Impressions from Beirut

Impressions from Beirut

The June War and the continuing Middle East tensions have not produced the same effect in Beirut as they have in Cairo or Amman. In Beirut there is the accustomed freedom of speech, one of that city’s singular virtues. There is a concentration of cosmopolitan characters from various corners of the Arab world, who congregate to conspire or to evade conspiracy. And there is a passionate interest in the Palestinian dilemma—which is not a way of avoiding use of the word “Israel,” but refers to the Palestinians who are recognized as a growing force in the Arab world. In Beirut, I rael is openly discussed, and an effort of sorts is made through the libraries of the Palestine Research Institute and the Palestine Liberation Organization to educate the population about Israel and the Jewish question. Balanced material is as accessible as that which is partisan and distorted. Historical works dealing with the evolution of the Jewish question in 19th-century Europe are to be found along with Israeli periodicals and European journals dealing with Israel and the Middle East. The emphasis seems to be on opening doors which, except to the governmental elite, have remained forcibly shut for many years.

Some factions among the Lebanese intellectuals are allied to the local Establishment, whether by taste, class, or ambition. But there are also independent writers who work for the many newspapers published in the capital. And there are individuals engaged mainly in political activity, although they are not professional politicians. Among the latter are academicians as well as lawyers, a profession which has traditionally supplied Lebanon’s ruling class.

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Lima