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Biography - Hassan Nasrallah

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Biography of Hassan Nasrallah

Hassan Nasrallah, current leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah was born  August 31, 1960 in the Bourj Hammoud neighborhood of East Beirut. His father, Abdul Karim, was a vegetable vendor from Bassouriyeh (Al Bazuriyah), a small village near Tyre in South Lebanon. His family was not particularly religious, Nasrallah was interested in religious studies. He attended Al Najah school and later a public school in Sin el-Feel, Beirut.

In 1975, the disorders of the Lebanese civil war caused the family to move to Bassouriyeh, where Hassan Nasrallah finished his secondary education in the public school of Sour. Here he joined the Shi'a Amal movement led by Musa Sadr.

Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General of the Lebanese Hezbollah - MidEastWeb


At this time, Lebanon was filled with exiled followers of the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini, who had created a revolutionary culture and were busy making converts to their cause. The following year, after finishing his secondary education, Nasrallah traveled there to begin his studies. Like many others, Nasrallah was induced to complete his studies in Najaf, in Iraq.  Nasrallah had attracted the attention of Muhammad al-Gharawi, the Imam of the local mosque. Gharawi wrote a letter of recommendation  to Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, one of the leading clerics in the Shiite seminary (hawza) of Najaf. There, Nasrallah fell under the influence of Abbas al-Musawi, a Lebanese Imam from the Beqaa Valley. Musawi was a member of Sheikh Fadlalah's breakaway Dawa party, which was the ideological precursor of the Hezbollah.Nasrallah and Musawi returned to Lebanon in 1978 after Iraqi authorities expelled the Lebanese Shi'ites studying there.  However, Nasrallah remained in the Amal movement for a while. Nasrallah was selected as Amal's political delegate in Beqaa, and became a member of the central political office. After the Israeli invasion in 1982, Nasrallah joined Hezbollah to dedicate himself to the resistance of the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon and the Beqaa Valley. When the Israeli's left, Lebanon plunged into civil war. Hezbollah fought Amal for leadership of the Shi'ites,

In 1987, Hezbollah forces under Nasrallah's scored victories over the Amal militia in the southwestern suburbs of Beirut. After Syria occupied Lebanon and stopped the war, Nasrallah traveled to Iran and resumed his theological studies at the seminary of Qom. This got him away from the watchful eyes of the Syrians, amd also stemmed from his recognition that proper Iranian religious credentials were as important as military prowess in assuming a greater leadership role within Hezbollah. In 1989,  fighting between Hezbollah and Amal began anew. Nasrallah  returned to Lebanon, leading Hezbollah forces  successfully against Amal in the Iqlim al-Toufah region of south Lebanon. He was lightly wounded in battle, adding to his prestige. 1989, Nasrallah headed the Hezbollah Central Military Command and was a member of its politburo.

Hezbollah's leadership was deeply fractured. A more moderate faction, led by Musawi advocated acceptance of the Taif Accords abandoning Hezbollah's declared goal of establishing an Islamic theocracy and acceptance of Syrian hegemony in Lebanon. Musawi's faction, backed by Fadlallah, also favored releasingf Western hostages held by Hezbollah and focusing on combating Israel. A second faction, headed by Nasrallah and Sayyid Ibrahim al-Amin, advocated rejection of the Taif Accord and unrelenting hostility toward the United States.

The moderate faction was supported by Iranian President Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who wanted to project a more moderate image of Iran and strengthen relations with Syria after the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. The moderate faction emerged victorious at a September 1989 meeting of Hezbollah leaders in Tehran. Nasrallah was recalled to Iran to represent Hezbollah there, in what appeared to be an effort to sideline him.

In October 1990, Syrian forces invaded East Beirut, and then went on to disarm all the Lebanese militias except Hezbollah. Hezbollah was allowed to expand its military presence in south Lebanon, where Israel maintained a security zone, and to fight Israeli occupation,  provided that Damascus cleared all major decisions about military operations. In 1991, Iran agreed to replace Hezbollah Secretary-General Sobhi Tufaili with Musawi, who was closer to Damascus, but got Syrian approval for the return of Nasrallah, who began professing political views consistent with the interests of Syria.

In February 1992, Musawi was ambushed and killed by Israel in a  helicopter assault.  In retribution for the killing of Musawi apparently, Iranian intelligence blew up the Jewish center in Buenos Aires.  Though Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem was next in the line of succession, Nasrallah was appointed to replace Musawi at the insistence of Ayatollah Khamenei.

