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Hezbollah in Western Eyes


01/04/2007



If you ask a Westerner about Hezbollah, their initial reply would likely be that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization backed by Iran and Syria. But to gain a deeper insight into their real understanding of the Party, listen carefully to what else they might have to say.

Growing Western interest in Hezbollah has been evidenced in a series of articles, interviews, programs and reports appearing in the Western media about the course of the Israeli aggression against Lebanon and its continuing impact on the country. These articles range from pro-Party, to neutral, to hostile ones written by those who oppose Hezbollah’s ideology and presence. In reflecting on these essays and reports, it is evident that it has become clear to all– from loyal friend of the Party to malevolent enemies– that Hezbollah possesses a distinctiveness which makes even those that hate it respect its abilities, which are based in faith and human creativity in a world that has lost its faith in mankind and in which moral standards are as materialistic as everything else.

In this report, we will present a few examples of articles clearly hostile to Hezbollah in order to read between the lines– and past the hatred– and gain a more complete picture of the authors’ understanding of Hezbollah.

Military Efficiency:

Despite numerous and detailed essays and lectures portraying Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, everyone agrees on the efficiency of its men on the battlefield. FBI Official John G. Kavanagh, in his testimony before a Committee on International Relations, said, "Hezbollah is one of the most capable terrorist organizations in the world [...] As seen in the recent conflict with Israel, Hezbollah has a well-trained guerilla force that is proficient in military tactics and weaponry."

In an article titled "Lessons from Lebanon: Hezbollah and Hybrid Wars," published on ww.theeveningbulletin.com, writer Frank Hoffman, in the context of a discussion of the steps the United States should take to develop its ability to confront the military capabilities of "terrorist groups," says: "Mixing an organized political movement with decentralized armed cells employing adaptive tactics in ungoverned zones, Hezbollah affirms an emerging trend. Highly disciplined, well trained, distributed cells can contest modern conventional forces with an admixture of guerrilla tactics and technology in densely packed urban centers." He adds, "Hezbollah clearly demonstrates the ability of nonstate actors to study and deconstruct the vulnerabilities of Western style militaries, and devise appropriate countermeasures."


Hezbollah and the Media:

In an article titled "Hezbollah's Media Weapon," published on Camera.org on September 29th 2006, writer Ricki Hollander expended great effort to prove that Hezbollah had manipulated journalists and the media during the Israeli aggression on Lebanon as a part of its media war against the Israeli aggressor. The writer attempted to support his article with evidence of his theory, but the "evidence" he provided does not withstand logical analysis or counter-arguments. We will pass over this point because it is outside the scope of this article. What we are interested in is the fact that any objective reader, who has an analytical ability that is unaffected by a writer’s attempt to convince him or her to adopt this idea or that, will reach a single conclusion when reading this article– that Hezbollah played the right cards to bypass the siege designed to prevent its media from reaching the people of the West.

The article’s author, having paved the way to present his ideas by covering the attention given by the Party to the media, in particular its establishment of Al Manar TV and attempts to broadcast the satellite channel to America (where it was eventually banned) and some European countries, wrote "But Hezbollah’s media operations are no longer limited to Al Manar," continuing to remark that al-Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah chose New TV Television, which is not owned by or affiliated with Hezbollah, for his first appearance at the end of the war. Hollander called this an example of Hezbollah overcoming restrictions imposed on the Party in delivering its message by using the Arab mass media which broadcasts on a large scale, and labeled this proof of the "collusion" of the Arab media. He then moves on to provide examples to prove that the Party had been able to broadcast its views and analysis of the events through the international media, saying " Moreover, Hezbollah’s media campaign has extended beyond Arabic news stations to the international press as well.."

