|| Beirut's History, Metropolitan Area, Economy, Population, Education and Culture.
Beirut , capital and largest city of Lebanon, located on the Mediterranean Sea. Situated on a peninsula that projects
slightly westward into the Mediterranean, Beirut is contained by the Lebanon Mountains that rise to the east.
The Mediterranean climate of the city brings hot summers and mild winters, with high humidity in the summer. The area of
the city is roughly 67 sq km (26 sq mi); some sites located outside the municipal boundary are commonly associated with
Once a famous port, and as recently as the 1970s a banking and cultural center for the Middle East,
devastated by civil war and successive occupation by Syria and Israel between 1975 and 1991.
The Arabic name Beirut came from the Canaanite word for .wells.; the city was so named because of the underground water
supply in the area.
Beirut is mentioned as far back as the 15th century bc; its name appears in the Tall al'Amrinah tablets. Prominence
came when it was given the status of a colony of Rome in the year 14 bc, under the name Colonia Julia Augusta Felix
Berytus. The original town was located in the valley between the hills of Ashraf+yah and Musaytibah. Under the Romans,
Beirut was famous for its law school, which existed for more than 300 years. The Roman city was destroyed by a series
of earthquakes, culminating in the year 551 ad. Arab invaders found little to suggest earlier development when they
occupied the city in 635. King Baldwin I of Jerusalem conquered the city in 1110 during the First Crusade (see
Crusades), although the city had little importance at that time. Primarily serving as a port for trade with Europe, the
town's orientation was to the sea, so it was vulnerable to attack from the adjacent mountain area.
The city changed hands several more times, its fortunes rising and falling with fluctuations in trade with Europe in
spices and silk. In 1187 it was taken by Saladin, sultan of Egypt and Syria. After 1516 the region became nominally part
of the Ottoman Empire, but the city was ruled by a variety of local powers. The town began to develop as commerce
increased, and by the middle of the 19th century Beirut 's population of about 15,000 had expanded beyond the city's
walls. During this period of expansion, missionaries from the West and intellectuals of the Arab world began to shape
On October 8, 1918, at the end of World War I, the city was captured from the Ottoman Empire by Allied forces under the
command of the British general Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby. Beirut was then included in the mandate granted to France
by the League of Nations. In 1920 the city was designated by the French to be the capital of the State of Greater
Lebanon. The State of Greater Lebanon became the Lebanese Republic in 1926; it was not established as an independent
republic, however, until 1943, and the French withdrawal was not completed until 1946. During this period
absorbed many European elements, including architecture, language, and outlook. The Christian Lebanese were particularly
influenced by the French. The city continued to prosper after the mandate ended, but urban growth was less controlled
than during French rule. With the rapid development of banking and tourism industries, the city acquired great wealth,
and, at the same time, a sizable underclass of urban poor. After the first Arab-Israeli war, which lasted from 1948 to
1949, many Palestinians entered Lebanon and established a large refugee community in Beirut.
The Lebanese civil war, which erupted in 1975, completely divided Beirut. Beyond the division into East and West Beirut,
the city was dominated by factionalism, with Sunnis, Shias, Druze, Palestinians, Maronites, and other groups all
controlling territory within the city. Many Lebanese fled the capital, and most services in the city collapsed. For
example, supplies of power and water became unreliable, and garbage was dumped in a landfill in the Mediterranean,
opposite the hotel district. In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon and pursued the leaders of the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO), who were operating out of Beirut. Refusing to surrender, the PLO leaders barricaded themselves in
West Beirut, and the Israelis besieged the city. After much destruction, the PLO was evacuated to Tunisia, and the
Israelis withdrew to the south.
The Multinational Force (MNF), including French, Italian, American, and British troops, stationed in
1982, became the target of numerous terrorist attacks. Two bombings on October 23, 1983, killed nearly 300 members of
U.S. and French forces. The MNF left Beirut in early 1984. In 1986 the government of Lebanon, representing a number of
factions, invited the Syrian government to send troops to quell the fighting in Beirut. The Syrians began a period of
rule that saw numerous shifts in alliance, and continued destruction. Fighting persisted in
Beirut through 1990. In
the early 1990s the situation in Lebanon became more stable, and ambitious plans for the reconstruction of the city were
Beirut is divided along ethnic and religious lines. A fundamental division runs between the two hills on which
Beirut was built: Lebanese Christians live mostly in Ashraf+yah, in East Beirut , while Lebanese Sunni Muslims live
in Musaytibah, in West Beirut . Lebanese Shia Muslims (Shia Islam) and Palestinians, who are mostly Muslim, now live
predominantly in southern areas of the city. This combination of ethnic and religious groups, and their spatial
distribution, has contributed to the violence in Lebanon in general, and in
Beirut in particular. Since the mid-1970s,
Beirut existed as a war-torn and divided city; since 1991, the city has been under reconstruction
Beirut is a cosmopolitan city, with a mixture of European and Arab influences, but it is also a city suffering from
the blights of poverty and warfare. Around the historic core of Beirut , areas of poverty have spread, particularly to
the south, linking the city with adjacent suburbs. The city's organization is haphazard, with residential and commercial
areas intermingled, and with high-rise buildings next to tenement slums. On the city's northern edge, the port area
dominates East Beirut ; in West Beirut , important tourist facilities and institutions, including many of the city's
hotels, foreign embassies, and the American University of Beirut , are located along the shore on the Avenue de Paris.
