Lebanon, 1975

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war. —Ann Coulter, “This is War” [link]

Friend and comrade Nate George found the following article while researching in the archives of the American University of Beirut. This article, glibly entitled “Child Lib!”, is from the weekly magazine Monday Morning, published by the Karam family. At first glance, especially for adoptees from Lebanon, the article reads like an objective overview of the necessity of adoption in their homeland. Quite on the contrary, it is a troubling read, redolent of much more sinister reactionary forces at work. The premise here: the mythologizing of adoption as a beneficent action based in family creation is belied by its use to depopulate unwanted strata of society. Furthermore, the opening up of a nation-state to foreign adoption is based on missionary penetration of that nation-state, the colonized model of a comprador class seeking to establish itself as dominant, as well as that class’s desire to be seen as “of” the colonizer. I’m publishing it here with extensive notes based on my own research and what I’ve learned about this place these past eleven years. I hope it might be useful to those trying to piece together the puzzle of their adoption narrative. It can be found in PDF form at my academia.edu page.


The Article as Published

Child Lib!

This week is Child Liberation Week. The emphasis is not on the liberation of your children [1], but of the thousands of children who are leading a reportedly unenviable life [2] in the various orphanages of Lebanon.

The idea of launching this week, which is aimed at improving the lot of these children by exposing their conditions to the Lebanese public, was born in a BUC [3] classroom: more specifically, in an “introduction to Sociology” [4] course taught by Dr. Ghassan Rubeiz [5] and attended by some 30 Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors.

What started out as a modest class project has developed into a project of city-wide proportions, with BUC students, deeply impressed by the substandard conditions of orphanage children, exerting maximum effort to bring this problem to the attention of the public and the authorities.

In addition to a week-long program of lectures, films and panel discussions at BUC’s Orme-Grey Hall (see below), the students have secured the assistance of TV’s popular Abu Melhem [6], who will be devoting his program this Tuesday to the conditions of children in Lebanese orphanages. The play will be followed by a discussion of the problem by two BUC students and Dr Rubeiz. Radio Lebanon’s [7] English program will also be focusing on the problem.

Mona Younis [8], BUC student and coordinator of the Child Liberation Week project, explains:

Child Liberation is an urgent plea to rescue Lebanon’s neglected children.
Our “Introduction to Sociology” course at BUC has devoted much of its semester’s work to a program concerned with child welfare. We have dedicated our project to Lebanon’s children, especially to the less fortunate institutionalized child.

Thirty students have researched and put together a program which will be held for the duration of one week. We would like to demonstrate what we have observed during our two months of research. Through visits to several of Lebanon’s orphanages and the study of data compiled by doctors and sociologists working in the area, we are in search of another solution to the prevailing conditions. What began as a reaction to observations made by students has led to an involved movement concerned with relaying the facts.

We in Lebanon have a responsibility to our less fortunate children [9]. Our orphanages do little more for the social development of the orphan than tuck him away from the world existing outside this refuge. The orphan is not only suffocating in this stifling environment found in the majority of these institutions but will later have difficulties in facing the outside world so long denied him. A study made on the development of children’s I.Q.s shows a marked deficiency in the institutionalized child’s capacity. This is due to the crucial difference between a loved child within a family and the ignored though perhaps well-fed orphan [10].

Looking ahead into the future of these children we see a less than desirable picture. We commend those who have devoted their time working within the orphanages but there is a desperate need for specially trained personnel.

We know of an orphanage in Lebanon which has shown a positive solution to the problem: families. We were so impressed by their method that one of the students, Tim Ledger, has made a film of the “S.O.S. Village.” [11] Their success in caring for the vital needs of their children far exceeds that of any other institution for the orphan in Lebanon. There is hope for their children, but what about the others?

Due to Lebanon’s rigid adoption laws [12], it is difficult to rescue a child from an orphanage. There is a need for a re-examination of these regulations to help facilitate the return of these children into normal family-based lives.

Here is a summary of what we will be presenting during our Child Liberation Week:

  • The program consists of an introduction on Monday, January 13, by Wayne Dennis [13], author of Children of the Creche, and our film on the S.O.S. Children’s Village.
  • Wednesday, January 15, there will be an open panel discussion with local welfare leaders, in Arabic.
  • Dr. Bassam Barakat [14], AUH professor, will speak on “The Rights of the Unborn Child” and there will be a film on the population explosion [15], Thursday evening.
  • Friday, we will conclude our program with a reception and discussion.
  • An exhibit will be open for the duration of the week.
  • The program will take place on Orme-Grey Hall at BUC from 7:30 to 9:00 each evening.

Last week was “Child Liberation Week,” brainchild of the “Introduction to Sociology” class of the Beirut University College, taught by Dr. Ghassan Rubeiz.

The Week, aimed at drawing the attention of the public and officialdom to the plight of the institutionalized child in Lebanon, was crammed with information which seemed to represent an indictment of most of the orphanages of Lebanon—an indictment, in fact, of the traditional concept of orphanages [16].

The gist of the message, delivered in lectures, panel discussions, and a five-day exhibition at BUC, was that conditions in Lebanon’s child institutions were retarding the development of the institutionalized child, setting him several years behind the mental development of his peers outside the orphanage [17].

This point was driven home forcefully in a lecture by Wayne Dennis, visiting researcher at AUB’s Behavioral Research Center and author of a book entitled Children of the Creche (1973).

Dennis, a child psychology professor at Brooklyn College for the past 20 years who has been to Lebanon as visiting professor on two previous occasions, explained, in his lecture and in a private interview with Monday Morning, how he had arrived at his conclusions.

“The Creche,” he said, “is an institution for homeless children in Beirut [18]. It operates for the benefit of the foundlings—that is, children brought to the Creche shortly after birth because they are illegitimate or because of the death of the mother. Sometimes, however, other unfortunate children are admitted on a temporary basis. These are known as ‘dependents’, and they generally remain in the legal custody of their parents [19]. The foundlings, on the other hand, become legal wards of the Roman Catholic order which runs the institution—the sisters of St. Vincent de Paul.

“Foundlings remain in the Creche until about age six, and then they are transferred to one of two institutions for older children. The girls go to an institution called Zouk, near the village of Zouk, and the boys to the Broummana institution, in the village of Broummana. These institutions care for the girls until the age of 16 and for the boys until the age of 14—and sometimes beyond.

“In 1956, adoption was legalized in Lebanon [20], and the adoption of children from the Creche enabled us to study many of the adopted foundlings after they had lived for varying periods of time in adoptive families. We were thus in the unusual position of being able to compare the effects of institutional and parental care of children who had shared an early environment.”

The results of the comparison were not attractive. It was found that in the Creche, the foundlings were normal in behavior in their first two months, but then behavioral development became retarded soon after that. By age one, the children were found to have a mean behavioral quotient (IQ) of 50 (see table 1), which they retained as long as they remained in the Creche.

