DATE=4/30/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=LEBANON - HEZBOLLAH NUMBER=5-46231 BYLINE=SCOTT BOBB DATELINE=BEIRUT CONTENT= VOICED AT: /// EDS: THIS IS THE FOURTH IN A SERIES OF FIVE BACKGROUND REPORTS ABOUT LEBANON /// INTRO: The announced withdrawal of Israeli troops from south Lebanon has raised the prospect of an end to violence in Lebanon after one-quarter of a century. The withdrawal is being hailed in the Arab world as a victory, and the Hezbollah Movement that led the resistance to Israeli occupation is receiving a great deal of praise. V-O-A Middle East Correspondent Scott Bobb has visited Hezbollah in Lebanon and he reports that although it is still involved in military activities, it has become much more than a guerrilla group. TEXT: The Hezbollah movement is best known in the west for kidnapping foreigners a few years ago and its attacks on Israeli troops in south Lebanon. /// SOUND OF SHELLING -- FADE UNDER /// The attacks have led Israeli forces to retaliate against Lebanese villages, like this shelling near the town of Qana last week, causing thousands of casualties and tens of thousands of displaced people. Yet, Israel's announcement that it intends to withdraw from south Lebanon has brought hope of an end to the violence and cries of victory from Lebanese officials. Hezbollah was founded in the early 1980's reportedly with Syrian support and money from Iran. Hezbollah leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, noted in a recent interview (on Gezeira television) that the main source of inspiration for his movement remains the Iranian revolution. /// NASRALLAH ACT - IN ARABIC -- FADE UNDER /// Sheikh Nasrallah said Iran shares Hezbollah's victory. He said, for the youth who died in the struggle, the prize is heaven, and the one who inspired them is Iran and its late leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. Nevertheless, Hezbollah has also become increasingly involved in civic activities. With donations from Iranian religious foundations and individual contributions throughout the Islamic world, Hezbollah provides social services like schools and health clinics to poor people in Lebanon. It recently launched its own television station. /// SOUND OF HEZBOLLAH TV STATION PROMO - FADE UNDER /// The station promotes a panel discussion on political issues and a call-in program, before a conservatively dressed announcer appears to read the news. Hezbollah has also developed a flair for public relations that is helping to improve its image abroad. An American journalist working on a report about the movement is warmly received by the multi-lingual staff of Hezbollah's public relations office, located in a working class suburb of Beirut. The staff provides contacts and interviews for the journalist and helps arrange a trip to the war zone in the south. Although Hezbollah is still officially a movement, it is looking more and more like a political party. It elected nine members of parliament in elections four years ago and was even more successful in local elections last year. The Hezbollah deputy from Bekaa District, Sayed Amar Moussawi, tells V-O-A Hezbollah has evolved. /// MOUSSAWI ACT ONE - IN ARABIC - WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION/// I don't think Hezbollah has really changed its political direction. It's like a child growing up. /// END ACT /// Sheikh Moussawi says Hezbollah is involved in much more than the resistance in the south. He says it has always been eager to help people, mostly the poor. /// BEGIN OPT /// Asked about Hezbollah's history of kidnappings and its hostile position regarding the United States, Sheikh Moussawi says Hezbollah would like more foreigners to visit Lebanon because it wants them to have an honest view of what is going on here. /// MOUSSAWI ACT TWO - IN ARABIC - WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION /// We have no problems with Americans coming to Lebanon either. We have problems with the American government. We believe the American government is unfair. It helps Israel unfairly. And we'd like to see them have a more balanced policy toward the Arab world. /// END ACT /// Hezbollah is not the only Islamic party in Lebanon. Its main rival among the Shiite communities is Amal, which also engaged in terrorist acts before entering politics. Because of Hezbollah's rising popularity, Amal has been pressed recently to remind Lebanese that it too resisted Israeli forces and it too continues to conduct military operations. /// END OPT /// A professor at the American University of Beirut and expert on political Islam, Nizar Hamzeh, says groups like Hezbollah and Amal in Lebanon have changed. /// HAMZEH ACT ONE /// Islamic movements in Lebanon have evolved from small groups or even underground, into more, some sort of political mass movements. /// END ACT /// /// BEGIN OPT /// Professor Hamzeh says the goals of Islamic movements in Lebanon remain the same, but their methods are now different. /// HAMZEH ACT TWO /// Islamic movements have managed to a great extent to move from what they call achieving Islamic Sharia, or Islamic state, through revolution, through violence, through militancy, into some sort of achieving such objectives by working from bottom up, from grassroots society, and participating within the system rather than working outside the system. /// END ACT /// /// END OPT /// Hezbollah leaders insist Israel must withdraw from all Lebanese territory before they will cease military operations. They also have a list of demands that have yet to be met and say they will continue to support Syria which is deadlocked in its peace negotiations with Israel. As a result, the door is still open for Hezbollah to continue its attacks for some time to come. But experts say Hezbollah increasingly is focusing on the political arena in Lebanon, where because of its social programs and history of resistance, it already is a major force. (Signed) NEB/SB/JWH/TVM 30-Apr-2000 07:24 AM EDT (30-Apr-2000 1124 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .
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