Ordinary Racism in Lebanon

Below is a translation of an article which appeared in the Arabic language lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar by Khalid Saghiyyeh. The original title is ‘Deep Rooted Racism in Lebanon’. I decided to translate this article after hearing this evening ordinary Lebanese on most world news channels giving to the press racist remarks about Palestinians. There was even a doctor who volunteered to help the army who answered Radio Canada’s journalist question about what is happening in the camp Nahr El-Bared with this sentence: ”You know they are not Lebanese”, meaning ‘we can kill them because they are lower casts, inferior’. This doctor forgot however that Lebanese kill other Lebanese.

We fought a 15 year civil war but it wasn’t our fault. Our country is in crisis but again it is the Palestinians fault. And while we are always prompt and ready to proclaim ourselves as life lovers and civilised, we are not afraid to appear in front of the international community as savages and racists disrepsectful of human lives when they are Palestinians. The international community who rarely lift a finger at the killing of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians by Israel is jumping on this occasion, Arabs killing other Arabs, to point fingers at Lebanese, clearing its conscience from the burden of not doing so and turning its back to condemnation and truth every other time an Arab was killed by Israelis zionists. Western journalists are even evoking Sabra and Chatila. This time Israel would also point fingers and tell the world ‘See, they did it without us’. On the other side, Lebanese are undergoing a massive denial about the state of their country and their crumbling economy and their crumbling government, with their failed army and their failed leaders, glorifying their unity while killing Palestinians.

There was a time when I was a child when we had to paint our light bulbs in blue in order not to be seen by Israeli planes circling norhtern Lebanon’s sky and dropping tons of bombs on Palestinian refugee camps.
There was a time, when I was a college student studying in the norhtern city of Tripoli, when we used to call Palestinians our brothers. There was a time when after the Friday prayer in Tripoli’s mosques, at a time I usually leave college for a week-end in the northern countryside, when I used to encounter spontaneous demonstrations in support of the Palestinian people, which I joined heartily with other friends for a short walk while shouting slogans like ‘Filasteen biladi’ (Palestine is my country). I remember those years when we did two major fundraising at our college: one was to help starvation victims in Ethiopia and the other was to help Arab countries war effort in the 1973 war against Israel. But that was just before the Lebanese civil war, before Christian militia decided to partition Lebanon and live rich in a Monaco like state free of Palestinian camps and poor Lebanese, before Sabra and Chatila and the ‘Peace in Galilée War’ (a zionist oxymore), before the Christian militia in Lebanon invited Sharon to Beyrouth for a lunch and then a dinner and then a stay, before Sharon, the Sabra and Chatila butcher, became prime minister, before the resuming of Israeli occupation of Paletsinian land and Israeli killing of Palestinians, before the Israeli-Palestinian peace process died before its birth, before Hariri infected the Lebanese political scene and reconstructed Lebanon with his construction companies billing the bankrupt Lebanese state and then borrowing to fill in the accounts and pay his Syrian mentors, before the postwar massive amnesia and lack of accountability in Lebanon, before Bush, before Iraq, before the US sponsored Lebanese political elite and the March 14th movement adopted the culture of martyrdom and then the ‘culture of life’ in a matter of months, before freeing Lebanon’s war criminals from prison and giving them a seat in parliament while killing others in a mafia cleansening operation style, before the nonsensical international UN tribunal for the assassination of Lebanon’s prime minister, before the Iraqi nightmare, before the US realised that there are sunnis and shias in Islam, before the US resumed its friendly relations with the Sunni country whose citizens are responsible for 9/11, before the US decided to fight Shias because they were friendly with Iran, before the ‘second lebanese war’ and last summer’s deadly and criminal Israeli agression on Lebanon and Hezbollah’s ‘divine victory’, before the winograd report and the falling of Olmert’s support to rates under the margin of error, before Palestinian civil war in Gaza, before the US decided that maybe the ‘fragile democracy’ in Lebanon wasn’t after all worth Iran’s oilfields and USrael’s neoconish obsession with Iran’s mullahs and that for this matter the US needed to calm things down with Syria, before the election of Sarkozy, the vanishing of the UN tribunal for Hariri, Sanyura’s political weapon against Hezbollah, and the reincarnation of US’s declining neoconism, exactly like ‘Alien Resurrection’, in another time and another place with Sarkozy’s election in France.

