USC Students for Justice in Palestine

history, analysis, news, and event updates on the struggle for justice in palestine

Electronic Intifada: Lebanon for beginners

Posted by uscsjp on November 22, 2007

Laurie King, Electronic Lebanon, July 2006

For many Americans, the names “Lebanon” and “Beirut” have long been synonymous with violence, chaos, terrorism, hostage-taking, and anti-US organizations, ideologies, and activities. These place names are often bywords for a total breakdown of social, political, and legal order. Indeed, the noun “Lebanization” has been applied to numerous situations of internecine ethnic conflicts played out in urban settings. Countering such conventional perceptions, this introduction to recent Lebanese history argues that even during the worst phases of Lebanon’s multidimensional wars (usually fought in and over Beirut) order and patterns were evident in the structures and levels of confrontation: local, national, regional, and international.

Multiple strategies, sometimes in concert, though more often in competition, shaped the dynamic sociopolitical context of Lebanon over a period of sixteen years. As the war progressed, fighting became protracted and a war system was institutionalized, giving rise to a new class of warlord/politicians and nouveaux riches decision makers. Beirut was dissected socially and devastated physically. The post-war era witnessed remarkable rebuilding and sustainable reconciliation, but insufficient institutional and legal reforms.

Lebanon’s war years were destructive and seemingly endless. By the late 1980s, a paralytic situation obtained: no one side could decisively win or lose on the military level. On the socioeconomic level, most Lebanese were unequivocally losers. On the political level, the Lebanese war, despite its monotonous logic of internecine violence, gave rise to dramatic developments in the form of new players, tactics, ideologies, and alliances. Even seasoned Middle East observers were taken by surprise at the latter developments, most clearly demonstrated by the emergence of the radical Shi’i militias, Islamic Jihaad and Hizbullah (Party of God), also known as the Islamic Resistance (al-muqaawamah al-islaamiyyah). These new political and military actors were born of local and regional events: the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. (continued here)


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