Holding Lebanon “hostage”:
UN condemnation of Hizbollah

Published: 27 July 2006
Briefing Number 180

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Summary: This Briefing highlights little-reported comments by the UN's head of humanitarian relief, Jan Egeland, and by the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, accusing Hizbollah of being responsible for bringing disaster upon so many in Lebanon . We also highlight a stinging condemnation of Hizbollah by Fouad Ajami, one of the world's leading scholars of the Middle East .

The Israel counter-attack on Hizbollah has brought turmoil to thousands of civilians in Lebanon , caught up in the fighting. Israel has been widely condemned for launching a ”disproportionate” campaign (see Beyond Images Briefing 179), and for targeting civilians.

Many are willing to acknowledge that Hizbollah was responsible for triggering the conflict. But they do not go further and condemn Hizbollah for bringing disaster on so many in Lebanon . Here are three exceptions – each from unlikely sources. These words have hardly been reported anywhere.

Jan Egeland, UN head of humanitarian relief – Hizbollah are “cowardly”

Egeland's comment that Israel 's campaign was “disproportionate” and “illegal” received wide international coverage. The following comment about Hizbollah, which Egeland made at a press conference after visiting Lebanon (as reported by the Associated Press, July 24 2006) received virtually no coverage:-

“Consistently, from the Hizbollah heartland, my message was that Hizbollah must stop this cowardly blending…. among women and children. I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was the civilians bearing the brunt of this. I don't think anyone should be proud of having many more children and women dead than armed men….”

Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General: Hizbollah is holding Lebanon “hostage”

Annan has condemned Israel repeatedly. His comments about Hizbollah receive less attention. On 20 July he said the following at a meeting of the UN Security Council (reported in the Jerusalem Post, 21 July 2006 ):-

“Hizbollah's provocative attack on 12 July was the trigger of this crisis…. Whatever other agendas they may serve, Hizbollah's actions, which it portrays as defending Palestinian and Lebanese interests, in fact do neither. On the contrary, they hold an entire nation hostage and set back prospects for negotiation of a comprehensive Middle East peace….”

Fouad Ajami – Hizbollah's “cruel and cynical” actions towards Lebanon

Ajami is Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University in the USA , and one of the world's foremost experts on the region. In the Wall Street Journal on 21 July 2006 he wrote as follows:-

“Hassan Nasrallah, at the helm of Hizbollah, handed Lebanon a calamity right as the summer tourist season had begun. Beirut had dug its way out of the rubble of a long war: Nasrallah plunged it into a new season of loss and ruin. He presented the country with a fait accompli: the “gift” of two Israeli soldiers kidnapped across an international frontier. Nasrallah never let the Lebanese Government in on his venture. He was giddy with triumphalism and defiance when this crisis began. And men and women cooped up in the destitution of the Shiite districts of Beirut were sent out into the streets to celebrate Hizbollah's latest deed.

It did not seem to matter to Nasrallah that the ground that would burn in Lebanon would in the main be Shiite land in the south. Nor was it of great concern to he who lives on the subsidies of the Iranian theocrats that the ordinary Lebanese would pay for his adventure. The cruel and cynical hope was that Nasrallah's rivals would be bullied into submission and false solidarity, and that the man himself would emerge as the master of the game of Lebanese politics….”