9 January 2011 0 Comments

Into the heart of Hezbollah

The liberal Israeli newspaper published my review of two new books on Lebanon (one’s on Hezbollah, the other is a broader history) in its weekend edition:

Hezbollah is often portrayed in the West as a caricature of implacable Islamic terrorism. Lebanon also has become something of a stereotype, its name now synonymous with any process of rampant sectarian division. The problem with caricatures and stereotypes is that they’re easy to write off. We can remain comfortable in our ignorance of such forces, because we have a shorthand for dismissing them. That neither of these books will be comforting reading for Westerners − and for Israelis in particular − might be the most powerful reason to read them.

Thanassis Cambanis’ compelling account of Hezbollah, one of Israel’s toughtest enemies, details an organization of almost superhuman effectiveness and adaptability. And David Hirst’s weighty tome is filled with reasons for pessimism about the future wars the author is certain Israel will have to fight in Lebanon.

An important difference between Cambanis’ “A Privilege to Die” and Hirst’s “Beware of Small States” is that Cambanis isn’t seduced by Hezbollah and is critical of its aims ‏(without ever expressing partisanship with Israel‏). Hirst, by contrast, clearly thinks that, as a result of its tactics over the years in Lebanon, Israel deserves whatever nastiness descends upon it.

Read the complete review.

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