Saturday, August 05, 2006

Hezbollah and Civilian Shields: Dr. Mounir Herzallah's Letter

Flag of Hezbollah
Showing a Soviet AK-47 Above the Globe

You see above the flag of Hezbollah, the Shi'a organization currently fighting Israel in southern Lebanon. According to Wikipedia, the Arabic in the flag can be transliterated as follows:

Top: فان حزب الله هم الغالبون fa'inna hizb Allah hum al-ghaalibuun

Center: حزب الله hizb Allah

Bottom: المقاومة الاسلامية في لبنان al-muqaawamah al-islaamiyah fi lubnaan

Wikipedia also translated the Arabic:

The upper text means "Hezbollah will be the victor."

The green text is the name of the group — with the first letter of "Allah" reaching up to grasp a Soviet AK-47.

The bottom text means "The Islamic Resistance Movement in Lebanon."

I do not claim to know much about Hezbollah, other than what little I have read in the news, at Wikipedia, and on Professor Martin Kramer's website.

One assertion that I recently heard was that Hezbollah does not use civilians as shields, which contradicted reports that I seemed to recall having read elsewhere, so I went searching online and soon found this apparently firsthand report, albeit in German, a letter to Der Tagesspiegel ("Kein Frieden in Nahost," July 30, 2006) purportedly from a Shi'a man, Dr. Mounir Herzallah, who had lived in southern Lebanon but who now lives in Berlin-Wedding, Germany:

Ich wohnte bis 2002 in einem kleinen Dorf im Süden nahe Mardschajun, das mehrheitlich von Schiiten wie mir bewohnt ist. Nach Israels Verlassen des Libanon dauerte es nicht lange, bis die Hisbollah bei uns und in allen anderen Ortschaften das Sagen hatte. Als erfolgreiche Widerstandskämpfer begrüßt, erschienen sie waffenstarrend und legten auch bei uns Raketenlager in Bunkern an. Die Sozialarbeit der Partei Gottes bestand darin, auf diesen Bunkern eine Schule und ein Wohnhaus zu bauen! Ein lokaler Scheich erklärte mir lachend, dass die Juden in jedem Fall verlieren, entweder weil die Raketen auf sie geschossen werden oder weil sie, wenn sie die Lager angriffen, von der Weltöffentlichkeit verurteilt werden ob der dann zivilen Toten. Die libanesische Bevölkerung interessiert diese Leute überhaupt nicht, sie benutzen sie als Schilder und wenn tot als Propaganda. Solange sie dort existieren, wird es keine Ruhe und Frieden geben.

Here's my rough translation:

I lived until 2002 in a small village just to the south of Mardschajun, where a majority of Shi'ites like me lived. After Israel withdrew from Lebanon, not much time passed until Hezbollah had its say among us and in all other areas. Greeted as successful resistance fighters, they appeared with weapons and set up a rocket cache in a bunker near us. The social work of this Party of God consisted in building a school and apartment building on top of this bunker! A local sheik, laughing, declared to me that the Jews in any case would lose, either because the rockets would be shot at them or because they -- if they attacked the munitions depot -- would be condemned by world opinion due to the dead civilians. These people [i.e., Hezbollah] are not interested in the Lebanese population at all, for they use them as human shields, then as propaganda if they die. So long as they [i.e., Hezbollah] exist, there will be no peace and freedom.

Dr. Mounir Herzallah states that he lived in a village just south of Mardschajun, which I take to be the same as Marjayoun, which can be seen on this online interactive map.

Is this letter authentic, i.e., is Dr. Herzallah who he says that he is? I have no way of knowing, but unless someone demonstrates that this letter is fake, I'll take it at face value and cite it as a piece of evidence that Hezbollah does use civilians as shields.

Note that I am limiting myself to this narrow point of "civilian shields" and not commenting upon the larger war currently raging in southern Lebanon, which is a far more complex issue.

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At 7:53 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

GI Korea, thanks for the website address. I'd seen a couple such analyses of the photos already, but not this one.

I've been waiting for the dust to clear on this Qana tragedy because I have a lot of questions of all the versions that I've heard so far.

Thanks for the additional information, too.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeffery, a link from one of my posts on this subject takes you to a webpage that shows Hezbollah firing rockets from a launcher just outside a large building in Qana. Everything I'm reading and seeing indicates that Hezbollah does, indeed, use civilians as human shields. I wouldn't take seriously anyone who claims otherwise.

At 10:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi again, Jeffery: my post with the link, one of several on the subject of Lebanon is here.

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Nathan, I recall having seen such photos, and if I had the time, I'd find and link to them as part of a longer post on reports of Hezbollah using civilian cover, but I don't have time, and others seem to be doing this already, so I'd probably have little to add.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say that you have little to add, Jeffery. You do scholarly-level work on your blog, essentially, and you have the highest standards of proof, logic, and presentation. I think it's obvious that Hezbollah uses civilians as human shields, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't document and write about specific instances of that practice if you are so inclined. In any case, you will always find me a daily reader. Have a great weekend!

At 8:15 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Nathan, I wouldn't call my blog entries "scholarly" -- I'm often treading in unfamiliar terrain. Also, I tell a lot of 'stories' ... in both senses of that word (if only because my memory is somewhat hazy).

But thanks anyway.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, but you tread that unfamiliar terrain as only a scholar would. As for the stories, well, I like them, too, quite a lot. Man does not live by scholarship alone (although for many it does pay the bills). You have a wonderful blog, and I continue to enjoy reading it.

At 11:28 PM, Blogger Bill Baar said...

Der Tagesspiegel thinks it's authentic. They've been exchanging email with Dr. Herzallah.

At 4:10 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Bill Baar, thanks for the link to Der Tagesspiegel's email report to you on the identity of Dr. Herzallah. I'll be interested in hearing what the paper finds out.

Jeffery Hodges

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