ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Levantine Diary

ECONOMIC AMD POLITICAL WEEKLY A Levantine Diary LIVE and let live. Barter and be bartered. You take your mark-up, allow me mine. It is a game the Levanters have been playing since King Ahiram ruled over Byblos. They don't call the ancient capital Byblos any more; they can't afford to: it is, very properly, Ibeil, glory to Arab brotherhood. But such compromises do a power of good to the Levantine cause. The terraced majesty of Beirut could hardly be explained otherwise. Each fresh occasion your plane swoops low to make the landing, Beirut has added some new lustre: a dazzling, block of office buildings, a chic-looking shopping arcade, a string of brunches of American and European banks, a couple or so of night-clubs or casinos where the performers are, no kidding, imported straight from Las Vegas. Every year, the beaches become a little more indolent: they are nearly as good as St Tropez without its crowded vulgarity. In the restaurant, the cuisine is beyond reproach, heavily biased toward the French palate. In fact, many things around Beirut remind you of a France which had, once upon a not so remote time, a turbulent affair with Lebanon. They still talk in terms of arrondisements; you may he standing at the comer where rue de Rhin mingles with avenue Pasteur. Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Front have come; they are Lebanon's honoured guests; several hotels along the waterfront have been quietly taken over by the PLF. And there are other, innumerable dissident and quasi-dissident Palestinian groups who too are very much installed here, training commandos, dealing in guns and bombs, occasionally despatching hijacking parties from the base of Beirut's nervous airport. But live and let live, none of them bothers to question Lebanon's style of living; correction, the style of living of Lebanon's narrow elite. These are the rules of the game: we go about our own way snaking money and enjoying it, you go about making revolutions in other lands; we quite realise that, every now and then, you have to use our territory to send saboteurs across the border into Israel we quite appreciate that, in retaliation, Israel will have to send their ' planes to bomb out villages on our side of the border, killing a few old men and women and goats and sheep; all right, gentlemen, you play your respective games, we humble people are not going to remonstrate with either of you; we can't afford to; even so, please, don't go too far while you are operating from our territory

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