Report from Lebanon

by Joe Stork
published in MER118

I flew into Beirut on May 17. As we descended over the city, what struck me was the many patches of vacant land, obvious gaps in the space of urban lives, large empty lots of red clay with milliards of glass and metal shards and slivers, glinting in the brilliant morning sun. Approaching the airport, we flew closer, over the ripped slum camps of Sabra, Shatila and Burj al-Barajna. Amidst them, a golf course, bizarrely green, from another time, like the postcards I found in the Hamra shops.

The Resistance Front in South Lebanon

by Samir Kassir
published in MER133

Though it fell like a piece of ripe fruit into the hands of the Israelis, southern Lebanon rapidly became a quagmire for the most powerful armed forces in the Middle East. An armed resistance developed, which by early 1984 was carrying out two attacks daily. Popular mobilization did not diminish in spite of the occupier's use of an intimidating arsenal of repression: prolonged arbitrary detention, collective punishment, harassment, repeated closure of the single road of access to the region. In fact, repression only fueled the mobilization.

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Eyewitness to the Iron Fist

by Joan Mandell
published in MER133

Jim Yamin is Middle East program coordinator for Grassroots International, a relief organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with programs in Lebanon and the Horn of Africa. He spoke with Joan Mandell and Kathryn Silver in April, 1985.

You’ve just spent ten weeks in south Lebanon. What were your most striking impressions of the occupation?

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A Lebanon Primer

by Tom Russell
published in MER133

Lebanon is a microcosm of the peoples, cultures and religions found in the Middle East region as a whole. Under Ottoman rule from the 16th century until World War I, that province of mountainous eastern Syria known as Mt. Lebanon was home and refuge for various religious and ethnic communities. Lebanon has a long history of foreign intervention. In the 19th century, European powers established their trade and investment interests under the guise of “protecting” one or another group within Lebanon. The French adopted the Maronite Catholics and Russia the Orthodox Christians of Syria and Palestine, while the British favored the Druze. This insertion of foreign interests occurred in the course of a protracted shift of power in the Mt. Lebanon area from Druze to Maronites and contributed to the tensions among the various communities and ruling clans.

From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER124

For just the space of a day in mid-May, the shroud of silence that has enveloped occupied south Lebanon was lifted by the Israeli army raid on ‘Ayn al-Hilwa, the large Palestinian refugee camp that has been rebuilt outside Sidon. Events leading up to this encounter vividly illustrate the dynamic of occupation and resistance in the south today. On May 15, a large demonstration in the camp was disrupted by the local Israeli-sponsored “national guard.” That evening, Israeli tanks and armored vehicles surrounded the camp. Around midnight troops moved in under flares for four hours; some 20 homes were demolished and about 150 residents arrested. Palestinian and Lebanese sources claim 40 were killed or wounded; the Israelis deny any fatalities.

Roots of the Shi'i Movement

by Salim Nasr
published in MER133

Many saw the Shi‘i revolt in west Beirut and its southern suburbs in February 1984 as the sudden and unexpected mass uprising of a rapidly expanding social group in the midst of a tumultuous religious revivalism. But the February uprising was a significant social movement, with roots in the profound social transformation of the Shi‘i community over the course of 30 years, from Lebanese independence at the end of World War II to the beginning of the civil war in 1975.

Breaking Point

The Crisis of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

by Omar S. Dahi | published September 25, 2013

One of the many plot lines lost in the summertime discussions of a US strike on Syria is the pace of refugee movement out of the country. As it stands, the refugee crisis is overwhelming and likely to stay that way. Another external military intervention would further accelerate the mass flight and exacerbate what is already a humanitarian emergency.

Syria and Lebanon, 1943-1975

by Philip Khoury
published in MER134

In their final years under French rule, Syria and Lebanon entered into an unprecedented cooperation in order to free themselves from France. The liberal nationalist regimes in Damascus and Beirut reinforced one another’s demands for complete political independence without first having to sign treaties with France. Support for their position came from Britain, the United States and, in 1945, from the newly founded Arab League. The Syrian nationalists appeared to have reconciled themselves to the integrity and sovereignty of a greater Lebanon, as established by the French in 1920, although after independence Damascus refused to establish formal diplomatic relations with Beirut.

Syria in Lebanon

by William Harris
published in MER134

Preeminent influence in Lebanon, both on the central government and between the various factions, is critical for Syria from defensive and offensive strategic perspectives, whatever one considers Syria’s role to be in the pan-Arab arena or in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

From the defensive perspective, Lebanon covers the entire western flank of southern Syria, offering immediate access to the Damascus and Homs regions. Since Lebanon’s descent into chaos beginning in 1975, Syria has been particularly concerned about three contingencies:

Becoming Armenian in Lebanon

by Joanne Randa Nucho
published in MER267

Each year in April, the municipality of Burj Hammoud, a densely populated residential and commercial city just east of Beirut, hosts a three-day festival called Badguer, the Armenian word for “image.” Free and open to the public, the event has variously been staged in an old concrete factory, a blocked-off street and other sites. In 2012, Badguer was held at La Maison Rose, a newly opened cultural center for Armenian artists and craftsmen. Like the annual celebration, La Maison Rose is part of a local effort to promote “our living Armenian cultural patrimony.”

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