3/09/2005

Hezbollahpalooza!

(Thanks to Slate Magazine for the title to this post.)
Shouting anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese poured into central Beirut today in a show of strength by the militant Muslim Shiite party Hezbollah, which opposes the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.
The enormous crowd, in which many had been bused in from the Shiite slums of southern Beirut, was far larger than the anti-Syrian demonstrations of recent weeks that have drawn broad international support. It offered a defiant challenge to the anti-Syrian forces and their foreign backers and exposed fault lines of class and ideology.
"Today, you decide the future of your nation and your country; today you answer the world," the Hezbollah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, said in a rare and surprise appearance. Banners held aloft read: "No to American-Zionist intervention. Yes to Lebanese-Syrian brotherhood."
...The participants at today's demonstration here were, by and large, a very different Lebanon from the educated, better-off Christians and Sunni Muslims who have captured the world's attention since Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister, was assassinated Feb. 14 by a huge car bomb.
While the anti-Syrian opposition movement has been called the Cedar revolution, a reference to the Lebanese national tree, it has also been called the BMW revolution. Today's demonstration included far more women with covered heads and men in traditional dress.
Since the killing of Mr. Hariri, a billionaire who resigned as prime minister to protest Syrian domination of Lebanon, many Lebanese parties have called for the complete withdrawal of Syrian troops, which have been here since 1976.
...Hezbollah, which means the Party of God, had remained quiet until today despite invitations by the opposition to join. And
Hezbollah, which the State Department classifies as a terrorist group, is now Lebanon's best organized political party and maintains a militia of some 20,000 men.
To Hezbollah and its followers, the foreign threat to Lebanon comes not from Syria but from Israel and its ally, the United States. Israel occupied the southern 10th of Lebanon from 1982 until 2000 in order to prevent infiltrations from radical anti-Israel groups. Many Lebanese Shiites believe that Israel still has designs on their land and that the American-backed democracy movement is simply another form of American imperialism.
...Ahmad Moussa, 22, a student at the rally, said: "We're here to defend our liberty and our true sovereignty, the sovereignty of the resistance. The opposition wants to open the door to the Americans and to foreign intervention. We will stop them."

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