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Published in the 1-15 Mar 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Hizbullah chief: 
"No killing for political purposes"

Shaikh Hasan NasrullahLeader of Hizbullah, the Lebanese resistance and political organisation, Shaikh Hasan Nasrullah disapproved Iraqi resistance operations which kill civilians. He said that this is happening because foreigners are taking part in resistance operations. Hizbullah chief tried to calm western apprehensions by denying that the organisation is seeking to establish an Islamic state in Lebanon which is home to many Muslim and Christian communities.

Hizbullah chief was speaking to a select group of foreign participants in the Islam-Europe dialogue in Beirut. MG editor was present in the meeting as a participant in the dialogue.

Speaking at his highly protected office in the southern suburb of Beirut, Hizbullah chief said that his organisation continues because as a resistance movement it has to defend Lebanon from any Israeli aggression. "We do not have any guarantees that the Israelis will not launch another attack on Lebanon as they did in 1982," said Shaikh Nasrullah, adding that the UN passed Resolution 425 demanding the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon but the international community did nothing to enforce that resolution and this allowed Israel to stay on in Lebanon for 25 years. When Kofi Annan came to see him, Nasrullah told him that the UN should thank Hizbullah for enforcing its resolution.

Hizbullah chief disclosed that his organisation had received many offers from the United States to shun resistance and allow Israel a free hand in the Lebanese territories with promises of recognition and financial help in return. "They want us to shun the defence of our lands and become their spies. We are a resistance movement doing our duty and whosoever accuses us of terrorism must offer the proof," Nasrullah said.

He denied that his movement wants to kidnap Israelis from Occupied Palestine. "If Israeli soldiers enter our land illegally, do you expect us to offer them coffee?" he said adding that "We shall fight them and we shall take care to arrest them whenever they are on Lebanese soil which they very often trespass," said Nasrullah. He added that even now there are many Lebanese hostages in Israeli prisons. Israel is committing a big mistake by keeping them under detention. It should have set them free as soon as it left Lebanon but it did not do so, he said.

Nasrullah spoke about how humane Hizbullah was in treating collaborators with the Israeli occupation army. When the Israelis fled from South Lebanon no collaborator or his family members were killed and no house was demolished. Whoever surrendered was handed over to the Lebanese authorities for treatment according to law.

Speaking about "terrorism," Nasrullah said that it is very difficult at present to explain "terrorism" but there are some "obvious" exceptions. For example, when Lebanese fight Israeli aggressors on Lebanese territory it is not "terrorism". He went on to say that "if we kill people for a political purpose and blast a booby-trapped car, it is terrorism no doubt even if the political purpose was hundred percent correct."

Hizbullah chief said that his movement does not aim at establishing an Islamic state in Lebanon. "We believe in the state. We want a state governed by institutions, a state which is subject to law. We reject that a person or a group of persons control the fate of Lebanon. There must be institutions set up through elections and these institutions will ensure the participation of all Lebanese people in government," he said explaining his position, adding that rule of any one community or two allied communities will never ensure justice and this is what led to the civil war. The correct way is to usher in institutions elected through a just electoral system. This is a major issue for us. 

Elaborating the matter further Nasrullah said, "When I say 'state' I do not mean an Islamic state. I am the product of an Islamic party but taking the characteristics of Lebanon into consideration we see that the only option is a state for all where everyone keeps his religion and ideology and the state is a national partnership. The Islamic state is not an aim in itself but a means and if there is another way to achieve justice and that way is the only one available I will be perfectly in agreement with that option."

Nasrullah said that "civil peace is a red line issue for us and no one should be allowed to cross it," adding that "whatever the differences, recourse to gun is totally unacceptable." He said that "we prefer the institution of state to anarchy even if the state is unjust to us. We have to face injustice without hurting our country. The only place for the use of gun is against occupation and foreign aggression."

Hizbullah chief denied that there is any rift with Iran which is supposed to be the biggest supporter of Hizbullah. He said that whatever the result of elections in Iran there will be no impact on Hizbullah or its relations with Iran. There is a western propaganda that Hizbullah is close to the conservatives in Iran but this is incorrect, he said, adding that President Khatami has praised Hizbullah in the best of terms and when Iranian reformists come to Lebanon and see our work they say 'you are more reformist than us.' Nasrullah added that we are outside the internal contradictions in Iran where even the opposition supports Iran's relations with Hizbullah. "For the sake of the resistance we avoid Lebanese problems so how could we go to Iran to buy problems?" he said.

