Sumud: Can you give us some basic information on Hezbollah?
Ali Fayyad (A.F.): Let me introduce myself first. I am now a member of the Lebanese Parliament, I am in the Political Bureau of Hezbollah and I am a professor at the Lebanese university where I teach Sociology of Politics. From 1982 until 1990, I was responsible for the students' and teachers' sector of the Hezbollah. After that from 1990 until 1994 I was the Hezbollah responsible for the media (TV, radio, newspapers etc.). Then, from 1995 until one year ago I was the General Director of the Consultative Center for Studies and Documentation, the think tank of Hezbollah, so for fourteen years. But when I got my seat at the Parliament I left my position here at this Center. So today I am only a professor at the university and an anti-imperialist fighter.
About Hezbollah, I think most of you know well that we are the resistance against Israeli occupation here, and we consider ourselves as a national resistance and a liberation movement. We are fighters for freedom and against the occupation.
As you know, the Israelis invaded our country in 1982, and before that they had invaded a smaller zone, maybe half of Southern Lebanon, in 1979. Since that time, there has been an international resolution issued by the United Nations Security Council, resolution 425, and the Lebanese people have waited for 22 years for this international resolution to be implemented, but nobody forced Israel to withdraw from our land. So from the first moment of the Israeli invasion we had no choice, the only choice was to fight against the Israelis to liberate our country. It is not complicated: this is our homeland, and the Israelis occupied it. But because there are double standards in international policies, because there are double standards in the international institutions and organizations, because Israel is a state above international law, nobody asked Israel to end the attacks on the Lebanese territory. So the Lebanese people's only choice was to fight, to liberate our country. So we fought for 22 years and as you know we liberated the country in May 2000. But unfortunately when the Israelis withdrew from our country, they kept occupying a small zone known as the Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shouba Hills. They still captured tens of Lebanese people in Israeli prisons. We have now as you know the international resolution 1701, but I think it means nothing, because this international resolution didn't prevent the Israeli from violating Lebanese sovereignty. We are maybe the only country in the world the national sovereignty of which has been violated by its enemy without creating an international political and security crisis.
The Israelis in the last three days before their withdrawal from the Lebanese territories in 2006, in the Summer War, they have thrown on the Lebanese territories and inside the villages 3 million cluster bombs. Until now in the last 4 years more than 200 people were wounded or killed by these cluster bombs. The Israelis insisted to de-populate Southern Lebanon. In the July War of 2006 the Israelis damaged or destroyed more than 128.000 houses, bridges, factories, shops and so on. Why did that happen? Because the Lebanese resistance, I mean Hezbollah, captured two Israeli soldiers, to liberate the Lebanese prisoners from the Israeli jails. They destroyed a country and that was the reason, which is not logical, not reasonable. Now we are in a defensive position. We have a small national zone that is still occupied by the Israelis, and the Israelis continue to threaten the Lebanese people and its resistance. We expect a new war between Israel and Lebanon to come. The Israelis have no reason to start this war against Lebanon, they are just talking that Hezbollah is working to get weapons. But this is our right, because we are here in our land, in our homeland!
We are not going to Palestine to liberate Palestine and to fight the Israelis inside Palestine; we are fighting on our national land and it is normal that we get weapons to defend ourselves. We are talking about maybe some thousands fighters, but we are fighting against Israel which is the strongest state in the Middle-East, maybe the sixth in the world. As you know the United States, Europe and other countries support Israel and provide the Israelis with all sorts of weapons, including the nuclear bomb. In this case it is our right to get some rockets, some guns.
Sumud: What is your stance, as a party of political Islam, towards leftist and Marxist movements?
It is true, we have an Islamic ideology but I think this means nothing because we don't build our alliances and divisions with others upon ideological standards.
We feel that some of the Marxist parties are closer to us than some of the Islamist ones, I feel that we are in the same ‘trench’, and I'd say we have much of a common political approach. The main question from our specific point of view is who is against imperialism and who is with imperialism. We think this is the main criterion of the political divisions.
Sumud: What is Hezbollah’s vision on the Lebanon political system?
A. F.: We are Islamists, but here, in this country, we believe in democracy and we respect the Lebanese democracy. We are in an alliance with the biggest Christian party in Lebanon, which is led by General Aoun, and with other Leftists, Panarabists, some Marxists, Nasserists and others. So we don't believe that ideology is the platform on which to build alliances with the other parties.
It is very important to understand that there are two dimensions to our party, the dimension of resistance against Israel, and then the internal dimension: we are a democratic party, we have MP's in the Parliament and ministers in the government. We are the biggest Lebanese party and maybe the most important party in the Arab world because we are the only party with a strategic role in the region, similar to the roles of some states of the region. We respect the electoral process in Lebanon, we respect the Lebanese diversity and pluralism, we believe this country is based on all the religious and confessional groups and we respect their differences.
