Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Displaced Revenge, a Lebanese Tradition 

When recently Pascal Suleiman was found slain and suspicions that Hezbollah operatives had killed him, using Syrian footmen, the street mob went after innocent Syrian workers. Refugees who live in their midst, work in construction, and till the orchards and, do the ‘little jobs’ that Lebanese unemployed, young people of able bodies, refuse or deign to do. 

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Why the Syrian workers became a target and on who’s orders? The Lebanese Forces (LF) organized sit-ins and protests and most likely, they’ve spilled over, intentionally, or not, into main avenues and streets of East Beirut where militants from the LF attacked Syrian passersby and threatened them with violence both verbally and otherwise. The LF’s leadership is smarter than that, one would have thought, as all or almost all the Syrians living amongst the Lebanese are refugees from the Asad regime. They have been driven out by Hezbollah and its henchmen during the Syria Civil War which started in 2011 and continues till the present time. So, why antagonize a massive population who is predisposed to be hostile to Hezbollah, when the latter is the enemy of both the LF and the Syrian refugees? The answer is uncomfortably simple: because the LF can harass and threaten the Syrian refugees whilst it dares not do the same to any Hezbollah militiaman in Lasa or Nab’aa or Beirut for that matter. Because the LF knows that attacking Syrians, is an easy target and carries no responsibility or danger. Because in Lebanon, revenge is exacted against the easy target not the right culprit. 

But let’s not blame the LF as what they did is simply a symptom of a much larger disease. Everybody in Lebanon exacts vengeance against the weakest not the strongest, and the party against whom the ire could be directed with impunity. 

In 1860 the Christian population of Hasbaya and Rashaya were massacred by a Druze mob, aided by the Ottoman garrison although, the murdered civilians were non-combatants, unarmed, and confined themselves into the vicinities of the citadels of Hasbaya and Rashaya at the order of Ottoman authorities, for their safety, or so were they told. Like shooting fish in a barrel, the Druze mob massacred many hundred civilians’ elderly, young, and even children, in both locations. They spare the women only. Same happened with the sacking of the town of Dayr al-Qamar.

In Damour in in January 1976, few Druzes and many Palestinians from the Yarmuk battalion of the Syrian army, attacked the town, raped, killed, maimed, and massacred almost all inhabitants. They were at war with the Lebanese Front (a grouping of rightwing Christian parties. However, in Damour no real fighting occurred and again, like fish in a barrel, it was the fate of the civilians to die instead of the Christian militias or their leaders one of whom, Camille Chamoun, had only evacuated his villa few days before from a vicinity that is merely few Kms away from Damour.

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In 1982, the LF militia massacred and indiscriminately killed thousands of Shias Lebanese and Palestinian refugees after the assassination of their leader, Bachir Gemayel. That assassination was ordered by Syria and executed by a Christian operative of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. However, the ire, anger, and bloodthirsty drive for revenge took the LF militiamen to Sabra and Chatila, two Palestinian refugee camps in the heart of Beirut. No fight ever occurred, just mass killings from dusk till dawn, while the both the Lebanese army and the Israeli occupying forces watched, from a safe distance. 

A University field study was conducted on the subject of “Misdirected Vengeance”. It showed that aggrieved persons typically do not know, or cannot access, the specific individual who did them wrong. Instead, a phenomenon occurs that psychologists call “Displaced Revenge,” where avengers target a proxy—someone akin to the original transgressor. A new study finds that displaced revenge is sweeter when the target seems to belong to the same group as the wrongdoer.

So, if in the case of late Pascal Suleiman, the abductors were Syrians then, Syrian refugees would be fair game for revenge. If the leaders of the rebellion in 1860 were Maronites then their coreligionists in Rashaya and Hasbaya were good to go. Same for the Christians in Damour or Palestinians in Sabra and Chatila. 

The Catholic author E.A. Buchianeri said something about this nasty subject of vengeance: “It is unfortunate that in most cases when the sins of the father fall on the son it is because unlike God, people refuse to forgive and forget and heap past wrongs upon innocent generations.”

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