Posted by: sean | June 26, 2007

The collateral damage of Lebanese sovereignty

MERIP has an excellent piece on the current situation by a Canadian journalist based out of Beirut named Jim Quilty. The piece covers Fatah al-Islam, allegations that the Syrians and the Hariris have been behind the jihadi group, and what more Lebanese sovereignty means for Palestinians, whom are often scapegoated for Lebanese problems (sometimes more justly than others).

He also provides an interesting discussion of the talk about “security islands” in Lebanon, lately used to mean Palestinian camps:

The “security islands” rhetoric is also misleading because both the Lebanese and Syrian security apparatuses have worked informally with the Palestinian political organizations in the camps, so that the Lebanese could apprehend people there who were not protected by Lebanese or Syrian interests.

Finally, speaking of the camps as “security islands” reinforces the fiction that the Lebanese state has forever yearned to assert full sovereignty over the entire country. In practice, the decentralized administration of the Palestinian camps has been just one variation on a theme of rule whereby the Lebanese state effectively outsourced its responsibilities and prerogatives. By this system, confessional politicians dispense services like health care and garbage removal to their constituents as patronage. In the period of Syrian hegemony over Lebanon, local security was delegated to different political groups on a case-by-case basis depending on their relationship with Damascus. In areas where Damascus’ allies held sway — from Druze lord Walid Jumblatt (before he shifted to the “Syria out!” side in 2005) to Hizballah (Jumblatt’s present bête noire) — groups minded their own turf, with or without the cooperation of the state security apparatus. Where banned “anti-Syrian” groups held sway, Syrian secret police were particularly overbearing. Far from exceptional, then, “security islands” like Nahr al-Barid were, and are, simply part of the archipelago that is post-civil war Lebanon.

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