Rabil adds:. Ominously, I sensed in my daily interactions with refugees and Lebanese during my recent visit the morbid feeling permeating their charged environment, which could potentially lead to emotionally-driven backlashes" page xiii. Rabil emphasizes in particular the threat of extremism and terrorism facing Lebanon as a result of the influx of Syrian refugees to Lebanon and notes that:.
Personalities, Alliances, and Feuds
This has led to a dramatic shift in attitudes towards refugees on the popular and institutional levels, potentially leading to social conflict. Put simply, the refugee crisis has had a devastating effect on Lebanon, creating a new tragedy afflicting the vulnerable Lebanese and deepening the tragedy of Syrian and Palestinian refugees… Significantly, this double tragedy could cause not only social instability but also disruptive and deadly massive population movements.
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The Syrian refugee crisis has become a serious threat to regional and international peace and security, whose first victims are going to be a mass of vulnerable individuals across nationalities. No doubt, the crisis has also hardened the sectarian divides that tormented the country into virtually a state of paralysis.
Telling about his own travels to Lebanon and the spread of the endemic of radicalism he points out that:. In this case, civil strife and a perilous quest for Europe are the most likely outcomes.
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Nonetheless, it should still be noted that despite the scope of the Syrian refugee phenomenon and the challenges it poses to Lebanon, the country has until now remained relatively calm and stable. It has managed to block both radical Islamist terrorism and the warfare in neighbouring Syria from spilling over into its territory. We may suppose that much of the reason for this lies in the fact that Lebanon experienced its own civil war just three decades ago, and the trauma of that episode still resonates.
Probably no one has any desire to return to the horrors of such fighting, which have not yet been forgotten. Another reason can be sought in the circumstance that the Sunni community in Lebanon, which is attentive, naturally, to the tragedy befalling its brethren in Syria, is not by character militant or radical.
The Sunnis mainly live in the big cities, and are an important part of the middle class and the elites in Beirut and other Lebanese cities. Like the Sunni urban population in Syria, the Lebanese Sunnis have no spirit of militancy, and they have nothing in common, certainly nothing socially and economically, with the refugees from Syria, most of whom come from the countryside and the periphery.
If Bashar al-Assad comes out on top, he will maintain good relations with his ally, Hizballah. If the Syrian fighting ends with a compromise or even a rebel victory, the Sunnis in Lebanon will benefit. We must, therefore, wait patiently for the end of the conflict in Syria in order to see what will happen in Lebanon. Thus, for example, in October , after two years during which the office of president had not been filled, the Lebanese parliament managed to hold elections and choose the Maronite Christian Michel Aoun as president.
A new government was soon formed, headed by the Sunni leader Sac d al-Din al-Hariri, and preparations were begun to hold parliamentary elections, which had been repeatedly postponed since Meanwhile, the refugee issue continued to hover over Lebanon and add a dimension of uncertainty and instability. No answer is available at present, but it is clear that the book under review deserves to be consulted in any future discussion of this issue.
Robert G. Rabil has succeeded in using simple language to describe and explain a very complex phenomenon. He captures the essence of the current Syrian and Palestinian refugee crisis in Lebanon, and presents a lucid understanding of the human misery and political repercussion. His analysis and conclusions may be used effectively for better decision making, and if not, for the cleaner records of history. Ghais, Notre Dame University, Lebanon. Professor Rabil takes careful stock of what this means for Lebanon, the refugees it hosts, the region, and the international community.
Trying Again: Power-Sharing in Post-Civil War Lebanon
He does so with a rare ability to combine excellent scholarly analysis, personal anecdotes from his fieldwork in Lebanon, and clear, accessible language. Anyone wishing to better understand Lebanon or the complex ways in which the Syrian civil war impacts people and neighboring states will very much appreciate Professor Rabil's work. Professor Robert Rabil has, in this exceptionally important and seminal work, given the refugee situation a face and a voice. This book should be required reading for presidential candidates to prime ministers and all the talking heads commenting on the refugee situation without any understanding of its reality on CNN, MSNBC, the BBC and other media.
Professor Rabil has captured the tortured physical and legal existence of the refugees from Syria and Iraq in Lebanon and their impact on the Lebanese economy, political structure, and society. In short, this book is a most critical read for anyone trying to get a grasp of the refugee crisis confronting us today.
It is a fluent read and even the technical chapters dealing with economy and intervention plans are easily accessible. The main argument presented in this book is that the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon is a tragedy for both sides: for those driven out of their homes and for the communities which absorbed them.
The Arrival of Palestinians in Lebanon
For Lebanon this has not been their first experience with refugees since in it had to deal with approximately , Palestinians who entered the country and are still there. One cannot deny the striking resemblance between the two cases since both occurred as the result of a civil war in a neighboring country which eventually spilled over into Lebanon, negatively affected its fragile domestic demographic balance, placed a heavy burden on its economy, empowered movements with extreme ideologies and thus transformed the refugees from being a mere humanitarian problem to becoming a security threat which jeopardized the republic.
