Balance among Lebanese ethnic groups upset by Hezbollah

August 28, 2006

Source: The Boston Globe

On August 28, 2006 The Boston Globe reported, "In the capital's battered Shi'ite Muslim neighborhoods, Hezbollah supporters crow about their 'divine victory' over Israel, celebrating to raucous and martial songs amid piles of rubble. Across town, however, well-heeled Christians are lining up for American and Canadian visas, more eager than ever before to immigrate after a war they see as a disaster. Sunni Muslims and members of the Druze sect, meanwhile, say they need weapons of their own to counter Hezbollah's. The war between Hezbollah and Israel has further divided this already fractured country. Sectarian groups that grumbled about Hezbollah before the conflict now talk openly about civil war, which would be a cataclysmic setback for a country barely back on its feet. A devastating civil war raged in Lebanon from 1975 to 1990, and Syria ended its 29-year occupation last year. For the United States, another internal conflict in Lebanon would wreck a showpiece for its campaign to bring Western-style democracy to the Middle East. And for Israel, such a conflict would exacerbate the power vacuum on its northern border, where a half-million Palestinian refugees live. Since the war between Israel and Hezbollah ended two weeks ago, angry Lebanese have begun blaming the Shi'ite militant group for reopening the dangerous sectarian rifts. 'Hezbollah made this war and ruined the whole country. We paid in blood, in young men,' said Maggie Haddad, 48, a snack bar owner who prominently signals her Christianity with a diamond-encrusted cross hanging over her shirt and by her uncovered head. 'As long as Hezbollah exists, and has weapons, there will be war.' There are as many conflicting views of the war with Israel as there are sects in the tangled ethnic and religious patchwork of Lebanon. The United States has invested its political capital in the governing coalition of Christians, Sunnis, and Druze. But it is the Shi'ites, led by Hezbollah, who command the biggest power bloc in Lebanon, and who by force of their allied militias have sidelined the government from decisions of national import, like the war with Israel."