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Hezbollah War Museum
Mleeta, Lebanon
By Cherine Yazbeck
14 Dec 2014

Where "Earth Speaks to Heaven": A Day at Hezbollah’s War Museum

Text by Cherine Yazbeck

A scenic hill in South Lebanon that Hezbollah fighters once used to launch attacks against Israeli troops is now a museum to commemorate martyrdom and victory.

This is the Mleeta war museum. Built in 2010, it stands as a reminder of Hezbollah’s main source of popular legitimacy – the liberation of southern Lebanon from Israeli occupation. Hezbollah fought against Israeli troops during their occupation between 1982 and 2000. In 2006, Hezbollah also fought a bloody war against Israel that lasted for 33 days.

The museum stretches over more than 65,000 square meters and includes an outdoor exhibition as well as a projection hall and indoor cafés.

On display are military equipment, fatigues and weapons of different calibers abandoned by Israeli troops as well as equipment used by Hezbollah fighters.

This project is still under development. Once completed, it will include a luxury hotel, a paintball arena and a cable car station that offers visitors a scenic view of the area.

While Hezbollah has been discreet about the project’s cost and source of funding, it is estimated that the museum has so far cost several million dollars.
The Lebanese Ministry of Tourism recognized the “Tourist Resistance Landmark”, as Hezbollah names the Mleeta museum it, as an official Lebanese tourist site.

The main gate has a college campus feel. At the entrance there is a café, a souvenir shop and snack bars. After climbing long stairs, the visitor reaches a circular observation area in the middle of which there is a memorial plaque honoring fallen fighters.

One is free to either walk around alone or join a complimentary guided tour in different languages. Guides are former militants who generously share their experience with curious visitors that flock to Mleeta from the Persian Gulf, Hezbollah’s Lebanese supporters, in addition to a few Westerners.

The guide suggests that Hezbollah is not a terrorist group and aims only at defending its country. In its war to defend Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the party has tried to distinguish itself from Sunni militias it is fighting, which it labels as “terrorist”. Hezbollah says the purpose of its involvement in the Syrian quagmire is only meant to deter extremist groups from threatening Lebanon.

A tour of “victory”

The tour starts with a short documentary film extoling the militia’s victories, accompanied by a soundtrack of explosions, military music and religious chants. The film features footage of Hezbollah’s battles against Israel and the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah giving a speech, claiming that Israel “has fallen.”

The indoor exhibition hall showcases a variety of captured Israeli arms and equipment displayed in glass cases and galleries beneath ground level.

On the wall, a large panel with aerial photos maps out the destruction and casualties which Hezbollah claims were inflicted on the civilian population during the last Israeli incursion into Lebanese territories in 2006. Other giant panels offer a detailed anatomy of Israel's military machine and show satellite pictures and map coordinates of potential Hezbollah targets in the Jewish state.

Across the main square is the “Abyss” – a construction that symbolizes Israel’s defeat and withdrawal from Lebanese territory. It consists of a two 20-metre wide hollows that contain mangled Israeli tanks amidst giant Hebrew letters and scattered ammunition. Inside the round sunken arena lies a model of an Israeli Merkava tank with its gun barrel tied in a knot – this is a mockery of Israeli forces, portrayed as weak and defeated.

Scattered around the outdoor arena, Israeli military hardware and empty vehicles carcasses lie belly-up to underline the victory of the Party of God over “the Zionist enemy”. The labyrinth of walkways allows a 360-degree view of this dramatic “art” installation.

The combination of reality and artistic narrative continues as the path leads into the woods, where networks of waist-high trenches, camouflaged by small oak trees, lead to a tunnel; these are the rugged tracks that battle-hardened fighters used during the occupation to monitor enemy positions and hide from war planes and drones. The reconstitution seems unrealistic at times; however, the life-size models of resistance fighters planted in “daily-life” poses fuel some realism.

The details of the constructed setting are important as they display the nitty-gritty reality of a Hezbollah guerrilla fighter. Resistance against the enemy and martyrdom are the two major themes of this outdoor exhibition.

