Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hezbollah's Green Gambit

Environmental advocates have a new ally, but they may not want him.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, head of Hezbollah – a group considered by the United States and Israel to be one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the Middle East – dedicated much of a speech on Saturday to promoting environmental causes in Lebanon.  Nasrallah cited climate change as one of the greatest threats to mankind today and made the case that being pro-Green is also Islamic, citing events from Muslim history, as well as Islamic scripture to bolster his claims.  According to Reuters, Nasrallah argued that reforestation is in Lebanon's national security interests and announced that Hezbollah's development arm, Jihad al-Bina, recently planted their millionth sapling in the country.  It's worth noting that Lebanon was once a heavily-forested land, their flag even features a cedar tree, the national symbol, and that the pharaohs of ancient Egypt imported Lebanese timber for some of their signature construction projects.   But centuries of agricultural mismanagement, years of poorly-planned development and, as Nasrallah made a point of mentioning, Israeli deforestation efforts in the southern part of the country – meant to deny guerillas cover from which to launch attacks – have left large parts of Lebanon barren.

It was an odd message to hear from an organization best known in the United States as Israel as a hardcore terrorist group.  But Nasrallah's comments point to the complexity of the situation in Lebanon, where Hezbollah has taken pains to establish themselves as a legitimate political movement and has provided much of the redevelopment funding and expertise in the southern part of the country, which was devastated by the Hezbollah-Israel conflict in 2006.
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