Indeed, the first two chapters of the book deal with the multifaceted, even existential, threat which the Syrian crisis is posing for Lebanon. The massive influx of refugees has not only affected the demography but also the geographical and public space in Lebanon. Up till March Lebanon absorbed approximately a million and a half registered, unregistered and illegal Syrian refugees making, together with the Palestinians, the total number of refugees living in Lebanon more or less two million. Since the number of Lebanese is 4. Rabil presents the issue of 53, Palestinians who were forced to leave their former refugee camps in Syria to live mostly around or in Lebanese refugee camps.
Yet, the vast majority of refugees are Syrian citizens who, in most cases, are living in poorly accessible and serviced areas, in insecure shelters such as tents, shacks, unfinished buildings, overcrowded apartments and substandard housing in 1, localities throughout Lebanon mostly in the north and the east , many of which are communities that are the poorest in the country.
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In the meantime, the Syrians enjoy the status of being residents and those who have been officially registered are able to participate in the local labor market, although they are restricted to physical work and sales. In the following chapters the author focuses on the socioeconomic implications of the crisis and the unique intervention plans that address the problem of protecting refugees while, at the same time, help build the resilience of veteran host communities.
The Syrian crisis has placed tremendous pressure on the state and society of Lebanon and has seriously downgraded the capacity to maintain the services it provides on the local and national levels while destabilizing tensions between the Lebanese and Syrian populations. Being a cheap labor force, the refugees competed intensively with the local poor population over jobs and there were many incidents of Syrian child labor recorded.
The governments of Lebanon and humanitarian aid partners have laid the foundation of a structure that has already helped many individuals but this structure is under the risk of collapsing due to financial difficulties. The last chapter reviews the political and ideological developments that have taken place in Lebanon during the recent decades. The author argues that the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in increased polarization and radicalism within Lebanon which was a double collision between two political movements fighting over the nature of the political order that emerged after the Syrian withdrawal.
The final liberation of these territories took place during the writing of this review but has left 1. Rabil concludes with the following sobering forecast:. Few scholars can adequately handle such a broad issue by gathering humanitarian, economic, and political aspects of a current crisis into one book. Students, scholars, humanitarian aid workers and decision makers will find The Syrian Refugee Crisis in Lebanon useful.
In response, Salafists, gripped by feelings of discontent and revanchist impulses, have been compelled to address political matters that go beyond their theology and religio-political ideologies, forcing them to consider rationales for political strategies. Robert Rabil offers us a comprehensive study that brings to the discussion Sunni expressions of radical Islam and demonstrates its many shades and forms.
Rabil also places Salafism in Lebanon in the context of Hezbollah's ideology and political action, as well as in a broader regional context. This work is timely as it provides an excellent historical analysis of Islamist streams of thought that operate in Lebanon and that play a major role in the political struggle in the country as well as in the civil war in Syria. This important book underscores the dramatic implications Salafism has for regional and international security. It is an absolutely essential historical and contemporary analysis of Salafism in the Arab world in general and Lebanon in particular.
Rabil's in-depth knowledge of the subject and his extensive research provide readers with a clear understanding of the development of Salafism as theology, religious-political ideology, political programing, and as a motivating factor potentially leading to violence. This is a must read book, which is by far the only, and most detailed and up-to-date study on Salafism in Lebanon, shedding the layers of confusion, and sometimes deliberate 'ignorance' wrapping this relatively new prominent religious movement. This book is indispensable for a better understanding of the Islamist phenomenon and its roots.
Robert Rabil has taken the veneer from the Salafist ideology by showing how Lebanon, a "land of secularism, decadence, and pluralism," became a fertile ground for this puritanical movement. This is essential reading for understanding the crisis of Lebanon, and of the modern world. With the Syrian civil war's aggravation of Sunni-Shi'a tensions in Lebanon, Professor Rabil's book could not be more well-timed to fill this gap in the literature. He explains the complex Salafi tendencies and movements in Lebanon in clear, lucid detail.
Anyone wishing to understand more about Lebanon and the impact of the Syrian civil war on the region as a whole needs to read this book. Strong Professor of Middle East Politics, Missouri State University "Robert Rabil tackles the timely topic of Salafism in Lebanon, the true elephant in the room nowadays amongst the country's myriad challenges. While scholarly concentration of late has been devoted to the dissection of Lebanon's Hezbollah, precious little has been done to investigate radical Sunni counterpart movements with a penchant for violent self-fulfillment.
Rabil's work remedies this gap magnificently, as it takes the reader methodically from Salafism's hub in Tripoli with its nascent Saudi influences, through the embracing environment of Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps, and on to the intolerant Takfiri variety of Salafism.
Most insightful is Rabil's sobering analysis of the shortsighted weakness of Lebanon's moderate Sunni leadership in misreading and underestimating both the durability and potential potency of transnational Salafism in their midst. Robert Rabil has written a groundbreaking book on Salafism in Lebanon.
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