Hezbollah Wins Support Through Charitable Work Charity News Online
In bombed-out southern villages and refugee-filled schools across the country, Hezbollah supporters go door to door, checking if people have enough food and medicine. That is the second prong of the militant Shiite group's strength in Lebanon, where it is putting up stiff resistance to thousands of Israeli troops in the south and has fired, according to Israel, more than 3,500 rockets into the north of the country since the war began a month ago, The Associated Press reports.
In the heat of the battle, Hezbollah's deep political and social roots in Lebanon are overshadowed by its military power, manifested in cadres of guerrilla fighters, their rockets, anti-tank missiles and Kalashnikov rifles. Away from the war front, Hezbollah runs a sophisticated network of schools, clinics and social services in the Shiite Muslim community. It has 14 members in the 128-member Parliament, two Cabinet ministers, a magazine, and a radio and TV station.
"Hezbollah is a grass-roots movement," says Amal Saad Ghorayeb, a political science professor at the Lebanese American University and expert in Hezbollah affairs. "They provide cradle to grave benefits, they take care of all your social, medical and welfare needs. It is precisely those social services that embed the Hezbollah movement in the (Shiite) community," she said.
While Hezbollah's popularity among Lebanon's 1.2 million Shiites stems mainly from its struggle against Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon, the group also cultivated much respect for its efficient network of services in the south, the eastern Bekaa Valley and Dahiyah - Hezbollah's stronghold in Beirut's southern suburbs. Even now, despite crippling Israeli airstrikes that have destroyed most of Hezbollah offices across the country, the guerrilla group is assisting in relief efforts.
Hezbollah's network of social charity organizations include "Imdad," Arabic for supply, which provides educational and medical services for the poor and physically disabled. "Mu'asasat al-Shahid," or Institution of the Martyr, takes care of the welfare of the families of Hezbollah guerrillas who are killed in the battle against Israel. Another organization, Jihad al-Bina, a name best translated as "construction for the sake of the holy struggle," rebuilds homes damaged in Israeli attacks and provides water and garbage collecting services to residents of southern and eastern Lebanon. The group also has five hospitals, 14 clinics and 12 schools across the country, a Hezbollah official said. He said some of those organizations, such as al-Shahid institution, have headquarters in Iran, which provides backing, weapons and funds to Hezbollah. Others rely on donations and alms from supporters.
Israeli air strikes have destroyed Hezbollah charity offices and schools in the market town of Nabatiyeh, the southern port city of Tyre and Dahiyah. Israeli commandos targeted the Iranian-funded, Hezbollah-run Dar al-Hikma Hospital in eastern Lebanon's town of Baalbek on Aug. 2. A Hezbollah-affiliated charity in the town has also been destroyed.
In a recent interview with The Associated Press in Jerusalem, Israeli Army spokesman Capt. Jacob Dallal said Hezbollah institutions, not just military infrastructure, should be crippled. "In the war on terror in general, it's not just about hitting an army base, which they don't have, or a bunker. It is also about undermining their ability to operate ... . That ranges from incitement on television and radio, financial institutions and, of course, other grass-roots institutions that breed more followers, more terrorists, training bases, obviously, schools," he said.
Hezbollah supporters say their loyalty to the party is unflinching. "Hezbollah is the people and the people are Hezbollah," said Hussein Ayoub, a 56-year-old ex-fighter who said the group paid for his children's tuition and a heart surgery he had several years ago. "I am ready to sacrifice with my life for the party," said Ayoub who has been living in a Beirut school with his family since Israeli air strikes destroyed his house in Dahiyah.Lebanon
, Middle East