At this point, the objectivity of the writer diminished severely, to a degree that his attempt to project Hezbollah’s relationship with the international media as exploitive seemed irrational and his argument would be unconvincing to any reader of average education. But the conclusion that a reader might reach by the end of the article is that Hezbollah managed to portray a realistic picture of what was happening on the ground, in spite of the lack of objectivity in the Western media. In an example provided to bolster his argument, the writer says in the context of an explanation about the press tours organized by Hezbollah inside the Southern Suburbs of Beirut (Al Dahiya), that "The Hezbollah representative took full advantage of the CNN stage, verbally attacking Israel’s military, insisting that the IDF’s targets were civilians, and shouting repeatedly that Hezbollah would never surrender." The writer then said of CNN reporter Nic Robertson that "Perhaps the full realization that he was being manipulated hit Robertson only days later."

In an article published in "The Philadelphia Jewish Voice" website on November 15th 2006, titled "From Victim To Criminal," writer Raanan Gissen discussed the importance of the public diplomacy to Israel. While commenting on Israel’s performance during its aggression on Lebanon, Gissen said "Thus, instead of the war being about Israel's right of self-defense, Hezbollah was able to turn it around so that the issue on the international agenda became Israel's destruction of Lebanon and Israel as the cause of world instability. The victim becomes the criminal." In this article, which reflects a pure Zionist ideology, the writer advised the Zionist entity, saying "This war is a symptom of the inability of Israel to prepare strategically with public diplomacy as a tool of war. It would be useful to learn and follow what Hezbollah has done in terms of its preparations to meet the requirements of a proactive public diplomacy strategy," adding "We need to recognize that the media is a tool and that it can serve as a weapons system. Hezbollah is ten years ahead of Israel in the ability to use and manipulate the media for its strategic purposes." The writer’s message was that Israel needs to work on its public diplomacy– on legitimizing its killing of civilians and its destruction of Lebanon’s civil infrastructure– because, as the writer explained, "Armies fighting each other in the desert is a thing of the past. From now on it's ‘dirty wars,’ and that means that the role of public diplomacy is much greater."

In Newsweek International Magazine, journalist Kevin Peraino’s article, titled "Winning Hearts and Minds," detailed Hezbollah’s public relations campaign in the South Suburbs of Beirut after the war, and in the context of preparations for the divine victory celebration. The journalist, revealing his admiration for the professionalism of this campaign, wrote “Even some Israeli officials acknowledge that they're being outmaneuvered by Hizbullah in the ongoing battle for international public opinion."


Hezbollah, the Lebanese Party:

The other point that there is clear consensus on in the West is that Hezbollah is a clean organization, and that it has not succumbed to political corruption. In many articles that are generally critical of Hezbollah and supportive of the current Lebanese government, we find that the authors acknowledge that one of Hezbollah’s advantages over the Lebanese government is that the Party is perceived as clean and upright.

In an article entitled "Hezbollah's New Mission," writer David Schenker analyzes a speech by al-Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and explains the difficulties faced by Siniora’s government in imposing an agenda which is supported by the United States of America on Lebanon. In the course of his explanation, Schenker states, "Given the endemic government corruption in Lebanon, this call for clean government provides yet another pretext for Hezbollah indefinitely to retain its weapons."

In an article titled as "Hizbullah's Political War," published on themedialine.org, writer Roman Lederer lays out his position on the Lebanese interior political affairs, laying out his thesis in the first two lines of his article by saying "Hizbullah claims to be willing to reconcile its militant regional role with a more constructive internal approach. But recent statements emanating from the group do not support these claims." However, later within his article, Lederer says in the context of an explanation about Hezbollah’s participation in the elections of 1992, "Eight of its candidates made it into the parliament, laying the foundation for its reputation as being a non-corrupt, citizen-serving party," and, later, "With more than 160,000 homes destroyed or damaged, Hizbullah's Jihad al-Binaa has again taken the lead in providing the victims of the recent war with the aid Siniora's government is not willing, or is too slow to provide."

These are brief glimpses, gleaned from a limited number of articles and written by largely hostile Western writers. The reader can find many more articles in the pages of the press– and particularly in the media of the Zionist state, whose soldiers know the Party’s fighters and whose politicians know the rare political ingenuity of the Party’s leaders– reflecting the great achievements of Hezbollah– which have forced its enemies, as well as its friends, to acknowledge them.

 




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