Thursday, January 18, 2007

Hezbollah image suffers in south Lebanon village | International News |

No doubt, the tensions that exisit in Beirut between Sunni and Shi'i Muslims extend to the South, including the village of Shebaa as reported in the following piece. I have not been in Shebaa since the spring of 2000, so I have no new data; however, there are three relevant points from my previous experience there: 1. while Shebaa was under Israeli occupation, there were no occupation forces in the village when I was there. I did not sense a large amount of enthusiam for Hezbollah at that time, but I can easily imagine the village sharing in the celebration that followed Israel's exit; 2. The village was prospering in part because it was a lucrative nexus for smuggling. When I was there the big business was in cigarettes bought tax-free from Israel, transported by donkeys over the Golan. While the villagers complained about losing access to their farms (the now famous Shebaa farms), there was a real air of prosperity in Shebaa despite the occupation; and, 3. when the issue of the Shebaa farms was first raised it was the voice of Nabih Berri that gave the issue salience, not Hezbollah, which climbed on to the issue later. My observation at the time, was that Hezbollah officials, who were otherwise well-informed, knew little about the Shebaa farms.

Hezbollah image suffers in south Lebanon village | International News | "Villagers in Shebaa were grateful to Hezbollah guerrillas for forcing out Israel. Now, some say Nasrallah's image has been damaged by the campaign he is leading against a government which they support.

'In the liberation year, all of Shebaa supported Hezbollah. Now it's a tiny, tiny minority,' grocer Ahmad al-Khatib said."

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