In 1974, founder and leader of the majority-Christian Phalange Party Pierre Gemayel declared “Neither the present government or any other could shut down a single training camp,” in reference to bases created by several parties to train their armed factions. A year later, Gemayal’s Phalange Party was one of several Lebanese militias embroiled in a war where fighting remained confined within Lebanon but the power struggle transcended borders and involved both regional and international combatants. While April 13, 1975, is often cited as the start date that sparked the 15-year conflict, which has been termed a civil war, a host of factors, including international affairs, economic and social ...view middle of the document...
Sunni leaders, unhappy with this division of power, adopted the slogan al-Musharakah “participation.” Their key demands, before the war, were:
1. Suppression of political sectarianism
2. Sectarian balance in the state apparatus
3. Reform of the electoral law to eliminate political feudalism
4. Placing the army under the authority of the Defense Minister, while assuring “National balance” in the army
5. Dissolution of the armed militias of the parties
6. Priorities for the development projects in deprived regions
7. General census to settle the problem of naturalization
8. Support for the Palestinian resistance
9. A favorable response to the demands of the Shiite community
In February 1974, the Shiite Council submitted a list of demands, asking for the number of posts in the government to which the sect was entitled under the National Pact, citizenship must be promptly granted to the tens of thousands of mostly Shiite underprivileged who had been denied access to the state and greater state protection for the South against Israel acts of aggressions. Also in 1974, Shiite cleric Musa Sadr coined the establishment of the “movement of the deprived” to represent not only Shiites but the poor farmers and workers who were traditionally ignored by the government.
Fiscally, Lebanon’s “economic miracle” from late 1960s had begun to diminish coupled with a rise in the rural population flocking to the cities. By 1975, 40 percent of the country’s total rural population had been forced out of their homes and off the land, including 65 percent of the rural population of the south and 50 percent of that of the Bekaa Valley. Peasants and working class that remained in the rural areas, mostly the south and the Bekaa Valley, were agitated and demanding better workers rights through a series of revolts.
As early as 1970, Beirut Radio had reported an armed insurrection in the Akkar Region, where most land owners lived in Beirut and Tripoli away from the land. In 1972, a delegation of tobacco growers from the south brought a petition to parliament boasting 16,000 signatures exposing the injustice they suffered. While Shiite, Musa Sadr spoke for all he perceived as deprived or neglected by the establishment, including the rural farmers. Parliament’s failure to take the grievances seriously prompted a demonstration in 1973 in Nabatiyyeh. Clashes between workers and the Internal Security Forces, at the request of the owners, left two workers dead during the Ghandour Strike. While Petran argues that although the “revolution from below” approach seldom achieves demands, the “social ferment” if unleashed “shook the pillars of the sectarian system.”
As established Christian parties worked to strengthen their militias, and Sunni politicians worked to align with the Palestinian Movement as pressure from the Egyptian-Syrian Arab alliance, the underrepresented Shiite sect saw a rise of political empowerment. Imam Musa Sadr claimed to represent not only the...