Hezb'allah and the Druze

The recent exchange of fire over the Israeli-Lebanese border — Palestinian groups in Lebanon firing three rockets, Israel responding with the tank fire and aircraft strikes, and Hezb'allah firing a salvo of about twenty of its own rockets — caused a good deal of geopolitical analysis focused largely on the intentions of Hezb'allah, on the state of Lebanese economy and politics, and on the newly sworn Iranian president.  But there was also a sideshow: "Lebanese Druze intercept truck with rockets meant for Israel." 

This offers a fascinating window into a situation in Lebanon, and into the thinking of Hezb'allah, and of the Lebanese who are not particularity sympathetic to its cause.  Apparently, some of the rockets in Hezb'allah's salvo were supposed to come from a Druze village.  From Hezb'allah's perspective, that would have had multiple benefits.  Politically, Lebanese Druze are opposed to Hezb'allah, so the return Israeli fire would have helped drive the Druze into Hezb'allah's circle, along with creating political problems inside Israel: the Israeli Druze are fully integrated, including mandatory army service, and an attack on their Lebanese brethren would have shaken Israel's internal cohesion.

Clearly, the Lebanese Druze understand that too and, not willing to be Hezb'allah's human shields, seized the rocket truck and those operating it (the rockets were later taken by the Lebanese army).  The video footage of the incident shows a Hezb'allah operative — a massive, muscular guy who would have been hired on sight as a bouncer by any bar — cowering at the passenger seat of the car surrounded by a crowd of men, the word "Hezb'allah!" thrown at him as an invective.

That scene is highly instructive.  While we tend to think of Hezb'allah as all-powerful in Lebanon, having essentially taken the country over, that may not be exactly so.  It also shows that the non-Hezb'allah Lebanese are not particularly eager to get into war with Israel and are willing to intervene to prevent it.  And clearly, being a member of Hezb'allah does not mean impunity the moment one steps outside Hezb'allah-controlled areas.

Yes, Hezb'allah is heavily armed; yes, it is politically dominant in Lebanon; yes, it is controlled by Iran.  And yet, watching the amazement and fear of a heavyset, muscular Hezb'allah operative cowering in a car seat while having "Hezb'allah" thrown at him as a term of contempt makes one wonder whether there is more to Lebanon than it being a mere puppet of Iran.

Image: Israel Defense Forces.

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