This retardation, he observed, was probably due to the limited experience these foundlings were exposed to in the Creche. “Babies lay on their backs in their cribs throughout the first year and often for much of the second year (no foundling under one year of age could sit alone or creep or scoot; at two years of age, many could not walk). As a result, the motor development of the children was retarded and their late acquisition of locomotion limited their ability to explore their environment. But even when they could locomote, there was little to explore in an empty room within four walls.” [21]

The children’s IQ, however, was found to develop significantly after they were transferred from the Creche to Zouk or Broummana [22], depending on their sex. At age 16, the girls in the Zouk institution and the boys in the Broummana institution had developed appreciably higher IQs, with the girls’ average IQ going just above 50 and the boys just above 80. (see tables II and III)

“This difference,” Dennis said, “stems from the contrast in cognitive experience offered by these institutions. And so far as we can determine, those levels of intelligence were permanent, that is, the educational and occupational history and social adjustment of the foundlings who were studied after the age 16 were consonant with their institutional backgrounds and their measured abilities.”

The development of the IQ of children institutionalized at the Creche, Zouk, and Broummana, then, seems to follow the following pattern: retardation at the Creche and significant improvement at the Zouk and Broummana institutions.

The improvement, however, is not enough, as Dennis found out when he compared the development of these institutionalized children with the development of children from the Creche within their first two years there. [22]

“Because of the legalization of adoption,” he explained, “we were able, as I mentioned before, to determine the effects of still another environment: that of Creche foundlings who were adopted within the first two years of life. These adopted foundlings improved rapidly in behavior, by age four, or even earlier, attained a mean IQ of approximately 100. This proved, first, that they were not genetically defective and, second, that the environmental retardation which occurred in the first two years was remediable through adoptive home care.

“The test scores of foundlings adopted from the Creche after they were two years of age did increase beyond the mean score of 50 which they had on adoption, but these children retained the absolute deficiency in mental age which they had when they left the Creche.

“I’ll give you an example:

“The mean IQ of six-year-old children at the Creche was 50. That means that they were retarded by around three years. When these children were adopted, and when they were tested several years after adoption (eve at age 15 or after), it was found that the mean retardation they had at the time of adoption was still present. That is, foundlings who were adopted from the Creche at age six, and who as a group were retarded by three when they were adopted, were still retarded by three years at age 15. Their mental age at age six was three (IQ 50), their mental age at 15 was 12 (IQ 80). While their intelligence improved by adoption, their retardation at the time of their adoption left a permanent impairment.” (see table IV)

What happens to a girl in the Zouk Institution after age 16?

“A long period of institutionalization from birth to age 16 has a profound effect not only on the intelligence scale but also on the whole life of the individual. The education of most of the girls is extremely limited. With such limited education, along with limited experience outside the institution, it appears that most of these girls continue to work in an institutional setting (they will probably remain in Zouk to take care of other foundlings, and the vicious circle is perpetuated). Few can advance beyond the level of unskilled labor.” [24]

What about the boys who reach age 14 in the Broummana institution?

“The boys in Broummana have more facilities than their female counterparts—for games, education (they are encouraged to go as far as they could in school, taught that they had to find a place in the world one way or another), reading, and many other forms of recreation and interaction with the outside world. Of the boys, none seem to remain at Broummana. All of them look for jobs outside.”

Dennis pointed out that he had visited a number of child institutions other than the three he was reporting on in detail and his conclusion, based on his observations, is that it is possible for an institution to be “good”—when the environment offered by the institution is not harmful to cognitive growth and personality development; that an institution can be as favorable for mental development as adoptive families are; but that this is seldom the case. [25]

One child institution in Lebanon which was singled out as an example of the “good” institution during Child Liberation Week was the S.O.S. Village, near Bekfaya. BUC students Mona Younes and Karen Fetterolf, coordinators of the Child Liberation Project, explained:

“S.O.S. has come up with a positive solution to the problem. Their success in looking to the vital needs of their children far exceeds that of any other institution for orphans in Lebanon. Located in Bhersaf, near Bekfaya, the “S.O.S. Group Home Village” is one of 50 such “villages” in 50 different countries belonging to an international non-profit organization that carries the same name. The pattern of Lebanon’s S.O.S. Village is as follows: There are 10 “home units” in the village, in each of which eight to 10 children live with a “mother”—a trained woman who acts as their mother. The foundlings are not segregated into age groups or prevented from interaction with other foundlings. Moreover, they go to the public school of Bekfaya, and mix with the other students there, who come from various backgrounds. We can be sure there is hope for these institutionalized children? But what about the many others in Lebanon?” [26]

It was generally agreed that adoption was the solution par excellence to the problem of institutionalized children, but it was also agreed that the adoption laws in Lebanon must be reconsidered and amended to make it easier for childless and other families to adopt children. [27]

A quick glance at the adoption laws of Lebanon explains why it was thought they should be overhauled:

  1. The adoption law of the Orthodox Church says that:
  2. The adoptive parents must present a formal request for the approval of the religious court.
  3. The adoptive parents must be either relatives or at least 18 years older than the child to be adopted.
  4. The adoptive parents must have a good reputation.
  5. If the adoptee is an adult, his consent is required.
  6. The adoptive parents must be childless and infertile.

The adoptive law of the Catholic Church provides that:

  1. The adoptive parents should be childless
  2. The adoptive parents should be over 40 years old.
  3. The adoptive parents should be at least 18 years older than the child to be adopted.
  4. The adoptive parents must be Catholic to adopt a Catholic child.

The Islamic attitude [28] toward adoption is perhaps best summarized by a quotation from The Rights of the Child in Lebanese Law [29], by Mustapha Karkadan [30], which translates as follows:

“There is no doubt that it is generally difficult to provide a family name to a child who has no identity, but it is not impossible. It Islamically possible for such a child to be recognized by another person, so that he will share with that person’s legitimate children identical privileges and obligation in such matters as name and inheritance. The only condition is that the age difference between the adopted child and the adopting parent be such as to make the birth of such a child to such a parent possible.”

For the problem of children brought to orphanages because their families cannot take proper care of them for financial or other reasons, three possible solutions were presented during Child Liberation Week. Mrs. Zahia Salman [31], director of the Mother and Child Care Society in Beirut, talked about two of them in a panel discussion on Wednesday: family services and rural development.

“I feel,” she said, “that every child should be kept within his own family and not be institutionalized except in exceptional circumstances—the loss of all family members. To keep the child within the family, there should be, first, family services (financial assistance to the family, social assistance from government-support agencies). This cannot take place unless both government and private groups play major roles.

“The second thing that should be done is work toward controlling the migration of people from villages to cities. [32] This can be done by creating clinics, public schools, children’s playgrounds, employment opportunities in the rural areas. Some of Lebanon’s municipalities are well-financed and able to improve the conditions of Lebanese villages. Women in these villages who are divorced or widowed, can, if conditions are improved, work in their own villages and not feel that their children are burdens that they must rid themselves of if they are to survive.” [33]

The third solution presented was foster care—described in the five-day exhibition as “a child welfare service which provides substitute family care for a planned period, when a child’s family is unable to take care of him for a temporary or extended period and when adoption is either undesirable or impossible.”

Foster care is almost completely unknown in Lebanon [34]—but not quite. Alex Khalaf, actor and owner of the “Icone” gallery, has, for instance, become a sort of foster father to an 18-month old baby girl.

