As Syria Nears Civil War, Divisions Within Lebanon Grow Wider

While Syria is descending ever closer to civil war, the political rift within Lebanon is growing with regard to the positions Beirut’s power brokers take on events next door. 

March 8, mainly Hezbollah and its allies, stands strong with the Syrian president as March 14 and Walid Jumblatt call for regime change. Supported by equally divided media in Lebanon, the gulf between pro- and anti-Bashar al-Assad factions is widening, and hatred between the followers of these opposing factions is growing. Indeed, every event in Syria is covered by the divided Lebanese media according to their interests and political affiliation.

On January 21, two Lebanese fishermen and their nephew, all from the country’s north, were approached by Syrian Naval forces while out at sea. Apparently in a scuffle, the 16-year-old was shot and killed. The Syrians detained the two men until the next day, after the Lebanese President intervened. These are the facts. But each side has its own “true” story to tell.

Press close to March 14 reported that the three were abducted by Syrian naval vessels which infiltrated three kilometers into Lebanon's maritime territory. Allegedly, the Syrians shot at the boat, killing the 16-year-old. In Syrian custody, one man was injured, and the other said he was interrogated, tortured, and forced to confess to supplying weapons to his relatives in Syria, March 14 media reported.

On the other side, pro-March 8 media deferred to the official Syrian News Agency, SANA, which reported that the Syrian Naval Forces notified the Lebanese boat that it was trespassing in Syrian waters and gave multiple orders to stop. The three men refused to obey and threw their cargo into the sea, according to SANA. When a Syrian officer boarded the boat to check identity papers, five other boats from Lebanese waters opened fire on the vessel, killing the teen and wounding his uncle, SANA said.

This is one of many examples of reporting on the Syrian crisis in Lebanon, where each outlet has its own, sometimes contradictory "facts" and interpretations. This complete absence of critical, neutral reporting is only deepening divisions and escalating conflict within Lebanese society.

Photo Credit: Michelle Bouchebel

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Michelle Bouchebel

Michelle is a Lebanese graduate student pursuing a Master's degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy at the Lebanese American University. She has worked as a research intern at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. With a BA in Social Sciences, Michelle's research interests revolve around social and development issues as well as Middle Eastern politics with an emphasis on Lebanon and Syria.

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