Hezbollah’s Plan to Combat COVID-19: A Crowd Control System
By Corona News, Translated by Staff
Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement compiled a comprehensive and integrated plan to support the Lebanese government in its fight against the novel coronavirus. The group’s Executive Council chief, His Eminence Sayyed Hashem Safieddine, announced the plan involves 1500 doctors, 3000 nurses and paramedics, 5,000 healthcare professionals, and 15,000 field service staff. In total, they make up a healthcare workforce of 24,500 personnel.
This social form of resistance announced by Hezbollah will have an impact on both the local situation and Western perceptions about the group.
Below is a brief interview with researcher Dr. Hossam Matar who gave us a more in-depth overview of the plan:
* Following the crisis that gripped most parties in Lebanon after October 17, Hezbollah has come up with an integrated plan to combat the coronavirus. How does Hezbollah accumulate this ability to mobilize and score aschievements during crises?
The ability to efficiently mobilize, organize, and employ resources is a key criterion for the success of organizations and nations. In this regard, Hezbollah offers invaluable experiences, which were previously recognized by Western researchers who studied the party's social services system. This efficiency is the result of:
1- Materialistic elements related to the party’s military and organizational structure, its sheer size, its reach, its integration of knowledge and specialization into its institutions and rationale.
2- Non-materialistic elements, including the belief that providing service is considered a devotional matter, which is another aspect of resistance. And this is what attracts volunteers and donations. It is also linked to the development of social solidarity and the common identity of the resistance’s environment.
When it comes to services and crises management, the party accumulated tremendous human and social capital, valuable experiences as well as material capabilities and advanced infrastructure.
* How does the West view the ability to implement this plan in light of the sanctions imposed on Hezbollah?
The model that Hezbollah is offering in this case is one of the sources of its legitimacy. This means that one of the most important sources of legitimacy is the experience it is providing and the model that was achieved on the ground. Through its role in confronting the crisis, Hezbollah strengthens and renews its popular legitimacy. It highlights its efficiency as an organization that cares about people and is attached to their problems and has the ability to respond and meet their needs, especially in harsh conditions that directly challenge their lives.
This renewed popular legitimacy can go beyond its immediate and incubating environment because this role will have a national dimension. And it reveals that Hezbollah is more than just a resistance movement, but rather a social, popular, and political movement. Hence, this will weaken the narrative that it’s a terrorist organization or a militia. It will also emphasize Hezbollah’s deep social dimension.
In this respect, Hezbollah is projecting a positive image both inside and outside the country. It is also providing an experience that can be inspiring for other organizations and parties while it stands out as an organization that seeks the common good for its society and bears responsibilities alongside the Lebanese state. All of these are important issues.
This experience will confirm Hezbollah’s complex nature and that cannot be described as a mere military organization. The sources of its legitimacy are very diverse and go beyond the military side. The primary sources of its legitimacy are linked to enabling people to defend themselves and to protect their security and sovereignty as well as responding to their vital social needs and livelihood.
Hezbollah’s role in combating the COVID-19 pandemic will reveal that a large part of the sanctions against the group are still unable to cause deep damage to the party, even if the embargo had some degree of success. Despite everything, the party seems to still have the ability to secure, mobilize, organize, and manage resources under difficult circumstances.
This role will also expose these sanctions for undermining a party that is working for the benefit of the people, concerned with public health, and supporting the state in combating the pandemic. Hence, it will weaken the legitimacy of these sanctions as well as the narrative that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. It might not weaken the narrative and the legitimacy of the sanctions for the Americans but for other countries, which might be more careful in imposing such sanctions in the future.
Should this experience succeed, it would prompt more people to show more solidarity with Hezbollah in the future against the sanctions. It would also reveal that despite having caused some harm to the party, these sanctions did not have a substantial effect on its role and presence within the society or on the resources that the party can allocate for its cause and social environment.
* What kind of impact will this plan have on the confidence of Lebanese society in the combat against the pandemic?
In general, there is a degree of acceptance or satisfaction among the Lebanese people with respect to the government's response to the crisis. And the Lebanese may have been surprised that their country has this ability to do so. The government has created, to some extent, a role that widely satisfied the Lebanese people. Public confidence will be strengthened when the Lebanese feel that there are social currents, whether civil society or civil organizations or parties, that lease their resources and have plans, management, will, programs and specialists that are combined with the capabilities of the government.
These kinds of positive signals enhanced people's desire and willingness to cooperate with certain measures and be disciplined as they see a possibility of overcoming the crisis with more than one source of support. When society joins forces with the state, this means that there is more potential for providing food, health and relief assistance, especially for the poor.
This also reduces frustration and resentment and creates a kind of tranquility among the people, particularly when they see this type of assistance coming from a party of Hezbollah’s size, which has abilities, resources, and extensive plans.
The public receives all these measures positively which reflects on the social climate in the country, promotes harmony between the spectrums of society, and eases narrow sensitivities in favor of seeking to avoid an imminent national disaster that knows no sectarian, regional, or political boundaries.
* What distinguished Hezbollah from the rest of the parties in the way that it’s addressing the crisis?
From the start, through its secretary general, Hezbollah stood alongside the Lebanese state in the fight against the coronavirus. Hezbollah's role is key because the ministry of health is affiliated to the party. The ministry was provided with the necessary political support via the media, and technically for the ministry to be able to fulfill its role. This give the party a more prominent role than others.
And Hezbollah assumed responsibility by supporting the government's campaign at an early stage as its secretary general and other elements announced. It used its moral authority to urge a large portion of the Lebanese people to abide by the instructions, which contributed to creating the right environment for meeting this challenge.
In this context, the party did not fall into arguments that some parties attempted to provoke for political reasons. Instead, it emphasized the need to put aside political differences and focus efforts towards the highest levels of official, political, and social cooperation.
Hezbollah also created a kind of religious, legal, moral, and political legitimacy so that people would abide by the government’s measures. It carried out a campaign that was important in raising awareness. It also took the initiative to talk to the Lebanese people and its supporters and hold them responsible. It also explained and clarified matters.
It was the first to mobilize its resources quickly, paving the way for rapid intervention. The reason for its quick response is its infrastructure, ready plans, skills and experiences in dealing with challenges and surprises, and its ability to deploy across Lebanon. This gave it a national dimension in terms of response and measures. Hezbollah also had the infrastructure, including hospitals, clinics, doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers. Hence, it distinguished itself from others through its ability to quickly respond to a health challenge.
Hezbollah was also able to rationalize the religious response to the crisis in Lebanon. It did not place religion in the face of science. Rather it presented a narrative about the consistency between religion and science and their compatibility in combating the pandemic. It emphasized the need to adhere to the medical and administrative measures and commitment to the recommendations of specialized doctors and experts. It designated all this a religious, national, and legal duty. This position contributed to an early response aimed at limiting religious activities and events. This had a significant impact in containing the spread of the pandemic.