Lebanon History

Lebanon [nb1],officially the Republic of  Lebanon(Arabic:Lubn?n; al-Jumh?r?yah al-Lubn?n?yah; French: République libanaise; French: Liban), is a country in Western Asia, on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east, and Israel to the south. Lebanon’s location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland has dictated its rich history, and shaped a cultural identity of religious and ethnic diversity.[6]
The earliest evidence of civilization in Lebanon dates back more than 7,000 years—predating recorded history.[7] Lebanon was the home of the Phoenicians, a maritime culture that flourished for nearly 2,500 years (3000–539 BC). Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the five provinces that comprise modern Lebanon were mandated to France. The French expanded the borders of Mount Lebanon, which was mostly populated by Maronite Catholics and Druze, to include more Muslims. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, and established a unique political system, known as confessionalism, a power-sharing mechanism based on religious communities.  Riad El-Solh, who became Lebanon’s first prime minister, is considered the founder of the modern Republic of Lebanon and a national hero for having led (and died for) the country’s independence. French troops withdrew in 1946.
Before the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), the country experienced a period of relative calm and prosperity, driven by tourism, agriculture, and banking.[8] Because of its financial power and diversity, Lebanon was known in its heyday as the “Switzerland of the East”.[9] It attracted large numbers of tourists,[10] such that the capital Beirut was referred to as “Paris of the Middle East.” At the end of the war, there were extensive efforts to revive the economy and rebuild national infrastructure.[11]
Until July 2006, Lebanon enjoyed considerable stability, Beirut’s reconstruction was almost complete,[12] and increasing numbers of tourists poured into the nation’s resorts.[10] Then, the month-long 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah caused significant civilian death and heavy damage to Lebanon’s civil infrastructure. However, due to its tightly regulated financial system, Lebanese banks have largely avoided the financial crisis of 2007–2010. In 2009, despite a global recession, Lebanon enjoyed 9% economic growth and hosted the largest number of tourists in its history.
The name Lebanon comes from the Semitic root lbn, meaning “white”, likely a reference to the snow-capped Mount Lebanon.[13]
Occurrences of the name have been found in texts from the library of Ebla,[14] which date to the third millennium BC, nearly 70 times in the Hebrew Bible, and three of the twelve tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh (perhaps as early as 2100 BC).[15]
The name is recorded in Ancient Egyptian as Rmnn, where R stood for Canaanite L.[16]

Ancient History:
Evidence of the earliest known settlements in Lebanon was found in Byblos, which is considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world,[7] and date back to earlier than 5000 BC. Archaeologists discovered remnants of prehistoric huts with crushed limestone floors, primitive weapons, and burial jars left by the Neolithic and Chalcolithic fishing communities who lived on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea over 7,000 years ago.[17]
Lebanon was the homeland of the Phoenicians, a seafaring people that spread across the Mediterranean before the rise of Cyrus the Great.[18] After two centuries of Persian rule, Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great attacked and burned Tyre, the most prominent Phoenician city. Throughout the subsequent centuries leading up to recent times, the country became part of numerous succeeding empires, among them Egyptian Empire, Persian, Assyrian, Hellenistic, Roman, Eastern Roman, Arab, Seljuk, Mamluk, Crusader, and the Ottoman Empire.

Medieval Times:
In 1516, Sultan Selim I took control of Mt. Lebanon and the mountainous regions of Syria and Palestine. The administration of these areas, belonging to Fakhr al-Din I, whose family was concerned, made loyalty to the higher section. As a strategy to evade the payment of tribute to them, Sultan Selim’s attempts managed to rattle his Turkish masters. He decided to extend his direct influence across Lebanon, but the landowners and peasants of Mt. Lebanon both resisted. In 1544, the sultan, already poisoned, died on the floor of Fakhr al-Din Pasha, in Damascus. His son, Korkmaz, was martyred in 1585 while fighting the Turks.[19]
In 1590, Fakhr-al-Din II became successor to Korkmaz. He was a skilled politician and described as a pupil of Machiavelli. Fakhr-al-Din II adjusted to the lifestyles of the Druzes, Christianity and Islam, according to his needs. He paid tribute to the Sultanate of the Ottoman Empire and shared the spoils of war with his masters. Eventually, Fakhr-al-Din II was appointed Sultan of Mt. Lebanon, with full authority. He was considered one of the greatest rulers of the region, also across the Middle of Lebanon. But, his enemies and governors angered the Ottoman Sultanate. Hence, a campaign, calling for the arrest of Fakhr-al-Din II, found the deposed leader in Istanbul, where he was executed by hanging.[20] Shortly afterwards, the Emirate of Mt. Lebanon that lasted more than 500 years was replaced, instead of the emirate meteor.