In an interview with Monday Morning, Khalaf said, “I have adopted my servant’s daughter [35], although ‘adopted’ is not the word for it. More precisely, I am giving her moral, educational and financial support. My role is one of a foster parent. The baby is now 18 months and she lives with me. The rigid adoption laws here do not allow me to adopt her officially, so I have, in effect, adopted her and her family unofficially. It is a marvelous feeling to know that you have prevented at least one child from entering an orphanage and protected her from the harsh and degrading conditions of orphanages. I wish more people could be aware of the importance of foster care. It is a civic duty for all those who can afford it.” [36]

The general tone so far has been one of general condemnation of child institutions operating in Lebanon. But for every prosecution there must be a defense, and the Child Liberation Week gave the defense a chance to speak during the Wednesday panel.

Mohammed Barakat [37], director of the Social Care Institutions in Lebanon (the Moslem Orphanage Society), dismissed the information presented during the Week as “unscientific”. The students, he said, were basing themselves on purely personal observations. “Your position is one of personal attitude rather than scientific opinion,” he said, “and I would like to point out five major errors you have made.”

First error: “Your symposium is not based on scientific fact. What figures you have are, at their most recent, five years old.”

Second error: “Everything that has been said or presented is an exaggeration which makes one feel that the institutions themselves are the social problem. You have made it seem as if institutions take children and turn them into orphans or delinquents. The truth is that the institutions treat the consequences of the real social problem. [38] The institutions help the children overcome their misery. We have 70 institutions with 200 infant foundlings, 2,400 orphans, 2,000 social cases—a total of 4,600 children who are being taken care of by us.”

Third error: “You stated that the Social Development Office provides such institutions with financial aid. I will tell you how much they help. They have a budget of L.L. 20 million, of which they give us L.L. 2,400,000. The rest goes to other projects.”

Fourth error: “You said that the institutions are the cause of the social and education retardation of the children. The contrary is true. We receive children who are socially and intellectually retarded and we help them overcome their retardation. We have 2,000 students in public schools and 2,600 students who were rejected by public schools because their mental age is lower than their chronological age. No one would give these 2,600 any education if we were not available.”

Fifth error: “You have assumed that all our children are socially and educationally retarded, and I would challenge that assumption with facts and figures. In 1971, 60 percent of the nursing school graduates were our children. Four of our children have come out first in a children’s contest. Our institutions, you seen, are not slaughterhouses.” [39]

Barakat added, “Your major error was in naming your Week ‘Child Liberation Week’. To liberate the child in Lebanon, you should have concentrated not on the child institutions but on free education, medical security for the poor, the slum problem, and the inadequacy of our laws. These are the problems which you should have brought to the attention of the public.

“As it is, your ‘Child Liberation Week’ may result in parents asking for their children back and in public opinion turning against us to such an extent that people will no longer provide us with financial support, so that the conditions of our children will become worse.” [40]

The general feeling, however, was that the Child Liberation Week was directed at enlightening public opinion, which is not likely to scrap the child institutions before making sure that a better alternative has been provided.

The “Week” has accomplished one thing: it has directed public attention to a problem which is in urgent need of nation-wide consideration and one whose solution requires the immediate concerted efforts of the Lebanese government and the Lebanese people. [41]

Letter in reply

Dear Sirs:

I would like to comment on the article published in your magazine on the 20th of last January, on the Orphanages in Lebanon, reporting the panel discussion held at BUC on the occasion of “Child Liberation Week”.

Parts of that debate were a direct and unjust attack against the Orphanages, specially [sic] against the “Creche St. de Paul” [sic]. Panelist Wayne Dennis seems to hold this institution responsible for the retardation of these foundlings, when he says: “It was found that in the Creche the foundlings were normal (?) in behavior in their first two months, but their behavioral development became retarded soon after that (Cfr. Vol. IV, No. 136, P. 13). Allow me, sirs, to state that this alleged finding is not exact, for the following reasons:

  1. Most of these children are handicapped and retarded from birth, owing to the fact that their mothers, after conception and before delivery, try by all means to get rid of the baby, absorbing a quantity of all kinds of pills and other medicines, which effect the child’s mental and physical constitution. In fact, the Creche had and still has some deformed children. Therefore, the deficiency does not come from the institution. [42]
  2. The Creche is doing its utmost to help these foundlings and to overcome their retardation by qualified nuns and specialized nurses.
  3. Most of these children are adopted by Lebanese families and other people from abroad—even the deformed ones; as there are good and charitable souls, mainly French families, who adopt these handicapped children, with a view to curing and taking care of them. [43] Thus the problem [44] is not as acute as the panelist describes it in your article.
  4. The adoption law is becoming more flexible in its application in order to meet the actual circumstances and the new conceptions now prevailing in our world. [45]

Rev. Ibrahim Ayad
President of the Latin Ecclesiastical Tribunal


Article Notes Overview

The following notes came to mind when I first read this article, and I’ve expanded on them here. I am attempting to elaborate on a concept I’ve stressed recently in my writing, which is adoption as a means of destroying the “progeny of the enemy”. Most notably, we see this in fascist societies. Historically, Spain, Chile, and Argentina have revived attention to this crime in terms of their modern-day resistance against it, and the search for children so disappeared and lost. This is less obvious in places like Germany and Italy. In the former, this is likely due to the economic prominence of the countries involved and the perceived race–similar nature of the children adopted to and from other Scandinavian countries during its Lebensborn program and after World War II. In the latter, this is likely due to internal familial/kinship adoption practices (children taking on father-in-law’s or grandfather’s names) in the typical fascist practice of bolstering the population.

The fascist undercurrent to Lebanese politics is less evident. As adoptees from Lebanon acculturated in North America and Europe, we have attained the “Lebanese dream”, and thus are not allowed a discourse of “displacement”. This is shared by many American domestic adoptees, whose original families were newly “white” in the shifting perception of Anglo-Saxon dominance in the United States. Lebanon sadly also shares a predominant national and nationalist myth, derived from European fascists, which seeks to set a local elite as wholly separate from the hostile “barbarians” who surround it. I am not denying that other groups also engaged locally in fascistic practices, such as targeting rival factions and parties for elimination. However this did not fall under a similar category of racial or ethnic cleansing that carries forward to this day. Furthermore, their overarching sectarian or ideological makeup did not preclude revolutionary fervor or praxis; likewise their class makeup did not afford them an upper hand in terms of power differential.

The economic and political nature of the discussion necessary to parse this article is beyond the simple scope of this blog post. However, I think it is important for us as adoptees—displaced, dispossessed, and disinherited—to understand the context of this removal from our source. It is also, sadly, required of us to understand the role of our adoptive cultures in the instability in this region historically speaking. To maintain a class or cultural allegiance to those responsible for the crime of our adoption is to be complicit in our own absenting; it is to participate in the attempted annihilation of our progenitors. This active destruction is a function of a colonizing mindset; this naturally leads to the acknowledgment of the adoptee as a colonized entity sourced from a colonized place.

In this regard, I often refer to Frantz Fanon, who, in The Wretched of the Earth, compares the colonized native who was the focus of his seminal study to an adopted child. In this comparison, the adopted child/colonized native acquiesces to her situation once a modicum of security is found in her new environment:

The intellectual who is Arab and French, or Nigerian and English, when he comes up against the need to take on two nationalities, chooses, if he wants to remain true to himself, the negation of one of these determinations. But most often, since they cannot or will not make a choice, such intellectuals gather together all the historical determining factors which have conditioned them and take up a fundamentally “universal standpoint”.

