Black flags and Christmas lights: a letter from Beirut

The assumption here is that Lebanon will be the next place the jihadis target

13 December 2014

9:00 AM

13 December 2014

9:00 AM

Blue and white Christmas lights twinkle over the shops near my apartment in Beirut’s Christian quarter; pricy boutiques display elaborate nativity scenes. But people are having trouble getting into the festive mood. ‘Do you think the war will come here?’ asks my landlady nervously, not for the first time. There is no rush to battle, no electric charge in the air, just a rather depressed feeling among Lebanese that their country can no longer escape the violence over the border in Syria. The black flag of the so-called Islamic State has appeared after Friday prayers in some mosques in the north. The assumption is that Lebanon will be the next place the jihadis target. Still, there are reasons to hope.

Sectarian bloodletting might have begun after Isis and another al-Qa’aeda offshoot, the Nusra Front, kidnapped 30 Lebanese soldiers. Three have been beheaded. Most of the group are Shia and if they are all killed, many fear revenge attacks on Sunnis. I look out of our office window to see dense black smoke billowing up from burning tyres: the soldiers’ families protesting. They have set up camp right outside the Lebanese cabinet offices, tents adorned with pictures of the missing men. The families want the government to agree a prisoner swap with the jihadis. Isis cleverly let them visit the captives. One protestor, Nizam Meghet, told me he barely recognised his brother, a corporal; he’d lost so much weight. ‘We’re here from all sects and confessions, Sunnis, Shia, Druze and Christians,’ said Nizam, a Sunni. An elderly Shia man, with a son held hostage, nodded. So far, the crisis has brought the country together.

The pessimists believe that Isis are stronger after American bombing. That is because the US also bombed Nusra, in most parts of Syria a bitter enemy of Isis. The two groups had been enthusiastically killing one another but then some sources spoke of a new unity forged by American cruise missiles. That would be bad for Lebanon, where Nusra has a following among Sunni refugees, but I would be surprised if it really happened. Al-Qa’eda’s history is of factions splitting and splitting again, declaring rivals apostates and severing their heads. Despite talk of a grand alliance, the two groups continue to trade insults on Twitter. ‘The blood of our brothers shall not be wasted. We will retaliate many times over,’ tweeted one Isis member to Nusra. ‘Blood for blood; destruction for destruction.’

The British government is spending £20 million to stop the jihadis invading Lebanon. The money is to build new border posts and train the soldiers manning them. The effort is led by a booming former Guards officer, Giles Taylor, who is much loved by the Lebanese troops he instructs. The jihadis — Nusra and Isis — briefly took over the border town of Arsal and were heading for the Christian village of Ras Baalbek. Thirty pickup trucks with heavy machine guns came down from the Syrian mountains. Hundreds of fighters emerged from refugee camps inside the Lebanese border. The attackers were turned back ‘shocked and disheartened’ at one of the heavily fortified new posts paid for by the British taxpayer, said Lt Col Taylor, happily.

Isis has had one unambiguous success: attracting young Muslims from western countries. Suicide attacks are usually carried out by the foreigners, the Islamic State’s ‘useful idiots’. One was Kabir Ahmed from Derby, who last month became the first British Isis suicide bomber in Iraq. I have written here before about his death because I find it so disturbing that he abandoned a wife and three children to seek martyrdom. ‘We don’t fear death,’ he told me. ‘This is the way of our prophets and the way of our messengers.’ He is part of an al-Qa’eda tradition that saw Saudi mujahedeen in 1980s Afghanistan pitch white tents so Soviet bombers could spot them (to the puzzlement and disgust of the Afghans). The jihadi cult of death is nothing new. It is still shocking to talk to someone who is not just willing but eager to die.

The jihadi threat makes Sister Georgette, of the Good Shepherd Sisters of Lebanon, grateful for the nearby presence of the Shiite militia, Hezbollah. ‘They maintain discipline,’ she says. ‘They keep the terrorists out.’ I meet her at the Catholic charity she helps run, the St Antoine dispensary, handing out bags of nappies to women in hijabs. ‘We receive everybody,’ she says. Such small charities are assuming a vital role with 1.5 million refugees in the country, a third of Lebanon’s population. The UN is overwhelmed and has had to cut food rations. On the day I visit, the Beirut Daily Star reports two babies dying of cold in a refugee camp. The whole country is under strain. ‘Sometimes Lebanese come to shout at me,’ says Sister Georgette. ‘They say where is our help?’

