A History of Modern Lebanon
eBook - ePub

A History of Modern Lebanon

Fawwaz Traboulsi

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  2. English
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eBook - ePub

A History of Modern Lebanon

Fawwaz Traboulsi

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This is the first history of Lebanon from the Ottoman Empire to the modern period. Based on previously inaccessible archives, it is a fascinating account of one of the world's most fabled countries. Starting with the formation of Ottoman Lebanon in the 16th century, Traboulsi covers the growth of Beirut as a capital for trade and culture through the 19th century, it's independence and experiences as a republic, before moving onward to Lebanon's development in the late 20th century and the conflicts that led up to the major wars in the 1970s and 1980s and beyond. This is a stunning history of Lebanon over five centuries, bringing to life its politics, its people and the crucial role that it has always played in world affairs.

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Part I

Ottoman Lebanon


The Emirate of Mount Lebanon (1523–1842)

Men resemble their times more than they resemble their fathers.
(Arab proverb)
Lebanon as a polity begins with the Emirate of Mount Lebanon, constituted in the late sixteenth century as an autonomous region inside the Ottoman Empire. The history of this Emirate is primarily the history of the integration of the entirety of Mount Lebanon under its authority and its expansion toward surrounding regions of Palestine and the Syrian hinterland. Within the Emirate there developed a number of distinguishing characteristics that would greatly impact the structure and developments of Lebanon in modern times: a sizeable Christian numerical majority; an early conversion to production for the market (silk) and to international trade; a long cultural exposure to Europe; and a tradition of intervention by European powers in its internal affairs.
Under Ottoman rule the Emirate of Mount Lebanon was run according to the iqtaˋ system, or iltizam, which allotted tax farming rights, in mountainous or desert areas to ethnic or tribal chiefs under the control of the Ottoman walis. The holders of the iqtaˋ, the muqata‘ji families, enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy in running the affairs of their iqtaˋs as long as they provided the High Porte (Istanbul) with a fixed amount of purses, provided armed men to the authorities when needed and generally kept order in the regions under their control.
Life in Ottoman Mount Lebanon was characterised by a set of interrelated divisions and conflicts, most of which were shared with similar regions of the Empire. These can be itemised as follows.
First, Ottoman subjects were divided along the religiously based distinction codified in the millet system, which etablished a two-tier hierarchy between a higher community, made up of Muslims, and a lower ‘protected’ community, made up of the ‘people of the Book’ – Christians and Jews. The latter enjoyed a measure of freedom of religious belief and the right to perform their religious rites in return for the payment of a protection tax, the jizya. This distinction implied tangible differences in the relations of the two communities to the social division of labour. Generally barred from the military/administrative functions, Christians and Jews tended to specialise in commerce, finance and handicrafts. In Mount Lebanon, this uneven social location expressed itself in a Druze community dominated mainly by the tribal-warrior function and a Christian community dominated mainly by commoners, with a large peasant base. This imbalance would be largely responsible for transforming social and political conflicts into sectarian conflicts.
