Israeli Arab parties Balad and Hadash have once again caused outcry after condemning a decision by the Arab League to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization, following in the footsteps of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Balad and Hadash caused a storm of criticism within Israel by refusing to call Hezbollah a terrorist organization following the GCC's decision.
Raja Zaatreh, a member of the Hadash Political Bureau, said on Friday night that “the Arab League is a pawn in the hands of the Gulf governments, who themselves serve the policy interests of the United States.
“Hezbollah isn’t a terrorist organization; it’s an opposition movement that succeeded in removing the Israeli occupation in Lebanon. It’s an organization that fulfils the important task of fighting the terror of al-Qaeda in Syria, and fighting against Israel when it assists Jabhat al-Nusra in the Golan,” Zaatreh continued.
“Hezbollah’s role in Syria is contrary to Gulf and American wishes," Zaatreh said. “The decision by the Arab League was designed to single Hezbollah out on the Lebanese and Arab stage, yet the majority of the Arab nations know that the Arab League only serves the imperialist interests of the United States, and not of the Arab nations.”
A high-ranking official from Balad told Ynet that the party position on the subject will not change.
“Despite our disagreements, we do not agree that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, even if the Arab League describes it as such," he said.
Raja Agbaria of the “village sons” movement said Saturday evening that there is no difference between the GCC's decision and the Arab League's.
“There are countries that just pay lip service and vote for these decisions in order to continue to receive funding from Saudi Arabia," he said. "Hezbollah is a political party and not a country – therefore, the decision is not worth the paper it's written on.
"Hezbollah is always popular," he continued. "If one were to do a survey in Palestine, amongst the so-called Arab citizens of ‘Israel,’ they would see that Hezbollah and Nasrallah elicit a lot of sympathy. This reflects the feeling (towards the group) in the wider Arab world.”
What are the possible sanctions against Hezbollah?
The Arab League's foreign ministers decided to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization at a time when the Arab and Islamic world is divided and in conflict like never before - especially in light of the civil wars in Syria and Yemen - and the political turmoil left in the wake of the “Arab Spring.”
On one side of the conflict are the Sunni countries led by Saudi Arabia, and on the other side are the Shi'ite countries, led by Iran – which is the patron of the Allawite regime in Syria and the Shi'ite Hezbollah organization in Lebanon.
The discussion of whether to recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist organization caused heated debate amongst the League members. The Saudi delegation stormed out in protest when Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Ja’afari defended Hezbollah and its leader Nasrallah during his speech, calling Nasrallah “an Arab hero who defends values and principles,” and claimed that Hezbollah and its Shi'ite militias in Iraq are a source of pride and honor among Arabs.
Nasrallah is an Arab hero according to al-Manar
Hezbollah has yet to officially respond to the Arab League classification, but earlier in the week Hassan Nasrallah lashed out at Saudi Arabia because it stopped its massive aid package to the Lebanese Armed Forces over Hezbollah’s actions in Lebanon.
He repeated accusations that Saudi Arabia is responsible for several bombings in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq over the past few years, and condemned Saudi’s “massacres in Yemen.”
The Arab League decision was accepted despite opposition by Lebanon and Iraq, and with reservation posed by Algeria. The rest of the Arab League delegations - 22 countries - supported the motion.
In doing this, the Arab League smoothed things over with the United States, which is the close ally of the Gulf Arab states, and who also views Hezbollah as a terror organization. The European Union, it should be noted, only recognizes the military wing of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, as Hezbollah is also a political organization which does a lot of social work in Lebanon.
The Arab League's decision delivers a harsh blow to Hezbollah, and could exacerbate the divisions between the ethnic factions and groups in Lebanon. As with the GCC’s decision last week, this decision highlights the high price Hezbollah is paying for its participation in the Syrian Civil War and its assistance to the Assad regime in repressing Sunni and Jihadist rebels.
Just five years ago, Hezbollah was seen by many in the Muslim world as a heroic resistance movement due to its fight against Israel. However, over the last several years, it has seen a steep drop in popularity due to its fight against Sunnis in the Middle East and its assistance to the Assad regime - a regime it is now fighting to keep from toppling.