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The Senate Intelligence Committee

In 2003, Sen. Bob Graham – Florida democrat – was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and he said that the United States must be more afraid of Hezbollah rather than with Al Qaeda or Saddam Hussein. The senator even added that the President should go after this terror group before going to war with Iraq. Now that the Iraq fiasco is almost over one wonders if Sen. Bob Graham was correct and if he was accurate with his assessments, then the US is in far graver threat and it is time to analyze Hezbollah in detail.

This paper will take a closer look at the terror group that originated in Lebanon but is now backed by the Islamic government of Iran. Analysis will take the usual route of looking at background history and then follow the trajectory of its evolution through its two decades of fighting Israel and its various terrorist activities such as car bombing, hijacking, and suicide attacks against Israel and the United States. All of these will be done with an eye towards U. S. interest and how America will be affected by this group if the current administration will pour all anti-terror resources in the war on Iraq here and fighting Al Qaeda.

Overview Studying the terror group Hezbollah is both interesting and terrifying. It is extremely interesting because majority of Westerners find it hard to understand their beliefs, mindset, conviction, dedication, and passion. It is almost impossible for an American to fully grasp the reason why they do the things that they do unless of course one will spend a few years living in one of the hot zones like Beirut, Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan. On the surface they look ordinary but hidden from view is a desperate cry to be understood.

Before going any further the proponent of this study would like to place this in-context by focusing first on the human interest aspect before delving into statistics, politics, and the intricacies of religion. The following story will reveal the human side of the conflict and would allow the reader to take a more intimate look at Hezbollah. The following will focus the spotlight on Imad Mughniyeh slain Hezbolla leader. Last February 20, 2008 the Herald Tribune announced, “Assassinated Hezbollah operative a legend in his home village in southern Lebanon”.

The breaking news is interesting enough but what caught the attention of many is the word “legend” attached to the name of a known criminal. For an outsider looking in, Imad Mughniyeh is nothing better than a crook or a murderer. In America he can be likened to a notorious crime lord and his demise should be considered as a triumph for law and order. And instead of mourning the citizens of the land should have been rejoicing by now. But the opposite is true and for many the passing away of Mughniyeh is as unwelcome as the unexpected death of a beloved leader and hero.

At this point the Western mind begins to reel from the impact and it will require a paradigm shift to even begin to grasp some of the implications of this type of hero worship. It is understandable why an outsider would feel sicken at the kind of praise the Lebanese are showering over the remains of the slain Hezbollah leader considering some of his ghastly exploits: 1. Involved in suicide bombings in the 1980s that includes the bombing of U. S. facilities in Beirut that in turn resulted in the death of hundreds of American and French troops.

2. Involved in the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner that resulted in the death of a U. S. Navy diver. 3. Involved in the bombing of an Israeli Embassy and a Jewish Cultural Center that resulted in the death of over 100 people (International Herald Tribune, 2008) It is hard to believe that the people are devoted to him because he first gave his life for the cause. While still in his teens Mughniyeh went underground and even his mother did not know where he was and what he was doing.

Some even say that he underwent plastic surgery to evade detection. He went around under the alias Hajj Radwan and this is the name that made him famous al over the global terrorist network but ironically even his family did not know that Mughniyeh and Hajj Radwan are one and the same. He clearly gave his all for the purpose of Hezbollah and their cause has three parts, one of which is to defeat Israel in his homeland and eradicate it from the face of the earth – totally erasing it from the map of Palestine.

He hated Israel and everything that the Zionist movement stands for, “It was the brief 1978 invasion by Israel – when Mughniyeh was 15 – that first planted the seeds of armed action… ” (International Herald Tribune, 2008). Furthermore, Mughniyeh offered his life for the propagation of Islam and his ultimate goal was to fully transform Palestine into a region wholly subservient to the teachings of Mohammed and Islam. Many of the people in his hometown – and this can be said of even the majority of the citizens of Lebanon – have the same mindset and convictions as Mughniyeh.

As a result Hadjj Radwan is considered to be not only as a freedom fighter but also as a holy man. As this study progress into analyzing the history and inner working of Islamic extremist group it will be made clear why a person who kills innocent civilians and hundreds of non-combatants can be also considered as holy. Beginning There are three major terms that one should remember in trying to understand the emergence of Hezbollah are these: a) Israel; b) Islam; and c) Palestine.

Each factor combine to create that potent mix that forced the creation of one of the deadliest terror group of the last 100 years. Palestine is the geographic region which Muslims in the Middle East claim to be their own and should not be shared with foreigners. Today, Hezbollah also known as the Party of God, “…transformed itself from a radical, clandestine militia to a moderate, mainstream political party with a resistance wing … Underling all of Hezbollah’s actions are its claims of deep faith and a literal interpretation of God’s word as expressed in the Koran” (Harik, 2005).

