Lebanon’s economic collapse only entrenches Hezbollah more

The association, officially a non-profit charity, is one of the tools by which Hezbollah entrenches its support among the country’s Shiite population.

By World Israel News Staff and AP

Over the past year, the al-Qard al-Hasan association has seen a significant increase in clients, despite it being under U.S. Treasury sanctions since 2007.

The al-Qard al-Hasan Association is the financial arm of the terror group Hezbollah.

In the country’s wrecked economy, everyone is desperate for hard currency and liquidity as the local currency plummets in value, a crisis brought on by massive debt created by successive  feckless governments.

At commercial banks, depositors stand in line for hours and fight with managers in vain to access their dollar savings. Most banks have stopped giving loans.

But at Hezbollah’s al-Qard al-Hasan people can take out small, interest-free loans in dollars, enabling them to pay school fees, get married, buy a used car or open a small business. They can also open saving accounts there.

The association, officially a non-profit charity, is one of the tools by which Hezbollah entrenches its support among the country’s Shiite population.

It is a painful irony for those who hoped the economic crisis would cause people to turn on Hezbollah, whose tentacles have reached into every aspect of Lebanese society, and now sits as a “respectable” member of Lebanon’s government, holding 14 of the 128 seats in its parliament.

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Hezbollah is known to the West as a terror group. It has killed U.S. and Israeli soldiers and points a massive arsenal of missiles at the Jewish State, some 150,000, which it is constantly working to upgrade.

There were early signs, especially during protests following the devastating Beirut port explosion, that the organization would lose support among the public. The group has come under enormous criticism over the past year among Lebanese furious at the political elite.

The financial stability it’s offering appears to be mitigating that anger.

Lebanon’s economic and financial crisis is the country’s worst in modern history, with the economy contracting 19% in 2020. Tens of thousands around the country have lost their jobs, and nearly half the population of more than 6 million is in poverty.

Al-Qard al-Hasan, whose name in Arabic means “the benevolent loan,” offers interest-free loans up to $5,000 and, importantly these days, it gives them in dollars. Active for more than three decades, it is considered Lebanon’s largest non-banking financial institution giving microloans.

Israeli journalist Roi Kais writes in Kan News on Thursday of the difficulty in ridding Lebanon of Hezbollah due to these other, non-terroristic activities (though the bank is used  to support terrorist financing).

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“What do you think of when you hear about Hezbollah? Nasrallah? Missiles? An Iranian arm? It turns out that for many in Lebanon, the Shiite terrorist organization is both a bank and a ‘Rami Levy’ or ‘Osher Ad’ super-style,” he writes, referring to two Israeli supermarkets as an example.

“Hezbollah has an independent economic system, one that has replaced the collapsing Lebanese economy in recent months. While in Lebanese banks the dollars run out, in Hezbollah’s banks – a celebration,” he writes.

He notes that in addition to its banking, Hezbollah’s position straddling Lebanon’s borders allows it to smuggle food and other goods into the country, which it uses to prop up its support among the Shiite population.

He says Hezbollah has turned the weakest community, the Shiites, into the strongest.

In one positive note, Kais writes, “When everything in Lebanon collapses, Hezbollah is seen as exploiting the national economy for its own needs. Today, unlike in the past, there is more courage in Lebanon to talk about the issue.”