Rola El-Husseini is an Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, where she teaches courses on Middle East Politics, Political Islam, and Authoritarianism in the Arab World. She holds a BA from the American University of Beirut, an M.A. from the University of London, and a Ph.D. in Political Sociology from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris.
In April 2005 El-Husseini presented a lecture at UCLA, titled “Hizbullah: Political Party or Terrorist Organization?” In that talk, she stated that there were three principal classifications of people who considered Hizbullah to be a “terrorist” organization: “Americans in their war on terrorism”; “Israelis who do not agree with the party’s politics vis-a-vis Israel”; and “some Lebanese groups and individuals unhappy with Hizbullah’s increasing importance in Lebanese politics and with its social and political agenda.”
In El-Husseini’s estimation, Hizbullah transformed itself from a terrorist entity into a legitimate political party in the early 1990s, as evidenced by its participation in Lebanon’s legislative elections of 1992 (and all subsequent elections). “[D]espite U.S. pressure and the wishes of the UK and the Netherlands,” El-Husseini notes, “the European Union has refused to place Hizbullah on its list of terrorist organizations, arguing that it is a legitimate political party with an extensive network of charitable organizations operating in Lebanon.” According to El-Husseini, Hizbullah provides the Lebanese people with such vital services as armed resistance (against Israel), social and economic assistance for those in need, and financial and administrative support for schools and hospitals.
On November 13, 2007, El-Husseini was a featured speaker at a “Jihadi Islam Conference” held at UCLA. The focus of the conference was to take “stock of the various approaches applied to the study of jihadism and jihadi movements”; to “discuss the assumptions and methodological problems encountered by researchers”; and to “propose alternative approaches to the study of these phenomena that conform to more broadly applicable historical and social science practice.” Fellow speakers included Bruce Lawrence and James Gelvin.
In November 2008 El-Husseini co-authored a statement, addressed specifically to incoming U.S. President Barack Obama, blaming past American policies for the deterioration of U.S.-Iranian relations. Criticizing previous administrations’ efforts to deal with Iran by means of economic sanctions, the statement implored Obama to “open the door to direct, unconditional and comprehensive negotiations” with the Iranian regime. The statement further dismissed the “myth” that Iran was trying to develop nuclear weapons with which to destroy Israel — though Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had candidly expressed his wish, on multiple occasions, to “wipe Israel off the map” and to bring about “the destruction of the Zionist regime.”