Second, the division between ranking orders (manasib) and commoners (ˋamma). The former held hereditary titles – emir, muqaddam and sheikh – bestowed upon them by the ruling emir of the Mountain, the Ottoman wali or the Sultan himself. The holders of iqtaˋ, or muqataˋji families, controlled political/judiciary power and lived off their extraction of the social surplus through collection of taxes and control over land, all the while benefiting from tax exemptions and privileges. Alhough ˋamma was the generic term for all untitled subjects, the majority of whom were peasants, this lower order also included rich farmers, merchants, artisans and manufacturers. Conflicts arising from the division between the two main orders, mainly revolving around taxation and political participation, frequently erupted in commoners’ revolts.
Third, conflict between local rulers and the central authorities in Istanbul was a permanent aspect of Ottoman politics. Local rulers, Turkish walis in the main centres, or tribal chieftains – whether in the highlands of Yemen or in Mount Lebanon – generally controlled a port, trade route or vital produce (coffee, cotton, silk, and so on). When rich enough or strong enough, they would attempt to shake off the authority of Istanbul and stop payment of taxes, usually exploiting a military reversal of the Ottoman troops or a power struggle in Istanbul. These rebellions and autonomous movements were frequently encouraged and helped by one European power or another.
Fourth, conflicts between muqataˋji families, and within each family, over competition for power or for the control of an iltizam (a tax-farming concession) were a natural outcome of the iltizam system. These conflicts invariably entailed competition over the favours of high-placed people in Istanbul or regional walis (through bribes, gifts or military help). The traditional partisan form in the Arab East was the Qaysi/Yamani factionalism. In Mount Lebanon, this dichotomy – based on the supposed origin of the allied tribes from southern Arabia or Yemen – was later transformed into the Jumblatti–Arsalani cleavage within the Druze community.
Fifth, muqataˋji economic power was not limited to tax farming. They controlled land which they leased to peasant share-croppers for a share of the crops. In Mount Lebanon, landlord–peasant relations generated conflicts over rent and land ownership, and frequently erupted into violent peasant revolts.
At the time of the Ottoman conquest of Syria in 1516, the greater part of the territories that would constitute present-day Lebanon was divided among a number of ethnic/tribal chiefs. The Tanukhs and the Arsalans, both Yemeni tribes, were brought by the Umayyads to defend the Mediterranean shores against Byzantine incursions. They settled on the western approaches of Beirut and later adopted the Druze faith. The ˋAssafs were the Turkomen Sunni rulers of Kisrawan and Beirut and the Sayfas, the Kurdish Sunni rulers of Tripoli and the north. In the southern Biqaˋ, the Sunni Shihabs ruled Wadi al-Taym and the Harfush were the Shiˋi rulers of Baˋalbak and the northern Biqaˋ. The Maˋns were a South Arabian warrior tribe that had been invited by the Tanukhs to settle in Baˋaqlin; its chiefs soon became tax farmers of a few villages in the Shouf region.
The early history of Ottoman rule in these parts of Syria was a series of rebellions, internecine fighting between the ethnic/tribal chiefs and local rulers, alliances and counter-alliances with the Ottoman authorities against the other/s, and frequent invitations to European powers seeking a foothold in the eastern Mediterranean to intervene in the conflicts.
In 1518, the Maˋns participated in the rebellion of the Sunni tribal sheikh Muhammad Ibn al-Hanash in the western Biqaˋ, which aimed at the restoration of the Mamluks. Three Maˋn chiefs were captured in the ensuing Ottoman punitive campaign, many of the rebels were beheaded, villages were plundered and women and children were taken captive. Not long after, the Maˋns rallied to the Otomans to fight the Harfushs, allies of the Safavid rulers of Persia and bitter enemies of the Ottomans. Thus the Maˋn chieftain, Fakhr al-Din bin ˋUthman bin Mulhim (1516–1544) was appointed multazim of the Shouf; he became later emir liwa’ or sanjakbey, of the sanjaks of Sidon–Beirut and Safad (in Palestine).1 However, the people of Mount Lebanon were soon on the path of revolt again and remained so for long decades to come. They were only pacified in 1585 after a major expedition by Ibrahim Pasha, the governor of Egypt, allegedly related to the theft, along the coastal road to Tripoli, of Egyptian tribute on its way to Istanbul. Qurqumaz Maˋn, emir of the Druze at that time (1544–84) fled from the punitive campaign to the Tyron cave (near Niha), where he died in 1584.
