[Marxism] Re: They look like us..

Brian Shannon brian_shannon at verizon.net
Mon Jul 24 09:46:25 MDT 2006

Hezbollah's grip will be tough to break
By SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN, Times Senior Correspondent
Published July 14, 2006

When I was in Lebanon last year, I had an interview with one of the  
leaders of Hezbollah, the radical Shiite organization that kidnapped  
two Israeli soldiers this week.

To accompany me, I hired an interpreter, a blond, blue-eyed Lebanese  
Christian woman in spike heels and a short skirt. As we drove to  
Hezbollah's headquarters in southern Beirut, home to hundreds of  
thousand of poor Shiites, the streets got more crowded, the buildings  
more decrepit, the women more modestly dressed to the point many wore  
Iranian-style black abayas and head scarves.

My interpreter, eyes widening as a truly foreign scene unfolded  
before her, had a confession: Even though she was born in Beirut, she  
had never seen this part of the city.

"I had no idea," she kept repeating.

In many ways it was a moment that told the story of Lebanon and  
showed why its government may be unable to crack down on Hezbollah  
even in the face of huge Israeli pressure. In retaliation for the  
kidnappings and rocket attacks, Israel on Thursday bombed Beirut's  
international airport, blockaded its seaport and created a near panic  
that sent thousands of visitors fleeing to neighboring Syria.

After Lebanon's terrible civil war ended in 1990, central Beirut went  
through a building boom that helped restore its image as the "Paris  
of the Mideast." Today, the Beirut that my interpreter and many other  
well-to-do Lebanese know is a city of luxury hotels, smart shops,  
fast cars and trendy restaurants.

Much of the credit for Beirut's transformation went to the late Rafik  
Hariri, a Sunni entrepreneur who started out in the construction  
business in Saudi Arabia and returned home to become one of Lebanon's  
richest and most influential citizens. He twice served as prime  
minister, favoring friends and relatives, critics say, and largely  
ignoring the Shiites who populated the slums of south Beirut and the  
villages in southern Lebanon close to the Israeli border.

Hezbollah stepped into the gap left by the government, starting  
schools and health care clinics and building a base of support among  
the Shiites, who are thought to make up a majority of Lebanon's 4- 
million people. There has been no official census since 1932. The  
organization now has 14 seats in Lebanon's Parliament and, along with  
Amal, another Shiite party, controls about a third of the Cabinet.

. . .


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