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Lebanon’s Top Cleric Dies: How Did He View Jews?

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Lebanon’s Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, one of the most important religious figures in Lebanon and key founder of the terrorist group Hezbollah, died Sunday from illness.

Many in the US and the Arab world have made efforts to paint Fadlallah as a moderate, pragmatic, and liberal leader who could bridge gaps between Christians and Muslims. History hardly supports this conclusion.

During Lebanon’s bloody civil war, Fadlallah was accused of being involved in the Iranian-backed kidnappings of Americans and other Westerns and the Hezbollah bombing of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks that left over 260 Americans dead. Fadlallah had even provided a fatwa (religious opinion) in support of the suicide bomber who attacked the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. Justifying his actions, he once said, “When one fires a bullet at you, you cannot offer him roses.”

Speaking on whether Jews are legitimate targets for attacks, Fadlallah once said, “All of Palestine is a war zone and every Jew who unlawfully occupies a house or land belonging to a Palestinian is a legitimate target. There are no innocent Jews in Palestine.”

In an interview with Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station in March 2008, Fadlallah lent his name to the Holocaust denial camp. “Zionism has inflated the number of victims in this holocaust beyond imagination” Fadlallah said. “They say there were six million Jews – not six million, not three million, or anything like that... But the world accepted this [figure], and it does not allow anyone to discuss this.”

Fadlallah has also accused Jews of controlling the United States. Fadlallah told the Wall Street Journal last year, “We in the region therefore consider the American policy responsible for whatever Israel does, because there is a strategic alliance between Israel and America in all the aggressions carried out by Israel. There is an impression in the Arab region, that might be controversial, that Israel is the one ruling the United States and not the other way around. America is one of the Jewish colonies.”

During Fadlallah’s long career as a religious figure in Lebanon, historian Andrew Boston notes, “Fadlallah repeatedly refers to anti-Jewish archetypes in the Qur’an, hadith, and sira: the corrupt, treacherous and aggressive nature of the Jews; their reputation as killers of prophets, who spread corruption on earth; and the notion that the Jews engaged in conspiratorial efforts against the Muslim prophet Muhammad.”

Perhaps as he aged he moderated his political and social. But as far has his views toward Jews is concerned, not much changed.