HEZBOLLAH IS EXPANDING ITS BANKING SERVICES AMID PRESSURE FROM THE UNITED STATES ON THE LEBANESE BANKING SYSTEM
The main picture of the situation
- The Hezbollah organization maintains an extensive system of social institutions in Lebanon among the Shiite community in Lebanon, dealing with health, education, finance, welfare and communication. These institutions serve as a supportive envelope for the organization’s military infrastructure, as well as a means of spreading Hezbollah’s ideology and strengthening its position among the Shiite community and in the intra-Lebanese arena. These institutions provide members of the Shiite community with services of a state nature, taking advantage of the weakness of the Lebanese government. In this way, these institutions allow Hezbollah to maintain a “state within a state” in large parts of Lebanon where the Shiite population lives and to place its military infrastructure among its residents.
- One of the most important social institutions is the Al-Qarqi al-Hasan Association (literally: a loan in kind ) subordinate to the Hezbollah Operational Council. The association engages in semi-banking activities, the main purpose of which is to provide loans and operate community funds of mutual guarantee in accordance with the rules of Islamic law (which prohibits taking interest). The association’s specialty is providing loans in relatively small amounts to members of the Shiite population (fulfilling daily needs, repaying debts, paying for housing, hospitalization, studies, marriage and home furnishings). . Like responsible social organizations, the association also supports Hezbollah’s military infrastructure and helps spread the organization’s ideological messages.
- In recent years, American pressure has intensified on the Lebanese banking system in order to prevent cooperation between it and Hezbollah. As part of this, the Americans imposed sanctions on Lebanese banks, which in turn blocked accounts of bodies and individuals in Hezbollah. Hezbollah responded with a propaganda campaign condemning the conduct of the banks, and appeasing violent warning messages in the “Lebanese version.” It seems that in light of the lack of practical results from this campaign, Hezbollah has decided to adopt a more practical course of action, the main point of which is to expand the Al-Qarqa Al-Hassan semi-banking services, with the aim of turning it into a Lebanese bank for everything.
From the end of October 2020, the Alkarch Alhassan Association began offering a range of new services: the association placed ATMs in its three branches in the southern Shiite suburb of Beirut and later intends to place ATMs in all its branches; The association offered to buy and sell gold for dollars, thus bringing it closer to the realm of exchange; The association also began providing a service of gold storage for a small fee, against the background of personal insecurity and rising crime in southern Lebanon and Bakaa. Moreover, in the past year, which has been characterized by political, economic and medical crises (widespread spread of the corona virus), the Alcratch Alhasan Association has maintained high quality of services compared to banks: the association’s branches remained open even during protests. Funds (unlike the Lebanese banks) and incurred security costs as a result of leaving the branches open during the deteriorating security situation.
Encouragement for withdrawing money from Lebanese banks and depositing them in the Al-Qarqa al-Hassan Association can be found in the last speech of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on the occasion of Martyrdom Day (November 11, 2020). Hassan Nasrallah claimed that his operatives and supporters of the organization who withdrew their deposits from the banks, managed to keep their money during the current banking crisis, when the banks claimed that they were unable to pay dollars to their commanders. According to Nasrallah, the money that was taken out of the banks “or is now in homes [ie, the homes of Hezbollah operatives, who have been sanctioned]; Or [they] put them in all sorts of places, for example at the Al-Karch al-Hassan institution. ” According to Nasrallah, those depositors who left their money in the banks, and were satisfied that they were not on the [US] terrorist list, “now their money and deposits [are] in danger.” In support of his words, Nasrallah used a verse from the Qur’an several times [2: 216]:
“Some people will get tired of something, even though it’s good for you״.
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November 11, 2020, published (Hebrew) on The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center