This former hideout was part of the militia’s trench-line. The pathway links up with the “Cave”, the “Outlook”, and the ‘Tunnels”, all of which formed part of the defensive complex used by the fighters. A field hospital and a camouflaged rocket launching site portrait the experience of “fierce mujahideen” who patiently endured all kind of hardships.

"The Cave" was once used secret as a secret bunker. Hezbollah fighters dug it over the span of several years and had to work in discretion, day and night.

A large part of the network lies underground, dug deep into the rocky hillside. Hezbollah built a legend around its tunnel digging skills. According to the tour guides, it took the fighters over three years to hack out the limestone. Under occupation, this underground complex housed hundreds of fighters and was equipped with a kitchen, a prayer room, a field hospital, a dormitory, a command room and living space for up to 30 fighters.

The passage takes visitors to a lookout point high above villages perched in rolling hills. The spectacular green and peaceful scenery contrasts the exhibition’s military ambiance.

For Hezbollah supporters, Mleeta is revered as a symbol of courage, commitment and sacrifice.
Unlike official war museums in Western countries, in Mleeta, the party has added a religious militancy as well as an emphasis on martyrdom. The exhibition’s cryptic slogan "Earth Speaks to Heaven" sounds like a philosophic statement that summarizes Hezbollah’s reliance on religion as a source of political legitimacy.

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Inside Hezbollah (Last version)
Nabatieh
By Cherine Yazbeck
30 Nov 2014

Shot list:
00:00 - 00:05
A wide shot shows a large billboard featuring portraits of Hezbollah fighters killed in Syria, with Hezbollah and Amal flags around it. The writing at the bottom of the billboard reads: “The Martyrs of Holy Defense.”
00:06 – 00:10
A medium shot shows details of the billboard.
00:11 – 00:14
A medium shot shows a billboard featuring Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah.
00:15 – 00:47
Interview with Ali Arab, a Hezbollah supporter, man, Arabic/ interview transcript below
A medium shot shows young Hezbollah scouts holding large portraits of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran; Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader; and Sayyid Abbas al-Mussawi, a Hezbollah Secretary-General assassinated by Israel.
00:48 – 01:15
Various shots show a large number of male Hezbollah supporters wearing uniforms inspired by Ashura and beating their chests as a sign of grief for Imam Hussein.
01:16 – 02:48
Interview with Habib Fayyad, a political analyst affiliated with Hezbollah, man, Arabic / interview transcript below
Archive footage of Hezbollah parade in south Beirut; recent footage of children participating in Ashura commemoration in Nabatieh; archive footage of the Lebanese parliament; recent footage of missile launchers and Hezbollah fighters in military fatigues and as part Ashura parade in Nabatieh
02:49 – 03:37
Interview with participant in Ashura commemoration, man, Arabic/ interview transcript below

03:38 – 04:23
Interview with Habib Fayyad, a political analyst affiliated with Hezbollah, man, Arabic / interview transcript below
Archive footage shows Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah and fighters during a parade in south Beirut.

Interviews
00:15 – 00:47
Interview with Ali Arab, a Hezbollah supporter, man, Arabic/ interview transcript below
A medium shot shows young Hezbollah scouts holding large portraits of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran; Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader; and Sayyid Abbas al-Mussawi, a Hezbollah Secretary-General assassinated by Israel.
“It is normal that we are at risk from different parties and we should be aware of what is happening around us. It is true we are ready on all fronts against all of the Tafkiris [religious extremists], and even against Israel. This parade, particularly in Nabatieh, is a challenge to the Israelis, so they know we are not afraid of them. This is a big Jihad for us.” 01:16 – 02:48 Interview with Habib Fayyad, a political analyst affiliated with Hezbollah, man, Arabic “Hezbollah defines itself as a resistance movement against Israeli occupation and against any danger that may affect Lebanon. It is a resistance movement that is also involved in politics. It is also an Islamic movement, but it does not practice Islam in politics. Hezbollah has an Islamic doctrine, but it does not apply it in the political agenda it advocates in the Lebanese political arena. It [Hezbollah] is also is merged with other active political parties and movements in the Lebanese scene. “Hezbollah’s legitimacy is derived, firstly, from its partisans [its popular support base]; and secondly from the Taif Agreement [agreement ending the Lebanese civil war], which states that Lebanon shall resist Israel in all possible ways. Its legitimacy is also derived from the Lebanese parliament, since Hezbollah has members in it; and from the Lebanese government, of which it is a part. All of the pervious and current governments have clearly recognized the legitimacy of Hezbollah as a pillar of resistance against Israel. However, the most important thing is that its [Hezbollah’s] legitimacy is obvious and logical because, whenever there is an occupation, there is the right of the population to resist the occupation.”

