Hezbollah is a state above the state

Hezbollah has a free hand in bringing in goods and people through Lebanese ports, border crossings and Beirut airport — no taxes paid, no questions asked.
Sunday 09/09/2018
Growing clout. Members of Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah movement salute during a parade in the southern Lebanese city of Nabatieh.  (AFP)
Growing clout. Members of Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah movement salute during a parade in the southern Lebanese city of Nabatieh. (AFP)

Can an organisation such as Hezbollah in Lebanon be called a state and, if so, what would be the character of this state?

Hezbollah has its own militia just like a standing army in a normal state. It has tonnes of weapons and equipment. In Lebanon, Hezbollah controls sites that are off limits to Lebanese security and army forces. The fact that other states close their eyes to this is a sign of approval, even if they don’t like it.

Hezbollah controls a wide popular base in Lebanon and is constantly pushing its political-religious ideology, which considers anyone who questions that ideology as a kafir — an infidel in the religious sense or a traitor in the political sense.

This social base represents the population of the state of Hezbollah and the party refers to “the People of Resistance,” not the Lebanese people.

To qualify as a state, there is needed a defined geographical territory but in the case of the state of Hezbollah this requirement is dubious because its territory is vague. That is no problem for Hezbollah because there are historical precedents. When the Zionist entity claimed Palestine as its territory, it didn’t specify its geographical borders. Neither did the Islamic State (ISIS) when it declared itself an independent state with no consideration for geography.

Similarly, Hezbollah considers Lebanon as its territorial base but that is elastic and can expand as much as Hezbollah’s military and ideological presence allows it.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah has its own economic, financial and services institutions. They cover all areas: education, culture, health, social services, media, communication, housing, et cetera. It has its own channels for external relations functioning just like any other ministry of foreign affairs. The party has its own judiciary and internal security structures, including detention centres and jails. Above all, the state of Hezbollah is implicitly recognised by the Lebanese state!

The recognition by the Lebanese state is best illustrated by the immunity from Lebanese judiciary and security agencies enjoyed by Hezbollah members. It is out of the question to pursue or apprehend any of the party’s members for any crime committed on Lebanese territory or abroad. Hezbollah “citizens” come and go as they please in Lebanon or across its borders through legal or illegal crossings.

The state of Hezbollah enjoys a rather stout economy. In addition to the permanent annual budget coming from the mullahs’ regime in Tehran, Hezbollah runs independent economic institutions inside and outside Lebanon that are managed by professionals from outside the party and that pour into its coffers generous amounts of money.

More income comes from illegitimate trade activities in drugs, fake products and arms. Hezbollah has a free hand in bringing in goods and people through Lebanese ports, border crossings and Beirut airport — no taxes paid, no questions asked.

In criminal cases, the diplomatic relations between the state of Hezbollah and the Lebanese state follow a one-way street. Only Hezbollah can decide whether to surrender any of its members to Lebanese courts. Not many states enjoy that privilege.

Paradoxically, Hezbollah is not rebelling against the Lebanese authorities. It is a cornerstone member of those authorities. Yet, Hezbollah is capable of preventing presidential elections from taking place in Lebanon and imposing its own candidate on everybody. It could shut down the government and the parliament when it suits it. It holds the keys to war and peace.

Those are the privileges of an independent state. Hezbollah is not a state within the state but one above it, even if it is trying to expand within and beyond Lebanese borders.

5