We are not working on the political level to build an Islamic state in Lebanon. In the 1980s some of our leaders were talking about an Islamic state, but I think we have to distinguish between the ideological approach and the political approach. Yes, we believe in Islam and we consider that Islam would help society to solve its problems, which I think it is our democratic right. But we believe that Lebanon is a special case. It would be a big mistake if we tried to impose Islam by force. It should rather be the free choice of the people. I think Lebanon is not a country to be controled by Islamic rule because half of the Lebanese people are Christians and half are Muslim, and the Muslims are Sunnite and Druse and Shi'ite. Not just the Islamic state, any ideological state in Lebanon would be a sort of despotic state, a dictatorship. Here in Lebanon we believe in consensual democracy, which means that all of the Lebanese communities must participate in the political making process. And we have to respect completely and entirely the values of democracy.
Sumud: How do you feel about Hezbollah being viewed as a terrorist organization in the West?
A.F.: The Western propaganda against us could be our main problem. As you know we are not listed on the European black list, we are not categorised as terrorists, just the United States and Australia and Canada view Hezbollah as a terrorist group. In Europe we don't have this problem, but we have a political problem with the European policies. We need European help by many groups like you to correct our image in Europe. I personally travel a lot to Europe, I have participated in European forums, in Greece, Barcelona, Paris, and in the Social Forum of Porto Alegre. But I feel that in the past 4 or 5 years, there was a sort of degradation in this kind of activities in Europe. I don't know why, but I feel like about 10 years ago our friends were more active and more youthful. I think the European Left is living a crisis everywhere in Europe, now they don't even have parliamentary seats anymore. In general the relationship between the Islamic world and Europe is going towards more complexity. As you know in the US the political discourse is a purely political discourse, but in Europe sometimes you feel the political discourse based on an ideological background against the Islamic world, especially about the problem of hijab and other cultural problems.
It is likely that the Western stance will increase fundamentalism here. The American policies have failed completely in facing Islamic fundamentalism, in Afghanistan, in Iraq and everywhere. In the Islamic world more and more fundamentalists will emerge because the Islamic societies are feeling a sort of humiliation. We are neighbours with the Europeans, they are just on the other side of the Mediterranean, we have a common security space and I think Europe will face a lot of security and political problems in the future. In the last decade we have been waiting for more balanced European politics towards the Islamic world and towards the Palestinian cause, but unfortunately the official European politics, the EU policy, is now completely common with the US policies. This has not been the case since the last 40 or 50 years ago. We cannot recognize or distinguish now between the European policies and the US policies towards the conflicts in the region, the Iranian nuclear issue, the Palestinian cause and the Iraqi situation. Sometimes we find that the French or German policies are more extremist than the American ones. Where are we going?
All attempts and all talks about a compromise between the Palestinian people and the Israelis mean nothing. The Israelis are not ready to create real peace. And the Palestinians are not ready to compromise with the Israelis, because there is a big division among the Palestinian people, between the West Bank and Gaza, between Fatah and Hamas. Netanyahu has accepted to negotiate with the Palestinians for tactical not for strategical reasons. He doesn't believe at all in peace with the Palestinian people, he doesn't believe that there is a Palestinian people. All he talks about is the Palestinian refugees, as if the essence of the Palestinian cause was that they need to eat and they need to live. For him it is an economic and social problem, not a political problem. According to him the Palestinian people don't need a state, an independent and real state that is able to live.
Sumud: Just a view days ago, there was an incident between the Israeli and the Lebanese armies at the border. Do you think a new war is immanent?
A. F.: The Israelis started clashes because of a tree inside the Lebanese territories which they claim hinders Israeli cameras from controlling the Lebanese territory. So they decided to cut this tree and they asked the UNIFIL to do it, but the Lebanese prevented them from doing so, because this is our tree and this is our land. When they came with a big basket held by bulldozers and tried to cut this tree, the Lebanese soldiers fired, first in the air to warn them, and then they fired against them directly. After that they attacked, and it was a real war, with the Abatshi aircrafts and tanks and everything. This is Israel. We told the leadership of the Lebanese army that we were ready to go into this confrontation, but I think they weren't in need to be helped by the resistance.
As I mentioned before, we believe it to be very likely that a new war will come. We don't expect it to break out in the short term, during the next months, rather on the mid-term or the long-term period, one year maybe. If Hezbollah fought beside the Lebanese army, like for example in this last incident, I think it would be a regional war. Indeed we expect that the next war between Israel and Lebanon will be a regional war. I think nobody has the guarantee that it will be a domestic war.