Since its creation in 1982, Hezbollah rhetoric has been laden with inflammatory language threatening Israel’s existence and the U.S. presence in the Middle East. Its formal name is the Party of God. Its power base is among Lebanese Shiites, a sect that has historically been marginalized in Lebanese politics and the economy. Its fighters have been armed and trained by Iran since its inception. The movement—now both a militia and a political party—has received hundreds of millions of dollars a year from Iran, a predominantly Shiite country, according to Israeli and U.S. officials.
Its leader, Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, is famed for his fiery speeches and charisma among fighters and poor Shiites in Beirut and southern Lebanon. He has built the movement from an underground cell — that carried out terrorist attacks against American, European, Israeli and Arab targets—into the best armed non-state actor in the world by 2023. It has also evolved into a powerful political party that has held seats in parliament and cabinet posts since 1992. It has also allied with right-wing Christian groups to form a powerful political bloc.
Hezbollah rhetoric has made contradictory claims about its long-term goals. “We do not seek the application of Islam by force or violence, but by peaceful political action, which gives the majority in any society the opportunity to adopt or reject it. If Islam becomes the choice of the majority, then we will apply it. If not, we will continue to coexist and discuss with others until we reach a common ground based upon correct beliefs,” the organization said in 1998. But Nasrallah has also repeatedly vowed to destroy Israel. “It is an aggressive, illegal and illegitimate entity, which has no future in our land,” he said in 2005. “It’s destination is manifested in our motto, ‘Death to Israel’.” Hezbollah has also and angrily threatened to destroy U.S. “hegemony” in the Middle East. The military wing is tied to deadly attacks on two U.S. embassies and the Marine peacekeepers barracks in Lebanon as well as American targets in Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. The following are excerpts of key statements by Hezbollah leaders.
Open letter published on Feb. 16, 1985 in Al Safir
We are often asked: Who are we, the Hezbollah, and what is our identity? We are the sons of the umma (Muslim community) - the party of God (Hezbollah) the vanguard of which was made victorious by God in Iran. There the vanguard succeeded to lay down the bases of a Muslim state which plays a central role in the world. We obey the orders of one leader, wise and just, that of our tutor and faqih (jurist) who fulfills all the necessary conditions: Ruhollah Musawi Khomeini. God save him!
We do not constitute an organized and closed party in Lebanon, nor are we a tight political cadre. We are an umma linked to the Muslims of the whole world by the solid doctrinal and religious connection of Islam, whose message God wanted to be fulfilled by the Seal of the Prophets, i.e., Muhammad. This is why whatever touches or strikes the Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines and elsewhere reverberates throughout the whole Muslim umma of which we are an integral part. Our behavior is dictated to us by legal principles laid down by the light of an overall political conception defined by the leading jurist.
As for our culture, it is based on the Holy Koran, the Sunna and the legal rulings of the faqih who is our source of imitation (marja' al-taqlid). Our culture is crystal clear. It is not complicated and is accessible to all.
No one can imagine the importance of our military potential as our military apparatus is not separate from our overall social fabric. Each of us is a fighting soldier. And when it becomes necessary to carry out the Holy War, each of us takes up his assignment in the fight in accordance with the injunctions of the Law, and that in the framework of the mission carried out under the tutelage of the Commanding Jurist.
The US has tried, through its local agents, to persuade the people that those who crushed their arrogance in Lebanon and frustrated their conspiracy against the oppressed were nothing but a bunch of fanatic terrorists whose sole aim is to dynamite bars and destroy slot machines. Such suggestions cannot and will not mislead our umma (community), for the whole world knows that whoever wishes to oppose the US, that arrogant superpower, cannot indulge in marginal acts which may make it deviate from its major objective. We combat abomination and we shall tear out its very roots, its primary roots, which are the US. All attempts made to drive us into marginal actions will fail, especially as our determination to fight the US is solid.
