Hezbollah: A Short History

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Overview

Most policymakers in the United States and Israel have it wrong: Hezbollah isn't a simple terrorist organization—nor is it likely to disappear any time soon. Following Israel's war against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, the Shi'i group—a hybrid of militia, political party, and social services and public works provider—remains very popular in the Middle East. After Lebanon tottered close to disaster, Hezbollah and its allies gained renewed political power in Beirut. The most lucid, informed, and balanced analysis of the group yet written, Hezbollah is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the Middle East. A new afterword brings readers up to date on Hezbollah's most recent actions.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The Times
This short, authoritative book, based on first-hand experience, efficiently analyses [Hezbollah's] status.
— Iain Finlayson
Al Jadid Magazine
Norton's work is essential for those more concerned with an approach that rejects the rhetoric of the 'war on terror.' His historical and social analysis of Hezbollah's origin and subsequent evolution into its current manifestation is as objective an analysis as one can hope for—not to mention timely and fascinating.
— Michael Teague
Journal of Peace Research
Norton has done an impressive job by managing, in such a short book, to give a down-to-earth presentation of a complex organization.
— Jørgen Jensehaugen
Middle East Policy Council
Norton has written a clear, concise history of Hezbollah with specific reference to its relevant sociopolitical context. Piquant anecdotes and richly textured details make the book enjoyable reading
— Kristian P. Alexander
Washington Post Book World - Jonathan Finer
Augustus Richard Norton's timely Hezbollah chronicles [a] dramatic evolution and its sweeping implications for the region and beyond. His lucid primer is the first serious reappraisal of the radical Shiite group since [the 2006] war shattered six years of relative calm on one of the world's most volatile frontiers.
Foreign Affairs - L. Carl Brown
Norton, who has been studying Lebanon, and especially the Lebanese Shiites, for longer than Hezbollah has been in existence . . . offers here a brisk and balanced history . . . of Hezbollah while situating the party in the larger Lebanese and regional contexts.
The Times - Iain Finlayson
This short, authoritative book, based on first-hand experience, efficiently analyses [Hezbollah's] status.
Sydney Morning Herald - Bruce Elder
This excellent short history of Hezbollah . . . demonstrates that dismissing it as a 'terrorist organization' is both glib and dishonest. . . . . Everyone who wants to understand the complexities of the Middle East, and particularly those of Lebanon and Israel, and wants to reach the truth beyond the political rhetoric, should read this book.
In These Times - Allen McDuffee
How do you classify and develop policy toward an organization that has committed acts of terrorism in the past, that currently provides important social services . . . that defends its country from occupation . . . that plays by the rules in official Lebanese national politics? . . . Norton elucidates these domestic and international complexities in Hezbollah: A Short History. . . With other similarly complex organizations on the rise, such as Hamas in Palestine, Norton provides a model of how we might begin to think through their multidimensional, seemingly contradictory natures.
Chronicle of Higher Education - Richard Byrne
In his new book Hezbollah, Augustus Richard Norton . . . provides a succinct account of the group's rise from the chaos created by Israel's invasions and occupation of Lebanon in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which ended only in 2000. Mr. Norton also explores the origins and political orientation of the group, now led by the Shiite cleric Hasan Nasrallah, in a complex web of religious and political identities in Lebanon—with a special emphasis on the role of Shia Islam in the organization.
Canadian Jewish News - Sheldon Kirsher
Augustus Richard Norton, an American academic and former U.S. army officer, has studied that Islamic fundamentalist organization since its formation. And now, in Hezbollah ... he offers a cogent analysis of its emergence and impact on Lebanese politics.
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs - Margeret Hall
The most fluent survey of Hezbollah to date. This extremely accessible yet scholarly read covers the Lebanese resistance group from its inception to the current Lebanese political crisis, aided by a collection of poignant photographs and maps.
Daily Star - Rami G. Khouri
The many complex and often changing dimensions of Hizbullah are presented in the book in a clear, concise manner that allows for a more accurate and complete understanding of what the group represents and aspires to achieve....Wherever one may stand on this spectrum of views, a vital starting point—offered in this small but rich volume—is an accurate, comprehensive view of why Hizbullah has succeeded as a political party, a sectarian representational group, a social services agency, and a resistance force, and why it continues to generate so much opposition at the same time.
Atlanta Jewish Times - Suzi Brozman
