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par Alain Gresh, 27 août 2006

L’autobiographie de Nasrallah que j’ai traduite sur mon blog du 22 août a suscité beaucoup de commentaires et de questions. Pour ceux qui veulent en savoir plus, je signale que la chaîne Al-Jazira a diffusé un documentaire sur le dirigeant du Hezbollah, le 15 août, dont voici le résumé en anglais (je n’ai pas le temps de le traduire, mais si un internaute veut le faire, je mettrai la traduction sur le blog).

Al-Jazeera TV airs documentary on life of Hezbollah’s Hasan Nasrallah

Text of report by Qatari Al-Jazeera satellite TV on 15 August

Doha Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel Television in Arabic - Independent Television station financed by the Qatari Government, at 2110 gmt on 15 August carries a documentary programme entitled "Hasan Nasrallah : The principle of resistance or the changes of politics ?" The documentary is produced by One World for Media Productions and presented by Ahmad Fakhuri. It reviews the background and rise of Hasan Nasrallah, citing Nasrallah himself in clips from old interviews and speeches, and various persons’ assessments of him and his political background.

Early influences

The documentary begins with a description of the political and social environment in Lebanon that created Nasrallah. Lebanese Phalangist Party Head Karim Paqraduni says : "Hasan Nasrallah emerged from the poorest environment in Lebanon." Nasrallah’s mother says that for the past 15 years, he has not been close to her. The presenter says Nasrallah was highly influenced by the story of Imam Musa al-Sadr, the leader of the Shi’is in Lebanon in the 1970’s who disappeared during an official visit to Libya in 1978. Paqraduni says Musa al-Sadr "released the Shi’i giant from the magic lamp". Nasrallah grew up with the concepts of "The Movement of the Deprived" founded by Al-Sadr in 1975. Nasrallah says : "I was influenced by his [Al-Sadr’s] intellectual and political thinking." Nasrallah wanted to study Shi’i religious studies, so he travelled to Al-Najaf in Iraq at the age of 15.

Fakhuri says his destiny of escaping death and bombs started as soon as he boarded the plane to Iraq, since there were two people on board carrying a bomb, but he survived. He fled Iraq back to Lebanon only a year and a few months after arrival, because the threat to his life was serious. A video clip shows Nasrallah saying : "I was forced to leave because of Saddam Husayn regime’s pressure at that time. A large number of Lebanese students were arrested and kicked out of the country." He continues to discuss relations between himself and Abbas al-Musawi, with whom he formed strong ties in Iraq and continued the friendship in Lebanon. "Al-Musawi will eventually play an important role in the life of Hasan Nasrallah and his political and party rise," says Fakhuri. Nasrallah says Al-Musawi was an admirer of Al-Sadr, and believed in his thoughts and policy line. He was also close to Imam Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, which means that "this was almost one school of thought ! that meets over various ideas, views, and lines of progress", which cemented the relationship between the three men.

Nasrallah returned to Lebanon in 1979 and founded a religious school in Ba’labakk together with Abbas al-Musawi, where he was both student and teacher. He became actively involved in the Amal Movement in the Biqa’ area, "where in 1979, he was appointed political official for the Biqa’ region in 1979 and member of the Amal Movement’s Political Bureau when he was only 19 years old". Two incidents influenced Nasrallah’s march and the establishment of Hezbollah : The first was the disappearance of Al-Sadr, the founder of Amal ; and the second was the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in Iran under Imam Ayatollah Khomeyni. Paqraduni analyses the divisions that took place when Al-Sadr disappeared. Two trends emerged : The first was to establish the Islamic Amal Movement, and the second was to establish Hezbollah. Hezbollah had relations with Iran because its founding leaders had studied in Qom, so Iran nurtured these relations. Paqraduni sums up : "So the first thing that happened when Imam al-Sadr disappeared was that the Islamic wing - meaning the Islamic revolution - within the Amal Movement was the one that separated from Amal. Part of it formed the Islamic Amal Movement whose influence remained narrow and contained within the Al-Biqa’ region ; and [the other part formed] Hezbollah which received help from Iran, thus turning it into a big party." Fakhuri explains that the main event that made all these differences become evident to the world was the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and the means to confront it.