We declare openly and loudly that we are an umma which fears God only and is by no means ready to tolerate injustice, aggression and humiliation. America, its Atlantic Pact allies, and the Zionist entity in the holy land of Palestine, attacked us and continue to do so without respite. Their aim is to make us eat dust continually. This is why we are, more and more, in a state of permanent alert in order to repel aggression and defend our religion, our existence, our dignity. They invaded our country, destroyed our villages, slit the throats of our children, violated our sanctuaries and appointed masters over our people who committed the worst massacres against our umma. They do not cease to give support to these allies of Israel, and do not enable us to decide our future according to our own wishes. We have no alternative but to confront aggression by sacrifice…
Let us put it truthfully: the sons of Hezbollah know who are their major enemies in the Middle East - the Phalanges, Israel, France and the US. The sons of our umma are now in a state of growing confrontation with them, and will remain so until the realization of the following three objectives:
(a) to expel the Americans, the French and their allies definitely from Lebanon, putting an end to any colonialist entity on our land;
(b) to submit the Phalanges to a just power and bring them all to justice for the crimes they have perpetrated against Muslims and Christians;
(c) to permit all the sons of our people to determine their future and to choose in all the liberty the form of government they desire. We call upon all of them to pick the option of Islamic government which, alone, is capable of guaranteeing justice and liberty for all. Only an Islamic regime can stop any further tentative attempts of imperialistic infiltration into our country.
TO THE CHRISTIANS
If you, Christians, cannot tolerate that Muslims share with you certain domains of government, Allah has also made it intolerable for Muslims to participate in an unjust regime, unjust for you and for us, in a regime which is not predicated upon the prescriptions of religion and upon the basis of the Law (Sharia) as laid down by Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets…
We don't wish you evil. We call upon you to embrace Islam so that you can be happy in this world and the next. If you refuse to adhere to Islam, maintain your ties with the Muslims and don't take part in any activity against them. Free yourselves from the consequences of hateful confessionalism. Banish from your hearts all fanaticism and parochialism. Open your hearts to our Call (da'wa) which we address to you. Open yourselves up to Islam where you'll find salvation and happiness upon earth and in the hereafter. …
We reject both the USSR and the US, both Capitalism and Communism, for both are incapable of laying the foundations for a just society. With special vehemence we reject UNIFIL as they were sent by world arrogance to occupy areas evacuated by Israel and serve for the latter as a buffer zone. They should be treated much like the Zionists. All should know that the goals of the Phalangists regime do not carry any weight with the Combatants of the Holy War, i.e., the Islamic resistance. This is the quagmire which awaits all foreign intervention.
The Necessity for the Destruction of Israel
We see in Israel the vanguard of the United States in our Islamic world. It is the hated enemy that must be fought until the hated ones get what they deserve. This enemy is the greatest danger to our future generations and to the destiny of our lands, particularly as it glorifies the ideas of settlement and expansion, initiated in Palestine, and yearning outward to the extension of the Great Israel, from the Euphrates to the Nile. Our primary assumption in our fight against Israel states that the Zionist entity is aggressive from its inception, and built on lands wrested from their owners, at the expense of the rights of the Muslim people. Therefore our struggle will end only when this entity is obliterated. We recognize no treaty with it, no cease fire, and no peace agreements, whether separate or consolidated. We vigorously condemn all plans for negotiation with Israel, and regard all negotiators as enemies, for the reason that such negotiation is nothing but the recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist occupation of Palestine.
Nasrallah interview with Al Watan al Arabi magazine on Sept. 11, 1992 after winning eight seats in parliament
“Our participation in the elections and entry into the National Assembly do not alter the fact that we are a resistance party. We shall, in fact, work to turn the whole of Lebanon into a country of resistance, and the state into a state of resistance. In the past, a number of state officials promised that if negotiations did not lead to the liberation of the land, the entire population, and the state itself, would be transformed into a resistance force. We said before, and are saying now, that negotiations will not succeed, and that it is now time to act on that promise.”
“Regarding the project of the Islamic Republic, I can assure you that we will never propose this option per se in Lebanon, neither through statements, slogans or speeches. We also said that this sectarian system is unjust and corrupt, and should therefore be replaced by another that reflects the will of the Lebanese people and establishes justice, security, peace and equality.”
