EU indirectly funding Hezbollah's paymasters in Tehran
by Jacob Campbell
Europe has committed €3.8m for the development of a citizenship education programme in Lebanese schools but it is being used for 'indoctrination' - claims researcher
Hezbollah is at the nadir of its popularity. Tainted by its support for the murderous Syrian regime, the Iranian proxy finds itself on the wrong side of the so-called Arab Spring. Although the looming presence of its fearsome black-shirted militia has so far enabled it to dominate the Lebanese government, Hezbollah knows that brute force alone will not sustain its hegemony in the long term. A lesson currently being learned by its Ba'athist friends in Damascus. If Hezbollah is to consolidate its rule over Lebanon, it must command the loyalty of the country's youth. And, having inherited the previous government's five-year education sector development plan or ESDP, Hezbollah is in the ideal position to achieve this by embedding its own ideology into Lebanon's education system.
Keen to support the strengthening of 'student national identity and civic responsibilities' in a nation as perennially blighted by sectarian strife as Lebanon, the European Union has committed €3.8m for the development of a citizenship education programme in Lebanese schools. Well-intentioned as this is, it overlooks the fact that Hezbollah's conception of civic responsibility is fundamentally at odds with Europe's. This was most starkly evident in February, when the Lebanese Minister of Education issued a memorandum obligating all public schools to spend an hour imbuing 'the culture of resistance' in children.
Nor has Hezbollah's attempt to indoctrinate an entire generation stopped there. As part of the ESDP, which the EU is co-financing with a total budget of €13.7m, the Lebanese government is seeking to launch a standardised history curriculum. According to the most recent proposal, history lessons will include an agenda teaching pupils to appreciate 'the resistance's importance in terms of defending Lebanon'. The draft syllabus has also been criticised for writing the pro-democracy Cedar Revolution out of Lebanon's history, as well as omitting the country's struggle against the Syrian army and Palestinian militias, during the civil war. To all impartial observers, it is clear that Hezbollah is exploiting the ESDP to greatly exaggerate its centrality to Lebanese national identity.
When the United Kingdom Independence Party MEP Paul Nuttall submitted a parliamentary question asking whether the European Commission would cancel its financial assistance to the Lebanese Ministry of Education, in light of Hezbollah's efforts to brainwash students, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy tefan Füle responded by saying that any cessation of funding "would be counterproductive".
Given that the Lebanese education minister announced in May that he had enlisted the help of his Iranian counterpart in implementing the ESDP, the commission ought to consider that what is a truly counterproductive position in sponsoring a project that appears to have been outsourced to Hezbollah's paymasters in Tehran. None of this is to dispute that Lebanon's education sector is in critical need of restructuring and investment. But it is difficult to see how it is in Europe's interests - or, indeed, in Lebanon's - to facilitate the process of reform while it is under the direction of a Hezbollah-led government.
Jacob Campbell is a research fellow at the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy and press officer for Friends of Israel in the United Kingdom Indepdence Party