Selling Terror
Madison Avenue Meets The Bekaa Valley
by Jonathan Schanzer
Weekly Standard (Online)
April 16, 2008

Hezbollah, the radical Shiite terrorist organization in Lebanon, is best known for attacking Israelis. But the organization also attempts to gain the support of Lebanese citizens with a sophisticated network of social services, political outreach, and financial aid. And recently, the militia has turned to advertising campaigns to bolster its image.

Hezbollah owns or controls at least two known advertising companies: Ressalat and Media-Publi Management. The U.S. Department of the Treasury should designate both as Specially Designated Global Terrorist entities (SDGTs) immediately as part of its ongoing campaign to cut off Hezbollah from the global financial system.

According to a recent article in the Lebanese al-Nahar, Ressalat is a "Hizbullah-funded organization that handles advertising and cultural events for the group." The company does not appear to have a web presence, but al-Nahar identified Mohamed Noureddine as Ressalat's creative director. One French report also identified Noureddine as the director of a think tank tied to Hezbollah's secretary general Hassan Nasrallah. His name can also be found alongside pro-Hezbollah videos on YouTube.

After the car bombing that killed Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh on February 13, Noureddine and his team launched a sophisticated advertising campaign to lionize the slain terrorist leader. Within hours of the bombing, colorful stencil drawings of Mughniyeh's bearded and bespectacled face appeared on huge billboards throughout Lebanon. The stenciled portrait was similar to the iconic drawing of Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara. These Mughniyeh billboards--some of which read: "Prophecy of the Final Victory"--now line the road from the Beirut airport to the city's downtown district. According to Mohammed al-Amin, managing director of a billboard company that rented space to Ressalat, the entire network of billboards along the airport road and within the group's stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut cost at least $100,000.

In 2006, following Hezbollah's war against Israel, the group reportedly paid an unnamed public relations firm some $140,000 to design an ad campaign called "Divine Victory," glorifying the 34-day war that ended with a U.N.-brokered cease-fire on August 14, 2006. Last year, Hezbollah posted a huge billboard in southern Lebanon, facing northern Israel, with the faces of two kidnapped Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Additionally, near the coastal town of Naqura (where the U.N. peacekeeping force maintains its headquarters), Hezbollah posted a large mural portraying an Israeli warship that had been hit by the terrorist group during the 2006 war.

Was Ressalat behind all of these billboards? The answer is still unknown. There may be other unidentified Hezbollah advertising companies lurking in Lebanon.

However, Hezbollah's advertising operation is not limited to billboards. As first revealed by analyst Avi Jorisch, a Lebanon-based company called Media-Publi Management handles ads and promotions for al-Manar, Hezbollah's television station. Media-Publi is now listed (complete with address and phone number) with the Lebanese Advertising Agencies Association. The company also openly operates a website (www.mpmlb.com), which actually lists al-Manar's scheduled programming and boasts of serving as "the exclusive media representative of al-Manar T.V. station...We are responsible of reservation and monitoring of the ads on al-Manar [sic]."

Media-Publi reportedly worked with numerous advertising agencies, including the world-renowned Saatchi and Saatchi, selling ad space to numerous multinational corporations. After the SDGT designation of al-Manar in March 2006, however, many advertisers pulled their products from al-Manar's airwaves.

Media-Publi has four known employees: Saeed T. Fadel (Marketing Coordinator), Hussein Nassour (Account Handler), Ahmad Haidar (Account Handler), and Ibrahim Farhat (General Manager). Farhat identifies himself as the public relations manager for al-Manar. It is unclear whether the others are Hezbollah members.

It is equally unclear whether either of these two advertising companies belong to the Lebanese Media Group, the parent company of al-Manar, which was also designated by the U.S. Treasury as an SDGT in March 2006. If these companies are part of this broader network, Treasury's designation already applies to them. The designation must simply be enforced.

If these companies are not subsidiaries of the Lebanese Media Group, the U.S. Treasury Department should consider a new round of designations to include Media-Publi, Ressalat, as well as the four Media-Publi employees listed on the site. Similarly, other banking systems and companies around the world should be encouraged to cease doing business with them. Hezbollah's Lebanese advertising operations must not be allowed to continue.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism analyst for the U.S. Treasury Department, is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center and author of the forthcoming book, Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine (Palgrave, November 2008).