Qurqumaz’s son Fakhr al-Din Maˋn (born 1572), known as Fakhr al-Din II, took over after his father’s death. In 1590, he was appointed multazim of the Druze mountain by the wali of Damascus, then emir liwa’ of the sanjak of Sidon–Beirut. However, Fakhr al-Din joined forces with the Kurdish leader and governor of Aleppo, ˋAli Janbulad (later Jumblatt), as the latter rose in rebellion against the Ottomans in 1605–07. Janbulad was defeated and Fakhr al-Din managed to remain in power thanks to large bribes paid to the wali of Damascus.
ˋAli Janbulad’s rebellion was backed by Tuscany, the main European power active in the eastern Mediterranean. Catholic missionaries had began their activity among the Maronites of Mount Lebanon and Mansur ˋAssaf, the ruler of Kisrawan, had put the Maronites under his protection and appointed a Maronite from the Hubaysh family as his mudabbir (secretary, adviser and educator of his children). Fakhr al-Din inherited the Tuscan connection from Janbulad, adopted the Khazins of Kisrawan as mudabbirs and established close ties with the ruling Medicis of Tuscany, who sent him arms and ammunitions. Pope Gregory XIII addressed a letter to the Maronite patriarch requesting that his community side with Fakhr al-Din in future wars.
Periods of rebellion would alternate with periods of service to the Sultanate. When the Sayfas took over Kisrawan and Beirut following the decline of the power of the ˋAssafs, the governor of Damascus called upon Fakhr al-Din to regain those territories. He enlisted the support of the Harfushs and expelled the Sayfas from Kisrawan and Beirut; he and was rewarded by receiving the sanjak of Safad and was charged with keeping its Shiˋas and bedouin inhabitants under control.2 Strengthened by his alliance with Tuscany, Fakhr al-Din had by then an army of some 30,000 troops and controlled 30 forts in the region. He proceeded to dominate the Hawran plain and the Golan in southern Syria. In 1611 he sent Maronite Bishop Jirjis to conclude an anti-Ottoman alliance with Tuscany and the Holy See. News of the mission reached Istanbul and Ahmad Pasha al-Hafiz, wali of Damascus, was ordered to pacify the Syrian coast. Fakhr al-Din fled just in time to Tuscany with his retinue. He was replaced by his brother Yunis Maˋn who managed to evade the Ottoman punitive expedition by paying a large indemnity. But the Maˋns lost their authority over the coast and their status was reduced to the iltizam of the Shouf.
During the five years of his Italian exile, spent mainly in post-Renaissance Florence (1613–18), the Lebanese emir studied life in the Italian city-states. He especially admired the banks, the central treasury, the local judicial system and the organisation of the militia. Although the Medicis were on the decline, Florence’s Cosimo II (1590–1621), the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and his suzerain Spanish king, Philip III, considered the Arab emir as a major asset in their plans to extend their influence to the eastern Mediterranean.
Upon his return in September 1618, Fakhr al-Din set about to reaffirm his control over Mount Lebanon and regain the territories he had lost. This was a time when Sultan Othman II was occupied with consolidating his rule after taking power in a palace coup. By 1621, Fakhr al-Din had taken control of Bsharri and subdued its Maronite muqaddams. Luckily for the Maˋn emir, Othman II was overthrown by the Janissary corps in 1622, just as he was about to launch a campaign against Mount Lebanon. In 1623, Fakhr al-Din had wrested control of ˋAkkar from the Sayfas and advanced into Safita and beyond in the Hums and Hama region (Tripoli fell to him later, in 1633). Having achieved full control over Mount Lebanon, Fakhr al-Din moved against the Harfushs and seized the Biqaˋ. The wali of Damascus, Mustafa Pasha, the Harfushs and the Sayfas joined forces against him but were defeated in November 1623 in the battle of ˋAnjar, in which Mustapha Pasha was captured. Fakhr al-Din besieged the seat of the Harfush in Baˋlbak (which he later entered and destroyed), and had his men loot the Biqaˋ and plunder its agricultural produce. Finally, he agreed to release the wali of Damascus in return for the restoration of the Palestinian regions of Safad, ˋAjlun and Nablus to his authority.3
Fakhr al-Din had gone too far in his expansion and was a threat to Damascus. Moreover, he was seeking military and financial help from the Tuscans for his project to finally secede from Ottoman rule. Following their military successes against the Persians in 1629, the Ottomans turned their attention to punishing and controlling the Syrian rebels, Fakhr al-Din at their head. In 1633, Kutshuk Pasha was appointed governor of Damascus with the express task of eliminating the Druze emir. When Kutshuk Pasha’s forces moved against Fakhr al-Din, the Tuscans failed to come to his aid and Fakhr al-Din surrendered. He was brought to Istanbul in chains and decapitated on 13 April 1635.
Fakhr al-Din’s main achievement was the introduction of silk production to Mount Lebanon as a cash product for export to the Italian city-states. For that purpose, he encouraged Christian peasants, mainly Maronite, to emigrate from the settled northern parts of Mount Lebanon (especially in Kisrawan) to the Druze-controlled regions, where they engaged in silk cultivation and other agricultural and artisanal occupations considered unworthy by the majority of the Druze.4 In addition, Druze muqataˋjis and warrior families began expelling Shiˋas from the villages on the frontiers of Druze territory, in the western Biqaˋ and the Iqlims, and settling Christian peasants in their place.5 Thus was launched a process that would have a lasting impact on the history of Mount Lebanon, gradually changing the social demography of the southern, Druze part of the area by transforming it into a Christian–Druze ‘mixed region’ in which the Christians would ultimately become a majority.
Intimately related to his introduction of silk production was the emir’s encouragement of foreign merchants to settle in his emirate. For this purpose, he attracted European merchants trading with the Empire to his emirate by constructing a travellers’ inn for them (Khan al-Faranj) in Sidon. Alhough Sidon remained his capital, Fakhr al-Din selected Beirut as a winter residence, enlarged its port and built a castle and a fort in it. The emir was a silk merchant in his own right. In one instance in 1631 we are told that he sent the Maronite Ibrahim al-Haqallani to Florence with 45 bales of silk. He offered one bale to Cardinal de Medici and sold the remaining 44; the proceeds were deposited in the Monte de Pieta bank in the names of Fakhr al-Din and his three sons.
Fakhr al-Din was succeeded by his nephew Mulhim bin Yunus bin Qurqumaz (1635–58), who was appointed by the Ottomans to rule the five nahiyas of the Shouf, in addition to the Gharb, the Jurd, the Matn and Kisrawan. His reign lasted for 20 years. Upon his death those same regions were granted as an iltizam to Fakhr al-Din’s grandson, Ahmad Maˋn (1658–97) who followed ...


  1. Cover
  2. Title page
  3. Copyright page
  4. Contents
  5. List of Maps
  6. Preface
  7. Acknowledgements
  9. 1 The Emirate of Mount Lebanon (1523–1842)
  10. 2 The Bloody Death of the Muqata‘ji System (1842–1861)
  11. 3 Grandeur and Misery of the Mutasarrifiya (1861–1915)
  12. 4 Beirut, Capital of Trade and Culture (1820–1918)
  14. 5 Greater Lebanon: The Dialectics of Attachment and Detachment (1915–1920)
  15. 6 From Mandate to Independence (1920–1943)
  16. 7 The Merchant Republic (1943–1952)
  17. 8 The Pro-Western Authoritarianism of Kamil Sham‘un (1952–1958)
  18. 9 Shihabism and the Difficult Autonomy of the State (1958–1970)
  19. 10 From Social Crisis to Civil War (1968–1975)
  21. 11 Reform by Arms (1975–1976)
  22. 12 The Longest Coup d’état (1977–1982)
  23. 13 The War Order (1983–1990)
  24. 14 Ambiguities and Contradictions of the Ta’if Agreement
  25. Chronology
  26. Glossary
  27. Notes
  28. Bibliography
  29. Index