Wartime Conditions

Lebanon Table of Contents

The disruption of Lebanon's modernization by the war has not been adequately measured. A social data sheet on Lebanon prepared by the World Bank in 1983, however, illustrated some trends. Women's share of the labor force progressed very slowly from 3.4 percent in 1960 to 19.9 percent in 1981, probably because of strong traditionalist resistance within the family. The same data indicated a sharp decline in the percentage of the labor force employed in agriculture, from 38 percent in 1960 to only 11 percent in 1980. There was no corresponding rise in industrial activity, however; the industrial labor force only increased from 23 percent to 27 percent. Most of the labor force was still employed in the service sector. Other indices such as energy consumption, passenger cars per thousand population, radios and television sets per thousand population, and newspaper circulation also documented Lebanon's pace of modernization. What these figures did not indicate was the disproportionate levels of modernization among various communities and regions.

As for the impact of the war in general on public life, radical adjustments had to be made by inhabitants of neighborhoods that were subjected to intense fighting. The people of Beirut, in particular, adjusted to shortages of all kinds: water, electricity, food, and fuel. The wartime living situation started to deteriorate in the spring of 1975. During lulls in the fighting, remnants of the central government attempted to resume services to the population, but the task was impossible because of the harassment by militia members. The government then resorted to rationing water and electricity. It was particularly hampered by the sharp decline in the payment of bills by consumers. According to one employee in the Beirut electric company, only 10 percent of all customers paid their bills. The rest either declined to pay or simply hooked up to utility supply cables.

One of the most difficult periods in the struggle for survival among Lebanese and Palestinians occurred during the siege of Beirut by Israel in 1982. To pressure the PLO to surrender the Israeli army, along with the Christian Lebanese Forces, ensured that no food or fuel entered the city.

The war scarcely left a house or building in Beirut intact or free from shrapnel damage. The Lebanese, however, soon adjusted to the new situation either by living in bombed-out apartments or by fixing damaged parts of their residence. Some displaced people from southern Lebanon who could not afford to rent in Beirut or even in its suburbs, chose to live in deserted apartments and hotels in areas close to the Green Line, which separated West from East Beirut. The situation in many Palestinian refugee camps was particularly oppressive. Some along the coastal road had come under Israeli fire during the invasion of 1982, and others in the Beirut area had been destroyed by Christian militias during the war or had come under Shia attack in the mid-1980s.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress