What’s the first thing we think of when we hear the name Hezbollah? Military? Terror? Power? War? I’m sure those are some of the first, but that’s also from our viewpoint. The question I’d like to ask is, what is the perspective of their supporters and what have been some of the influential factors for this.
It’s important to understand that while Hezbollah does have a very powerful military wing, they also have a political and social wing. These are the systems that are operating in the daily lives of its supporters and these systems have won their hearts. Hezbollah holds roles in both municipalities and continuing up the chain of Lebanese politics all the way to the parliament. This does not include the many relationships with high-level political figures that aren’t openly affiliated with Hezbollah.
As far as the non-military wing goes, this is made up of a complicated web of different NGOs and affiliations that are all woven into the everyday life of the Lebanese people, especially the Shiite. The origin of these social services is relatively unclear but after Hezbollah began giving assistance in times of need, this evolved into a movement with a heavy focus on providing for the less fortunate. This complicated web is broken up into the social, educational, and Islamic health services.
The social services wing consists of two main organizations: the Jihad Construction Foundation and the Hezbollah Martyr Foundation. The Jihad Construction Foundation is tasked with building infrastructure in Lebanon. This is vital to the system because the government simply isn’t capable of consistently executing projects like this. The Hezbollah Martyr Foundation provides assistance to families of fighters killed in action fighting against Israel. This also includes helping wounded civilians hurt during times of conflict.
The public school system in Lebanon is notoriously terrible. It’s poorly funded and very unorganized. For Hezbollah, this means their education wing provides an opportunity to show how they are able to run both primary and secondary schools at a reasonable price. This means they are also able to influence the up and coming generation directly, which when instilling their violent views, is very dangerous.
Besides the main areas of assistance and influence Hezbollah provides, and besides the military, they also have financial programs that provide loans and direct grants. There are credit assistance programs for small businesses and family, and a program to help rural farmers. Clearly, Hezbollah has been able to set up systems in every area of everyday life in Lebanon...and specifically the Shiite community.
Highlighting these different areas outside of the military wing of Hezbollah was not meant to give them credit or put them in a good light. Who they are and what they represent is terrible and dangerous not just for Israel, but for the world. But when really trying to understand the different parts that make them up, looking at things besides the army is a must. Being exposed to what they do day to day for their community helps us see why they are so popular. They use the weak positioning of the Lebanese government, and the inability for it to take care of its people, to find places to jump in and “help”. This really is just manipulating a population that doesn’t have any other choices.