Hizbullah (also known as Party of God) was established in 1982 at the initiative of a group of Shiʿite clerics and former AMAL movement supporters, some of whom were adherents of Shaykh Husayn Fadlallah. By 1987 the party was the second most important Shiʿite organization in Lebanon, after AMAL. It was a reaction to the perceived moderation of the AMAL movement under the leadership of Nabi Berri, and partly a reaction to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. It has consistently followed the political and theological lines of the government of Iran and called
(with various degrees of explicitness) for the creation of an Islamic republic in Lebanon. In pursuit of this goal, Hizbullah has coordinated its activities closely with the government of Iran and its representatives in the region. For years the party rejected any compromise with the Christians of Lebanon, Israel, and the United States. This hard-line approach appealed to many Shiʿa, who abandoned the AMAL movement to join the Party of God. Those who left AMAL tended to be young, radical, and poor.
Hizbullah is headed by the Consultative Council (Majles al-Shura), which consists of the highest-ranking party officials, some of whom are clerics. Its members' responsibilities include financial, military, judicial, social, and political affairs. The party's operations were geographically organized, with branches in the Biqa Valley, the South, and the southern suburbs of Beirut. In the late 1980s the Politburo was created to handle day-to-day operations.
Hizbullah gained international attention in 1983 when press reports linked it to attacks against U.S., French, and Israeli targets in Lebanon, and to the abduction of Western hostages in Lebanon. The party continues to deny responsibility for some of those acts. Syria let Hizbullah keep its arms because it considered the party to be pursuing a legitimate struggle against Israel's occupation of South Lebanon. The party's armed opposition to Israel's presence resulted in significant confrontations, and Israel's forces killed the party's leader, Abbas al-Musawi, in 1992. In the 1992 election, Hizbullah won eight seats in the parliament; it now participates in the legitimate political arena after years of underground existence. The party has been trying to change its image since 1992 and has entered into dialogue with many of its former enemies, both leftists and Christians. It is now headed by Shaykh Hasan Nasrallah, who has become one of the most popular leaders in Lebanon and in the larger Arab world. The party's standing was dramatically boosted after the withdrawal of Israeli troops from most of South Lebanon in 2000, for the party had led the resistance movement against the Israeli occupation. The party has been identified as "the A-team of terrorism" by the deputy secretary of state in the administration of U.S. president George W. Bush. The party insists that although it supports armed struggle against Israeli occupation, it opposes the terrorism of Osama bin Ladin.
See also amal; berri, nabi; bin ladin, osama; biqa valley; bush, george w.; fadlallah, husayn; majles al-shura; nasrallah, hasan.