A Landscape of Uncertainty

Palestinians in Lebanon

by Laleh Khalili
published in MER236

The events following the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri and Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon have not discernibly changed the situation of Palestinians in Lebanon. While a surprising government edict has made it easier for Palestinians to get clerical and manual jobs, calls for disarming them and permanently settling them in Lebanon grow louder.

Beirut Diary: April 2005

by Rasha Salti
published in MER236


Like most places in the world that, time and time again, have been fit into the journalist's script or forced into the novelist's frame, Lebanon has been tirelessly taxed with metaphors and allegories. Simultaneously, it has been presented as the terrain for metaphorical and allegorical construction. In its pre-war heyday, Lebanon was the "Paris of the Orient," the "Switzerland of the Middle East," the "land of milk and honey." During its 17-year civil war, Beirut became itself the metaphor for the no man's land of destruction, captive to a self-sustaining cycle of armed conflict. Mikhail Gorbachev warned of the "Lebanonization" of Yugoslavia as that country's dismemberment into ethnic, religious and cultural cantons loomed.

The Second Time as Farce

Stories of Another Lebanese Reconstruction

by Jim Quilty , Lysandra Ohrstrom
published in MER243

Following Israel’s intense bombardment in the summer of 2006, Lebanon had to undertake a new reconstruction effort before it had made a dent in paying for rebuilding damage done by the 1975-1990 civil war. The government swore to pursue reconstruction policies that would strengthen the state—an open swipe at the “state within a state” led by Hizballah. Yet Hizballah is carrying out its own rebuilding, and consolidating its political strength as a result.

Cosmetic Surgery and the Beauty Regime in Lebanon

by Sandra Beth Doherty
published in MER249

In May 2007, the First National Bank of Lebanon embarked on a unique media campaign. Some 900 billboards in Arabic and English sprouted up offering loans, not to buy a home or to pay tuition, but to “get the makeover of your dreams.” The corresponding magazine advertisement featured a blond-haired, blue-eyed woman beckoning readers to “have the life you’ve always wanted.” Why would the bank think it would find takers? Answers marketing director George Nasr, “Plastic surgery is a cultural issue. We have been raised on always looking our best.”

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Everyday Orientalism

by Laleh Khalili
published in MER244

Bernard Rougier, Everyday Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam Among Palestinians in Lebanon (translated by Pascale Ghazaleh) (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).

The Road to Nahr al-Barid

Lebanese Political Discourse and Palestinian Civil Rights

by Muhammad Ali Khalidi , Diane Riskedahl
published in MER244

How long will the state erect military checkpoints in residential areas, treating them as though they were camps sheltering wanted people and gunmen, while all the Palestinian camps, which shelter criminals and wanted people, enjoy freedom of movement, politically, militarily and in terms of security, as though they were security islands independent of Lebanon politically, militarily and in terms of security?

'Ajamis in Lebanon

The Non-Arab Arabs?

by Roschanack Shaery
published in MER237

It is Muharram, the month of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, and the female-run husseiniyya in West Beirut is packed with women dressed in black. As the sounds of Lebanese and Iraqi Arabic dialects, as well as Persian, fill the hallways of this Shi‘i community center, the female religious performer (qari’a) signals that the ritual program (majlis) will begin shortly. She is an Iraqi, and while she reads from her thick notebook, a woman standing next to her reads the same text in Persian for those in the audience who do not understand Arabic. Some of these women are Iranians who have married into Iraqi Shi‘i families of Persian descent who settled in Lebanon after being expelled from Iraq by the deposed Baathist regime.

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Hizballah After the Syrian Withdrawal

by Joseph Alagha
published in MER237

Since the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1559 in September 2004, Hizballah has been in the international spotlight. In addition to demanding the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, the resolution calls for the “disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias,” primarily a reference to the Islamic Resistance that is Hizballah’s armed wing. Following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, the resulting “Independence Uprising” in Lebanon and the hasty withdrawal of the Syrian army in the spring of 2005, some thought Hizballah would have to bow to pressure and dissolve the only Lebanese militia remaining after the Ta’if agreement that helped to end the 1975–1990 civil war.

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Of Reactivism and Relief

by Mayssun Sukarieh
published in MER244

As with every crisis that befalls the Palestinians in Lebanon, the Lebanese army’s siege of the Nahr al-Barid refugee camp impelled hundreds of people to pitch in with the relief effort. After fighting broke out in late May, and over 30,000 Nahr al-Barid residents fled to the nearby Baddawi camp, volunteers ferried food, blankets and medicine to the displaced. Such “humanitarian assistance,” along with petitions and open letters calling for protecting civilians, was all that pro-Palestinian Lebanese and international activists could think of to do as the army lobbed shells into the camp outside Tripoli. The needs of the displaced are indeed great, but many Palestinians wish their supporters would focus their energies elsewhere.