Establishment of Hezbollah

In 1982, the Israeli army, under the then Defence Minister Sharon, invaded Lebanon and the objective was to eliminate the Palestinian resistance based in West Beirut. Nasrallah is seen saying : "After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Al-Sayyid and many brothers said it was a time of resistance." The programme reviews the Lebanese political alliances at that time, noting that the Amal Movement Leader Lawyer Nabih Birri joined the Lebanese national salvation group, together with Walid Junblatt, leader of the Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party, and Bashir al-Jumayyil, the then commander of the Lebanese Forces, which angered Iran. Iran considered it to be an American group forced to negotiate with Israel. "Differences ensued within Amal, and some of its cadres and responsible officials withdrew from it, among whom were Shaykh Raghib Harb, Subhi al-Tufayli, Abbas al-Musawi, and Hasan Nasrallah, who then established Hezbollah."

Nasrallah says : "We did not start from scratch, because we had cultural, intellectual, and political activities, and broad relations with popular and activist bases." In addition, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in Iran was highly influential because "we interacted with that event and important historic development". The Islamic resistance found the Israeli occupation of Lebanon "a target deserving of strikes. The resounding strike was the operation blowing up the headquarters of the Israeli military commander in Tyre". The programme reviews details of how the operation was carried out : A Peugeot car infiltrated the Israeli military command headquarters in Tyre and turned the eight-storey building into rubble. Many Israelis were killed and injured and the perpetrator of the operation remained unknown. On 11 May 1985, Nasrallah revealed in a speech the identity of the perpetrator and assumed Hezbollah’s responsibility for the incident.

Until this point in time, Nasrallah was not in the media limelight and was responsible for Hezbollah in Al-Biqa’ only. In 1985, he moved to Beirut and assumed many responsibilities within his party. "But the importance of the man began to grow when in 1987 he was appointed Executive Secretary-General of Hezbollah and member of the party’s Consultative Council, the highest leading body within the party." In 1986, Hezbollah embarked on an open conflict to control the Shi’i sect. There were various intra-party conflicts such as with the Communist Party, the Syrian Popular Party, and clashes with the Shi’i Amal in Jabal Amil, Al-Nabatiyah, and Iqlim al-Tuffah, resulting in the signing of an agreement in Damascus under Syrian-Iranian sponsorship to divide up Shi’i areas of influence between Hezbollah and Birri-lead Amal who strongly objected to the establishment of an Islamic republic in Lebanon, something that Iran encouraged.

Paqraduni explains the differences between the objectives of Amal and Hezbollah : Amal wanted to integrate the Shi’is within the Lebanese formula -that is, it was a corrective movement ; while Hezbollah was a doctrinal movement whose objective was to change the Lebanese system as a whole from a Lebanese republic to an Islamic republic. In 1989, Nasrallah decided to travel to Iran in search of education and joined the religious school at Qom, but he had to return a year later due to a decision by the Hezbollah Shura Council and the insistence of Hezbollah members. Nasrallah expressed his yearning for studies and the academic life, saying : "I hope one day I will have the opportunity to return to the life of classes and academia. But this is only a wish, no more." Hezbollah elected its first secretary-general, Subhi al-Tufayli, who assumed the position for two years before Abbas al-Musawi was elected as his successor. Nasrallah was extremely affected by the assassi ! nation of his "professor, inspiration, and comrade-in-arms, Abbas al-Musawi". Al-Musawi was assassinated by Israel nine months into his leadership of Hezbollah.

In 1992, Nasrallah was elected secretary-general of Hezbollah. He then worked on putting an end to all internal Shi’i conflicts. Paqraduni explains that Nasrallah discovered Islam and revolution from Iran, but "he discovered politics, interests, the struggle over interests and the Middle East cause, and how to confront Israel from Syria".

Katyusha rockets and the "weapon of martyrdom"

The katyusha rocket was used for the first time by Hezbollah in 1992 and since then, it has been an important weapon in the struggle equation, together with martyrdom, which became one of its basic weapons. George Hawi, secretary-general of the Lebanese Communist Party, says : "The weapon of martyrdom is the weapon of the oppressed person, the weapon of the patriot who has no weapon other than sacrificing himself for the sake of the homeland." Footage of a Nasrallah speech shows him addressing a crowd on the "weapon of martyrdom, which is one of the strongest weapons of the nation". He says : "The United States of America and military technology in the world has found a counter-weapon for every weapon. But so far, when the weapon of martyrdom grips a person, no one can take anything away from him." On 14 September 1997, Nasrallah received the news of the "martyrdom" of his son Hadi in a fierce military confrontation between Hezbollah and the Israeli forces in I ! qlim al-Tuffah. Nasrallah expresses his views on the death of his son, noting that it is a temporary separation with him, until they are re-united.

The documentary goes on to explain that in 1996, Israel executed its Grapes of Wrath Operation in South Lebanon when the first "Qana massacre" took place, leading to the signing of the April Understanding between Hezbollah and Israel, stipulating that residential areas should not be shelled or used in military operations. "But Hezbollah continued to attack the military positions and the Israeli army continued to receive painful blows."

