On a giant screen in his stronghold in Southern Beirut, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah announced his party’s new manifesto on November 30 (Lebanonfiles.com, November 30). Since the war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, Nasrallah has been avoiding public appearances. Even his press conferences have been held via video conference. The new Hezbollah document is the second of its kind since the emergence of the Shi’a Islamist party in the mid-1980s. The new manifesto bore the title “The Political Document of Hezbollah” and was agreed upon during the party conference concluded a few days earlier (Al-Manar, November 29). The document outlined the aims and policies of Hezbollah and its military wing, al-Moqawama al-Islamiyah (The Islamic Resistance).
Hezbollah started in the 1980s as an Islamic revolutionary organization calling for an Iranian-like Islamic state in multi-sect Lebanon. In 1992 the party joined Lebanon’s parliament and now has alliances among the other sects. In 2005 it joined the government and has been part of every cabinet over the last four years.
The first Hezbollah manifesto was announced from southern Beirut on February 16, 1985. That document was called “The Open Message.” The party defined itself then as part of a “nation” led by Iran and its then-supreme leader, Ayatollah Rohollah Khomeini. The message called on the Lebanese to adopt Islamic rule and even invited Lebanese Christians to convert to Islam. The message also called for a continuous jihad against Israel. 
Unlike the 1985 manifesto, the recent document contained very few Islamic terms or expressions and had no indication of the Shiite identity of the party. The manifesto is divided into three parts: Domination and Revival, Lebanon, and Palestine.
Within the first paragraph of the introduction, the document leaves no doubt that Hezbollah and the Islamic Resistance are one in the same. The introduction begins with two verses from the Quran that promote jihad. The text then builds on what it sees as the contrast between a course of resistance and refusal on the one hand, and a course of American-Israeli domination and Istikbar (arrogance) on the other. The resistance is progressing despite existing challenges, while American-Israeli domination is retreating, politically and militarily. The introduction claims that the recent international economic crisis will affect the status of the United States as the only superpower in the world.
The first part of the document presents Hezbollah’s version of history from the Second World War to the present. The terminology and the analysis look more like the product of a leftist movement than an Islamic one. America, according to Hezbollah, has had a domination plan: “The American strategy, which goes along with the capitalist economic plan, has a global nature and there is no limit to its greed.”
The Bush administration is heavily criticized, as is the neo-conservative movement and the War on Terror. “That administration initiated equality between the concept of terror and the concept of the resistance in order to deny the resistance its legitimacy…. Terror has become a pretext for American domination, which used tools like rendition and detention without fair trial, as in Guantanamo.”
While indicating that America is the origin of every terror in the world, the manifesto says nothing about the Obama administration, even though it has been in office for a year. President Barack Obama is mentioned only once and then only as George Bush’s successor.
In the Middle East, Hezbollah analyzes what it sees as an American strategy—one which includes supporting Israel and the Arab dictatorships, psychological and media wars against the peoples of the region, establishing military bases in strategic spots and inciting civil wars. This chapter was heavily covered by the influential pan-Arab al-Jazeera network, in a report titled “Nasrallah: America is the origin of terror” (al-Jazeera, November 30).
In the second chapter, Hezbollah indicates its basic political principles:
• Israel is a threat to Lebanon. Hezbollah should keep arming itself to defend Lebanon and this should also be part of the state’s strategy. The political opponents of Hezbollah have always called for the party to be disarmed.
• In order to have real democracy in Lebanon, political sectarianism should be eliminated.  Until that goal is achieved, political agreements should be the basis of the political system and government, not just election results.
• The party opposes federalism and stresses the rejection of any divisions in this small country (10,400 square kilometers). Upset with the increasing demographic gravity of the Shi’a, some among the once-dominant Christian community have called for a federalist system.
These principles, particularly the first two, were strongly criticized by politicians from the mainly Sunni and Christian majority bloc in Lebanon’s parliament (Al-Hayat, December 2)
On regional aspects, the manifesto called for relations with Syria to return to normal after the breach in relations over the last few years. Iran is mentioned only in the second chapter, in which appreciation is expressed for Iran’s role as a backer of Arab issues and the Palestinian cause. The document indicates that the differences existing between Iran and some of the Arab nations serve American and Israeli interests, and called for these differences to be resolved.
In the third chapter, the party stresses the right of the Palestinians to resist occupation by all means. The document condemns and opposes peace negotiations in principle. Hezbollah goes on to pledge not to recognize Israel even if the whole world does.
The content of Hezbollah’s discourse has clearly changed from the radical Shiite rhetoric of the 1980s to that used by a classical revolutionary movement. However, the main aspects of the group’s regional and international strategy have changed little. In Lebanon, the party has chosen to stress its increasing military and political power and make it part of its doctrine.
1. See Tawfiq al-Mudaini, Amal wa Hezbollah, al-Ahali, Damascus, 1999. See also Waddah Sharara, Dawlat Hezbollah (The State of Hezbollah), second edition, An-Nahar, Beirut, 1997.
2. The political system in Lebanon is based on the concept of sectarian power-sharing. Accordingly, the president’s post is occupied by a Christian, the premiership by a Sunni Muslim and the post of the parliamentary speaker by a Shi’a Muslim. Since 1989 the 120 seats of parliament are divided equally between Christians and Muslims. Every sect has a designated number of seats in the cabinet. This system is based on the percentage of the population of the various communities at independence. Muslims, especially the Shi’a, have been increasingly critical of the system as they believe they are under-represented.