The people of Palestine, Lebanon, and the ME, have been fed only despair by their western sponsored corrupted Politicians. I am from this generation who saw only despair whenever I thought of the future of my country, my region and my own future within. Not one ray of hope.

The fact that the Muslim Sunni extremists the Sanyura government is battling were actually armed by Sanyura’s allies in order to create a force capable of facing the Shia Hezbollah, and the present massacre of palestinian civilians under the cover of fighting those same Muslim Sunni extremists, might mean two things: i) the Sanyura government and Lebanon as it is, one small 10000 km2 piece with a mosaic of communities, are both on the brink of collapse and this is their last reaction, their one last stand to drag in the international community to witness their downfall and eventually help them defeat their opponents and finish off Lebanon ‘victorious’, and there are already calls for help from the Lebanese government, and/or ii) the actual showdown is meant to exacerbate sectarian tensions and drag along the international community, and/or Hezbollah into the fight against Sunnis (which amounts also to dragging in the international community who will jump at this chance to tackle by proxy the ‘Iranian’ problem).

One day I was explaining Lebanon and its politics to my European husband and he said:’this is very ugly Politics, how come Lebanese accept it?’ And I replied: ‘ Lebanese live in self denial, they venere conventions and despise truth, nothing bothers them more than a simple truth, the truth about themselves, so they buy into any narrative that embellishes this truth. But the narrative is always the same. It is that other people are repsonsible for their misery and that every time they go down they must call other people for help and blame some others. This is the simple Lebanese truth. Another one is that ordinary racism is accpetable in Lebanon. These people see themselves as superior and therefore despise the poor, other Arabs, the dark skinned, the homosexuals, the leftists, the atheists, the Sri-Lankan maids, they despise everything that is not Lebanese kitsh nurtured for the sake of self denial and self agrandising. This is not a society of individuals, this is a society of sheeps herded by anyone who can flatter their inflated egos and ugly sleves.”

Khalid Saghiyyeh’s article
One day, after a long civil war, Lebanese decided that they were brothers. They saluted each other and pointed their fingers at the Palestinians as the ones who were behind their divisions. They imprisoned them within few Square feets in a camp, they closed the doors and prevented the air from entering. One other day, after a bitter and long political struggle with no end, voices from the government and its opponents converged to put the responsibility again on those small Palestinian camps accused of pushing the country one more time into the abyss. Both parties accusing Palestinians today of putting Lebanon on the brink of civil war don’t lack in racist leaders and ideologies in their dealings with the ‘foreigner’ in general and the Palestinians in particular.
Nothing can lower their enthusiasm in accusing the Palestinians, not even the civilian casualties lying on Nahr El Bared refugee camp’s soil. And the fact that Fatah el-Islam is one extremist organisation among many others, that can be found in Lebanon disseminated outside as inside Palestinian camps, did not even help to calm down some who called for the ‘cleansening of the Palestinian house’. It did not even occur to these callers, whose racist calls are routine for Palestinians, that many reports point to the responsibility of high level Lebanese Politicians in arming and financially supporting the Sunni extremists in and outside Palestinian camps. And none of those who are standing today, united in the discovery of their racial purity, accusing the Palestinians of all ills, can or would expose at lenght the notorious disengagement and the retreat of the state from whole regions in Lebanon which are maintained in a state of total dependancy and subjugation to some Politicians who would use them to their advantage during election time, monitoring them from some far luxurious hotels. In divided societies who cannot agree on anything and who are on the brink of collapse like Lebanese society, chronic and acute political struggles have a high human and social cost. And in countries like Lebanon where social assistance is non existent, savage economic reforms have even a higher if not an exorbitant human and social cost. Those are some indications as to the real causes of the present situation in Lebanon. Fatah El-Islam is not a cause, it is merely a dust on the surface of the volcano.

Lire l’article de Loubnan Ya Loubnan ‘Au Liban le chaos constructif est en marche’. C’est un article qui met au grand jour les multiples ramifications de l’actuelle crise libanaise, ce que vous ne lirez jamais par les canaux d’information ordinaire.



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