Over the past five years these words became part of the media verbiage when describing violent and anti-social activities associated with gangs of first and second generation Lebanese-Australian youth in Sydney. It looks like the blowback has finally happened in the rather insular suburb of Cronulla which has a history of intolerance towards people from other suburbs. What was intended to be a legitimate protest by surfies and beachgoers quickly became a cowardly and inexcusable racist mob that indiscriminately attacked anyone who looked “middle eastern”. This has been followed by more cowardly reprisal attacks over the past two nights by car loads of youth (read Lebanese). Lets make no mistake, this is a turf war between two Neanderthal tribes ( the "lebos" and the "surfies" ) with a racial elements mixed in.
While I’m not a Sydneysider and am not intimately familiar with the city, I lived there for a year. I also have family members and friends whom I visit at least twice a year. It is from this perspective that I analyse and write here.
The timeline and lead up
Lebanese youth seem to have been frequenting the beachside suburbs of southern Sydney and generally making a nuisance of themselves (more below). Reports alleged threatening behaviour towards fellow beachgoers, loudmouthed ogling and calls of “sluts” towards girls in bikinis / swimwear, etc.
Ms Lamour said the gangs that roamed the beach targeted the locals. "They always come down trying to start trouble. It's the only reason we don't want to come down, because we know we will get harassed."
On the previous Sunday a gang of Lebanese youth were involved in an attack on lifeguards at Cronulla beach. This attack seems to have been the straw that broke the camels back. In most beaches lifeguards provide a volunteer community service which carries a degree of respect and gratitude within the local community.
As a response a community protest was planned this past Sunday but without proper coordination the organisation took a life of it’s own (similar to flash mobs) as SMS texts did the rounds calling “Aussies” to take back the beach and join in “bash a wog and leb day”. The media too got a wind of this and started to report on it.
The media baiting and incitement(?)
During the week elements of the media, particularly the RWDB shock jocks on Sydney talk-back radio let rip and stoked the flames on intolerance as usual.
Alan Jones was screaming like a race caller whose horse was coming home. "I'm the person that's led this charge here. Nobody wanted to know about North Cronulla, now it's gathered to this."...
top-rating breakfast host had heaps of anonymous emails to whip his 2GB listeners on. "Alan, it's not just a few Middle Eastern bastards at the weekend, it's thousands. Cronulla is a very long beach and it's been taken over by this scum. It's not a few causing trouble, it's all of them."...
He assured his audience he "understood" why that famous text message went out and he read it right through again on air: "Come to Cronulla this weekend to take revenge. This Sunday every Aussie in the shire get down to North Cronulla to support the leb and wog bashing day …"
Such comments, IMHO, contain statements inciting violence. The question is, would the authorities enforce the rule of law and call these lame and temporal media elites to account?
Though this is not the first instance of the media targeting the Lebanese community as a whole due to the actions of some, many high-profile incidents involving self-identifying Lebanese youth have created a negative stereotype
Lebanese violence and stereotype
The history of Lebanese migration following the civil-war is an interesting story on its own. It’s my understanding that the then prime-minister allowed many unsavoury characters to migrate to Australia and most of them settled in Sydney but they certainly haven’t followed the script of Model Minorities. From this emerged crime gangs whose modus operandi became the unrestrained use of firearms. At times it seemed that drive-by shootings in the south-western suburbs became a weekly event and even the police stations came under fire.
Also in Sydney, around 2000 gangs of youth from muslim backgrounds were involved in luring and gang-raping “Aussie” girls. Most of these limpdicks self-identified themselves as Lebanese. The most notorious being one Bilal Skaf now in jail.
These events and other minor incidents involving a disproportionate use of violence sent chills throughout Sydney and socialised the “lebo” stereotype. Though some are eager to blame the S11, Bali and Tampa incidents I believe much of the damage was self-inflicted by a community now knowing how to come to grips with the idiotic and macho elements among them. As with any other insecure minority the lebos too make a habit of over emphasising their ethnicity and are negative towards “Aussies”.
Cronulla; an intolerant suburb
Cronulla, the suburb where the riots occurred, has a history of violence towards outsiders. During the week the beach is primarily the domain of locals but on weekend the people from the nearby suburbs arrive and it seems this riles the locals. There have been riots and rivalry between the parochial insiders and outsiders and it appears to have been particularly bad in the 60s. Most of the Lebanese youth who frequent the beach are from these same suburbs.
My significant other worked in a Cronulla school for over 6 years and according her it’s a generally middle-class suburb, but ethnically homogenous with a underbelly of nastiness. According to her, the yobbo elements were always a significant proportion of the population. It also appears to have one of the lowest proportions of migrant settlement rates in Sydney.
In 2003 I wrote a feature for the Herald about the implications of the Shire's cultural make-up. Its 215,000 people then (the second biggest local council in NSW and the fourth biggest in Australia), had one of the lowest proportions of non-English-speaking-background residents in the country: 9 per cent. White faces dominate, as do conservative values.
The suburb is known for its surfing facilities. While there are many smart people who surf one needs to differentiate them from the “surfies”. The surfies are those for whom surfing is their primary identity and lifestyle. Having spent some time amongst surfies, most people I know agree with me when I say that surfies are not the brightest lights on the beach.
Following the cowardly attack on two lifeguards by about 20 Lebanese youth a community protest was planned for Sunday. Spreading the message via SMS and the media the protest seems to have attracted a large numbers of youth from all around the shire. It was also attended by small numbers of ultra-rightwing neo-nazi and nationalist groups who were there spreading their bile and stirring the passions of hatred as usual.
According to what I saw on TV, a hot day, lots of booze and a lackadaisical police presence seems to have turned local pride into jingoistic ethno-nationalist hatred. While there was a racist element to the mob, my observation was that it contained people from many races not just Caucasian Australians as reported worldwide. The racism that was evident was of everyone hating the “lebos”.
Irrespective of the targets all racism is deplorable. What is bravery when the fight is 5000 vs 1 or 20 vs 2 ? How does one justify a mob attacking a muslim girl? or attacking an ambulance? These acts of violence were conducted by cowardly thugs involved in a turf war. They seem to find security in self-fulfilling ethnic identities and resorting to pack mentalities afraid of one on one confrontations.
More discussion at catallaxy(post1, post2), LarvatusProdeo and darp. Oh and by the way, In my experience Australia is not Racist.