Friday, September 2, 2011

Kamal Salibi, the man who revealed Lebanese history for what it is

The falsification of Lebanese history: This is an excellent interview conducted with the late Kamal Salibi by Saqr Abu Fakher and published in assafir today.

Kamal will be missed. I met him in my late father in law's (Usama al Khalidi) house in 1982, where he was a frequent visitor. Usama and him were friends since their university years. I saw him a lot during the Israeli siege of Beirut in 1982. I didn't have a place to stay and I slept on his balcony (it was summer) a couple of times. One night was one of the worst aerial and land bombing I have ever been through (and I've been through 1982 and 2006), and the whole building was shaking and shells were falling everywhere and the sky was lit as in hell.

Kamal used to walk to his AUB office everyday regular as a clock, carrying some papers and if I remember well, a cigar box, but my memory could be failing. Regardless of the intensity of the bombing, he would take the same streets everyday from his old house on Sadat street to the AUB IC gate walk through campus. I learned later that he was working on his famous book: The Bible Came From Arabia. He used to discuss it with Usama during the evenings but my attention span was too short for me to figure out what it was all about. My attention span hasn't improved since, but then I met Kamal again in Oxford when I was preparing my DPhil and he was a visiting scholar at the Center for Lebanese Studies and he gave me a copy of the draft of his book Stories of the Bible People, which he was working on. I had never gotten beyond the first few pages of The Bible Came From Arabia but I thoroughly enjoyed Stories...which takes a lot of the same themes and links them to biblical stories. I can dig stories.

I kept meeting Kamal, which I called `ammo Kamal (uncle Kamal) as Usama and his family did. I saw him several times in Jordan, where he was the head of Prince Hassan's (then Crown Prince Hassan) center for interfaith studies (not sure this is the exact name). I saw him later in Beirut, in the past few years and he had aged tremendously and had had a stroke and could not see very well but he had remained pretty sharp. I love his books about the history of Lebanon and recommend them to all. He was also an organ player and sang Christmas carols every Christmas.

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