Meet Hizbollah

The Party of God's MP talks about Islam, Iraq, and the war on terror. A Reason interview

Mohammed Fneish is a Hizbollah (Party of God) representative in Lebanon's parliament. Fneish represents the Bint Jbeil district. He spoke with reason late last year at Hizbollah's office in Beirut.

reason: Hizbollah's originally stated mission was to drive the Israeli military out of south Lebanon. The Israelis have been gone for four years. What do you see as your purpose now?

Mohammed Fneish: It's true that Hizbollah began as a resistance movement, and it still is. In the process of carrying out our mission we've been able to build foundations that met the society's educational and social needs—and even political needs, by participating in elections.

It's true that Israel left parts of Lebanon's territory, but not all of it. It also hasn't stopped its attacks on Lebanon. Lebanon's problem from the beginning has not been a local one only. Its troubles have been nourished by the conflict with Israel, and that has created an ongoing national security problem for us. For as long as there is no security in the region, Lebanon will never be at peace. We can't take lightly the need for our organization.

reason: Saddam Hussein brutally repressed the Shi'a Muslims in Iraq—your co-religionists. Now that he's gone, the Shi'ites have more freedom than they've had in 20 years. Why does Hizbollah remain so strongly opposed to the U.S. mission in Iraq?

Fneish: The party has nothing to do with Iraq. The party had an opinion on Iraq, as did every other group—the whole world had an opinion about Iraq. And in general, the majority of opinion around the world opposed the war, because people were not convinced by the reasons given. And as has been proven, all of these reasons given by the American administration were false. Of course, before he attacked Kuwait, Saddam received much support from the U.S. In general, nobody is sorry to see Saddam go. His regime was unjust, harsh, and homicidal.

But we have to distinguish between whether Saddam was overthrown for the good of the Iraqi people or for the good of American ambitions.

In terms of the new situation in Iraq, that's the Iraqis' responsibility. But we would like to ensure and protect international laws. The occupation shouldn't go on, but more important, the U.S. shouldn't act apart from the international community. And the current occupation shouldn't go on at all without the will of the Iraqi people. In the end, only they can decide their future, and their political system.

reason: Does Hizbollah have any contact with the resistance fighters in Iraq?

Fneish: No. The party has an opinion on the U.S. occupation, but it is up to the Iraqi people to determine how to react to that presence. Do they want to throw roses on them? Rocks? Whatever they decide, that's their right. We as Hizbollah have nothing to do with what other nations do. We can't be a resistance party for other nations. We only represent our own people and country. Other than that, it's not our business.

reason: The resistance in Iraq has been extraordinarily violent toward the Shi'ites.

Fneish: This is absolutely unacceptable. I've been speaking about resistance, but I did not mention anything about tactics or principles. I'm not speaking about murdering Iraqis, aiming at government organizations, or killing civilians. That is not resistance, and it's not legitimate.

reason: So you say the party has not been providing any assistance—financial or military—to the resistance in Iraq?

Fneish: None at all. Anybody who says so, let him show some proof. The party's primary mission is to resist the Israeli occupation.

reason: Hizbollah is widely viewed in the United States as a potent anti-American force. Can you imagine ever having better relations with the U.S.?

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