Lebanon’s militant group Hezbollah released its first manifesto in almost 25 years this month, renewing its resolute position against the Jewish State. The organization’s leader Hassan Nasrallah told a captivated audience in south Beirut via satellite link from a hiding place that their resistance against Israel remained unchanged.
What was different from early Hezbollah rhetoric, however, was the distinction made between Zionists and Jews, with Nasrallah plainly saying that their problem with Israel was “not because they are Jewish,”– lines which did not appear in the original 1985 mission statement, when their slogan was the “Islamic Revolution in Lebanon.”
Yet it seems what Hezbollah says and what they do are two very different things. They say their war is not against Jews but on the “Zionist entity,” yet just a few weeks earlier they broadcasted a diatribe against the teenage Holocaust victim Anne Frank on their local TV station Al-Manar, renouncing her diary as Zionist propaganda.
Their subsequent campaign to ban the book from the Lebanese school syllabus sent the 15-year-old, who wrote on the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust in Germany, back into hiding.
Hezbollah said copies of the memoir had been distributed illegally in Beirut and demanded it be recalled during a report for Al-Manar. Some private English-language schools in the capital then removed a textbook containing excerpts of “The Diary of Anne Frank” after pressure from the Shiite organization.
“The book focuses on the persecution of Jews during the war, but even more dangerous is the theatrical and dramatic method employed to narrate the diaries in an emotional way,” Hezbollah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan said in the November Al-Manar broadcast.
“These respected, established schools are teaching the so-called tragedy this girl lived, and yet they are ashamed to teach the tragedy of the Lebanese people, the tragedy of the people of the south under the hands of Zionist occupation,” he went on.
Hassan, the agriculture minister in the new Lebanese unity government and one of two ministers representing Hezbollah in the new 30-member cabinet, then asked how long Lebanon would remain an “open arena for this Zionism.”
Attorney Naim Kalaani, a member of the Committee for the Boycott of Zionist Goods, was quick to support the claim that any use of the book in a school constituted a violation of Lebanon’s penal code and was “tantamount to a step toward normalization” in ties with Israel.
The famous book was recently translated into Arabic and Farsi by the Paris-based Aladdin Project, which aims to spread awareness of the Holocaust among Muslims and counter racism and intolerance, and millions have downloaded it from over 50 countries, including Lebanon.
Contrary to Kalaani’s claims, the diary is not banned in Lebanon under law and is in fact available from most high street book stores in the country.
Lebanese journalist and criminologist Omar Nashabe agrees that such arguments from Hezbollah are groundless. “The law talks about the state of Israel – the Israeli flag, Israeli institutions, the Israeli entity, as a nation,” “besides Anne Frank is not Israeli,” he added. “Anne Frank is part of world literature.”
The group has always said in no uncertain terms that they wish to eliminate the state of Israel, but some far from choice quotes over the years have often blurred the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
However, putting aside any previous anti-Semitic or incendiary remarks made about Jews by the militant group, and taking them on their most recent mission statement, it seems this latest decision is proof that they did not wish to distinguish, but rather indiscriminately silence an entire race.
To ban a diary recounting the suffering of a young girl during the Holocaust would be a selective editing of history- a history that future Lebanese generations should be allowed to know about.
If Hezbollah wants a new manifesto for a new age –as they themselves proffer- they must be prepared to stand by every word of December’s speech, and be held accountable if they don’t.