Hezbollah’s Palestinian problem ... and vice versa

Franklin Lamb from Beirut with another of his informative pieces on the Middle East. It initially featured on Counterpunch.

Many Lebanese and Syrian supporters of the region's Resistance culture, increasingly led by Hezbollah, are chastising, for a number of reasons, their former Islamist ally Hamas. Pillorying them with accusations that the latter are ingrates who are creating a host of problems for Hezbollah and its support for the Syrian regime, during the continuing crisis. Unnecessary problems, it is frequently asserted, that inure to the benefit of their mutual arch enemies, the Zionist colonizers of Palestine and their American and Arab enablers.

An outsider living near the center of the Hezbollah security zone in Dahiyeh, South Beirut, as does this observer, hears from friends and neighbors both sides of this rancorous domestic argument. Having respect for, and being a supporter of both, one feels a bit awkward-- rather like a good friend of a married couple, who are engaged in an increasingly acrimonious marital spat.

While sympathetic to each friend's seemingly legitimate complaints with the other, one does not want to take sides for, among other reasons, the risk of appearing disloyal to mutual friends and alienating perhaps both while being labeled a weak, “friend betrayer.”

Yet one cannot disagree with the Palestinian community in both Syria and Lebanon who repeatedly assert that they want to stay neutral in the Syrian crisis which appears unlikely to end anytime soon. Palestinian refugees, in Palestine as well as in Syria and Lebanon, want to stay out of internecine conflicts and focus on trying to survive and confronting their real enemies, those who stole and are still living on their land.

Some supporters of Hezbollah and the Palestine Resistance seek to avoid exhibiting dirty laundry to public view, but given the voracious craving of media outlets linked to various local parties as well as foreign sponsors, there is much pressure and opportunity to condemn each side for, some real but many illusory, Hezbollah-Palestinian cross-border conflicts. This mutually destructive phenomenon appears to be spreading.

Hezbollah’s local Palestinian problem started to form in the spring of 2011 as the Syrian crisis quickly gained momentum. Some Palestinians joined the rebels and nearly 28 months into the maelstrom, continue fighting the Assad government. The numbers appear to this observer to be a tiny fraction of the unemployed, discouraged Palestinian youth. Some have succumbed to the allure of $200 per month, free cigarettes and an AK-47, and have joined one or the other of literally hundreds of jihadist militias operating in Syria, some currently scoping out Lebanon.

Some point out that those Palestinian refugees in Syria should not be seen as betraying those who have helped them most. The undeniable fact is that Palestinian refugees in Syria have for more than six decades been granted by the government rights to education, medical care, housing, employment, and in many instances, preferential treatment. In addition, Syria has granted them identity and travel documents, to an extent that no other Arab League country has. This despite decades of Arab potentates blathering interminably about supporting the "bloodstream and sacred cause of Palestine.”

So there is festering resentment when certain media blare that Palestinian groups such as Hamas are with the rebels and are insisting that Hezbollah fighters not enter Syria under any pretext. Hamas stands accused of closing their Damascus offices, accepting a $400 million grant from Syria’s nemesis Qatar and of joining the US-Israel axis by harming their own people as well as undermining the resistance to the Zionist regime in the process. Certain other Palestinians in camps such as Yarmouk in Syria and Shatila in Lebanon tacitly accuse Hamas of abandoning the Palestinian cause and misguidedly sparking sectarian strife with Hezbollah. Others argue just the opposite and blame Hezbollah.

Some Palestinians are also said to be carrying guns for the Saida-based, Lebanese Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir, the imam of Saida's Bilal bin Rabah Mosque, while supporting his anti-Hezbollah-Assad regime  which is trying to unite Sunnis who make up roughly 85% of the world’s Muslim population, to eliminate all Shia Muslims.

Syrian government forces claim that Hamas has even trained Syrian rebels in the manufacture and use of home-made rockets. Some Hezbollah fighters complain that they taught Hamas many of their battlefield skills which they turned around and used against Hezbollah forces in al-Qusayr and are preparing to do the same, with larger numbers, in the coming battle for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.

Many supporters of Hezbollah believe Hamas and some other Palestinian factions were being needlessly provocative when a few officials issued an unusual admonishment of Hezbollah on June 13, demanding it direct its firepower at Israel and withdraw from involvement in the Syrian conflict. 'We demand of Hezbollah to withdraw its forces from Syria and call on it to leave its weapons directed only at the Zionist enemy,' read a statement allegedly from Hamas, posted on the Facebook page of its deputy political leader Moussa Abu Marzouq.

Despite its withdrawal from Syria in early 2012, Hamas, as an Islamic organization, has been wary of publicly criticizing Hezbollah for its military support of the Assad regime. On June 13, the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Araby reported that a schism existed within Hamas regarding its attitude toward Hezbollah. Hamas’s military wing, the Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, reportedly endorsed the alliance with the Syria-Hezbollah axis, while its political leadership opposed it. Some have questioned the accuracy of this report.

