June 30, 2006


My newspaper asked me to do a story on anti-Semitism in Lebanon. And on how the terms anti-Jewish, anti-Zionistic and anti-Israeli are being used intermittently. I struggle a bit with the subject because I don’t think most Dutch have a clear idea as to how the Lebanese have suffered from Israeli actions over the past, what, say 40 years now? And I am not taking the Palestinian cause into consideration now, just the Lebanese. Let’s say that once the PLO came into existence and started fighting for their rights, and the Israelis retaliated, or responded, however you want to call it, things got a little rough over here. And this is phrasing it as neutrally as I can. Not putting the blame on either side as to who started it, the result was rather devastating for the Lebanese. To say that it was the cause of the civil war is taking it a bit too far, I think the balance of power had to be tipped sooner or later anyway, and I doubt this would have been done peacefully. So it was to be a bit sooner.

But this anti-Semitism issue is a bit of a painful subject here in Lebanon. In Holland, being anti-Israeli somehow implies that you’d have anti-Semitic tendencies as well. The line between the two is very vague and sensitive back home.

Over here there are very strong anti-Israeli sentiments, and understandably so. As there are so very few Jews (left) in Lebanon however, most people never really dealt with Jewish people.
In Europe it is quite the opposite. People have dealt with Jews, but not with Israelis.
I live in one of the most mixed neighborhoods in Beirut, and many people I have spoken with say that at one point in time they either had Jewish friends, or went to school with Jewish people. These have all left since the war. And they will tell you very clearly that they have no problems at all with Jews. It’s the Israelis that bug them.
When you go more down South, however, the distinction between an Israeli and a Jew slowly disappears. Maybe because the Jewish community was concentrated in Beirut only. Or maybe the education is not that great. You can blame the government for that.
I find my newspaper not to be overly pro-Israel, rather neutral as a matter of fact, because they have never taken anything out of my articles, even though I have never worn velvet gloves in my writings about Israeli feelings with Lebanon. But in a recent discussion with some Dutch, I heard a few of them stating otherwise. That may be from a Dutch point of view, but could also be from a Dutch point of view with an Arab insight. There is a difference.

So how do you write about it without implying blame, while at the same time make the Dutch understand that the Lebanese have reasons to be ant-Israeli? In 500 words, on top of that. I find it a difficult topic. Painful is the word.
Well, your thoughts on this would be appreciated.

The Finkelstein ladies for piano lessons

Talking about anti-Semitism; I saw this sign some time ago somewhere in Beirut. My first thoughts was "Hey, there are still some Jews left after all." The idea that you associate a name right away with a religion could be considered as anti-Semitic by some. And then it dawned on me we do this all the time in Lebanon. "Who are you going out with"? "Ahmed." "A Moslim?"
Or how about this conversation; A friend of mine reads through the list of the organizers of the art exhibition on the stairs of St. Nicolas in Gemayze. "What a fucking racists," he says, "Not one Moslim among them." "How'd you know," I ask? "Only Christian names, habibti, only Christian names."


Dillydilly said...

Hi letting you know I have read your blog, many thanks.

Kodder said...

Interesting blog :).

the perpetual refugee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
the perpetual refugee said...

It is very interesting to see your perspective as an outsider on the inside.

I'll be tuning in a lot more.

Charles Malik said...

That sign is on the street below Rue Gouraud. It's closer to the downtown than Espace SD.

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