Lebanese Christians hate being called Arabs
History and state
Until the 11th century, most of the Lebanon Mountains, the Mediterranean coast and Syria were under the Fatimid dynasty from Cairo. This was then ousted by the crusaders. The Crusaders essentially limited their rule to the Mediterranean coast. The hinterland was largely spared from them, even if cities like Aleppo, Damascus or Baalbeck had to pay taxes at times.
The southern Lebanon Mountains and the immediately adjacent coastal region were in the special interest of the crusaders, because they were crossed by the trade caravans, thus connecting the Damascus region with the port city of Sur / Tire. As a result, the presence of the Crusaders in southern Lebanon increased and lasted longer than in other areas. However, their cultural and religious influence on the local population seemed to be minor. Rather, the crusaders adapted to the local conditions or remained isolated in their castles and fortresses. In the 13th century, the rule of the Crusaders finally collapsed. The resulting power vacuum was used by the first Mameluke sultan Qutaz (1259-1260) to conquer Syria and Palestine.
After the Ottomans came to power in 1516, Lebanon was under governors who resided in Damascus or in Tripoli and Saida. They had an army and an administration. The old Muslim system of wards was expanded into the Millet system. A millet was a non-Muslim nation that had submitted to the sovereignty of the empire but administered its own affairs. Millets were organized according to religious affiliation and regardless of place of residence or region. The members of a Millet chose their leader themselves, but this had to be recognized by the Sultan. In tax and criminal matters, the Millets were subordinate to the Ottoman Empire, while they were allowed to make autonomous decisions in matters of marriage, inheritance, education and religion. The tax administration was leased in the Ottoman Empire: the tax leaseholder had the obligation to pay a certain sum to the Turkish authorities in areas that were exposed to the direct rule of the Turks. Any taxes levied on top of that formed his income. In areas of direct rule, the tax farmer also fulfilled regulatory tasks. The Ottoman Empire ruled the coastal areas under direct rule, while the Lebanon Mountains, inhabited by Maronites, Druze and Shiites, were only exposed to the indirect exercise of power. Thus a rulership and social system arose in the Lebanon Mountains, which in some respects resembled European feudalism. However, the Lebanese “feudal system” was not based on land ownership, but on the right to levy taxes. The tax tenants came from the most respected Druze, Maronite or Sunni families who distributed the collection of taxes to family members at the local level. Although the office of tax farmer was not hereditary, it still remained in the hands of an extended family. Thus, from the second half of the 16th century, the notable families (Zuama) emerged in Lebanon, who thanks to their tax revenues were able to expand their landed property and extend their local power. They represented the leading stratum of a millet economically and politically. The inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire were divided into categories according to their religious affiliation: Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Lebanon in the 19th century
In the 19th century, the Middle East was rediscovered by the Europeans. These strived for the respective supremacy in the region in order to set foot in the door to the Middle East. For this purpose, European states established contacts with religious communities in the area of today's Lebanon. France maintained close contact with the Maronites, Russia supported the Greek Orthodox, Austria influenced the Melkites, while Great Britain won the Druze for its interests. The group support polarized them. Previous conflicts between individual clans of different religious affiliations were now interpreted in the context as disputes between the religious communities. With the support of the groups from outside, the conflicts were intensified, which was very convenient for the Ottomans. In this way, they also promoted the disputes among the religious groups in order to stifle any aspirations for independence such as those in the 17th century.
A striking example of conflicts between individual religious groups is the so-called “peasant revolution” in 1858 and the civil war that followed between the Druze and Maronites. A struggle for resources and the social rights of the peasants was transformed into a religious conflict. Both Druze and Maronites were oppressed peasants and oppressive tax collectors. The polarization described above gave the big landowners the necessary arguments to interpret the peasant revolts of the Maronites in the Druze areas as an aggression against the Druze community. Now oppressed Druze peasants fought against oppressed Maronite peasants. This pattern of conflict and its implications can be observed in modern Lebanon until the late years of the civil war. The civil war in Lebanon offered the Druze and Maronite religious communities the opportunity to settle outstanding accounts from the 19th century.
In response to the massacre of 1861, the “règlement organique” was introduced under pressure from the Europeans. Lebanon became an independent province, which was administratively subordinate to the Sublime Porte of the Ottoman Empire and was given the name "Little Lebanon". The province comprised the Lebanon Mountains and the coastal areas - those areas that were predominantly inhabited by Christians and had only a small number of Sunni, Druze and Shiite residents.
Little Lebanon developed into one of the best-administered provinces in the Ottoman Empire until World War I, universities such as the American University or the Université Saint Josef were founded by American and French Christians, a strong parliamentary-democratic culture developed and, moreover, prospered the province in the economic sphere.
Many of the religious communities established their own schools with the exception of the Shiites, who settled in more remote areas of the province and had no foreign connections. Young Shiites were trained in the centers of Shiite learning and theology, in Nagaf and Qom. Southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Plain, the remaining main settlement areas of the Shiites, were largely excluded from the development of Little Lebanon, as they lay outside the newly created province.
From the French mandate to the founding of the state
This situation did not change until the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. After the Turks withdrew, France received the mandate for Syria and Lebanon and supported the establishment of a Greater Lebanon, which will be dominated by Christians. An independence of the country, however, as it was called for by many Arab nationalists, was successfully prevented by the French. On September 1, 1920, the establishment of a "Grand Liban" within the boundaries as they exist today was declared.
