Egypt Region International Economy Opinion Culture Profile Supplement Travel Sports People Time Out Chronicles Cartoons Letters
'Them and us'By Galal Nassar
This correspondent of Al-Ahram Weekly lived for three dangerous days with the Lebanese resistance groups in the occupied security zone where they battled two opponents -- the Israeli army and the pro-Israeli south Lebanon militia. The most striking aspect of our visit was the realisation that Hizbullah has managed to penetrate the Israeli intelligence network: they had obtained plans of the Israeli army's northern command and traced the comings and goings of senior Israeli officers responsible for operations in the security belt. This has enabled the resistance to launch often spectacular surprise attacks and has undermined morale among Israeli soldiers to the extent that many of them have come to regard a posting to Lebanon as a death sentence.
In the field this heightened the sense of anxiety and uncertainty that has resulted in Israeli tanks firing at their own men.
According to Sheikh Mohamed Hussein Fadlallah, the Supreme Guide of Hizbullah, "the skill of our forces in the south far exceeds that of the Mossad in certain areas."
A few weeks ago an Israeli spy network of 200 persons was uncovered in Lebanon. Its job was to report on the resistance and the movement of its members. Hizbullah, according to head of the movement Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, has a parallel counter-intelligence network which brings in similar news about the Israelis. The resistance, he said, is prepared to use all means at its disposal to combat what it regards as a multi-faceted occupation.
The uncovering of spy networks within its own community is only one tool of achieving the main aim of ending the occupation. Sentences varying between prison and death have been passed against collaborators. Such punishments have often led to the breakup of whole spy networks. Nasrallah does not claim that Israeli spy networks in Lebanon have been eradicated but that Hizbullah, in cooperation with its members and the official Lebanese security agencies, is able to prevent the Israelis getting the upper hand.
According to Arab intelligence sources, Israel's elaborate and sophisticated intelligence network in Lebanon has not escaped infiltration by the Lebanese resistance assisted by the Syrians. Mossad has returned with new spy techniques and ways of setting up cells linked to its bases in Cyprus, Turkey and even in London and Rome. This latter connection is what a Lebanese security report refers to as the "European curtain of deception". According to the report, Mossad has set up a number of bases in Europe and Africa which recruit Lebanese emigrants. The contact may be via the Internet and start out as a romantic encounter that later leads to an offer of free travel.
Agencies within the Lebanese army have exposed one such recruit -- Mohamed Nabaa -- who confessed that the network includes both civilians and military personnel holding different positions in the south, the Bekaa Valley and Beirut. Nabaa also revealed that network agents also worked for "Chabak" on an intelligence plan which includes "squares and secret cells".
A Hizbullah soldier applying camouflage paint before an operation photo: Hussein Thabet
Among the resistance groups themselves there is a feeling that they are being supported by the people and the government. They no longer feel that they are under siege by the Israelis. On this score Nasrallah says that in the past there was a problem over whether the resistance should conform to government decisions. It was decided that such conformity would weaken the effectiveness of the resistance. The result has been twofold. The movement has acquired popular legitimacy in the eyes of many and the Lebanese government has been let off the hook. The government cannot impose its decisions on the resistance. To do so might mean civil war within Lebanon. The resistance can be as active as it pleases without embroiling the government or causing blame to be placed at its door and its operations are not hostage to political decisions. Nasrallah believes that the result is a shared sense of purpose between government, resistance and people in confronting the occupation.
This accommodation between Hizbullah and the government makes bilateral cooperation between Syria and Lebanon against Israel that much easier. Israel has threatened to bomb Beirut if it has proof that the Lebanese leadership is supplying the resistance with logistical help. Damascus and Beirut also agree to stick together in the event of a unilateral Israeli withdrawal and insist that the solution must be a comprehensive settlement and that the Lebanese army, in the case of an agreement being reached, will guard Israel's borders.
Nasrallah made several telling comments in reply to the Weekly's questions regarding Israel's supposed military superiority.
Enemy air superiority could be reduced, he said, by keeping all targets well hidden and avoiding direct resistance to the occupiers.
"We only show our weapons when we are battling the enemy in the occupied territories but on our home ground we live as others do." What is important, adds Nasrallah, is "our conviction that the Israeli military -- officers and men -- does not display the courage it is sometimes accredited with by foreign news media. In fact, over the past 50 years it was never so much that Israel was all powerful, but rather that it was the Arabs who were weak. We have been fighting the Israeli army since 1982 and we have realised that it consists of officers and soldiers who do not believe in dying in the line of duty."
"The effectiveness of a soldier is not so much a question of the weapon he is carrying as of his determination and courage as well as readiness to die for what he believes in. How can anyone be effective as a soldier if all he cares for is to come out alive? This is the difference between them and us."