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Frequently Asked Questions



Cultural

Economy-Politics

The above questions were selected among several questions frequently asked about Lebanon, you may send us your questions and comments here: click here, tell us what you think

 

Cultural

Are Lebanese Arabs?
Lebanon is a mix of ethnic groups. Part of the Lebanese are Arabs; 20-30% of the Lebanese in Lebanon and 10-20% of Lebanese in Diaspora are Arabs(estimates). Most of the Lebanese are the descendents of the Canaanites who inhabited Lebanon from around five thousand years ago.

They were called Phoenicians by the Greeks and Punic by the Romans. When the Muslim Arabs conquered the North of the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century AD, they couldn’t conquer most of Lebanon due to its mountainous nature.

Some Arabs settled in coastal cities and mixed with the inhabitants while some of the Phoenicians converted to Islam, which made them Muslims not Arabs, i.e they changed their religion not ethnicity.
The Canaanites/Phoenicians, the Arabs, and the Syriac-Arameans are the three major ethnic groups in Lebanon. Armenians, Greeks, Hebrews, Assyrians, Kurds, Persians and other groups form the rest of the Lebanese community. (for Details)

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What is the difference between the Arabic Language and the Lebanese language?
The best example to illustrate the differences and similarities is a comparison to Latin-and-Spanish or Spanish-and-Italian.
Arabic and Lebanese are two different languages that use different words, phrases and structures. However, many words are similar, but if you know one it does not mean that you would know the other.
Normally, Arabic letters are used when writing in Lebanese just like Latin letters are used to write both Spanish and Italian.
Lebanese Language is developed from its parent language ‘Aramaic’. Aramaic/Aramean was the language used by the inhabitants of the region until 900 AD. The language developed and mixed with Arabic, and later Turkish.
Some scholars refer to Lebanese as a neo-Aramaic language linking it to its roots. Also, some refer to Lebanese language as ‘spoken Lebanese’ or ‘Arabic Lebanese’ due to similarities. (for Details)

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Do Lebanese speak Arabic or Lebanese?
Lebanese use Lebanese language in their daily life. French and English terms and phrases are widely used especially for Salutation and technical subjects. However, Arabic phrases maybe used in a Lebanese conversation to add rhetoric expressions.
More than 90% of the songs & plays produced in Lebanon are in Lebanese. If you watch a Lebanese TV station, most programs would be broadcasted in Lebanese except for news bulletins, that are read in Arabic. Arabic is a formal language, it’s not regularly spoken in Lebanon (nor at the rest of the Arab states). Arabic is the official language of Lebanon; it is used mainly in courts, publishing, formal speeches and praying. (for Details)

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Is Lebanon an Arabic country or a Francophonic country?Lebanon is considered both an Arabic country and a Franco-phonic country. However, this does not mean that the Lebanese are Arabs nor are French. Lebanon has adapted several aspects from the Arabic culture. Lebanon uses the Arabic language as a formal language and the Lebanese have been contributing a lot to the Arabic literature. Furthermore, Lebanon was one of the founding-members of the ‘League of Arab Countries’ which makes it an Arabic country. On the other hand, Lebanon has adapted several aspects from the French culture. The Lebanese use French as the first language in education and have been contributing to the French literature. Also, Lebanon is a member of the Organization of the ‘Francophonie’ ( the International Organization of French-Speaking Nations) which makes it a Francophonic country. Although we can not call the Lebanese in general Neither Arabs nor French, some Lebanese descends from Arabic or French origins. (for Details)

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How good are Lebanese in Arabic literature and Culture?
Arabic language and literature are taught in schools. Lebanese in general speak, read and write Arabic as deemed necessary.
The Lebanese, and their ancestors, adapted Arabic culture as part of their culture, and mastered the Arabic language since the seventh century AD. They used it to spread their culture and communicate better with other countries. The majority of the prominent Arabic authors and poets in the Arabic culture renaissance were/are Lebanese. (for Details)

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When did Lebanon get its name?
It is not certain how far back in time the name Lebanon goes, but it is believed that Lebanon is the oldest name for a country. ‘Lebanon ’ and ‘Cedars’ of Lebanon appear in the Old Testament in the Bible about seventy times. The first referral for Lebanon in the Old Testament goes back about 4000 years. The Semitic root is lbn or laban and labnan meaning "white" and "to be white” which describes the snow on the top of its mountains. (for Details)

