But I have no intention of getting into that debate; instead, I wanted to introduce what a Spanish newspaper called "Hizbolandia": Hizballah's brand new open-air museum (dubbed a "theme park" by those who are familiar with the concept) in Southern Lebanon, bringing to life and perpetuating (at least, for the time being) the history of the "Resistance Movement".
The following video (courtesy of Time magazine) is pretty telling.
The Party of God's "Tourist Landmark of Resistance" opened its doors in the end of May, and has already attracted attention from several prominent international publications (mostly thanks to the "news multiplier effect"):
- Time Magazine
- Foreign Policy Magazine
- The Independent
- La Stampa
- The Vancouver Sun
- The Sydney Morning Herald
... to name but a few (and surely there are many more pieces to come, as the word gets out). I would certainly recommend taking a look at articles by Time and Foreign Policy, since they pretty much cover, in detail, the essence of the park. For a more amusing take, I would also suggest reading the post by Sietske (by the way, her photos are hilarious and very worrying at the same time).
(Courtesy of Sietske In Beiroet.)
After spending most of my Sunday reading on terrorist media strategies and the "theater of terror", and after taking a quick look at Hizballah's presence in the international information sphere, this seems to be an appropriate subject to turn to.
Hizballah is a terrorist organization, or at least it is considered as such by Israel, the State Department, and much of the "international (a.k.a. Western) community". It is an organization that specializes in unconventional, asymmetric warfare, primarily relying on publicity, fear and intimidation to achieve certain political ends. However, at the same time, Hizballah seems to be having an identity-crisis (can it be genuine transformation?): it has become an influential player in Lebanese official politics and, as such, cannot really fit Jenkin's description of an organization that carries out "violence against the system, waged outside the system," since Hizballah, itself, is a part of that system. At least, supposedly.
In such a case, can Hizballah be said to have a public diplomacy strategy? An attempt, perhaps? Not that there is no audience to reach out to: be it the Lebanese Diaspora, the greater Arab and Muslim public, or the international community, in general (they might be hoping to find sympathizers here and there). Certainly, they have (as in the past) various means of putting out their message, most prominent of which is Al Manar TV. The latter not only streams its programming live online, but also provides English, Spanish, and French versions of its official website.
However, with the construction of the Mleeta Museum, the organization seems to have come up with another great way of "telling its story" to the world: the "park" clearly aims to attract foreign attention and interest, as well as act as a major domestic PR and/or indoctrination tool.
The official website of the "Tourist Landmark of the Resistance" is available in English (it should be noted that the "quality" of English is not bad, either - much better than Google Translate, at least), and although the About Us section is still "under construction", the Introduction page provides a meticulous description of the museum. The website features explanations of the "idea" behind the emblem and the architecture, and, more importantly, emphasizes the historical and geographical significance of the site. For those interested, there are also photo galleries, [promised] videos, and even a special selection of "stories" about Israeli Mirkava tanks.
(Map of Mleeta, from Mleeta.com)
What is more significant, however, is that the museum provides tours in English, French, Spanish, Farsi, and German, as well as in Arabic: all free of charge (Sietske even described her tour guide speaking "perfect American"!). It also "contains panels explaining all scenes and listing all divisions in Arabic and English."
But that is not all: future development plans for the site include a five-start hotel, swimming pools, conference centers, a paint-ball battlefield, and a cable-ride with a scenic view of "Occupied Palestine". Obviously, the intended "target audience" is not limited to the local population.
As for becoming a potential target itself, I will leave you with an excerpt from Foreign Policy:
Hezbollah's ambitious expansion plans, and the care with which the party looks after the ideological foundations of its power, prove that it is digging in for the long haul. When I asked Daher [the park's supervisor] whether he worried that another war could lay waste to Hezbollah's construction plans, he simply shrugged. "If they bomb us, we will simply build it all again," he said. "Resistance takes patience."
After all, that is the image Hizballah wants for itself.