Nasrullah said that all problems of the region are a result of the Zionist occupation of Palestine as it led to the rape of Lebanon and occupation of Golan Heights and Sinai. We, Palestinians, Syrians and all people of the region are waging a struggle according to each one's capabilities. This struggle is imposed on us. We did not go to any other country, we are facing a struggle imposed on us in our own house, he said.

Nasrullah said that the American ambassador in Lebanon claims that Hizbullah is a terrorist organisation and the Americans claim that every Iranian plane landing in Beirut airport, even if it was transporting tobacco, is bringing in arms for Hizbullah. Nasrullah said if this was correct, Hizbullah must be possessing more arms than any Arab army and the Americans must be right to fear Hizbullah. He added that the Americans to date have failed to prove to the Syrians and Iranians that Hizbullah commits terrorist acts. Both these countries cooperate with Hizbullah because they believe that Hizbullah is not a terrorist organisation. 

Nasrullah went on to say that the Americans claim that Hizbullah has cells all over the world and I ask them: 'give us one single proof that Hizbullah attacked any American target.' He added that what happened in 1983 was during a civil war when hundreds of armed groups were roaming around in Lebanon and Hizbullah was yet to emerge as it was still in a nascent stage at the time. Nasrullah added that we have documents to prove that Hizbullah helped in setting hostages free by persuading kidnappers of the futility of their acts. 

Nasrullah said that whatever Saddam did against the Iraqis, or waging war against Iran and Kuwait, took place in partnership with successive American administrations and we have proofs to prove this. He went on to say that during the last 20 years there were several attempts to overthrow Saddam's regime but he stayed on due to the American support and Rumsfeld himself gave chemical weapons to Saddam. Nasrullah quoted the former Iraqi vice president Tariq Aziz as saying that during the revolt of 1991 Saddam was about to take a plane to Morocco but the Americans stopped him and offered him all the help to crush the revolt. Nasrullah said that "It was nice to get rid of Saddam but the regrettable part is that this took place at the hands of his partners in crimes."

Asked about his opinion about the current events in Iraq, Nasrullah said that "No one, Shias or Sunnis or Kurds, trust the Americans. It is wrong that America will shape the future of Iraq. Rather the Iraqi people alone should decide its destiny. 

Nasrullah disclosed that contrary to the impression, his information says that Kofi Annan told the Americans that elections are possible in Iraq but it is against American interests to hold elections in Iraq at present. Nasrullah cryptically said that Bush wants democracy but he does not want elections in Iraq and the American-supported television channels are asking Iranian people to boycott elections..

Hizbullah chief said that soon there will be a second round of exchange of prisoners with Israel and Palestinian detainees will be set free during that phase.

Asked about the participation of foreigners in Iraqi resistance, Nasrullah said that it is possible that foreigners take part in a few operations but the continuation of the resistance for 20 years as it happened in Lebanon does not take place with the help of foreigners. Nasrullah disclosed that Hizbullah called off many operations at the last minute because they were would kill innocent children and women who are "our people." He added that anyone who wants to fight must wage a war against the occupier, not against his own people." He added that resistance is legitimate in Iraq and anywhere else where there is occupation and this is supported by international covenants. Iraqis have the right to chose the time and place of their operations but some of what is happening in Iraq is unacceptable humanly, morally, religiously and nationally and by this he meant killing of innocent people.

Replying to another question, Nasrullah said that the Palestinians have a right to chose the solution they want but what is on offer now will not settle the issue because at present a mighty state in Israel is face to face with an entity comprising of a few tents. He added that Israel wants to control the borders with Jordan and Egypt and to control land and skies and as such the Palestinian state within this framework is a mirage. The Palestinians, he said, offered everything in advance and now they have nothing else left to offer the Israelis and if they go back to the negotiating table there will be civil war within their ranks.

  Zafarul-Islam Khan, Beirut

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