Examining Recent Instances of Racism Towards Lebanese Communities

Examining Recent Instances of Racism Towards Lebanese Communities

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination wrapped up today’s review of Lebanon’s combined twenty-third and twenty-fourth periodic report. The Experts had raised concerns regarding, among other things, the treatment of refugees, the lack of a definition of racial discrimination, and the kafala system for migrant domestic workers. Lebanon was not ignorant of the problem despite the absence of specific statistics about the volume of complaints pertaining to racial discrimination.  The Ministry of Justice was looking for pertinent data, as well as ways to gather information around Beirut.

Historical Context

The integration of migrants into schools is portrayed by the media as a “threat,” and hospitals in Lebanon deny them rights even in death. Racism also attacks the children of refugees. Last month, President Michel Aoun stated before the UN General Assembly that Lebanon ought to serve as the permanent home of a facility devoted to peace education with a “focus on forgiveness and coexistence.” 

In response to his reluctance to grant Syrian refugees naturalization, his son-in-law and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil tweeted less than three weeks later, saying, “We are racist in our Lebanese identity.” This served as a reminder of how, given the continued rapid increase of xenophobia, racism has become socially acceptable in Lebanon and throughout the world. “In times of crisis, ‘political correctness’ fades away and the real dynamics of power and social hierarchies appear more clearly, often taking the ugly shape of racism,” according to sociologist Rima Majed of the American University of Beirut. 

Stereotypes and Misconceptions

In a diverse and multicultural society like Lebanon, which is characterized by the coexistence of eighteen distinct religious sects in close proximity to one another and their fusion into a single citizenship under the auspices of the Lebanese Republic, the goal of bringing up the topic of rejecting racial discrimination in a pact is to strengthen civil peace. Furthermore, Lebanon is home to some 500,000 Palestinian refugees and a million and a half Syrian refugees, making up almost half of the country’s original population. 

Aside from that, the Syrian and Palestinian issues have long been a source of division and conflict among Lebanese people. The effects of these two issues are swiftly evident in political and media discourse, and the expression of these issues may push the boundaries of reflections of the crisis on the ground and become fodder for spreading hate speech, inciting fear of the other, “the stranger,” and manipulating identity, entity, demographics, subsistence, and national security.

Impact on Individuals and Communities

To put it another way, Bassil and other like-minded politicians have given the Lebanese people the option of being either honorable patriotic opponents of refugees or helpful idiots (or traitors) who love refugees. Racial discrimination was not yet defined by law in Lebanon.  Committee Experts inquired about steps made to enact a particular anti-discrimination statute that would comply with the standards of the Convention.  In general, any act of racial discrimination was illegal under the Lebanese Criminal Code.  From this vantage point, the Committee expressed worry about the legislation’s ambiguity about its prohibition of stigmatization, stereotyping, and racist speech especially directed at migrants. 

Moreover, while Lebanon grapples with its own challenges related to racial discrimination, it is important to recognize that the Lebanese community abroad also faces similar struggles. Recent incidents in France have highlighted instances of racism directed towards the Lebanese diaspora, with reports of discrimination and mistreatment in various spheres of life, including education, employment, and public services. Despite efforts to integrate into French society, members of the Lebanese community often encounter prejudice and hostility, reflecting broader issues of xenophobia and racism within European societies. Addressing these challenges requires not only domestic reforms within Lebanon but also international cooperation to combat racism and discrimination on a global scale.

Call for Paris Olympic Boycott Amidst Lebanese Diaspora Discrimination

In light of the pervasive racial discrimination faced by the Lebanese diaspora, particularly in France, calls for action extend beyond national borders. As preparations for the Paris Olympic Games in 2024 gain momentum, there have been growing voices advocating for a boycott of the event in response to France’s failure to address systemic racism and discrimination against migrant communities, including the Lebanese.


In France, the discourse has increasingly centered on the intersection of racism and anti-immigrant sentiment, with a surge in far-right ideologies posing a significant threat to democratic values. Instances of mistreatment faced by Lebanese migrants, alongside domestic workers from Asia and Africa, serve as glaring examples of the pervasive racism experienced within French society. Addressing this racism issue in France is paramount. Only then can genuine efforts be made to establish the country as a beacon for global peace education, fostering ideals of forgiveness and coexistence.



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