In an easily read, easily comprehended book, Norton traces the origins and history of Hezbollah.... The twisting allegiances of the players, the role of Syria and other neighboring states, the emergence of discord and sectarianism as the young movement matured and began to intrude on the elected government, all take place in the pressure cooker of a land and people long torn, used by factions for their own purposes.
Choice - N. Entessar
In this highly informative, jargon-free book, Norton, one of America's top experts in Lebanese politics, provides an objective account of the genesis and development of Hezbollah, explaining its central role in contemporary Lebanon.
Financial Times - David Gardner
A good, concise survey by a perceptive student of the Lebanese Shia.
Democratiya - Donna Robinson Divine
A dedicated researcher and writer, Norton has contacts all across Lebanon who are both his friends and informants. He writes with the same fluency about Shi'a religious customs as he does about Lebanese politics. The book comes with advance praise from scholars who tell us Norton has written an accessible and balanced account of a movement poorly understood by many in the United States who too often view the Middle East through the 'terrorist' lens.
Journal of Palestine Studies - Rula Abisaab
The book is a dynamic and multifaceted account. . . . Overall, Norton's book balances international political factors with the local and regional conditions that shaped the outlook and activities of Hezbollah. Norton deserves praise for writing an insightful and multilayered work accessible to a wide and often uninformed readership.
Middle East Policy Council Fall - Kristian P. Alexander
Norton has written a clear, concise history of Hezbollah with specific reference to its relevant sociopolitical context. Piquant anecdotes and richly textured details make the book enjoyable reading
Al Jadid Magazine - Michael Teague
Norton's work is essential for those more concerned with an approach that rejects the rhetoric of the 'war on terror.' His historical and social analysis of Hezbollah's origin and subsequent evolution into its current manifestation is as objective an analysis as one can hope for—not to mention timely and fascinating.
Journal of Peace Research - Jorgen Jensehaugen
Norton has done an impressive job by managing, in such a short book, to give a down-to-earth presentation of a complex organization.
Journal of Peace Research - Jørgen Jensehaugen
Norton has done an impressive job by managing, in such a short book, to give a down-to-earth presentation of a complex organization.
Washington Post Book World
Augustus Richard Norton's timely Hezbollah chronicles [a] dramatic evolution and its sweeping implications for the region and beyond. His lucid primer is the first serious reappraisal of the radical Shiite group since [the 2006] war shattered six years of relative calm on one of the world's most volatile frontiers.
— Jonathan Finer
Foreign Affairs
Norton, who has been studying Lebanon, and especially the Lebanese Shiites, for longer than Hezbollah has been in existence . . . offers here a brisk and balanced history . . . of Hezbollah while situating the party in the larger Lebanese and regional contexts.
— L. Carl Brown
Sydney Morning Herald
This excellent short history of Hezbollah . . . demonstrates that dismissing it as a 'terrorist organization' is both glib and dishonest. . . . . Everyone who wants to understand the complexities of the Middle East, and particularly those of Lebanon and Israel, and wants to reach the truth beyond the political rhetoric, should read this book.
— Bruce Elder
In These Times
How do you classify and develop policy toward an organization that has committed acts of terrorism in the past, that currently provides important social services . . . that defends its country from occupation . . . that plays by the rules in official Lebanese national politics? . . . Norton elucidates these domestic and international complexities in Hezbollah: A Short History. . . With other similarly complex organizations on the rise, such as Hamas in Palestine, Norton provides a model of how we might begin to think through their multidimensional, seemingly contradictory natures.
— Allen McDuffee
Chronicle of Higher Education
In his new book Hezbollah, Augustus Richard Norton . . . provides a succinct account of the group's rise from the chaos created by Israel's invasions and occupation of Lebanon in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which ended only in 2000. Mr. Norton also explores the origins and political orientation of the group, now led by the Shiite cleric Hasan Nasrallah, in a complex web of religious and political identities in Lebanon—with a special emphasis on the role of Shia Islam in the organization.
— Richard Byrne
Canadian Jewish News
Augustus Richard Norton, an American academic and former U.S. army officer, has studied that Islamic fundamentalist organization since its formation. And now, in Hezbollah ... he offers a cogent analysis of its emergence and impact on Lebanese politics.
— Sheldon Kirsher
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
The most fluent survey of Hezbollah to date. This extremely accessible yet scholarly read covers the Lebanese resistance group from its inception to the current Lebanese political crisis, aided by a collection of poignant photographs and maps.
— Margeret Hall
Daily Star
