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Hezbollah, Part 1: Origins and Challenges

Mohammad Harfoush looks at Hezbollah, one of Lebanon’s most polarizing organizations, in part one of a survey of the factors that led to the movement's formation and its present status in Lebanese society and politics. 
Lebanon's Hezbollah supporters gesture as they pray during a ceremony to mark Ashura in Beirut's suburbs, November 25, 2012. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel on Sunday that thousands of rockets would rain down on Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities if Israel attacked Lebanon. In a speech marking the Shi'ite Muslim festival of Ashura, Nasrallah said Hezbollah's response to any attack would dwarf the attacks from Gaza during the eight-day conflict between Israel and the Islamist Hamas rule
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Hezbollah is considered the most influential and widespread among Islamic parties and movements in Lebanon and the broader Middle East. It is a party that cannot be compared to any other contemporary political Islamist movement, be it fundamentalist or revivalist. Hezbollah's beginnings, discourse, programs, agendas and goals are unlike any others.

As a result of Hezbollah's political transformation, coupled with its long history of resisting Israel, the organization has taken on a number of traits that differentiate it from other movements, with its fame spread beyond Lebanon to Arab and Islamist circles abroad. Despite this, its apparent abandonment of the exclusionary political tone that characterized its discourse for most of the past twenty-five years was not enough, until now, to guarantee its full assimilation into the Lebanese political arena, characterized by complicated religious, sectarian and political pluralism.

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