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Weaker than a spider’s web

Guest post by DaveM

On 26 May 2000, shortly after Ehud Barak withdrew the Israeli army from Lebanon’s south, Heznbollah’s general secretary Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech where he uttered these words:

“This Israel which possesses nuclear weapons and has the most powerful air force in the region, by God it is weaker than a spider’s web! By God it is weaker than a spider’s web!”

It’s a theme that he returned to again and again in his speeches, and his audience lapped it up. In fact it felt like his version of this, where if you went to see him and he didn’t say it, something was amiss.

This speech, which I think dates back to 2007, perfectly illustrates how powerful these words were to his followers:

“Yesterday in his acknowledgements in front of an Israeli investigations committee Dan Halutz, the army chief of staff for the Enemy, who has now resigned. When asked why he chose to just use the air force [in the 2006 war] and didn’t resort to a large-scale ground operation, they heard, every Arab heard, and the whole world heard. What did Dan Halutz say?

“He said, ‘I didn’t order a large scale ground operation because I don’t have any trust – now listen up – because I don’t have any trust – this is the leader of the Israeli Army, and he says I don’t have any trust in the Israeli army’s ability to inflict a defeat on Hezbollah! He added and said [this] specifically after the confrontations at Bin Jbeil, Bint Jbeil, and prior to that at Maroun al-Ras and all the southern villages which stood, fought, held firm, resisted and shattered the mythical status of this army. They came to Bint Jbeil just to take revenge on it because in every square it was said that Israel is weaker than a spider’s web.

“Today, we are entering a new year, and yes! Oh people of Lebanon! Oh people of Palestine! Oh people of our Ummah! I say it again, by God I swear, Israel is weaker than a spider’s web! The future of Israel is that of death and annihilation. The future of this Ummah is life and freedom and the reclamation of its holy places.

“In the war of July and August our martyrs wrote with their blood, ‘Death to Israel!’”

(Crowd chants “Death to Israel!”)

“For this admission of impotence was preceded by that of the Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin when he said ‘We are unable to enter the south of Lebanon. And if we were to enter we would be unable to remain there’. Yes! And why is that so? Because the land of the South and the land of Lebanon is cultivated and planted with Hussein men and Zainab women!”

And Nasrallah repeated this phrase in 2011.

Yet strangely enough, these days the “Zionist Entity” appears to be doing OK while things aren’t looking all that good for Hezbollah.

Another Syrian weapons convoy was hit with unconfirmed reports of Hezbollah casualties. Its leaders are being killed on the Syrian battlefield and there have been the suicide bombs which have struck at Hezbollah’s heartland, terrifying the residents. The Daily Star’s Michael Young describes Syria as Hezbollah’s mini-Vietnam.

With the Party of God losing members in Syria and being unable to protect its electorate in Lebanon, it makes no sense for it to pick a fight with Israel. Yet that’s exactly what it’s just done by attempting to plant a bomb by the Syrian-Israeli border.

So with Hezbollah finally being exposed as the sectarian murder gang which we all knew it was, having also lost its “resistance” credentials and being stretched thin by fighting in Syria, why would it attempt to provoke the Israelis?

The Washington Post reported an explanation for this:

Hezbollah, which is estimated to have sent thousands of its fighters to Syria to back President Bashar al-Assad’s troops, may be attempting to revive support at home by provoking Israel, its traditional enemy, analysts say.

“Hezbollah is overstretched because of Syria, and it’s very important for them to convey that they aren’t overstretched and they can still fight their main enemy,” said Phillip Smyth, a researcher at the University of Maryland specializing in Shiite militant groups.

The group is under pressure as it digs into a new battle for the rebel-held Syrian border town of Yabroud, and there are unconfirmed reports that it has suffered heavy losses in the area.

Lebanese TV station Murr TV (or MTV Lebanon as it’s more commonly known) broadcast this report from the Israeli side of the Syrian border. It’s worth noting that Lebanese TV stations are walking a fine line when they report from Israel. Under Lebanese law Israel is considered an enemy state and portraying it as a normal country is pretty much illegal. LBC nearly got itself into trouble over this.

As a result Lebanese news reports from Israel tend to be biased and slightly odd; for example here the residents of the Golan deny any Hezbollah presence nearby. However the message from Israel to the Party of God in this report is very clear indeed.

News reader: “Israel is noticeably consolidating its forces in both the Golan and along its northern border and the situation there is escalating. From the Golan this report from our correspondent Majdi Al Halabi.”

Majdi Al Halabi: “On the Golan, the border strip is a closed military area and the Israeli military is moving tanks and vehicles, building up their numbers in the north of the Golan. And the state of readiness in the north is at its maximum. For Israel is wary of a reaction from Hezbollah to its bombing, a week ago, of a Hezbollah site on the Syrian-Lebanese border. And today Israel announced that it opened fire on a cell, a cell it described as belonging to Hezbollah which was about to plant a bomb on the road which Israeli vehicles use when traveling along the border strip.”

Qasim Safadi (Druze resident of the Golan):
“This talk is just fabrications and lies. Hezbollah has a presence on the Lebanese – Syrian border and doesn’t have a presence on the Golan. The Syrian army is a solid and strong army. The whole world knows that during the last three years the Syrian army does not need any help.”

Majdi Al Halabi: “On the Syrian side of the border everything appears to be normal, at least from afar. But every now and again you can hear the sounds of explosions and gunfire. The UN peacekeeping forces in the Golan are coordinating between both sides, i.e., the Syrian and Israeli sides, and according to what they’re saying they’re trying to calm the situation down.

“And according to the information the Syrian regime has no interest in escalating the situation with Israel.”

Resident of Golan: “The Syrian army will not strike. However if there is any attack on it [from the Israeli side] then it will strike the Israelis very hard.”

Majdi Al Halabi: “So is Hezbollah taking the place of the Syrian army?”

Resident: “Hezbollah doesn’t have any presence here, it has a presence in the south of Lebanon.”

Majdi Al Halabi: “Israel’s military buildup in the North is increasing, and the state of readiness will not decrease in the upcoming days as military leave has been cancelled in the north. The latest escalation in the Golan along with Israel’s military buildup along the length of the northern border doesn’t bode well, and experts are saying that all of this could have grave consequences.

“Reporting from the Golan, Majdi Al Halabi, MTV”

So for all Nasrallah’s rantings about the Israeli army having its legendary status demolished by the “resistance,” it’s clear that it’s Hezbollah which has has lost its mystique and is looking weak. Ironically this may make it more dangerous, as when the conflict in Syria eventually ends it’s fair to assume that the Party of God will in all likelihood attempt to reclaim it’s legitimacy among Arabs by increasing its operations against the “Zionist Entity”. And it looks like it is bolstering its infrastructure in case of this eventuality. But until then it has to keep recruiting and sending its members into its own mini-Vietnam.