Hezbollah to France: “You are Most Welcome in Our Land”

Posted by John Rosenthal

Many – both self-declared and real – "stakeholders" in the Middle East peace process have greeted France’s decision to contribute altogether up to 2000 troops to the reinforced UN force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) as grounds for satisfaction and optimism. The leaders of Hezbollah presumably see the decision in the same light. The following is a translated extract from an interview with Lebanese Minister of Labor and Hezbollah member Trad Hamadé that appeared, one day before the French announcement, in the 24 August edition of the French daily Libération. In the interview, Hamadé specifies that he is speaking on behalf of the Lebanese government and Hezbollah.

How will Hezbollah receive the UN "blue helmets" of the reinforced UNIFIL in the south of the country?


We have accepted resolution 1701. We want the UNIFIL soldiers to be deployed as quickly as possible. This is important in order to re-establish peace and prevent Israel from re-starting the war. I can assure you that Hezbollah will create no obstacles to their deployment. We are certainly not going to attack them, whether they be French, Italians or others.


Are you disappointed that for the moment France is only sending 200 additional troops?


I am shocked, because I would have liked France to play an important role in the reinforced UNIFIL. France has always been a friend of Lebanon, of all its communities – including the Shia – and of all Lebanese political parties, including Hezbollah. I would like then to encourage France to increase its commitment to UNIFIL.


You say that France is a friend of Hezbollah. But it is France, along with the United States, that is at the origins of Resolution 1559 that demands the disarmament of Hezbollah.


I have my own ideas about Resolution 1559. I think the priority of the French in this resolution was the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. The disarmament of Hezbollah was an American and Israeli demand. Many members of Hezbollah share this opinion. France is very familiar with the domestic scene in Lebanon and it supports the Lebanese national dialogue in order to arrive at a solution concerning the question of Hezbollah’s arms. That’s why we’re not enemies. We are within the framework of a friendship.


In 1983, 58 French military personnel were killed in an attack in Beirut that has been attributed to Hezbollah…


In the first place, Hezbollah had not yet been founded in 1983. And secondly, we are not in the same period, not in the same context [today]. Really, I’m saying to the French: "You are most welcome in our land."


[Note: The last phrase is in French "Soyez les bienvenus chez nous", for which the most literal idiomatic translation would be "You are welcome in our land". But given the use of the subjunctive "soyez" – i.e. this is an imperative – the French phrase is in fact distinctly friendlier in tone, having something of the feel and function of the English "Make yourselves at home". I add the "most" ("most welcome") to capture some of this nuance. For more from Trad Hamadé in the French press, see the earlier Trans-Int article "Hezbollah: France is Our Friend".]


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