This is because the native intellectual has thrown himself greedily upon Western culture. Like adopted children who only stop investigating the new family framework at the moment when a minimum nucleus of security crystallizes in their psyche, the native intellectual will try to make European culture his own. [emphasis mine]

This quotation is intriguing on a variety of levels, and is deserving of great expansion. It speaks of identity, of belonging, and sense of self. It implicates colonial projects in the false elaboration of such a self, contradictory to original source. It points to nation-states as conferring such a status of identity upon an individual, and the agency of accepting this or not. It elaborates a “false universal” which is belied by local reality. It evokes identity that is obtained via study or acculturation, as opposed to that of birth or assimilation.

The book, written in the year of my birth and adoption, is also striking for the fact that it speaks of adoption in the negative, at a time when the practice was just moving into its mythologized phase of “family creation”. The elliptical reference to adoption encapsulates much that is pertinent for adoptees attempting a return to their source, but also serves as a reference and metaphor for anyone disconnected from place. These sources readily map onto colonized spaces, and these spaces manifest a variety of other practices that serve similar ends: slavery, gentrification, immigration, land occupation, apartheid, enforced statelessness, etc.

Fanon’s work references those who are equally “distanced” from belonging to this nation-state that is their source. During the Mexican Revolution, these were referred to as “los de abajo”. The Qur’an refers explicitly to the “mustad’afiin” and the “mustakbiriin”. More recently, the Occupy Movements spoke of the “one percent” versus the “99 percent.” In Lebanon, these “wretched” might include refugees, migrant workers, slave laborers, bedouin; those gentrified, migrated, or displaced; as well as those living in disputed territories occupied by foreign powers.

The adoptee often finds herself faced with the reality of being of this source as well, far removed from those she might identify with purely in terms of class acculturation, education, or employment. In this light, the adoptee walks a razor’s edge between acculturation and source. The notions of citizenship, belonging, kinship, and identity are radically altered once the adoptee realizes that she is displaced, dispossessed, and disinherited along similar economic and political lines.

The adoptee is thus placed in a particularly contradictory position. Ascribed a “citizenship” in order to provide for his exit from his source country, he is hard-pressed to re-establish this fundamental connection once returned. Assumed to possess the full embodiment of citizenship in their place of naturalization, this assumption is often called into question given current questioning of definitions of “citizen” and “belonging”. For example, American adoptees who fall afoul of the law are finding themselves slated for deportation to places they have never been except for a brief period after birth, to languages they don’t speak, and cultures they don’t recognize.

What follows are notes for the above article. In this parsing, I wish to tie national and international economic and political interests together in such a way that our adoptions become a function of these machinations, above and beyond their presentation as narratives of family building; or personal paths, journeys, or trajectories. Those directly responsible—local adopting agents along with their diaspora-based middlemen—are not charitable in their actions or deeds. Our adoptive parents, brought to this region via foreign employment, sectarian mythologies, or desperation to adopt, are functioning according to the needs and whims of their own nation-states and acculturations. The cheerleaders of adoption as found in this article reflect a deep-seated reactionary politic that has nothing to do with “saving children”. As always, those absent from the vocalization of such stories and narratives—ourselves, our mothers, parents, families, and communities—need be given a “right of reply”. I intend this overview to be one such reply on their behalf.


Article Notes

This statement right from the start reveals the “unspoken” of this article, and the context of its appearance. The “liberation” alluded to is a scare tactic for the bourgeois parents of these students. It is a direct reference to the then National Liberation Movement, a grouping of leftist and secular nationalists seeking a reform of the Lebanese sectarian infrastructure. The group formed in 1973 after the Israeli assassination of Palestinian leaders within Lebanese territory and despite the presence of local security forces. The backdrop to this was the Palestinian presence in Lebanon, along with the rise of national liberation movements in former colonized nation-states globally speaking.

The local reactionary response to this was primarily focused in the Kata’eb (Phalange, named after the Spanish fascists) Party, which sought to maintain its power in the country, to remain neutral in the case of Israel, and to elaborate a clear distinction between what were mythological Phoenician roots of their presence in Lebanon, compared and contrasted to foreign interlopers and arrivistes. They were supported in this mythology and statecraft by the United States, Britain, and France, as witnessed in the 1958 occupation of the country by U.S. Marines. Notably, this resulted in the attempted coup against president Chamoun, as well as the Battle of the Mountains. A side note: adoption started “legally” in Lebanon in 1956, at the behest of local French missionaries.

For further background of this context, as well as a more nuanced critique of local politics, I recommend Fawwaz Traboulsi’s A History of Modern Lebanon (London: Pluto Press, 2007); Tabitha Petran’s The Struggle Over Lebanon (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1987); As’ad AbuKhalil’s “Druze, Sunni and Shiite Political Leadership in Present-Day Lebanon” (Arab Studies Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 4, (Fall 1985), pp. 28-58, Pluto Journals); as well as the Masters thesis of Nate George, “United States Imperialism in the Middle East and The Lebanese Crisis Of 1973” (Beirut: American University of Beirut, 2010). Disclaimer: I was co-advisor for this thesis paper. Most notable is its use of recently declassified documents by the U.S. State Department, revealing not a passive American role in local events, but clearly a more “heavy hand” and “big stick” approach. This article predates the official “start” of the Civil War by only three months.

For further reading on local and global contexts for thinking about notions of race, nation, class, and identity and their relation to economic and political realities, I recommend the following texts: Etienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein’s Race, Nation, Class: Amgibuous Identities (New York: Verso, 1992); Abdallah Laroui’s The Crisis of the Arab Intellectual: Traditionalism or Historicism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976); and Craig Calhoun’s “Nationalism and Ethnicity” (Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 19, 1993).

When we hear phrases like “reportedly unenviable life” we can assign this to the “better off” adoption argument, as in “these children would be better off adopted”. No adopter ever considers that comparatively speaking, there is always a “better off” to what they themselves might provide a child. More to the point, it is a mythology derived from a Calvinist conception of the story of Noah’s Ark, in which some are saved and most are destroyed. See: “What are you grateful for as an adoptee?” [link to article] and “Re-evaluating Adoption: Validating the Local” [link to article].

BUC (Beirut University College) would later be renamed the Lebanese-American University (LAU). Like the American University of Beirut (AUB), it was founded by Protestant American missionaries. Ironically, the language of education in these institutions at first was Arabic, better suited to proselytize to the local population. This gave rise to a stamp of “modern” approval for Arabic, which led to a revived literature and grammar. This interest in the language brought forward anti-Ottoman sentiment, which was to the liking of the missionaries, and a pan-Arab nationalism that was not. To counter the latter, English was later adopted as the language of instruction in both schools. See Yasir Suleiman’s The Arabic Language and National Identity (Wash., D.C., Georgetown University Press, 2003).

