I remember hearing Thomas Friedman on NPR after the cease-fire that ended the July War in 2006. He was speaking to Terry Gross if I’m not mistaken, and he said something along the lines of: “Nasrallah is yet another Arab leader who repeats the same formulas as many before him. He’s just another leader who stands on the rubble and says “We won”. Why? Because “it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, all that matters is if you fight the Jews.”
It seems that Friedman was wrong about Nasrallah, or at least about the ‘standing on the rubble’ bit. Hizbullah has apparently rebuilt 241 buildings and renovated hundreds more. Highly worth reading is this report by AFP about the progress of Hizbullah’s campaign to rebuild al-Dahiyeh. I will post the introduction below.
Salam Hassoun is thrilled by the new flat Hizbullah has built for her to replace the one Israeli bombs destroyed during the 2006 summer war. The war ravaged Beirut’s southern suburbs, a Hizbullah stronghold that includes the teeming neighborhood of Haret Hreik, where a mammoth Hizbullah-orchestrated reconstruction drive is under way.
The deafening explosions of Israeli bombs have been replaced by the grinding cacophony of earth-movers and cement mixers contracted to rebuild 241 of the 282 buildings destroyed in the bombing.
The project, dubbed Waad (pledge in Arabic), has won the heart of Hassoun but has also raised a storm of political dust between Hizbullah and the government, whose authority in the southern suburbs has lagged for decades.
“I used to dream of an apartment where the living room was separated from the dining area and where the kitchen would be much bigger, and Waad gave me that,” Hassoun told AFP during a Hizbullah-organized tour of Haret Hreik.
“May God protect [Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan] Nasrallah. He has kept his promise,” she said from her ninth-storey flat in one of several spanking new towers…
In the famous “let’s burst this boil” speech about the defense strategy, Nasrallah seemed to suggest that the best way to address the issue of Hizbullah’s resistance was not by attempting to dismantle it, but rather by transforming it from a private Shiite army into a national force that is capable of defending the homeland. In other words, rather than subtracting weapons from the resistance, the best solution would be to add people, especially members of other sects, in order to ‘nationalize’ what is inherently a sectarian militia and decouple it from a conservative theocratic social movement.
One can imagine a future speech in which Nasrallah makes the same point about the rest of Hizbullah’s growing social services empire. With the right spin (think “public-private” synergy), and given the high prices for housing, telephones, and everything else that one pays in West Beirut, I suppose anything is possible!