October 7, 2005

Meeting Hezbollah

I met with Hezbollah in person today.

The goons picked me up at my hotel. They stuffed me in the back of the car, blindfolded me, drove me around in circles, then took me (I think) into the mountains to a “safe house” to talk to the sheik.

Actually, that's not what happened at all. What really happened is I took a taxi down to the Beirut suburb of Dahye with photojournalist Dan. There we met with Mr. Slick Media Man. Nice guy. Affable. Sharply dressed. Firm handshake. I would love to hang out with him over some beers and argue about politics. We wouldn't agree about much, but he doesn't threaten or yell. He also probably doesn't drink beer. His loss.

He did live in New York, though, and he seems to have a decent understanding of American culture. Said he’s tired of Larry King: “We need someone more fresh.” I asked him if he’s seen The Daily Show with John Stewart. “That’s what the kids are watching these days,” I said. But he hadn’t caught an episode yet.

There’s a lot more where this came from, I assure you. But I’m saving it up for something longer. Just wanted to let everyone know that Hezbollah’s “No Snatch” policy is still operative, and that I am still in one piece.

I’d like to turn the rest of this post over to “Lebanon.Profile,” my friend who blogs at the Lebanese Political Journal. He wrote the folllowing in the comments thread beneath the last post where several people worried I would get my head cut off if I went down and met with the Party of God.
I knew the reactions would be like this.

I am very happy I took Michael down to Dahieh a few months ago. The area south of Beirut that Hezbollah controls is one of the most international areas in Lebanon. The Europeans and Americans all live in Hamra and Ashrafieh. But many Egyptians, Syrians, Iraqis, Palestinians, and Iraqis live in Dahieh and get along quite well. In fact, the area is so peaceful that I know a few Americans who lived there, and I know an Irishman who still lives there [no heads came off].

…Hezbollah's primary purpose is to “resist” the “Zionists.” They aren't in Lebanon to harass the foreigners. If they were, the Lebanese government and international community would be forced to crack down on them. Hezbollah walks a tight rope in creating its internal policy, but few who haven't studied the group know this.

Hezbollah knows that Jews come to Lebanon, and they are highly suspicious of them. I helped set up a meeting between a pro-Likud European Jew and a mid-level Hezbollah member. The meeting was incredibly awkward, and we brought a gaggle of large men (including my 95k, 185cm self), but it was productive.

Interestingly enough for all of you irrational types, the Hezbollah guy learned a lot. He was very surprised to hear the beliefs of my friend, who was a pro-Likud Jew from Europe.

Did we learn anything from him? No. He gave the same packaged garbage that Hezbollah always spews. However, the important part was that he was effected.

Hezbollah likes Westerners. That's why they give English language tours. They are trying to get Westerners on their side. Hezbollah has museums at prison and massacre sites. Michael has been to the museum at Qana where Israel killed UN officers and refugees.

Their stuff is quite obviously political propaganda. They don't yet know that they are shooting themselves in the foot when they say, “The Holocaust at Qana.” But they are becoming savvier.

We know that Hezbollah is undermining Lebanon. We know Hezbollah carries out atrocious operations to kidnap and kill Israel soldiers defending an international recognized border, which even the Lebanese and Syrian governments recognize. We know that Israel has a right to exist. But that's not the issue here.

The issue is Michael's visit to Hezbollah press officers. Ask yourselves this, Why would an organization intent on killing random foreign journalists have an English language press office? To lure them in? Or to try to indocrinate them and have them write pro-Hezbollah articles in the Western press?

Hezbollah was very successful with Helena Cobban. Why shouldn't they try to recruit more Western cheerleaders?

A gay Bostonian will do a better job convincing Americans that Hezbollah is okay than a Lebanese guy in a beard and glasses. Then, that person will argue with me claiming that Hezbollah is a wonderful organization that represents 70% of Lebanese opinion. It really, really infuriates me.

I hated when all of the Western liberals wrote on my blog after March 14th that we were not really the voice of Lebanon because Hezbollah is. Their statements were idiotic.

Don't be like them.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 7, 2005 9:28 AM
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