The Avenue de Paris forms part of the Corniche, a wide boulevard that continues south along the Mediterranean and
encircles much of the city. Avenue de l'A roport, a major thoroughfare, runs from the port area to the
International Airport, 8 km (5 mi) south of the city's center.
The city has other major north-south and east-west roads, although the east-west roads were blocked by the creation of
the Green Line. This line, so named because it is depicted on maps in green, was the unofficial boundary dividing
Beirut into Muslim and Christian sides during the violent period from 1975 to 1990. In that fighting many of the
structures adjacent to the Green Line, including parts of Beirut 's downtown area, were destroyed. The Hamra district
in West Beirut , south of the American University of Beirut , has replaced the downtown area as the city's center.
The southern portion of Beirut has also been affected by warfare. It is dominated by Shia Muslims, Lebanon's poorest
community, and suffers from overcrowding due to high birth rates, lack of housing, and the regular influx of Shias
fleeing the instability and violence of southern Lebanon. Another factor in this area is the presence of Palestinian
refugee camps. These include the Sabra and Shatila camps, where many Palestinians were massacred in 1982 by Lebanese
Christian militia members.
Since the civil war, Beirut has been struggling to regain its position as a center of commerce and banking in the
Middle East. Silk and cotton fabrics, as well as gold and silver articles, are the chief manufactures of
Major exports are silk, cotton textiles, fruits, hides, livestock, and wool. Imports include building materials,
clothing, and foods. In addition to air connections through Beirut International Airport,
Beirut is linked by
railroad and highway to Damascus, Syria, and other Middle East cities.
With rapid growth since the 1950s, Beirut is now home to nearly half of Lebanon's population; estimates exceed 1.5
million for the city. The figure is inexact, however, since the last census for Lebanon was conducted in 1932.
The primary religions represented in Beirut include Islam, Christianity, and the Druze religion. Maronites make up the
largest Christian sect in the city, and the majority of Islamic residents are Shia Muslims or Sunni Muslims. The Druze,
whose beliefs are based in Islam but incorporate some elements of Judaism and Christianity, live in West
Education and Culture:
Starting in the 19th century, Beirut became both a center for Arab nationalist thought and one of the most
cosmopolitan cities in the Middle East. Beirut was known as the most liberal of the Arab capitals, and it provided a
safe haven in the Middle East for Arabs who wanted to experience Western cultures.
Beirut was also a port of entry for
the rest of the world. Some outside powers sought to influence the region by promoting the interests of local
Christians. To this end, the Syrian Protestant University, later called the American University of
Beirut, was founded
in 1866 by American missionaries. Fifteen years later the Universit Saint Joseph was established by French Jesuits.
These institutions served to bring the philosophies of Europe to the Middle East.
At roughly the same time, Beirut became a meeting place for those from around the region who wanted to promote Arab
rule for Arab lands. Beirut grew as a hub of Arab communication, in addition to being a center of international
culture. The residents of Beirut took pride in calling their town the .Paris of the Middle East.. When violence
erupted in 1975, much of the cultural life and economic activity in Beirut came to a rapid end. Nevertheless, many
educational institutions have survived. In addition to the American University of
Beirut and the Universit Saint
Joseph, the city contains the Beirut Arab University (founded in 1960), the Universit Libanaise (founded in 1951),
and the Haigazian University College (founded in 1955), among others.
Historically, political parties in Lebanon have lacked traits common to parties in most Western democracies. Lebanese
parties often have had no ideology, have devised no programs, and have made little effort at transcending sectarian
support. In fact, despite their claims, most parties have been thinly disguised political machines for a particular
confession or, more often, a specific zaim. Although nondescript, broad titles have been applied, such as National Bloc
Party or Progressive Socialist Party. With the exception of a handful of left-wing movements, most parties have been the
organizational personification of a few powerful politicians. Even Kamal Jumblatt (also seen as Junblatt), the most
ideologically oriented of the zuama, derived his constituents' support principally because he was a Druze leader, not
because of his political beliefs. For this reason, any one party could count on only a few votes in the Chamber of
Deputies. This situation brought about a continuous stream of coalitions, each often created to represent a point of
view on a particular issue. In this system, leaders could not even rely on the support of their coreligionists; in fact,
some of the most severe acrimony has been intrasectarian. Nonetheless, in the face of challenges to fundamental
issues--such as the six-to-five formula or the pan-Arab question--the various confessionally based parties generally
Before and during the 1975 Civil War, other political groupings were formed. Although ideology played some role in their
formation, for the most part these alliances--the Lebanese National Movement and the Lebanese Front--tended to be
temporary associations of politically motivated militias under the leadership of powerful zuama, and divisions generally
followed sectarian lines. So ephemeral were these associations, however, that after the heaviest fighting of the mid-
and late 1970s ceased, several of the groups in these coalitions turned their s on each other.
Nonetheless, ideology, rather than the power and charisma of a zaim, has been the basis for the formation of a small
number of political parties. These multisectarian groups have espoused causes ranging from Marxism to pan-Arabism. To a
limited extent, several of these essentially leftist parties also participated in the fighting of the 1970s.
By 1987 political parties, in the sense of constitutionally legitimate groups seeking office, had almost become an
anachronism. By virtue of armed strength, the various militias, surrogate armies, and foreign defense forces that
controlled the nation had divided Lebanon into several semi autonomous "cantons," each having its own political, social,
and economic structure.
The Amal movement was established in 1975 by Imam Musa as Sadr, an Iranian-born Shia cleric of Lebanon Ancestry who had
founded the Higher Shia Islamic Council in 1969. Amal, which means hope in Arabic, is the acronym for Afwaj al Muqawamah
al Lubnaniyyah (Lebanese Resistance Detachments), and was initially the name given to the military arm of the Movement
of the Disinherited. This latter organization was created in 1974 by Sadr as a vehicle to promote the Shia cause in
Sadr, who at first established his own militia, later resisted a military solution to Lebanon's problems, refusing to
engage Amal in the fighting during the 1975 Civil War. This reluctance discredited the movement in the eyes of many
Shias, who chose instead to support the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) or other leftist parties. Amal was also
unpopular for endorsing Syria's intervention in 1976.
Nonetheless, several factors caused the movement to undergo a dramatic resurgence in the late 1970s. First, Shias became
disillusioned with the conduct and policies of the PLO and its Lebanese allies. Second, the mysterious disappearance of
Sadr while on a visit to Libya in 1978 rendered the missing imam a religious symbol, not unlike the occultational
absence of the twelfth Shia Imam. Third, the Iranian Revolution revived hope among Lebanese Shias and instilled in them
a greater communal spirit. In addition, when the growing strength of Amal appeared to threaten the position of the PLO
in southern Lebanon, the PLO tried to crack down on Amal by sheer military force. This strategy backfired and rallied
even greater numbers of Shias around Amal.
By the early 1980s, Amal was the most powerful organization within the Shia community and perhaps was the largest
organization in the country. Its organizational strength lay in its extension to all regions of the country inhabited by
Amal's ideology had evolved somewhat since Sadr's disappearance, when Husayn Husayni (also spelled Husseini) assumed
leadership from April 1979 to April 1980 and was then followed by Nabih Birri (also cited as Berri). Although its
charter considers the Palestinian cause a central issue for all Arabs. In the mid1980s, the Amal militia laid siege to
Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut, in retribution for years of abuses at the hands of Palestinian liberation groups
that operated in southern Lebanon. Amal stressed resistance to Israel, and Amal's leadership was perceived by many as
being pro-Syrian. The Amal platform called for national unity and equality among all citizens and rejected confederation
schemes. Amal was linked less closely to Iran than some other Shia organizations, and it did not propose the creation of
an Islamic state in Lebanon.
Its broad geographical base notwithstanding, neither Amal's rank and file nor its leadership was especially cohesive.
Amal's various geographic branches did not embrace a single position but were subject to particularist tendencies.
Moreover, its two leading bodies--the Politburo, headed by Birri, and the Executive Committee, led by Daud
Daud--appeared to effect a balance between two competing socioeconomic groups. The members of the first group,
personified by Birri, were educated, upper middle class, and secularly oriented (in relative terms). The second,
exemplified by Daud, was composed of members who had been in the movement since its inception, who generally were of
peasant origins, and who were religiously oriented. In late 1987 the first group was in control of most of the movement,
its radio and television stations, and its weekly magazine.
Established in 1982 at the initiative of a group of Shia clerics who were adherents of Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah,
by 1987 Hizballah (Party of God) was the second most important Shia organization. Fadlallah, who was born in southern
Lebanon but educated in An Najaf, Iraq, moved to East Beirut, where he wrote books on Islamic jurisprudence. Having been
evicted by Christian forces during the fighting in 1976, he relocated in Beirut's southern suburbs. Fadlallah continued
his work and developed a following, which later evolved into Hizballah.
In 1987 Hizballah followed strictly the theological line of Iran's Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini and called
for the establishment in Lebanon of Islamic rule modeled on that of Iran. In pursuit of this goal, the party had
developed close ties with Iranian representatives in Lebanon and Syria. In terms of secular policies, Hizballah rejected
any compromise with Lebanese Christians, Israel, and the United States. This hardline approach appealed to many Shias,
who abandoned the mainstream Amal movement to join Hizballah. These members tended to be young, radical, and poor.