She introduces me to two Christian women who have fled to Lebanon from Iraq with their families. Both weep when I ask them how they will spend Christmas. ‘We used to own a house with an orchard and a car,’ says Iman Hermes. ‘Now we are beggars.’ Her friend Ebtasam Kordees says her husband was a respected man in their village near Mosul, a geography teacher. Now he cannot find work of any kind. ‘At least we were able to flee without our girls being violated, unlike the Yazidis,’ she says. Both are terrified of the Islamic State and say they will not return to Iraq nor stay in Lebanon. They want the UN to speed up their paperwork to emigrate. ‘We don’t care where. We just want to leave.’ Sister Georgette informs me sadly that every Christian refugee family she helps says the same. Lebanon might avoid a civil war, she goes on, but there will be fewer people celebrating Christmas next year, and the year after. ‘Christians are leaving the Middle East,’ she says. ‘It’s a pity. But it’s true.’

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Paul Wood is a BBC Middle East correspondent.

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Show comments
  • Guest

    of Course.
    Lebanon and the Lebanese people (the original christians) have always been very passive about the invasion and occupation of muslims.
    Beirut used to be called the ‘Paris of the Middle East’, then Islam came and turned into another sh!thole of the ME, and what do christian lebanese do? Blame Israel of course.

    Lebanese are more interested in nose jobs, expensive timepieces and partying, than their own country, that’s why no Lebanese leader lasts for longer than a few months, and that’s why ISIS will surely sweep in. After all, when you surrender to Hezbollah, what do you expect next? Freedom?

    • Tony

      Hold on there friend. As a Lebanese Christian I am very frustrated at the situation. However, let me address some of the points you have mentioned both for you and others who may read your post.

      – The situation of Christians in modern, post-independence Lebanon was seemingly positive. We were until the 50s the (slight) majority and to this day, the presidency is ours, we have 1/2 of parliament (3/5ths until the late 50s) and the head of the army is always a Maronite Catholic. During the early years after independence (50s and 60s) the Muslims in the region were seemingly secularised (and a significant chunk, genuinely secularised): the secular Baath party in Syria and Iraq, the Shah in Iran, secular Turkey and progressive Jordan. You had your Islamist nutcases naturally, but you also had very well educated and open people. This is why during these years the Christians in Lebanon felt pretty comfortable.

      – However – and herein lies the problem – Mohamedanism is inherently a totalitarian, aggressive and domineering faith, which calls for a society run with the same principles. Moslems desire full dominance of whatever land they inhabit, with death or subjugation of all who do not agree with them. The UK is such a land, by the way. They seek to achieve this through violence, “outbreeding” and other aggressive means.

      – We, the Christians in Lebanon know them very well, we’ve been living with them and at some points under their Tyranny for centuries. Let me be more specific, we the “less trendy” Christians of the Mountains and Valleys rather than the hip quasi-cultural-Christians in Beirut. However, the West during post-WWI had a love affair with “Orientalism”, ignoring the realities that their ancestors knew very well when they made their way to the sacked Jerusalem. As time progressed, many of the useful idiots of the left and extreme left who, burdened with the psychological effects of post-colonialism guilt-complex, were cheerleaders of Islamic movements that veiled themselves in the fashions of their time. First came, the so-called Pan-Arab Nationalism of Abdel Nasser in Egypt, the overwhelming majority of his proponents in Lebanon where the Sunnis; his opponents, the Christians. Then came the so-called left wing revolutionary Palestinian armed groups in the 60s and 70s, with the PLO – headed by the serpent Yasser Arafat – as the most significant force; the overwhelming majority of their proponents were the Sunnis who took up arms and formed militias allied with the Palestinians; their opponents where the Christians. Then came the Saudi-Lebanese billionaire Hariri, much loved by the West (he pretty much funded Chirac’s bid for the French presidency), his approach was more subtle, namely to islamify Lebanese culture e.g. building gigantic Mosques adjacent to Churches and so on (in the greater scheme of things, he failed); naturally the Sunnis sided with him. Then came ISIS and Nusra; proponents Sunnis, opponents Christians & Shia. Four threats since the 1950s, all of which were very much Islamic regardless of what people tell you, and the West is only starting to get the picture now.

