Jun 3, 2007
Once again, civil war seems close to flaring up in Lebanon, following the intervention of the Lebanese army on May 20 against the Palestinian camp of Nahr al-Bared, in northern Lebanon.
Officially, the army sought to arrest members of the Islamist group Fatah al-Islam, accused of an attack on two minibuses in a Beirut suburb in February. But faced with this group’s resistance, the army simply bombed the Palestinian camp where the group was installed.
The explanation given for the bombing was that the Lebanese army had agreed with the Arab countries and the Palestinian authorities that it wouldn’t enter refugee camps. So it had to bomb the camp! As a result of this action, begun supposedly to stop some suspects in a bank robbery, 31 militiamen of the Islamist group have been killed, 38 Lebanese soldiers and at least 34 Palestinian civilians living in the camp were also killed by the bombing and shooting. Meanwhile, bombs exploded in Beirut, one in a Christian neighborhood and another in a Muslim neighborhood.
This event reminds us that there are still hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees stuck in Lebanon. They barely survive in the camps with U.N. subsidies. Lebanese laws keep them out of a great number of occupations from which they could earn a living. They live a precarious existence, in overcrowded neighborhoods lacking the most basic necessities, without the perspective of some day getting out of this situation. They are surrounded by the scorn of the majority of the Lebanese political forces, when they aren’t simply bombed by Israel or by the Lebanese army, as just occurred.
It’s not surprising that this situation made it easy for various fundamentalist groups to recruit. In this case, the Islamist group in question seems to be generally tied to al-Qaeda and to include others in addition to Palestinians. The attacks that it organized seem to indicate the entry of al-Qaeda onto the Lebanese political scene, already particularly tense.
In fact, for months the political situation has meant confrontations between Hezbollah, which came out reinforced from the summer 2006 war with Israel, and the leaders of the “March 14th” regroupment, the privileged allies of the Western powers, especially the U.S. and France. The head of the government, Fouad Siniora, with his allies Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt, as well as Western leaders, regularly accuse Syria of responsibility for all the country’s problems and of manipulating their opponents.
These forces made the same charges this time, saying the Syrian government manipulated the Islamist group. Supposedly Syria caused a diversion when the U.N. Security Council was establishing an International Court to judge those responsible for the murder of Rafik Hariri, assassinated in February 2005. The court is supposed to be looking at those close to the Syrian regime.
All this goes to show that the foreign interference in Lebanon doesn’t come only from neighboring Syria, which French imperialism cut off from Lebanon in a typical colonial manner, to better dominate it. Foreign interference also comes from the Western powers, particularly France, which continues to consider its ex-colony as its privileged territory. France maintains close relations with Lebanese financial clans like Hariri’s ... even lending an apartment to outgoing French President Jacques Chirac when he leaves office!
All these maneuvers to divide the peoples of the region, punctuated by successive military interventions, have made not only Lebanon but the whole Middle East a field of more and more inextricable conflicts. It’s reached the point that not only Iraq but also Lebanon seem again on the verge of civil war.
If things are ever to be settled in Lebanon, the best thing would be for Western leaders to stop their maneuvers, their pressure and in particular their support for the business clans that continue to impose themselves at the head of Lebanon.