The party's internal structure revolved around the Consultative Council (Majlis ash Shura), a twelve-member body, most
of whom were clerics. The council divided among its members responsibilities that covered, among other matters,
financial, military, judicial, social, and political affairs. The party's operations were geographically organized, with
branches in Al Biqa and Al Janub provinces and in West Beirut and its southern outskirts. Among prominent Hizballah
leaders in late 1987 were Shaykh Ibrahim al Amin, Shaykh Subhi at Tufayli, Shaykh Hasan Nasrallah, Shaykh Abbas al
Musawi, and Husayn al Musawi; Fadlallah insisted that he had no formal organizational role but was merely Hizballah's
Hizballah gained international attention in 1983 when press reports linked it to attacks against United States and
French facilities in Lebanon, to the ion of foreigners, and to the hijacking of aircraft. Nonetheless, Fadlallah (who
was himself a target of a terrorist assassination attempt) and Hizballah spokesmen continued to deny any involvement in
Independent Nasserite Movement
The Independent Nasserite Movement (INM) was the oldest of several organizations in Lebanon that embraced the ideas of
the late Egyptian president, Gamal Abdul Nasser. Despite its claims of nonsectarianism, the membership of the INM has
been overwhelmingly Muslim; 1987 reports estimated it to be about 45-percent Sunni, 45- percent Shia, and 10- percent
Druze. Its ideology was reflected by its motto: "Liberty, Socialism, and Unity."
The INM came to prominence in the 1958 Civil War and remained a strong force throughout the 1970s. At the height of the
1958 conflict, its militia, the Murabitun (Sentinels), clashed with the forces of pro-Western president Shamun.
Consistent with its panArab ideals, the INM was a firm supporter of the Palestinian movement in Lebanon in the late
1960s. During this time, it reenforced the Murabitun. When the 1975 Civil War began, it was well positioned to play an
active part. The Murabitun engaged Phalangist fighters in the most severe combat during the early stages of the war, and
absorbed many casualties.
In the 1980s, the INM weathered difficult times. It fought with the Palestinians against the Israelis during the
invasion of 1982 and with the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) against the Lebanese Army in the Shuf Mountains in 1983.
Its alliance with the PSP was short lived, however. In 1985 a joint PSP-Amal campaign virtually eliminated the Murabitun
as an important actor in Lebanon and forced INM leader, Ibrahim Kulaylat, into exile.
Based in Baalbek in the Biqa Valley, Islamic Amal was led by Husayn al Musawi, who was also a leading figure in
Hizballah. The movement got its start in June 1982 when Nabih Birri, the head of Amal, agreed to participate in the
Salvation Committee, a body set up by President Ilyas Sarkis following the Israeli invasion. The committee included
Bashir Jumayyil, the much-despised Maronite commander of the LF. Musawi considered Birri's actions "treasonous" and
Amal's orientation too secular. In response, Musawi broke from Amal and set up his own faction, which observers believed
was organized primarily along family lines.
Islamic Amal was backed by officials in the Iranian government, and it coordinated with units of Iran's (Pasdaran)
Revolutionary Guards stationed around Baalbek. Even so, in 1986 when Iranian officials pressured Musawi to dissolve his
organization, he refused. He agreed, however, to remain part of Hizballah, and he reportedly served as a member of its
Consultative Council. Press reports linked Islamic Amal, like Hizballah, to anti-Western violence in Lebanon. Although
Musawi's rhetoric was vehemently anti-Western, as of late 1987 he had not claimed any violence in the name of Islamic
Founded during the 1975 Civil War by Lebanon's Sunni mufti, Shaykh Hasan Khalid, the Islamic Grouping (At Tajammu al
Islami) was a loose confederation of Sunni political and religious notables. At one time it included most former or
current Sunni prime ministers, ministers, deputies, and lesser politicians. It met weekly under the chairmanship of the
mufti, it issued statements on current issues, and it was responsible for nominating Sunni representatives to fill
official government posts. In 1987, with politics almost moribund and in the absence of a significant militia, the
Islamic Grouping by default was the most important organization of the Sunni community.
Lebanese Communist Party
One of the oldest multisectarian parties in Lebanon, the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) was formed in 1924 by a group of
intellectuals. Over the years, the LCP has had very little impact on Lebanese politics and has been unwavering in its
support for Moscow. The party was declared illegal by the French Mandate authorities in 1939, but the ban was relaxed in
1943. For about twenty years, this single organization controlled communist political activity in both Lebanon and
Syria, but in 1944 separate parties were established in each country.
During the first two decades of independence, the LCP enjoyed little success. In 1943 the party participated in the
legislative elections but failed to win any seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The LCP again ran for election in 1947,
but all of its candidates were defeated; in 1948 it was outlawed. During the 1950s, the party's inconsistent policies on
pan-Arabism and the Nasserite movement cost it support and eventually isolated it. Surviving underground, the LCP in
1965 decided to end its isolation and became a member of the Front for Progressive Parties and National Forces, which
later became the Lebanese National Movement under Kamal Jumblatt.
