Forty-one years ago today, a series of violent incidents in the mostly Christian and Druze Beirut suburb of ‘Ayn al-Rummaneh (عين الرمانة) between Phalangists and Palestinians would come to be seen as the opening shots of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.
Of course, this was no more the first sectarian violence in Lebanon, any more than 1990 was the last. But it is conventionally seen as he outbreak of the war.
Like so much else in the war, the narratives of the incidents as preserved among the mostly Maronite Phalangists (Kata'ib) and the Palestinians and their allies. An initial clash in the morning between Phalangist militiamen of the Kata'ib Regulatory Forces (later known as the Lebanese Forces Militia) and Palestinians led to a second clash an hour or two later, both outside a church; in the second several were killed in a Palestinian reprisal. Later the same day, a bus full of Palestinians passing through en route to the Sabra refugee camp was attacked by Phalangists under Bashir Gemayel, son of the Phalangist leader Pierre Gemayel.
The Bus as Memorial
About 30 were killed, and over several ensuing days the Phalangists and their Chamounist Christian allies traded reprisals with Palestinians and their Lebanese allies. In later narrative, Phalangists saw it as an attack on Pierre Gemayel himself; Palestinians as a Phalangist attack on themselves. Still in the future were Syrian intervention, Israeli and Western intervention, and countless shifts in allegiance, but the die was cast and Lebanon had crossed its Rubicon.
"Michael Collins Dunn is the editor of The Middle East Journal. He also blogs. His latest posting summarizes a lot of material on the Iranian election and offers some sensible interpretation. If you are really interested in the Middle East, you should check him out regularly." — Gary Sick, Gary's Choices
"Since we’re not covering the Tunisian elections particularly well, and neither does Tunisian media, I’ll just point you over here. It’s a great post by MEI editor Michael Collins Dunn, who . . . clearly knows the country pretty well." — alle, Maghreb Politics Review
"I’ve followed Michael Collins Dunn over at the Middle East Institute’s blog since its beginning in January this year. Overall, it is one of the best blogs on Middle Eastern affairs. It is a selection of educated and manifestly knowledgeable ruminations of various aspects of Middle Eastern politics and international relations in the broadest sense." — davidroberts at The Gulf Blog
"Michael Collins Dunn, editor of the prestigious Middle East Journal, wrote an interesting 'Backgrounder' on the Berriane violence at his Middle East Institute Editor’s Blog. It is a strong piece, but imperfect (as all things are) . . ." — kal, The Moor Next Door This great video of Nasser posted on Michael Collins Dunn’s blog (which is one of my favorites incidentally) ... — Qifa Nabki