The many complex and often changing dimensions of Hizbullah are presented in the book in a clear, concise manner that allows for a more accurate and complete understanding of what the group represents and aspires to achieve....Wherever one may stand on this spectrum of views, a vital starting point—offered in this small but rich volume—is an accurate, comprehensive view of why Hizbullah has succeeded as a political party, a sectarian representational group, a social services agency, and a resistance force, and why it continues to generate so much opposition at the same time.
— Rami G. Khouri
Atlanta Jewish Times
In an easily read, easily comprehended book, Norton traces the origins and history of Hezbollah.... The twisting allegiances of the players, the role of Syria and other neighboring states, the emergence of discord and sectarianism as the young movement matured and began to intrude on the elected government, all take place in the pressure cooker of a land and people long torn, used by factions for their own purposes.
— Suzi Brozman
Choice
In this highly informative, jargon-free book, Norton, one of America's top experts in Lebanese politics, provides an objective account of the genesis and development of Hezbollah, explaining its central role in contemporary Lebanon.
— N. Entessar
International Spectator
The book is a must read for anyone wanting to have an idea of the Lebanese puzzle and the role played in it by one of the most interesting political actors emerging in the Middle East.
Financial Times
A good, concise survey by a perceptive student of the Lebanese Shia.
— David Gardner
Democratiya
A dedicated researcher and writer, Norton has contacts all across Lebanon who are both his friends and informants. He writes with the same fluency about Shi'a religious customs as he does about Lebanese politics. The book comes with advance praise from scholars who tell us Norton has written an accessible and balanced account of a movement poorly understood by many in the United States who too often view the Middle East through the 'terrorist' lens.
— Donna Robinson Divine
Journal of Palestine Studies
The book is a dynamic and multifaceted account. . . . Overall, Norton's book balances international political factors with the local and regional conditions that shaped the outlook and activities of Hezbollah. Norton deserves praise for writing an insightful and multilayered work accessible to a wide and often uninformed readership.
— Rula Abisaab
Middle East Policy Council Fall
Norton has written a clear, concise history of Hezbollah with specific reference to its relevant sociopolitical context. Piquant anecdotes and richly textured details make the book enjoyable reading
— Kristian P. Alexander
In These Times
How do you classify and develop policy toward an organization that has committed acts of terrorism in the past, that currently provides important social services . . . that defends its country from occupation . . . that plays by the rules in official Lebanese national politics? . . . Norton elucidates these domestic and international complexities in Hezbollah: A Short History. . . With other similarly complex organizations on the rise, such as Hamas in Palestine, Norton provides a model of how we might begin to think through their multidimensional, seemingly contradictory natures.
— Allen McDuffee
Chronicle of Higher Education
In his new book Hezbollah, Augustus Richard Norton . . . provides a succinct account of the group's rise from the chaos created by Israel's invasions and occupation of Lebanon in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which ended only in 2000. Mr. Norton also explores the origins and political orientation of the group, now led by the Shiite cleric Hasan Nasrallah, in a complex web of religious and political identities in Lebanon—with a special emphasis on the role of Shia Islam in the organization.
— Richard Byrne
Washington Post Book World
Augustus Richard Norton's timely Hezbollah chronicles [a] dramatic evolution and its sweeping implications for the region and beyond. His lucid primer is the first serious reappraisal of the radical Shiite group since [the 2006] war shattered six years of relative calm on one of the world's most volatile frontiers.
— Jonathan Finer
Canadian Jewish News
Augustus Richard Norton, an American academic and former U.S. army officer, has studied that Islamic fundamentalist organization since its formation. And now, in Hezbollah ... he offers a cogent analysis of its emergence and impact on Lebanese politics.
— Sheldon Kirsher
In These Times
How do you classify and develop policy toward an organization that has committed acts of terrorism in the past, that currently provides important social services . . . that defends its country from occupation . . . that plays by the rules in official Lebanese national politics? . . . Norton elucidates these domestic and international complexities in Hezbollah: A Short History. . . With other similarly complex organizations on the rise, such as Hamas in Palestine, Norton provides a model of how we might begin to think through their multidimensional, seemingly contradictory natures.
— Allen McDuffee
Jonathan Finer
Twenty-five years ago, Hezbollah was a ragtag religious militia, founded under the thumb of Israel's long occupation of southern Lebanon and struggling against stronger rival groups for the hearts and minds of Lebanon's Shiite underclass. Today, Hezbollah is a political party, a social-service organization and a military power that emerged from a hard-fought standoff with the Israeli army last summer as the dominant player in Lebanon's politics and perhaps the most formidable nonstate actor in the Middle East.

