It’s impossible to speak with Waleeed Ayyoub without constant interruptions. The 33-year-old artist in Ramallah is busy dealing with requests for the fastest selling portrait in the West Bank – that of Hasan Nasrallah. >
“Nasrallah is a hero, I want to hang his picture in my salon,” says Mohammad Taha, 27, who has come from Jerusalem to buy one of these ubiquitous posters from Ayyoub.
Portrait posters of the Hezbollah leader are hanging everywhere in Ramallah, covering the walls and shop fronts and plastered across T-shirts and demonstration banners.
Before the Israel-Lebanon war broke out, Ayyoub was selling from his stock of hero portraits, such as Che Guevara, Yasser Arafat, Fidel Castro, Egypt’s late leader Abdel Gamal Nasser and Jesus.
On the day of one of many Ramallah demonstrations against the Lebanon war last week, Ayyoub says he sold around 1,000 posters of the Hezbollah leader.
“Nasrallah’s war is a resistance war against Israel and against the US attempts to reshape the Middle East in their interests”
Meanwhile, Ramallah’s hit song of the summer, blaring out of shops and streets stalls on a loop, is “The eagle of Lebanon,” in praise of Nasrallah.
One music store reports receiving scores of requests for the CD each day and there are numerous stalls selling the disc along Ramallah’s main streets.
All over the city, secularists, Christians and Muslims alike refer to the Hezbollah leader as Palestine’s newest and truest hero.
“I am secular in principle,” says Zakariya Muhammad, a Ramallah-based writer. “But Nasrallah’s war is a resistance war against Israel and against the US attempts to reshape the Middle East in their interests.”
Sufian Adawi, a money-changer in the city centre, was one of the first to put a photo of Nasrallah in his shop window when the war broke out.
“He is the symbol of victory, a leader of the Arab resistance,” he says. “This is the first time that the Arabs are fighting properly and are strong against Israel.”
“He is different to other heroes because he stands up to Israel, he isn’t scared and he doesn’t stay quiet”
Many voices in Ramallah echo this sentiment, agreeing that Hezbollah’s 26-day resistance to the Israeli army elevates Nasrallah to the league of superhero.
“He is different to other heroes because he stands up to Israel, he isn’t scared and he doesn’t stay quiet – he takes action,” says Nadia al-Khatib, 16.
The West Bank city currently holds daily demonstrations against the war and has unofficially renamed one of its main streets Bint Jbeil, in solidarity with the Lebanese village that has seen fierce clashes between the Israeli army and Hezbollah fighters.
Some Israeli newspapers have argued that support for Hezbollah could manifest in a greater motivation for attacks on Israel from the West Bank.
One Israeli newspaper last week reported the Israeli police in a high state of alert and the West Bank in full closure because of warnings related to “suicide bombings, high trajectory weapons attack, and kidnapping attacks.”
A spokesman for the Israel army says: “Over the last couple of weeks we have seen an increase in terror activity emanating from the West Bank and we think that this is linked not just to support for Hezbollah but also to Hezbollah encouraging this type of activity.”
The spokesman adds: “We believe that Hezbollah are interested in a third front being opened [in the West Bank] and are supporting – we even think financially – terror activities.”
According to the Israeli army, six suicide bombers were intercepted in the last two weeks, three of them on Israeli territory.
But Fatah leaders in Ramallah think it unlikely that political alliances would be formed on the back of popular support for Hezbollah.
“The Palestinian people would support any side or any party that stands in the face of the Israeli occupation,” says Mohammad al-Hourani, Fatah member of the Palestinian parliament.
He adds: “People may side with Hezbollah because of solidarity and sympathy. But that doesn’t mean that people want to be a part of Hezbollah.”
Back at Manara square in Ramallah, Waleed Ayyoub is still selling the Nasrallah images to “all people of all ages – even little children.”
He is especially proud of a sale made to an Arab-Israeli woman from Haifa, fleeing the Katyusha attacks on her city.
The artist intends to donate profits from poster sales to charities helping Gaza and Lebanon.
Explaining why Nasrallah has such appeal in the West Bank, he says:
“We are always looking for someone to help us, to save us, to free us. In Palestine, we can’t find a hero like Nasrallah.”