French Mandate and Independence:
Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years, until 1918 when the area became a part of the French Mandate following World War I. By the end of the war, famine had killed an estimated 100,000 people in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, about 30% of the total population.[21] On 1 September 1920, France reestablished Greater Lebanon after the Moutasarrifiya rule removed several regions belonging to the Principality of Lebanon and gave them to Syria.[22] Lebanon was a largely Christian (mainly Maronite) enclave but also included areas containing many Muslims (including Druze). On 1 September 1926, France formed the Lebanese Republic. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, while France was occupied by Germany.[23] General Henri Dentz, the Vichy High Commissioner for Syria and Lebanon, played a major role in the independence of the nation. The Vichy authorities in 1941 allowed Germany to move aircraft and supplies through Syria to Iraq where they were used against British forces. The United Kingdom, fearing that Nazi Germany would gain full control of Lebanon and Syria by pressure on the weak Vichy government, sent its army into Syria and Lebanon.

After the fighting ended in Lebanon, General Charles de Gaulle visited the area. Under political pressure from both inside and outside Lebanon, de Gaulle recognized the independence of Lebanon. On 26 November 1941 General Georges Catroux announced that Lebanon would become independent under the authority of the Free French government. Elections were held in 1943 and on 8 November 1943 the new Lebanese government unilaterally abolished the mandate. The French reacted by throwing the new government into prison. In the face of international pressure, the French released the government officials on 22 November 1943 and recognized the independence of Lebanon.

The allies kept the region under control until the end of World War II. The last French troops withdrew in 1946. Lebanon’s unwritten National Pact of 1943 required that its president be Maronite Christian, its speaker of the parliament to be a Shiite Muslim, its prime minister be Sunni Muslim, and the deputy speaker of Parliament be Greek Orthodox.[24]

Lebanon’s history since independence has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and turmoil (including a civil conflict in 1958) interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut’s position as a regional center for finance and trade.[25]

1948 Arab-Israeli War:
In May 1948, Lebanon supported neighbouring Arab countries against Israel.While some irregular forces crossed the border and carried out minor skirmishesagainst Israel, it was without the support of the Lebanese government, andLebanese troops did not officially invade.[26] Lebanon agreed to support theforces with covering artillery fire, armored cars, volunteers and logistical support.[27] On 5–6 June 1948, the Lebanese army captured Al-Malkiyya. This wasLebanon’s only success in the war.[28]
During the war, some 100,000 Palestinians fled to Lebanon, and Israel did notpermit their return at the end of hostilities.[29] Palestinians, previously prevented from working at all due to denial of citizenship, are now forbidden to work in some 20 professions after liberalization laws.[30] Today, more than 400,000 refugees remain in limbo, about half in camps.[31]

Civil War and Beyond:
In 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon. The Lebanese Civil War lasted fifteen years, devastating the country’s economy, and resulting in massive loss of human life and property. It is estimated that 150,000 people were killed and another 200,000 wounded.[32] Some 900,000 people, representing one-fifth of the pre-war population, were displaced from their homes.[33] The war ended in 1990 with the signing of the Taif Agreement and parts of Lebanon were left in ruins.[34]

During the civil war, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) used Lebanon to launch attacks against Israel. Lebanon was twice invaded and occupied by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1978 and 1982,[36] with the PLO expelled in the second invasion. Israel remained in control of Southern Lebanon until 2000, when there was a general decision, led by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, to withdraw because of continuous attacks executed by Hezbollah, and a belief that the violence would diminish and dissolve without the Israeli presence in Lebanon.[37] The UN determined that the withdrawal of Israeli troops beyond the blue line was in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425, although a border region called the Shebaa Farms is still disputed. Hezbollah declared that it would not stop its operations against Israel until this area was liberated.[38]

Cedar Revolution:
On 14 February 2005, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a car bomb explosion near the Saint George Bay in Beirut.[39] Leaders of the March 14 Alliance, a pro-Western coalition, accused Syria of the attack[40] because of its extensive military and intelligence presence in Lebanon, and the public rift between Hariri and Damascus over the Syrian-backed constitutional amendment extending President Lahoud’s term in office. Others, namely the March 8 Alliance and Syrian officials, claimed that the assassination may have been executed by the Israeli Mossad in an attempt to destabilize the country.[41]

