NEW YORK (JTA) — Sheik Hassan Nasrallah is not likely to take a seat at the U.N. Security Council’s horseshoe table, but the Hezbollah terrorist organization he has led since 1992 now has a toehold inside the world body’s most prestigious room.
On New Year’s Day, Lebanon began a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. When Lebanon’s ambassador speaks, he represents his nation’s coalition government, which includes Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy.
Founded in 1982 with the direct help of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah first entered the Lebanese Parliament in 2005 after winning 14 seats. In elections last June, Hezbollah won 13 of the legislature’s 128 seats. Hezbollah holds two Cabinet seats, and its Shia ally, Amal, controls the Foreign Ministry.
Hezbollah continues to rely heavily on financial and military support from the Islamist regime in Tehran. They share a dangerous worldview that seeks Israel’s elimination, an innate hatred of the United States, and a desire to use terror and violence to realize their goals.
Entering democratic politics, competing in elections and serving in the government has not transformed Hezbollah at all. It is exactly the same Hezbollah that has been responsible for some of the deadliest terrorist attacks, including the 1982 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1994 destruction of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Hezbollah remains the only group in Lebanon still refusing to disarm, making it impossible for the Lebanese army to take full control of southern Lebanon, the stronghold of Hezbollah, as well as West Beirut, home to the group’s leadership and its powerful satellite television station, Al Manar. Its incendiary programming led the United States, France, Germany and other countries to ban satellite operators from broadcasting the station.
Security Council resolution 1701, adopted in the wake of the 2006 Hezbollah war with Israel, called on the group to turn in its weapons. Hezbollah, of course, did not voluntarily disarm. Moreover, U.N. peacekeeping forces dispatched to Lebanon have failed to prevent arms going to Hezbollah from Iran and Syria. It has much more in quantity and sophistication than in 2006, when it fired some 4,000 rockets into Israel, hitting Haifa and other northern communities. Hezbollah now boasts that it can hit Tel Aviv.
In further contravention of Lebanon’s interests and the U.N. Security Council, Hezbollah continues to seek more arms. Just two months ago the Israeli navy captured a ship carrying some 300 tons of Iranian weaponry for delivery to Hezbollah. The cargo was significantly larger than the weaponry aboard the Karine-A, another Iranian-stocked vessel seized by Israel in 2002 before it could reach Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority in Gaza. Apropos, the export of Iranian weapons is another violation of U.N. resolutions.
So the reward to a recalcitrant nation, Lebanon, which counts as a member of its government a major international terror organization that ignores the U.N. Security Council, is to place it on the premier body charged with assuring peace and security worldwide.
Of course, one will point out that the United Nations is not at fault but is a victim of its own rules. Non-permanent members of the Security Council are elected by the regional groups of which they are members. Lebanon, and Hezbollah, can thank member states in the Asia group, which includes the Arab world.
Lebanon served on the U.N. Security Council once before, in 1953-54. But that was a different time, when Lebanon was widely considered the Switzerland of the Middle East, long before a fractious civil war further weakened it, allowing Yasser Arafat’s Fatah to control southern Lebanon until 1982, when the PLO leadership was expelled to Tunis. The vacuum then was filled by Hezbollah. Iran’s strategic investment in Hezbollah now guarantees that Lebanon will not support any Security Council measure calling for further sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program.
Ironically, Israel, threatened by Hezbollah and its patron Iran, has never occupied a non-permanent Security Council seat. Long excluded from its natural regional bloc, Israel finally was accepted several years ago into the Western European and Others Group, making it at long last theoretically eligible to run for a seat. But given U.N. realities, Israel won’t sit on the key body anytime soon.
Hezbollah has set itself up as a model for others — think Hamas in the Palestinian Parliament — that no transformation from terror organization to a legitimate unarmed political organization is necessary. That does not bode well for those Lebanese people, or even the Palestinians, who truly aspire to live in peace.
In sum, it is dispiriting to watch the political ascendancy of bona fide terrorist organizations in their respective countries. Even more so in the United Nations, which probably has not seen such a display since Arafat, holster on his hip, addressed the General Assembly 36 years ago.
(Kenneth Bandler is the director of communications for the American Jewish Committee.)