Nasrallah – Leading Hezbollah’s Information Warfare


One of the leaders’ universal ways of connecting with the people is with their televised addresses. In contrast with other leaders around the world, Nasrallah has not participated in public events in the last several years (he was seen in public in 2015), making his addresses on the different media networks his primary way of communicating with his supporters. Nasrallah’s televised speeches are normally characterized with him partially telling the truth and using visual aids, such as visual graphics, video effects, etc., as little as possible.

Occasionally, Nasrallah is interviewed on television channels, mainly those who identify with Iran’s radical Shiite Axis, particularly with Hezbollah. However, these interviews are not the standard interviews conducted in the Western states; he is not asked questions that might stump him, rather he is only asked questions that “invite” answers on topics and narratives that Nasrallah wishes to echo. The interviewer introduces the topic for him and then allows him to answer however he wishes, thus allowing him to create the narrative that he wishes to present to the viewer. We have not seen Nasrallah participate in any press conferences or confrontational debates that challenge his viewpoints.

A leader with the status of Hassan Nasrallah, whose source of power comes from his supporters, cannot possibly be accused of being wrong or a liar. So, Nasrallah makes sure he portrays the truth and “stretches it as much as possible without letting it snap”.

Nasrallah’s speeches and interviews are not broadcasted in Israel but are occasionally cited in the Israeli media. However, security officials and research centers like ours follow them closely and do in-depth analyses of them.

Nasrallah’s speeches and interviews can be divided into two categories. The first one is traditional speeches and interviews that ordinarily take place on (Shiite) Muslim holidays or to commemorate key events in Lebanon and its surrounding area, such as Nasrallah’s speech in commemoration of the war in 2006 (which we call the Second Lebanon War) his speeches on the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, and his speech to mark Lebanon’s Liberation Day after the IDF’s withdrawal from south Lebanon in May. This year, this speech was given after the escalation in the Gaza Strip, and due to Nasrallah’s health (COVID19?), the speech was etched into the Lebanese’s minds as Nasrallah’s “cough speech” and caused more harm than good with regards to the Lebanese people’s view of Nasrallah. Instead of strengthening the narrative binding Hamas’s Liberation Day with Hezbollah’s, the speech began Nasrallah’s “cough narrative”. These events are planned in advance, with everyone looking forward to them.

Nasrallah: Hezbollah fired a missile at IDF navy “Hanit” (Spear) ship off the coast of Beirut.

The second category is responses to significant events in the region. A painful example of this is from July 14, 2006. In his address, Nasrallah gave a real-time update that Hezbollah fired a missile that hit the IDF navy ship “Hanit” (Spear) off the coast of Beirut. In the past several years, Nasrallah responds to every IDF killing of a Hezbollah operative and vows to avenge his death. This is what happened after a Hezbollah operative was shot and killed by the IDF after infiltrating into Israeli territory across from the community Metulah last May, as part of “solidarity events” with the people of Gaza during the latest escalation.

When Nasrallah is interviewed or gives an address he speaks orally, his speech is fluent (not including his “cough speech”) and even has a touch of humor. Normally, Nasrallah does not use any aids or sheets of paper. A unique example of one of Nasrallah’s interviews is the one that was conducted in July 2019. What makes it unique is the fact that Nasrallah presented a map, however, other than that, the interview is not considered out of the ordinary.

In the interview, from July 12th, 2019, Nasrallah speaks about Hezbollah’s surface-to-surface missile array capabilities, specifically regarding the missiles’ range and a diverse set of Israeli targets that are planned on being attacked in the next military confrontation.

He elaborates on Israeli cities, communities, and exact distances in kilometers. Nasrallah elaborated only on Hezbollah’s military capabilities that could not be contradicted publicly. He also jokingly addresses the claim that Hezbollah has an atomic bomb, saying that “obviously we (Hezbollah) do not have an atomic bomb, but attacking the ammonic tanks in Haifa will produce the same effect…”

Dr. Tzvi Barel (Barel, 2006), claimed that Nasrallah’s speeches can be divided into several categories, each one targeting a different audience, such as his supporters in Lebanon, Israeli citizens, Arab states, etc. Some of them target more than one audience, but in any case, it is apparent that Nasrallah put much thought into every sentence he says.

Ran Binyamini, in an issue of “the Seventh Eye” (issue no. 64, September 1st, 2006) focusing on Hezbollah and lessons learned from the Second Lebanon War (that ended in the middle of August of 2006), (Binyamini, 2006) gives an example of Nasrallah cynically taking advantage of Hezbollah’s information warfare against the families of IDF soldiers.

On the day after the kidnapping of the IDF soldiers in July of 2006, members of the Goldwasser family, whose son, Ehud, was one of the soldiers kidnapped, stayed inside their house and away from the press to avoid allowing Nasrallah to use their pictures and video footage for humiliation and negotiation in his next televised address. “Surprisingly”, Nasrallah in his address tried to pressure the kidnapped IDF soldiers’ families into pressuring Israeli authorities to do everything necessary for their sons. In another part of his speech, he addressed Israel’s leaders by stating his conditions in the negotiations for the release of the kidnapped soldiers.

A second example that many remember is Nasrallah’s “spiderweb speech” in May 2000 following the IDF’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon. Moshe Yaalon (Yaalon, 2016) claimed that this victory speech reflected Hezbollah’s perception that the Israeli society’s resilience is the weak link in Israel’s resilience as a nation. Nasrallah’s speech – its influence on our enemies, and Israel’s weakness that it portrayed, was no less dangerous than the war itself.

Nasrallah’s threats are taken seriously by the IDF and other Israeli security authorities. Especially the “equation of deterrence” given by him in his speech addressing the IDF’s activity in Syria in July 2020 (Orna Mizrahi, 2020). Here is a graphic of this threat:

The Equation: you kill one of our Mujahideen, we kill one of your soldiers
“The equation: you kill one of our Mujahideen, we kill one of your soldiers” – Nasrallah, August 30th, 2020.

The IDF has been on high alert ever since that day, and has changed its operational manners of conduct.

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Avraham Levine

Avraham Levine

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