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Friday, August 17, 2007

Now showing south of Beirut: The Hezbullah experience

If you or your children want to experience being in a bunker without needing to be blindfolded to get there, I have just the thing for you. Assuming you're willing to visit Lebanon.

Lebanese blogger Ya Libnan has a report on a new Hezbullah 'attraction' south of Beirut called the Hezbullah Experience. But you'd better hurry up and see it because it won't be there for long.
Imagine Britain's Imperial War museum with an Islamist militia makeover, and you've got the strangely-named ''Spider Web" museum, built to commemorate Hizballah's "Divine Victory" over Israel after their 34-day war last summer, which ended a year ago yesterday. Though just a temporary installation built on the rubble of a building destroyed during the war, the museum showcases the guerrilla organization's trademark attention to detail and its fearsomeness.

Designed like a sandbag fortress rising over a garden of inert land mines, armored vehicles and the occasional palm tree, the museum contains a display of Hizballah weapons and tactics, including the scale recreation of a front line bunker, complete with computer workstation, prayer rug and dish rack. Throw in a lava lamp and it could be a college dorm room.

Besides diagrams of the latest in Iranian and Russian anti-tank rocketry, and an ultra-violent Hizballah special forces video game, the display that I found most impressive was a plaque listing every single Israeli warplane that bombed Lebanon along with their squadron ID and home bases. Not only did Hizballah survive the bombardment, but its observers still had the presence of mind to keep score. Not bad for 3,000 regular fighters up against a regional superpower.

The Israelis portrayed in the museum are either dead (in mannequin form) war-crazed (photos of Israeli school children writing hate messages on artillery shells) or incompetent ("We will eradicate Hizballah within three days," trumpets former Israeli General Dan Halutz while next to him, former Defense Minister Amir Peretz looks through a pair of binoculars with the lens caps still on.)

But the "Death to Israel" stuff is of a piece with normal Hizballah propaganda. What's different about the museum as a whole is the bragging tone. Hizballah was once famous for being one of the few Arab organizations that let its actions speak louder than words. The new swagger shown since last summer is both a sign of newfound confidence, and of weakness. For though Hizballah may have won the war against Israel, it has not yet won the peace.
I wonder how the woman in the picture got into the 'museum' without a hijab.


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