It's being called the "Shiite militia's Disneyland," a $4 million Hizballah homage to itself that took two years to build.
Mleeta, known as 'A Landmark of the Resistance,' is a far stretch from a childhood play land. It has attracted "over 130,000 visitors in the first ten days following its opening on May 25– the 10th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon," says Andrew Tabler in Foreign Policy magazine. While this is no Disneyland, it is no ordinary museum either, but rather an insider account of Hizballah's cult of martyrdom and its glorification of terrorism.
Mleeta is the work of 50 engineers and 40 specialists who invested over 150,000 hours into this 'unprecedented' project. They took inspiration from Imad Mughniyah, the mastermind behind the 1983 U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks bombing which claimed the lives of 241 Americans. Mleeta's emblem was designed by an Iranian university lecturer and calligraphist, evidence of the strong connection between Hizballah and Iran (one section of the museum even contains photographs of Hizballah leaders posing alongside Iran's former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei).Within the logo is a red bird, a 'predatory hawk,' chosen to represent "obstinacy, confidence and restlessness" as an affirmation of Hizballah's unwillingness to retreat and acknowledge defeat.
The museum itself is broken down into 17 different attractions including a cafeteria, a parking lot, and even a 'praying place,' all sitting on a vast expanse of gardens and forests. Visitors are shepherded through underground tunnels, outdoor parks and trenches by museum guides bearing the name of Hizballah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
In one section called, 'the Park,' visitors are encouraged to take pride in Hizballah's arsenal. On display in the 'rocket garden' are the usual 107mm and 120mm Katyusha rockets used against Israel's civilian centers in Northern Israel, but, as Tabler explains, there are also 'U.S.-made TOW missiles, RPG 29s, and a Kornet-E anti-tank guided missile,' which Hizballah used effectively against Israel's legendary Mirkava tanks. On the Mleeta's English website, a whole section is dedicated to the history of the Mirkava tank (from the Mirkava-1 to the current Mirkava-4), concluding that in the most recent war, "the resistance's anti-armor munitions pieced the armor of the Mirkava-4 despite all armament and reinforcement."
Tabler concludes that Mleeta, along with "the enthusiastic reaction to it, is only the latest sign that Israel's power of deterrence in Lebanon is rapidly deteriorating." And Tabler is not the only one to recognize Hizballah's increasing militarism. In a recent editorial, "Hizbullah's troublesome Turkish embrace," Michael Young described the group's reaction to the Flotilla Affair:
Hizbullah's message is clear: the enemy is everywhere. For a party that needs enemies to survive, this is understandable. However, there is something deeper at play, a malaise with the fact that the situation in Lebanon and the Middle East is not to the party's liking.
This is what explains Hizbullah's sudden burst of paranoid energy. By artificially playing up dangers left and right, the party is trying to reposition itself, both within the Shiite community and in Lebanese society, as the vanguard force defending against Israel and the United States. Hizbullah thrives on conflict, but Erdogan threatens to take the conflict card out of the party's hands and play it at a table where Hizbullah cannot compete, and where Iran might lose out.
Whether or not Israel's deterrence is endangered, one thing is clear: this is only Hizballah's most recent project. According to Tabler, the terrorist group plans to "construct hotels and conference centers to attract visitors from across the Arab world." While Hizballahland may amuse Western journalists, it should not distract from the deadly serious threat that is Hizballah.