Category Archives: Lebanon


Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East


by David Hirst

(New York: Nation Books, 2010), 489 pages

Reviewed by Nir Boms


In choosing the title of his book Beware of Small States, David Hirst harks back to the words of Mikhail Bakunin, the Russian anarchist who in 1870 wrote to a friend about the European wars. Small states, Bakunin wrote, are “particularly vulnerable to the machinations of greater ones,” but “they are also a source of trouble to their tormentors” (p. 2). This is, in a nutshell, the tragic story of Lebanon, the “small state of the Middle East” that is described elsewhere as “other people’s battle ground” (p. 117).

This is an impressive work that showcases its author’s well-honed journalistic skills. Hirst, a former Middle East Correspondent for The Guardian, lived in Lebanon for almost fifty years and reported extensively on the region. He was kidnapped twice, and expelled from half a dozen Arab countries because of his work. In this thick and thorough account—that he boldly calls a “definitive history of Lebanon”—Hirst offers a detailed narrative of this battleground that is arranged in chronological order and supported by copious footnotes. It is both a good read for the general public as well as a sourcebook for serious students of the Middle East. Continue reading


The Lebanese Test

By Nir Boms and Leon Saltiel | September 7, 2006

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan seemed particularly satisfied at the press conference in Brussels when the foreign ministers of the 25 European Union member states committed to contribute more that half of the 15,000 soldiers of the revamped UN force in Lebanon. Apart from the significance of this move for the stability of the region and the strengthening of the Lebanese government, the pledge of European soldiers signals an important shift in European Mideast policies: Europe is now willing to get involved militarily in the Arab-Israeli conflict. 

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Out of Lebanon

March 01, 2005, 7:45 a.m.
Ending Syrian control could change the Middle East – but it won’t be easy.

By Nir Boms and Aaron Mannes

The car bomb that assassinated former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri rocked Beirut, but the political aftershocks could shake the entire region. The assassination has galvanized Lebanese anger towards their Syrian occupiers. But Lebanon is the crutch propping up the weak Assad regime, so the Syrians will not give up easily. If Lebanon is to be free, its people will require strong outside support. If the United States is committed to building a democratic Middle East, it should take advantage of the opportunity created by the tragedy of Hariri’s assassination and assertively support Lebanon’s democrats.

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Civil War on the Basketball Court

By Nir Boms | July 14, 2003

A few days ago, in the Fuad Shehab basketball stadium of suburban Beirut, the national basketball championship game was played between the two leading Lebanese teams: La Sagesse and Al Riyadi.  Unlike many other sports, basketball is of the few that has survived throughout the cruel and intense war history that tore this country Lebanon apart. At this event, the number of security personnel and their nervousness were mere indicators of the tension that was vibrating off the court and into the stands. Only a month before, the final game was cut short as violence broke out in the stadium. This time, security forces were preparing for the worst. In Lebanon, one must not take things at face value, a seemingly mundane event like a basketball game can actually highlight the fact that Lebanon is a barrel of explosives that can explode at any time. 

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