Foreign acculturation as such is now another marker within Lebanese identity, such that one is “English-educated” or “French-educated”. Public schools are also moving to foreign-language education; grammar school students in my neighborhood often bring me their math homework, for example, because it is all in English. I often argue with my students that they are crippled due to this regressive approach to language, which replaces the national language with a foreign tongue, as opposed to allowing for coinciding languages (such as in Scandinavia), the use of which is not deleterious to the ability to speak one’s mother tongue. The use of Arabic within domains such as graphic design becomes a self-exoticizing or self-Orientalizing exercise, and those who show a mastery of Arabic to the exclusion of English or French are derided as backward, or overtly religious.

This quote is interesting since it comes from a English-language belle-lettrist and Lebanese immigrant to the United States:

Rihani warned that European colonialism used several means to establish itself. Amongst the most invidious were the foreign educational institutions, which he accused of spreading hatred and disunity amongst the people of the same country. He argued that when the Lebanese were the subjects of a state (the Ottomans) which they feared and hated, ‘foreign schools appealed to their fear and charged them a high price’, that is division, and loyalty to the new foreigners. And under the mandate, foreign schools continued their divisive culture. ‘Every foreign school tinted a portion amongst us with its own colour’, he said, ‘so there were the French, the English, the American, the Russian and the Italian, and amongst those thus educated there were no genuine Lebanese or Syrian’. —The Politics and Poetics of Ameen Rihani, Najmeh Hajjar, New York, Taurus Academic Studies, 2010.

The teaching of Sociology in these institutions should be considered reactionary in and of itself. The study of the “Other”, when applied to oneself, reveals a colonized mentality as defined by Fanon above. One instructor at the AUB in preliminary sociology courses warns veiled women to drop the class, and accuses their “people” of having something “wrong” with them, for just one example that comes to mind. The European and North American theoretical models of study in this regard carry with them further destructive colonizing tropes such as the idea that local practices are primitive or worse, and that the “West” is a beacon of enlightenment in this regard. Studies in local and regional languages are completely ignored.

Dr Ghassan Rubeiz formerly worked for the World Council of Churches in the Middle East, and was former Director of the Washington office of the Christian Children’s Fund. The latter is most famous to American television viewers of a certain age for its commercials featuring African children with bloated bellies and swarming with flies as pitches for “sponsorship”. The most famous of these commercials featured American actor Sally Struthers, and they have become the butt of jokes of late-night television comedians as well as lampooning on shows like South Park. See the Chicago Tribune article: “Sometimes I’ve wanted to turn it off too.” (1998) [link to article] He served as an “expert” for the Security Sector Asia Team of EPES Mandala, a consulting firm specializing in what is now referred to as humanitarian imperialism (see Jean Bricmont’s book of the same name). He writes for The Arab Daily News, an American newspaper, in reductive terms that only underpin the reactionary basis for this article from 40 years ago. I think it is fair to say that none of this “charity” or “beneficence” has done anything to bring change to the regions targeted, with children used as unwilling and yet profitable dupes for economic and political warfare.

Abu Melhem was a popular character on Lebanese television at the time. A Beiruti, he sought to solve problems among neighbors, among other plot devices.

Quoting from Encyclopedia of Social Movement Media, edited by John D. H. Downing (London, SAGE Publications, 2011):

First Wave of Rebel Radios: 1958
Lebanon became increasingly polarized by the abundance of conflicting ideologies sweeping the region. The Nasserist and other Arab nationalist movements gained support among Palestinians and leftists. In response, Lebanon’s Christian communities, which were often economically well placed, felt a grave threat to their livelihoods and political influence. The rifts grew larger and soon took a sectarian form. The volatile situation finally erupted in 1958 as combat broke out between a coalition of leftist pro-Palestinian Muslim parties and the Phalangists, which was a Maronite Christian right-wing party.

Radio Lebanon made many efforts to re-establish national unity and restore calm. But the station remained an exclusive government mouthpiece. The events it reported were tailored to suit the elite’s ideology, and it deliberately overlooked facts damaging to the government. Factions opposing the regime could not broadcast their viewpoints. Their only resort was to use alternative measures. Combat on the streets was soon acompanied by a war over the airwaves.

This second paragraph pretty much sums up this article as well, in an English-language news magazine catering to the ruling elite of the country. To also note is that the so-called national radio station Radio Liban features programming in English, French, and Armenian, but not in Arabic. A good portion of the daily programming is given over to RFI, France’s international radio station.

Mona Younis’s bio can be found at LinkedIn [link to bio]. The neo-liberal basis for many of the organizations listed here has been extensively criticized. See INCITE!’s The revolution will not be funded: Beyond the non-profit industrial complex (Cambridge,
Mass., South End Press, 2007) and Julia Elyachar’s The Markets of Dispossession (Durham, NC; Duke University Press, 2005).

The phrase “have a responsibility” takes on sinister overtones here. It maintains Calvinist/capitalist distance from “our less-fortunate children” who, nonetheless, are not worthy apparently to keep with “us” here in Lebanon.

The phrase “the crucial difference between a loved child within a family and the ignored though perhaps well-fed orphan” makes direct reference to the nuclear family as premised within Anglo-Saxon nation-states. Margaret Thatcher most notably stated that there was no such thing as society, just men, women, and family. This right-wing focus on family as representing society is strikingly similar to local Kata’eb (Phalange) Party tenets. This should not surprise us; they both stem from European/Anglo-American fascist sources. This is the individualistic vs. communal mindset writ large. See Jane Pilcher and Steven Wagg’s Thatcher’s Children?: Politics, Childhood And Society In The 1980s And 1990s (Falmer Press, London, 1996).

Any help in tracking down this film made by Tim Ledger is greatly appreciated.

The reference to “rigid adoption laws” should give us great pause. This is the phrase that is used before a country is opened up to wholesale adoption of its children, most recently against Muslim-majority countries. See my: “Islamophobia and adoption: Who are the civilized?” (London, Maney Publishing, 2015) [link to article].

Wayne Dennis, before coming to Lebanon, studied…feral children. In his later studies, local children (categorized as “Arab”, “Armenian”, “Jewish”) are seemingly a step-up from these wild infants so far removed from the civilization he represents. His experiments on these children used to test “I.Q.” included drawing, based on a universalist concept of perception. The failure of Lebanese children in this regard is based, he ridiculously posits, on the lack of imagery available to Arab/Muslim youth, since Islam formerly proscribed such representation. Here we see sociology as a reactionary tool to “prove” prevailing beliefs. This is especially evident given the inability of Mr. Dennis to speak local languages, and his likely not venturing outside of particular class circles. This lack of focus on class disparity is a further fundamental failure of this article. See his “Performance of near Eastern Children on the Draw-a-Man Test”; “A Cross-Cultural Study of the Reinforcement of Child Behavior”; “A Further Analysis of Reports of Wild Children”; and with Yvonne Sayegh “The Effect of Supplementary Experiences upon the Behavioral Development of Infants in Institutions”.

Dr. Bassam Barakat graduated from the AUB, and I believe currently practices in Maryland. I’m curious to know whether it is possible that “The Rights of the Unborn Child” might have pointed to something other than a stance against abortion. It is interesting to see the regressive abortion/adoption argument already in practice at this early date.