      – Well guess what, we live in an interwoven world where money means power; the US sided with Nasser at one point, the USSR for much longer; the USSR sided with the PLO, the West with Hariri, the rich Gulf states with most Islamic movements. These large powers were funding the Islamic forces that were attacking us and yet we persevered, in the 50s we armed ourselves and fought Nasser, in the 70s and 80s we armed ourselves and fought the PLO. Ultimately we failed because we stupidly ended up fighting each other.

      – So why did we not do the same and seek funding from friendly countries. The answer is that there were none. Here is a FUNDAMENTAL point which most Lebanese Christians know very well but which the West chooses not to accept, in many cases referring to it as a conspiracy theory. A conspiracy it was my good man/lady, but no theory. Back in the 70s the population of Lebanon was barely 3 million, that of the Christians 1.5 million. Proportionally large but not numerically. In the 70s, the Israelis and their friends in the West, after 3 wars with the Arabs, realized that their Palestinian problem required a different type of solution. Drive the Palestinians to other lands and let them settle there. They tried this with Jordan, but the Jordanian king had none of that and after a short bloody war drove the PLO and other armed groups to Syria and Lebanon. Soon after they settled in Lebanon where they found support from the Sunnis, Druze and a tiny number of so-called Christians in the Communist Party. The idea was to drive the Christians out, and camps were already prepared for us in Canada. The number 2 in the PLO, Abu Ayad, famously stated “the road to Jerusalem runs through Jounieh and Oyoun al Siman”, significant as those two regions are Christian ones that are situated to the North of Beirut, i.e. instead of going down south to Israel, they wanted to go North. Who devised this plan? Henry Kissinger, the Israelis and their Western allies with tacit approval from the Arabs who are always keen to remove Christians from the Middle East, this is why it was so difficult for the Christian militias to obtain arms from the West or anywhere else. The slithery Arafat and his PLO were very much part of this. When the Christians refused to go, the plan had to be changed. Israel and many Christian leaders in Lebanon started to feel that an alliance to fight the PLO and their buddies was necessary, the Israelis funded Christian militias and a peace plan was drawn-up in the mid 80s, which never transpired (due to a weak Lebanese president who succumbed to pressure from the Muslims etc.)

      – So as you can see, Christians in Lebanon, and particularly the Maronite Catholics have never been easy to digest and we have fought back time and time again. It’s a miracle we are still around though given the odds that have been stacked against us as well as our own idiotic infighting (usually leaders played like idiots by Western and Islamic powers).

      – As for doing nothing but blaming Israel. As you can clearly see by now, that is simply not true. The Christians know exactly who the enemy is. But we also know who the conspirators, fifth-columnists, useful-idiots and Machiavellian schemers are. As a side-note, in the late 1800s, the Christians under the leadership of the Saintly Yousef Karam and his band of pious warriors rose up against the Turks and time and time again gave the Turks (Ottomans) bloody noses to the point where the Christian areas in Ottoman-occupied Mount Lebanon were semi-autonomous. Who conspired against him and had him forced into exile? The Vatican (I’m very sad to say), the French and the British who were keen to appease the Turks.

      – We blame many sides. They are legitimately to blame. Ultimately though, we are to blame for allowing others to divide us.