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How come Lebanon managed to have such a great mix of cultures?
Three basic features made Lebanon a great mix of cultures:
1.Its mountainous nature distinguished it from its surrounding flat and desert-regions. Many minorities found shelter in the mountains of Lebanon in the past 2 thousand years bringing new aspects of culture to locals..
2.Being a tiny strip of mountains and coast made parts of it a prey for great conquerors, several invaders took over parts Lebanon such as: Assyrians, Babylonians, Byzantines, Persians, Ancient-Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Mamluks, Ottomans, French, Israelis and Syrians. The people of Lebanon interacted with these cultures which helped enrich their culture.
3.The persistence of its people to stay and keep the name of their mountains, later their country, for more than six thousand years despite conquerors who occupied Lebanon for several centuries. (for Details)

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How good are Lebanese in adapting Western cultures?
The Lebanese are the descendents of the Phoenicians who ‘economically’ ruled North, East and most of South-Mediterranean Sea around the first millennium BC. Being a cross-point for ancient and modern civilizations granted Lebanon a mix with local, Eastern and Western Civilizations. Lebanon is the only country in the region where most of the schools, from kindergarten to college, teach in European languages; English and/or French. Lebanese cities in general do not look any different from European ones on the North Mediterranean. On the other hand Lebanese keep many traditional Middle Eastern and Arabic customs. (for Details)

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Who might falsely claim being Lebanese?
Two main groups of people may claim being Lebanese. The first group is some people from surrounding regions, especially when abroad, since Lebanese are known among the most open-minded nations in the region. The second group is the people who were illegally naturalized by Syrian occupation forces in Lebanon about ten years ago. The Syrian totalitarian regime is trying to change the ethnic and religious demography of Lebanon since it fell completely to Syrian occupation in 1990. Since then, Syria imposed a proxy regime, forced more than 30% of Lebanese population to leave the country, and granted Lebanese nationality to an equivalent percentage of mainly Syrians and Palestinians. In May 2003, the highest judiciary council in Lebanon rejected the naturalization. However, many of these Palestinians and Syrians travel around the world holding Lebanese passports claiming being Lebanese. (for Details)

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Economy-Politics:

Who was ruling Lebanon during Syrian occupation?
After gradual martial and political interference in Lebanon, Syria completely captured Lebanon by aerial and ground attacks in October 1990. Syrian troops occupied the Capital city of Beirut, the Lebanese presidential palace and the ministry of defense. It exiled the Lebanese primer and appointed a proxy regime in Lebanon. Since then, the Syrian regime handpicks the rulers of Lebanon and imposes a police regime in Lebanon matching the totalitarian rule in Syria, until the country was liberated in April 2005. (for Details)

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Who is ruling Syria Now?
The totalitarian regime of the ‘Arab Baath’ party rules Syria. Dictator Hafez Asad ruled Syria after a Coup in 1970. Asad formed a socialist dictatorship in Syria based on persecuting his opponents and brutally massacring tens of thousands of Syrians to maintain his power. He ruled till he died in 2000. His son Basshar Asad inherited power and continued the horrible policy of his father. (for Details)

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Did the Syrian regime practice ethnic cleansing in occupied Lebanon?
Yes. In one of the most terrifying scenes of the modern history: the Syrian regime worked on changing the ethnic and religious demography of Lebanon by replacing its people. Since 1990, Syrian occupation of Lebanon has forced more than 35% of the Lebanese to leave their country. Meanwhile the Syrian-appointed government in Lebanon naturalized around half a million Syrians and Palestinians that is equal to 20% of the Lebanon population. This was an answer to the Lebanese popular refusal to legitimize the Syrian occupation of Lebanon; 90% of the Lebanese eligible to vote boycotted a Syrian-arranged parliamentary elections that resulted in a puppet parliament in 1992. The Syrian regime hence started inserting ‘new’ Lebanese. Syrian troops in Lebanon protected around 1.5 million Syrian illegal workers (that is about half the population of Lebanon), which forces Lebanese to abandon their country. This mass displacement project was accompanied with regular persecution, arresting, kidnapping, torturing and assassinating of the Lebanese during Syrian occupation that ended by the end of April 2005. (for Details)

