The Spine

North Of The Litani


When I woke up this morning, I found on my-email a letter from Noah Pollak,
an assistant editor of Azure at the Shalem Institute in Jerusalem. He takes issue
--very convincingly, at that--with my hypotheses as to why Hezbollah is
concentrating its mischief north of the Litani River. Here is his response
to my perhaps soft conclusions.

You write, 'My guess is that it will be Hezbollah, not against Israel but
against the other Lebanese. That's why Nassrallah has been concentrating
his armaments from Syria north of the Litani'.

There are a few other reasons why Hezbollah has been fortifying itself
north of the Litani: one bit of speculation is that Hezbollah is seeking
to create ethnic contiguity between the Bekaa valley and southern Lebanon,
to ease the transport of men and weapons from the Syrian border. Right now
the only thing standing in the way of this contiguity are Druze and
Christian villages in that region, and there are reports of Iranian-funded
Shia businessmen buying up real estate in these areas and transferring in
Shia. (Don't expect any Amnesty International reports about ethnic
cleansing.) Aside from the weapons-smuggling benefits of this project is
the reality that Hezbollah's ability to fight from amongst its fellow Shia
is vital to its ability to operate as an effective guerrilla force.
Hezbollah needs to be able to work and wage jihad from among the Shia.

Another reason is UNIFIL, whose purview is limited to the region South of
the Litani. Is UNIFIL doing a whole lot to stop weapons smuggling and
Hezbollah's rebuilding efforts in the South? Of course not. But one
reason, I suspect, we keep hearing about Hezbollah's north-of-the-Litani
work and not about its south-of-the-Litani work is because down in
UNIFIL-land, Hezbollah is a bit quieter in its endeavors, and also because
Hezbollah has made southern Lebanon very sketchy territory for
journalists. UNIFIL and Hezbollah have an arrangement worked out in which
Hezbollah will not be too conspicuous in violating 1701 and UNIFIL will
not be too ambitious in doing its job. I was in southern Lebanon a few
months after the war, and already this is what the villagers I interviewed
told me to my face.

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