Today's date:
Summer 2009

Hezbollah: Islamist Resistance Comes of Age

Sheikh Naim Qassem is the deputy secretary general of Hezbollah, making him the No. 2 man in the organization behind Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. He spoke with Barzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times for NPQ's Global Viewpoint Network at a secret location near Beirut on April 6.

In recent years, the Western perception of Hezbollah has changed, especially on a popular level. Even governments have started to look for reasons to communicate and have relations with Hezbollah. Most European countries have refused to put Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations. This indicates that the Islamic Resistance has convinced the West that a popular, authentic and important movement such as ours cannot be ignored.

Ever since the (Israeli withdrawal) in 2000 and the Israeli aggression in 2006, and in light of the scale of the Israeli attacks on us, our image has become clearer while Israel's image is even worse. This is especially true after the Gaza War, when the West discovered the extent of Israel's oppression.

RELATIONS WITH THE WEST | Britain has even tried to justify establishing relations with Hezbollah by distinguishing between two different sections that don't actually exist—the so-called political and military wings—because the party is by nature unified.

Hezbollah has a single leadership as represented in the shoura (the organization's council) and at its head, the secretary general. All political, social and jihadi work is tied to the decisions of this leadership. The same leadership that directs the parliamentary and government work also leads jihadi actions in the struggle against Israel. There is one decision that has a mechanism and structure for implementation. That is how Hezbollah is even if other parties need to picture it otherwise in order to justify their actions.

The West tried to pressure us by boycotts and defamation, by calling us terrorists. But when it found that we have a strong presence and influence and that no solution can be implemented in Lebanon without our cooperation, it found dialogue with us necessary and beneficial.

We are open to dialogue with the West as long as both parties are equal and the dialogue is not just superficial. Until now, we have refused to talk to the American administration because we do not think it would be fruitful in light of this administration's stubbornness regarding its aggressive position toward us.

Hezbollah works in the Lebanese arena. It does not work for regional or international interests.

We must keep in mind that when one party wins a majority over the other, there are not radical changes in Lebanon because the political paths in Lebanon have become fixed, especially after the failure of the current parliamentary majority to drag Lebanon under American hegemony or that which serves the Israeli agenda.

Right now, Lebanon is independent, and that has prevented others from carrying out their regional and international (agendas). We will move onto the next phase on this path. Therefore, there will not be any radical changes except that we will try a new, successful experiment in governance that differs from that of the current majority's.      continued on next page

ON KEEPING ITS WEAPONS | Hezbollah's weapons are part of the resistance, not separate from it. The resistance has proven its purpose with the great victory of July, 2006. All subsequent attempts to turn the weapons into a problem have failed.

In light of the occupation of the Shebaa Farms as well as continuing Israeli airspace violations and repeated threats, it has become clear that Lebanon needs the resistance.

We came to the dialogue roundtable in order to bring different points of view closer together and discuss the defense strategy. Now that it is clear the resistance is a necessity, I don't think anything will change, even after the election. Lebanon will need to stay strong, and the resistance is one of the pillars of strength. In the end, we are bound by what is decided at the dialogue roundtable.

IRAN AND VENEZUELA | When Hezbollah gains international friendships and support, it is better for its position. It helps it gain members and expand among peoples instead of the whole world being against this party. It is good to have states and organizations that support Hezbollah.

Today we live in a global village, and popular support affects international public opinion and even policymakers. If we were isolated, it would make it easier to exert pressure on us negatively. This is why Hezbollah is keen to have regional and international support for the resistance, from Iran to Venezuela, because it makes us stronger.

We look for support for our central and primary position, which is the resistance and our right to liberate our land and defend ourselves. We do not care about the ideologies of the different parties; we care about their support. Even in Lebanon, we ally ourselves with national, left-wing and secular parties, even though we differ from them ideologically.

ON ISLAMIC LAW IN LEBANON | Islam tells us to convey God's message to the people; God wants us to behave wisely. But our religion also tells us not to impose our beliefs on others.

Thus we think that the call to Islam should be answered out of free will. If others don't choose it, we don't consider this a source of problems or enmity, especially when we live in a single country. Therefore, we try to look for commonalities in politics and other areas, and we continue to convey (the message of) Islam.

The more people around us who believe in Islam, the better, but this is for the people to choose themselves.

I see Western culture as a comprehensive body. It has many problems and complexities, and one can't talk about one piece as if it were separate from the rest. On the one hand, I think scientific progress is very important, but on the other, the corruption and dissolution of the family are very dangerous developments.

While I appreciate that the interest in education allows an individual to become educated and cultured, at the same time I do not like the individualistic interest in swearing, gambling, drinking, etc. These things cannot be taken separately; they are all part of the same thing. The West is necessarily an example to follow. It has good and bad things.