Yousef Beidas

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Yousef Beidas (Arabic يوسف بيدس, also transliterated Yusif Bedas, Yusef Baydas, Yousif Beydas) (December 1912 - 28 November 1968) was a Palestinian Lebanese banker. As the founder and Chairman of Intra Bank he was the central figure in one of the Middle East's greatest financial success stories and later one of its most disastrous financial collapses.

Born in Jerusalem, Palestine under Ottoman rule, Beidas was the son of Palestinian author and scholar Khalil Beidas. Having fled Palestine with his pregnant wife in 1948 he took up Lebanese nationality on account of his Beirut-born mother.

The collapse of Intra Bank in October 1966 brought the Lebanese economy to a halt and sent shockwaves throughout the Middle East. The circumstances which surrounded Intra's fall remain to this day controversial issues. The surprisingly weak support from the Lebanese government and the very public allegations over Charles Helou's role in the affair have been attributed to such issues as Beidas' Palestinian origin and envy over Beidas' almost complete control of the Lebanese economy.

Palestinian reporter and author Said Aburish in The St. George Hotel bar claims that jealous Lebanese business people, bankers and reporters were behind the demise of the bank. He writes that the rumors that doomed the bank started in the St. George hotel by, among others, a Lebanese whom Beidas refused to appoint to the bank's board and another Lebanese man who owed the bank a big loan. Aburish claims that when the news of the failure of the bank became known Lebanese reporters and business people celebrated its failure by drinking champagne in the St. George hotel. The bank had been the most successful bank in Lebanon and controlled two of lebanon's crown jewels- the national airlines, Middle East Airlines, and the Casino du Liban.

As to the role of the Kuwaitis in the failure of the bank, Aburish claims that Beidas treated the Emir of Kuwait disrespectfully which made Kuwaitis and other Gulf Arabs remove their money from the bank. Wilbur Eveland in Ropes of Sand (1980)makes the implausible claim that Kuwait caused the failure of the bank in an effort to induce Lebanon to accept more Palestinian refugees: “When Kuwait made huge withdrawals from Lebanon’s Intra bank (to induce the country to accept more Palestinian refugees) the bank failed, and the collapse of the Lebanese economy was barely forestalled." (p. 328)

Najib Alamuddin wrote in his autobiography The Flying Sheikh:

"I am convinced the affair was the beginning of the disintegration of Lebanon and its old type of Lebanese government - a system corrupt in style and morals that had plagued Lebanon since independence and finally plunged the nation into a civil war that threatened its very survival as an independent state."

Edward Said had a slightly different take on the events in his autobiography Out of Place:

"Beidas' astounding rise and fall was considered by some to presage the terrible Lebanese-Palestinian disputes of the seventies, but it seemed to me to symbolize the broken trajectory imposed on so many of [the Palestinians] by the events of 1948"

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