The 1970s witnessed something of a resurgence of the LCP. In 1970 Minister of Interior Kamal Jumblatt legalized the
party. This allowed many LCP leaders, including Secretary General Niqula Shawi, to run for election in 1972. Although
they polled several thousand votes, none of them suceeded in claiming a seat. But the LCP's importance grew with the
arrival of the civil disturbances of the mid-1970s. The LCP, which had established a well-trained militia, participated
actively in the fighting of 1975 and 1976.
Throughout the 1980s, the LCP has generally declined in power. In 1983 the Sunni fundamentalist movement in Tripoli,
Tawhid (Islamic Unification Movement), reportedly executed fifty Communists. In 1987, in union with the PSP, the LCP
fought a weeklong battle with Amal militants in West Beirut, a conflict that was finally stopped by Syrian troops. Also
in 1987, the LCP held its Fifth Party Congress and was about to oust George Hawi, its Greek Orthodox leader, and elect
Karim Murrawwah, a Shia, as secretary general when Syrian pressure kept Hawi in his position. Hawi, who had been a close
ally of Syria, was reportedly unpopular for his lavish life-style and for spending more time in Syria than in Lebanon.
Murrawwah was probably the most powerful member of the LCP and was on good terms with Shia groups in West Beirut.
Nevertheless, between 1984 and 1987 many party leaders and members were assassinated, reportedly by Islamic
The Lebanese Forces (LF) emerged as a political power in 1976 under the leadership of Bashir Jumayyil. At that time
various Christian militias joined forces to bring about the destruction of the Palestinian refugee camp at Tall Zatar.
In August of that year, a joint command council was established to integrate formally the several militias, but also to
achieve a higher degree of independence from the traditional political leaders, whom many of the LF rank and file
regarded as too moderate. Jumayyil first took control of the military wing of his father's Phalange Party and then
proceeded to incorporate other Christian militias. Those who resisted were forcibly integrated. In 1978 Jumayyil
subjugated the Marada Brigade, the militia of former president Sulayman Franjiyah, killing Franjiyah's son, Tony, in the
process. In 1980 the same fate befell Camille Shamun's Tigers militia.
Thus, by the early 1980s the LF controlled East Beirut and Mount Lebanon, and Jumayyil was its de facto president. But
Jumayyil did not confine the LF to the military realm only; he created committees within the LF structure that had
responsibility for health, information, foreign affairs, education, and other matters of public concern. Jumayyil
established links with Israeli authorities, and he consistently battled with Syrian forces. Important feature of the
LF's operations were its legal (official) and illegal (unofficial) ports and the revenues generated by the transit
trade. In this way, the LF took over the traditional role of the state as a provider of public services.
Following the 1982 assassination of Bashir Jumayyil, the LF suffered serious organizational cleavages. After numerous
succession struggles, Elie Hubayka (also seen as Hobeika)-- notorious for his role in the Sabra and Shatila massacres of
1982-- assumed the leadership of the LF. But when Hubayka signed the Syrian-sponsored Tripartite Accord in December 1985
against the wishes of President Amin Jumayyil, LF chief of staff Samir Jaja (also seen as Geagea) launched an attack on
Hubayka and his loyalists and defeated them. Interestingly, Hubayka, who was once noted for his close ties to Israel, in
late 1987 was headquartered in Zahlah, where he headed a separate pro-Syrian "Lebanese Forces".
In 1987 the LF was one of the most important political and military actors on the Lebanese scene. As leader of the LF,
Jaja wielded power rivaling that of President Jumayyil. Jaja embraced a hardline, anti-Syrian position and revived ties
with Israel. The LF operated television and radio stations and published a weekly magazine.
National Liberal Party
Established in 1958 by Camille Shamun after he left the presidency, the National Liberal Party (NLP) was a predominantly
Maronite organization, although it had some non-Maronites and nonChristians in its leadership. More or less a political
vehicle for Shamun, perhaps the most charismatic of all Christian leaders, the NLP lacked a coherent ideology or
program. Although the NLP never matched the organizational efficiency of the Phalange Party, they shared many views,
including favoring a free-market economy, anticommunism, close association with the West, and, most important, the
continuation of Christian political advantage. In the early 1970s, the NLP claimed 60,000 to 70,000 members and
controlled as many as 11 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, and Shamun had occupied several ministerial posts after his
term as president.
During the 1975 Civil War, the NLP and its militia, the Tigers (Namur in Arabic), participated in the Lebanese Front,
and Shamun, who was driven from his home district in the Shuf Mountains, was an active leader in the alliance. When, in
July 1980, Bashir Jumayyil launched a surprise attack, defeating the Tigers, the political and military significance of
the NLP declined. The party again suffered a severe setback in August 1987 when Shamun died. His son Dani assumed the
chairmanship of the party, which still harbored hopes for the presidential election scheduled for 1988.
