The Lies That Experts Tell about Hizballah

March 18, 2019 | Tony Badran
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Recently the United Kingdom outlawed Hizballah’s “political wing,” thus abandoning the former British position that it ought to be treated separately from the terrorist organization’s “military wing.” But the French and German governments still cling to this distinction, which enjoys a pedigree in academic and policy circles in the U.S. Tony Badran writes:

For years, the literature on Hizballah put forward precisely such a false dichotomy about the organization. These were not simply academic exercises: at specific junctures, experts and journalists peddled bogus categories and distinctions, arguing that Hizballah was evolving from a mere terror group to something more nuanced. Unsurprisingly, these ideas purposefully obscured the group’s history and its nature, which isn’t surprising given that some of the experts on Hizballah, like the [late scholar of international relations] Augustus Richard Norton or the journalist Hala Jaber, were sympathetic to the group, or, like [the political scientist] Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, were outright supporters who shared its animosity toward Israel and today are having a meltdown over the UK designation.

These experts, writes Badran, have added another myth, which still exerts significant influence over U.S. policy:

[W]hile the old line about Hizballah having some sort of magical distinction between its political and military wings no longer cuts it for some, the story the bien-pensants in policy circles everywhere in the West tell themselves today is another convenient fiction—that you can separate the group that dominates the Lebanese government and all its institutions from the polity it dominates. In other words, today’s smart set believes that you can somehow designate the former as a terrorist organization while continuing to support and do business with the latter without interruption. . . .

The two fictions, which distinguish between Hizballah’s wings and between Lebanon and Hizballah, . . . are simply a cover for a predetermined policy decision, and a convenient way to bypass a reality we simply don’t want to acknowledge or deal with—namely, that Lebanon is run by a terrorist group tied to Iran. And that by supporting Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated “state institutions,” [the U.S. is] supporting Hizballah’s state.

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