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LEBANON: Even those wary of Hezbollah believe in its prowess, pollster says

Hezbollah The Lebanese may be divided on whether the Shiite militant group Hezbollah is a savior or a menace, but according to a new poll they appear to agree on one thing: the group's armed wing is a force to be reckoned with.

According to the poll, which was conducted by the Beirut Center for Research and Information and published in the left-leaning Lebanese daily Al Akhbar, 84% of Lebanese "trust the resistance's capabilities facing any Israeli attack."

The paper published a chart based on the survey, which categorized respondents by sect, revealing surprisingly consistent answers to most questions among Druzes, Sunnis, Christians and Shiites.

Most of the questions were intended to gauge the effect of the "eye for an eye" defense strategy detailed by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah earlier this month during a speech in which he pledged to retaliate with equal force and even mentioned Israel's Ben Gurion airport by name.

The study appears to show that most respondents believe in Hezbollah's deterrent power and do not think a war with Israel is imminent. Only 26% said they believed Lebanese society would be deeply divided if Israel launched a war.

It is important to note, however, that the questions use the term "resistance" instead of the name of the party, Hezbollah. The "resistance" refers to Hezbollah's standing army and is enshrined in the government policy statement.

Babylon & Beyond spoke with pollster Abdo Saad, the head of the center that conducted the survey, and asked him what these results could mean for Lebanon.

Based on your research, what’s the mood in Lebanon like now?

The aim was not to measure the level of support for Hezbollah but rather to see how the Lebanese analyze [the situation], so it’s intended to measure analysis more than support. When 84% says they are confident Hezbollah is capable of confronting Israel, that’s not to say that 84% support Hezbollah. Definitely some of them don’t.

There is definitely less polarization than there was before. There has been some reconciliation -- there is a good political atmosphere, and this would help the Lebanese to think objectively. Had I conducted this during a more polarized period then surely the results would not have been the same because people would be answering from their emotions.

After their failure in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza in 2008, Israel has been making threats against Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and Hamas, but doing nothing. Hezbollah has a great credibility among Lebanese and even among Israelis. When they say “we can hit their infrastructure,” people believe that, whereas the image of Israel is not the same as before; it has been weakened greatly.

These last few months there have been many theories flying around about the possibility of a regional war. Some of the evidence is anecdotal from people living in southern Lebanon, and some of it is based on official statements coming out of Israel, Lebanon and Syria. What influences people’s “war meter” in Lebanon?

I think now after Hassan Nasrallah’s speech people believe that war is not imminent at all, because Israel is not capable of waging a war and winning it. People are more confident that we are not going to see a war in the very near future. People believe Israel is too weak to wage war right now.

Did any of the results surprise you?

At first glance, the rate of positivity toward the resistance among Christians I thought was a little high, but when I looked over all the results, and I looked at the Sunni and Druze sects, I saw they were very similar. The respondents were positive towards Hezbollah, although not all of them are supporters, definitely. One would have to conduct a poll and ask specifically about support for Hezbollah.

What do you believe are the implications of these results?

I think it gives comfort to all Lebanese people, to the government, that people no longer fear an imminent war.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: Hezbollah is known for its tightly disciplined fighters. Credit: AFP

Comments () | Archives (5)

Although there may be some similarities on the surface, the difference is great. Nasser was president of Egypt, Nasrallah is leader of non-state actor. HA capabilities, and the brilliant way in which they have created the option to act, far different situation. The times they are a changin.

you are either too young to remember or really have bad memory,the current Arab mood reminds me of the early 60's,just replace the name Nasrallah with NASSER,and every thing sounds familiar and I'm afraid the result will be similar, i hope I'm wrong ,but i don't think the Arabs have learned the lesson.
I'm no defeatist I'm realest,the Arab-israeli conflict CAN NOT be resolved by violence is sad that neither side is willing to recognize this reality after all the suffering.
i do put more of the blame on the Israeli shoulders cuz they hold the upper hand ,their thinking gos like this "why should we give up the land when we don't have to"may be it is true,but they have to live in fear and terror as long they terrorizing the Palestinians and occupying their land.

What does it say about a man (Hassan Nasrallah) or an organization (Hizb Allah) when they have more credibility with their enemy (Israeli society) than said enemy's leaders? During the war of 2006, the people of Lebanon and Israel waited to hear from Nasrallah to guage what was really happening (especially the Israelis).
With a speech(some days ago), Hassan Nasrallah lays out a strategy and calms the entire region. Politicians the world over can only dream of having such an effect. Just think, it was only 25 years ago when this organization was born, created by young men in their early twenties. Whatever one thinks of HA, they are impressive. Stop and look at the trajectory each side has followed; where is Israel (strategically, militarily) compared to the mid 80s?
As long as the Palestinians continue to procreate at current levels, Israel's years are numbered.

Israel would be foolish to go up against Hezbollah. They were driven out of Lebanon by Hezollah after having occupied Lebanon for close to 20 years. What Israel (and he U.S.) do not seem to realize is that no one can win a war against a resistance. Even Hamas, so badly damaged in Operation Cast Lead last year, did not lose. To even begin to suggest that the horrors inflicted by Israel on a civilian population in Gaza was in any way a war is to suggest that an 80 year old woman can resist a 47-year-old well armed rapist. Israel rapes and pillages and thinks that someone the people will be cowed into accepting occupation. That is not going to happen. It has never happened.

I had a dream when I was young that one day I would no longer here the word "Israel". When I grew up, I came to face the harsh reality and the terror that Israel represents and thought that I would never realize this dream.

Now, more than ever this dream is becoming more of an objective or vision. This vision will come true thanks to Hizbullah and their great resistance. Whatever the world label them, to us - these fighters and Martyrs are ranked "elite" of our nation.


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