Hezbollah emerged in the early 1980s when radical clerics decided to put an end to Israeli occupation of Lebanon. It became Lebanon’s top radical Islamic movement and in May 2000 forced the Israelis out of the said region retreating closer to Jerusalem. Freedom Fighter “While, the US listed the group as a terrorist organization, the government in Beirut declared it a national resistance movement” (Westcott, 2002).

And not only that, “Its popularity with the Shia community – which makes up almost 40% of Lebanon’s three million people was confirmed in the 1992 parliamentary elections when Hezbollah led a successful campaign and won eight seats in parliament” (Westcott, 2002). Israel The nation of Israel deserves special mention here since this tiny state is the focus of all Islamic-extremist hatred. America only became part of their battle plan because the U. S. foreign policy favors Israel. And so what did Israel do to merit this special treatment from Arab terror groups?

The simple answer is that Israel does not deserve all the hatred and animosity and it seems that the main culprit is Islamic extremism. Going back through the history of Palestine one can see that after the fall of Jerusalem to the overwhelming forces of the Roman army in A. D. 70, the Israelis began the Diaspora where each man and woman was scattered throughout the face of the earth. Majority of them went to settle in Europe. The destruction of the Temple was the final blow that shattered all hope of nationhood for it was the Temple that united the whole Jewish nation.

This led Martin Goodman to exclaim, “For students of Jewish history and society no argument is needed to stress the importance of the war of A. D. 66-70. The failure of the revolt led to the destruction of the last independent Jewish state in Palestine until the establishment of Israel in 1948…” (Goodman, 1987). And a casual look at the destruction of the Jewish state and the scattering of the Jews throughout the whole world leaves an impression that the Jews had forfeited their right to this particular piece of real-estate.

It is easy to understand why people assume there was no longer any Israeli living in their homeland but the following will show that this is far from the truth. According to Martin Gilbert, aside from the fact that Jews had for more than one thousand six hundred years, “…formed the main settlement population of Palestine” they remained in that spot although repeatedly conquered by Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. And they were not only main settlers there they experienced “…long periods of complete independence” (2002).

Now contrary to what was previously believed about the Jewish Diaspora there were still some Jews who remained after the fall of Jerusalem and Gilbert described the ragtag settlements over the next thousands of years after A. D. 70: • Some Jews remained in Palestine, living near Safed, Tiberias, Hebron, and Jerusalem – these are the 4 Holy Cities of Judaism the Jewish religion. • In 637 A. D. Muslim Arabs conquered Jerusalem and began a see-saw of ill-treatment-tolerance relationship with the Jews. The Mameluks Muslims in 1291 A. D.

at times encouraged Jewish settlement. • In the year 1500 A. D. there was an estimated 10,000 Jews living in the Safed region. • Beginning in 1492 some Jews return to their homeland after being expelled from Spain, Lithuania, Portugal, Sicily, Sardinia and Naples. • Between 1880 and 1914 over sixty thousand Jews entered Palestine – they were fleeing severe persecution and discrimination; they were hoping to get a new homeland under Turkish rule. • Many decided to stay and they settled on wasteland, sand dunes and marshes that contain the malarial disease.

The new settlers drained, irrigated and farmed these lands. • The Jews purchased some of the key properties in Palestine piece by piece from European and Arab landlords and they were forced to pay an exorbitant amount for some terrible parcels of land. Yet still in 1909 a group of Jews founded the first entirely Jewish town – after 70 A. D. – and they call it Tel Aviv (Gilbert, 2002, p. 3-4). For hundreds of years since the fall of Jerusalem, the Jews learned to live as foreigners and made themselves useful in their adopted country.

Everything went well until Hitler came along and murdered 6 million Jews. After the Second World War, the United Nations, with pressure coming from the U. S. decided to grant a permanent dwelling for the Jews who had suffered so much since the time they left their homeland the years after A. D. 70. Now, after almost two thousand years of absence, the bone of contention is this: Does Israel have the right to occupy their former territories or do the Arabs have full control and ownership over the said area? It is hard to answer the above-mentioned query.

First of all there is no international law that clearly defines the rights of Israel or the Arabs. Ever if there is an international law it is doubtful that everyone will agree to it. On the other hand it can be argued that the victors of war are the author of new laws but going to this argument will never diffuse Arab fury. So another way of dealing with this is to appeal to rationale mind and say that the Israelis had suffered enough. Six million Jews murdered in the span of less than five years is enough to wipe out a race.

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