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Did Syria gain economical benefits from occupying Lebanon?
Yes. Syria, which is 18 times larger than Lebanon, vastly depended on Lebanon to revive its torn socialist economical system during its occupation of Lebanon. Its benefits were characterized in three major points:
1.Lebanon has the only free market among Arab countries. Syrians working in Lebanon would get an average wage that is 8 times more than they get in Syria. Protected by the Syrian occupying forces, around 1.5 million illegal-untaxed Syrians work in Lebanon. Most of them work within 3 hour-drive from their homes in Syria. Getting all what they need from economically-advanced Lebanon while being able to spend the weekends with their families; Lebanon is the ‘American dream’ for many Syrians who financially support about 50% of the Syrian population.
2.Syria with more than 80% desert-land is in need for the water of the Lebanese mountains. The Syrian-appointed government in Lebanon granted the Syrian regime all what it needs to ‘legally’ steal the water and the natural resources of Lebanon. Even more, Syria gains hard currency from the ports, airport and the casino of Lebanon. Syria substituted its inflation from selling the sheep oil smuggled illegally from Iraq to Lebanon until Saddam’s regime was overthrown.
3.The Baath rulers of Syria and their court benefited with hundred-millions-dollar deals through fraud. Fraud is common under the rule of the totalitarian regime in Syria, but in the free market of Lebanon the amounts multiplies. (for Details)

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Is Lebanon a haven for terrorists?

Yes. Under the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, many terrorist organizations and extremists operate freely. Most of them are radical Palestinian groups that operate under Syrian sponsoring and control to maintain tension in Lebanon. The list includes Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command—as well as the Abu Nidal Organization, al-Jihad, Asbat al-Ansar, the Japanese Red Army, and some local radical Sunni Muslim organizations. These groups have murdered and massacred Lebanese civilians and Lebanese security forces in the past couple of decades. They grew under Syrian sponsorship to be used as a strategic threat in case Syria is pressured to withdraw from Lebanon and lose its economical and political privileges there. After Syrian withdrawal, those groups and other militants are still training in Palestinian camps in Lebanon.(for Details)

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Is Hizbollah a terrorist group?
The Hizbollah ("The Party of God") guerrilla was formed among other militias during the war in the eighties. It was mainly composed of radical Shiite Muslims with a platform calls for the establishment of an Islamic republic in Lebanon. It was sponsored by Iran and Syria. During the ninety’s, and while Syria occupied 90% of Lebanon and Israel occupied around 10% of it, Hizballah played a higher Lebanese profile and a lower radical call for Islamic state. The guerrilla gained popularity as a means of resistance against one of the two occupiers by fighting against Israeli occupation of Lebanon. However, and after the Israeli pullout from Lebanon in May 2000, Hizbollah refused to disarm and enroll solely in the civilian social and political life. It changed its pronounced aim from liberating Lebanon to ‘protecting the Syrian occupation of Lebanon’. This behavior deprived it from most of its Lebanese popularity. Furthermore, Hizbollah proved by occupying the Southern territories that were evacuated by the Israelis its submission to the Syrian regime. Lebanese felt Hezbollah was endangering their lives and risking a spark for war with Israel just to serve Syrian interests. Hizbollah became an outlawed guerrilla controlled by the Syrian occupation forces.

After Syrian pullout of Lebanon in April 2005, general elections took place and an American-backed government was formed in Lebanon. The new government of Lebanon headed by Foud Saniora, that included ministers of Hizballah, legalized Hezbollah’s use of force, legitimized Hezbollah’s receive of arms, and did not restrict or limit its field of operations against Israel. In February 2006, the Free Patriotic Movement (which led the war of liberation, and later the civilian resistance against Syria) announced a pact with Hizbollah in which the armed guerrilla agreed for the first time to negotiate disarming, and to limit all its military acts to Lebanon’s land and prisoners. A month later, Hizbollah entered, along with representatives of various Lebanese political groups, in an open-ended national dialogue with an agenda including discussing the future of the armed guerrilla.

