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March 07, 2003

Oh My!

Reuters gives Hizbollah, you know the 'militia', a big huge wet kiss.
Hizbollah's Greatest Prophet Hospital is one of many charities, schools and rehabilitation centers run by the guerrilla group in poor, mainly Shi'ite areas like Beirut's southern suburbs, Baalbeck and south Lebanon.

The charities, which have found a ready customer base in a country where public services are often inadequate and private treatment fiercely expensive, have become a cornerstone of support for Hizbollah

Greatest Prophet Hospital -- like other Hizbollah charities -- will treat anyone, whatever their political or religious persuasion, alongside Hizbollah members. One of the doctors, Marwan Saleeba, is Christian.

"I don't feel out of place to work here...I find medical satisfaction in this place more than others," said Saleeba, a pathologist.

"It's not my (religious) beliefs that make me work here...I find respect for my education and position," he added.

One Hizbollah charity, Jihad al-Bina, rebuilt more than 6,000 homes destroyed by Israeli strikes in the 1990s, mostly in the South. Today, it also teaches poor farmers how to take care of their land and livestock.

Another, the Islamic Emdad Charitable Committee, gives food, health care and education to the poor, the elderly, the disabled and orphans. It supports 5,000 families.

"We didn't feel any effect at all from the American accusations. We noticed that...after the accusations, people were more zealous in giving donations," said Adnan Qasir, media director for the Martyrs Foundation, which helps the families of people killed in conflict with Israel.

In addition to its charities, which help build support for the group, Hizbollah has 10 deputies in parliament and operates al-Manar television, which attracts Arab viewers in Lebanon and abroad.

"We still see great support and aid for the resistance," said Hashem Safieddin, a member of Hizbollah's consultative council. "Political support and backing still exists...Iran and Syria have a great role in supporting the resistance."

Some Lebanese, including some Shi'ites, may disagree with Hizbollah's politics that include sporadic attacks on Israeli army positions in the disputed Shebaa Farms border area, but it is hard to find people who oppose the charities.

"Hizbollah proved that a political Islamic party could give a lot to its society," said Nizar Hamza, a professor of political science at the American University in Beirut.

Analysts said the charities showed Hizbollah had entered the fabric of Lebanese society and was more than just a militia.