      – But to address your point about Israel, yes we do blame them for a number of things: 1) creating a situation whereby we were and still are stuck with 500,000 Palestinians; 2) in the early days, many were angered at the treatment of Palestinian civilians forced into exile, many of whom don’t forget are also Christian; 3) creating a situation where we were stuck with the filthy PLO; 4) advocating/instigating Kissinger’s plan to remove us from Lebanon and transplant the Palestinians in our place; 5) backing one militia and encouraging its foolish leader into eliminating other Christian militias thus creating deep rifts between Christians politically and regionally; 6) in the 80s and 90s, the South Lebanon Army (SLA) militia, composed of Christians and Shias, were basically a proxy army for the Israelis fighting along side them in Israeli-occupied south Lebanon against Hizbullah. This created a buffer zone for the Israelis. in 2000, overnight, the Israelis pulled out leaving their allies at the mercy of Hizbullah who interestingly captured all of the Shia SLA militiamen but let the Christian ones (including the Leader) go. These Christian militiamen and their families ended up in Israel barred from entering Lebanon.

      – Now Hizbullah. This is a different kettle of fish. What you need to understand is that 90% of Shias in Lebanon are uber-supporters of Hizbullah. You cannot designate something like 30% of your countrymen as terrorists. Nor can drive them out as you would the PLO as they are citizens of your country. Nor can you deny that during the late 80s and 90s they resisted the IDF in South Lebanon (their ancestral home) which was under formal Israeli occupation and where the Lebanese Army was in no position to help them. Nor can you deny that before the war, the Shias were 3rd class, dirt-poor citizens of a Lebanon whose elite were Christians and Sunnis and that these Shias were empowered by Khomeinist Iran; that is why the Shias are such avid supporters of Iran. Nor can you deny that since their inception they have never attacked any Christian militias, regions, institutions, persons, political parties etc. Christians are naturally uneasy about the presence of an Islamic party that is armed to the teeth with strong allegiances to Iran and Syria. However, we know the difference between them and the Sunnis. Shias, like the Alawites, are a minority in the Sunni dominated Middle East, Gulf and North Africa. They know the taste of persecution and it doesn’t suit them to attack or alienate other minorities in the region. The bottom line is that unfortunately Hizbullah is a guarantee in Lebanon against ISIS, Nusra and the other Sunni Jihadi animals. And a huge reason for this “unfortunately” is because I would love it if the Army was the guarantee, but the West, the Gulf and Israel have vetoed all attempts to strengthen the Army, we have no real airforce or navy, just extremely brave soldiers armed with outdated WWII arms that are no better than slingshots against these animals who are “somehow?!” armed with the latest weapons.

      – As for nosejobs, materialism and frivolity; yes I agree with you to a large extent. These are unfortunately the results of the affluent playboy generation of the 50s, 60s and 70s and the depression, nihilism and lack of hope that filled the hearts of the war generation of the 70s and 80s. The truth is that these Christians are all but cultural ones. We need to go back to our Christian roots, the martyrs of the early Church in the 100s, 200s and 300s; the faithful who fought persecution with the Crusaders (the proper ones) and the Maradites; the persecuted faithful who held masses and told their beads in the caves and mountains where monks and nuns reside to this day; the poverty, the faith, hope and charity, the stubbornness. I’d like to think that I am one, I certainly try my best. Pray my friend that many others fall to their knees in prayer and become real Christians so as to never find themselves prostrated before Mohamedan swords.

      • sarah_13

        Simply stated no one cared in the middle east when jews were expelled and murdered, not in syria and not in iraq and elsewhere (jew hatred is an accepted pathology) but now the same fate awaits the christians… First they came for the jews… as cliched as it sounds its true.

        As far as Israel is concerned I know many christian lebanese who realise, too late, that israel has never been the problem. That Jordan expelling 500,000 palestinians forcing them into lebanon was part of the problem. That the israelis did not stand at road blocks and check who was a muslim and who was a christian and shoot christians on sight, that the israelis did not cause the civil war between shia and sunnis, that the israelis treated all in their hospitals alike as human beings not as members of sects, that the israelis have not kept palestinians as refugees in arab countries for over 60 years with no rights. Your anger at israel is misplaced, as usual in the middle east, and thus the Christians will not survive. The only place christians will be safe in the ME is in Israel, if they are uninhibited by muslim groups forcing them to hate israelis. When people turn a blind eye to truth and prefer scagegoating to dealing with facts, facing totalitarian ideologies then the outcome can only be bad.

        • Tony

          How is what you have just written directly related to anything that my post mentioned about Israel. Moreover, Israel was only a small part of my post and my criticism was not based on ethnicity but on politics.

