Last modified: 2001-09-08 by santiago dotor
Keywords: lebanon | lubnan | republic of lebanon | al-jumhuriyya al-lubnaniyya | cedar | tree | army of south lebanon | south lebanon |
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by Neda Juraydini
Flag and coat-of-arms adopted 7th December 1943
The tree is the cedar traditionally connected with Lebanon. In the 18th century the Maronite Christians used a white flag with the cedar tree, with reference to the Bible (Ps 92:12, the righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon). Later, when Lebanon was under French mandate, the French tricolour was used with a cedar tree in the middle. There is a reference in W. Smith's 1980 book to the colours: 'The red and white colors are those associated, respectively, with the Kayssites and Yemenites, opposing clans that divided Lebanese society between 634 and 1711.'
Zeljko Heimer, 8 August 1996
I found the same explanations and I have additional, unofficial ones: Lebanese friends told me that red might represent martyrs' blood and white snow, holiness and eternity. Another interesting point is that most of the Lebanese flags hoisted or depicted in flag charts (except in FOTW, congratulations to Zeljko!) are not correct. According to the constitution law of 7 December 1943, the three colours of the flag must be red, white and green. Branches and trunks of the cedar are usually coloured in brown for the sake of realism (or, as some friends told me, in black to celebrate the Syrian-Lebanese 'friendship').
Ivan Sache, 12 August 1996
Red symbolizes the blood of martyrs who died trying to free the country from outside forces. White is a symbol of purity of course but is here connected with the snow-capped Lebanese mountains.
Hala Abi-Saleh, 13 September 1999
The official explanation of the colours' meaning is:
Fadi Bassil, 25 February 2000
The Lebanese flag is derived from the French tricolor. The cedar was placed in the white of the French flag. When Lebanon pronounced its independence, the men who declared independence drew a color pencil sketch [image at the Lebanese Parliamentary Elections 2000 website]. They got rid of the blue and made the stripes horizontal. The vertical stripes became horizontal to move away from the French vertical design. In my recollection, the official description of the flag does not mention proportions, something I have always noted curiously. I believe that the proportions were simply taken from the French flag (2:3).
Neda Juraydini, 25 September 2000
From the Lebanese Parliamentary Elections 2000 website:
The Lebanese Flag consists of three horizontal bands, red, white, and red, with a green cedar in the center, i.e. the white band that amounts to the size of both red bands put together. The tip and root of the green Cedar both stretch towards the edge of the red areas. The red bands symbolize the pure blood, shed in the aim of liberation. The white band symbolizes peace. As for the green cedar, it symbolizes immortality. The Lebanese flag was raised in Bashamoun on the 21st of November 1943 at 11:20 pm. It is believed that this same flag is now kept in the National Museum, although it may have been transported to the Governmental Palace in Bteddine.
Santiago Dotor, 26 September 2000
by Neda Juraydini
I was recently offered a book on cedars of Lebanon which included several pictures of the national flag. The most interesting one is a vertical flag, therefore vertically red-white-red, with a vertical, totally green cedar, shifted to the top of the flag.
Ivan Sache, 11 September 1997
For special festive occasions, such as Independence Day, a Lebanese flag which is a variant on the horizontal flag is hoisted typically along light and telephone poles. It is a long vertical flag with vertical color fields, red-white-red, with the green cedar in the center, touching both reds. Most probably it is 5:2.
Neda Juraydini, 25 September 2000
I now wonder whether the vertical flag with the "cedar shifted to the top of the flag" which Ivan Sache saw in a picture might actually be the bottom part of a 5:2 flag with centred cedar (the top part being hidden because of the flag waving or something similar).
Santiago Dotor, 3 October 2000
After looking thoroughly at the picture, I give you the point. The top of the flag seems to be applied on a kind of wooden frame without anything to fix it, so it is probably draped over the frame. The top part might be hidden behind the visible part (as if the flag had been hung out like a bedsheet). About 1/4th of the 5:2 flag might be hidden on the picture.
Ivan Sache, 3 October 2000
Even if the official version of the flag has red-white-red stripes in 1:2:1 proportions and a green cedar touching the red stripes, other combinations are fairly often used. The main variations are of three kinds: the stripes in 1:1:1 proportions, the colouring of the cedar (green-brown or green-black) and its size (smaller or even bigger than the white stripe). I suppose there is the possibility of a fully black cedar, as was previously used on the French tricolour, but I have never seen that on the current flag.
Zeljko Heimer, 12 August 1996
While watching the news on TV, I saw a variant of the Lebanese flag on a report about South Lebanon. It was red-white-red with the cedar on the white stripe, but the stripes were vertical and in something like a 1:1:4 proportion. The overall ratio was 2:3 or 3:5 (it was too brief to measure), so it was not like the vertical variant.
Thanh-Tâm Lê, 27 February 1999
It could be two flags [flown] together, one 1:1:1 and one all red.
Ole Andersen, 27 February 1999
The Constitution of Lebanon promulgated on 23rd May 1926 said, "Article 5: The Lebanese flag is blue, white, red with a cedar in the white part". This article was changed on 7th December 1943, "The Lebanese flag is made of red, white and red horizontal stripes, with the cedar in green in the centre of the white stripe". The cedar was and is therefore officially green. As a whole green cedar is quite strange, some flag manufacturers have certainly made it green and brown. This last cedar is therefore unconstitutional.
