The Palestinian View of Hezbollah-Israel Fight

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Many Palestinians support Hezbollah in its current fight with Israel, but some opponents say the war has not been a positive development for Palestinians.

NOAH ADAMS, host:

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has become a popular figure among Palestinians on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza. He's given credit for the Katyusha rocket attacks that have killed more than a dozen Israeli civilians over the past week, as well as for the cross-border raid, in which Hezbollah guerillas killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two others. But not everybody agrees that the war in Lebanon will benefit the Palestinian cause.

NPR's Linda Gradstein visited the West Bank town of Ramallah and filed this report.

(Soundbite of religious poetry and music)

LINDA GRADSTEIN reporting:

In between customers at the Ramallah stationery store where she works, Rafaq Qoran(ph) listened to religious poetry on the radio. She says she wholeheartedly supports Hezbollah and its confrontation with Israel. And she says Hassan Nasrallah is a hero.

Ms. RAFAQ QORAN (Palestinian): (Foreign language spoken)

GRADSTEIN: Hassan Nasrallah is good because he stands up to the U.S. and to Israel, she says. He shows the Arab countries that there is another way to act, and to stand up for our rights.

Next door, Abid Erbash(ph), a 52 year old tailor, says he hopes Nasrallah will succeed where all of the other Arab leaders have failed.

Mr. ABID ERBASH (Palestinian): (Through Translator) Hassan Nasrallah is the only leader for the Islamic and Arab nation. All the other Arabs are useless, cannot help, and cannot offer anything. If Hassan Nasrallah passed away, we will lose everything.

GRADSTEIN: Last week, at the beginning of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, there were demonstrations here and in other West Bank cities in support of Hezbollah. Manara Square in downtown Ramallah was a sea of Hezbollah flags. Hezbollah has also gained support from Hamas, which is engaged in its own confrontation with Israel in the Gaza Strip. Although Hezbollah is Shiite and Hamas is Sunni, both resistance movements base their ideologies on Islam. Hamas spokesman Ziyad Daya says resistance to Israel is now gaining ground. And he says Hezbollah has scored a major psychological victory against the Israeli army.

Mr. ZIYAD DAYA (Hamas Spokesman): Israeli army is not the army that can never be defeated anymore, you know, because these Islamic resistance movement when they tried fight with those Israeli soldiers, it became very clear they are not braves, they are not supermans. They are the opposite.

GRADSTEIN: But some Palestinian analysts like Hani al-Masri, a columnist for the al-Ahram newspaper, say the Palestinian support for Hezbollah is shortsighted. For one thing, he says, the war between Israel and Hezbollah has pushed the Israeli/Palestinian conflict off the front pages. Last Wednesday, he says, 14 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, but the deaths were barely mentioned in the international press. He says the Palestinian support for Hezbollah, which much of the international community describes as a terrorist organization, could backfire.

Mr. HANI AL-MASRI (Columnist, Al-Ahram Newspaper): The Palestinian fear about this situation because they need support from all the nation. They don't want to be on one side against another side, because Palestinian issue needs the support from the whole world, not only some of the world.

GRADSTEIN: But right now, the international community is busy trying to put out the flames in Lebanon. And Masri says that means the Palestinian conflict will remain on the back burner.

Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Ramallah.

(Soundbite of religious poetry and music)

ADAMS: You can read a sampling of world opinion about the situation in the Mideast on our website, npr.org.

(Soundbite of religious poetry and music)

ADAMS: Stay with us on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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