The Lebanese party Hezbollah was formally labeled a terrorist outfit by the Arab League during a meeting in Cairo on Friday. Prior to that, the group was branded terrorist by the Arab interior ministers in Tunisia.
However, we have regarded it as a terrorist organization a decade ago when it assassinated high-ranking Lebanese leaders and when it engaged in the murder of thousands of Syrian civilians. It has been a terrorist group since then and continues to be so. However, no one dared to officially say that until last week when Arab governments officially declared the same.
Those who defended Hezbollah during the League’s foreign ministers’ meeting were representatives of helpless Lebanon and the almost-helpless Iraq and Algeria.
The League has been accustomed to this support for Iran since it played the role of the mediator in releasing American hostages held at the American embassy in Tehran. The other 19 Arab countries stood against Hezbollah, marking a significant political and popular anger of Arabs toward Hezbollah.
Until few weeks ago, most Arab governments avoided public criticism of Hezbollah even after it was found to be involved in the fighting in Syria. Even prior to that, it was evident that it assassinated several Lebanese leaders, with former prime minister Rafiq Hariri being the most important among them.
Until few weeks ago, most Arab governments avoided public criticism of Hezbollah even after it was found to be involved in the fighting in SyriaAbdulrahman al-Rashed
No one publically criticized them even when Hezbollah lured Israel to attack Lebanon and destroy it in 2006 by kidnapping two Israeli soldiers. This was a move which the party later said it had miscalculated. Back then, only two Arab governments dared criticize Hezbollah while others remained silent despite the destruction Lebanon suffered from.
Everyone knows that Hezbollah has been a terrorist organization ever since it was established in the 1980s. It hijacked Lebanon, seized its resources and decision-making process and obstructed its political and economic development a lot more than it confronted Israel over the course of 30 years.
Criticizing the party and its terrorist nature remained the subject of private meetings behind closed doors. However, it has now become public as most Arab governments now have the courage to declare their position as there is no longer anything to avoid or to be ashamed of.
Around half a million Syrians have been killed since the revolution started and some of them have been killed by Hezbollah fighters and Iran, which is fighting alongside the Assad regime. Such a situation does not leave room for maneuvers and courtesy and takes the situation to the point of no return.
They’d all known that Hezbollah is a terrorist group before these recent disagreements with it surfaced as it has been killing Lebanese, Syrian, Arab and foreign citizens since the 1980s. However, they hoped that there will come a day when Hezbollah decides to give up its role as Assad’s and Iran’s proxy and become a civil political party, particularly following Israel’s withdrawal from South Lebanon 16 years ago.
Hezbollah, however, remained the same and its brutality worsened even as it expanded its activities into Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Mar. 13, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.