Inspired by the conscious uplifting of the marginalized and voiceless during Israeli Apartheid Week, Barnard Columbia BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) member Stephen Weinberg CC ‘18 joined Hezbollah, the Sh’ia Islamist paramilitary group. The 5’6,” 140-pound art history and human rights major recently posted a picture of himself to Instagram wearing the traditional green beret of a Hezbollah paramilitary fighter and holding a Cold War-era Soviet RPD light machine gun, which he described in the caption as “#retro aesthetic.”
Weinberg, 19, of Westchester, Connecticut, felt so empowered and motivated by the BDS wall – a structure which he thought aptly captured his own intense anger at the human rights violations perpetrated by the Israeli state – that he realized he had no way to save everyone in the Middle East from the West except to join Hezbollah. He cited his reasons for signing up for the Kata’Ib Hezbollah Brigades as based in his desire to directly promote human rights discourses through a non-governmental organization, and his rejection of the Western neo-colonialist rhetoric that he claimed pervaded art history coursework at Columbia.
“I’ve been waging the fight against Israeli and American imperialism so long through online revolutionary social media guerilla tactics that I just felt it was time to take the next step up,” said Weinberg, whose phone beeped to notify him that his grandmother had sent him a $50 iTunes giftcard for his birthday. “Sweet! I’m going to buy the new Kendrick E.P. right after I finish this grenade-throwing obstacle course,” said Weinberg.
His journey from second-year liberal arts college student to grizzled veteran of the Lebanese paramilitary force began at Newark International Airport, where Weinberg boarded his first-class flight to Beirut. The sophomore told customs that he was visiting the Middle Eastern nation in order to interview for an internship position at the Beirut Stock Exchange. Upon his arrival, Weinberg repeatedly tweeted “anyone trying to defeat Israel? #holla” to little avail, before eventually attracting the attention of one Assir Kuntar, 36, a Hezbollah twitter recruiter and improvised explosives device production expert.
Kuntar direct-messaged Weinberg in Arabic asking to meet him at an abandoned cafe in a dilapidated industrial district, leading the sophomore on a wacky twelve-hour adventure on Beirut’s public transport system before he realized he had misinterpreted the instructions on Google Translate, leading him to take two left turns when Kuntar was really asking him to PayPal him the contents of his checkings account and to bring a bulletproof vest and combat knife. Eventually he was able to navigate to their assigned meeting point, relying on garbled Apple Maps instructions and the assistance of a one-armed mullah with a heart of gold.
Kuntar and Weinberg at first had some difficulty communicating with each other, as the Columbia student attempted to mime “cultural hegemony” and “reification of patriarchal dialectic” with his hands. However, Weinberg was eventually able to use body language to express his rejection of Israeli repression and late-stage capitalism, leading a bemused Kuntar to call his superiors and let them know they had a new recruit to transport for training by the Iranian Quds Force near its base on the outskirts of Tehran.
There, Weinberg gained expertise in gathering intelligence, hand-to-hand combat, small unit tactics and the use of night-vision goggles and antitank weapons. He said that he was able to rewrite his C.V. with the aid of a member of the militant group’s Centre for Career Education, which he affirmed was significantly more responsive and helpful than any assistance he had received at Columbia.
“Diversified skills in modern infantry tactics through collaboration and team-building with multicultural staff from different countries, showcasing drive and ability to define and achieve concrete goals,” the new resume reads, which is written entirely in Levantine Arabic. Weinberg acknowledged that the training process to become a fully qualified fighter was difficult, especially since the group’s recruiters informed him he had few to no useful skills.
“It turns out that Fro Sci isn’t exactly tailored to the needs of a burgeoning revolutionary movement,” Weinberg said. “And I tried to explain that I had taken Major Texts of Middle East and India, but they weren’t very interested in feminist readings of Sayyid Qutb’s ‘Milestones.’”
Following six months of arduous training in the Iranian desert, Weinberg had put on 25 pounds of muscle, developed a steady hand with a sniper rifle and gained proficiency in a variety of Middle Eastern and South Asian dialects. While he will likely have to take an additional year or two to finalize his Columbia degree following the overthrow of the State of Israel, in the long run he thinks it will be worth it.
“I’m doing this for the Palestinian people,” Weinberg said. “Their state of subjection to an unfeeling, dehumanizing occupation is intolerable, and any civilized person should take action.”
He received his graduation certificate in late March, and was informed he would be joining a division of the Brigades fighting alongside the Syrian government in Palmyra, currently controlled by the Islamic State.
“Wait a second,” Weinberg said. “Shit.”