But then there's "Hezbollahland," Totten's term for sections of the country run by that notorious armed militia, free from control by Lebanon's official government. Western apologists call Hezbollah a legitimate political party — and, indeed, the group legitimately wins much of the country's Shia vote, and seats in Parliament — but legitimate political parties do not control their own territories, heavily arm themselves, use civilian houses as launching pads to fire rockets into Israeli border towns, kidnap Israeli soldiers (and erect billboards near the border, in Hebrew, taunting the Israelis about it) and launch armed incursions into the rest of the country when their power is challenged.
The most fascinating sections of The Road to Fatima Gate cover Totten's visits to the Hezbollah-controlled Beirut suburbs and border region near Israel. The "Fatima Gate" in the title was once the main border crossing, now a shrine for "anti-Zionists" to visit so they can throw rocks at the hated Jewish state. They don't have to throw the rocks very far — Israeli houses are literally a stone's throw from Hezbollah's fiefdom, so close that Lebanese and Israeli neighbors could speak to each other — if that wouldn't be considered treason in Lebanon, anyway.
Much of Lebanon was occupied by Israel during the civil war, and the brief but brutal 2006 war won the Jewish state few friends. Hezbollah remains popular with Shia Muslims, long the least powerful of Lebanon's three major ethnic/religious groups, and many other Lebanese grudgingly respected the organization for its "armed resistance" against Israel.
When Hezbollah feels that its power is being challenged, however, the guns are turned away from Israel and toward Beirut. In 2008, when the government attempted to shut down Hezbollah's private telecommunications network, the group responded with armed attacks against their nominal countrymen. (Nominal, because few Lebanese flags fly in Hezbollah territory, but posters of the Ayatollah Khomeini are everywhere.)
This time, supporters of the late Prime Minister Hariri's Future Movement and its allies, who drove the Syrians out through non-violent protest, actually fought back. Totten describes the chilling atmosphere in Beirut, when it suddenly seemed like the dreadful civil war days were starting all over again. Anyone in the streets risked being picked off by snipers.