While the Christians welcomed the establishment of the state in the hope of being able to maintain their position in the state structure, there was little enthusiasm among the Muslim population.
Although the French tried to delay the country's de facto independence, Lebanon achieved it in 1941. Bechara Khoury (a Maronite) and Riad Sohl (a Sunni) became President and Prime Minister, respectively. The cabinet was made up of representatives from Maronites, Sunnis, Shiites, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholics and Druze. Khoury and Sohl announced an agreement in interviews and speeches, which they called the "national pact", for which there is no written version. It takes on the importance of an unwritten constitution in which the principles of the division of political offices are interpreted more narrowly than in the Lebanese constitution.
In the national pact it was determined that Lebanon should remain a completely independent country without seeking affiliation with Arab states on the one hand or Western protection on the other. All religious groups should participate in power according to proportional representation. The highest offices should also be occupied by the largest groups, so that it was finally determined that the president must be a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni and the speaker of parliament a Shiite.
Other important key positions were occupied by Maronites and have since been regarded as reserved for the Maronite community: the high command of the army, the management of the secret service, the authority for internal security, the directorate of the central bank and the chairmanship of the Conseil d État. In parliament, seats were distributed according to the principle of “six Christians for five Muslims”. This regulation was justified by the fact that the Christian groups could invoke a majority of 54% in the 1932 census, which is now considered by many experts to be outdated even without the predominantly Muslim refugees from Syria. According to current estimates, Christians are likely to make up around 40 percent of the population today, while Muslims make up the majority with almost 60 percent.
In the Lebanese system of proportional representation, no flexible elements can be found that take account of the demographic development of the religious groups. In the peace treaty of 1990, which ended the 15-year-old Lebanese civil war, the abolition of the proportional representation system is a priority. To this day, however, this goal has not been achieved.
Development of modern Lebanon
Lebanon has been independent since 1943. Its political system is formally based on a republican constitution based on the French model. Until the outbreak of the civil war in 1975, the country developed into a functioning concordance democracy in which the division of political offices was confessional. This guaranteed the participation of the various religious groups in the country. Due to higher birth rates, strong Christian migration of Lebanese Christians and the immigration of Muslim refugees, the proportion of the population of Muslims has increased, so that the denominational balance is increasingly shaky. By adhering to the systematic division of the parliamentary seats half to Christians and half to Muslims, the vote of a Christian Lebanese in the parliamentary elections gains more weight than that of a Muslim. At first glance, this represents a democratic shortcoming, but Lebanon has a free press, a functioning parliament, a well-developed civil society, and a largely functioning judiciary. Important elements of a democracy. However, the denominational fragmentation of the country causes an external dependency on the respective protective powers of the denominational groups. This reduces the sovereignty of the state. The state's monopoly on the use of force also hardly exists. Although Lebanon as the “Switzerland of the Orient” for a long time gave the appearance of a stable republic through the proportional system regulated in the National Pact, the immobile denominational system, which cannot integrate the new forces released by social change, implied the danger of disintegration, because that Land was not the product of a "nation building" process. This results in the weak differentiation of Lebanese society, which is built on the basis of communities whose members are more loyal to their own group than to the community. In other words: the political confessionalism of Lebanon forces its citizens to organize themselves religiously and gives the religious communities such power that the individual citizen has to be more loyal to his religious group than to the state. Belonging to a denomination not only paves the way to the country's resources, it also establishes the existence of the individual. Religious affiliation regulates everyday life and determines civil law legislation. In addition, the country's political parties are exclusive representatives of the respective denominations, led by extended families and clientele, and recognized as a religious community. This constellation has had a devastating effect because it prevented the democratization process and the associated installation of civil conflict resolution mechanisms.
The factual disempowerment of the Lebanese state did not just begin with the outbreak of the civil war in 1975. As early as 1958, President Chéhab had to respond to a left-wing coup by Lebanese officers by implementing a policy of equalization in which he adhered to a strict parity principle, according to which every Christian official had a Muslim Official should come, has issued. Furthermore, an education offensive should be initiated with the expansion of the infrastructure and in particular through the construction of schools in remote areas as well as through the modernization of the Lebanese university. As a result, 64% more graduates graduated from university in 1974 - a new educational elite that could hardly be absorbed by the parity system, especially since the average growth rate of GDP fell from 10.5% in the 1960s to zero growth in 1974. This conflict situation is a social imbalance which in itself should not cause the state to collapse. However, in denominational Lebanon, coupled with the country's question of identity and the implied positioning in the Middle East conflict, it marks a further step in Lebanon's process of disintegration.
Lebanon on the eve of the civil war
Lebanon, which had taken on a neutral role in the Middle East conflict until 1969, had, under pressure from the Arab League and after violent clashes between the Lebanese army and the underground fighters of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization), the so-called Sign agreement with Arafat. It grants the Palestinian liberation organizations the right to set up armed units in the refugee camps. Not only was Lebanon directly involved in the Middle East conflict; his monopoly on the use of force was undermined.
With the expulsion of the PLO from Jordan in September 1970 (Black September), it was able to fall back on strong foundations in the refugee camps and develop into a "state within the state" - a situation that has not changed to this day, because, as already mentioned, to this day, thirteen years after the end of the civil war, Lebanese security forces cannot and are not allowed to enter the Palestinian refugee camps.