Organization of Communist Action
In 1970 two minor extreme left-wing groups, the Organization of Socialist Lebanon and the Movement of Lebanese
Socialists, merged to form the Organization of Communist Action (OCA). The organization, led since its inception by
Muhsin Ibrahim, incorporated former cells of the Arab Nationalist Movement, which ceased to exist in the late 1960s. The
OCA represented itself as an independent, revolutionary communist party and, in the early 1970s, strongly criticized the
LCP, accusing its leaders of "reformist" tendencies. Differences between the LCP and OCA, however, shrank somewhat by
the mid-1970s, but, although there was talk of unity between the LCP and the OCA, such a union never materialized.
Ibrahim played an important role in the 1975 Civil War by virtue of his position as the executive secretary of the
Lebanese National Movement and because his organization participated in the fighting. In 1987, however, the OCA was
operating underground because Ibrahim refused to go along with the Syrian policy of opposition to PLO head Yasir Arafat.
The OCA was also known to have a special relationship with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Formed in 1936 as a Maronite paramilitary youth organization by Pierre Jumayyil (who modeled it on the fascist
organizations he had observed while in Berlin as an Olympic athlete), the Phalange, or Phalanxes (Kataib in Arabic), was
authoritarian and very centralized, and its leader was all powerful. It quickly grew into a major political force in
Mount Lebanon. After at first allying itself with the French Mandate authorities, the Phalange sided with those calling
for independence; as a result, the party was dissolved in 1942 by the French high commissioner (it was restored after
The French left Lebanon). Despite this early dispute, over the years the Phalange has been closely associated with
France in particular and the West in general. In fact, for many years the party newspaper, Al Amal, was printed in
Arabic and French.
Consistent with its authoritarian beginnings, Phalangist ideology has been on the right of the political spectrum.
Although it has embraced the need to "modernize," it has always favored the preservation of the sectarian status quo.
The Phalange Party motto is "God, the Fatherland, and the Family," and its doctrine emphasizes a free economy and
private initiative. Phalangist ideology focuses on the primacy of preserving the Lebanese nation, but with a
"Phoenician" identity, distinct from its Arab, Muslim neighbors. Party policies have been uniformly anticommunist and
anti-Palestinian and have allowed no place for pan-Arab ideals.
Unlike many zuama who achieved their status by virtue of inheriting wealth, Jumayyil ascended because of his ability to
instill discipline in his organization and, by the mid-1950s, through the accumulation of military might. By the
outbreak of the 1958 Civil War, the Phalange Party was able to further its growing power by means of its militia. In
that year, when President Shamun was unable to convince the army commander, Fuad Shihab, to use the armed forces against
Muslim demonstrators, the Phalange militia came to his aid. Encouraged by its efforts during this conflict, later that
year, principally through violence and the success of general strikes in Beirut, the Phalange achieved what journalists
dubbed the "counterrevolution." By their actions the Phalangists brought down the government of Prime Minister Karami
and secured for their leader, Jumayyil, a position in the four-man cabinet that was subsequently formed.
The 1958 Civil War was a turning point for the Phalange Party. Whereas in 1936, the year of its formation, it had a
following of around 300, by 1958 its membership had swelled to almost 40,000. Meanwhile, the French newspaper L'Orient
estimated that the Phalange Party's nearest rival, the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party, had a membership of only
25,000. In addition, although until 1958 it had been able to elect only 31 percent of its candidates to the Chamber of
Deputies, from 1959 through 1968 the Phalange placed 61 percent of its candidates in office. Moreover, by the start of
the disturbances in 1975, the party's rolls may have included as many as 65,000 members, including a militia approaching
Throughout the 1975 Civil War, the Phalange Party was the most formidable force within the Christian camp, and its
militia shouldered the brunt of the fighting. As part of the Lebanese Front, the mostly Christian, rightist coalition,
the power of the Jumayyil family increased considerably. Ironically, as Pierre Jumayyil's son, Bashir, ascended as a
national figure, the role of the Phalange Party diminished. This was true primarily because the relevance of political
entities declined as the importance of armed power grew. Through a series of violent intrasectarian battles, Bashir
seized control of the Lebanese Forces (not to be confused with the Lebanese Front), a conglomeration of the Phalange
Party's military wing and some other Christian militias.
During the 1980s, the Phalange lost much of its credibility and political stature. In 1982, under pressure from Israel,
which occupied a good deal of Lebanon, Bashir was elected president. Later that year, before talking office, Bashir was
assassinated. Subsequently, his brother Amin was elected president, again not so much for his Phalange Party connection
as because of his support from Israel. With the death of Pierre Jumayyil in 1984, the role of the party declined
further. When the deputy leader of the party, Elie Karamah, a Greek Catholic, was named as its new head, many Maronite
members became disaffected. Maronite George Saadah succeeded Karamah in 1987 and strove to resuscitate the flagging
Phalange by holding party meetings and by improving ties to the Lebanese Forces. The party, however, was factionalized,
and many prominent members had left
Progressive Socialist Party
Founded in 1949 by members of various sects who were proponents of social reform and progressive change, the Progressive
Socialist Parlty (PSP) has been represented in the Chamber of Deputies since 1951. The party flourished under the
leadership of Kamal Jumblatt, a charismatic--albeit somewhat enigmatic--character. Jumblatt appealed to Druzes because
of his position as zaim, to other Muslims who were disenchanted with the traditional political system, and to members of
some other sects who were attracted by his secular and progressive rhetoric. By 1953 the PSP claimed some 18,000
adherents, and in the 1964 Chamber of Deputies it could count on as many as 10 deputies.
