As is the case with most of the Middle East, Lebanon was once home to an ancient and sizable Jewish community that disappeared in the second half of the 20th century amid increasing persecution. But earlier this month, the Lebanese embassy in Paris decided to invite local Jews of Lebanese extraction to a “family reunion,” with the admitted purpose of getting their help in dealing with the country’s general financial and political crisis, which erupted in 2019. Tony Badran argues that this is a desperate ploy, rooted in anti-Semitism, by a nation whose rulers are hopelessly corrupt, not to mention subservient to Iran and its local proxy, Hizballah.
You might have heard about the country’s two-year-long economic and financial crisis, the result of a Ponzi scheme that went bust in late 2019, exposing the bankrupt, dysfunctional country that always lay beneath the glitzy façade. . . . This nationally managed scam can be traced back to the end of the country’s civil war in 1990, when the warlords and oligarchs launched a campaign to attract the capital of Lebanese expats. These expats were enticed with a glorified tourism ad campaign promising that they could take ownership of their country and rebuild it, a fallacy perfectly calibrated to tug at their heart strings, appeal to their vanity, and suspend their disbelief. Oh yes, yes: this country run by the Assad crime family, whose “statesmen” are the very same warlords from the civil war, and where a terrorist organization continues to wage war against its southern neighbor.
Unlike the Muslim and Christian Lebanese expats who were brought back after 1990, no one has any illusions about the Jews returning to (let alone investing in) Lebanon. Their hoped-for role in the Lebanese con is different, and the Lebanese ambassador in Paris was not subtle about it: as the holders of inordinate influence in the West, the all-powerful Jews should be enlisted to help Lebanon market the latest iteration of its national scam.
Isn’t there a way for you, [the ambassador more or less said], omnipotent and shifty creatures, to use your magical powers to help us get more money and international support?
The other useful role that Jewish presence and support can play is to help repackage an old Lebanese saw: the cosmopolitan “tolerance” of its mythical past. . . . The world must save Beirut, the Paris of the Middle East, the last Levantine city of multicultural coexistence. Look, we have Jews. We love Jews!
In short, unlike most anti-Semites who see Jews as the ultimate swindler, the Lebanese leadership seems to think it can swindle the Jews.