacks sufficient information to ascertain whether they are alive or dead but is “making every effort to obtain more information about their fate.” The footage was obtained from a Khan Younis military post belonging to the Mujahideen Brigades, a small armed group who are holding Bibas and her children. 

The Bibas family said in a statement that the videos “tore our hearts out.”

“Witnessing Shiri, Yarden, Ariel and Kfir, ripped away from their home in Nir Oz into this hellscape, feels unbearable and inhumane,” the family said.  “We’re issuing a desperate call to all the decision-makers in Israel and the world who are involved in the negotiations: Bring them home now. Make it clear to Hamas that kidnapping children is out of bounds.”

The family also called for Shiri and her children to be prioritized in any future hostage release deal with Hamas. 

Hamas had claimed in November that Shiri, Ariel, and Kfir were casualties of an IDF strike, a claim the IDF has contested as unverified and said at the time that the claim was part of the terror group’s “cruel and inhuman” psychological warfare. Hamas also released a video of a visibly distressed Yarden Bibas after he had been informed by his captors that his wife and children were killed by the IDF. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the footage as “heartbreaking” and said it “reminds us who we are dealing with — brutal baby kidnappers.”

“We will bring these kidnappers of babies and mothers to justice. They won’t get away with it,” Netanyahu said.

Irit Lahav, spokeswoman for the embattled community of Nir Oz, said that the video “reminds us that we are all held hostage until the return of all the hostages.”

A quarter of Nir Oz’s residents were either kidnapped or murdered on October 7. 

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Antisemitism Accusations Lodged Against Middlebury College

Illustrative: Pro-Hamas demonstrators are detained by police officers in New York during a protest at the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

Accusations of institutional antisemitism against Middlebury College in Vermont have been lodged in a civil rights complaint filed by StandWithUs (SWU), a nonprofit that promotes education about Israel.

The complaint, filed with the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) argues that high level Middlebury College officials, by refusing to enforce anti-discrimination policies equally, have fostered a “pervasively hostile climate,” which prevents Jewish students from enjoying the full benefits of being a college student at a higher education receiving federal funds, according to the complaint.

A timeline of events laid out in documents provided by SWU begins after Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7, when the school issued a statement that did not acknowledge the deaths of Israelis, but instead only alluded to “violence happening now in Israel in Palestine.” The following week, the administration allegedly obstructed Jewish students’ efforts to publicly mourn Jews murdered on Oct. 7., denying them police protection for a vigil, forcing them to hold it outside, and demanding that the event avoid specifically mentioning Jewish suffering. In an email to one Jewish group that planned a vigil, Vice President and Dean of Students Derek Doucet said, “I wonder if such a public gather in such a charged moment might be more inclusive.”

A month later, the administration uncomplainingly accommodated Students for Justice in Palestine’s “Vigil for Palestine,” providing campus police, space on campus, and a speech from a high ranking official, a request which organizers of the Jewish vigil had been denied.

StandWithUs also noted that Middlebury allegedly ignored numerous complaints of antisemitic harassment committed by anti-Zionist groups. After a local Chabad rabbi  wrote to school officials reporting acts of “intimidation,” including preventing Jews from entering the cafeteria, during a “Day of Resistance” event organized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the school’s associate vice president of safety warned him not to report the incidents to outside law enforcement, saying that doing so would be a “risk to individuals and to our community.” The official also denied being aware of any antisemitic incidents.

“The hostile environment at Middlebury College and the administration’s failure to act to correct it are unacceptable,” Carly Gammill, Director of Legal Strategy at SWU Center for Legal Justice, in a press release issued on Friday. “Too often, when Jewish students raise concerns about antisemitism, they are subjected to administrators who deflect the bigotry at play”

“Jewish students deserve the same level of respect, consideration and lawful response as all minority groups when they report cases of bigotry and discrimination,” Gammill added.

Middlebury also allegedly refused to punish anti-Zionist students for using their social media accounts to publish hate speech. Social media posts that cheered Hamas’ atrocities as “decolonization,” called Jews “colonizers” deserving of being victims of violence, and said “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” proliferated in the days and weeks after Oct. 7, but this day, Middlebury has never issued a statement condemning antisemitism.

The Algemeiner has asked Middlebury College to comment on SWU’s allegations.

“Middlebury college has failed egregiously to provide adequate protecting for Jewish students seeking to remedy persistent antisemitic bigotry on campus,” Yael Lerman, SWU director of the Center for Legal Justice said in Friday’s press release. “Middlebury administrators disregarded student allegations, attempted to silence them, neglected to enforce its own rules, and at times were complicit in discriminating against Jewish students. In doing so, the college has violated its obligations under Title VI and must be held accountable.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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