Hezbollah, party of God in Arabic, is a major component of Lebanon’s political and social life. The party, led by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, represents the historically underrepresented Shia, the country’s largest group. Lebanon has a complex sectarian-based political structure, a legacy of French colonialism. Each of the country’s 18 religious sects is allocated seats in parliament. And top governmental positions are designated, e.g., the president must be a Maronite Catholic, the prime minister, a Sunni, and the speaker of the parliament, a Shia. The division of power continues despite radical shifts in Lebanon’s demographics. Hezbollah came to worldwide prominence during its battle with Israel in the summer of 2006. It is routinely depicted in Western media in negative terms. Interview by David Barsamian.
Amal Saad-Ghorayeb is an expert on Hezbollah and her book on the Lebanese party has been widely praised and cited. She taught political science at Lebanese American University in Beirut. Currently, she is a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Middle East Center in Beirut.