Augustus Richard Norton's timely Hezbollah chronicles that dramatic evolution and its sweeping implications for the region and beyond. His lucid primer is the first serious reappraisal of the radical Shiite group since last summer's war shattered six years of relative calm on one of the world's most volatile frontiers.
—The Washington Post

Publishers Weekly
In this remarkably thorough, articulate portrait of Hezbollah, Norton, a Boston University anthropology and international relations professor and former U.S. Army officer and U.N. military observer, analyzes how the organization was formed, how it evolved and its current role in Lebanese politics. More than just an Iranian-funded terrorist organization, Hezbollah is a comprehensive provider of social services to Lebanon's disenfranchised Shiite masses, and a highly respected political player, known to forswear corruption. Formed in 1982 under Iranian tutelage, and prompted by the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Hezbollah has made a goal of fomenting Islamic revolution in Lebanon and authorizes violence to this end. In the 1990s, its policies in support of this goal began to include parliamentary participation. After the 2006 war with Israel, Hezbollah has emerged invigorated, flexing its military might and winning support through its rigorous postwar reconstruction. Norton's authoritative account is rooted in such important Middle East themes as the historical division between Sunni and Shiites and the origins of Iranian influence in Arab affairs. It is also personal, speckled with anecdotes from more than three decades of experience. Given the contentious subject, Norton's tone is remarkably even: Hezbollah is an organization he respects, but whose actions he does not condone. 10 b&w photos not seen by PW. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
Although Hezbollah was founded roughly a quarter of a centuryago, no one is quite sure what, exactly, it is. The "A-team" of Islamist terrorist groups, as one U.S. official put it, or Lebanese Shiite freedom fighters? Cat's-paw of the Islamic Republic of Iran, or a distinctly Lebanese political grouping organized, just like others, along sectarian lines, with ties to specific outside powers? Religio-political movement with uncompromising ideological goals, or a well-organized political party in the welter of Lebanon's political pluralism? There is no better person to address these questions -- and, indeed, to demonstrate the fallacy of such stark either-or options -- than Norton, who has been studying Lebanon, and especially the Lebanese Shiites, for longer than Hezbollah has been in existence. He offers here a brisk and balanced history -- which is to say, he traces an evolution over time -- of Hezbollah while situating the party in the larger Lebanese and regional contexts.
From the Publisher

"In this remarkably thorough, articulate portrait of Hezbollah, Norton . . . analyzes how the organization was formed, how it evolved and its current role in Lebanese politics."--Publishers Weekly

"Augustus Richard Norton's timely Hezbollah chronicles [a] dramatic evolution and its sweeping implications for the region and beyond. His lucid primer is the first serious reappraisal of the radical Shiite group since [the 2006] war shattered six years of relative calm on one of the world's most volatile frontiers."--Jonathan Finer, Washington Post Book World

"Norton, who has been studying Lebanon, and especially the Lebanese Shiites, for longer than Hezbollah has been in existence . . . offers here a brisk and balanced history . . . of Hezbollah while situating the party in the larger Lebanese and regional contexts."--L. Carl Brown, Foreign Affairs

"The best recent study of Hezbollah."--Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek

"Augustus Richard Norton, an American academic and former U.S. army officer, has studied that Islamic fundamentalist organization since its formation. And now, in Hezbollah ... he offers a cogent analysis of its emergence and impact on Lebanese politics."--Sheldon Kirsher, Canadian Jewish News

"Norton has written a clear, concise history of Hezbollah with specific reference to its relevant sociopolitical context. Piquant anecdotes and richly textured details make the book enjoyable reading"--Kristian P. Alexander, Middle East Policy Council Fall

"This short, authoritative book, based on first-hand experience, efficiently analyses [Hezbollah's] status."--Iain Finlayson, The Times

"This excellent short history of Hezbollah . . . demonstrates that dismissing it as a 'terrorist organization' is both glib and dishonest. . . . . Everyone who wants to understand the complexities of the Middle East, and particularly those of Lebanon and Israel, and wants to reach the truth beyond the political rhetoric, should read this book."--Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald

"How do you classify and develop policy toward an organization that has committed acts of terrorism in the past, that currently provides important social services . . . that defends its country from occupation . . . that plays by the rules in official Lebanese national politics? . . . Norton elucidates these domestic and international complexities in Hezbollah: A Short History. . . With other similarly complex organizations on the rise, such as Hamas in Palestine, Norton provides a model of how we might begin to think through their multidimensional, seemingly contradictory natures."--Allen McDuffee, In These Times

