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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Terror museum in Lebanon a smash hit

You can tell a lot about a culture from their museums. America has museums dedicated to science, natural history, rock and roll and even sex. Israel has museums for archaeology, art (including Islamic art), the Bible and Jewish history.

And Hezbollah's Southern Lebanon has a museum for terror.

From NYT (h/t EBoZ)
The children crowd forward around the glass case, eager for a glimpse of the martyr’s bloodstained clothes. His belt is here, and the shoes he died in, scarred with shrapnel. The battered desk where he planned military operations still has his box of pencils on it, his in-box, his cellphone.

An exhibit in Nabatiye celebrates the life of Imad Mugniyah, the shadowy Hezbollah commander suspected in the West of masterminding devastating bombings, kidnappings and hijackings in the 1980s and ’90s. Busloads of schoolchildren have flocked to the exhibit, which includes bloodstained clothes and, at night, light and laser shows.

“May God kill the one who killed him,” an old woman says, wiping tears from her eyes as she stares through the glass.

The dead man being shown such veneration is Imad Mugniyah, the shadowy Hezbollah commander. Until his death in a car bombing in Syria in February he was virtually unknown here, his role in the militant Shiite group clothed in secrecy. But since then Hezbollah has hailed him as one of its great military leaders in the struggle against Israel.

Now, the group has opened an exhibit in this southern town in honor of Mr. Mugniyah, who is widely accused in the West of masterminding devastating bombings, kidnappings and hijackings in the 1980s and ’90s.

At first glance, the exhibit could almost be taken for an outdoor children’s museum. A fake skeleton stands upright in a torn uniform and helmet beneath the legend, “The invincible Israeli soldier.” There are captured Israeli tanks jutting up from the ground at odd angles, their hatches burned and broken. As visitors crowd from one display to another, a soundtrack blares overhead, mixing the sounds of bombs and machine-gun fire with mournful operatic voices and warlike speeches.

But the eerie heart of the exhibit is the glass-encased room displaying Mr. Mugniyah’s possessions. His prayer mat is here, his slippers, even his hairbrush, as if they were a saint’s relics.

On a recent afternoon, a crowd of onlookers stared through the glass in awe, some of them weeping openly.

In addition to an extraordinary array of weaponry and martyrs’ paraphernalia, it includes a large indoor room that was remodeled to resemble “what we believe the martyrs’ heaven is like,” according to one of the guides on duty. In the darkened room, a figure representing a dead Hezbollah fighter lies on his back on a large sloping bank of white flowers. A sound of exploding bombs gives way to patriotic anthems as a screen shows a brilliant sunset and a coffin being carried through a dark forest. Later, a laser show illuminates the darkness.

On a recent afternoon, busloads of schoolchildren were arriving to see the exhibit, with a group of Boy Scouts.

“I came here to teach my kids the culture of resistance,” said a visitor who gave his name only as Ahmed, as he stood with his wife and two children. “I want them to see what the enemy is doing to us, and what we can do to fight them, because this enemy is not merciful.”
A society is truly twisted when it sends hundreds of children to venerate - and emulate - a bloodthirsty killer.