[Marxism] Hezbollah switches its AK-47s for 2x4s

Richard Fidler rfidler at cyberus.ca
Thu Aug 17 07:43:11 MDT 2006


Hezbollah switches its AK-47s for 2x4s 

MARK MACKINNON 
[Toronto Globe & Mail, 17/08/06]

AITA AL-SHAAB, LEBANON -- Surrounded by the misshapen
remains of a town annihilated by war, Abu Hassan announced
it was time to start rebuilding what he had helped destroy. 

"After one day, food and water will come to this town," the
portly, bearded Hezbollah fighter said, waving at rows of
what once were people's homes. The shattered buildings had
been used as shelter by both sides as Israeli troops entered
the town, only to withdraw after suffering their heaviest
losses of the war. 

The streets were still strewn with rubble yesterday, but Abu
Hassan, one of about 50 Hezbollah fighters here who held off
repeated Israeli assaults on Aita al-Shaab, said he was
confident that trucks carrying food and other supplies would
reach the town by this morning. 

Three days after he received the order to stop fighting, Abu
Hassan (the name means only "father of Hassan"; he refused
to give his real name) was back to his peacetime job as a
social worker. 

His Kalashnikov rifle was nowhere in sight. Instead, he
carried a camera bag and was taking photographs of the
destruction and making estimates of what it would cost to
repair it. 

The soldier-turned-surveyor went on to lay out a plan for
resurrecting this town, once home to 10,000, from the rubble
of more than 30 days of war. "We," he said, will rebuild the
people's homes and give them a place to stay in the
meantime. "We" will pay compensation to the families of
those who died in the conflict. 

For Abu Hassan, "we" is Hezbollah. Now, as before Israel's
war to uproot the Shia militia from such places, there is no
other relevant authority in southern Lebanon. 

Hezbollah has even formed a construction company, Jihad
al-Benaa (Holy War for Construction) to handle the
rebuilding of the south. 

"Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah says all fighters must put down
their weapons and help Jihad al-Benaa to rebuild," Abu
Hassan said. "I'm a mujahed [holy warrior] when they need
me, a social worker when they need me." 

Rebuilding battered Aita-al Shaab will take six months to a
year, Abu Hassan said, with Hezbollah budgeting to spend an
average of $40,000 (U.S.) on each destroyed house. "We are
doing this, there's no government here. The government will
come when we're finished." 

The work had already begun yesterday. A Bobcat
mini-bulldozer, rented by Hezbollah, was clearing the
streets of rubble so that cars could again enter the town. 

Until there are homes that residents can return to,
Hezbollah has announced it will pay to rent fully furnished
apartments for one year for all those currently homeless.
Those who lost relatives will receive a lifetime monthly
stipend from the Party of God. Abu Hassan wouldn't reveal
the amount, but said it was enough to make the bereaved
families "comfortable." 

Before the war, Hezbollah had built up its support among the
poor Shiites of southern Lebanon by providing social
services that the cash-strapped government could not. Now,
with the south more destitute than ever, and the government
slow to respond, Hezbollah is once more filling the breach. 

Few in the region have any doubts that Hezbollah will be
able to deliver on its promise to repair the damage it
helped wreak on the area. 

"They did it before. They did it in 1993 and 1996," said one
United Nations observer stationed in southern Lebanon,
referring to previous Israeli assaults on southern Lebanon.
He asked not to be named out of concern that he would sound
admiring of Hezbollah. "They're organized, they have the
manpower, they have everything." 

And they're the only ones in the country who seem ready to
grapple with the enormous task ahead. 

Abdul Mohsen al-Husseini, president of the union of
municipalities for the neighbouring region of Tyre, said he
can't open roads between his area and the north, or even
restore basic services like electricity, because of small
budgets, the lack of available equipment and the slow
reaction of the central government in Beirut. By filling
those gaps, Hezbollah is again asserting itself as the main
service provider to the people. 

"I can't work alone. The government isn't helping us with
anything. There's no government here," Mr. al-Husseini said,
chain-smoking as he handled phone calls about cancelled
visits by European Union ministers and bodies still lying
unclaimed and unburied. 

"At least they [Hezbollah] are on the ground, helping the
people. They are taking care of the bodies. If anyone needs
food, they give them food." 

By doing the rebuilding themselves, Hezbollah was also
helping cement what many see as their victories in towns
like Aita al-Shaab. Fighters clad in black T-shirts and
green cargo pants strolled through town yesterday, proudly
pointing out sites where they claimed to have ambushed
groups of Israeli soldiers. 

They showed off the bounty of war, including a
shoulder-fired missile launcher with Hebrew writing on it
and captured camouflage netting, and drank from Israeli
water bottles. They claimed to have more gruesome souvenirs,
such as part of an Israeli soldier's head. 

"Look, this is Israeli blood," said 39-year-old Fares Jamil,
pointing at dark red stains on the rubble outside Aita
al-Shaab's main community centre. The
restaurant-owner-turned-militiaman said he and a group of
Hezbollah fighters had watched Israeli paratroopers land in
the centre of town, surrounded them, and opened fire,
killing several before the Israelis were forced to flee. 

With the fighting over and the relief and rebuilding
operation kicking into gear yesterday, Mr. Jamil said the
world misunderstood Hezbollah. 

"We are not terrorists. Hezbollah is defending the land. My
wife is Hezbollah, my children are Hezbollah. We will never
leave this land in 1,000 years."

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