Reference to a “population explosion” in this context also takes on reactionary overtones, one of here unspecified yet insinuated groups (Shi‘a Muslims, Palestinians) and their “fertility” leading to a tainting if not an over-running of the dominant population. The focus on racial difference is particularly striking, and reminds me of the statement by nuns in my orphanage who told me that “darker babies” like myself went to the U.S., since Europe wanted “white children”:

Lebanon has an Arab tongue and it is Arab in neighbourhood and interest, but the Lebanese are not of the Arab race. We believe in the existence of a Lebanese nationalism that equals Arab nationalism. Our ideological attachment to Lebanese nationalism is the source of our conflict with the Arab nationalists, a conflict that is strictly ideological and has now become Byzantine. We believe that the Lebanese race exists as the other existing races in Europe—we are like the Italian and English races. Ours has the fundamental characteristics that make it equal to the others. —
Daily Star (Beirut), 2 March 1969; quoted from “Belief-System and Ideology Formation in the Lebanese Kata’ib Party” by John P. Entelis, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Apr., 1973), pp. 148-162; Cambridge University Press.

And also:

Since that time, the dominant bourgeoisie—the Maronite community—has diligently nurtured the myth of an eternal historic Lebanese nation. To this end, its historians invented the “myth” of Phoenician origins.…Despite philosophical differences among the various Maronite versions, it is apparent that their historical foundation is the successive attempt to invent ancient pre-Islamic roots for the Lebanese entity and to present the country’s history as that of an ethnic group—a minority community living in the midst of a hostile Islamic environment—which developed a tradition of consistent struggle for independence. According to this narrative, the goal was fully achieved under the aegis of the present state and its confessional system of government. —”Between Authenticity and Alienation: The Druzes and Lebanon’s History” by Yusri Hazran, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London,Vol. 72, No. 3 (2009), pp. 459-487; Cambridge University Press.

This noisome belief was behind local interest in the Lebanese Genome Project started locally soon after I arrived in the country. I remember avoiding it, since it was obviously being marketed as a means of showing “untainted” bloodline via DNA and the dubious analysis thereof.

Attacks on traditional orphanages, communal care, foster care, anything outside of the model of a nuclear family, are inherently reactionary.

The false concern for children becomes clear, since just as many children outside of the orphanage were also cognitively “behind” their peers due to poverty, illiteracy, lack of schools and other resources, as well as child slavery.

The Creche is my orphanage in Beirut, in Achrafieh. “Crèche” in French means “nursery” or “nativity”.

This point deserves great expansion. I know of many adoptees who were in the orphanage for many years while their mothers were coerced into signing release papers. Once potential adoptive parents were found, no attempt was made to keep a child with his or her family. Visiting prospective adoptive parents were referred to as “parents-cadeaux; “gift parents”. Other stories include those of children placed in orphanages by Muslim families without a concept of orphanage as “site of egress” or adoption. One French adoptee found her family in South Lebanon. Poor farmers, they placed her in orphanage care while they worked the fields. At season’s end, they were told she had died, when in fact she had been adopted to France.

The year of legalization of adoption in Lebanon coincides with that of the Netherlands. Protestant and Catholic conversion are at the heart of missionary practice in many source countries.

The attack here previous to opening up wholesale adoption in Lebanon is the same as found in post–Soviet Union Eastern Europe. This attack notably doesn’t call for social welfare, but can only imagine foreign adoption as the solution. Communist-bloc nations similarly had a “left-wing” problem that needed to be “taken care of”; Ukraine has carried this practice forward, especially in terms of fascist governments backed by the “West”, as well as by organizations such as Reece’s Rainbow. The current conception of “enemy institution” is the Islamic orphanage of Muslim-majority countries with no official inter-country adoption practice.

Students of mine from Broummana speak of local reactions against Syrian migrant workers and now, Syrian refugees. The fear of foreign interlopers, or children of unknown progeny in the case of this orphanage, drives a violent impulse which is only masked by adopting such children out of the country. The boys orphanage still exists in Broummana; it is the recipient of aid from the United States [link to article].

It is laughable to speak of I.Q.s in such a context.

It is equally hypocritical to have students from the BUC—a private, foreign-language, elite institution—complaining about the education of children in the country.

Many orphanages, such as those of Sayyed Mohammad Fadlallah, started up in part as a response to children disappearing from their communities.

To note here is that for all intents and purposes, this is the Christian version of the Muslim traditional orphanage, as founded and promoted by a European, and as a solution to the “orphan” problem after World War II. As such, given the sectarian bias and reactionary stance of this article, it would make sense that it should be praised instead of condemned.

This should probably have been the first paragraph, or even the name of the sociology class. It would have saved everyone a lot of work and effort. The question remains: What was it about the 1956 law that was not amenable to what was being advocated in these symposia?

Note that where the Christians have “laws”, the Muslims have “attitudes”. To know is that every sect in Lebanon provides its own personal status laws via ecclesiastic, Judaic, or Islamic courts.

It is intriguing to note that the work cited here speaks of the child as a subject, with agency, and not as an object of transference or study.

I would appreciate information on Mustapha Karkadan and this work.

Mrs. Zahia Salman was an advocate for children and orphans, but with differing methods that are not given credit in this article. [Link to article on Mrs. Salman].

The call to keep people from migrating from the agricultural regions of Lebanon is in response to reactionary efforts to remove them from said lands:

Pursuing the objectives of the third congress, in January 1974, after two years of meetings with farmers and agricultural workers throughout Lebanon, The LCP issued a blueprint of its proposals for agrarian reform. The party identified the main tendency in the development of Lebanese agriculture under capitalism to be the centralization of power in the hands of big landowners, local comprador capitalists and foreign monopolies. Centralization occurred at the expense of small peasants and destitute agriculture workers, whose numbers rose from 20,000 in 1950 to more than 60,000 in 1970. Their already precarious existence was being ruthlessly and inexorably squeezed. While small peasants possessed some land, the proposal argued that it was not enough to ensure their livelihood; they were compelled to work seasonally on the large semi-feudal holdings to eke out their existence.…The big landowners “constitute the most reactionary and parasitic group among the groups exploiting the countryside and are a major reactionary force in Lebanon cooperating with imperialists and Arab reactionaries against the national movement, progressive forces, and every democratic development.” —The Communist Movement in Syria and Lebanon, Tareq Y. Ismael and Jacqueline S. Ismael, The University Press of Florida, 1998.

Again, we see a philosophical difference here between the individualistic and the communal view; between the inclusive and the exclusive view. This raises the question: An adoptive parent in a foreign country who sees themselves as a saving agent for a child from a source country is one thing; but what do we make of those in the source country who maintain the solution is this same expulsion of these very children?

It is disturbing that a sociology class would not be studying informal kinship practice locally speaking.

No one questions the slavery evoked here. In a supreme irony, the Arabic word for such guardianship (kafala) is also used for indenturing a “servant”. The servant class at the time was mostly impoverished and marginalized Shi‘a, Palestinian, Kurd, etc. It would be the 1975 outbreak of civil war that would prompt the complete move to non-Arab slave labor in this regard. Most offensive here is perhaps the shift of agency to the slave owner, when historically speaking the domestic laborer living in a “master’s” house claimed for herself and for her children rights of patronage and fictive kinship. This was a “common law” practice that is being formalized here as “foster care”. See Ray Jureidini’s “In the Shadows of Family Life: Toward a History of Domestic Service in Lebanon”, Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, Vol. 5, No. 3, Fall 2009 [link to article]. It would be interesting to map the displacement of women for domestic service with that of their children, communally speaking. The most offensive trope in this category is found among such groups as the Kuwaiti Women Who Do Lunch, who have adopted the children of the illicit liaisons between their husbands and their slaves in a towering escalation of disempowerment. Perhaps this adopter should be given a paternity test.

