Worldwide, the early 1970s was a time of revolutionary fervor. Lebanon was no exception. By late 1972, the Palestinian nationalist movement was operating from Lebanon, allied with a campaign for national secular reform. A growing labor movement united countryside and city, with women often at the front lines. As during the Arab Spring, many Lebanese imagined that their collective efforts were leading to revolutionary change—at a national, a regional and global level.
This moment of possibility is symbolized in popular memory by the November 1972 Gandour strike in which Fatima Khaweja and Yousef Al Attar were killed by police, and the massive tobacco farmer uprising two months later in South Lebanon, which also resulted in two deaths: Naim Darwish and Hassan Hayek. The possibility for social transformation would be quickly shattered in 1975 by the outbreak of a fifteen-year civil war.
Today Lebanon’s once powerful unions have folded into a sectarian-political system; they are no longer capable of making gains for ordinary workers. The minimum wage remains too low to live on, and tobacco prices stagnate, while the cost of living skyrockets. Women, once at the center of popular struggle, continue to be pushed to the sidelines. Meanwhile, fundamentalist religious movements grow throughout the region, and the Lebanese collective memory of a different kind of national unity has faded into obscurity. A Feeling Greater Than Love critically revisits the past in hope of finding inspiration for the present.