"In his new book Hezbollah, Augustus Richard Norton . . . provides a succinct account of the group's rise from the chaos created by Israel's invasions and occupation of Lebanon in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which ended only in 2000. Mr. Norton also explores the origins and political orientation of the group, now led by the Shiite cleric Hasan Nasrallah, in a complex web of religious and political identities in Lebanon--with a special emphasis on the role of Shia Islam in the organization."--Richard Byrne, Chronicle of Higher Education
"The most fluent survey of Hezbollah to date. This extremely accessible yet scholarly read covers the Lebanese resistance group from its inception to the current Lebanese political crisis, aided by a collection of poignant photographs and maps."--Margeret Hall, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

"The many complex and often changing dimensions of Hizbullah are presented in the book in a clear, concise manner that allows for a more accurate and complete understanding of what the group represents and aspires to achieve....Wherever one may stand on this spectrum of views, a vital starting point--offered in this small but rich volume--is an accurate, comprehensive view of why Hizbullah has succeeded as a political party, a sectarian representational group, a social services agency, and a resistance force, and why it continues to generate so much opposition at the same time."--Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star

"In an easily read, easily comprehended book, Norton traces the origins and history of Hezbollah.... The twisting allegiances of the players, the role of Syria and other neighboring states, the emergence of discord and sectarianism as the young movement matured and began to intrude on the elected government, all take place in the pressure cooker of a land and people long torn, used by factions for their own purposes."--Suzi Brozman, Atlanta Jewish Times

"In this highly informative, jargon-free book, Norton, one of America's top experts in Lebanese politics, provides an objective account of the genesis and development of Hezbollah, explaining its central role in contemporary Lebanon."--N. Entessar, Choice

"The book is a must read for anyone wanting to have an idea of the Lebanese puzzle and the role played in it by one of the most interesting political actors emerging in the Middle East."--International Spectator

"A good, concise survey by a perceptive student of the Lebanese Shia."--David Gardner, Financial Times

"A dedicated researcher and writer, Norton has contacts all across Lebanon who are both his friends and informants. He writes with the same fluency about Shi'a religious customs as he does about Lebanese politics. The book comes with advance praise from scholars who tell us Norton has written an accessible and balanced account of a movement poorly understood by many in the United States who too often view the Middle East through the 'terrorist' lens."--Donna Robinson Divine, Democratiya

"The book is a dynamic and multifaceted account. . . . Overall, Norton's book balances international political factors with the local and regional conditions that shaped the outlook and activities of Hezbollah. Norton deserves praise for writing an insightful and multilayered work accessible to a wide and often uninformed readership."--Rula Abisaab, Journal of Palestine Studies

"Norton's work is essential for those more concerned with an approach that rejects the rhetoric of the 'war on terror.' His historical and social analysis of Hezbollah's origin and subsequent evolution into its current manifestation is as objective an analysis as one can hope for--not to mention timely and fascinating."--Michael Teague, Al Jadid Magazine

"Norton has done an impressive job by managing, in such a short book, to give a down-to-earth presentation of a complex organization."--Jrgen Jensehaugen, Journal of Peace Research

Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author


Augustus Richard Norton is professor of international relations and anthropology at Boston University and a fellow of the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies. A former U.S. Army officer and West Point professor, he has conducted research in Lebanon for more than three decades.
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Read an Excerpt

HEZBOLLAH

A Short History
By Augustus Richard Norton

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS

Copyright © 2007 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-13124-5


Chapter One

Origins and Prehistory of Hezbollah

The modern state of Lebanon won its independence from France in 1943. The defining compromise of Lebanese politics was the mithaq al-watani or national pact, an unwritten understanding between the dominant political communities of the day-the Sunni Muslims and the Maronite Christians-that would provide the terms of reference for Lebanon's independence. In the 1920s the French, exploiting their League of Nations mandates in Lebanon and Syria, carved out generous chunks of Syria to create a viable "Greater Lebanon," thereby thwarting the Arab nationalist dream of an independent state in Damascus. For the Sunnis, the acceptance of an independent state ended the hope of reuniting Lebanon with Syria. Although the Sunnis, many of them merchants, dominated the new republic's coastal cities, their history was in the Syrian capital of Damascus. The Maronites, long the favored ally of French power and influence in the region, now had to concede that Lebanon was not an appendage of Europe but instead an Arab state. Neither Sunnis nor Christians spoke with a single voice, however, and dissent flourished.

