Friday, April 3, 2015


What a mess! Those with sufficiently long nostalgia will remember the heady days when Lebanon was a peaceful and prosperous mini-state at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, where Maronite Christians lived in peace and harmony alongside Druze and various denominations of Moslems, with an informal agreement that seats in Parliament should be shared among the ethnic groups, with a Maronite President, a Sunni Prime Minister and a Shi’a Parliamentary Speaker. It worked for a long while. Then it fell apart. The civil war began in 1975, and would continue for fifteen years. In 1976 the Syrians decided to join in, hoping to make Lebanon part of Syria, or at the very least a puppet-state; they stayed until 2005, though in essence they are still there today, as we shall see. And somewhere along the way, though journalists and historians and even members of the organisation are in total disagreement as to when, Iran planted its stake in the southern foothills of Lebanon, hoping to add the country to its plans for a world Shi'a Caliphate, doing so through the political party and paramilitary of Hezbollah.

“Black September” in Jordan, in 1970 and 1971, made everything a hundred times worse. After the Palestine Liberation Organisation had established themselves as a state within a state there, and tried, and failed, to liberate that larger part of historical Falastina, they were crushed and expelled by the King, himself an exiled Saudi prince who has no hitsoric right to be in Jordan whatsoever. The PLO took refuge in southern Lebanon, and (in)effectively established another state within a state there, using it as an extended military base to launch terrorist attacks against Israel, most of which amounted to little more than rolling rocks down the hillside into the back end of Qiryat Shimona and randomly firing hundreds of Katyusha rockets into anywhere they could hit along the northern border.

By 1982 Israel had had enough, and launched an invasion to remove them, but could not resist the opportunity to try to remove the Syrians as well, and make Lebanon a puppet-state of Israel. The PLO were again expelled, leaving behind tens of thousands of refugees who are still living in camps; the Syrian military bases in the Beqaa Valley were destroyed, but not the Syrian military presence; a 6-month siege of Beirut proved fruitless, and after pretty well destroying the ancient cities of Tyre and Sidon and standing by while Palestinians were massacred by Maronites at Sabra and Shatila camps, Israel retreated to a self-declared “security zone”. The Maronite President was assassinated as a punishment for supporting Israel; Iran and Syria created Hezbollah, and moved it into trenches and tunnels in southern Lebanon, and orchestrated the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, leading to another Israeli invasion in 2006, and the still further enhancement of Hezbollah as a major force, if only in the south.

And now there are even more refugees, fleeing the fighting in the Syrian civil war, and so many armed camps, so many armed regions indeed, that a map of Lebanon looks like what it is, the map of a total war-zone. Very sad. Lebanon was once one of the glories of the Middle East, long, long ago, in the days of King Huram of Tyre, when the Phoenicians made purple dyes from the murex snail and traded throughout the world, and cut down cedars to build the Temple in Jerusalem. Today what issues from the fossils of the obsolete murex is red blood, not purple dye.

Marks For: 2

Marks Against: 8

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