          The Muslims in general despise Jews as well as Christians and yes no one cared when Jews were expelled. The Christians in the Middle East were not rejoicing at Jews being expelled? Where are you getting this from?

          Moreover, the Jews were both expelled and many also were keen to leave those lands because they had the choice/aim of going to Israel – the Jewish state they so wanted. After all, they did their fair share of expelling local Palestinians and committed acts of violence to get this state.

          As for blaming Israel. Most Christians including myself, place blame on many parties but mostly on our own leadership. Many are to blame. Israel included for the very clear and logical reasons I stated in my post that have nothing to do with anti-Semitism or ethnicity. You state that Jordan is to blame for sending 500,000 Palestinians into Lebanon; but those 500,000 were driven out by Israel in most part.

          Where in my post have I scapegoated Israel or blamed them and no one else?

          I guess you’re alluding to Lebanon keeping Palestinians in refugee camps. Well guess what, they are refugees and are not from this land. Do you want to hazard a guess as to what land they are from? Here is a piece of news for you, Israel isn’t treating them much better on their own land which they have lived on for hundreds of years (not to say that Jews should not also live on the same – their ancestral – land). You know, glass walls and throwing stones and all that 🙂

          Here are a few facts. Lebanese Jews were an integral part of Lebanese society until the Palestinians were driven in in the 60s. Judaism is one of the 18 official religions in Lebanon. Jews had their own schools and many Synagogues including the beautiful Magen Avraham Synagogue in Beirut. Jews were as any other group. Christian politicians would attend Synagogues on Jewish holidays. There were senior Jewish personnel in the Army, financiers, businessmen etc. Lebanon was the only country in the region where post-Israel, the number of Jews increased. The Magen Avraham Synagogue was sacked by the Palestinians and their Muslim allies and the dome/roof was bombed by the Israeli Airforce (whether on purpose or by accident).

          As for Christians surviving in the Middle East. Christians have infinitely more freedom in practicing their faith in Lebanon than in Israel where they face direct persecution from Hamas and their buddies and indirect persecution from hardcore Jews. We have been in the Middle East for 2000 years and will NEVER disappear no matter what anyone says, even if we have to hide in caves like we did in the past. The Turks committed far greater massacres and ethnic cleansing than ISIS and Nusra can even dream of.

          You may want to refer to His Beatitude Antoine Arida, the Maronite Patriarch of Lebanon’s support of Jews having a home in the Middle East and of Zionism. Plenty of documents online.

          • sarah_13

            My point relates to the silence of many christians in relation to the fate of jews and the terrible situation they face today being a result of ignoring the fate of the jews. Jews did not rejoice in leaving Iraq, Egypt, Syria or anywhere else for that matter well before state of Israel was established they were forced to leave (over 800,000), as the christians are being forced to leave iraq today with just the clothes on their backs and many went to europe not to Israel.

            The jews only got the state, you say they” so wanted”, because they were being murdered throughout the middle east and europe, not just continually discriminated against but forced to leave rather than acquiesce to, death or a half life without real freedom. The jews went all over the world, wherever they were welcomed, which wasn’t in many countries. That many went to israel also was partly because that was what was left to them when the anti-semite Balfour objected to them coming to britian and preferred they all go to one country far away from britian. As well as there being many jews there it made sense as their ancestral homeland but as I state before they went wherever they were able.

            The story of the jewish expulsion is not new and in the 19th century there were pogroms against jews throughout the middle east in Turkey, Syria etc and many other countries. In Morocco they were treated ok as long as they bowed to their muslim “hosts” and didn’t overstep the mark. They were treated capriciously throughout the region and have been for centuries where there have been well documented and innumerable pogroms that have continued throughout history.

            After the state of israel was created, the palestinians having many opportunities to settle for half the land, continued their all or nothing approach to negotiations which has directly led to the terrible impasse they are in today. Hundreds of thousands of refugees were left without rights. And whereas all people in israel have rights, those who wish to, having become israeli citizens, as have all the “refugees” to europe, they all have equal rights, the only place where these refugees are still kept in camps is in the ME, where arabs refuse to give other human beings equal status and say “not our problem”. Herein lies the problem.

