x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Hizbollah's new manifesto

In its first comprehensive ideological declaration since releasing its original manifesto in 1985, Hizbollah has issue a new political statement, an appeal for national unity: "We want Lebanon for all Lebanese alike, and we want it unified." Last week Lebanon's new cabinet agreed on a policy statement acknowledging Hizbollah's right to use its weapons against Israel, despite disagreement by some members of the ruling majority.

In its first comprehensive ideological declaration since releasing its original manifesto in 1985, Hizbollah has issue a new political statement, an appeal for national unity. "We want Lebanon for all Lebanese alike, and we want it unified. We reject any kind of segregation or federalism, whether explicit or disguised," the new manifesto declared. "The document was released by the Hizbollah general secretary, Hassan Nasrallah, yesterday [Monday] during a press conference and speech delivered from a secure video link," The National reported. "In many ways, the document appears intended to codify Hizbollah's well-known transformation from a guerrilla group fighting Israel into Lebanon's most powerful political movement and a leader in an alliance of non-aligned groups and nations opposed to US policies around the world. "The press conference was a highly unusual public step for Mr Nasrallah, who is widely believed to be a candidate for targeted assassination by the Israelis for his role in leading the militant group since 1992, seven years after it was founded." Hizbollah noted that the previous administration in Washington had made no distinction between terrorism and national resistance movements. The document said: "the Bush administration sought to establish a conformity between terrorism and resistance to remove the latter's legitimacy and therefore justify wars against its movements, seeking to remove the fundamental right of the nations of defending their right to live with dignity and national sovereignty." In presenting its vision of Lebanon, Hizbollah did so in terms encompassing the goals of a secular, pluralistic democracy. "Our vision for the state that we should build together in Lebanon is represented in the state that preserves public freedoms, the state that is keen on national unity, the state that protects its land, people, and sovereignty, the state that has a national, strong and prepared army, the state that is structured under the base of modern, effective and cooperative institutions, the state that is committed to the application of laws on all its citizens without differentiation, the state that guarantees a correct and right parliamentary representation based on a modern election law that allows the voters of choosing their representative away from pressures, the state that depends on qualified people regardless of their religious beliefs and that defines mechanisms to fight corruption in administration, the state that enjoys an independent and non-politicized justice authority, the state that establishes its economy mainly according to the producing sectors and works on consolidating them especially the agriculture and industry ones, the state that applies the principle of balanced development between all regions, the state that cares for its people and works to provide them with appropriate services, that state that takes care of the youth generation and help young people to develop their energies and talents, the state that works to consolidate the role of women at all levels, the state that care for education and work to strengthen the official schools and university alongside applying the principle of obligatory teaching, the state that adopts a decentralised system, the state that works hard to stop emigration and the state that guards its people all over the world and protects them and benefits from their positions to serve the national causes." But if Lebanon's neighbour to the south might imagine it could draw comfort from such an expression, Mr Nasrallah was emphatic in dispelling such an illusion: "We categorically reject any compromise with Israel or recognising its legitimacy," he concluded. "This position is definitive, even if everyone recognises Israel." The Los Angeles Times said: "even as Nasrallah spoke of a 'global front line' against American and Israeli threats, he appeared to take a step back from Hizbollah's previously stated commitment to liberating Palestine from Israel. Instead, Nasrallah called on Arab countries to make Palestine a central issue. " 'This is geared for internal consumption and that is why it is such a cautiously worded document,' said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a Hizbollah expert in Lebanon. "Over the years, Hizbollah has evolved from a Shiite Islamist militia whose primary goal was to drive Israel out of Lebanon to a self-sufficient mini-state with its own infrastructure, social services, political leadership and standing army. But after Israel's near complete withdrawal in 2000 the party has had to reorient itself within the internal political landscape and soften some of its stances. " 'It's a very difficult task to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable identities of Hizbollah: the Lebanese, the secular, the Arab, and the Shia, when they all seem to contradict each other,' said Saad-Ghorayeb. 'In the end it has to cater to so many different constituencies.'" Meanwhile, Beirut's Daily Star reported: "President Michel Sleiman is expected to make a three-day visit to the US on December 12, for talks with President Barack Obama. The pair are slated to discuss Lebanese-American bilateral ties, Lebanon's outlook on the Middle East peace process and a potential increase in US military aid to the Lebanese Army. "The president is also expected to hold talks with several top US officials, address the American Congress and meet delegations of Lebanese expatriates. "Meanwhile, March 14 Christian parties are expected to express their reservations over article six of the Cabinet's policy statement, which grants the resistance the right to liberate occupied territories - a clause the Lebanese Forces (LF) and the Phalange Party rejected, saying it allotted the resistance a separate and independent status from the Lebanese state and its people, a reference to Hizbullah." Last week, Agence France-Presse reported: "Lebanon's new cabinet has agreed on a policy statement that acknowledges Hizbollah's right to use its weapons against Israel, despite disagreement by some members of the ruling majority. "Information Minister Tarek Mitri said late Wednesday after a cabinet committee set up to draft the statement met for the ninth time that an agreement had been reached. "He said the new statement will retain the same clause approved by the previous cabinet as concerns the arsenal of Hizbollah, which fought a devastating war with Israel in 2006 and is considered a terrorist organisation by Washington. "The clause states the right of 'Lebanon, its government, its people, its army and its resistance [Hizbollah]' to liberate all Lebanese territory."

pwoodward@thenational.ae