Hezbollah Statement of Purpose published on March 20, 1998
Hezbollah is an Islamic freedom fighting movement founded after the Israeli military seizure of Lebanon in 1982, which resulted in immediate formation of the Islamic resistance units for the liberation of the occupied territories and for the expulsion of the aggressive Israelis forces.
In addition to shouldering the burden of resisting the Israelis occupation as it is stated by the international Bill of Human Rights, Hezbollah is also concerned about the presentation of Islam which addresses the mind, and reasons. Hezbollah is concerned about Presenting Islam that is confident of its fundamentals, its highly civilized understanding of Man, life and the universe, Islam as being self-assured about its capability to achieve the basis of right and justice. We are anxious to present Islam as being open hearted to all nations their various political and cultural trends and their numerous experiences, away from subjection or bewilderment. We are anxious to present Islam as being the guardian for human rights defining choices, adopting convictions and expressing them, socially. We opt for the formation of political pressure in education, pedagogy, medical case and other social benefits announced in the Bill of Human Rights. We are anxious to define the priorities for our cultural project that utilizes persuasiveness and polarization through the civilized and the human methods confirmed by the Bill of the Human Rights. Away from evidence force, and coercion.
We are anxious to offer a model of performance in struggling targeting the enemy that represents a challenge for the existence of the whole nation along with its regimes and people. We also circumvent conflicts that do not serve the main aim, fighting the enemy, or that could create discord at the front, which is to be unified around the common interests. The hope is to rid of the pressuring threats practiced by the foreign Zionist entity which has been thrust upon the Islamic and the Arab contemporary nation.
It should be clear that the kind of Islam we want is a civilized endeavor that rejects injustice, humiliation, slavery, subjugation, colonialism and blackmail while we stretch out our arms for communication among nations on the basis of mutual respect. The Islam we mean is the religion that never accepts control or delegation by others for the sake of manipulating the rights and the interests of the nation. The Islam we mean is the religion that recommends communication among civilization and rejects divisive collision between those civilizations. An Islam that believes in cultural communication among nations and refuses setting up barriers and embargos and sees that it is our right to remove those barriers by the diplomatic means, however, when others intend to launch wars against it, Hezbollah finds it a natural right to defend itself representing the supporters and their achievements.
Islam that we understand is a message that aims at establishing justice, security, peace and rights for all people no matter what nation, race or religion they belong. We don’t have any complex toward others, but we feel the responsibility toward them, to make them understand the essence of our religion away from obligation and fanaticism.
We don’t seek the application of Islam by force or violence but by peaceful political action, which gives the opportunity for the majority in any society to adopt or reject it. If Islam becomes the choice of the majority then we will apply it, if not, we will continue to coexist and discuss till we reach correct beliefs.
We hereby affirm that our Islam rejects violence as a method to gain power, and this should be the formula for the non-Islamists as well.
Nasrallah victory speech on May 26, 2000 at Bint Jbeil after Israeli withdrawal
“First: We need to appreciate the victories accomplished, and we need greater efforts, sacrifice, and modesty amongst each other so that we do not waste them.
“Second: We need to maintain what we've recently done: proving we deserve victory. So, don't let anyone spoil this during the following weeks.
“Third: In the eyes of those Zionists, we - Muslims and Christians - are no more than slaves that belong to Allah's "chosen people." So, isn't it time for some Lebanese to understand this truth and make use of all these lessons? The Lebanese must realize that they need to make a national choice, and they must not make the wrong sectarian approaches, which lead them to "Israel." It is in the interest of all sects in Lebanon to have a national, Arab choice.
“Fourth: On the victory day, I announce that Hezbollah does not wish to substitute the government's governance over this region. We're not a security authority, and we're not going to be so. The government is in charge of this region, which is now part of the territory of the Lebanese state. The government decides who to send (there): security forces or other security systems. And, it decides if it is going to reinforce security gendarmeries. We absolutely do not substitute the government's regional security responsibility. …
“Sixth: To all Lebanese, I say: You need to realize that this victory belongs to all Lebanese, for it is not merely the victory of a party, movement, or current. It's not about the victory of a sect and the defeat of another. Faulty and ignorant is he who believes or says so. This is Lebanon's victory; this Resistance has been a force for the nation, and so it will remain. Whenever this resistance was victorious, it would be humble. Whenever it was honored by offering martyrs, it would be humble, too.
