Wouldn’t you want Lebanese orphans to be saved like you?

This is the 15th question in the series: “Anti-adoption month: 30 answers to 30 questions on adoption” [link].

The following reply was posted in response to an article that was published in the Eagle-Tribune of North Andover, Mass, as well as in the Boston Globe. I’m regularly asked here from members of a particular class if I would have “preferred” to have lived here during the civil war.

Today, Logan and his adopted family continue to enjoy a sort of celebrity status. His parents have received calls from people all over the country, and even Canada, who want to adopt Lebanese children. Many people who followed media reports of the family’s struggle to leave Lebanon quickly recognize Logan’s thick crop of dark, curly hair and the wide smile through which he now flashes new, white teeth. On a recent day at his North Salem home, Logan wore a navy blue sunsuit emblazoned with an American flag and blue Skechers sandals.

Answer: As an adoptee from Lebanon who has returned definitively to his place of birth, I was intrigued to read this story about “Logan” (named rather ignominiously after the airport of his arrival) and his voyage out of Lebanon, where you say he is now “thriving”. I would like to simply point out the bias inherent in your story, and the disturbing undercurrent of “salvation” that you attribute to adoption, which is belied by the facts on the ground here in this country.

Laura Gabriel with the Lebanese child now temporarily in her care.

Laura Gabriel with the Lebanese child now temporarily in her care.

I am going to guess that Mr. Gabriel is born of immigrant “stock” as you put it, spanning generations, as witnessed by his Anglicized name (Al-Jibril or Al-Gebrayel would be the Lebanese orthography of the family name, depending on local culture). Or, perhaps he is a new emigrant to the United States. In either case, the decision to adopt from Lebanon without mentioning the fact that such adoptions are handled without any government oversight by the various sects within the country—predominantly Christian, as far as adoption is concerned—speaks of a particular bias that you have no problem airing when you refer to Hezbollah as “a militant Islamic group based in Lebanon”.

You could just as easily refer to “militant Christian groups based in Lebanon”; they are numerous, and the largest of them gleaned its ideology from the Nazis in 1938; its name from Spanish fascists. The fact that you might not speak this way is most telling. I would only point out that the Hezb is a valid political entity, has been elected democratically to its positions within the parliament, and the Shi‘a which make up much of its constituency are as Lebanese as Mr. Jibril’s family, despite attempts to paint them as being “based” here, instead of their having a right to be here.

What is interesting is that the political dispossession of this people goes hand in hand with the dispossession of adoptees, many of us coming from such Muslim families—abducted, kidnapped, brokered, trafficked—by missionary organizations seeking to weaken a certain population within the country, and reflective of similar efforts in other countries: Indigenous peoples in North America and Australia; children from Reunion Island in France; the Roma in Europe, etc. That you might advocate in any way this local trafficking of children is appalling.

Most disturbing in your article is that the Senators listed therein as having helped “Logan” leave Lebanon with a special humanitarian visa are the same Senators who deliberately and with malice aforethought allowed the destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure and civilian population centers to take place. I remember very clearly during the July War, 2006 an interview on CNN featuring Senators Lott and Feinstein, talking about the usurping entity in Palestine’s right to “defend itself”.

“CRIME”. Pulling children from the rubble of the second Qana Massacre (Al-Balad newspaper).

The television screen behind them showed the headquarters of the local Civil Defense complex in Sour, smoke rising from its bombed carcass, and which housed among other caritative organizations the local Red Cross and Red Crescent. Here we were inadvertently revealed the nature of this war, in which no one was spared: hospitals, Red Cross workers, ambulances, convoys of medicine and supplies, sites of former massacres, funerals of those killed in the bombings of the previous day. The adoption of one infant from the midst of this uncivilized carnage does nothing to change the truth of what happened here.

That these cowardly Senators would have the nerve to expound on Israel’s so-called “right” in front of such an image speaks long as to the American viewpoint of this country, especially when only a year earlier, the United States was supposedly “standing with” Lebanon and its dubiously entitled “Cedar Revolution”. This reflects an American foreign policy which allowed Madeleine Albright, when asked about the death of half a million Iraqi children due to sanctions and war, to reply that this was “worth it”; a vision of this region that permits Condoleezza Rice to horrifyingly use the metaphor of “birth pangs” in describing a “new Middle East” in which the murder of children is a day-to-day given.

The men had gone to look for bread. Qana Massacre II, Lebanon (As-Safir newspaper).

