The ideological transformation of Hezbollah since its involvement in the Syrian Civil War : local perspectives and foreign observations

Authors: Mac Donald, Ian
Advisor: Cavatorta, Francesco
Abstract: Since its creation, Hezbollah has been a sectarian organization in a political system where it has been compelled to compete for power against other sectarian actors. However, at times when conflict with Israel escalated, an enemy that was clearly distinguishable via national, linguistic, ethnic, and religious criteria, Hezbollah often claimed to be the protector of the Lebanese nation. The Syrian Civil War, a conflict mainly between Arabs that is mired by sectarianism, has once again given Hezbollah a clearly defined enemy. However, unlike Israel, Hezbollah’s enemies are now Sunni Arabs, which is also a large minority within Lebanon. The Syrian conflict caused Hezbollah to dramatically alter its foreign policy and military strategy to confront such emerging threats within its neighbourhood. How has Hezbollah ideologically changed as a result of the Syrian Civil War? Securitization theory predicts that elites will use a small security issue and make it appear as a large security threat to a society in order to concentrate resources and gain the trust of the population. From being a sectarian actor in Lebanese politics, the author hypothesises that Hezbollah securitized the threat posed by the Islamic State to the Lebanese nation, as it has done with Israel, thus transforming its ideology to be even more nationalist than prior to the Syrian Civil War. In order to test this theory, fieldwork was conducted in Lebanon to observe if Hezbollah emphasized its role in protecting the Lebanese nation against the threat of the Islamic State. Findings from the qualitative study suggest that while Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah advocates Hezbollah’s role in protecting the Lebanese imagined community from the threat of the Islamic State, Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria has meant that it engages in a more sectarianized nationalist ideology than it previously did with Israel. Furthermore, Hezbollah’s physical discourse continues to elicit universalist Islamic symbolism.
Document Type: Mémoire de maîtrise
Issue Date: 2020
Open Access Date: 13 February 2020
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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