A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah's Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel
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HOW HAS HEZBOLLAH, WHICH HAS NOW WON TWO WARS WITH ISRAEL, managed to become the most dynamic movement in the Islamic world, why do millions share its beliefs, and what do they want? The Islamic revolutionary movement has become the most powerful source of militancy in the Middle East, forging a mass following and global appeal. A Privilege to Die offers the first on-the-ground look at the men and women whose fervor has made Lebanon’s Party of God the gold standard for radical movements across the region and the world.
Through deep and vivid portraits of those who do Hezbollah’s grassroots work—on the battlefields, in politics, in nightclubs, and with scout troops—Thanassis Cambanis, a veteran Middle-East correspondent, puts a human face on the movement that has ushered in a belligerent renaissance and inspired fighters in Gaza, the West Bank, Egypt, Iraq, and beyond. This riveting, remarkable narrative provides an urgent and important exploration of militancy in the Middle East.
only airport, replete with runway cameras that allowed Hezbollah intelligence to watch all comings and goings. The brigadier general in charge of airport security was understood to be loyal to Hezbollah rather than to the national army (a common predicament in Lebanon, where the military was the most functional national institution but constantly threatened to split along political or sectarian lines). Jumblatt convinced the government to dismiss him. It was the first time that the March 14
Third Infantry Division whom I encountered beneath a highway overpass outside Baghdad in April 2003, in between firefights. Still surrounded by the bloated corpses of men they had killed the previous day, they voraciously devoured their precooked meals beside their tanks, while recounting in almost pornographic detail their last battle against Saddam’s troops. They eagerly anticipated more shooting before the show ended. The adrenaline of the combat high still coursed through them during the
presidential medal. From the Syrian side of the border Samir exhorted the Druze in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to rise up. He toured the Middle East, meeting dignitaries and heads of state and appearing on the most popular television shows. Iran’s President Ahmadinejad gave him another prize. The convicted child-killer was a sought-after VIP. He converted to Shia Islam, officially joined Hezbollah, and began courting a reporter for an Iranian television network. Israeli officials announced
the masses of common folk and their everyday contribution to the party’s ideological leviathan. Nasrallah was important, but so were the anonymous musicians who churned out new propaganda songs every week, which blared from the speakers of minibuses and corner sandwich shops. How could Rani Bazzi be so likable and thoughtful, and at the same time so violent and absolute? Why did so many of his friends and neighbors choose to risk death during the Israeli bombing, staying in their homes in south
intelligence services. (At the end of the civil war in 1990, Syria had 40,000 peacekeepers in Lebanon; by the time they pulled out in 2005, they still kept 14,000 fighting men in Lebanon.) A temporary peace, like a fog, rolled over this fraying sectarian landscape during the 1990s. It was uneasy at best, people trying in public not to talk about the grievances of the civil war or to openly chart their sect’s performance in the power sweepstakes. Rafik Hariri grew richer than ever while