Despite its nonsectarian beginnings and secular title, by the early 1950s the party began taking on a confessional cast.
By the 1970s, this tendency was unmistakably Druze; this point was demonstrated in 1977 when, after Kamal Jumblatt was
assassinated (perhaps by pro-Syrian Agents), his son, Walid, assumed the party leadership, continuing Druze control of
Over the years the PSP has alternately cooperated with and opposed many of the same parties. For example, in 1952 it
helped Camille Shamun unseat Bishara al Khuri as president; then, six years later, it was in the forefront of groups
calling for Shamun's ouster. Moreover, from 1960 to 1964, when Jumblatt and Pierre Jumayyil served in the same cabinet,
they spent much of their time vilifying each other in their respective party newspapers; then in 1968 Jumblatt allied
with Jumayyil and Raymond Iddi (also seen as Edde) in the so-called Triple Alliance.
A reformer willing to work within the system, Kamal Jumblatt played an active role in politics, serving in the Chamber
of Deputies and in several cabinets. Although philosophically opposed to violence, Jumblatt was not reluctant to pursue
a military course when such action seemed necessary. The stalwart PSP militia was involved against the government during
the 1958 Civil War, took a modest part in the Lebanese National Movement throughout the 1975 Civil War, and fought
against Phalangist troops and the Lebanese Army in the 1983 battles in the Shuf Mountains.
The Jumblatt family shared leadership of the Druze community with the Yazbak clan, led by Majid Arslan. Although
divisions between these two branches have sometimes been wide, the coordinated Druze defense of the Shuf Mountains in
1983 and 1984 helped close the rift. In addition, the Yazbaks suffered several setbacks that drew them closer to the
Jumblatt confederation. First, Arslan's son, Faysal, became discredited when he allied with Bashir Jumayyil and the LF
before and during the 1982 Israeli invasion. Then, they lost their traditional leader, Arslan, who died in 1983.
Consequently, by 1987 most Druze were united behind Walid Jumblatt as leader of the PSP and its formidable militia.
Syrian Social Nationalist Party
The Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) has been one of the most influential multisectarian parties in Lebanon. Its
main objective has been the reestablishment of historic Greater Syria, an area that approximately encompasses Syria,
Lebanon, Kuweit, Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine. Over the years the SSNP has often resorted to violence to achieve its
The SSNP was founded in 1932 by Antun Saadah, a Greek Orthodox, as a secret organization. His party, very much
influenced by fascist ideology and organization, grew considerably in the years after independence. In fact, in a survey
taken in 1958 by the French newspaper L'Orient, the SSNP was said to have 25,000 members--at the time, second only to
the Phalange Party. Concerned by its strength, the government cracked down on the SSNP in 1948, arresting many of its
leaders and members. In response, SSNP military officers attempted a coup d' tat in 1949, following which the party was
outlawed and Saadah was executed. In retaliation, the SSNP assassinated Prime Minister Riyad as Sulh in 1951.
In the 1950s, although still banned, the SSNP renewed its activities fairly openly. During the 1958 disturbances, the
SSNP militia supported President Shamun, who rewarded it by authorizing it to operate legally. But in December 1961,
when another attempted coup by SSNP members failed, it was again outlawed and almost 3,000 of its members imprisoned. In
prison, the party underwent serious ideological reform when certain Marxist and pan-Arab concepts were introduced into
the party's formerly right-wing doctrine.
Since the 1960s, the party has become more leftist. Most of its members joined the Lebanese National Movement and fought
alongside the PLO throughout the 1975 Civil War. But during this period the party suffered internal divisions and
defections, and since then party unity has been elusive. In 1987 there were at least four separate factions claiming to
be the authentic inheritors of Saadah's ideology. The two most important were led by Issam Mahayri, a Sunni, and Jubran
Jurayj, a Christian. Each faction was trying to settle disputes by means of violence. This text will be updated in the
Union of Muslim Ulama
The Union of Muslim Ulama emerged in 1982, when West Beirut was under siege by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). It
included Sunni and Shia clerics who shared the view that the application of sharia would solve Lebanon's problems and
would end the IDF's occupation of Arab land. The union's fundamentalist line reflected its identification with the
policies and objectives of Iran.
The Union of Muslim Ulana, which was unique because of its combined Sunni-Shia membership, strove to eliminate tensions
between the two communities. For that reason, it organized mass rallies to propagate its views to the broadest audience
possible. In 1987 the union was led by Shaykh Mahir Hammud (a Sunni) and Shaykh Zuhayr Kanj (a Shia).
