Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Lebanon

Figure 1.--

Lebanon is a more diverse country than most of the Middle Eastern countries which are predominantly Arab, in some cases with small Christian populations. At the time the Isreali-Palestunian conflict began, Lebanon was the most prosperous Arab countries. Lebanon was dragged into the conflict which gradually exacerbated the ethnic and religious conflict among the various Lebanese groups.

Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire conquered the entire eastern Mediterranean (1516). The Ottomans ruled Lebanon and neigboring areas, including Iraq, Syria, Jordon, and Palestine as well as Egypt. The Ottomans as was their policy, depending on local conditins, persued a policy of granted a degree of autonomy to local leaders. The most important leaders oversaw the Druze and Maronite Christian communities. Under Ottoman rule, the Lebanonese were allowed to develop economic and religious ties with Christian Europe. By the 19th century the Ottoman Empire had become militarily inferior to Europe. Christian ethnic groups in the Balkans assisted mainly by the Russians began to achieve their independence. Press reports circulated of Ottoman attrocities against Christians. The major European powers (especially Britain, France, and Russia) began to press the Ottomans to protect Christian communities in the Levant as well. The French became especially concerned about the Maronites.

Civil War ( -1860)

A civil war between the Druze and Maronites resulted in a terrible massacre of Maronites. Britain and France threatened intervention. The Ottomans set up a Christian-dominated local administration.

World War I

The Ottoman Empire entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers (1914). An Ottoman offensive from Palestine to take the Suez Canal failed (1915). A subsequent British offesive took Jerusalem (1917). The Ottoman hold on the Levant was finally broken and the British with Feysal's Arab Army on the right enterec Damascus. Ottomon control over the Arabs was ended by the War and subsequent peace treaties.

French Mandate

The League of Nations assigned a mandate over Lebanon to France. The French adjusted Lebanon's borders with Syria, another League of Nations mandate. The country consisted of the largely Muslim-inhabited coastal plain and the Christian-dominated mountains.

World War II (1938-45)

Germany defeated and occupied France early in World War II (1940). A truncated governmrnt was set up in Vichy. The Vichy government controlled both Lebanon and Syria. Vichy authorities appointed General Henri-Fernand Dentz high commissioner of Lebanon. Emile Iddi resigned (April 4, 1941). Dentz appointed Alfred Naqqash (Naccache or Naccash) as head of state. Vichy authorities allowed Axis assistance reach the pro-NAZI coup in Bagdad. After suppressing the coup, the British and Free French authorities seized both Lebanon and Syria from Vichy. After some tough fighting, Vichy authorities in Syria an armistice signed in Acre (July 14, 1941). Lebanon thus passed to Freen French control.

Independence (1943)

General Charles de Gaulle visited Lebanon after the Acre Armistice. Lebanese national leaders met with him and asked that the League mandated be ended and to grant independence. He decided to do so. General Georges Catroux, French Delegate General, proclaimed Lebanon's independence (November 26, 1943). The major Allied powers and other Arab states recognized the new government. The French attempted to retain control. The new Government held General elections (September 21, 1943). The elected Chamber of Deputies chose Bishara al Khuri as president. He appointed Riyad as Sulh (Solh) as the country's first prime minister. The Chamber of Deputies immediately moved to amended the Constitution, They revoked the articles associated with the Mandate and redrafted those specified the powers of the high commissioner (November 8, 1943). This unilaterally ended the Mandate and changed the role of the French. The French authorities arrested the majo Lebanese politicians responsible for these changes. The arrests included the president, the prime minister, and other cabinet members. They were encarcerated at the Castle of Rashayya (65 kilometers east of Sidon). The French action was a rare event unifying Christian and Muslim leaders. France was also critizied by the Americans and British and decided to released the prisoners (November 22, 1943). This day came to becseen as Lebanon's Independence Day. Lebanon for a time prospered. It was the most advanced contry in the Middle East. A reklatively stable political sitiuation allowed the country to become a trade and financial center. While realtiveky prosperous in Middle-Eastern terms, the Christian community was better off thn the Muslim population. The political system was based on a 50-50 power sgaring arrangement, but the Muslims were more than half of the population.

Lebanese Jews

There have been ties between Lebanon and Jews dating back to Biblical times. Solomon preferred Lebanon's cedars for building the great temple. Jews in what is now Lebanon experienced relative toleration under Ottoman rule. The same continued to be the case under thecFrench mandate (1922-43), except during the Vichy period. After World War II the relative toleration continued, in part because of the importance of Christians in the Lebanese government. At the time that the first Israeli-Palestinian War (1948-49), there were about 6,000 Jews in Beirut. (WE have noted higher numbers in various sources.) Lebanese Jews at the time did not feel endangered. Many led propsperous lives in Lebanon. They enjoyed full legal rights under the Lebanese Constitution. There were anti-Zionist demonstrations, but the country's Jews were not targetted (1947-48). Public attitudes gradually began to change, partivularly among Muslim Lebanese. Muslims began to associate Lebanese Jews with Israeli policies. The main synagogue was bombed (early 1950s). The Lebanese Chamber of Deputies conducted debates on the status of Lebanese Jewish army officers. The Deputies decided unanimously to expel Jews from the Lebanese Army. As a result of the rising anti-Semitism in the Arab world, Lebanese Jews began leaving the country. The Lebanese Government assigned guards to Beirut's Jewish quarter to protect them from therising hostility. Many left after the Six Days War (1967). Lebanese Jews, unlike Jews in many Arab countries, were allowed to freely leave the country with their possessions until 1972. Civil war broke out between Christians and Muslims (1975). There was a great deal of fighting around the Jewish Quarter in Beirut. Homes, businesses, and synagogues were damaged. Most of the relatively few remainging Jews (about 1,800 people) fled Lebanon and the Syrian presence (1976). Most Lebanese Jews went to Europe (largely France), the United States and Canada. Relatively few went to Israel. Hizballah gunmen kidnapped several prominent Beirut Jews. They were mostly leaders of the small Jewish community. Four were subsequently found murdered. The Khaybar Brigades and the Organization of the Oppressed of the Earth claimed responsibility for actins against Lebanese Jews (1984-87). A few elderly Jews remain in Beirut, but are unable to practice their religion.