These do not seem likely to be his words. Note the repetition of “rigid adoption laws”.

Emphasis mine.

Mohammed Barakat is to this day director of the Muslim Orphanage Society. Certain Islamic orphanages deserve a similar critique for also brokering and trafficking children to bourgeois Muslim families; for attacking minority communities via adoption (Berbers in Morocco; Shi‘a Muslims in Saudi Arabia) for ignoring abuse that occurs under their auspices; for using “orphans” as marketing props during religious-holiday fundraising drives. At work are power differentials, and a dismissal of the powerless.

“Our institutions, you see, are not slaughterhouses.” I’m disturbed greatly by this statement. I can imagine three scenarios for its origin: First, there was at the time a belief among reactionary forces in the country that Islamic orphanages were “slaughterhouses”. Second, that this, a statement made on the offensive, retorted instead that it was the Christian orphanages which were “slaughterhouses”. Third, a projection of one onto the other; a mix of both. One of the most painful memories I have of my orphanage is the notebooks of arrival that list the children brought to the orphanage for whatever reason. In red calligraphic French over many of these entries is the single word: “décedé(e)”—”deceased”. I once told a fellow adoptee about this, and she told me to look up the “Butterbox Babies” in Nova Scotia. Since then, the mass graves of Tuam, Ireland have also in fact revealed what can only be seen as the orphanage as site of euthanasia [link to article at Transracial Eyes].

This would be an allusion to zakat, or the practice of Islamic tithing.

To note first and foremost is that defining this as a “defense” automatically categorizes a “prosecution” if you will, or de facto defender of the State. That there is no reply as might be found in a true dialectic or even discussion reveals the elite nature of the reading audience. The provision of these “defensive” statements is thus not to listen to or acknowledge them, but to easily categorize the speakers along class and sectarian lines and then dismiss them. They are the “whiny liberals” or “leftists” of, say, Fox News, or CNN. Finally, it is disturbing that “the Lebanese people” reference here does not seem to include children destined to become not Lebanese people via adoption.

This shift of blame is common in adoption discourse. These bizarre statements concerning our mothers are unforgivable, and only drive home the class-based disdain for our origins. A nun at my orphanage once said to me that “I needed to think of my…” at which point I thought she was going to say “mother”. In expecting the word mother to come out of her mouth I was grateful for at the very least an empathy as a woman with the women whose children passed through the orphanage’s halls. Instead she said: “Think of your father; he might be a famous businessman in North America, whose reputation is at stake.”

The notion of purity of bloodline and eugenics within fascistic mindsets is at play here, such that the handicapped are to be disposed of. Most heartbreaking to me are stories from handicapped adoptees, and their treatment by not only the orphanage and the church, but by their families upon return.

The “problem” has been shifted in the short-term, and therefore no longer exists.

“New conceptions now prevailing in our world”: Of course he is alluding to the “modern” and “progressive” idea that adoption has taken on. But it does make a bad play on words.

The concept of a “problem” brings us to the notion of “solution” of course, except we might understand it unfortunately in the fascist concept of the term: “final solution”. I think it would be useful to include the full text of a telegram from the American Embassy to the U.S> Secretary of State in December, 1977, which speaks of the “Palestinian problem” and possible “solutions”:



1. Summary: The heart of the “Lebanese problem” is size and nature of Palestinian presence in Lebanon. Conventional wisdom holds that if and when a Palestinian entity is created, Lebanon’s Palestinian problem will disappear, but this is unlikely to happen. Following message describes Lebanon’s Palestinian problem and discusses possible solutions. End summary.

2. Nature of problem. Lebanon’s Palestinian problem has three aspects—demographic, military, and ethnic.

A. Demographic. No one knows exactly how many Palestinians there are in Lebanon, but an educated guess is at least 400,000 (fatah says 550,000; president Sarkis says 600,000). Robert Prevot, UNRWA director for Lebanon, estimates there are now about 200,000 Palestinians registered with his organization, of whom about 40,000, or 20 percent, have Lebanese nationality which they have acquired in the course of the last 30 years or which they held before leaving Palestine (president Sarkis says figure is closer to 10,000). In addition to these refugees, it is generally agreed that there are at least another 200,000 Palestinians who have entered country illegally, most of them after 1967. This total of 400,000 out of a total population in Lebanon of not more than three million presents a tremendous social and political problem for Lebanese body politic.

B. Military. Palestinian presence is complicated by the fact that Palestinians are not just refugees but include a well-organized, well-financed and effective military force. After “Black September” in Jordan in 1970, bulk of Palestinian fighters moved to Lebanon. It was these Palestinians, augmented by Palestinian units from other Arab countries, who did most of the fighting on the Moslem/leftist side during the 1975/76 Lebanese war and who are in control of large areas of Lebanon south of the Litani [River]. By contrast, the Lebanese army disintegrated during the war and has only just begun to rebuild itself.

C. Ethnic. Unlike most nations, Lebanon has no majority group which shares a common religion or cultural heritage; rather, it is a compilation of different minority communities who occupy an artificial political entity [emphasis mine]. The one thing they have in common is that they and their ancestors have lived in this part of the world for hundreds of years and that many of them hate each other with passion. For Christian Lebanese, the Palestinian is an alien. He is a “Palestinian” regardless of whether he may carry a Lebanese passport, even if he is Christian. As the Lebanese Christians are fond of asking us, how would you Americans feel if there were 30 million South Americans in the United States who had their own armed militia, stronger than the US army, and who occupied Texas, New Mexico and Arizona?

3. Possible solutions. Theoretically, there are three ways in which Lebanon can try to deal with the problem:

A. Assimilation. Under a formula that has been mentioned by Israeli prime minister Begin, Lebanon would be called upon to assimilate all the Palestinians currently living in the country. (Begin’s mention of this is one reason Lebanese are so worked up about problem today.) Although moderate Maronites are prepared to absorb about 10 percent of the Palestinians, i.e., those who already have Lebanese passports, total assimilation is anathema to all of Lebanon’s Christians and would probably be opposed by a majority of the country’s non-Christian population as well. If it appeared that Lebanon was going to be forced to integrate all the Palestinians currently resident in the country, we would expect the country’s Maronite population to take up arms and to form their own state in Mt. Lebanon rather than agree.

B. Co-existence. Under this solution, the Palestinians now in Lebanon would remain here but they would not acquire Lebanese nationality. This would probably be tolerated as an interim solution by some Christians as well as Moslems, particularly if an expanding economy increased the usefulness of these people, but the Maronites probably would not accept it because they would see it as simply postponing a decision which gets more difficult daily, given the Palestinian fertility rate.

