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The Lebanese History

Lebanon's coastal plain is divided into several isolated sections by gorges, which are cut by streams that pour down the mountains in winter and spring. In ancient times, north-south movement along the plain was nearly impossible. Villages developed on larger sections of the plain, and those with good harbors and better agricultural areas evolved into the city-states of Phoenicia. These cities then used the Mediterranean Sea to communicate and trade with one another and beyond the coastal plain. Due to geographical and other barriers, however, Phoenicia never unified politically. Later, mountainous areas provided protection for groups seeking refuge, but these groups, too, were isolated and did not form a unified nation. The modern nation of Lebanon was formed after World War I (1914-1918), when the defeated Ottoman Empire, which had controlled the area, was divided. When France received a mandate from the League of Nations to rule Lebanon after the war, the region's people were aligned along religious and cultural lines, but felt little unity based on a Lebanese nationality. Lebanon still lacks unity today, which has led both to a diverse culture and extreme conflicts.

Prehistory and Ancient History
Early peoples occupied the coastal plain and the BekŠa Valley during the Old Stone Age, or Paleolithic. Much later, numerous villages thrived in both areas during the New Stone Age, or Neolithic, roughly 7,000 to 9,000 years ago. Still later, several waves of people, mostly Semites, surged into the region from the interior, likely the Arabian Peninsula. Ancient records show that by 2800 BC, cedar timber from Byblos was being traded for metals and ivory from Egypt. About 2200 BC, Semitic Amorites arrived from Arabia and Syria, and from the western Amorites the Canaanites evolved along the full length of the Levant, the region along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. During succeeding centuries the Canaanites developed the most favored coastal villages into celebrated city-states: Tripoli, Byblos, Beirut, Sidon, and Tyre. By about 1100 BC the northern Canaanites became known as Phoenicians (from the Greek word phoinos, meaning "red," a reference to the unique purple dye the Phoenicians produced from murex seashells). The Phoenicians developed the first alphabet and mastered the art of navigation, and they dominated the Mediterranean Sea trade for 400 to 450 years. Phoenicians adjusted easily to successive conquerors: Assyrians in 867 BC; Babylonians in the 590s BC; Persians in 538 BC; and Greeks under Alexander the Great in 333 BC. However, Phoenician trade declined with Greek competition after the 5th century BC.

Romans and Byzantines
In 64 BC the Romans began an imperial rule over the area that continued under the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire) for 573 years. Under Rome, Phoenicians prospered again as they rebuilt fleets and made great cultural progress. The Sidonians grew wealthy with their invention of blown glass. The Romans greatly influenced the regional culture, as evidenced by the majestic ruins of Roman temples in Lebanon, particularly in Baalbek. The school of law in Beirut became famous while the region was under Roman rule, and the Semitic Phoenician language yielded to the regionally spoken Semitic Aramaic, introducing new elements to Phoenician culture. Under the Orthodox Byzantines, Christianity became deeply rooted. In the 6th century AD monks introduced silkworms from China, and a silk industry developed that brought wealth for centuries. Around the same time, earthquakes destroyed Beirut and its law school and badly damaged the great temples in Baalbek.

Islamic Caliphates and Crusader Kingdoms Arab
conquests in the 7th century brought political and cultural upheavals to the entire Middle East, and in 636 Islam pushed into Lebanon. Gradually, the area named Phoenicia gave way to Mount Lebanon or simply Lebanon. In 661 a new Muslim empire under the Umayyad caliphate arose with its capital in Damascus, in present-day Syria. The Umayyads incorporated the Fertile Crescent, including Lebanon, into their empire. In 750 the Umayyads were overthrown by the Abbasid caliphate, who ruled from Baghdad, in present-day Iraq.
Early in the 11th century a new heretical group emerged from the Ismailite Shiites; called Druze after one of their leaders, they evolved in the Mount Hermon area, in the southeast of present-day Lebanon. Later, some Druze filtered north into the southern Lebanon Mountains. The decline of the Abbasids after the 11th century opened the Levant to several contending powers, among them the Seljuks. Their territorial advances, especially into Palestine, aroused Christian fears in Western Europe and provoked the invasion of the Crusaders between 1095 and 1291. Crusader influence was strong in Lebanon, which was divided between the kingdoms of Tripoli and Jerusalem. During Crusader occupation, Maronites cooperated with their fellow Christians and enjoyed expanded group identity, but their collaboration increased the suspicions of Muslims. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, Shiite Muslim groups from several areas peacefully migrated into Lebanon's northern BekŠa and also later to the south. Lebanon was now shared by Maronites, Druze, Sunnites, and Shiites, the same groups who would clash in the war of 1975 to 1991. As the 13th century closed, Egyptian Mamluks led the expulsion of the Crusaders and occupied the Lebanon area. For more than 200 years under the Mamluks, Lebanon's coastal cities prospered from revived trade.