The political system that emerged from the national pact was formalized into a system of sectarian communities, or confessions.Each of the country's seventeen recognized sects was accorded political privilege, including senior appointments in the bureaucracy, membership in parliament, and positions in high political office, roughly proportionate to the community's size. This process was always rather inexact, except for the highest political positions which were awarded to the Maronites, Sunnis, and Shi'a. Thus, the Maronites, considered the plurality, were accorded the presidency, which carried preeminent prerogatives and powers, and the second largest community, the Sunnis, won the premiership, decidedly second fiddle to the presidency. The Shi'i community, third largest, was awarded the speakership of the parliament, a position with far weaker constitutional powers than either the presidency or the premiership. The provenance of this allocation of power was a 1932 census of dubious reliability and, in fact, the last official census ever conducted in Lebanon. The data were sound estimates at best. The imbalance of power between the "three presidents" was rectified significantly by political reforms in 1989 in the agreement that provided the framework for ending the civil war of 1975-1990, which claimed about 150,000 lives.

The Shi'i community, in any case, could yield little influence over the political system at the time, as it was impoverished and underdeveloped (Norton 1987, 16-23). A small community of Shi'a lived in and around Beirut, but the overwhelming mass lived in southern Lebanon and in the northern Beqaa valley. Of course, the historical context for the impoverishment of all the Arab Shi'i communities (found, notably, in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia) derives from the fact that the dominant Arab Sunnis often despised the Shi'a for "deviating" from the path of Sunni Islam. Over the course of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Lebanon and Syria more or less effectively for more than four hundred years, the Shi'a were suspected of being a stalking horse for Persia, notwithstanding the venerable origins of Arab Shi'ism, which, in fact, long predates the introduction of Shi'ism in Persia in the sixteenth century. Indeed, the central contention between Shi'i and Sunni Muslims to this day goes back to the validity of the claim made by the partisans of 'Ali, the husband of the Prophet Muhammad's daughter, Fatimah, that he should succeed Muhammad upon the prophet's death.

A conjuncture of social facts, regional conflicts, and domestic policies shaped the politicization of the Lebanese Shi'a in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The rate of this community's natural increase outpaced all others in Lebanon, as the average Shi'i family generally had nine members in the early 1970s, whereas the average Christian household had only six. Although fertility among Sunni women was also higher than among the Christians, Shi'i women bore an average of one more child than their fellow Muslims (Chamie 1981, 44). Families of a dozen or more children are not uncommon among the Shi'a, and as mobility improved in the first decades of Lebanese independence, tens of thousands migrated from the hinterlands to Beirut and abroad.

The hardscrabble Shi'i farmers cultivated the hills and valleys of the South and the Beqaa plateau but most could not subsist on what they earned selling tobacco to the state monopoly or growing vegetables and fruits. Even those who owned land rather than working as a sharecropper often struggled to eke out a living from farming. The state was of little help, providing piddling sums for rural development, a pattern that still persists. In the northern Beqaa and the Hirmil region, where the influence of the state was especially weak, poppies and hashish became valuable cash crops. In many Shi'i villages several generations of young men left Lebanon to find their fortunes in Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, and throughout Africa, as well as in Latin America and the Arab oil-producing states of the Gulf. Later, these migrant workers would return to Lebanon, sometimes with impressive sums of money, and usually with little affection for the traditionally powerful families that dominated Shi'i society from Ottoman times.

In the South, the Shi'i heartland, the influx of one hundred thousand Palestinians beginning with the 1948-49 Palestine war introduced a pool of cheap labor, willing to work for less than were Shi'i farm laborers, adding further impetus to migration. Later, of course, following the civil war in Jordan in 1970-71, thousands of armed Palestinian guerrillas would move to Lebanon, where the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) would challenge the authority of the Beirut government and establish a virtual state-within-a-state encompassing west Beirut and much of southern Lebanon.

Against this background, the Lebanese Shi'i Muslims mobilized their political efforts. For nearly half a century the transformation of this community from quiescence to activism has brought into question the durability of Lebanon's founding compromise, and substantially contributed to the violent turmoil that has enveloped the country in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Rise of Shi'i Politics from the Mid-twentieth Century to the Lebanese Civil War

