by Tahir Mustafa (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 5, Ramadan, 1437)
As museums go, Mleeta, the museum of resistance, is unique. It depicts with stunning clarity the humiliating defeat the Zionist aggressors suffered with their tanks, artillery and other war materiel embedded in concrete to reflect their impotence.
To reach Mleeta, the landmark museum of the Islamic resistance in South Lebanon, one must take the scenic highway from Beirut driving along the Mediterranean coast. From Saida (Sidon) the road swings southeast and following a series of hair-raising bends on narrow mountainous roads passing many villages, one arrives at Mleeta. The south is Hizbullah country. There are huge billboards with photographs of Hizbullah leader Sayyid Hasan Nasrullah as well as martyrs of the resistance. Before entering Mleeta, there are signs directing visitors to the “Resistance Tourism Site.”
Mleeta, once a strategic Hizbullah base, is perched atop a mountain overlooking the valleys below. It provides a hilltop view of al-Touffah region surrounding Nabatiyeh and southern Lebanon. The Mleeta Museum was opened on May 25, 2010, exactly ten years after the Zionist occupation army was driven out of much of South Lebanon, especially the Khiam concentration camp where thousands of resistance fighters, ordinary Lebanese civilians, and their families were incarcerated in cages not fit even for animals. Torture was rampant. While theoretically, Khiam was run by the South Lebanese Army (SLA), a bunch of thugs armed and financed by the Zionists, it was the Israelis who were in charge of the torture camp. Israel is touted in the West as the “only democracy” in the Middle East. Democracy has strange ways of treating other people.
Mleeta is designed in such a way as to symbolize the spirit of resistance. The buildings, shaped like shards of shrapnel, are arranged around a central circle. The complex comprises 60,000m2 of space and includes a gallery, caves, and bunkers once used by Hizbullah fighters. There is also a maze of tunnels dug into mountains that Hizbullah fighters used against the Zionist invaders in July–August 2006. Mleeta represents the resistance’s ingenuity in the face of overwhelming odds: doing more with less and not losing nerve in the face of massive Zionist firepower.
The bunker used by Sayyid ‘Abbas Mousavi, Hizbullah leader, martyred in an Israeli terrorist air strike near Nabatiyeh on February 16, 1992 while driving south with his family, is carefully preserved. His prayer mat and copy of the Qur’an that he used to read are also there. Sayyid Mousavi was returning from a memorial service for another Hizbullah martyr Shaykh Ragheb Harb, who was killed by Zionist agents in 1984 in the town of Jibsheet when his car was targeted, killing him, his wife, and their young daughter.
Representatives of the Lebanese president and prime minister both attended the official opening of the Mleeta museum. Noam Chmosky, professor of Linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was also invited and he was present for this historic event. Chomsky is a critic of Zionist policies. Within ten days of its inauguration, more than 300,000 people had visited the museum, some coming from other Arab countries as well.
Upon arrival, smartly dressed guides welcome visitors. They are ushered into a huge hall where a professionally produced video is shown to visitors with marshal background music. The video depicts Hizbullah operations against the Zionist invaders interspersed with stirring speeches by Hizbullah leader Sayyid Nasrullah. There is much to see in Mleeta: the view from its vantage hilltop position itself is a treat. The Zionist occupation border is not far from there. One walks through the forested area to see gun placements tucked in thick undergrowth. These were actual Hizbullah positions during the fight against the Zionist invaders.
The most spectacular view is that of “The Abyss,” the graveyard of Zionist armor and other killing instruments. It is a huge pit full of destroyed or captured Israeli tanks, artillery pieces, shell casings, and helmets. The tanks are embedded in concrete symbolizing their immobility against Hizbullah resistance. One tank has its turret tied in a knot! A billboard captures the essence of what is depicted in the pit, “This is a structural scenic art that symbolizes the defeat of Zionist entity.”
Hizbullah is not shy of taking visitors into the tunnels stretching for more than 200m; they were used by its fighters. Lest one thinks these are mere tunnels for hiding from incoming fire, there are surprises in store. The tunnels are like living quarters reinforced with steel and concrete to withstand massive blasts. Hizbullah fighters literally lived in them for the duration of the Zionist war of aggression. The network of tunnels has a kitchen, bedrooms, and a map room. There are even medical facilities to treat wounded fighters. The tunnels are appropriately lighted for visitors to see what lies inside.
The museum symbolizes the spirit of resistance that while depicting Hizbullah heroism also recognizes the sacrifices of the fighters, recognition of the courage and resilience of its leadership and defeat of the Zionist invaders. Nowhere else in the Muslim East (aka Middle East) would one find such a museum simply because the Arabian regimes and their armies do not have a single victory to their credit. They surrendered to the Zionist invaders in six days or at most in three weeks. Yet, it is the shameless Arabian generals who bedeck their uniforms with medals for fictitious victories on the battlefield.
Throughout the museum grounds, there are huge boards with photographs of Sayyid Nasrullah, Sayyid ‘Abbas Mousavi, Imam Khomeini and Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei. The leadership of the Islamic Republic finds a special place in the hearts and minds of most Lebanese for the support they have offered to the long-suffering people facing Zionist aggression. In fact, the South of Lebanon and South Beirut destroyed in the Zionist onslaught of July-August 2006 were rebuilt with generous help from the Islamic Republic despite being under illegal Western sanctions.
Amid the numerous pathways between flower gardens, red flowers bloomed. Each red flower symbolizes the place where a fighter had fallen. Hizbullah does not forget the sacrifices of its martyrs. Their memory is cherished for it was their sacrifices that enabled the resistance to surmount such huge odds. Hizbullah also looks after the martyrs’ families and their children, ensuring that their sacrifices are not only remembered but that their loved ones are not left without support.
The Mleeta museum serves multiple functions. It not only proudly remembers the great successes of the resistance but also offers families an opportunity to relax, enjoy a picnic, and buy souvenirs at the amply stocked gift shop. There is also a cafeteria where every kind of delicious Lebanese food is available. Families can enjoy their meals to the beat of marshal music.
There are plans to expand the park’s facilities with swimming pools, spas, playgrounds, hotels, and camping areas. People of South Lebanon, for decades the most oppressed of all the Lebanese people, have had no opportunities for enjoying the little things of life that others take so much for granted. While extolling the virtues of the resistance, Mleeta museum will also provide recreational facilities. There are plans for a cable car to connect the park and town of Mleeta with the nearby town of Sojod.
Lest the Zionist regime thinks it can attack the South with impunity, let its rulers take note. There are huge wall panels that provide the precise coordinates of important Israeli military and strategic installations on a map. These include the precise coordinates of Israel’s nuclear bomb production facilities at Dimona in the Negev Desert, as well as major Israeli military bases. While Hizbullah has said it would not target Israeli civilian areas, it has also made clear that if the Zionists were to again carry out any attacks on Lebanese villages and civilians areas, the resistance movement would be left with no choice but to retaliate in kind, giving them a dose of their own medicine.
Zionist Israel should take note. There is little doubt that among the millions of visitors that have visited Mleeta since its official opening, there must have been Israeli spies sniffing around for information. Hizbullah wants the Zionists to know. And the Israeli spies would have noticed the precise coordinates of Zionist military and industrial installations. Should Israel make the mistake of attacking South Lebanon or Hizbullah again, there would be a very fitting response and a high price to pay.