Other more petty accusations have been made by some Hezbollah supporters, for example that some Palestinian camp residents in Ein el  Helwe camp near Saida and Jalil camp near Baalbek, were encouraged by Hamas to burn refugee aid packages provided by Hezbollah for Syrians and Palestinians forced to flee Syria. The reasons cited by the Palestinians for this odd act were that they felt they could not, given moral Islamic values, accept “blood” gifts, even of much needed food.

This observer met with some Palestinian leaders from different factions and is satisfied by their explanations that this was not the case. Hezbollah has given emergency aid to all the Palestinian camps. What happened with the symbolic burning of a few parcels was entirely politically motivated and organized by certain Salafists in Saida and a few troublemakers from the pro-Saudi/US factions, including rump elements from the pro-western March 14 alliance. That issue has now been resolved by Palestinian popular committees and the Hezbollah donors. Hopefully it will not recur.

Some Hezbollah partisans complain that certain Palestinian factions have circulated rumors in the media accusing Hezbollah of wrongdoing and thereby are in effect collaborating with the US and Israel to divide and weaken the National Lebanese Resistance.

Yet additional criticism of certain Palestinian factions, specifically Hamas, relates to the nature of the movement’s relationship with the state of Qatar which is accused of essentially appointed itself godfather of all the Islamist and Muslim Brotherhood movements in the region. According to some, this has caused Hamas to lose the credibility and popularity that it once enjoyed from diaspora Palestinians.

The Palestinians’ Hezbollah problem

Revisiting the “marital spat” analogy, some of the accusations against certain Palestinian groups mirror those made against Hezbollah. Some Lebanese analysts and some camp Palestinians have warned that Hezbollah’s foray into Syria is fueling a Sunni-Shiite polarization that threatens to feed extremism on both sides and catapult the conflict to the wider region

Syrian opposition groups reported on May 30 that Hezbollah had ordered Hamas’s representative in Beirut, Ali Baraka, to leave the country immediately because of Hamas’s public support for Syrian rebels fighting Assad. Baraka denied the report, telling Lebanese media (and his neighbors) that there was no change in the relationship between the two organizations. As of today, this observer’s kitchen balcony overlooks the Hamas office in central Haret Hreik and it is clear that it is still functioning.

The Hamas disagreement with Hezbollah still stands but both parties have agreed to discuss it by holding a series of meetings. In response to a question on this subject, former Foreign Ministry undersecretary in the ousted government in Gaza Ahmad Youssef, pointed out that Hamas needs and very much wants the support of all the powers and sides in the region to face the colonial Zionist implantation, what some refer to as “the 9th Crusade.” Youssef explained: “We needed and still need Iran and Hezbollah.

However, the movement’s position is that this behavior had damaged the relations which we wanted to be close and strong with the party.” Next month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has his own problems with Hamas, will reportedly visit Lebanon to meet with Palestinians who fled Syria and is expected to attempt a Hamas-Hezbollah "musalaha" (reconciliation).

The resistance to the Zionist colony has multiple pillars, two of which are Hezbollah and the Palestine National Movement. Both of these as well as a growing number of others, including hundreds of militia now fighting in Syria, share one principle objective, to liberate occupied Palestine and ensure the Palestinian's right-of-return to the 531 villages that were ethnically cleansed 65 years ago, by whatever means required.

Neither Hezbollah or those Palestinians now fighting each other in Syria, and, God-forbid, soon in Lebanon if the US-Israeli is successful in achieving it's divisive project, need 2-cents worth of advice from this foreign observer. But surely, most from each camp will agree that this is not the time for Hezbollah and the Palestinians to use their scant resources to battle each other over perceived wrongs.

There will be time enough to discuss these, if either group is still feeling wronged, after Palestine is freed from its racist colonial yoke.

  • Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and Lebanon and can be reached c/o fplamb@gmail.com


  1. This is an interesting piece. It does not make it easier to understand but helps draw attention to the complexities on the ground.

  2. This is a very worrying development, if true not for the first time political Islam has placed itself in the same trench as its main enemy the USA.

    Life for Palestinians, both refugees and in the west bank and Gazan bantustans, is hard enough without getting bogged down in the Syrian civil war. The lessons of Lebanon's own civil war are there for all Palestinians to see.

    What is it with this rush to fight in other peoples wars. Almost all the foreign fighters currently involved in the Syrian civil war come from countries where there is enough injustice and inequality for them to be getting on with at home.

    I am all for engaging in solidarity movements at home, but what today's young political activists need to understand is that the main enemy is at home.