Political bosses (zu'ama) from a handful of powerful families dominated Shi'i politics into the 1960s and maintained their control through extensive patronage networks. The authority of the zu'ama depended on their clients' support, but by the 1960s many young Shi'i men and women became alienated from old-style politics and were attracted by new political forces. The promise of radical change could only have been irresistible to a community whose ethos emphasized its exploitation and dispossession by the ruling elites. In Lebanon, as in Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, Shi'a in large numbers were attracted in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s to secular opposition parties. In Lebanon the opposition took the form of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP), the Organization for Communist Labor Action, and pro-Syrian and pro-Iraqi factions of the Arab Socialist Ba'th (or "Resurrection") Party. Particularly in the case of the Communist organizations and the SSNP, there was an inherent ideological attraction to parties that condemned the tribal, religious, or ethnic bases of discrimination. Indeed, it is notable that the leadership of these secular parties was predominantly Christian. Although support for secular parties has dwindled, significant numbers of politicized Shi'a continue to express a preference for them, usually in particular families, villages, or regions. For instance, the Communists remain strong in the large village of Bra'sheet in the South, in an area now otherwise dominated by Hezbollah, literally, the Party of God, and the Amal movement, an acroynym for Lebanese Resistance Detachments, often rendered as "Hope." Amal, and especially Hezbollah, were relative latecomers on the political scene and appealed to the Shi'a in clearly sectarian terms, despite their avowals of welcoming all comers.

Four major (and sometimes intertwined) political trends distinguished the political mobilization of the Shi'a after the 1960s: secularism, liberation-especially the view that the fate of the deprived Shi'a was linked to the dispossessed Palestinians, Islamism, and reformism, often couched in demands for more access to political privilege and for stamping out corruption. Although Arab nationalism certainly enjoyed Shi'i adherents, given that Sunni Muslims numerically dominate the Arab world, many of the Shi'a would not see a unified Arab nation as a very ideal solution. In 1997 a fifth, incipient trend appeared from within Hezbollah, when Shaykh Subhi Tufayli, the organization's former secretary-general, launched a populist dissident movement in the Beqaa valley among alienated farmers and tribesmen. Although the fortunes of secular movements and parties have declined, the loyalties and sympathies of the Shi'a remain widely distributed, and no single organization-including Hezbollah-may claim an overwhelming majority following from among the Shi'a. By the 1990s, however, Hezbollah was certainly the best-organized political phenomenon and enjoyed the largest base of popular support.

Of the three distinctive trends preceding the emergence of Hezbollah in 1982, several secular parties, as well as the reformist Amal movement, retain a significant following. As the Lebanese civil war approached in the early 1970s and the armed Palestinian presence grew stronger, many young Shi'a found their place in one or another of the fida'i, or guerrilla fighter organizations. Support for the Palestinian cause has now withered but not disappeared. Political loyalties within families are often shared between two or more organizations or are not "lent" to any political group at all. Hussein Nasrallah, a brother of Hasan Nasrallah, a founding member of Hezbollah and its famous secretary-general, is a life member of Amal. When the two groups were at each other's throats in the late 1980s, Hussein was on the front lines confronting his brother. Notwithstanding the long-term commitments of the Nasrallah brothers, one commonly meets individuals whose biography includes membership in three or four different political organizations, usually in sequence. In Lebanon political support is conditional and political loyalty sometimes has a short shelf life. Even so, ideological currents have shifted dramatically in the last two decades in favor of Hezbollah, which offers an ideological vision that many Shi'a now find persuasive.

The Palestine resistance movement did more than directly challenge the power of Lebanon's entrenched elites; the resistance fighters were also paid comparatively well. It is widely known that many young men, and a few women, took up arms not only out of an ideological commitment but also simply to feed their families in a society offering few other economic opportunities. Once full-fledged civil war erupted in 1975, the Shi'a became the cannon fodder for the fedayeen. Indeed, more Shi'a died in the fighting than members of any other sect.

Even before the Israeli invasion of 1982, the fortunes of the armed Palestinian presence had soured, especially in southern Lebanon where the Amal movement gained many adherents at the expense of the parties of the Left. Amal had been founded, in the early 1970s, by al-Sayyid Musa al-Sadr, the Iran-born cleric of Lebanese ancestry, as a militia adjunct to the Harakat al-Mahrumin, the Movement of the Deprived, the predominantly Shi'i populist reform movement. Amal was initially trained by Fatah, the largest organization in the PLO, and played a minor role in the fighting of 1975 and 1976. Although Amal was aligned with the Lebanese National Movement (LNM)-an array of radical and reformist groups opposed to the political dominance of the Maronite Christians-by 1976 the alignment was strained by Amal's support for Syria and its armed intervention to prevent a victory by the PLO and the LNM over the Maronite militias.

The Role of Musa al-Sadr

Musa Sadr, widely known as Imam Musa, was instrumental in improving the lot of the ordinary Shi'a in southern Lebanon while reducing the power of traditional Shi'i elites. His unremitting opponent was Kamil al-As'ad, the powerful Shi'i political boss from the southern town of al-Tayyiba who had long grown accustomed to power. Kamil-bey ("bey" is a Turkish honorific) accurately viewed al-Sadr as a serious threat to his political power base, which was built on a foundation of subordination and patronage. Physically imposing and a man of intelligence, courage, personal charm, enormous energy, and great complexity, al-Sadr attracted a wide array of supporters. He set out to establish himself as the paramount leader of the Shi'i community. When he arrived in Lebanon in the late 1950s, the community was most known for its poverty and general underdevelopment.