02:49 – 03:37
Interview with participant in Ashura commemoration, man, Arabic
“Of course, Hezbollah is legitimate as it has liberated the South along with other allied parties including the Amal Movement, the Syrian Social National Party (SSNP) and the Communist Party. “All parties have fought [against Israel]. “Hezbollah’s weapons are targeted against innocent civilians and are not to be used in [civilian] neighborhoods. “It never fought in the streets. It is not only me; everybody says that its weapon is the most honest. Without [its weapons], Lebanon would not exist and there would be no one ruling the country, not even a president of the republic. “On the contrary, the weapons must remain in the hands of Hezbollah, in the hands of the resistance. “More than that, it [Hezbollah] should be more powerful. “We need ten times more rockets. It shall remain and we will protect it.”

03:28 – 04:23
Interview with Habib Fayyad, a political analyst affiliated with Hezbollah, man, Arabic
“Hezbollah has qualified and capable leaders in various domains: in politics, in military, social welfare, in security, in culture, in education and in economy. Hezbollah does not have to give a list of its leaders for security reasons, since the enemy, Israel, targets it. It only publishes the names of those who appear in the media. Aside from these [people], Hezbollah does not have to publish the names and tasks of its ranks.”

Hezbollah Fighters Defy ISIS and Israel on Ashura

Giant portraits of Hezbollah fighters killed in Syria tower over the main square in the Lebanese southern city of Nabatieh.
The commemoration of Ashura has taken place every year in this square. It is a tribute to Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad and a central figure for Shiite Muslims who was killed more than 1,300 years ago. But Hezbollah’s engagement in defending the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has cast a heavy shadow on this religious occasion.
“We are here today to renew our allegiance to Imam Hussein, who died defending Islam, and also to show a good image of Islam, which other organizations, like ISIS, do not show,” said Ahmad Daifi, a Hezbollah militant in his twenties who was participating in organizing the event. The battle against ISIS and other groups that Hezbollah describes as “takfiri” or extremist has spilled into Lebanon. Explosions as well as attacks across the border, believed to be orchestrated by ISIS and Nusra Front, have shaken the fragile country during the past year. “It is normal that we are at risk from different parties and we should be aware of what is happening around us,” said Ali Arab, a Hezbollah supporter. Hezbollah and Amal, another major Shiite party, took special measures to secure the crowds against suicide bombings in Nabatieh and other predominantly Shiite areas in Lebanon during Ashura. In Beirut’s southern suburbs, Hezbollah special forces, fully clad in black, were seen for the time on the streets. But Hezbollah claims that the fight against militant groups originating in Syria has not distracted it from its war with Israel. In a speech commemorating Ashura, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah said that his party is winning the fight in Syria and is also ready to retaliate against any Israeli attack. Hezbollah staged a military parade in front of a large crowd in Nabatieh. Dozens of fighters wearing military fatigues marched behind missile launchers mounted on military trucks. Hezbollah considers missiles the backbone of its arsenal in its fight against Israel, despite a Security Council resolution that put an end to a bloody war with Israel in 2006 and banned the party from stockpiling weapons near the border.
Hezbollah’s opponents, however, say that its ongoing military activities are actually a source of instability, not protection. Sunni and Christian major political forces have repeatedly demanded that the militant group hand over its weapons to the government after Israel withdrew most of its forces from south Lebanon in 2000. The party’s critics have also urged Hezbollah to stop fighting in Syria.
Habib Fayyad, an analyst affiliated with Hezbollah, reiterated the party’s official position in defense of its choice to maintain its weapons.
“Hezbollah’s legitimacy is derived, firstly, from [its popular support base], and secondly from the Taif Agreement [agreement ending the Lebanese civil war], which states that Lebanon shall resist Israel in all possible ways,” Fayyad said. “Its legitimacy is also derived from the Lebanese parliament, since Hezbollah has members in it, and from the Lebanese government, of which it is a part. All of the pervious and current governments have clearly recognized the legitimacy of Hezbollah as a pillar of resistance against Israel,” he added. Hezbollah has had members of the parliament since 1992, when the first elections were organized two years after the end of the 15-year-long civil war. In 2005, Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was assassinated. The Syrian regime was seen as the culprit behind the attack and Syrian forces withdrew under international and popular pressure. Hezbollah has since participated in government coalitions, which is seen as way to protect its military activities. Four members of Hezbollah were later indicted of Hariri’s killing by an international tribunal, but the party refused to hand them over. Despite a claim that it does use weapons inside Lebanon, Hezbollah fought against the Sunni Future Movement in 2007 when the latter demanded that Hezbollah dismantles its secret telecommunication network. This exacerbated sectarian tensions – Hezbollah was accused of militarily occupying Beirut, a predominantly Sunni city. But Fayyad referred to the Israeli occupation of a small area called Shebaa farms in south Lebanon to say that Hezbollah still has to right to maintain its arsenal. “The most important thing is that [Hezbollah’s] legitimacy is obvious and logical because, whenever there is an occupation, there is the right of the population to resist the occupation,” he said.