The men had gone to look for bread. Qana Massacre II, Lebanon (As-Safir newspaper).

What was the Eagle-Tribune‘s stance concerning the war here? Frankly, I’m almost afraid to ask, but I would only quote Desmond Tutu who said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Falser friends are hard to come by, especially when I also remember the evacuation of Americans from Beirut coming in stages–first, “all-Americans”; second, Americans by marriage; third, Americans by naturalization. I am in this third category, as is this child.

The mistreatment suffered by my friends trying to evacuate—cancellations, this third-tier status, abusive questioning by American officials, being forced to choose from among family members based on a limited number of allowed accompanying individuals—is reflective of current politics in the United States which see naturalization as something to be revoked, as opposed to an entrance point of belonging to a nation. As immigrants, this might give the Jibril family pause.

If I think back, I can remember very clearly a photo of my naturalization at the age of five, eating cake decorated to resemble the American flag. But I also remember as if it were yesterday waking up to mega-ton bombs falling a scant half-mile from my house in Beirut. And I will never forgive those who gave the green light to such violence, or those who support it via their mediated efforts, such as the one that appears in your newspaper.

“The butcher of the children of Qana”; two-story poster hanging in downtown Beirut.

Unlike the Jibril family, I had no problem deciding to stay. Mr. Jibril might also pause to consider what it means to decorate his son with American flags when it is that country that saw to it that over 1400 civilians were killed during this war, a third of them children. I shudder to think that perhaps this now-“father” might wish certain segments of the Lebanese population dead, especially when he has no guarantees that his son is not of these people.

Fo this is a perfectly valid scenario, given the trafficking, and brokering, and criminal profiteering that takes place here, as well as the politics of exclusion that also marked my American acculturation. That anyone would continue to aggravate such criminal activity by adopting from Lebanon is thereby complicit in this criminal activity, as are those who do not denounce their new country’s foreign policy and economic and political wars on the Third World that directly result in the poverty that create “orphans” in the first place.

“Logan” has family and community here in Lebanon, as do I. As do all of the adoptees from Lebanon who have returned trying to find a sense of closure to their identity and to their lives. To not see adoption as a political act is to validate a certain worldview that is being resisted more and more both here in Lebanon and around the world.

And so “Logan” was supposedly “saved”, and this gets media attention; while 400+ other children died in this conflict, and no one raises any cry of outrage. Given the “equation” of his adoption–400 to 1–I would like to know how his adoptive parents sleep at night. Was his “price” worth this? Where is the justice? How do you even begin to justify such a horrifyingly lopsided equation?

Norman Finkelstein, when asked about Ms. Rice’s statement, said:

“The Secretary of State said it was the birth pangs of a new Middle East. That’s the statement of a freak. A human freak would compare the birth of a child with the destruction of a country.”

He also said that it is “It’s better to die on your feet than to walk crawling on your knees.” And so when you ask me if I would have rather lived here during the Civil War, my answer is that this is an obnoxious, selfish, and disgusting thing to ask; a stone yoke thrown around my neck. And I now categorically reject it. I lived here during the July War in 2006, and I would rather resist from within, than observe passively and disempowered from without, surrounded by those who might offensively ask such a question. And thus my decision to stay.

Inch’allah “Logan” will one day come back and know the place he is of, and will know that it isn’t eating falafel that makes him of this place—it is his roots, his family, his heritage, his community, his local culture, his language, and his blood ties to former generations that he has been displaced from in what can only be termed a great and offensive injury; a monumental tragedy. And that perhaps, unlike the Pabulum forced on us our entire lives, there was, in fact, a life here for us that we will never know.

I wish him peace.

Norman Finkelstein interview, from LBC television.

A History of Modern Lebanon, by Fawwaz Traboulsi.

Brand America: Of False Promises and Snake Oil, by Daniel Drennan.

Articles on Lebanese adoption.

Debate Tactic: The media’s role in advocating for adoption cannot be underestimated, and they must be challenged at every turn to actually perform their journalistic duty.


About Daniel Drennan ElAwar

Adoptee, rematriated.
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2 Responses to Wouldn’t you want Lebanese orphans to be saved like you?

  1. r.m. says:

    Very powerful commentary. I hope it is widely read.

  2. What kind of depraved monstrous place expels its own children from its “body” and then celebrates that expulsion? And if we are “saved”, then why are we not welcomed back upon return?

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