  3. "Political Islam" is not on the side of the US at all Organised Rage. The murdering thugs of the Al Nusra front are not Muslims... Muslims don't eat the internal organs of their perceived enemy. They're nothing but hired mercenary's at the bidding of the CIA and their MI5 and Mossad counterparts - they may pose as Muslims but they do not represent or speak for political Islam. And you can't label such a disparate group of people, organisations and movements anyway as being all in the one camp. For God's sake man Iran is the home of the Islamic Resistance movement - hardly a US ally!

    What Hamas has done here is seriously disappointing but in recent weeks they've recognised the extreme folly of their actions and are reaching out to be brought back into the fold. There's no doubt that they have served the interests of their Zionist occupier with what they've done in Syria - just as Morsi, KSA, Qatar and Erdogan all have done. But the true resistance of the Islamic world is proving more than a match for them and their viscous scheme. Hamas are fast becoming like Sinn Fein, witness their willingness now to accept the 1967 Green Line. They will accept even less, just as Adams and McGuinness did here, so long as they receive power WITHIN the occupation. Mark my words.

    The true resistance to the Zionist pig is to be found in the axis of Hezbollah, Syria and Lebanon. How Hamas could forget the assistance the Palestinians received from the Syrian regime is nothing short of a disgrace, how they could allow themselves to be manipulated by the sectarian agenda of the US, the British and the Zionists is to their eternal shame. No-one has done more for the Palestinians, least of all the Gulf Monarchies they accepted the pay-off from.

    I've said it before to the chagrin of others but I stand by my opinion on this... Long live the noble Lebanese national resistance, Bashar al-Assad and the Revolutionary republic of Iran. They are an example to us all in terms of how to resist imperialist oppression and domination

  4. Sorry I meant to say in that comment the true resistance is to be found in the axis of Hezbollah, the Syrian regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran

  5. "The murdering thugs of the Al Nusra front are not Muslims... Muslims don't eat the internal organs of their perceived enemy."


    Of course they are Muslims, just as some members of the Nazi SS were Christians, some of whom were happy to have lamp shades made out of the skin of their victims. Sadly religious bigotry accompanies most if not all religious beliefs. Of course it does not mean all people of faith are bigots, far from it, its just when you link faith with politics, many of its supporters often are. After all who better to justify your political acts than a deity who can never contradict or condemn your acts.

    By the way no where did I say all Muslim's side with the USA, what I said was its not the first time 'political islam' has placed themselves in the same camp as their US enemies.

    Hamas was first given a leg up by the CIA, as too was the Mujahedin and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Or are you suggesting the aforementioned did not occur?

    I agree Hezbollah's tenacity and resistance against the Israeli aggressor is to be admired, whether they are an example to emulate I am less sure. To enter the Syrian conflict so publicly was a mistake in my view.

    As to the Assad regimes support for the Palestinians, when they most needed that support they failed them dismally.(Some might use the word betrayed)

    Comradely regards


  6. Mick I don't think I ever insinuated you said all Muslims are on the side of the US. As for Syria betraying the Palestinian's please enlighten me

  7. Organized rage : Sean Bres:

    Beware your Friend , they can turn without warning into your Foe!.

    In my opinion of the whole situation throughout the world with reference to , "FUNDAMENTALIST MUSLIMS" , They are not waging war for their own people , They are trying to impose their will on others who do not want what they are offering, Sharia Law as has been written. The west has jumped on this, and , thought they had manipulated them , That is an impossibility , Leaders in the East knew what was happening and got support from the west , But , Now they West is holding Back. Why? , LETS SEE WHO COMES OUT ON TOP!. SYRIA will be the next target , yet , No guilt has been proven. Palestine has always been Palestine , nothing on this Earth can change that , Not even the Jewish Gold which was in the vaults of the Twin Towers , and , was saved, just like the Jewish workers who did not turn up for work on that fateful day. Will the working class people ever win?. when we are paying more and more taxes to the NWO rich, and us , being trampled upon. and the world Security services throughout the world are implanted within to create havoc , Yet, they will never admit Fundamentalists are trying to take over the world and impose upon us , who do not believe in Sharia law, The Crusaders tried to overthrow the Muslims, They failed, Russia invaded Afghanistan, they failed , America/UK and the rest of Europe with Middle eastern countries Tried it in Afghanistan and Iraq, and still, they are failing. OIL DOES NOT LAST FOREVER, they more that is extracted , the less this Earth can survive.

  8. Indeed IJM but oil is what it's all about. Check out Mohammed Mossadegh - you probably already know the story - to see how the United States operates in the Middle East. Allende in Chile is worth researching as well. As for 9/11 you're bang on the money - Mossad-CIA job from start to finish. Bin Laden in a cave... Pfft!