This incident triggered a series of demonstrations, dubbed the ‘Cedar Revolution’ by the media, which demanded the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the establishment of an international commission to investigate the assassination. The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1559 on 7 April 2005, which called for an investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri.[42] Preliminary findings of the investigation were officially published on 20 October 2005 in the Mehlis report, which cited indications that high-ranking members of the Syrian and Lebanese governments were involved in the assassination.[43] Eventually, and under pressure from the West, Syria began withdrawing its 15,000-strong army troops from Lebanon.[44] By 26 April 2005, all uniformed Syrian soldiers had already crossed the border back to Syria.[45] The Hariri assassination marked the beginning of a series of assassination attempts that resulted in the loss of many prominent Lebanese figures.[46]

The UN Investigation and the Controversy:
In 2005, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Mehlis as the Commissioner of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 other persons in Beirut. In October 2005, Jund al-Sham threatened to slaughter Detlev Mehlis while he was heading the UN inquiry into the assassination of Rafik Hariri, claiming that Mehlis was connected with Israel and the CIA.

The Mehlis report was presented to the Secretary General on October 20, 2005. It implicated Lebanese and Syrian Military Intelligence in the assassination, and it accused Syrian officials, including now Foreign Minister Muallem, of misleading the investigation. A second report was submitted on December 10, 2005. On January 11, 2006 Mehlis, upon his own suggestion, was replaced by Serge Brammertz.

2006 Israel-Lebanon Conflict:
On 12 July 2006, Hezbollah militants fired rockets at Israeli border towns as a diversion for an anti-tank missile attack on two armored Humvees patrolling the Israeli side of the border fence. Of the seven Israeli soldiers in the two jeeps, two were wounded, three were killed, and two were captured and taken to Lebanon. Five more were killed in a failed Israeli rescue attempt. In response, Israeli air strikes caused serious damage to Lebanon’s civil infrastructure (including Beirut’s airport), and were followed by Israel’s ground forces moving into areas of Lebanon militarily controlled by Hezbollah fighters. Israel rained as many as 4.6 million cluster sub-munitions across southern Lebanon in at least 962 separate strikes, the vast majority over the final three days of the war when Israel knew a settlement was imminent.[47]

In Israel, 3,970 Hezbollah rockets landed on northern Israel, many in urban areas. The month-long conflict caused a significant loss of life; some 1,200 Lebanese—mostly civilians—and nearly 160 Israelis—mostly soldiers—were killed in the conflict. The conflict officially ended on 14 August 2006, when the United Nations Security Council issued resolution 1701 ordering a ceasefire between Hezbollah and Israel.[48] Goldwasser and Regev were held for two years, without indication as to their health, until their remains were returned by Hezbollah to Israel on 16 July 2008 in a trade for all Lebanese prisoners, both dead and living.

Nahr al-Bared Conflict:
Nahr al-Bared, (literally; Cold River) is a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, 16 km from the city of Tripoli. Some 30,000 displaced Palestinians and their descendants live in and around the camp, which was named after the river that runs south of the camp. The camp was established in December 1949 by the League of Red Cross Societies in order to accommodate the Palestinian refugees suffering from the difficult winter conditions in the Beqaa Valley and the suburbs of Tripoli. The Lebanese Army is banned from entering all Palestinian camps under the 1969 Cairo Agreement.
Late in the night of Saturday 19 May 2007, a building was surrounded by Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) in which a group of Fatah al-Islam militants accused of taking part in a bank robbery earlier that day were hiding. The ISF attacked the building early on Sunday 20 May 2007, unleashing a day long battle between the ISF and Fatah al-Islam militants. As a response, members of Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared Camp attacked an army checkpoint, killing several soldiers in their sleep. The army immediately responded by shelling the camp.

The camp became the center of the fighting between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam. It sustained heavy shelling while under siege. UNRWA estimates the battle between the army and Islamic militant group Fatah al-Islam destroyed or rendered uninhabitable as much as 85 percent of homes in the camp and ruined infrastructure. The camp’s up to 40,000 residents were forced to flee, many of them sheltering in the already overcrowded Beddawi camp, 10 km south. At least 169 soldiers, 287 insurgents and 47 civilians were killed in the army’s battle with the al-Qaeda-inspired militants. Funds for the reconstruction of the area have been slow to materialize, and life for the displaced refugees is difficult.[49]

2008 Internal Strife:
When Émile Lahoud’s presidential term ended in October 2007, the opposition refused to vote for a successor unless a power-sharing deal was reached, leaving Lebanon without a president. On 9 May 2008, Hezbollah and Amal forces, sparked by a government declaration that Hezbollah’s communications network was illegal, seized western Beirut[50] in Lebanon’s worst internal violence since the 1975-90 civil war.[51] Moreover, the violence, decried by the Lebanese government as an attempted coup,[52] threatened to escalate into another civil war.[53] At least 62 people died in the resulting clashes between pro-government and opposition militias.[54]