Not Just Gaza
Fatah Loses its Grip in Lebanon
by Jonathan Schanzer
Pajamas Media
April 6, 2008

Palestinian Islamist groups attacked members of the Fatah faction in Lebanon's densely populated Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in late March, the Lebanon Daily Star reports. The al-Qaeda-linked Jund al-Sham organization fired rockets on Fatah positions, resulting in four wounded Fatah fighters.

Lebanon, home to as many as 400,000 Palestinians, is a longstanding base of support for Fatah. Lebanon's twelve Palestinian refugee camps have long been crucial to Fatah's traditional status as the "sole representative of the Palestinian people."

Many Palestinians in Lebanon, since the 1970s, have turned to Fatah for jobs, social services, and protection. Increasingly, however, the Fatah movement has been reduced to one faction among many in these teeming camps.

The challenge to Fatah in Lebanon is not a new phenomenon. In 2002, Arabic newspaper ash-Sharq al-Awsat reported "intense armed presence and reciprocal military alerts between [the] Fatah movement and the Islamic Asbat al-Ansar," also in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp. Asbat al-Ansar was designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department for its ties to al-Qaeda.

Between September and November 2002, the Ain al-Hilweh camp was the scene of no fewer than 19 bombings. Fatah loyalists were subsequently targeted with shootings, grenade attacks, and even car bombs. In one 2003 communiqué to Fatah, Asbat threatened to "turn Ain al-Hilweh and the rest of Lebanon into a pool of blood to wash away your treason and corruption and send you to hell."

Tensions stemmed from the fact that Asbat al-Ansar sought to wrest control of Ain al-Hilweh from Fatah, which had long been the traditional ruling faction of the camp. The fighting continued into 2004 and 2005.

Last year, after the June coup that toppled Fatah and brought Hamas to power in Gaza, Lebanese Palestinians began to show outward signs of losing faith in Fatah. According to news reports, they had already grown restless with Fatah in the spring of 2007, when it was commonly believed that Fatah failed to protect the Palestinians of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp during a raid by the Lebanese Army to oust the al-Qaeda affiliate group Fatah al-Islam. Fatah failed to exert political influence to restrain the invasion, and then failed to provide funds for reconstruction of destroyed property in the camp that it had promised to camp residents.

Hamas capitalized on Fatah's failures to expand its leadership role in the Lebanese refugee camps. Observers now believe that Hamas is slowly eclipsing Fatah's long-established infrastructure in the camps. Amidst the Israeli incursions into Gaza in early March 2008, hundreds of Palestinian students attended Hamas-sponsored rallies in the Rashidiyeh, Bourj al-Shemali, and al-Bass refugee camps. In place of Fatah placards and flags, increasing numbers of green Hamas banners are flying.

While it is well known that Hamas and Fatah engaged in bitter battles on the streets of Gaza and the West Bank in the last year, the mainstream media has largely overlooked the fact that the Hamas-Fatah conflict has widened to include some pockets of Lebanon. News services have reported tit-for-tat violence in Ain al-Hilweh. Indeed, Fatah has publicly warned Hamas that it would not tolerate an armed Hamas presence in the camps.

The challenge to Fatah by the Palestinian Islamists of Lebanon raises two important points:

First, the January 2006 Hamas electoral victory in the West Bank and Gaza, along with the June 2007 Hamas coup that ousted the Fatah party from the seat of power in the Gaza Strip, were only the most observable indications of Fatah's waning power. The challenges Fatah faces in Lebanon are further indications that Fatah is no longer the "sole representative" of the Palestinians, neither in the Palestinian territories nor the Diaspora.

More broadly, the challenge to Fatah in Lebanon raises questions about Fatah's rightful place as arbiter of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. If Fatah is literally under fire from the Palestinian people who appear to no longer appreciate its leadership, how effective can Fatah be in negotiating with the U.S. and Israel for peace?

Jonathan Schanzer is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center and editor of inFOCUS Quarterly. He is author of the forthcoming book, Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine (Palgrave, November 2008).

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