Hizbollah opens anti-Zionist 'victory' museum

Into the abyss: a tank  is swallowed by the earth surrounded by random and confusing Hebrew messages

Into the abyss: a tank is swallowed by the earth surrounded by random and confusing Hebrew messages

● Abandoned tanks among debris of a shattered Israel
● Fleeing IDF soldiers leave behind weapons and fatigues
● The Star of David has its own tombstone in volcanic rock

Exactly 10 years after Israel withdrew from its security buffer zone in Lebanon, Hizbollah has opened a museum celebrating its "victories" over the Zionist entity.

The new multi-million-dollar complex in the town of Mleeta is the first permanent Hizbollah war museum and has already seen tens of thousands of visitors since it opened last month.

In one display, Shimon Peres sits at the top of a diagram, his name printed in Arabic and underlined. The names of every infantry unit and their position in the Israeli army branch out from him like a military family tree.

"We have mapped out everyone from the leader down to the smallest soldier," says a tour guide. "This is to show we are watching and we know everything," he adds, boasting that - thanks to Hizbollah intelligence - the details on the chart are accurate to the previous week.

The rest of the centre is similarly themed. Filled with war booty from the month-long 2006 conflict with Israel, the exhibition room catalogues various Israeli "weaknesses and failures".

The Lebanese "triumph" of the 2000 unilateral withdrawal also features heavily. Weaponry and fatigues left by Israeli troops are victoriously splayed across the museum. A single hair can even be seen on the helmet of an Israeli soldier - all that remains after he was killed by Hizbollah mortar. Another exhibit displays trinkets left behind: half-finished tubes of toothpaste and Israeli-brand chocolate wrappers.

On a wall are satellite images of potential targets if another war breaks out: a Haifa train station, Ben Gurion International airport and key electricity stations across the country, replete with their exact aerial co-ordinates.

Outside, the Hizbollah heritage trail begins with a series of mangled interactive sculptures collectively called "The Abyss". So-called because it is built inside a crater made by Israeli bombs during the 2006 war, it parades a tank abandoned by the forces when they withdrew. Upturned and swallowed up by the earth, it is meant to represent the occupiers' defeat.

The centrepiece is a tombstone carved from volcanic rock with a Star of David at its head, surrounded by metal Hebrew letters.

"This is to warn them that they may have struck here once but it will be their graveyard if they come back," the guide tells his group.

"The Abyss" leads to "The Frontline" - a real former Hizbollah hideout in the shrubbery of the southern village of Mleeta. Hizbollah militants used to camp out in the hills, watching Israeli army bases and planning attacks.

Visitors seem to react positively.

"Being from a Christian village in the north I never really understood the importance of Hizbollah," says 20-year-old student Michel, who refused to give his last name. "When I come here I see just how much they do for our country and how brave they were.

"I think it's important for every Lebanese citizen to see why the Resistance needs to be allowed to keep their arms, in order to protect our land."

Hizbollah's leader Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has likened the new tourist centre to Israel's many Holocaust museums.

"Everywhere you go there are memorials [to the Holocaust], regardless of its authenticity, accuracy or magnitude," he told supporters via video link at the inauguration. "We hope this tourist jihad centre will be the first step toward preserving the history of our own heroic resistance."

Several government officials attended the event, alongside prominent Jewish American academic and critic of Israel Noam Chomsky.

The anniversary and inauguration of the new centre has come amid US and Israeli accusations that Hizbollah is acquiring advanced weaponry from Syria and Iran.

The latest sabre-rattling has only stoked concerns of another war in the region. Hizbollah officials almost gladly admit that the 60,000 sq m centre will likely be flattened in any future war, but say they will rebuild and come back bigger and better. They are already planning two smaller "Resistance tourist centres".

    Last updated: 2:00pm, June 10 2010