Ottoman Empire
In 1516 the Ottomans, centered in Constantinople, extended their conquests to include Lebanon, but gave the region considerable autonomy. Under Ottoman overlords, amirs (princes) of two local dynasties ruled successively: the Maans (1516-1697) and the Shihabs (1697-1842), both Druze families. Maan amir Fakhr al-Din II (1586-1635), a tolerant Europeanized Druze, introduced Western-style development. The later amirs of the Shihabs became Maronites and, under Bashir II (1788-1840), turned against their Druze neighbors. This turmoil in the Lebanon Mountains prompted tighter Ottoman control, though it did not put an end to Maronite-Druze hostility. In battles in 1860 the Druze massacred more than 10,000 Christians, mostly Maronites. European powers landed forces to quell the fighting and encourage better and more open administration. A relative freedom emerged as a result, attracting Arab intellectuals and foreign missionaries. In 1866 the Syrian Protestant College was founded in Beirut and in 1920 was renamed the American University of Beirut. The American Press was established in Beirut in 1834, followed by the Catholic Press in 1874. In 1875 Saint Joseph University was established by French Jesuit priests. World War I (1914-1918) interrupted prosperity with chaos and famine in the Lebanon Mountains, but the Allied defeat of the Ottoman Empire ended Ottoman control over the Levant.

French Mandate
With the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after the war, the League of Nations awarded Lebanon to France as a mandate in 1920. The mandate combined the mainly Christian Lebanon Mountains with the mainly Muslim coastal plain (formerly Phoenicia) and the Muslim BekŠa (including some of the Anti-Lebanon mountain ridges) to form "Greater Lebanon," marking the creation of Lebanon as it is known today. The combination made the new country far more viable, but conflict between the ethnic and religious groups would later develop. In 1926 France forged a dependent Republic of Lebanon, which emerged as an independent state in 1943.

Independence to 1975
With independence in 1943, practical Lebanese political leaders forged an unwritten National Pact (see Government) designed to promote cooperation and conciliation among the rival confessional (religious) groups. The concept of a confessional democracy was unique. The National Pact was partly grounded in the 1932 census, which ranked the major sects in order of population as Maronites, Sunnites, Shiites, Greek Orthodox, Druze, and Greek Catholics. Among the pact's provisions, Maronites and Sunnites were assured dominant political roles in proportion to their 1932 populations. The agreement faced early stresses in 1948 and 1958. In 1948 the stresses were external: the first Arab-Israeli war broke out, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled their homes as Israeli troops advanced on them. About 150,000 Palestinians became refugees in Lebanon. Embittered and predominantly Muslim, they threatened the fragile confessional balance. In May 1958 internal tensions were high when President Camille Chamoun provoked political foes, especially Druze and Sunnites, by challenging the constitution in an attempt to gain a second term. A short civil war erupted. Outside interference by several neighbors, along with general tensions in the Middle East, again greatly escalated the stresses. The United States, fearing the war's effect on the wider region, landed 14,000 Marines on beaches south of Beirut on July 15. The Marines' presence helped stabilize the country, and by early August the fighting was finished. In three months of warfare, an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 people were killed.

Chamoun's successor, Fouad Chehab (Shihab), restored confidence and advanced Lebanon's economic boom. His successor in 1964, Charles Helou, continued Chehab's programs but was thwarted by the severe aftereffects of the 1967 Six-Day War between Arabs and Israel. The war sent another wave of Palestinian refugees to Lebanon. Although Helou kept the country neutral during the war, the fighting and other Middle East tensions triggered complex domestic conflicts which neither Helou nor his successor after 1970, Sulayman Franjiyah, could stop. In most of the conflicts, overlapping groups of Muslims, Arab nationalists, Palestinians, and various leftists were aligned on one side. On the other side were Christians, supporters of the West, wealthy rightists, and supporters of the status quo. Cross-alliances permeated several factions. The most militant Palestinians, including growing numbers of the heavily armed Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) militia, soon developed a state within a state. Since most of the Lebanese army sympathized with the Palestinians, the government could not easily challenge the PLO. In the Cairo Agreement of 1969, Lebanon's neighbors forced the government to let the PLO use its territory to mount raids on northern Israel. The situation worsened after the PLO was expelled from Jordan in 1970. Most of the refugees from Jordan, including more armed militiamen, regrouped in Lebanon. By this time, the Lebanese government was too weak and vulnerable to impose any significant controls on the Palestinians.

In 1972 the PLO opened its headquarters in Beirut. From southern Lebanon, PLO Fatah fedayeen (commandos) periodically launched hit-and-run attacks on northern Israel. Israel responded with raids on the PLO in Lebanon. The Israeli attacks were often more severe and on a larger scale than PLO attacks on Israel and often impacted civilian areas. The feeble, divided Lebanese government was unable to restrain attacks by either side and watched helplessly as the destruction and death among its citizens mounted. In May 1973 Palestinians and Lebanese soldiers had a brief, sharp clash in Beirut, a foretaste of the war to come.