“I tell you: You're going to find Hezbollah and the Islamic Resistance, in particular, more modest than any time ever, for this victory makes us feel the greatness, power, mightiness, and ability of our God. How weak we, humans, are! If we depend on ourselves, we'll be defeated forever, so we must depend on Allah the Supreme and Almighty. I promise you that no one will exploit this victory to harm the people of this dear Ummah.
“Seventh: Today, Ehud Barak is asking Lebanon to consider "Israel's" withdrawal as a message of peace. This is deception because he had no choice but to leave. Besides, he is asking us to consider this withdrawal as representing peace after "Israel'" killed tens of thousands of civilians and at least 1276 Hezbollah martyrs! If we add to them thousands of our brothers, martyred fighters of the Lebanese national and Islamic forces, then what will the result be? Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in Lebanon! Our country, in addition to our economy, have been destroyed.
“Therefore, this enemy, which has been defeated in Lebanon, is going to have no choices. As for the "Israeli" threats, they do not scare us. The "Israelis" along the borderline are scared. … He recognizes that the time when his tanks would desecrate our land is gone, and that the time when his boats would violate our regional waters is history!
“Eighth: Oh, you Lebanese people, there are grand dues ahead of you: maintaining liberation, bringing the captives back, and establishing more governmental institutions. When such harmony between the resistance and the government exists and when the nation is united, we can face all dues and build a country named Lebanon for ourselves and our coming generations.
“The power of the new Lebanon lies in its strength, blood, steadfastness, mightiness, and resistance against all political "storms" and "hurricanes." The new Lebanon is a nation of true communion, for from now on, no Muslim or Christian shall allow the Zionists to manipulate our generations, our youth, or us. The new Lebanon is a nightmare to the invaders, and a country of mercy among the fellow citizens of different sects and communities.
“Ninth: We offer this victory to our oppressed people in Palestine, and to the Arabs and the Ummah. From liberated Bint Jbeil, I address the oppressed, tortured, and afflicted Palestinian people:
“Our people in Palestine, you have the chance to decide on your own destiny, and you can get your land back. O people of Palestine, your way to Palestine and to liberty is through serious resistance and a real insurrection, not through "The Oslo Accord" or the unfair negotiations held in Stockholm. You should choose insurrection and resistance and never let go of your rights. Do what the Lebanese do: They refuse to keep even a small part of their land occupied.
“Hence, we offer this sophisticated Lebanese model to our people in Palestine. To free your land, you don't need tanks, strategic balance, rockets, and cannons; you need to follow the way of self-sacrificing martyrs who shook and horrified the coercive Zionist entity. You, the oppressed, unarmed, and restricted Palestinians, can force the Zionist invaders to return to the places where they came from. … And, I tell the Muslim and Arab worlds: Shame, defeat, humiliation, and disgrace are history now.”
Nasrallah speech on Aug. 14, 2006 after the 34-day war with Israel
“On this great and revered day on which our honorable and chaste people return to their villages, towns, houses and neighborhoods, I address you. I would like to emphasize some issues and matters… we stand before a strategic and historical victory for Lebanon: all of Lebanon, for the resistance, and for the whole country.”
“There is a large group of people who, like all other Lebanese, believe in the Resistance, who hold the weapons of the Resistance, who are proud of the Resistance, and who offer great sacrifices. There are approximately one million displaced people whose houses have been destroyed: some 15,000 residential units were destroyed, as I have said. Most of the civilian martyrs were from the south, al Biqa, and the southern suburb [of Beirut].”
“On the other hand, the strange thing is that the talk was about the condition of the weapons and the Resistance in the area south of the Litani River. Nobody now, even the enemy or the ‘international community', is asking Lebanon to disarm the [Islamic] Resistance quickly. This issue was regarded as part of the long-term and lasting solution… Our dear brothers, this matter cannot be settled hastily in this way... We know that among the most important goals of the U.S.-Israeli war, which was launched recently on Lebanon, is disarming us, but they have failed.”
