CSM reviews PTD

Posted October 2nd, 2010 by Thanassis Cambanis and filed in A Privilege to Die,Reviews

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviews A Privilege to Die in the Christian Science Monitor. He writes:

In 2006, Hezbollah launched an unprovoked attack on Israel, which retaliated massively. This war and its aftermath set the stage for the author’s searching probe into the hearts and minds of Hezbollah’s rank and file. In prose that is often eloquent yet earthy, indicative of scholarly erudition as well as a storyteller’s flair for capturing the complexities of human psychology, Cambanis describes the seemingly contradictory impulses he discovers. Consider the case of 20-something Aya Haidar, who longs for martyrdom – preferably in the throes of the soon-to-return Mahdi’s (Messiah’s) war against infidels – but simultaneously wants to marry the man she loves and start a family. Observes Cambanis: “She was a Mahdist, a Hezbollah cadre, a schoolteacher fresh out of college, and a young girl in love, rolled into one bristling ball of energy.”

He goes on to argue that the book underestimates the scope of Shia dissatisfaction with and Sunni fury toward Hezbollah, a “chink in the party’s armor” that suggests Hezbollah has at most one more war left in it. I think Rayyan (whom I don’t know personally) is right to call attention to the growing frustration with Hezbollah. On my most recent reporting trip to Lebanon in September, I found the country more polarized than ever: Hezbollah’s supporters bristling, and its detractors less sympathetic than ever toward the Party of God’s militarism.

What we can’t predict is whether another war will conclusively diminish Hezbollah, as Rayyan writes, or whether it will once again restore the party’s luster and dominant position, as it did after the 2006 war, to the surprise of so many people.

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