Sunday, June 3, 2007

My friend gets beaten by the Lebanese police

I have just learned that my friend X, who is Palestinian was stopped today arbitrarily and beaten by the Internal Security Forces, the official police force of Lebanon. I haven't been able to talk to him but the story I have heard from a reliable source is that he was stopped by a patrol in Hamra, near Barbar, one of the busiest spots in Beirut. I think he was stopped because he is dark skinned, and there is a common perception among racist Lebanese (a significant proportion of the country) that the Palestinians are "dark" while the true Lebanese are fair. Everyone knows the Phoenicians descended from the Norse: they were both sea faring people.

He was asked for his ID, and when they found out that he is Palestinian, they forced him to lie on the gound for half an hour after which they beat him and kicked him and then told him to go. Just like that, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the busiest district in Beirut. His crime: he is Palestinian.

Many people have forgotten how the Lebanese war started in 1975. All that remains in the selective memory of the Lebanese is that the Palestinians started a war to take over Lebanon and make it into Palestine, and that the Lebanese were getting along fine till the Palestinians forced them to fight each others. People actually believe that. But I remember otherwise. I remember when being a Palestinian in Lebanon was the worst thing that could happen to you, when they were stopped and beaten by the Lebanese police for no reason beside their being Palestinians. I remember this incident I witnessed in 1973, in a service (shared taxis) that was bringing me back from school. I was 15. There was a young man next to me and the car was stopped by a police checkpoint. The young man was asked for his ID and he said in a heavy Palestinian accent that he didn't have it and that he had left it in the pocket of his other trousers. The policeman started shouting: "you damn liar, you are Palestinian and you say you have two trousers! Who do you you think you are lying to?" And they beat him and took him away.

When the war started in 1975, I was not surprised when the Palestinians and their Lebanese allies vented their frustration on the police and took their cars and burned them and ridiculed them.

For a people that is always bragging about its unsurpassed contribution to humanity, I find many Lebanese surprisingly lacking in one of the most essential determinants of intelligence: the ability to learn.

Excuse me if I have lost my appetite.


As'ad said...

Rami. We need to get this story out. Would you call Khalid Saghiyyah at AlAkhbar and Hanady at As-Safir?

Merijn said...

Hello Rami,
we met at the souk el tayeb just 2 wks ago (the two dutch foody girls) and unfortunately did not go with you to the south as you know. this fall we hope we will be back,hopefully then we can go with you to experience and taste! Just now reading your blog. there is more than just one truth, so we listen. see you soon again!
Merijn Tol

Nadia Zerouali said...

Thank you for opening our eyes to the horrific things happening to the Palestine people....

Kamal said...


I do not question the pre-war story you desribe. It is a standard checkpoint narrative. Lebanese civilians, like their Palestinian brothers, have suffered at checkpoints Israeli, Syrian, and Lebanese militia.

But don't forget, the Palestinians had 'military' checkpoints of their own before and during the war, where they interrupted, bullied and humiliated Lebanese civilians at will. They especially picked on Christian civilians. This fueled resentment to the armed Palestinian presence in Lebanon. You can't simply ascribe the Lebanese case against the armed Palestinians in Lebanon to 'racism'.

I paraphrase your statement:

When the war started in 1975, I was not surprised when the Lebanese allies vented their frustration on the Palestinians...

Kamal said...

Let me add: I am very sorry to hear about your friend. Anti-Palestinian Lebanese racism DOES exist, and it surges in the context of clashes like we are presently experiencing. It is the responsibility of each Lebanese (myself included) to combat this cultural feature.

JoseyWales said...

I find many Lebanese surprisingly lacking in one of the most essential determinants of intelligence: the ability to learn.

Yep, no racism nor stereotyping there.

Sandra said...

How can the lebanese think that those that are dark in lebanon has to be Palestinian when most lebanese are dark-skinned? That's just crazy.

I know many Palestinians that are blond or/and lightskinned.