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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Hezbollah's victory parade

Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
Hundreds of thousands of people attended a
rally in the suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday.

Vast Lebanon Throng Hails Hezbollah Chief, Who Calls the Militia Stronger

Published: September 23, 2006

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Sept. 22 — Hundreds of thousands of people stood Friday and chanted “God, God, protect Nasrallah.” It was the moment they had waited for: Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, in person, declaring that his militia was stronger than ever and that no army in the world could force it to disarm.

At the rally, the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, declared that the militia had emerged stronger from its recent war with Israel. "Not a single army in the world will be able to dismantle our resistance," he said, and asserted that Hezbollah still had 20,000 missiles in its arsenal. It was Sheik Nasrallah's first public appearance since the war with Isarel started in July.

This was Sheik Nasrallah’s first public appearance since the war with Israel started in July, and it was steeped in defiance: at Israel, the United States, Arab heads of state and those political forces in Lebanon aiming to clip Hezbollah’s political and military power.

If there was any thought the war weakened Hezbollah, Sheik Nasrallah had a different message: “It is stronger.” Even after Israel’s 34-day bombardment of Lebanon, Hezbollah, he said, still has more than 20,000 missiles. “Not a single army in the world will be able to dismantle our resistance,” Sheik Nasrallah said, as he stood beneath a big banner that read “The Victory Rally.” “No army in the world will be able to make us drop the weapons from our hands.”

The crowd was mammoth, packing every corner of the 37-acre square in the southern suburbs of Beirut. There was a plastic chair for nearly everyone, and a baseball cap for protection from the sun. Hezbollah’s martial choir belted out chest thumping music. The crowds waved flags, wildly cheering for Sheik Nasrallah, who has become a folk hero to many here and throughout the Arab world. The audience came on foot, by car and by bus from the south and the north, and in every case, people said they came because Sheik Nasrallah asked them to.

“Whatever Sayid Hassan wants Sayid Hassan gets,” said Hossain Zebara, 29, using a title reserved for descendants of the prophet Muhammad. Mr. Zebara said it took him 24 hours to walk from his home in the southern part of Lebanon to be at the rally. “We came to show the American administration, the British administration, the French administration, that the resistance population is increasing, not decreasing.”

That was exactly Sheik Nasrallah’s point — a show of strength to those who would challenge him from abroad, and those who would challenge him at home. In a country of about four million, turning out hundreds of thousands of people in a disciplined, highly orchestrated event, is a sign of strength.

But the rally also highlighted some of the deep divisions among Lebanon’s different factions, as the crowd at times chanted slogans calling the Druse leader, Walid Jumblatt, a “worm” and “Jew” and calling for the prime minister to leave office.

Sheik Nasrallah sought to overcome some of that by calling for unity in a speech that tried to define him as leader who is not just a local force, but a regional force as well. He gave voice to one of the primary feelings that has fueled anger throughout the Muslim world: a sense that Muslims are being victimized in places like Iraq and Gaza, and the world does not care. “How long will it go on that the world keeps quiet?” he asked.

And he aimed hard at Arab leaders, criticizing them for not being willing to fight Israel. “These Arab leaders prefer to protect their thrones as opposed to protecting Palestine,” he said, taking a shot at the traditional power brokers, like the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.

This was achingly predictable.

When Sadr holds a similar rally in the Green Zone, it will look a lot like this.

Wasn't the IDF supposed to kill this guy? Ooops.

posted by Steve @ 1:25:00 AM

1:25:00 AM

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