Civil and Uncivil Violence in Lebanon: A History of the Internationalization of Communal Conflict
by Samir Khalaf
New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. 368 pp. $18.50, paper.
Reviewed by Marius Deeb
Johns Hopkins University
Middle East Quarterly
Khalaf, a sociologist at the American University of Beirut, has drawn upon primary and secondary sources to write a fascinating history of conflict in Lebanon since the early nineteenth century. He is at his best on what he calls the Golden/Gilded Age of 1943-75, describing the art, the music, and the intellectual life of Beirut and its role as a center of enlightenment. The author relates how Igor Moiseyev of the Bolshoi Folk Dance Ensemble helped the Lebanese Folk Dancers in the mid-1950s transform their indigenous folk dances into art. He discusses how Le Cenacle Libanais, founded in 1946, became a forum for philosophers, historians, writers, poets, and politicians with the towering figure of Michel Chiha who envisioned the Lebanese national identity as both Middle Eastern and Mediterranean. Khalaf also provides the reader with considerable sociological data based on archives and empirical surveys.
The weakness of Civil and Uncivil Violence in Lebanon lies in some of the author's political analysis. Although Khalaf knows full well how the Ta'if accord of October 1989 stripped the Christian president of almost all his prerogatives and made him a figurehead, he regards it as positive because it was reached by "elected parliamentarians, and not warlords"— somehow failing to note that the accord was imposed by force. While the Lebanese parliamentarians were convening in the Saudi Arabian city of Al-Ta'if, Syrian guns were blasting Christian east Beirut and its hinterland. Is it surprising that the Ta'if accord forced upon the Christians of Lebanon by Syria, a leading terrorist state, and sponsored by Saudi Arabia, which lacks both political and religious freedom, transformed the Lebanese Christians into dhimmis subservient to their Muslim compatriots?
Related Topics: Marius Deeb | Fall 2005 MEQ
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