War in Lebanon
The Lebanese Civil began on April 13, 1975, with a strike and counterstrike: gunmen attacked Christian Phalangists (members of the Kataib faction) at a Beirut church, killing several, and hours later, Phalangists ambushed a busload of Palestinians, killing 27. Months of brutal battles followed, prompting military intervention by Syria. The fighting began to calm and a cease-fire in November 1976 yielded a lull. However, PLO attacks on northern Israel continued, bringing Israeli reprisals in Lebanon. A heavy strike by PLO fedayeen produced an Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in March 1978. During the invasion, Israel created a self-proclaimed security zone on the southern border of Lebanon, which was manned by the South Lebanon Army (SLA), a Lebanese militia sympathetic to Israel. After three months, most of the Israeli troops withdrew. To help reduce attacks in the area, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was deployed in the southern part of the country. Between 1980 and 1982, fighting became rampant in Beirut again, with vicious militia wars, car bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations. Aiming to pacify the Palestinians and punish Lebanon for hosting them, Israel launched "Operation Peace for Galilee," a full-scale invasion of Lebanon, in June 1982. Israel pushed north to Beirut forcing a PLO retreat. Through international mediation, thousands of PLO troops and Syrians were evacuated from Beirut and Tripoli by sea in August, and a multinational force made up of U.S., French, British, and Italian troops tried to stabilize the situation. Nearly 18,000 Lebanese, in addition to many Palestinians and Syrians, were killed in the Israeli invasion.

In mid-September 1982 the president-elect, Lebanese Forces leader Bashir Gemayel (Jumayyil), was assassinated and replaced by his brother, Amin. Fighting continued sporadically, and in October 1983 more than 300 U.S. and French troops were killed by a truck bomb in Beirut. The bombing prompted the multinational force to withdraw. Violence continued from 1983 to 1985, and a second multinational force returned for six months. In June 1985 Israel withdrew most of its 1983 invasion forces, again leaving a small occupying force in the south. Palestinians making commando raids on northern Israel were joined and later replaced by a new extremist group, Hezbollah (Party of God), which enjoyed Iranian support and Syrian approval.

Although violent fighting generally eased between 1986 and 1988, hostage-taking amid near-anarchy became commonplace. In 1989 the beginning of the end of the war came when Lebanon's parliamentarians met in Alt‚'if, Saudi Arabia, from September 30 through October 22, 1989. There they reached the T‚'if Agreement for a National Reconciliation Charter, which was formally approved on November 4. They also elected a new president, Renť Moawad, who was assassinated 17 days later and replaced by Elias Hrawi. The unbending Aoun resumed last-ditch fighting against Lebanese Forces until October 13, 1990, when he was ousted by the syrian and the Lebanese Gouvernment. The fighting was over. In a decade and a half of war, an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people were killed, at least that many were wounded, and the country suffered an estimated $25 billion to $30 billion in damage and lost revenues.

Recovery and Reconstruction
Although fighting ended, the Lebanese have not been left alone. Since the war, they have remained subject to 45,000 Syrian occupation troops, indirect political control by Syria, the continued presence of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, the operations of Hezbollah, and successive Israeli attacks-all of which hamper Lebanon's postwar recovery. Political progress has continued, although under Syrian hegemony. In August and September 1990 the rump parliament (a legislature with only part of its former membership left) formally approved the constitutional changes called for in the T‚'if Agreement. Parliament's membership was enlarged to 108, divided equally between Muslims and Christians, and the Second Republic emerged. Under pressure, the government accepted a "Treaty of Brotherhood, Cooperation, and Coordination" with Syria in May 1991.

In August and September 1992 the first parliamentary elections in 20 years were held but were boycotted by many Maronites, who objected to their reduced power under the new constitution. In October 1995 parliament reluctantly extended the term of President Hrawi for three years, believing the troika of Hrawi, Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Birri was essential to the national recovery. The second postwar parliamentary elections, in August and September 1996, confirmed support of the ruling troika, but the openness of the elections was questioned. Some Christians again boycotted the elections. In October 1998 parliament elected army commander Emile Lahoud to succeed Hrawi as president. In accordance with the constitution Lahoud consulted parliament to determine who would be the next prime minister. Al-Hariri, the choice of most members of parliament, withdrew his name from the running, citing a constitutional irregularity in the selection process. In December Lahoud named economist and veteran politician Salim al-Hoss as prime minister. Al-Hoss had previously served as prime minister from 1976 to 1980 and from 1987 to 1990.

In Beirut, reconstruction proceeded at a pace unmatched since European cities were rebuilt after World War II. Dramatic archaeological ruins and artifacts, once covered by Beirut's central district, were excavated and displayed.

Israel and Syria resumed peace talks in December 1999 for the first time since 1996, but the talks broke down the next month. Exasperated by the breakdown, the Israeli government announced that it would withdraw its troops from southern Lebanon by July 2000. The Lebanese government declared that it would not provide Israel any security guarantee without a comprehensive peace treaty.


Lebnaan Lebnaane - Lebanon is Lebanese - Le Liban est Libanais - لبنان لبناني
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