On 21 May 2008, after five days of negotiation under Arab League mediation in Qatar, all major parties signed the Doha Agreement, which ended the fighting. [50][54] Under the accord, both sides agreed to elect former army head Michel Suleiman president and establish a national unity government with a veto share for the opposition.[50] This ended 18 months of political paralysis.[53] The agreement was a victory for opposition forces, who received concessions regarding the composition of the cabinet, Hezbollah’s telecommunications network, and the airport security chief, increasing their political clout.[54]

2011 Government Collapse:
In early January 2011, the national unity government collapsed after all ten opposition ministers and one presidential appointee resigned due to tensions stemming from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which was expected to indict Hezbollah members in the assassination of former prime minister Rafic Hariri.[55] The collapse plunged Lebanon into its worst political crisis since the 2008 fighting, and indicated further political gains for the Hezbollah-led opposition March 8 Alliance, after the Parliament, in which the March 8 Alliance gained the majority, elected Najib Mikati as Prime Minister of Lebanon.[56]

Government and Politics:
Lebanon is a parliamentary democracy, which implements a special system known as confessionalism.[63] This system is intended to deter sectarian conflict and attempts to fairly represent the demographic distribution of the 18 recognized religious groups in government.[64][65] High-ranking offices are reserved for members of specific religious groups. The President, for example, has to be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the Speaker of the Parliament a Shi’a Muslim.[66][67]
Lebanon’s national legislature is the unicameral Parliament of Lebanon. Its 128 seats are divided equally between Christians and Muslims, proportionately between the 18 different denominations and proportionately between its 26 regions.[68] Prior to 1990, the ratio stood at 6:5 in favor of Christians; however, the Taif Accord, which put an end to the 1975–1990 civil war, adjusted the ratio to grant equal representation to followers of the two religions.[66] The Parliament is elected for a four-year term by popular vote on the basis of sectarian proportional representation.[3]

The executive branch consists of the President, the head of state, and the Prime Minister, the head of government. The parliament elects the president for a nonrenewable six-year term by a two-third majority. The president appoints the Prime Minister,[69] following consultations with the parliament. The President and the Prime Minister form the Cabinet, which must also adhere to the sectarian distribution set out by confessionalism.

On 27 June 2009, Lebanon’s president Michel Suleiman appointed parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri as prime minister after his pro-Western coalition, the March 14 Alliance, defeated a Hezbollah-led alliance in a June 2009 election.[70] In November, after five months of cabinet negotiations, Hariri formed a national unity government.[71] In January 2011, the government collapsed after all ten opposition ministers and one presidential appointee resigned due to tensions stemming from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which was expected to indict Hezbollah members in the assassination of former prime minister Rafic Hariri.[55]

Lebanon’s judicial system is a mixture of Ottoman law, Napoleonic code, canon law and civil law. The Lebanese court system consists of three levels: courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the court of cassation. The Constitutional Council rules on constitutionality of laws and electoral frauds. There also is a system of religious courts having jurisdiction over personal status matters within their own communities, with rules on matters such as marriage and inheritance.[72]

Foreign Relations:
Lebanon concluded negotiations on an association agreement with the European Union in late 2001, and both sides initialed the accord in January 2002. Lebanon also has bilateral trade agreements with several Arab states and is working toward accession to the World Trade Organization.

Lebanon enjoys good relations with virtually all of the other Arab countries (despite historic tensions with Libya, the Palestinians, Syria and Iraq), and hosted an Arab League Summit in March 2002 for the first time in more than 35 years. Lebanon is a member of the Francophone countries and hosted the Francophone Summit in October 2002. Lebanon also maintains a close relationship with Iran.[8]

The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) has 72,100 active personnel,[73] including 1,100 in the air force, and 1,000 in the navy.[74] The Lebanese Armed Forces’ primary missions include defending Lebanon and its citizens against external aggression, maintaining internal stability and security, confronting threats against the country’s vital interests, engaging in social development activities, and undertaking relief operations in coordination with public and humanitarian institutions.[75] Lebanon is a major recipient of foreign military aid.[76] With $400 million since 2005, it is the second largest per capita recipient of American military aid behind Israel.[77]

Lebanon has the most religiously diverse society in the Middle East. Lebanon’s population is estimated to be 59.7% Muslim (Shia, Sunni, Druze, Isma’ilite, Alawite, or Nusayri), 39% Christian ( Syriac Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syriac Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant), and 1.3% Other.[3] Over the past 60 years, there has been a steady decline in the number of Christians as compared to Muslims, due to higher emigration rates among Christians, and a higher birth rate among the Muslim population. The most recent study conducted by Statistics Lebanon, a Beirut-based research firm, found that approximately 28% of the population was Sunni, 28% Shi’a, 21.5% Maronite, 8% Greek Orthodox, 5% Druze, and 4% Greek Catholic.[112] There are 18 state-recognized religious sects – 4 Muslim, 12 Christian, 1 Druze, and 1 Jewish.