First Isreali-Palestinian War (1948-49)

Lebanon like other Arab countries became involved in the Isreali-Palesinian conflict. After the partition of Palestine, the Lebanese Army did not invade. Large numbers of Palestinians fled into Lebanon. Refugee camps were set up in Lebanon and from these camps conducted attacks on Israel.

Muslim Rebellion (1958)

Muslims attempted to seize control of Lebanon. President Eisenhower ordered U.S. Marines to restore order in Beirut.

Civil War (1975)

Civil broke out in Lebanon between a Lebanese Muslim coalition supported by Palestinian groups and Christian-dominated militias.

Syrian Intervention (1976)

Syrian military forces intervened in Lebanon (April 1976). They were invited by Lebanese president, Suleiman Franjieh. The Arab League approved the Syrian action. The Syrian Army imposed a ceasfire. They did not, however, impede the ctivities of Palestinians and attacks on Israel. The Palestinians set up their headquarters in Beirut.

First Isreali Intervention (1978)

The Isrealis entered southern Lebanon in response to continuing Palestinian attacks from Lebanese bases. The Lisrealis withdrew after 3 months. A United Nations peacekeeping force was deployed to southern Lebanon. The U.N. force did not stop the Palestinian attacks from Lebanon.

Second Isreali Intervention (1982)

The Isrealis reponding to continuing Palestinian attacks from Lebanon intervened again (1982). This time they moved further north and moved into Beirut. The Isrealis demanded the PLO to evacuate. The Isrealis ponded the PLO forced dug into ye Muslim quarter of Beirut for 7 weeks. American diplomats arrnged for the PLO forces to evacuate to other Arab Countries who offered sanctuary. A multinational force of Americans and West Europeans was deployed to Beirut.

Fractional Fighting (1982-83)

Palestinians assassinated president-elect Bashir Gemayel. Christian militias massacred Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps located in West Beirut. Israeli troops after a year withdrew to southern Lebanon. With the withdrawl of the Isrealis, fighting began between Lebanon's Christian and Druze militias. Terrorist attacks targeted the multinational force. The U.S. Marine headquarters at Beirut airport was bombed, resulting in hundreds of casualties. About 300 U.S. and French soldiers were killed (October 23, 1983). The Western forces then pulled out. Factional fighting continued. The many Westerners in Beirut were targeted by Shiite Muslims with supported by the new Islamic regime in Iran.

National Reconciliation (1988-89)

An impassee in Parliament resulted in the formation of rival Christian and Muslim governments (1988). The Lebanese Parliament finally accepted an Arab-brokered peace arrangement for national reconciliation. Parliament choese Maronite Rene Mooed as president, but he was assassinated 17 days later. The Lebanese Army with Syrian help took control of Beirut. The foreign hostages kidnapped during the fractional fighting were not finally released until 1982. Israeli established a security zone in the south.

Rafik Al Hariri (1992- )

Rafik Al Hariri was appointed Prime Minister (1992). He came to be the country's most successful prime ministers. He promoted projects to redevelop war-torn Lebanon, focusing on battered Beirut. Hariri worked cloesly with President Elias Hrawi strove to reinvigorate the country's economy,


Lebanon made considerable progress in recovering from the terrible fighting during the 1970s and 1980s. An army officer, Emile Lahoud, became president (November 1998). Salim Al-Hoss became prime minister after Hariri's unexpectedly resigned (December 1998). The country's infrastructure was largely destroyed. The Al-taif peace accord for national reconciliation (1989) and the stability and reconstruction overseen by Hariri and other prigressive leaders, considerable origress was made toward recovery and reconstruction. The old business center in Beirut was largely rebuilt. Modern new tunnels, bridges and streets were constructed. The national telephone and electricity grid was resstablished. Beirut International Airport began to regain its position as an important air traffic center. The banking center has begun to recover its position as one of the most important in the Middle East.

Lebanese War (2006)

Fatah of Islam (2007)

Fatah of Islam is led by Shaker Al Absi. It is a Palestinian group taking over a refugee camp. It has ties to Al-Qaida and apparently Syria and Iran. Shaker Al Absi was condemned to death in Jordan. He fled to Syria where he was caught and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He spent 4 years in prison before being released in a secret deal with the Syrian government. Jordan requested Syria to turn him over, Syrian authorities refused to do so. The Syrian authorities instead allowed him to go to to Iraq where he was trained by Al Zarkawi. The Syrians allowed him to move to Lebanon. There after infiltrating a Palestinian refugee camp he and his followers attacked the Lebanese army. The goal appears to be to establish an Islamic emirate in the north of Lebanon. Notably, none of the Islamic groups in the region (the Muslim brotherhood, Hamas, Islamic jihad, Hezbollah, Ahbash, Jundi Sham, swords of Islam, etc) condemned this grop and their attack on the Kebanese Army. They have endangered the refugees in the Albared river Palestinian refugee camp. As in many such cases they have hid behind the civilian refugees, making it difficulr for the Lebanese Army to engage them. [Khaled]


Khaled, Mohammad. "They came by sword and will go by the sword," As Safir June 29, 2007. Mohammad Khaled is a Palestinian writer resident in Abu Dhabi, UAE.


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Created: 12:45 AM 6/29/2007
Last updated: 12:45 AM 6/29/2007