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April 13, 1975 – The hole in Lebanon’s history books


April 13, 1975 — one of the darkest dates in Lebanese history. An attack on a busload of Palestinians in Beirut that day sparked a civil war that would rage for 15 years, leaving some 150,000 dead, the capital divided along sectarian lines and sections of the country in ruins.

Home to contesting political groups representing 18 religious communities, Lebanese society contains many deep divisions, and the country’s recent past is widely considered too contentious to examine in depth. To avoid inflaming old hostilities, Lebanese history textbooks stop in 1943, the year the country gained independence.

“We have a vacant hole in our history books,” said independent scholar Dr. Maha Yahya, adding that this absence from the textbooks reflected society’s broader silence regarding the conflict.

“There’s been no discussion, no writing,” she added. “It’s almost as if we wanted to apply to history the amnesty laws that we applied immediately after the civil war, and said ‘Nobody is to blame, everybody is equally not responsible for what happened.'”

The country’s Minister of Education, Hassan Diab, acknowledges it’s all about politics.

“After more than 20 years … the teaching of history in Lebanon remains, as it has always been, subject to the interests of various political groups,” said Diab.

Others caution that failing to teach younger generations a balanced view of their history could reinforce sectarian divisions.

Yahya said that the absence of a comprehensive, authoritative history of the war left events of the period “open for interpretation.”

“The children turn to their families and to their communities to learn very particular perspectives of this contemporary history,” she said.

Yahya said that a survey of 3,000 Lebanese 14-year-olds conducted in 2007-8 found that the historical Lebanese figures children most strongly identified with were leaders from their own sectarian background.

Dr. Reina Sarkis, a psychoanalyst and history researcher, agreed. “They only have the oral history that their parents told them,” she said. “You grow up with deep divisions that become even deeper with time. There’s no sense of closure, there’s no coming to terms with your past.”

The result, she said, was a heightened risk of communities becoming “stuck in the cycle of violence.” In this regard, she said, Lebanon remained a society “without closure.”
Lebanon’s missing history: Why school books ignore the past

Since 1970, Lebanon -the only ex-Christian Arab nation– accepted thousands of Muslim refugees who devastated Lebanon’ economy and stability. Thanks to its Christian roots, Lebanon used to have the highest per capita income, although it does not have oil and it is the smallest of all Arab nations, also it was considered the Paris of the Middle East until Muslims became majority and took control of the country, creating chaos, terrorism, political unrest, violence, discrimination, and ruined Lebanon’ economy transforming this wealthy and peaceful Arab nation into another backwards Muslim nation. The same thing could happen to Israel and perhaps to France when their Muslim population becomes overwhelmingly majority.


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