While Hamas and Al Qaeda are certainly dangerous to Israel and the West, Hezbollah and its millions of foot soldiers are the premier force in the Middle East.
Veteran Middle East correspondent Thanassis Cambanis offers the first detailed look at the surprising cross section of people willing to die for Hezbollah and its uncompromising agenda to remake the map of the region and destroy Israel.
Part standing army, part political party, and part theological movement, Hezbollah is made up not just of unemployed young men but also middle-class engineers, merchants, even nurses. Hezbollah’s widespread popularity rests on its ability to offer its followers economic reform, affordable health care, dependable electricity, efficient courts, and safe streets, as well as victory over Israel. Also unique to the party is its powerful doctrine of self-improvement, which challenges its members to fight ignorance, make money, and engage in safe sex. Millions of demoralized Middle Easterners have gravitated toward these principles, swelling the ranks of what is at heart a radical, militant group. They span economic class, include both fanatics and casual believers, and are sworn to the apocalyptic beliefs of the "Party of God." With its promise of perpetual war, Hezbollah has ushered in a militant renaissance and inspired fighters in Gaza, the West Bank, Egypt, Iraq, and beyond. Whatever their differences, their hatred of Israel and the United States binds them together.
To understand Hezbollah is to understand the fighters and engineers, the women who raise the martyrs, the scouts who plant trees, and the nine-year-old girls who take the veil over the objections of their less militant fathers. Cambanis follows a few Hezbollah families through the ups and downs of the 2006 war with Israel and the continuing preparations for another conflict, letting us listen in to Hezbollah members’ intimate discussions at the kitchen table and on the battlefield. Cambanis’s reporting puts a human face on the Party of God, so we might understand the ideological and religious roots of today’s conflict. His riveting narrative provides an urgent and important exploration of militancy in the Middle East.
A PRIVILEGE TO DIE
American journalist Cambanis has spent much of the last decade observing the Middle East from within its most intractable struggles, most notably while on the front lines of Israel's 2006 war with Hezbollah. The extremist Shi'ite organization is notorious for not granting high-level access to Western journalists and for tightly controlling whatever lower-level representatives might say, but Cambanis spent three years getting past the script "to write with humanity about reviled characters." Interviewing fighters in the field, nurses tending to the wounded, refugees on the road, and think-tank pundits enabled him to probe the real motivations, histories, and ambitions of Hezbollah's followers and better understand their devotion to "war without end" and an "ideology designed to rebound and flourish under assault." As such, Cambanis provides crucial insights to those who might hope to counter Hezbollah's increasing power and influence in the region, as well as an important reminder that in any war, one's enemies are human.