The PLO was not only able to fall back on its own military structures, rather large parts of the Muslim population fraternized with the Palestinians. This aroused great fears among the country's Christians, because an alliance between the powerful Muslim Palestinians and the Muslim Lebanese would shift the denominational balance in favor of the Muslims, which would be tantamount to disempowering Christians. So there was a split within Lebanese society, which has existed in confessional fragments in a peaceful coexistence since the state was founded, without ever having grown together into a nation. With the outbreak of the fighting in 1975, the latent structural weakness of the state became visible, which, with the reprivatisation of violence, brought about the collapse of the Lebanese state. De jure, Lebanon continued to exist as a sovereign state, but it lacked any operational sovereignty that is necessary to enforce its authority.
The formal parliamentary-democratic basic order of the Lebanese republic lacked any anchoring in a society that only knows solidarity within religious groups and not between them, which explains the fraternization of the Muslims with the Palestinians, who endangered the existence of the state through their military superiority.
Lebanon in the civil war
With the outbreak of the civil war, which lasted until 1990, the religious groups, each with their own guerrilla organizations, were able to expand their positions of power; external actors were given the opportunity to expand their sphere of influence. From a rational point of view, the reasons for the outbreak of the war were to be found in the weak institutionalization of the rule of law and the lack of democratic control, on the basis of which conflicts could have been resolved peacefully in an institutional framework.However, the lines of conflict ran along the borders of the religious community, so that disputes over offices, power and resources mutated into conflicts over truths of an ideological nature. Collective, mostly negative and hurting community experiences had a mobilizing effect. With the outbreak of fighting, people's need for a secure identity could increasingly only be satisfied by their own group. At the same time the impotence of the state became more and more visible. The intensity and brutality of the fighting also led to a positive exaggeration of the we-group, to which the outgroups were perceived all the more negatively, so that the arguments were conducted with a high level of emotionality. The Lebanese state had lost its main function, the protection of its citizens, and it no longer had a monopoly on the use of force. Its institutions, especially security apparatus, also split along denominational fault lines. Whole barracks deserted according to the denomination of their members, including weapons, to the respective guerrilla troops. The escalation dynamic of the civil war developed from the fact that the opponents of deliberate escalations, i.e. the systematic advancement of the conflict to a higher level of intensity, promised an integrating effect within their own group, especially since the violence itself became an economic one for a significant part of the Lebanese Has become a resource. The militia’s financial strength made them the main employer in Lebanon. Meanwhile, the government of the official Lebanon got the role of the neutral observer. Militarily and financially, the state could not oppose the militias, so that the already delegitimized institutions of the country could not stop the parallel established institutions and security apparatus of the denominations and the related fragmentation of the country.
Lebanon was not only a founding member of the United Nations, the Lebanese diplomat Charles Malik, a student of Heidegger, was one of the formative personalities of the San Francisco Conference and author of essential parts of the UN Charter. As co-author and rapporteur before the UN Commission on Human Rights, he wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights together with Eleanor Roosevelt. Lebanon was also one of the seven founding members of the Arab League in May 1945. Since then, Lebanese foreign policy has been shaped on the one hand by the conflicts in the Middle East region, on the other hand the country maintains close ties to the West.
Membership in international organizations:
- Arab League (founding member),
- The United Nations (UN) (founding member)
- and UN agencies
- GAFTA (The Greater Arab Free Trade Area)
- EU Association Agreement (in force since 04.2006).
After the dispatch of a United Nations (UN) mission called the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) on the basis of UN Resolutions 428 and 426 in March 1978 did not lead to pacification of Lebanon, it finally succeeded under Arab mediation to end the 16-year civil war and initiate more stable political development in Lebanon. The Ta'if Agreement, which came about through the mediation of the Arab League in 1989 and with significant Syrian participation, explicitly mentioned the special relationship between Lebanon and Syria and legitimized the Syrian troop presence. The 1991 "Treaty on Fraternity, Cooperation and Coordination" also ensured Syria far-reaching influence on Lebanese foreign, defense and security policy. This was to change significantly after the assassination of Hariri and the associated withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Syrian influence on the Shiite population enabled Iran to use Lebanon to build an anti-Israel movement, Hezbollah. Iran's transnational religious ties make Iran one of the most important actors in Lebanon alongside the USA. In addition, Iran competes for political influence with Saudi Arabia, which acts as the protective power of the Lebanese Sunnis. It is particularly noticeable that in addition to the official foreign policy of the Lebanese state, the various denominations each maintain their own foreign policy contacts, which often dominate state policy in a crisis region. Official Lebanon is neutral with regard to the Syria conflict, while Hezbollah and other Lebanese factions are heavily involved militarily.
The power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia threatens Lebanon's political system, which has been fragile since the civil war between 1975 and 1990. Now Lebanon is once again threatened with a massive escalation. For Iran, Lebanon is one of the most important outposts in the region. With Hezbollah, Tehran controls a strong military unit that is heavily involved in Syria. While the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmen seeks to distinguish himself in the ideological war against Iran through the escalation in Lebanon. To do this, he is increasing the pressure on the Lebanese government and will try to make a list of demands on the Lebanese government that should ultimately lead to the isolation of Hezbollah. It can be assumed that neither Iran nor Hezbollah will accept this without massive resistance.
Lebanon has signed up to almost all of the disarmament treaties, with the exception of the Anti-Personnel Mine Convention and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Seabed. In 2015, the country also joined the International Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Lebanon has also signed up to numerous international human rights treaties.
Lebanon in the wake of its neighbors
The country's institutional weakness prompts its neighbors to interfere in the country's internal affairs, especially since this weakness has regional implications, with Syria, Israel and other states intervening militarily and politically in Lebanon several times. As early as 1976, a few months after the fighting broke out, Syrian troops intervened directly for the first time by violently ending the siege of the Christian militias by the PLO and its allies. Syria had to prevent the PLO from gaining superiority in Lebanon at all costs, because this could have provided the Israelis with an excuse to invade Lebanon, which could have weakened Syria strategically in the Middle East conflict. Freedom of action for the PLO in Lebanon could also have escalated the conflict on the Syrian-Israeli border. However, after the Camp David peace agreement between Egypt and Israel in 1979, the Syrian strategy changed. Because from now on Syria needed every ally in the fight for the Golan Heights. For example, the then President Assad (senior) pursued the policy of involving the Palestinian combat troops who fired Katyushas from Lebanon into northern Israel - events that the Lebanese state could not have prevented. Israel responded to the Palestinians' actions by bombing the south. The sympathy for the Palestinians gradually disappeared from the suffering population. In 1978 and later in 1982, the Israelis invaded Lebanon and occupied the south of the country.
The Israeli invasion and its aftermath 1982-2000
In the second phase of the war, i.e. from 1982 onwards, proxy wars were mainly waged in Lebanon, which continued even after the civil war between Iran and Syria on the one hand and Israel on the other had been officially resolved. The Israelis conquered Beirut in 1982 and drove the Palestinian leadership and large parts of their militia out of Lebanon entirely. Israeli troops occupied southern Lebanon. In early 1983 the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) was launched. Under the name “National Guards”, the soldiers trained in Israel were to be subordinated to a committee that was supposed to administer southern Lebanon, the south was effectively separated from the rest of Lebanon. Access roads have been closed and passes have been introduced. Meanwhile, Hezbollah organized the fight against the Israeli occupation. In 2000, the Israelis withdrew their troops from Lebanon. Hezbollah and many Lebanese interpreted this as a victory for the resistance, but Lebanon takes the position that the high valley, which was occupied by the Israelis in 1967, was the Shabaa farms, has not yet been cleared. Israel, on the other hand, like the UN, regards this area at the foot of the Golan Heights as Syrian territory and only wants to vacate it after a peace agreement with Damascus. The conflict over the Shabaa farms resulted in an open war between Hezbollah and the Israelis in 2006, from which Hezbollah emerged stronger.
With the withdrawal of the Israelis, voices rose in Lebanon calling for the Syrian army to withdraw. The editor of the Lebanese daily published an-Nahar Gebran Tueni immediately after the Israelis withdrew a public letter to Bashar al-Assad, in which he called on the Syrian President to withdraw troops from Lebanon. This would only happen after the assassination of Rafiq Al Hariri, the former prime minister.
West orientation of Lebanon
In Lebanon, Iran and Syria are considered to be Hezbollah's main supporters. Iran is the organization's largest donor, as Hezbollah is one of Iran's most important allies in the Arab world. The US, in turn, is Israel's most important pillar. At the same time, the US has always been a natural ally of the Lebanese state. The USA intervened several times militarily in Lebanon with the aim of strengthening the respective pro-Western Lebanese government against the internal opposition. In 1958, the American President Dwight D. Eisenhower reacted to an attempted coup in Lebanon by sending US troops to occupy the international airport and the port. The operation involved approximately 14,000 men. In 1983, another US attempt to strengthen pro-western Lebanese forces ended disastrously for US forces. The suicide bomber detonated the charge with an explosive force of approx. 5,400 kg TNT and killed 241 US soldiers. In a second attack on the French armed forces, 58 paratroopers died. In response to the attacks, the French launched an air strike on the Bekaa plain against positions of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. On February 7, 1984, US President Reagan ordered the withdrawal of the US Marines from Lebanon. Although it is still not clear who was responsible for the attack, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria are accused by the USA of being the perpetrators of the attack. Since the end of the civil war and in the context of the fight against international terrorism, the USA has been supporting the development and arming of the Lebanese army. Lebanese officers are trained in the United States. Arms shipments reach the Lebanese army almost every month. These arms deliveries underscore the US's attempt to maintain its traditionally close ties with Lebanon and to curb Iranian influence and strengthen pro-Western forces in Lebanon. Stabilizing Lebanon is also of particular importance with regard to the civil war in Syria, as Lebanon has taken in a very large proportion of the Syrian refugees.
Lebanon has historically close ties to the former mandate power France. This relationship has had its ups and downs since the end of the 18th century, but official Lebanese foreign policy regards France as a key partner and advocate within the European Union. For its part, France has always cultivated its cultural and political relations, particularly with the Christians of Lebanon, and tried to establish itself as a protective power accordingly. Lebanon also traditionally maintains friendly political and growing economic relations with Germany.
In June 2020, Lebanon and signed a new agreement to set up cultural centers. Cooperation has become more important for both the Chinese side and Lebanon. Especially since China has been participating in the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon since 2006.
Taif Accords - a new constitution
However, the end of the war did not come about until 1989, when the way to the Taif Agreement was paved both through international pressure and efforts by the Arab League. Under the Taif Agreement, named after the Saudi Arabian place of negotiation, a political system with a slightly different basis could be established in Lebanon, which continues to institutionalize the denominational division in the government. The novelties of the agreement were the political weakening of the President and the strengthening of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Speaker of Parliament. This implies a slight loss of power by the Maronites in favor of the Muslims, as political prerogatives have been removed from the office of president. After the end of the fighting in Beirut and the renewed “national consensus”, the political objectives of rebuilding the country and restoring state authority and assertiveness were pursued. The peace agreement was implemented through the invasion of the Syrian army at the invitation of the weakened adversaries. 30,000 soldiers from the neighboring state were stationed in Beirut and the surrounding area and in the north-east of the country. It disarmed all parties to the civil war. Only Hezbollah, which fought against the Israeli occupation, was allowed to keep its weapons.
In fact, Lebanon was completely occupied by its neighbors from 1989 to 2000. While Damascus dictated politics in Beirut, Israeli troops controlled parts of southern Lebanon. There they supported and financed the South Lebanese Army (SLA), which fought a bitter battle with the Hezbollah activists until its dissolution in 2000 with the withdrawal of the IDF.
The Hariri Assassination - Destabilization and Increasing Sectarian Tensions
With the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri on February 14, 2005 in a bomb attack in Beirut, Lebanon fell into a deep interdenominational crisis that continues to this day. Hariri was considered the architect of the Taif Agreement. His international contacts and reputation were a guarantee for political and economic stability in Lebanon. He led five governments between 1992 and 2004. The focus of his policy was on economic stability and the reconstruction of the infrastructure that had been destroyed by the civil war.
As a result of his assassination, the Cedar Revolution broke out, the main demand for which was the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Syria was blamed by the March 14th Movement for the murder of Hariri, as he had previously criticized the stationing of Syrian troops in Lebanon and called for UN resolution 1559 to be implemented. This envisaged the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon and the disarmament and dissolution of all militias active in Lebanon, by which Hezbollah in particular was meant. In fact, Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon in April 2005.
From the beginning, the Syrian government was suspected of having commissioned the attack. Hariri had pushed for more independence from its large neighbor, Syria, and had arguments with high-ranking Syrian politicians. On 7 April 2005 the UN Security Council therefore passed resolution 1595. An independent international commission (United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission, UNIIIC) was set up to investigate the attack on Hariri under the direction of Berlin’s Chief Public Prosecutor Detlev Mehlis. In their reports to the UN Security Council, the investigators identified a "network" of individuals with connections to the highest Lebanese and Syrian intelligence groups behind the attack. Four Lebanese ex-generals who were initially arrested as suspects in the Hariri murder have been released. Four Lebanese ex-generals who Mehlis had arrested as suspects in the Hariri murder were released last spring.
Even after the establishment of UNIIIC, violence in Lebanon did not decrease until the end of 2005, and calls for an international tribunal grew louder. On December 13, 2005, Prime Minister Siniora finally asked the UN Secretary General to set up a tribunal. The Lebanese parliament negotiated in vain with the UN Security Council on an international treaty to establish the tribunal. Minister Siniora asked the United Nations in February 2007 to force Lebanon to set up a tribunal under Chapter VII of the Charter. On May 30, 2007, the Security Council followed this request by passing resolution 1757. Parliament did not ratify.
The Hezbollah-led March 8th Movement also emerged after the assassination. This rejected resolution 1559 and thanked Syria for ending the civil war and for supporting the resistance against Israel. Since February 2005, Lebanon has suffered from a vertical polarization that has paralyzed the country politically and economically.The paralysis was exacerbated by the war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006 and by the international tribunal accusing members of Hezbollah of having murdered Hariri in a plot. Hezbollah rejects these allegations and refuses to extradite the five accused. This in turn increases the sectarian tension between the Shiites and the Sunnis of Lebanon and prevents the development of necessary solutions for a number of economic, social and political challenges with which the country is currently confronted. Lebanon has been politically paralyzed for years. Parliament is deeply divided between a US-Saudi Arabia-backed Hariri camp and a Hezbollah-led bloc that is supported by Iran and Syria. The Lebanese are currently unable to hold parliamentary elections because the blocs are unable to agree on an electoral law. According to the constitution, the presidential elections should have taken place by May 2014. Due to the increasing political polarization in the country, the parliamentary groups were not able to agree on a new president for a long time. After more than two years, the parliament in Beirut elected the Christian politician Michel Aoun as president on October 31, 2016 after 45 ballots.
Important security policy-relevant leadership positions within the administration could not be filled, which in turn has devastating consequences for the security situation in Lebanon. Since 2005 the phenomena of politically motivated kidnapping and car bombs familiar to the Lebanese from the civil war have been present again. With the election of Aoun and the appointment of Hariri to form a government, the Lebanese hope for a new phase of stability.
Lebanon and the effects of the civil war in Syria
An estimated 4 million people live in Lebanon, including 450,000 Palestinian refugees. Lebanon is also currently home to more Syrian refugees than any other country in the region. According to the UNHCR, there are more than a million Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon, which corresponds to around 25 percent of the country's resident population. 73% of the Syrian refugee families in Lebanon live below the poverty line, which corresponds to a budget of US $ 3.84 per capita per day. They are unable to meet their basic survival needs such as food, health and shelter. The war in Syria not only has enormous effects on Lebanon due to the large wave of refugees, rather the fight on the border threatens to tear apart the sensitive structure of Lebanese society and thus trigger another civil war in the Middle East. Lebanese politics has been paralyzed since the assassination of then Prime Minister Hariri on February 14, 2005. Domestically, the country split along the two coalitions of March 8th and 14th. Both movements claim leadership in the country, but are unable to organize an absolute majority for their political projects. This increases the tension in the country, which in turn is regularly discharged on the streets. The split in the country also meant that the Lebanese parliament tried in vain from June 2014 to October 2016 to elect a president. The highest office in the country was vacant for several years, which had an impact on other state institutions. There was heated debate about whether the leadership of Lebanon's security apparatus could be re-appointed or whether the appointment was a sovereign task of the president. The current basic political problem in Lebanon can be traced back to the fact that, in view of the civil war in neighboring Syria, the two camps mentioned above have manifested themselves. While Hezbollah and its supporters support President Bashar al-Assad, supporters of the March 14th camp sympathize with the Syrian rebels who are fighting Assad. Since Hezbollah began its military engagement in Syria in favor of the Assad regime, the political division in Lebanon has deepened and is increasingly developing into a violent sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. This has drastically worsened the security situation. At the same time, there was a strengthening of militant Salafists in Lebanon, some of whom are closely linked to their like-minded people in Syria and who call for jihad. The terrorists of the "Islamic State" (IS) had also expanded their base of action into Lebanon. They regularly carried out terrorist attacks in Lebanon. As a result, Lebanon increasingly developed into the region's mailbox, because all regional developments had a direct impact on the country's domestic politics. At the end of December 2014, a political dialogue between Hezbollah and Mustaqbal began, which many observers see as a glimmer of hope in the Lebanese sky. Although this dialogue prevents confrontation on the street, it has so far not solved the country's most central problems.
Although Lebanese citizens and parties are involved in the Syrian war, this coalition actually managed to prevent the civil war from spilling out of Syria. However, the Syrian civil war is having a massive impact on Lebanese society. Due to fears and experiences with Palestinian refugee camps, no refugee camps for Syrians have been officially approved to date. Due to attacks by IS and terrorist attacks as well as arms smuggling through Lebanon to Syria, Lebanon's borders with Syria are only open to restricted passenger traffic. The high number of refugees in Lebanon has placed enormous strain on the state structures. The result is a tendency towards poverty among the local population, attacks on refugees and increased xenophobia among the population. The city of Irsal, a 40,000-inhabitant city on the slope of the Antilebanon Mountains in the east of Lebanon, which is only a few kilometers from the Syrian border, plays a special role. Only Sunnis live in Irsal, some of them show solidarity with the Syrian extremists and have relatives across the border. Today three times more refugees live in Irsal than the original inhabitants. Fighters from the terrorist organization Islamic State (IS) and other terrorist groups from Syria sent their families to Irsal. As a result, this city developed into a base and a retreat for the various combat groups from Syria. Large parts of the barren surroundings of Irsal in the Karamun Mountains came under the control of IS and Jabhat al-Nusra.
In August 2017, the army launched a major attack on IS fighters in the Karamun Mountains. At the same time, Hezbollah and the Syrian army attacked. IS controls areas on Lebanese territory on the outskirts of the border towns of Ras Baalbek and Al-Kaa. The goal of destroying ISIS and retaking the area up to the Syrian border was achieved with the support of Hezbollah. Fighters and supporters of IS and Jabhat an Nusra were relocated to Syria due to a ceasefire agreement.
On October 31, 2016, after two and a half years and 45 failed attempts, a new president was elected. With the election of Michel Aoun, there is movement in the highly polarized Lebanese politics. The Maronite Christian was the Shiite Hezbollah's candidate for the presidency from the very beginning. Saad Hariri was commissioned by Aoun to form a new government of national unity. Because the choice of Aoun was only possible because of Hariri's surprising U-turn. Until then, the Hariri Bloc viewed the election of the 81-year-old civil war general and founder of the Free Patriotic Movement as a clear victory for Hezbollah.
The election of the 81-year-old Aoun, civil war general and founder of the Free Patriotic Movement, was made possible by the surprising turnaround of Saad Hariri, head of the future movement and son of the multiple premier Rafiq al-Hariri, who was murdered in a major attack in February 2005. Two months after the presidential election, a new government was sworn in on December 19, 2016.
On November 4, 2018, the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri surprisingly announced his resignation during a stay in Saudi Arabia. He surprised both his supporters and his political opponents. The reason he gave was that his life was threatened. He also spearheaded Iran's aggressive regional policy and Hezbollah. With the declaration of resignation, concerns had arisen that a new proxy conflict could arise in Lebanon between the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its Shiite arch-rival Iran. Aoun declined to accept Hariri's resignation before speaking to him personally. President Macron intervened in the conflict and invited Hariri and his family to come to Paris. After a short stay in Paris, Hariri returned to Beirut and announced his resignation.
Prime Minister Hariri's Cabinet of National Unity encompasses most of the country's political groups, including Hezbollah. According to Hariri, the most important task of the new government is to maintain stability in Lebanon in view of the crises in neighboring countries and to organize new elections. In June 2017, the political establishment was able to agree on a right to vote. In Lebanon, majority voting will be replaced by proportional representation. As before, the conflicts of interest between the individual camps are too great, which again illustrates the crisis in the political system in Lebanon.
Proportional suffrage in Lebanon was actually supposed to strengthen smaller parties and groups of voters, but the electoral law negotiated by the governing parties outside parliament contains numerous restrictions on proportional representation: entry threshold at ten percent, the possibility of preferential voting for a candidate, and denominational division of parliament. Most of the parties are thus unable to achieve cross-religious success. The positivist, however, is the fact that the parties are in fact forced to form cross-denominational lists. If there is a stipulation in a constituency that two seats are allocated to Christians and three seats to Muslims, the parties must form a joint list in order to be allowed to run. The parties therefore not only have to convince their own clientele, but also have to be accepted by other religious groups.
In the new electoral law, young people under the age of 21 are excluded. There is also no quota for women MPs, although Lebanon is one of the countries with the lowest number of women MPs. The political participation of women in Lebanon is confronted with many obstacles that seem insurmountable: a patriarchal culture, a weak state, blocked reforms in politics and law, discriminatory personal and marital status law and a firmly established “political familism”.
The parliamentary elections for the National Assembly took place on May 6, 2018. Hezbollah and its allies secured 65 of the 128 seats. The previous Prime Minister Hariri was tasked with forming a new government despite massive election losses, because the elections did not change anything in the basic power structure. The tug-of-war over the formation of a government in Lebanon lasted eight months. At the beginning of February 2019, the political parties finally reached an agreement. The new cabinet has 30 ministers, including four women. For the first time in the Arab world, the Ministry of the Interior is headed by a woman. The delay in the formation of a government had a negative impact on investment and thus on economic growth. It should be noted that public debt, at more than US $ 84.5 billion, has reached around 150% of GDP. Due to the lack of government, the more than US $ 4 billion made available by the World Bank at the Cedar conference could not be called up. The unemployment rate is 36 percent.
Although Hezbollah accuses the Hariri Alliance of covering up the radical Sunnis and in return the Hariri Alliance accuses Hezbollah of dragging Lebanon into the war in Syria, both adversaries led a conflict-ridden government with other political forces until October 29, 2019 of national unity. This, however, was often unable to work, the warring factions were only able to agree on a strategy for garbage disposal with great difficulty and after many scandals.
After Hariri's resignation, the university professor Hassan Diab was appointed Prime Minister by the Lebanese President on December 19, 2019 and charged with forming a new cabinet. Due to unrest, his government resigned on August 10, 2020, but has remained in office.
Political parties in Lebanon
A characteristic of political parties in Lebanon is their relationship to the nation-state of Lebanon. Even in pre-war Lebanon there were different attitudes towards the state: The Syrian National Socialist Party (SSNP) propagated a unity of the countries Syria and Lebanon. As a counter-offer to this party, Pierre Gemayyel founded the phalangist party "Al Kataeb", which stands for Lebanese patriotism. A paramilitary arm emerged within the Al Kataeb, from which the Lebanese Forces party later emerged. The Pan-Arab Ba'ath Party, on the other hand, is an organization founded in Syria that spread to several Arab countries. It represents an Arab pan-nationalism.
Another important feature of the Lebanese party system is that almost all the parties that have emerged are based on a socio-denominational system in which the major parties are the exclusive representatives of the respective denominations led by large landowners and clientele. An example of this is the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), which is considered the traditional “electoral association” of the Druze landowner family Jumblat in the Schouf Mountains. The oldest of the Lebanese parties, however, is the Communist Party of Lebanon, which was founded in the 1920s and founded several trade union associations. The Lebanese communists are non-denominationally organized.
List of Lebanese political parties:
- Future Movement (Saad Hariri)
- Parti socialiste progressiste (Taymour Joumblatt)
- Forces Libanaises (Samir Geagea)
- Phalanges libanaises (Samy Gemayel)
- Parti national libéral (Dory Chamoun)
- Mouvement du renouveau démocratique (Farouk Jabre)
- Movement de la gauche démocratique (Elias Atallah)
- Amal Movement (Nabih Berri)
- Hezbollah (Hassan Nasrallah)
- Parti social nationaliste syria (Ali Qanso)
- Courant patriotique libre (Michel Aoun)
- Ramgavar Asatakan (Hagop Kassarjian)
- Association of Islamic Charitable Projects (Houssam Qaraqirah)
- Armenian Revolutionary Federation
- Social Democratic Hntchak Party
- Mouvement du peuple (Najah Wakim)
- Lebanese Communist Party
- Parti democratique libanais (Talal Arslan)
- Parti Vert Libanais
- Arab Democratic Party
- Bloc national (Raymond Eddé)
- Mouvement Marada (Soleimane Frangié Jr)
- Gardiens des Cèdres
- Jamaa Islamiya (Assaad Harmouche)
- Murabeitoun (Ibrahim Qoleilat)
- Ba'ath Party (Assem Qanso)
- Union chrétienne démocrate libanais (UCDL)
State and administration
Lebanon is a parliamentary democracy on the basis of a denominational proportion. The constitution of the country prescribes a separation of powers. Parliamentary elections are to be held every four years. The President is elected by the MPs for a six-year term. According to the Taif Agreement, it was determined that the three most important offices in the country would be divided between the three largest denominations:
- The head of state must be a Maronite Christian
- The President of Parliament must be a Shiite Muslim
- The head of government must be a Sunni Muslim
This proportional representation determines the entire administration and does not stop at the legislature either. According to the principle of denominational parity, the parliament with its 128 members is composed of 34 Maronites, 27 Shiites, 27 Sunnis, 14 Rum Orthodox, 8 Druze, 8 Rum Melikite Catholics, 5 Orthodox Armenians, 2 Alevites, 1 Armenian Catholic, 1 Protestant and 1 minority. The Lebanon Parliament is currently divided horizontally across denominations, so that no majorities can be organized.
