Palestinians have been an integral part of the Lebanese polity since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. At that time, many fled to Lebanon. This refugee population increased after the June 1967 War and the 1970 eviction of the PLO from Jordan. By 1987 there were about 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon.
As Palestinian guerrilla activity launched from Lebanon against Israel increased in the late 1960s, it gave rise to serious security and political problems for the Lebanese government. The PLO forces in southern Lebanon created what amounted to a distinct Palestinian entity, outside the control of the central authorities. PLO transgressions (tajawuzat) against the Lebanese populace and Israeli military attacks made the situation critical. Political battles between Christians and Muslims centered on the role in Lebanon of Palestinian guerrillas, who were effectively conducting foreign policy that had deep repercussions for the Lebanese government. The 1969 Cairo Agreement, brokered by other Arab states, was an attempt to reduce tensions by limiting the scope of Palestinian actions in Lebanon; this arrangement, however, was never successful.
During the 1975 Civil War, the Palestinian population in the Beirut area suffered extraordinarily, as urban refugee camps were besieged by Christian militias. In contrast, some Palestinian liberation groups were in the middle of the fiercest fighting and inflicted considerable damage on the Lebanese Front. Furthermore, the PLO increased its dominance because its forces controlled areas out of the reach of the Lebanese Front.
Throughout the 1980s, Palestinian fortunes in Lebanon dwindled. The Israeli invasion was a serious setback, followed closely by the Sabra and Shatila massacres. In 1983 intra-Palestinian hostility was particularly pronounced, as factions battled near Tripoli; in the process, pro-Arafat forces were evicted by Syrian-backed elements. Moreover, the war of human attrition between Palestinians in the refugee camps of Beirut and the Amal militia that began in 1985 had not ceased by late 1987. This tragic situation illustrated the complexity of Lebanese political events, showing that hostility to the PLO was not confined to Christian groups. Nonetheless, by late 1987 the PLO still enjoyed control of much of the Sidon region and retained a strategic foothold in Lebanon.
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