Left: Young Hezbollah members on parade
(Toledo, OH) I have been intrigued in an academic sense as I study the language used by the US media to describe the participants in the current Israel-Gaza-Lebanon crisis that threatens to descend into a wider regional (world?) war.
Let me first state a caveat to newcomers who might assume I am an adgerent of one particular philosophy or another: my overriding political philosophy begins with the dignity of human existence, and how human societies might best work to produce peaceful coexistence with each other in a world of scarcity.
Bill O'Reilly on FOX News last night referred to Hezbollah as "terrorists," which is in keeping with official US policy. The State Department names Hezbollah as an active terrorist group on its Report on Foreign Terrorist Organizations, thus O'Reilly at least can point to an authoritative (although biased) source for his use of the term.
But what, exactly, is a terrorist? If one defines terrorism in the manner of the Connecticut Law Review - "a strategy of using violence, or threat of violence to generate fear, cause disruption, and ultimately, to bring about compliance with specific political, religious, ideological, or personal demands" - we would then have to categorize the Israelis, Hamas, AND Hezbollah of being "terrorists," as all are engaging in "terrorist" acts at the moment. People also make the argument that, by extension, the United States is a "terrorist" state with its actions in Iraq.
If we assume that terrorists are small groups of violent zealots who use extralegal means beyond the existing political system to bring about change, then then this definition does not adequately describe Hamas and Hezbollah, both of whom also participate in the political process.
When a group such as Hamas wins a popular election, while maintaining a military component, it seems to me that it is more than a mere "terrorist" group. True, factions within the group may employ violent tactics to bring about their goals, but groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah have evolved into a different category of organization.
To use a term such as "national resistance force" is also misleading, because wings of both Hezbollah and Hamas operate hospitals, news services, and educational facilities. They provide needed social services that the existing governmental structures cannot deliver.
I think that this rhetorical issue goes beyond the "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" argument, as both Hamas and Hezbollah have evolved into something...else. Not quite states, too violent to be "legitimate" political forces (setting aside the obvious analogy with the American Revolution), but yet Hamas and Hezbollah do not neatly fit into the category of "terrorist" organizations.
What would YOU call Hezbollah and Hamas?