However, Hizbollah still enjoy the unlimited power it was endorsed by the American-backed government that allows it to continue carrying its attacks without even prior notification to the government, per the Lebanese government formal statement of August 2005.

During the Israeli invasion against Lebanon in July 2007, Hizbullah fought the Israeli army and regained wild popularity as a resistance force. (for Details)

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Does Hezbollah practice authority control in the areas it occupies?
Yes. Since the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon , Hezballah acted as a militant authority on the liberated land. Many Lebanese considered Hezballah a means of resistance against Israeli occupation of South Lebanon. However, Hezballah showed a different face post Israeli pullout from Lebanon by shifting its priorities to serving the Syrian regime interests on the expenses of Lebanon. Hezbollah became more of a pro-Syrian uncontrolled guerrilla. Hizballah arrests people and practices armed authority control, declares war on Israel and claims political positions in the name of Lebanon. Further more it negotiates with the USA and with European countries concerning Lebanese, Palestinian and Israeli detainees without any control from Lebanon, but the Syrian occupation forces.

After Syrian pullout of Lebanon late April 2005, an American-backed government headed by Foud Saniora was formed in Lebnaon including ministers from Hizballah. Saniora government legalized Hezbollah’s use of force, legitimized Hezbollah’s receive of arms, and did not restrict or limit its field of operations against Israel. Hizbollah still enjoy unlimited power that allows it to continue carrying its attacks without even prior notification to the government.(for Details)

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Did Israel pullout completely from Lebanon?
Yes, according to the United Nation documents and per Lebanese official borders. The Syrian Baath regime and its proxy regime in occupied-Lebanon have tried to bring a conflict with the United Nation and Israel by claiming that ‘Shebaa Farms’ is a Lebanese land still occupied by Israel. (for Details)

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What is the Issue of Shebaa Farms?
Shebaa (also chebaa, shoba and choba) Farmlands is a problem raised by Syria in face of the United Nations. Syria made-up the conflict to maintain a disorder between Lebanon and Israel so that it would justify its contentious occupation for Lebanon. The small, historically, Lebanese farmland (20 square kilometers, 7 square miles) became officially part of Syrian borders since about 50 years ago. The Lebanese government accepted giving the land to Syria to avoid a conflict with its neighbor. The Lebanese books and maps until 2000 showed the land as part of Syria, and indicated the area of Lebanon officially as 10452 s.k. excluding the area of the village. Later, it was captured by Israel when it occupied the Syrian Golan heights 1967. After the Israeli pullout from Lebanon, Lebanese turned to Syria pressuring the request for its withdrawal from their land as per the UN resolution 520. Syria tried to diverse the attention by claiming that the village is Lebanese not Syrian, and pushed Hizballah guerillas to create a conflict with Israel and the UN. The United Nations asked Syria to submit formal documents acknowledging the village within Lebanese borders. Syria refuses to provide the UN with an official, legal certificate declaring that it waives its ownership of the area. In May 11, 2003 the dictator of Syria Bashar Asad clearly used Shebaa Farmland as an excuse for refusing pulling Syrian troops from Lebanon; an excuse created by the Syrian regime and remained unsolved by it.(for Details)

In March 2006, the Lebanese National dialogue started including Hizbollah and representatives of various Lebanese political groups. The dialogue agenda included discussing the issue of Shebaa farmland. The dialogue resolutions resulted in decision to work out the problem with the United Nation through trying to prove that the farms are part of Lebanon.

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Did the Syrian Regime and its proxies in Lebanon try to prevent Israeli pullout from Lebanon in 2000?
Yes. Three weeks before the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, Syrian-appointed president of occupied Lebanon ‘Emile Lahoud’ threatened possible attacks against Israel if the Israeli army pulled out from Lebanon according to UN Resolution 425. He asked instead for a prior Israeli agreement with Syria, and for Israel to keep occupying the country until then. Similar requests were raised by the Syrian regime and Syrian-appointed rulers in Lebanon were in vain and did not affect the Israeli withdrawal. (for Details)