            I’m sure you need no instruction on the history of the area but jordan is an entirely manufactured area where the indigenous palestinians (syrians) are treated as second class citizens. The poor and uneducated kept angry and ignorant with the favourite scapegoat of the jews to absolve the leadership of any responsibility for the facts on the ground today. The same is the case for all the majority muslim countries in the region.

            The “guess what they are refugees and not from this land” comment is instructive. When refugees come to any country they are after a period entitled to full rights, Lebanon, like it or not also has a responsibility to grant rights. Many arabs returned to israel, following the scaremongering of the arab world after the jordanian and arab attacks following independence. Those who ignored the scaremongering live a productive and importantly FREE life in Israel. They are israeli citizens in the freest country in the middle east. You say christians are freer in lebanon than israel. I think the index on freedom disagrees with that. Indeed christians are intimidated into agreeing with hamas in the palestinians territories and if they disagree they are threatened with death, not just in gaza but in the west bank. They are intimidated by fatah and hamas alike and by ordinary palestinians. The hardcore israelis religious are not the majority and are dealt with severely by the fair and uncorrupt judicial system that holds israeli soldiers and citizens to account as it does others. All countries have extremists but israel like western liberal democracies protect all religions and people equally under the rule of law within their territory; gays, christians, jews and muslims. That Lebanon prior to the civil war was better than the other arab states is I think true. But not so today where I believe many will look misguidedly to the likes of hezbollah to protect them, thus just delaying the inevitable tragedy and perpetuating totalitarian ideological rule.

            I hope you are right but I don’t have your optimism about the survival of christians in the ME, having seen the barbarity against jews and now christians in Egypt and iraq and elsewhere. Jews have lived in the middle east for longer than christians and look what happened to them. Christians will not survive unless the US and allies and Israel intervene to help them. I wouldn’t put my money on any of the arab governments being as they are in hoc to one faction or another.

            I agree there are brave Chrisitians in Lebanon who support jews and other minorities, as there are in Israel. However examples of the exceptions is no argument against centuries of injustice. It isn’t that they rejoiced in the expulsion of the jews, its that they did nothing. Now we have a tragic situation where christians are suffering throughout the region I would like the church to do more and be brave, in a way it was not during the jewish holocaust (even though I am not religious myself).

          • Tony

            Why was my reply to this post deleted. It took me 15 mins to write and it was positive and constructive with no insults or anything that warrants it being deleted. Admins, if this was done by mistake, can you please rectify.

          • Monkish

            Excellent, eloquent post. I have two queries, however. The first is to do with the myth of a religious “convivencia” in Lebanon: you fail to mention that Syrian, Coptic, Greek Orthodox and Maronite Christians were enthusiastic supporters of Arab nationalism in its many forms, Baathist, Syrian Nationalist, Palestinian etc. As any educated student of the Middle East knows, Christians were very active in Arab nationalist societies and parties and many were intellectual architects of these movements. Arab nationalism was inclusive toward Christians but, as a result of Zionism and ingrained anti-Jewish prejudice, never took an ecumenical attitude towards Jews. In fact, many among the Arab Chrstian clergy and secular intellectuals actively introduced European anti-semitic tropes and literature into the Middle East. This continues to this day with the Coptic patriach ranting about Jewish conspiracies against Egypt in order to ingratiate himself and his flock to Egypt’s Muslim majority.

            The second is your view that it is quite natural to discriminate against expelled Palestinians from Jordan. Only a hard core nativist can make such a claim. After all, why shoudl a Palestinian refugee be able to obtain citizenship, with all the rights and priviliges in entails, in Canada but not in Lebanon and Egypt? They speak the same language as you, have similar customs and share a religion with roughly 30pc of Lebanese folk. So why shut them out from normalization? If your argument is that they “do not belong in this land” then how are you different from a right-wing Zionist settler or a member of the BNP?

            I also disagree with your rose tinted view of the Hizb but that’s the subject of a longer, more complex discussion!

            I’d be interested to hear your perspective on these matters.