  9. Sean

    During the Lebanese civil war Hafez al-Assad's betrayal of the Palestinians led directly to the massacre at the Palestinian refugee camp of Tel al-Zaatar. To undermine Arafat he also arrested and imprisoned in Damascus a very senior member of Fatah who IMO was one of the good guys.(He was later assassinated by the Israelis)

    His role in that civil war and Lebanon as a whole was duplicitous to the core.

  10. In the world of real politik many strange and confusing things occur. The long history of conflict in the region throws up many contradictions. Alliances one day become battle lines the next. There is no doubting the Palestians have been used and abused by all sides down the years. But in the current situation there is only one side the Palestians can be on, that of Syria and Hezbollah. Both have been more supportive of their cause than most in the region. Nutrality in the face of such provocation is not an option, in my humble opinion. If Syria falls then Israel's position shall be enhanced as the regions super power barring Iran.

  11. I think it's worth pointing to the fact that in Syria the Palestinian refugee community has enjoyed full integration into the society, full rights and all the same benefits enjoyed by the Syrian people themselves rather than to the crimes of the father

  12. Abd al-Bari Atwan of Al Quds Al Arabi spoke last night about US efforts to dismantle the entire Middle East and leave a collection of failed states that they can manipulate while, as Alec points to, ensuring no rival power with any significant strength worth talking about remains to challenge the Israeli military position. That's what's going on. Saudi, Qatar and the other Gulf tyrannies are no friend of Palestine. Why is it no fatwa or call to Jihad in Palestine has ever been made by those who pose as fundamentalists? We know why. The fate of Syria and Palestine are inextricably linked here which is the real reason behind the instability being orchestrated from Washington, London and Tel Aviv - just as in Egypt. The murderous intent of the West is there for all to see with the threats we hear just this morning from William Hague. If there is to be a war on Syria by these rogue, terrorist states who've already destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Libya I just hope this time "the mother of all battles" promised by Saddam Hussein materialises and the supposedly mighty British Army is sent home with its tail between its legs. I know what side I will be on and it's nothing to do with 'thr enemy of my enemy is my friend' - it's to do with basic morality

  13. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine again demanded an end to the renewed so-called “negotiations” on August 12, noting that the latest announcement of yet more occupation settlement construction once again reveals the deceptive nature of the so-called “peace process” as a means to mislead Palestinian, Arab and international public opinion. The Front said that the negotiations and “bilateral solutions” only contribute to building false illusions and deceiving the Palestinian people, while harming the national struggle, the unity of the Palestinian people and their political institutions, and the international solidarity movement with Palestine.

    The Palestinian cause is a universal issue of justice. The destructive and dangerous negotiations only undermine our cause. Instead it is time to return to our people and their institutions and restore national unity. These negotiations are scheduled to take place under the shadow of the construction of settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank, the terrorism of the settlers, the tightening of the siege on Gaza, ongoing war crimes and violations against the Palestinian land and people, as well as the manipulation of the issue of the prisoners. The negotiations serve only to support the decisions and intentions of the occupation to engage in war crimes while labeling it a “peace process.” By participating in the negotiations, Palestinian parties help to achieve the goal of the occupation.

    Furthermore, the Front said that while the U.S. and European countries pay lip service to opposing settlement construction, nothing is done to hold the occupation accountable and punish it for its crimes, and it is clear that in reality the only thing that matters to these countries is that we continue to play the game of negotiations and “peace process” in service to its goals in the region and at the expense of the Palestinian people, their sacrifices and struggle.

    Comrade Emad Abu Rahma, a member of the PFLP’s Central Committee said that the decision to return to negotiations was an individual one by Abu Mazen and his associates with no regard for the decisions of the Palestinian people and Palestinian institutions that rejected any return to negotiations without a total end to settlement construction, UN resolutions as a reference and the release of prisoners and detainees. Abu Rahma said that the Israeli announcement of building yet more settlement housing units reveals the entirely deceptive intent of these negotiations, which are providing political cover for settlement schemes in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem.

    He emphasized that this current stage is the result of the path of Oslo that must be rejected. He pointed out that the decision to return to these negotiations in light of the continued settlement construction undermines any attempt to build an international position or UN action against the settlements on the basis that the settlements are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, in particular to hold Israel accountable in the International Criminal Court, while Palestinian officials are negotiating with the occupying. Abu Rahma said a clear position must be made to withdraw from the negotiations and instead build a program of resistance to confront the aggression.

    . .

    This is the authentic voice of revolutionary, secular opinion on the current round of negotiations between the PA and Israel. The high wire approach of political talks over the heads of the people invariably leads to imperfect outcomes as was witnessed by the Oslo Accord and, in our own case, the GFA. Abu Mazan is a facilitator of political compromise which falls far short of even the most basic Palestinian demands.