Talking to a Hezbollah handyman

Hezbollah is associated with a lot of horrible things in the West, but few would attribute lane painting to the group. I took this photo this afternoon after observing several crews of the Hezbollah construction company Jihad El Bina busy in what they described as a mission to restore downtown Beirut to its former glory. They told me they would leave the posh district “in a better state” than they had found it after setting up a sprawling tent city here 17 months ago in an effort to paralyze the US-backed government.

I couldn’t help but joke with the man in the photo above about the color of paint he was using. “Now come on,” I said, “I’m sure this lane was painted blue before you guys moved in.”

(Blue is the color of the pro-Western parties and yellow is Hezbollah’s color)

He laughed and then asked me to join him for a cigarette break. I sat down on the floor and began to ask about his view of the situation. After a few minutes, he decided to show me a photo from his wallet to help put things into perspective. It wasn’t a photo of his wife or children but rather a folded-up newspaper clipping of Hezbollah soldiers in marching formation. He pointed himself out as the third man on the right.

He had quite a few things to say in what developed as cordial conversation/lecture. I cannot confirm any of his claims but I will publish them here to provide a little insight into what at least some followers of the party think.

He said the following:

-The United States provided air support to Israel during the July 2006 war as evidenced by the large number of planes attacking Lebanese territory. (He said Hezbollah tracked over 500 aircraft while Israel has far less than that number)

-Hezbollah deployed only a small number of its troops during the recent take over of West Beirut. He said the group merely directed other militias to carry out the operation–meaning it had only exercised a fraction of its true strength.

-Hezbollah discovered large arms caches across Beirut, with weapons presumably supplied by the US government.

-Syria’s negotiations with Israel are not intended to make peace, but merely to regain territory

-There will never be peace with Israelis, whom he accuses for being behind the string of assassinations in Lebanon.

-Peace in Lebanon will only last for two years at a maximum. After that, a regional war is likely to break out involving the usual suspects: USA, Iran, Israel, Syria.

Again, these are the views of one man on the street and certainly do not represent the views of the party or its members in general.

Here are some more of the guys fixing up the streets: