According to Countryaah, Lebanon’s older history is often confused with Syria, which it was always part of. The presence of a large proportion of Christian Arabs in the province was exploited by Europeans to extend their colonial rule over the eastern Mediterranean. Until 1831, the powerful Egyptian, Mohamed Ali, extended his influence to the north at the expense of the weakened Ottoman Empire, but the Europeans did not want the Ottomans to retire until the Europeans themselves were able to take possession. The European colonial powers therefore held that Christians all over the world could be equated with Europeans and ultimately receive European “protection”. The Christian Maronites were therefore supported against Egypt.
Among the 5 European colonial powers that interfered in the “Syrian issue” in 1831-34, the two – Russia and Austria – were interested exclusively in the “Turkish heritage” in Europe: the Balkans. Prussia – afterwards Germany – was carefully driven out on a sideline, leaving only two finalists in the race for control over the Arab world: France and England. Only in 1916 did they reach agreement on the division of the prey. France got Syria and Lebanon, England Jordan and Iraq. Lebanon was expelled from Syria as a special mandate area in 1919 – primarily because of the large Christian population. Many Christian Lebanese received their education at French educational institutions. Here they learned about the concept of nationality, which was of great importance to Arab nationalism.
Lebanon gained formal autonomy in 1943. In the years that followed, the country’s importance as the center of trade between Europe and the Arab world increased, and as a starting point for Western economic expansion. The 1948 Arab boycott of the State of Israel further contributed to this development, and the radical nationalist revolutions in Egypt and Syria reinforced Lebanon’s position as the most favorable place for economic development. Beirut became “Switzerland of the Middle East”.
Citizenship capital in countries with radical regimes flowed to the Beirut banks. The ever-increasing revenues from the Arab oil producing countries have long gone the same way. Lebanese capitalism was largely confined to the trade and finance sectors – services that the country could provide as a link between Arab capital and European interests. This created a similarly narrow upper class. The shortage of raw materials and the weak purchasing power of the local market only led to very limited industrial development. Thus, apart from the petty bourgeoisie in the cities, the lower social strata were largely unaffected by the prosperity, and the social inequality in the Lebanese community grew.
The political and social structure remained largely unchanged: a political system based on the distribution of power between representatives of the various faith communities. These representatives came from prominent families within each group, and were almost without exception conservative elements of Lebanese society. The distribution key was based on a census of 1932, which combined gave the Christian groups a slight overweight, and thus the most important positions. Since then, the population composition changed to a Muslim majority, but without changing the political distribution. This created dissatisfaction – even within bourgeois Muslim circles.
All in all, however, the system promoted “political stability”. In 1952, Christian Camille Chamoun took over the presidential office, tapping into a consistently pro-Western policy. Up to the parliamentary elections in 57, there were riots. originated from a Muslim desire to enter into an alliance with Egypt and Syria and resistance to renewal of the mandate of the Maronite president. The following year, the riots had taken to such an extent that they were in the nature of a genuine uprising. Muslims and Christians clashed in a bloody civil war. In July 58, President Chamoun authorized the deployment of 10,000 North American Marines, the US had offered to “pacify” the country. The invasion force remained in Beirut and other strategically important points in the country until October.
Lebanon – Beirut
Beirut, Arabian Bayrūt, French Beyrouth, capital of Lebanon; 1. 6 million residents (2018). Beirut, located on a promontory in the Mediterranean, was a significant port city with a free trade port and significant transit trade to Syria, Iran, Iraq and Jordan before the 1975-89 civil war.
The city also had good rail and road connections as well as an important international airport. Beirut accommodated crafts and small industries (goldsmithing, silk making), and the city was also an important tourist resort with many famous hotels, nightclubs and casinos. Between 1952 and 75, Beirut was perhaps the most important banking center in the Middle East, and the economy flourished despite political instability.
Today, many business operations have left the inner city and moved either to other districts or to other countries. The civil war and the ensuing fighting destroyed much of the central city, but extensive reconstruction work has been carried out and the historic center of the city has been restored.
The city is mentioned in Egyptian sources during the second millennium BC. and later became an important Phoenician port city. It was destroyed about 140 BC. and was first rebuilt under Emperor Augustus and was called Colonia Julia Augusta Felix Berytus. Beirut played an important role in the silk trade and was known for his law school during the Late Antiquity. A series of earthquakes during the 500s caused the city to lie largely in ruins during the Arab conquest of 635.
Beirut’s role as a trading town diminished after the arrival of the Arabs. The city was conquered by the Christians during the Crusades 1110 and 1197 but fell 1291 in the hands of the Mamluks. During the Ottoman Empire 1517-1918, Beirut was the capital of the province of the same name. After World War I, Beirut came under French rule and became the independent Lebanese capital in 1946. Following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, many Palestinians sought refuge in Beirut, on the outskirts of which large refugee camps emerged. Until the civil war in 1975, Beirut was the commercial center of the Arab world, political and religious sanctuary, cultural breathing space and entertainment city.
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However, there were strong religious, social and political tensions in Lebanon beneath the surface. They came today during the 1975-89 civil war, which not least hit Beirut and its population hard. The city was divided into an eastern, mainly Christian, and a western, mainly Muslim. At times, very fierce battles took place in and around Beirut between Christian and Muslim militias, but also within Christian and Muslim groups, respectively. The Palestinian refugees were also drawn into the fighting. Foreign intervention, mainly Israel and Syria, worsened the situation. Beirut was bombed by Israeli aircraft and suffered a severe siege in connection with Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 1982.
Since the end of the civil war and the so-called Taif agreement in 1989, an extensive reconstruction of the severely war-damaged Beirut has been under way. The ambition is for Beirut to regain its former central role for the Middle East’s economy, banking and culture.