Lebanon Expert How-to

The last 12 years, I have spend a lot of time on Lebanon – reading, listening to things, watching news, and, last but not least, I also made five trips to the country and stayed in touch with some friends there every day. If you are looking to become more of an expert on this small country, you have come to the right place. I will give you some resources, to give you a very good starting point. Lebanon, for such a small country, gets far disproportional attention, especially in the West. Unfortunately, especially Western journalists nevertheless seem to be prone to inform in a superficial, orientalist way about Lebanon. With this blog post, I want to help raise the bar for covering this place a bit.

1. A House of Many Mansions

If you only read one book on the history Lebanon, Kamal Salibi’s AHoMMs should be the one. While it arguably also has some sectarian biases, like most books on Lebanon by Lebanese authors, it is less biased than most, and it is far more thorough than what you typically read from Western authors.

2. The Lebanese Politics Podcast

If you want to listen to only one podcast on Lebanese politics, this would be the one. All the 80 episodes so far are worth listening to and some do not just cover events current at the time. The hosts have a background in journalism and used to work for The Daily Star, the most important English-language daily newspaper in Lebanon.

3. The Daily Star

TDS is a newspaper which is owned by and heavily influenced by Saad Hariri, Sunni sectarian viewpoints and his Future Movement party. Articles are usually easy to read, so it is useful to stay up-to-date at least on a superficial level. A lot of American journalists that got into reporting from Middle East started out here.

4. The Art of Boo

There are several great cartoonists out of Lebanon. The Art of Boo by Bernard Hage is one of the best political ones. Some of them get published L’Orient Le Jour.

5. L’Orient Le Jour

L’Orient Le Jour is Lebanon’s most import French-language daily. Compared to The Daily Star, it is more of a high-brow outlet. Usually it takes a somewhat Christian sectarian perspective on the country.

6. @KarlreMarks / Karl Sharro

Life is too serious anyways. For something humoristic, follow this London-based Lebanese architect on Twitter, who frequently makes jokes about Lebanese and UK politics. With And Then God Created the Middle East and Said ‘Let There Be Breaking News’, he also published a best-of book of sorts.

7. Al Jadeed

Al Jadeed is one of the most interesting TV stations from Lebanon, as their news coverage is a lot more consistently critical of establishment politics than most other stations in the country. The other stations usually have clear affiliations with one of the political leaders or parties and this is not so clear cut for this one.

8. Moulahazat

Moulahazat by Ramez Dagher (M.D.) is a blog on Lebanese politics which explains things in detail, for example also the electoral system(s), gives background and context. Reading it is invaluable, if you want to understand what is actually going on and what motivates certain political alliances.

This is list is by no means complete in any way, of course. What is clearly underrepresented in the resources I picked now are, for example, Shia, Armenian, Druze and Palestinian sectarian perspectives, among others. I deliberately mostly included English-language resources, even though the most serious discussions about Lebanese domestic matters still happen in Arabic, as the Thawra that started on October 17th 2019 clearly has shown.