Article 11 of Lebanon’s Constitution states that “Arabic is the official national language. A law determines the cases in which the French language may be used”. The majority of Lebanese people speak Lebanese Arabic, while formal Arabic is mostly used in magazines and newspapers. Almost 40% of Lebanese are considered francophone, and another 15% “partial francophone,” and 70% of Lebanon’s secondary school use French as a second language of instruction. By comparison, English is used as a secondary language in 30% of Lebanon’s secondary schools. The use of French is a legacy of the post-World War I League of Nations mandate over Lebanon given to France; as of 2004, some 20% of the population used French on a daily basis.[2]
English is increasingly used in science and business interactions, but French is still the language generally used by intellectuals. Lebanese people of Armenian or Greek descent often speak Armenian or Greek fluently. There are currently around 150,000 Armenians in Lebanon, or around 5% of the population.

Millions of people of Lebanese descent are spread throughout the world, especially in Latin America. Brazil has the largest expatriate population. Large numbers of Lebanese migrated to West Africa, particularly in the Ivory Coast (home to over 100,000 Lebanese) and Senegal (roughly 30,000 Lebanese). Australia is home to over 270,000 Lebanese (1999 est.).

As of 2007, Lebanon was host to over 375,000 refugees and asylum seekers: 270,800 Palestinians, 50,000 from Iraq, and 4,500 from Sudan. Lebanon forcibly repatriated more than 300 refugees and asylum seekers in 2007.

In the last three decades, lengthy and destructive armed conflicts have ravaged the country. The majority of Lebanese have been affected by armed conflict; those with direct personal experience include 75% of the population, and most others report suffering a range of hardships. In total, almost the entire population (96%) has been affected in some way – either personally or because of the wider consequences of armed conflict.

The area including modern Lebanon has been home to various civilizations and cultures for thousands of years. Originally home to the Phoenicians, and then subsequently conquered and occupied by the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Ottoman Turks and most recently the French, Lebanese culture has over the millennia evolved by borrowing from all of these groups. Lebanon’s diverse population, composed of different ethnic and religious groups, has further contributed to the country’s festivals, musical styles and literature as well as cuisine. When compared to the rest of the Southwest Asia, Lebanese society as a whole is well educated and, as of 2003, 87.4% of the population was literate.[3] Lebanese society is very modern and similar to certain cultures of Mediterranean Europe. It is often considered as Europe’s gateway to Western Asia as well as Asia’s gateway to the Western World.

Republic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanesegovernment agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names, is also used, but less frequently.

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Mehlis, Detlev (19 October 2005). “Report of the International IndependentInvestigation Commission established pursuant to Security Councilresolution 1595”. United Nations Information System on the Question of
Palestine. Archived from the original on February 28, 2008.
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Further Reading:
Fisk, Robert. Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon. New York: NationBooks, 2002.
Firzli, Nicola Y. Al-Baath wa-Lubnân [Arabic only] (“The Baath and Lebanon”).Beirut: Dar-al-Tali’a Books, 1973
Glass, Charles, “Tribes with Flags: A Dangerous Passage Through the Chaosof the Middle East”, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York) and Picador(London), 1990 ISBN 0-436-18130-4
Hitti Philip K. History of Syria Including Lebanon and Palestine, Vol. 2 (2002)(ISBN 1-931956-61-8)
Holst, Sanford. Phoenicians: Lebanon’s Epic Heritage. Los Angeles: Cambridge and Boston Press, 2005.
Norton, Augustus R. Amal and the Shi’a: Struggle for the Soul of Lebanon.Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1987.
Plonka Arkadiusz, L’idée de langue libanaise d’après Sa‘?d ‘Aql, Paris, Geuthner, 2004 (French) ISBN 2-7053-3739-3
Sobelman, Daniel. New Rules of the Game: Israel and Hizbollah After theWithdrawal From Lebanon, Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel-AvivUniversity, 2004.
Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades. NewYork: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Salibi, Kamal. A House of Many Mansions: The History of Lebanon Reconsidered. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

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