Hizbullah's Changing Identity
Hizbullah’s initial entry into Lebanon’s confessional political system seems contradictory considering the organisation’s perpetual view that this electoral system is corrupt and the very cause of Lebanon’s problems. Hizbullah views this system to have disenfranchised the Shi’a of Lebanon. Since its emergence in the 1980s Hizbullah has shifted from the religiously motivated goal of an Islamic revolution in Lebanon to the more nationalistic and secular project of providing ongoing resistance to Israel. This movement can be explained if we consider two separate facets of Hizbullah’s identity: It’s primordial Shi’a identity, and its identity as a resistance movement. A movement from the former to the latter has taken place. This work argues that Hizbullah has moved away from placing importance on that which defined it primarily as an organisation seeking the advancement of Shi’a to an identity that places more emphasise on its resistance activities against Israel. This latter identity is more instrumentalist in nature. While placing importance on its Shi’a identity was not counter-productive to participating within politics, it did oblige Hizbullah to adopt more idealistic political projects. Therefore, this shift initially allowed Hizbullah to deal more effectively with the pragmatic realities of political life in Lebanon, for which it requires more broad-based cross-communal support. However, recent events in the Middle East have indicated that Hizbullah’s resistance identity may not necessarily guarantee it political success.