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Have Syria blackmailed USA?
Yes. Syria is the only country that managed to blackmail the United States. Furthermore, Syria is the only country branded as a terrorist state with whom the US has diplomatic relations. Syria sponsors groups of Extremist Syrians, Palestinians and Lebanese in occupied-Lebanon. In the course of the past two decades, the extremists were funded and armed mainly through Syrians and controlled by them. They practiced terrorist activities since early eighties against Americans, Europeans, Arabs, Christian-Lebanese and Muslim-Lebanese who don’t go by their version of Islam. The terrorists killed, kidnapped and held hostage hundreds of Americans and Europeans. Syria managed to kill hundreds of peace keepers in the early eighty’s, forcing the multi-national forces out of Lebanon to takeover it. During the gulf war of 1990, Syria supported the Coalition against Iraq in return for completely occupying Lebanon but releasing the American and West European hostages. Most of the hostages were released from Damascus or near Syrian checkpoints in Lebanon. Furthermore, the Syrian managed to keep an-informal US approval for its occupation of Lebanon by claiming that they are the only means to control the terrorists. Syria has activated or low-profiled those terrorist groups according to its needs or whenever an issue was raised with the USA. Syria threatened terrorist activities when raising a request or being pressured by the US government. The Syrian regime has been working on developing the weapon proved most effective against USA; terrorism. With every passing day, terrorists get more funds and arms, their doctrine get deeper while a generation emerges to serve Syrian Baath interests and to create a larger threat to the free world. (for Details)

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Are there al-Qaeda members in Lebanon?
Yes. There are al-Qaeda members in Lebanon. They were allowed in by the Syrian army that occupies Lebanon and controls its ports. They were used to strengthen the Syrian grip on Lebanon, while some are seized occasionally in order to release US pressure of the Syrian totalitarian regime as per Syrian convenience. After Syrian withdrawal, those groups and other militants are still training in Palestinian camps in Lebanon.(for Details)

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How far did the Syrian Baath support the Iraqi Baath during operation ‘Iraqi Freedom’ (2003)?
The Syrian bath regime was convinced that the fall of the Iraqi dictatorship would lead to the collapse of theirs.
Syrians hence supported Iraq by smuggling weapons into Iraq, providing Syrian passports to Middle-Eastern-and-Syrian volunteers and facilitating their border-crossing to Iraq and hiding highly ranked Iraqis in its land. Syria clearly declared through its Foreign Minister that “it is a Syrian national interest for the US to lose the war”. (for Details)

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How did Syria present the war of liberating Iraq?
The Syrian regime supported Saddam’s regime to the extreme of presenting the ex-Iraqi Information Minister ‘Sahhaf’ as the formal reliable media source for the war.
The Syrian Baath media showed Saddam’s regime victorious and relayed on Sahaf’s speeches. When Baghdad fell to the Coalition forces, the Syrian regime was shocked and restricted its media from presenting any news related to Saddam’s defeat for a while.
Syrian citizens knew about the liberation of Iraqis later from outside media sources. Not a single scene showing people destroying Saddam statues was allowed in Syrian media; Syria hold more statues for its dictator than Iraq held for Saddam. (for Details)

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What do Lebanese want from Israel?
Respect for Lebanese international borders and peaceful solution for the detainees per international law and human right declaration . (for Details)

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What do Lebanese want from Syria?
Full pull out for their troops and intelligence members from Lebanon per UN resolutions 520 and 1559, setting free all Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons and an exchange of formal diplomatic relations ( until now, the Syrian regime refuses to recognize the sovereignty of Lebanon and any diplomatic exchange).

The Syrian government withdrew its troops from Lebanon end of April 2005 after 30 years of occupation (for Details)

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What do Lebanese want from Hizbollah?
To peacefully disarm and turn over the land it occupies in Lebanon to the Lebanese army and security forces. To deport the non Lebanese members from Lebanon and direct the Lebanese ones for completely political and social activities.

After Syrian pullout of Lebanon in April 2005, Hizballah participated in the new Lebanese government. In February 2006, the Free Patriotic Movement (that led the war of liberation, and later the civilian resistance against Syrian occupation) announced a pact with Hizbollah in which the armed guerrilla agreed, for the first time, to negotiate disarming, and to limit all its military acts to Lebanon’s land and prisoners. A month later, Hizbollah entered, along with representatives of various Lebanese political groups, in an open-ended national dialogue with an agenda including discussing the future of the armed guerrilla. (for Details)

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