Nasrallah got much broader support from Iran than did his predecessors, and was able to score increasing successes both against Israel and domestically in Lebanon. The frequency and effectiveness of attacks on Israeli soldiers increased, and Hezbollah's Al Manara kept repeating that attacks on Israel would cease if Israel stopped the occupation of Lebanon. In 2000, Ehud Barak made the decision to withdraw from the security zone, relying on the UN and the international community to provide security against Hezbollah attacks. Nasrallah and the Hezbollah was considered to have won a great victory over Israel, proving that the "way of armed resistance" is effective against the "Zionist enemy." Despite its earlier promises, Hezbollah nonetheless continued the war against Israel, harassing Israel across the border on the excuse that Shebaa farms in the occupied Golan Heights is part of Lebanon, though the UN had ruled the area is part of Syria.

In 2004, Narallah engineered the kidnapping of an Israeli drug dealer with former military ties, Elhanan Tenenbaum, and the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli soldiers. In return for ransoming Tennenbaum and the bodies, he demanded, and got, hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners. Once again, Hezbollah's prestige rose as the only organization that seemed able to combat Israel successfully.

When the United Nations tried to curtail Syrian influence in Lebanon, following Syrian manipulation of the constitution in order to get another term for President Emile Lahoud, Hezbollah positioned itself as a supporter of Syria, and in the crisis and elections that followed the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, Hezbollah managed to assert its influence and gain an apparent stranglehold on Lebanese political life. Despite the provisions of the Taif accords, and UN Resolutions 1559 and 1680, neither the Lebanese government nor the international community made any effort to disarm the Hezbollah. During the six years following Israeli withdrawal, Syria and Iran supplied Hezbollah with about 12,000 rockets of various ranges, and a formidable area of anti-tank weapons and other gear.

On July 12, 2006, Hezbollah crossed the border into Israel and attacked an Israeli patrol. They kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, and killed three, opening fire with mortars and Katyusha rockets on Israeli communities. The attack may have been timed to coincide with the G-8 meeting, which was scheduled to discuss action against Iran because of its nuclear development program. Israel began a war with the declared aims of returning the soldiers and destroying Hezbollah, attempting also to kill Nasrallah. Hezbollah retaliated with an unending barrage of rockets aimed at civilian targets in Israel, including hospitals.  Nasrallah and the Hezbollah were surprised by the extent of the Israeli action. By the time a cease fire was declared August 14, Israel had destroyed about 15,000 homes in Lebanon, killing about a thousand people, of which an unknown number were Hezbollah members. However, Nasrallah was still alive and the Hezbollah had not been destroyed. Nasrallah could claim another victory for Hezbollah, but Lebanese PM Fuad Seniora vowed that this scenario must not repeat itself. Pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1701, Lebanese army forces began to deploy in southern Lebanon, but did not disarm Hezbollah.

Nasrallah's speeches and approach reflect a refinement and application of the Hezbollah line, first enunciated in a letter published in 1985. This presents Hezbollah as a Lebanese patriotic group that fights against Zionism and foreign forces, and portrays their goal of an Islamic republic as the best solution for Lebanon. Nasrallah is able to position himself as an eclectic Lebanese patriot while in fact representing Islamist, Syrian and Iranian interests.

Hassan Nasrallah is married to Fatima Yassin and they have had five children: Muhammad Hadi , Muhammad Jawad, Zeinab, Muhammad Ali and Muhammad Mahdi.  In September 1997, his oldest son Muhammad Hadi,was killed by Israeli forces in Jabal al-Rafei in southern Lebanon. Until the summer of 2006, they lived in the Dahyeh section of South Beirut, which was bombed out by Israel during the war in the summer of 2006.

Nasrallah believes Islam can solve  the problems of any society. He once said, “With respect to us, briefly, Islam is not a simple religion including only praises and prayers, rather it is a divine message that was designed for humanity, and it can answer any question man might ask concerning his general and private life. Islam is a religion designed for a society that can revolt and build a state.”

Nasrallah also told an interviewer that he reads many books, particularly the memoirs of political figures, including Ariel Sharon's autobiography, “Memoirs of Sharon” and Benjamin Netanyahu's A Place Under the Sun, with the intention of getting to know his enemies. Hezbollah aims  to destroy the "Zionist entity."

Unlike many anti-Zionists, who profess to have no quarrel with Jews, Nasrallah himself is frankly racist. At a graduation ceremony in 2002, he told the audience that several US presidents are said to have been affiliated with the Christian Zionists, and their aim was to return the Jews to Israel. However, stated Nasrallah,  "if they (Jews) all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide."

Ami Isseroff

See also Hezbollah

Other biographies:

Biography - Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen)
Biography - Yasser Arafat
Biography - Marwan Barghouti
Biography - Hassan Nassrallah
Biography - Shimon Peres
Biography - Ahmed Qurei (Abu-Ala)
Biography - Yitzhak Rabin
Biography - Ariel Sharon

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