What is Hezbollah?

Fellows Fall 2004

By Julie Goodman

June 02, 2009

Hezbollah, Lebanon's militant Shiite group, officially came into existence in the early 1980s, when Beirut was engulfed in civil war.

Its aim was to fight the invasion of Israel, which had begun an 18-year occupation in 1982 of Lebanon's southern border.

Israel, which condemns Hezbollah as a terrorist group, remained in the country to create a buffer against guerrilla attacks on northern Israel.

Hezbollah eventually helped push Israel out of the country, winning a heroic status in Lebanon.

Since then, the group has made strides in municipal elections, and has managed to claim nine seats and control another three in parliament.

It has won much acclaim in the Arab world for being the only Arab fighting force to have defeated Israel, and continues today to wage a less intense battle against its neighbor.

At the same time, it is the target of the U.S. government, which calls it one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in operation.

Hezbollah was inspired by the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and by the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Its followers are mostly Shiite Muslims, but the party, backed by both Iran and Syria, also draws some support from Christians and secular Muslims.