          • Tony

            There are a few points worth noting with regards to the role Levantine Christians played in the formation of the “secular” movements you mentioned as well as Arab Nationalism (which from what I know was also meant to be somewhat secular):
            – Christians in the Middle East were under the yoke of the Ottomans and were being persecuted for centuries. Many saw in secular Arab Nationalism a movement that would rid them of that yoke, especially given the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the pre-WWI and WWI period. Moreover, Muslim Arabs were also getting sick of the Ottomans which made the latter a common enemy of sorts.
            – I would differentiate between Christian communities here as well. The Christians in Syria and along the coasts of Lebanon and Palestine/Israel and Egypt were/are Orthodox Christians who lived in the large cities and had good relationship with their Muslim co-citoyens, albeit one where they had the short end of the stick. On the other hand, Maronites (who follow the Catholic Church) had learned the hard way long ago that under Muslim domination Christians (and Jews) would always have the short end of the stick and were too independent-minded (stubborn) to accept this so they hid in the mountains and caves, at times fighting back, at times retreating to their mountainous safe-zones. The “intellectuals” at the forefront of the movements you mentioned were predominantly well-meaning, wealthy Orthodox Christians.
            I am not blaming the Orthodox by the way, but only believe that they calculated incorrectly that Arab Nationalism and secularism in a Muslim majority region can be solutions to vicious Ottoman persecution.
            – Many of these same intellectuals were heavily influenced by European currents of thought that were de rigeur at the time and thought that they could secularise Islamic societies, which in retrospect, is idiotic. A very large number of these “intellectuals” were Freemasons, which was very fashionable for intellectuals at the time; as you know, Freemasonry is very “ecumenical”.
            – The Coptic Pope has a very difficult job. I suspect he is pandering to Muslims. There may be some conspiracies (don’t forget that Israel and Egypt fought 3 wars), but as you say he is most likely pandering out of fear for his flock (our Coptic brethren).
            – Arab Nationalism is/was just farcical. The majority of Christians, especially those in Lebanon, were at best skeptical.
            – Arab Nationalism’s Anti-Jewishness stems from Muslims who were the majority of its adherents. If anything, it would have been Islamic Nationalism had it not been for an influential cadre of intellectuals from its minority Christian membership. In fact, I maintain that today’s Islamic “Nationalism” has its roots in Arab Nationalism.
            – I’ll give you a quick example of Levantine Christian anti-anti-semitism. The Lebanese Maronite (Catholic) Patriarch Arirda as well as the Maronite hierarchy at the time advocated a Jewish state in the Middle East and helped in the effort to save German Jews from Hitler. (A quick Google search will reveal more details).

            As for the Palestinians, the point is that you cannot impose on a country which barely had 3 million inhabitants, half a million refugees. What makes matters worse is that this happened almost overnight; Lebanon was a young country with a developing economy and infrastructure; the refugees were all from the same community and religion; were ARMED; and were fighting another country – Israel – from our soil, seeking legitimacy for their actions from their Lebanese coreligionists.

            I am a Lebanese Brit; I’ll assume you’re a Brit and will thus take the UK as an example. How would you like it, if in 2015, 10 million French refugees were to enter the UK having fled from a war they were losing against Germany. The “French Liberation Army” and other similar militias, armed to the teeth (more so than the British Army), set up base in London and turn the South East to “France-Land” from where they conduct their war against Germany (leading to the inevitable, much more powerful counter strike). How would you like it if they brandish their arms in Oxford Street and Leicester Square or if they set up camps in Hammersmith and Holborn making them no go zones for the Army, or how about check points on the A40, or protection rackets in East London; theft, arson, rape, death, destruction, terrorism. What if they then armed the Labour Party. What if they shot down Army Helicopters in front of Buckingham Palace. What if they killed 50 British soldiers in cold blood in front of an army barracks and so on and so forth.

            This as you can see is completely different from a bunch of unarmed Palestinians refugees seeking citizenship in a 1st world country with an advanced economy, infrastructure and vast geographical land mass like Canada or a county the size of Egypt with a population of nearly 100 million. Half a million refugees is nothing in comparison. However, neither countries would accept an armed militia/terrorist group imposing their presence on them!