“Lebanon is still being threatened and might be attacked any time. Who will defend this country? Who will teach the enemy a lesson? Who will make the enemy pay a heavy price? Today we can say proudly that if any Israeli government decides to launch war in the future, it will take into consideration that war with Lebanon will not be a picnic. War with Lebanon will be very costly in human, material and economic terms, as well as in terms of dignity and image.”
“What alternatives do you have? Is it the Lebanese Army? We support the deployment of the army in the area south of the river and we have said this before. But can the Lebanese Army, with its current conditions and capabilities, fight a war if a war is imposed on Lebanon? Is it UNIFIL? Would UNIFIL, even if supported by 10,000 or 20,000 or 50,000 soldiers, stand firm to defend and protect Lebanon if Israel attacks Lebanon? It is out of the question.
“We agree to the spreading of the state's sovereignty. At any rate, we are part of the state. Are we outside the state? We are members of the government and the Chamber of Deputies. We are a significant part of this country. We believe in the state, but which state? The strong, capable, fair, defiant and reassuring state that would make every Lebanese feel that it represents him.”
“There were some people who would say that withdrawing the resistance weapons is a basic condition for building the strong and capable state. I say the opposite… So let us now return this discussion to its natural circles and to its real point. I say that through serious discussion and through the wise men we have, and our feeling of responsibility and away from the media and public discussions and one-upmanship, I am certain that we can arrive at suitable solutions that can achieve all the country's interests.”
Nasrallah speech on Jan. 5, 2020 memorializing Iran's Gen. Qassem Soleimani (who was killed in a U.S. drone strike)
“All of us in our region and in our nation should seek just retribution. What is just retribution? I'd like to act with transparency. We've been through this before, and I don't want to go into details. Someone may suggest – in meetings, over social networks, in Iran, in the press, in the media – that just retribution should be a figure of the same caliber as Qassem Soleimani. Who? The American Chief-of-Staff? The Secretary of Defense? The commander of CENTCOM? There is no figure of the same caliber as Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al Muhandis. Qassem Soleimani's shoe is worth the heads of Trump and all the American leaders.”
“There is no one on par with Qassem Soleimani or Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, whom we can execute and avenge their blood. In all honesty and transparency, the just retribution is as follows: The American military presence in our region. When the coffins of the American soldiers and officers – people who came here in vertical position and returned in horizontal position – start arriving in the United States, Trump and his administration will understand that they have lost the region and will lose the elections as well.”
Nasrallah statement on Oct. 7, 2023 following the Hamas attack on Israel
“Hezbollah congratulates the resisting Palestinian people and the heroic fighters of the Palestinian factions, especially our dear brothers in the al Qassam Brigades and the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, for the wide-ranging and divinely supported heroic operation, promising complete victory. “This triumphant operation is a decisive response to the ongoing crimes of the occupation and continuous violations against sanctities, honors, and dignities. It is a renewed confirmation that the will of the Palestinian people and the rifle of the resistance is the only choice in confronting aggression and occupation. It sends a message to the Arab and Islamic world, and the international community as a whole, especially those seeking normalization with this enemy, that the Palestinian cause is an everlasting one, alive until victory and liberation.
“We call on the peoples of our Arab and Islamic nation, and the free people around the world, to declare their support and backing for the Palestinian people and the Resistance movements, affirming their unity in blood, word, and action. The leadership of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon is closely following the significant developments on the Palestinian scene, monitoring the field conditions with utmost interest. They are in direct contact with the leadership of the Palestinian Resistance both domestically and abroad, constantly evaluating the events and the progress of operations.
“Thus, we call on the government of the Zionist enemy to comprehend the important lessons established by the Palestinian Resistance in the battlefield and arenas of confrontation.”
Hezbollah statement on Oct. 11, 2023
“We consider the United States a full partner in the Zionist aggression and hold it fully responsible for the killing, criminality, siege, destruction of homes, and horrific massacres against defenseless civilians, including children, women, and the elderly.”
“We call on the masses of our Arab and Islamic nation, which knows the ugly truth of America and its aggression against the peoples of our nation in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, to condemn the American intervention and its international and regional partners and to expose this intervention at all political, popular, media, and legal levels and in various regional and international forums and gatherings.”