Hezbollah turns its blame to the U.S. Most Israeli weapons are American-made

By Mohamad Bazzi Newsday  September 05. 2006 8:00AM

Hezbollah has a message for everyone entering the south Beirut neighborhood of Haret Hreik: The devastation all around was “Made in USA.” Now that the fighting is over, the propaganda war has begun. Using the rubble and widespread destruction in Haret Hreik, Hezbollah’s public relations department has gone into high gear to garner international sympathy and win over Lebanese domestic opinion. The Shia militant group has decorated the mountains of rubble where dozens of buildings used to stand with giant red-and-white banners. Printed in English and Arabic, they bear slogans like “Made in USA,””The New Middle Beast” and “Smart Bombs for Dumb Minds.” Hezbollah also offers tours of the destruction for visiting diplomats, Lebanese politicians, business leaders and anyone else who wants to see. The campaign is directed not so much against Israel, which caused the devastation during 34 days of intense bombing, but at the United States, which supplied Israel with most of the weapons it used. The U.S. also provided diplomatic support for Israel to continue the war despite international appeals for a quick cease-fire. “People knew during the war that these were American bombs falling on us, in Israeli hands,”said Ghassan Darwish, a Hezbollah official in charge of the propaganda effort. But to Hezbollah’s critics, the campaign is intended to deflect attention from the militia’s abduction of two Israeli soldiers on July 12, which provoked the war. Initially, many Lebanese were angry at Hezbollah. As the Israeli offensive intensified, killing hundreds of civilians and destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure, that anger turned toward Israel and the United States. “There is an effort by Hezbollah to obscure its own actions and the consequences they had,” said Mohammad Abi Samra, an editor at the An-Nahar newspaper. “By blaming America, Hezbollah wants to tell the Lebanese people that this was a conspiracy against it and capturing the two soldiers did not matter. . . . Lebanese are angry at America and Israel, but they still blame Hezbollah for its role in this war.” On the roads into Haret Hreik, billboards proclaim “The Divine Victory.” Hezbollah’s “victory”came at a high price for the tens of thousands of families who lived in the neighborhood. Ahmed Naeem, a Hezbollah member who leads tours of the area, points to the rubble all around. “There was a school; there, four apartment buildings; there, two buildings,” he said. “Too many buildings to count.” Since its founding in the 1980s, Hezbollah has mastered the art of propaganda. Before the war, south Beirut was dotted with stores selling the militia’s accessories. During the war, Hezbollah designers worked on victory posters, stickers and banners -even as the bombs were falling. “We never stopped working for one day during the fighting,” said Darwish. —— End of article By MOHAMAD BAZZI Newsday

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