What Makes the History of Lebanese Jewry Different from That of Other Middle Eastern Jewish Communities

June 15 2020

On its face, the story of the Jews of Lebanon has much in common with that of Jews’ throughout the Islamic world: a community dating back to ancient times, which over the centuries experienced many ups and downs, but for the most part flourished until increasing hostility in the 20th century led it to be driven out. But there is more to it, writes Eyal Zisser in his review of Franck Salameh’s recent book on the subject:

There were cases, [in the mid-20th century], of Lebanese Jews being attacked physically; however, in general, the various ethnoreligious communities in Lebanon viewed the Jews living among them with an attitude of much greater tolerance than that shown to Jewish communities in neighboring Arab countries. Indeed, following the establishment of the state of Israel, the number of Jews living in Lebanon increased rather than decreased. This was because most Lebanese Jews chose to remain where they were, and they were joined by Jews who came from Iraq or Syria and chose to settle in Lebanon.

Then, during the 1970s, Lebanon sank into a bloody civil war that changed the character of the country. In the shadow of the decline into internecine fighting, the Jewish community in Lebanon was destroyed. We can now say that this was a bad omen for the country as a whole, for the factors that cast a shadow over the Jewish presence—for example, the collaboration of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) with the radical Arab nationalists in Lebanon—were the same ones that led to the destruction of the whole country and, indeed, stood at the core of the collapse that provoked the civil war.

Salameh’s book seeks to emphasize the special relationship that developed between the Jews and the Maronite community, the community that for many years kept alive the Lebanese dream and still struggles to maintain that dream. In this connection, Salameh presents a fascinating discussion of the way the Lebanese people, and especially the Maronites, viewed the Jews and Zionism. These attitudes stood at the core of the cooperation between the two communities, which began with the beginning of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel and culminated in the 1970s and 1980s.

Read more at Journal for Interdisciplinary Middle Eastern Studies

More about: Lebanon, Middle East Christianity, Mizrahim, PLO


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy