Wednesday, October 4, 2006
by Hannah Allam
"AIN EL-HILWEH, Lebanon - Twenty young men from Ain el-Hilweh, Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp, have died fighting U.S. forces in Iraq. Their portraits hang in honor here, plastered to filthy walls, taped to store windows and hung from the crisscrossed electrical wires that form a ceiling above narrow alleyways.
Now the image of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has joined them, and - to the consternation of Lebanese officials - many of the camp's residents find both inspiration and shame in his face.
"I wish all the Palestinian groups were like Hezbollah," said Abu Adnan Sayegh, his voice angry and loud as he spoke from a plastic lawn chair in front of his rundown home in the camp. "Unless they do what Hezbollah did here, we'll never win. The Jews took Palestine by force and it's never going back to us except by force!"
Ever since Nasrallah declared victory over Israel after a 34-day war in which Israel fought Hezbollah to a draw, militants among the 60,000 people who live in this encampment in the port city of Sidon have grown more strident in their calls for armed action against Israel.
Nasrallah, however, seldom fails to mention Jerusalem in his speeches, portraying himself as a champion of the Palestinians at a time when peace negotiations are stagnant, other militants are focused on the war in Iraq and the Hamas-led Palestinian leadership is struggling to pay government salaries.
"Our hearts and our flags today belong to Palestine," Nasrallah told hundreds of thousands of supporters at a recent Hezbollah rally. "There's a young man dying every day in Palestine. There are homes destroyed every day. How long must we bear this shame? Let's support our people, morally, politically and financially." "