“Do you support a peace treaty between Lebanon and Israel?”
In a recent conference that I attended in Amman, Jordan, I happened to have dinner with a small group of young adults, mainly in their 20s, who are either Lebanese or Palestinians living in Lebanon. The question of “Would you support a peace treaty between Lebanon and Israel” came up, and it generated a very interesting conversation that in many ways was an eye opener for me. I heard some opinions that I had suspected but wasn’t sure if they existed or not; I also heard some thoughts that had not crossed my mind when contemplating this issue myself.
Of course, I have my own strong opinion on this question, but this post is not about that. Here, I would like to share a brief summary of the main opinions I heard, as I think they provide some food for thought.
First, a high-level profile of the participants:
- A political science student whose father is Lebanese and mother is Palestinian; Religion not known.
- A student of medicine, Christian, from Beirut.
- A student of nutrition whose family comes from South Lebanon; Atheist with a Moslem background.
- A programmer who is Palestinian born and raised in Lebanon; Moslem.
- A graphic designer, with what appears to be liberal inclinations with some socialist/ leftist principles.
- A civil engineer whose family also comes from South Lebanon; Atheist with a Moslem background.
And here is a summary of the views put forth, of course not in the same order as the profiles above. They give what I think is an interesting snapshot of a certain segment of young people living in Lebanon today. The intellectual interests, exposure, and socio-economic background of these young adults is naturally not a representative sample of all Lebanese youth, but it is still interesting to hear these views. If you are Lebanese or familiar with the Lebanese context, see if you can match the views with the profile; it is not as straightforward as one might expect
- Strongly against a peace treaty, particularly in light of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians still in refugee camps in Lebanon, and how such a treaty might adversely impact them. A hard line supporter and practitioner of the BDS movement, and does not buy any products even from non-Israeli companies that support Israel with funding.
- “I have no clue why we even consider Israel an enemy!”. A view with zero context, zero historical knowledge, and apparently zero interest.
- Supports a peace treaty as it might open up new economic opportunities and help advance the country. Sees many similarities and areas for possible synergies with Israel, and perceives Israelis as possibly closer to Lebanese than Syrians.
- Sees both Palestinians and Israelis as victims of the same global imperialistic powers that created this conflict to maintain their ability to interfere in the region. Thinks Jews are worse off in Israel than if they had stayed in Europe, and therefore sees them as victims too. Opinion unclear about a peace treaty, but thinks the Syrian regime has killed more people in the recent conflict and historically than Israel has in the history of the Israeli-Arab struggle.
- Thinks that politics is a game, and people are constantly being played with. Just like enemies in the past e.g. France/Germany and US/Japan have moved on and are now in much better places, he thinks its time to move on and go for a peace treaty with Israel.
- Supports a peace treaty but not in a vacuum. There is too much emotional tension, and Israel has committed too many crimes against Lebanon, for a peace treaty to be treated lightly. OK if with the right terms and conditions.
I found these opinions remarkably fresh and removed from the mainstream talk. Some I found outright uncomfortable, even if worthy of contemplation. Most importantly, they come from the generation that will be in control of the future. That should give us a pause!