C. Expulsion. The expulsion, peaceful or otherwise, of all Palestinians now in Lebanon, including those who have acquired Lebanese nationality by irregular means during the past few years, is the solution preferred by the majority of the Christian population, particularly the Maronites. However, many Moslems, and some Christians, would probably oppose this—some because they honestly believe that Lebanon is an Arab country and has an obligation to the Palestinian cause and the refugees, and some because they want to use the predominantly Moslem Palestinian population as a makeweight in their domestic political competition with the Maronite hardliners, as they have done in the past. Expulsion, however, is impracticable and is therefore not a realistic solution. The government of Lebanon does not have the power to expel the Palestinians, no other country will do it for them, and at the moment at least the Palestinians have no other place where they can or will go.

D. As a practical matter, the most likely solution to the problem is a combination of all three; that is, those Palestinians who have acquired Lebanese nationality will be integrated into the Lebanese body politic, and of the remainder, some will stay on perhaps indefinitely in a quasi-refugee status and others will be either persuaded or compelled to leave, depending on the evolution of the overall Middle East situation.

4. The impact of a Palestinian entity.

A. The creation of a Palestinian entity as part of a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement would help to alleviate the problem, if it had the authority to issue passports to all Palestinians everywhere; thus Palestinians resident in Lebanon would have a legal nationality and might be less interested in trying to get Lebanese citizenship. On the other hand, even if such an entity existed and could issue passports to all Palestinians, only a small percentage of Lebanon’s Palestinians would want to leave. A great many of them come not from the West Bank but from what is now Israel itself. A West Bank entity would not attract them. In addition, many of them have been in Lebanon for 30 years and they and their children have put down roots here; they are more at home in Lebanon than they would be anywhere in Palestine. Finally, whether or not there is a comprehensive settlement, the other arab countries are unlikely to open their doors to substantial numbers of Lebanon’s Palestinians. Jordan has all it can handle. Syria perhaps could absorb more but is unwilling to do so, according to Fonmin Boutros. The Gulf states do not really consider the Palestinians to be their “brother Arabs” and the Palestinians certainly look down on their less well-educated neighbors. Libya’s well-known xenophobia makes it an unlikely candidate.

B. Even from a military point of view, a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement may not solve Lebanon’s problem completely. The creation of a Palestinian entity would presumably mean that the bulk of the Palestinian guerrillas would lay down their arms and, perhaps more importantly, that most Arab countries would cease to finance their military and terrorist activities. It is hard to imagine, however, a settlement that would satisfy the more extremist Palestinian groups, such as the PFLP or Qadhafi. These groups may chose to fight on, at least for a little while, even if a Palestinian homeland is created. Since the only territory left to the Palestinian rejectionists is in southern Lebanon, that would be the likeliest place to fight.

5. Conclusion. If this analysis is correct, Lebanon is going to have a Palestinian problem whether or not there is a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement. GOL is already worried about this and is expressing that concern at highest levels. President Sarkis says problem is responsibility of international community and suggests that perhaps with enough money per head the refugees could be persuaded to emigrate elsewhere in Arab world. He feels international community must put pressure on other Arabs to accept them. We think this is probably a non-starter, but at least it’s an idea. We look forward to discussing it with UNRWA commissioner McElhinney on his return. —signed “Parker”; sourced from the Access to Archival Databases web site [link to telegram].


Lebanon can readily be compared to other source countries of children for adoption, such as South Korea, Viet Nam, Guatemala, Ethiopia, etc. Similarities among these countries include the situation of proxy-driven wars, the establishment of a comprador class beholden to externally defined neo-liberal political and economic policies, large emigrant and diaspora populations, as well as local missionary, political, and economic practices that target particular segments of society. At the same time, adoption as a deleterious and extirpating practice is not seen as one of these, due to its crafted mythology that it is functional only to family creation, and beneficial to all concerned. This willfully ignores those most affected by it: adoptees themselves, their mothers and families, as well as communities and originating places. There has been little critical response from and engagement with those whose agency is denied and voices elided by the industry and practice of adoption.

Given the context of its particular juncture in time, this article takes on the more sinister nature of current adoption propaganda that it disturbingly presages. The LNM and the Arab Nationalist Movements of the times were radically altering the concept of citizenship and nation-state. At the same time, national liberation movements and “Third-Worldists” were aligning progressive forces worldwide. The supporters of these movements were known (and targeted) in Lebanon as elsewhere, and the reactionary media/government/elite did everything they could to thwart their efforts. In this light, the civil war, we might argue, started with the founding of the nation and continues to this day. In terms of the article and the above telegram, the ease with which discussion of dispossession, displacement, and disinheritance took place makes us, the 10,000+ of the Lebanese adoptee diaspora, small change in the bigger picture of what the country has experienced before our adoptions and since. At the same time, it puts us in a category of those affected by these practices, and this whether we identify in such a way or not.

It also begs the question: To what extent did the U.S. State Department advocate adoption as a tactic to disperse or expel such “enemy” populations? Further questions likewise demand elucidation and answers: Was American foreign policy in and of itself enough to tilt the scale of local practice along these lines? Was there instead a more diffuse conception of economic and political realities, neo-liberalism and capitalism, along with racism, sectarianism, and warfare that allowed countries such as Lebanon—and here we are reminded of adoption as a function of wars both economic and political—to readily export a large quantity of children without any inkling that they might one day return? What can Lebanese adoptees glean from comparing themselves to the similar victims of previous and current wars? What role did the advocates for our unwilled migration play in criminal adoption practices, and how might they be held accountable? Barring such justice, what do they owe us in terms of clarification or explanation? The parsing of this article deserves much more than the attention I am showing it here. I am interested to hear from anyone with further clarifications or elucidations along these lines.

Most striking is the dilemma of the adoptee as sublimely posed by Fanon: the false choice of the “universal”—choosing both aspects of her “belonging”. Whereas Fanon stated it in terms of nationalism, I would reframe it in terms of class. The distance from their source that adoptees attempt to lessen via return is, ironically, embraced by a local class and diaspora which express an envy of their “pure” foreign acculturation. It is this class which promoted adoption based on affectation of foreign mores and modes. Thus, the class that an adoptee might identify most with is, in fact, the colonizing one; the extirpator. Furthermore, he has been acculturated to dismiss and show disdain for those who actually are his source in terms of community and family. DNA tests are revealing us to be of the targeted populations listed above; I currently know of as many Palestinians in reunion as Lebanese.

Our inability to consider such a circumstance reveals the dissonance that lies at the heart of these issues of identity and belonging. Teasing out the reality behind our adoptions does not necessarily resolve this dissonance. It does seem to show an interesting “coming full circle” for those of us born in times of international liberation movements and political conflict in our homeland,as perhaps the progeny of the instigators of those movements. Our pursuit of justice along these lines, in this light, becomes almost an imperative and a given. Such a pursuit may, it can be hoped, serve as a path to psychological and social well-being—for ourselves, our families and communities, as well as the various places to which we belong.

The original Adoption is War post I’ve renamed Lebanon 2015: Adoption is War I. It also speaks of reactionary adoption propaganda in the present day and age. That nothing much has changed in all this time should give us great pause.

Link to this article: https://danielibnzayd.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/adoption-is-war/


2 Responses to Lebanon, 1975

  1. See: The Orphan Scandal: Christian Missionaries and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood

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