In general, Armenian groups have supported whatever government was in power. They have tended to focus on issues of
interest to the larger Armenian world community and not strictly domestic politics. The three most important Armenian
parties have been the Tashnak Party, the Hunchak Party, and the Ramgavar Party. Of these the Tashnak Party has had the
greatest political impact.
Founded in 1890 in Russian Armenia, the Tashnak Party sought to coordinate all Armenian revolutionary groups seeking to
improve their conditions under Ottoman rule. Although the international Tashnak Party movement advocates socialism, the
Lebanese branch of the party prefers capitalism. Since 1943 most of the Armenian deputies in the Chamber of Deputies
(four in the election of 1972) have been members or supporters of the Tashnak Party. Prior to the 1975 Civil War, the
mostly Christian Tashnak Party was an ally of the Phalange Party.
On the international level, the party has tended to be proWestern, and during the 1950s and 1960s it took an anti-Nasser
stance. As has been typical of Lebanon's Armenian community, the Tashnak Party has avoided sensitive and controversial
domestic issues and has attempted to play a moderating role in politics. Like other Armenian groups, the Tashnak Party
refrained from military activity during the 1975 Civil War. Because the party refused to come to the Christians' side,
many Armenian quarters in Lebanese towns were subsequently attacked by Bashir Jumayyil's LF.
The Hunchak Party was organized in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1887. The Hunchak Party has promoted the dual objective of
liberating Turkish Armenia and establishing a socialist regime in a unified Armenian homeland. The Hunchak Party in
Lebanon has advocated a planned economy and a just distribution of national income. In 1972, for the first time in its
history, the Hunchak Party ran jointly for election to the Chamber of Deputies with the Tashnak Party.
Founded in 1921, the Ramgavar Party's ultimate goal was the liberation of Armenia. It has oriented its activities toward
preserving Armenian culture among Armenian communities throughout the world. After a period of dormancy, the party was
revived in the 1950s in the wake of increasing conflicts between the Tashnak Party and Hunchak Party. The Ramgavar Party
presented itself as an alternative that avoided issues divisive to the Armenian community. The Ramgavar Party, sometimes
considered the party of Armenian intellectuals, also opposed what it considered the right-wing policies of The Tashnak
The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) was not a political party but rather a highly secret
organization that used violence to harm its political enemies, principally the government of Turkey. Established in
1975, ASALA used the Lebanese Civil War as an opportunity to put into practice without government interference its
belief in armed struggle. Adhering to MarxismLeninism, ASALA aligned with radical Lebanese and Palestinian groups
against rightist forces during the fighting in the late 1970s.
Kurdish parties have exerted little influence on Lebanese politics. In general, Kurds have been more concerned with
international Kurdish matters than with internal Lebanese issues. In addition, Kurdish groups in Lebanon have been
characterized by a high degree of factionalism.
Jamil Mihhu established the Kurdish Democratic Party in 1960, but it was not licensed until 1970. Mihhu, however,
supported the Iraqi government against Kurdish rebels fighting in that country, and he was captured and imprisoned by
the Kurdish resistance in Iraq. Consequently, the leadership of the party passed to Jamil's son, Riyad. Another son,
Muhammad, disagreed with his family's position on several issues and therefore in 1977 started his own movement, the
Kurdish Democratic Party--Temporary Leadership.
Riz Kari was another Kurdish group dissatisfied with the leadership of the Kurdish Democratic Party. Established in 1975
by Faysal Fakhu, Riz Kari supported the Kurdish forces fighting against the Iraqi regime. For a brief period during the
1975 Civil War, however, Riz Kari joined forces with the Kurdish Democratic Party to form the Progressive Kurdish Front
in an effort to eliminate differences in the ranks of Lebanese Kurds. Riz Kari was weakened in the mid-1970s by the
defection of part of its organization, which called itself the Leftist Riz Kari, or Riz Kari II. This organization, led
by Abdi Ibrahim, a staunch ally of Syria, rejected the formation of the Progressive Kurdish Front because it included
the "right-wing" leadership of Mihhu.
Multisectarian political groups have been primarily left-wing movements. Some groups have argued against the inertia of
the zuama clientele system, while others espoused Marxist causes. Small parties sometimes have been externally
controlled. In the 1970s, for example, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, under the leadership of George
Habash, controlled the Arab Socialist Action Organization, which also fought on the side of the Lebanese National
Movement during the 1975 Civil War. In 1987 the Baath (Arab Socialist Resurrection) parties in power in Syria and Iraq
each had a faction operating in Lebanon. The late Egyptian president Nasser left a strong legacy in Lebanon. Many
essentially pan-Arab parties have borne his name in their titles.
Although these groups have been characterized as multisectarian, this label may not be entirely accurate. In fact, over
the years most have taken on narrower confessional patterns. For instance, Shias were dominant in the Lebanese Communist
Party and Organization of Communist Action, whereas the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party has been heavily represented
by Greek Orthodox and Druze (of the Yazbak clan) members.
Source: Federal Research Division - Library of Congress (Edited by Thomas Collelo, December 1987)