Al-Sadr exhorted his followers not to accept their deprivation fatalistically; he believed that as long as his fellow Shi'i could speak out through their religion they could overcome their condition. As he once observed, "Whenever the poor involve themselves in a social revolution it is a confirmation that injustice is not predestined" (Norton 1987, 40). One of his first significant acts was to establish a vocational institute in the southern town of Burj al-Shimali. The institute, constructed at a cost of about $165,000, became an important symbol of Musa al-Sadr's leadership, and it survives to this day under the competent supervision of his sister, known commonly as Sitt (or Sister) Rabab, one of the most admired woman in the Lebanese Shi'i community.

Musa al-Sadr recognized the insecurity of the Maronites and acknowledged their need to maintain their monopoly hold on the presidency. Yet he was critical of this Christian community for its arrogant stance toward the Muslims, and particularly the Shi'a. He argued that the Maronite-dominated government had neglected the South, where half the Shi'a lived. He was anticommunist, probably not only on principled grounds but because the various Communist organizations were among his prime competitors for Shi'i recruits. While the two branches of the Ba'th Party (pro-Iraqi and pro-Syrian) were making significant inroads among the Shi'a of the South and of the Beirut suburbs, he appropriated their pan-Arab slogans. Although the movement he founded, Harakat al-Mahrumin and its Amal militia, was aligned with the ideologically eclectic and radical Lebanese National Movement in the early stages of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1976), he found its Druze leader, Kamal al-Jumblatt, irresponsible and exploitative of the Shi'a and willing "to combat the Christians to the last Shi'i" (Pakradouni 1983, 106).

Al-Sadr's stance toward the Palestinian presence in the South was similarly complex. He consistently expressed sympathy for Palestinian aspirations, and yet he was unwilling to countenance actions that exposed Lebanese citizens, especially Shi'i citizens of the South, to additional suffering. Imam Musa prophetically warned the PLO that it was not in its interest to establish a state within a state in Lebanon. The PLO's failure to heed this warning helped to spawn the alienation of their "natural allies," the Shi'a, who actively resisted the Palestinian fighters in their midst only a few years later. In May 1976 al-Sadr threw his support to Syria when Syrian president Hafez al-Asad intervened in Lebanon on the side of the Maronite militias and against the LNM and its Palestinian allies. Although he mistrusted Syrian motives in Lebanon and felt that it was only Lebanon's indigestibility that prevented it from being swallowed by its more powerful neighbor, he nonetheless believed that the Syrians were an important ally in his challenge to Palestinian power in the southern Lebanon.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from HEZBOLLAH by Augustus Richard Norton Copyright © 2007 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Chapter 1: Origins and Prehistory of Hezbollah 9

The Rise of Shi'i Politics from the Mid-twentieth Century to the Lebanese Civil War 14

The Role of Musa al-Sadr 18

The Resurgence of Amal 21

Chapter 2: The Founding of Hezbollah 27

The Iraq Connection 30

The 1982 Israeli Invasion 32

Hezbollah Emerges 34

The Hezbollah Worldview 35

Implementing the Design 41

Chapter 3: Being a Shi'i Muslim in the Twenty-first Century 47

Ritual and Identity 51

The Intersection of Ritual and Politics 58

Chapter 4: Resistance, Terrorism, and Violence in Lebanon 69

Hezbollah and Terrorism 75

Occupation in Southern Lebanon 79

The "Rules of the Game" 83

The 2000 Israeli Withdrawal 88

Chapter 5: Playing Politics 95

Hezbollah's Decision to Participate 98

Municipal Elections 103

The Revolt of the Hungry 105

The Rich Texture of Shi'i Institutions 107

Chapter 6: From Celebration to War 113

The Changing Social Tapestry in Post-Civil War Lebanon 120

Lebanon's Love-Hate Relationship with Rafiq Hariri, and His Assassination 124

Setting the Stage for War 132

The Start of Hostilities, July 2006 135

Prosecuting the War 137

Conclusion 145

Hezbollah in a Fractured Postwar Lebanon 152

What Next? 157

Afterword to the Paperback Edition 161

Glossary 173

Additional Reading 175

Sources Cited 181

Index 185

Acknowledgments 197

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