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It's All in Lebanon (French)
Beirut
By Charaf
25 Nov 2014

2011
Beirut, Lebanon

Since the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990, Lebanon has become a hot bed of both entertainment and news media production in the Arab world. Amongst the melee of risque Arabic music videos and luxury television commercials, the Shia political movement Hezbollah has proved to be one of the most media savvy institutions in the country, using film, television, music, and masterful political stagecraft to further its image in the minds of Lebanese and the international community. From the flashy music videos of Haifa Wehbe to the resistance videos of Hezbollah, this film follows the tumultuous post-civil war history of Lebanon through its fertile media industry.

Defying ISIS- Beirut's Shia Commemora...
Beirut
By Transterra Editor
04 Nov 2014

November 4, 2014
Beirut, Lebanon

Amidst tight security, Lebanese Shia citizens defy ISIS bomb threats and participate in Ashura celebrations in Beirut's southern suburbs.

Ashura commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein in the battle of Karbala in 680AD. While primarily a religious celebration, Ashura in Lebanon is highly tied to politics. This year's rally in south Beirut ended with a speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who defended his party's military actions in Syria.

Sunni militant groups like ISIS and Nusra Front have been threatening to attack Hezbollah controlled and Shia dominant areas in Lebanon in revenge for Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian conflict. Last year, Beirut's southern suburbs experienced a wave bombings at the hands of Nusra affiliated militants.

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It's All in Lebanon (Arabic w/ Englis...
Beirut
By Charaf
01 Dec 2011

2011
Beirut, Lebanon

Since the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990, Lebanon has become a hot bed of both entertainment and news media production in the Arab world. Amongst the melee of risque Arabic music videos and luxury television commercials, the Shia political movement Hezbollah has proved to be one of the most media savvy institutions in the country, using film, television, music, and masterful political stagecraft to further its image in the minds of Lebanese and the international community. From the flashy music videos of Haifa Wehbe to the resistance videos of Hezbollah, this film follows the tumultuous post-civil war history of Lebanon through its fertile media industry.

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Hezbollah Parade Near Beirut
Beirut, Lebanon
By mchreyteh
28 Oct 2005

October 28, 2005
Beirut, Lebanon

Video shows a military parade by Hezbollah in Haret Hreik suburb, south of Beirut.
Hezbollah General Secretary, Hassan Nasrallah, and other Lebanese officials attended the parade which took place on the International Quds Day, an annual event held on the last Friday of Ramadan.

(Video shot by Hezbollah and obtained by Transterra Media contributor)

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