Economic Warfare Is Taking a Toll on Hizballah but Stricter Measures Are Necessary

Jan. 30 2019

Since January 2017, the Trump administration has taken a variety of steps not only to tighten sanctions on Iran, but also to sanction directly its Lebanese proxy Hizballah. Ali Bakeer argues that these measures, if strengthened further and aimed against both the terrorist group’s own financial empire and the financial pipeline from Tehran, can significantly weaken it:

[The] organizational structure and stretched regional agenda of Hizballah require huge financial capabilities. . . . Indeed, since 2006, Hizballah established itself as the second-largest employer in Lebanon after the Lebanese state. Although ideological [and] religious factors are important in securing the support of [Lebanese Shiites], it is mostly through money that Hizballah is able to carry out its agenda and sustain the loyalty and support of a large segment of Lebanese society. . . .

Since its establishment in the early 1980s, Hizballah relied heavily on money from Iran. However, during the last two decades, it has worked hard to diversify its sources of income. . . . To that end, the Shiite party built its own parallel economy inside Lebanon and [engaged] in economic and financial activities across several continents—from Africa to Latin America to Asia. Its activities as “a transnational criminal organization” [to use the U.S. Justice Department’s term] mainly include money laundering, construction, and contracting. . . .

Aware of its financial vulnerability, Hizballah recently slashed its expenditures and is encouraging many of its members and supporters to find jobs working for the Lebanese government. . . .

[However], the sanctions against Iran are not tight enough. Since 2009, the Iranian people have become more sensitive regarding the financial support given by their government to such regional allies as Hizballah. Although more sanctions on Iran might not eliminate its financial support for its ally in Lebanon altogether, they would certainly reduce it and incite more Iranian people to protest against this kind of support. Historical experience proves that whenever the sanctions on Tehran are tight and/or oil prices are low, Iran as a state tends to reduce its support for Hizballah to a minimum.

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More about: Donald Trump, Hizballah, Iran sanctions, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy


Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat