October 11, 2010


The human face of Hezbollah: a review of A Privilege to Die by Thanassis Cambanis (David M. Shribman, October 11, 2010, Boston Globe)

“Hezbollah has broken the crusty traditions of Arab politics to craft a big-tent party platform that speaks to people’s mundane aspirations: economic reform, affordable health care, round-the-clock electricity, efficient courts, and community policing,’’ [Thanassis Cambanis] writes. “Most importantly of all, however, Hezbollah has shifted the norms of Middle East politics with its fast-spreading ideology of perpetual war.’’

Where some writers talk about the Arab streets, Cambanis has walked them. Along the way he encountered warriors and hospital workers, polished intellectuals and women who sell nuts by the curb, ideologues and theologians, those who engage in small acts of resistance and those who prosecute total war of the most brutal sort.

Some of the people he met on these wanderings were unforgiving but unforgettable. He introduces us to a Hezbollah fighter who “humanized a worldview that until I met him felt robotic, monolithic, inhumane’’ and then, in one of his most poignant passages, to his widow. “She had loved her husband and she loved her children, but — incomprehensibly to me — she was willing to lose them to a cause that seemed to me hopeless, impersonal and at times fanatical.’’ And countless others, men and women, young and old, secular and religious.

What becomes clear is that the key to Hezbollah is its ability to spread virtue along with the violence. It promises, for example, to restore communities — homes and businesses — to their original conditions after each episode of conflict. “Hezbollah needed to keep [its] soft supporters happy,’’ Cambanis writes, “and to do so it needed to deliver bricks and mortar along with its ideology.’’

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Posted by Orrin Judd at October 11, 2010 1:13 PM
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