Use of the media - Hezbollah’s video cell

The documentary then reviews Nasrallah’s focus on the media as a weapon. Israel reported in the Israeli army’s magazine that Hezbollah has a "video cell" as part of its Operations’ Support Division, capturing Hezbollah’s military operations on video. Nasrallah explains that Hezbollah carried out operations claiming Israeli lives, which Israel then officially denied. "We set a media ambush for Israel. The next day, we produced the film on television and distributed it to news agencies, showing Hezbollah fighters breaking through Al-Dabshah position and planting the [Hezbollah] flag."

Nasrallah, an eloquent speaker, created a strong relationship with the media and succeeded through Hezbollah’s Al-Manar Television or other media organs to create "a state of military or psychological pressure on Israel, culminating in the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon in May 2000." Nasrallah is again shown delivering a fiery speech with the Lebanese flag draped behind him, saying : "This people, this nation, these sacrifices are the sides that for the first time ever have returned an Arab territory in full as a result of the use of power and resistance and inflicted the first historic defeat on this belligerent Zionist enemy."

Relations with Syria and Iran

Moving on to Nasrallah’s relations with Syria and Iran, the documentary notes that although he often stressed that Hezbollah is not an agent of Syria and Iran, Nasrallah always recognized the roles of Syria and Iran in realizing the triumph of Israel’s withdrawal from South Lebanon. Fakhuri adds that the issue of the identity of the Shab’a Farms in South Lebanon continued to be a matter of conflict as to whether these territories are Syrian or Lebanese. Edmond Rizq, a former Lebanese deputy and minister, explains the conflict over the Shab’a Farms. He says Syria acknowledged that these farms are Lebanese territories, but Lebanon and Syria had to reach a formal agreement under the protocols of international law confirming the farms as Lebanese, and demarcating the region. He also wonders why the Lebanese army could not deploy in South Lebanon, since an army is supposed to deploy along the borders and protect its country.

Hezbollah’s role in government

The documentary says Nasrallah was always keen on waging political battles alongside military action. In 1992, the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc entered the Lebanese parliament after being elected in the first elections after the end of the civil war in Lebanon. In 2005, Hezbollah joined the Lebanese government for the first time by having a number of ministers in Prime Minister Al-Sanyurah’s government. This led to many debates and arguments about Hezbollah’s role in the government together with its allies from Amal. Syrian journalist Michel Kilu analyses Hezbollah’s role in current Lebanese politics. He says Hezbollah played many roles that were acceptable, because they were covered by various agreements. But since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, these roles have assumed a negative aspect and become more confrontational within Lebanon rather than with the enemies of Lebanon and the Arab World.

Shift from political to military thinking

Nasrallah says Hezbollah has always reiterated that the use of weapons is a method to resist occupation and should be directed at the invading and occupying enemy. "One should not direct one’s weapons at a political foe. There is no justification for directing weapons at a political foe. So long as you believe that you are right, that you have your own doctrine, thought, line, programme, and credibility, then why should you fear your political foe for you to resort to killing him ?" There remained the issue of the legitimacy of Hezbollah’s weapons in a country with a civil war history and where all other parties discarded their weapons and took up the struggle through political activity. Edmond Rizq explains that Hezbollah liberated the South and it should join the political activity of the rest of the country, as did the Lebanese Forces, for example. Kilu says he notes that Nasrallah has recently been taking unconvincing stances, although he is an intelligent ! person. He seems to be shifting towards military thinking within the party and promoting power and weapons. "If this continues, it will harm Hezbollah’s leadership a great deal, particularly the importance of Hasan Nasrallah."

Hawi says martyrs, prisoners, and the oppressed people are the ones with the "real charisma", the ones who have paid a price for the political victories. "Al-Sayyid Nasrallah’s glory and positive stance is that he is in harmony with this atmosphere and keen on having the cause of liberation triumph." Nasrallah is seen explaining that when they started Hezbollah, the objective was "martyrdom. We always wondered why we were still alive. As a movement, it is not our objective to be martyred, but to triumph. But within the framework of the movement whose objective is victory, martyrdom continues to be a personal wish of the party individual".
The programme concludes by highlighting Nasrallah’s charismatic personality, voice, eloquence, use of rhetoric, and presence. The narrator says the greater the threats and pressures, the more brilliant he becomes in tailoring his speeches and politics. It is as though advancing into the unknown has become his hobby and the unknown has become the title for liberation and resistance.

Source : Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 2110 gmt 15 Aug 06

Alain Gresh

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