Saturday, December 15, 2007

"The media were not permitted in, and most Lebanese outlets ignored or denied the outrages. When I managed to slip inside, I was shocked by the scope of the damage. The buildings were crumpled, windows broken, electrical wiring yanked out, water pumps destroyed, generators stolen or shot up. All the gold jewelry had been stolen, as had been the cash that so many Palestinians had stored in their bedrooms. Insulting graffiti were scrawled on the charred walls, as were threats, signed by various Lebanese army units. Every car in the camp that I saw had been burned, shot or crushed by tanks or bulldozers. The ruination had been strikingly personal; I saw photo albums that had been torn to shreds. Palestinians told me that they had seen their belongings on sale in the main outdoor market in Tripoli. Like all institutions in Lebanon, the army is sectarian, a fact that helps explain the devastation. Most of the soldiers fighting in Nahr al-Bared had been Sunnis from northern Lebanon; the Sunnis had once seen Palestinian militias as friendly, but now they blamed the Palestinians for the outsiders of Fatah al-Islam and unleashed their fury on the camp. By contrast, refugees told me, Shiite soldiers from the south had been far kinder and more supportive after the fighting." Yes, but don't assume that those sects stick to any position on principles. Back in the 1980s, Shi`ite soldiers and militia men were most ruthless and merciless in their mistreatment of Palestinians. They led--at the behest of the Syrian regime--the war of the camps--or, more accurately, the massacres in the camp. Back then, the Amal movement and the Shi`ite brigade of the Lebanese Army banned food to the Palestinians in the camp. A fatwa was obtained to permit residents to eat rats and mice. These are the sects of Lebanon.