Pascal Vagnat, 22 April 1999
Between independence and 1982, not many Lebanese paid attention to the words that the fighters for independence wrote in describing the flag that they hastily sketched out: a green tree in the white field that touches the two reds. They never mentioned brown. See sketch [at the Lebanese Parliamentary Elections 2000 website]. In the summer of 1982, there was a popular TV show, hosted by Riad Sharara, who put out a challenge: the first person to come to the TV station with a green flag in the white field that touched both red stripes would win a prize. Very few people showed up with the correct flag. The cedar trees were in brown and green. Some touched the red stripes and others did not. Some brought flags with all-green cedar trees, but the cedars did not touch the reds. Even the flags that the Army had printed were wrong. However, the result of Sharara's challenge was an unprecedented raising of awareness of the actual design and colors of the flag.
Before that summer, the Ministry of Tourism printed the flag on letter-sized paper (but in the correct 2:3 proportions) with a brown and green cedar for local distribution, mostly to schools, especially around independence day (November 22nd). As of 1982, the Ministry started printing flags with all-green trees (ironically and sadly, the Ministry of Tourism website has an incorrect flag). Even the Lebanese Army printed new flags. It was a revolution. When flag day came round, all students were instructed to draw the flag correctly. Sharara's challenge came at a time when Lebanon was under Israeli occupation. Possibly, the challenge stirred up patriotism in the Lebanese at a time when the future was uncertain.
To summarize, all Lebanese flags that depict the cedar tree green and brown are incorrect. All flags in which the cedar tree does not touch the white are incorrect. They are not variants. They are simply wrong. The only acceptable variant is the long vertical banner for special occasions.
Neda Juraydini, 25 september 2000
From the Lebanese Parliamentary Elections 2000 website (I am including direct links to the large images in that website):
The Lebanese Flag and Its Evolution Throughout History
(Adapted from Lebanese historian Joseph Nehme's book)
Lebanon has had several flags and banners, around which the Lebanese citizens had gathered through times of peace and war. The Lebanese flag has evolved according to the following historical steps:
- The Mamelukes Flag: It consisted of a cloth embroidered with golden threads.
- The Phoenician Flag: This flag was blue, symbolizing the sea, yet the red color was later added to it when the purple color was discovered.
- The Rebels Flag during Prince Ibrahim's Era: It became a white cloth with a red carnation at the bottom right corner.
- The Rebels Flag: It consisted of a cross and a sword, both white, on a red cloth.
- The Shehabian Flag: Consisted of a blue cloth with a white crescent.
- The Lamaïte Flag: It consisted of a white cloth with a drawing of a Lion.
- The Abi Kand Flag: Consisted of two vertical and equal bands, one yellow and one blue.
- The Tannoukhian Flag: Consisted of 5 colors divided vertically in equal bands of white, blue, yellow, red and green.
- The National Maaniïtes Flag: The Kaïssy Party Flag.
- The Maaniïtes Flag at the end of the Maaniïtes Emirate: End of the 17th century.
- The Ottoman Flag: Consisted of a red cloth with a white crescent and white star in the center, and remained as such until their departure in 1918. [Editor's note: basically the same as the current flag of Turkey.]
- The Jumblatian Flag: It consisted of a red flag with a green frame; a sword and a dark green hand in the middle.
- The Lebanese Cedar: Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, it consisted of a white cloth with a green cedar in the center.
- The Lebanese flag during the French Mandate: It was similar to the Blue, White and Red French Flag with a green Cedar in the middle, and was designed by the president of the Lebanese Nahda (renaissance) Movement, the late Naoum Mukarzel. [Editor's note: basically the same as this flag.]
- The National Flag: White and Red with a cedar in the center. The Cedar consists of two thirds of the size of the white band. [Editor's note: the same as above.]
- The Independence Flag: As drawn by the MPs [members of parliament] using pencils during the parliamentary session.
Santiago Dotor, 26 September 2000
by Ivan Sache
Red disc with an inscribed white triangle pointing upwards, and a green disc within the triangle. Source: Album des Pavillons et des Marques distinctives.
Ivan Sache, 2 July 1997
When Israel established a safety zone in South Lebanon, a so-called Army of South Lebanon (ALS Armee du Liban Sud in French) was constituted by pro-Israeli Lebanese. Israel is currently withdrawing from this area, and ALS will probably be disbanded. The question is of course, what flag was used by ALS? Since it was not supposed to be either an official Lebanese or Israeli force, I guess it could not have used either the national Lebanese or Israeli flag.
Ivan Sache, 23 May 2000
Many years ago (about 1980?) I saw a photo or maybe a TV spot with Mr. Haddad, the founder of the Free Lebanon and probably also of the ALS, in front of the Lebanese national flag.
Jan Zrzavy, 23 May 2000
The ALS see itself as a Lebanese force and therefore uses the Lebanese national flag. Major Saed Khadad was indeed the founder of the ALS, and after he passed away he was replaced by General Antoin[e] Lakhed.
Anonymous, 24 May 2000