            As you say, the Hezbollah question is a long, complex one and I am by no means a naive Christian cheerleader for the “Party of God”. However, in certain circumstances, you have to select the lesser of two evils, currently Hezbollah is a lesser evil than ISIS/Nusra/AlQaeda.

            Let me know what you think.

        • Lydia Robinson

          I’m afraid the propaganda is too deeply embedded as much as one patiently explains all this. The wealthier Arab countries could have assisted the Palestinians a long time ago but they prefer to maintain the victim status of these people.

          • Tony

            Yes, wealthy Gulf states could have done much for Palestinians. Note for example the cities being built from nothing in the Arabian Peninsula: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha etc. These are countries where foreigners constitute the overwhelming majority of the population. These are also ridiculously, ridiculously rich countries.

      • altsegel

        Tony This is magnificent and interesting. I particularly like your conclusion in the last paragraph that the way to fight Islamic violence is by returning with emphasis to the Christian faith. I remember once looking onto Lebanon from Israel where I lived, a long time ago, and I could see a jeep from Haddad’s miitia. I will pray and light candles for your country this Christmas. I agree with you that God wants a Christian movement reborn re-committed and the perils that assuage us will concentrate our faith. Do we really mean it or not? Merry Christmas

        • Tony

          Thank you for the kind words and prayers and a Merry Christmas to you and to yours.

      • Lydia Robinson

        “As time progressed, many of the useful idiots of the left and extreme
        left who, burdened with the psychological effects of post-colonialism
        guilt-complex, were cheerleaders of Islamic movements that veiled
        themselves in the fashions of their time.” This is absolutely key to understanding the European left’s infatuation with Islamism inspired by the influential book of Edward Said. The campus left, particularly, have been influential as these are the people who go on to occupy public service posts and to impose their pro-Arab and Marxist theories on public policy. Also, the need for oil has obliged successive Governments to pander to oil rich Arab regimes. Hopefully, fracking will burst that particular dependence.

  • Stephen Milroy

    ‘Al-Qa’eda’s history is of factions splitting and splitting again, declaring rivals apostates and severing their heads.’ Now here is a faint glimmer of hope. Let them butcher each other and leave their bones or the vultures. Meanwhile stop pretending it’s ‘nothing to do with Islam’ (it is the Wahhabi and salafist school of thought taken to its inevitable conclusion ) do more for the Christians and Yazdis and protect those groups in the Middle East by killing those who would seek to do them harm,whilst stopping the import of such vile strains of thought from Saudi into this country!

    • Tony

      What is also scary is that the UK is now an exporter of sorts! Time to wake up. Stop being so lax and succumbing to the idiotic left’s political-correctness rubbish. Call a spade a spade.

      • pavel1952

        What’s incomprehensible is that mostly secular British establishment sides with the muslim nutjobs home and abroad. Do they hate christianity and their own history that much? Mindboggling.

        • Suzy61

          Yes, unfortunately. They do.

      • Penny

        I would recommend a book entitled “Suicide Factory”. It’s mainly about Abu Hamza but through its pages you see how frustrated other countries have been by out laxity. I don’t think our “exports” are a particularly new phenomenon, Tony.

  • trace9

    “.. he abandoned a wife and three children to seek martyrdom. ..”

    Nothing compared to what he might have been mad enough to think he’d get ahold of eternally in a ‘Paradise”, at least as real to him as dreary old Derby. Be rational – even if they aren’t..

    • Then maybe we should give him a helping hand to achieve his 72 virgins?

  • rico

    If all Christians leave the middle east, and the ISIS/Al Queada groups control everything there, the terrorists would become easy targets

  • Jaysonrex

    Lebanon should be a Christian state. Sharing anything with Muslims, especially a small piece of land, invariably ends up in a bloody war. (Israel is an excellent example of this “problem”.)

    Actually, all Lebanese Muslims should be ‘transferred’ to Saudi Arabia where they can be nearer Mecca and Medina. This will make everyone happy, especially the Christian Lebanese. And Beirut will be again “Paris of the Middle East”.