Lebanon is divided into six governorates, which are made up of a total of 25 districts:
- Lebanon Mountains, administrative headquarters: Baabda (districts: Jbeil, Kesrouan, El Metn, Baabda, Aley, Chouf)
- North Lebanon, administrative headquarters: Tripoli (Akkar, Tripoli, Zgharta, Minnieh-Dinnieh, Koura, Bscharre, Batroun)
- Bekaa, administrative headquarters: Baalbek (Hermel, Baalbek, Zahlé, West-Bekaa, Rashaya)
- Nabatiyeh, administrative headquarters: Nabatiyeh (Nabatiyeh, Hasbaya, Marjyoun, Bent Jbeil)
- South Lebanon, administrative headquarters: Saida (Jezzine, Saida (Sidon), Sour (Tyros)
Corruption and nepotism are widespread in Lebanon. Large-scale bribery is not uncommon even among political leaders. Widely ramified networks of organized corruption formed under their protection. Corruption and a lack of transparency are the cause of the country's predicament. Corruption inhibits economic development.In this context, journalists are repeatedly fined for researching corruption.
Freedom of the press and human rights in Lebanon
Freedom of the press
Due to a far-reaching, legally guaranteed freedom of the press, 13 daily newspapers, 300 weekly, monthly and quarterly magazines and many print versions from foreign (Arabic) newspaper houses appear in Lebanon. In addition, eight local residents broadcast mostly private television stations around the clock. The latter can be received worldwide via satellite. In this area, too, one notices the fragmentation of Lebanese society along denominational and political fault lines. Criticism of the government is possible and common. In particular, incitement to sectarian tensions is prohibited. Journalists are also regularly fined for researching corruption.
There is hardly a television station or newspaper aimed at all Lebanese. Each of the major denominations has one or two television stations and influences the corresponding daily newspaper. The formal freedom of the press is unique in a regional comparison, but on closer inspection it becomes apparent that journalists in Lebanon live dangerously and often have to stick to invisible red lines. So there is a free, but no independent press in Lebanon. The media companies are heavily politicized depending on the owner or financier. This leads to strong self-censorship among journalists who do not seek investigative research against those who fund them.
The main media in the country are:
- Al-Mustaqbal and the newspaper of the same name are financed by the Al Hariri family.
- MTV is operated by the Al Murr family
- NBN is assigned to the Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri
- Al-Manar is a Hezbollah broadcaster
- Al-Jadeed is a pan-Arab broadcaster
- LBC is an entertainment channel
- Al-Akhbar is an Arab national daily newspaper
- Assafir is a pan-Arabic oriented daily newspaper (was discontinued in 2017)
- L'Orient le Jour
- The daily star
In addition, a number of lifestyle and youth magazines appear in Lebanon, so that in principle Lebanon has a media oversupply when you consider that all newspapers in the country together have a circulation of less than 100,000 per day.
Lebanon has been a founding member of the United Nations since 1945. The then Lebanese delegate Charles Malik played a key role in drawing up the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Accordingly, compared to other Arab countries, the country enjoys a democratic tradition based on the rule of law, which is expressed in an active civil society and non-governmental organizations. However, in spite of legal regulations, gross violations of human rights can be identified. Equality for women is lagging behind. Citizenship is granted through the father, which many observers rate as the clearest sign of structural and cultural discrimination against women in Lebanon. The protection of migrants and refugees is not granted in accordance with international standards, and reports of ill-treatment and torture during interrogation are increasing. The people missing since the civil war are an open wound in Lebanon. One of the greatest challenges for human rights in Lebanon is walking the tightrope of the Lebanese state between granting security and observing the rights of freedom. In the current situation, the state fails in both tasks. Although Lebanon is a party to numerous international human rights treaties, minorities such as the Palestinian and Syrian refugees living in Lebanon still do not enjoy the same rights as Lebanese. Palestinians make up about eight percent of Lebanon's population. They are marginalized in public and political life and are denied many of their rights. Their movements in Lebanon are monitored inside and outside the refugee camps and they must obtain permission to travel abroad. Refugees are prohibited from practicing around 36 professions. They also only have partial access to the national social security fund. In order to be able to practice the professions they are allowed to do, they have to apply for a work permit every year, which entails extremely lengthy administrative processes. Compared to Lebanese nationals, refugees receive lower wages for the same work.
Amnesty International also regularly criticized the use of force by Lebanese security forces and poor prison conditions in Lebanese prisons.
In 1996 Lebanon ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), but the accompanying Optional Protocol has not yet been signed. In article 1 of the protocol, the States parties recognize the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to receive and examine communications from affected women and groups of women. In a regional comparison, Lebanese women are better off, but the rights of women in Lebanon are severely curtailed both by the state and socially. The state only grants citizenship to children of Lebanese men. Lebanese women married to foreigners are left behind. In Lebanese society, the understanding of roles is still widespread, according to which the woman should primarily take care of the household and the children. Lebanese women are underrepresented in political decision-making bodies and are paid less in public authorities and in the private sector, while Lebanese women are overrepresented in the country's universities. The patriarchal system is often strengthened and maintained by the law. However, civil society organizations were able to exert sufficient pressure and, on August 16, 2017, a majority in favor of repealing an article of law that allowed a rapist to avoid conviction by marrying his victim. The 1948 Act provided legal protection for sex offenders if they retrospectively married their victim. Article 522 of the Lebanese Criminal Code provided that after a rape or abduction if
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