August 5, 2006

Hezbollahland Photo Gallery

Lebanon is a beautiful country, and Beirut is a beautiful city. (If you don’t believe me, see here and here.) Hezbollah-occupied Lebanon, though, isn’t so great — especially now.

Last year I took dozens of photos of Hezbollah’s miniature state-within-a-state, along the border with Israel and in the suburbs, the dahiyeh, south of Beirut.

The photos of Beirut’s southern suburbs are not very good quality. Taking pictures in the dahiyeh is absolutely forbidden. I did not dare raise my camera and click the shutter except through the windshield from inside a moving car. Even then I had to be careful.

Here is what Hezbollahland looked like before the war. Much of what you see here has since been destroyed.

Dahieh1.jpg

The portrait of a “martyr” killed in battle with Israel above the sidewalk can be seen in the upper left corner. Off-center is a portrait of the cleric Moussa Sadr, who came to Lebanon from Iran in the 1960s and brought the Shia out of political isolation. He later vanished forever in Libya.


Dahieh2.jpg

Another “martyr” portait above the sidewalk on the left.


Dahieh3.jpg

The Ayatollah Khomeini makes an appearance.


Dahieh4.jpg

Notice that Hezbollah does not require women to wear the hijab, the modest Islamic headscarf. They are, to an extent, “moderate” compared with the regime in Iran.


Dahieh5.jpg

Syria’s Bashar al-Assad makes an appearance.


Dahieh6.jpg

More “martyrdom” posters.


Dahieh7.jpg

The “martyrs” are everywhere in the dahiyeh.


Dahieh8.jpg

Most of the dahiyeh consists of apartment blocks, many of which have since been destroyed.


Dahieh9.jpg

More apartment blocks in the Hezbollahland suburbs.


Dahieh10.jpg

And still more…


Beaufort from Below.jpg

Beaufort castle sits at the top of a small mountain in South Lebanon where you can see into Israel. Hezbollah uses it as one of their border watch posts.


Hezbollah Flag on Beaufot.jpg

A Hezbollah observation post on top of Beaufort.


Beaufot Outpost Banner.jpg

A few tourists did actually visit this castle before it was engulfed in a war zone. Hezbollah put up this banner for them.


Military Media.jpg

They do like to fashion themselves as media savvy.


Israel 1.jpg

Further south from Beaufort…you can walk right up to Israeli houses without leaving Lebanon. This town pictured above, Metulla, is inside Israel. Look closely at the bottom of the picture and you can see the fence that demarcates the border.


Israel House.jpg

That house is inside Israel. Hezbollah controlled the territory I stood on when I snapped the picture.


Down Into Israel.jpg

Everything you see in this picture is inside Israel, taken from a Lebanese road along the fence.


Israel and Lebanon.jpg

Here’s how crazy the border is. The town in the foreground, Metulla, is inside Israel. The town in the background, Kafr Kila, is in Lebanon. You might think you would have to stand inside Israel to take a picture such as this one. How else would you get a picture of a Lebanese town behind an Israeli town? But you can, because I did. That Israeli town is inside a “penninsula,” or a finger, that juts into Lebanon. It is surrounded by Hezbollah-controlled territory on three sides.


Khomeini in South.jpg

Iran’s dead tyrant Ayatollah Khomeini makes repeated appearances in the south.


Propaganda Billboard in South.jpg

On the road beneath Beaufort Castle the story of suicide bomber Haitham Dbouq is told next to his portrait. “Haitham stormed into the convoy — that had 30 occupation troops in its ranks — blowing up his car amidst the vehicles that turned into fireballs and scattered bodies on the ground. Thirty Zionist casualties was the size of the material shock that hit the occupation army; the morale shock was much larger and more dangerous.”


Martyr Poster in South.jpg

Portraits of “martyrs” killed in battle with Israel line the streets and the roads.


Border Poster.jpg

Hezbollah says they love peace. Yet they erect billboards like this one all over the south.


Border.jpg

The border. Israel is on the left side. Lebanon is on the right side.


Israel from Road.jpg

The road pictured above is inside Lebanon. The scenery in the background is all inside Israel.


Walking Toward Fatima Gate.jpg

Walking toward Fatima’s Gate, the place where tourists from all across the Middle East go and throw rocks into Israel.


Fatima Gate.jpg

The old Israeli custom’s house at Fatima’s Gate. It was open six years ago when Israel still occupied South Lebanon. Lebanese commuted to jobs inside Israel through the gate. It has been closed since 2000.


Israel Through Fence.jpg

Israel through the fence near Fatima’s Gate.


Two Satans.jpg

“Monuments” of sorts to the two Satans. The United States is the Great Satan. Israel is the Little Satan.


Charity Donation Box.jpg

Here is where you donate money to Hezbollah’s charity operations.


Resistance Donation Box.jpg

Here is where you donate money to Hezbollah’s military operations.


Khiam 2.jpg

Near the entrance to Khiam prison. Until the year 2000, the prison was run by the South Lebanese Army, a Lebanese Christian ally of Israel, inside the occupation zone. Earlier reports from the war said the prison is now destroyed.


Khiam 1.jpg

Khiam was a “tourist” destination of sorts. But it was no place to go if you weren’t in a grim mood already. It wasn’t Disneyland.


Khiam 3.jpg

A lovely exercise yard at Khiam.


Khiam 4.jpg

This ought to be self-explanatory.


Split Village from Distance.jpg

The Alawite village of Al-Ghajar. This is where last November’s round of fighting erupted. The left side of the village is in Israel. The right side of the village is in Lebanon. Both sides of the village formerly belonged to Syria.


Split Village.jpg

The Israeli side of Al-Ghajar. The Lebanese side is a wreck. I mistakenly neglected to take pictures of it.


Border Tomb.jpg

The tomb of the disputed dead man. Lebanon says Sheik Abbad is buried there. Israel says, no, Rabbi Ashi is buried there. The border runs right down the center of his tomb. That’s an Isareli military compound just on the other side of it


Border Posts.jpg

On the right side is an Israeli listening and watch post. On the left side is Hezbollah’s feeble imitation.


Hezbollah Billboard Directed Toward Israel.jpg

This billboard was erected by Hezbollah three feet from the border. The text is in Hebrew, and it faces directly into Israel. It says: “Sharon Don't Forget. Your Soldiers Are Still in Lebanon.”


Severed Head.jpg

Look closely. That’s a severed Israeli head held up by its hair.


Military Stuff in South.jpg

Hezbollah placed military museum pieces all over the towns in the south just to show them off.


Children on Tank.jpg

Children play on one of the tanks.


Hezbollah Jeep.jpg

A blasted truck placed ten feet from the border.


Hezbollah Logo.jpg

The Hezbollah logo and flag on the front of the truck.

Post-script: I am getting on a plane and heading to Tel Aviv as quickly as possible, hopefully within a few days. No more armchair blogging for me. Please hit the PayPal link and help me buy airfare. I can't do this for free, and you deserve better than mere links and long-distance op-ed analysis.

If you would like to donate money for travel expenses and you don't want to use Pay Pal, you can send a check or money order to:

Michael Totten
P.O. Box 312
Portland, OR 97207-0312

Many thanks in advance.

All photos copyright Michael J. Totten

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 5, 2006 4:16 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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