Political party in Lebanon.
The Phalange (Kataʾib) party was founded in 1936 as a Maronite Catholic paramilitary youth organization by Pierre Jumayyil, who modeled it on the fascist organizations he had observed while in Berlin as an Olympic athlete. It was authoritarian and centralized in organization, and its leader was all-powerful. The Phalange became a major political force in Mount Lebanon. After allying itself with the French Mandate authorities, the Phalange later—just before Lebanese independence—sided with those calling for independence; as a result, the party was dissolved in 1942 by the French high commissioner (it was restored after the French left Lebanon). Despite this dispute, over the years the Phalange has been closely associated with France in particular and the West in general. For many years, the party newspaper, al-Amal, was printed in Arabic and French.
Consistent with its authoritarian beginnings, Phalangist ideology has been on the right of the political spectrum. Although it has embraced the need to modernize, it has always favored the preservation of the status quo. The Phalange party motto is "God, the Fatherland, and the Family," and its doctrine emphasizes a free economy and private initiative. It focuses on the primacy of preserving the Lebanese nation, but with a "Phoenician" identity distinct from its Islamic Arab neighbors. Party policies have been uniformly anticommunist and anti-Palestinian, with no place for pan-Arab ideals. The Lebanese Civil War of 1958 and the intensification of sectarian conflict benefited the party; its membership increased from 300 in 1936 to 40,000 in 1958. The power of the party was reflected in parliament; from 1959 through 1968, 61 percent of its candidates were elected. In the 1972 parliament, the Phalange had seven deputies, including Pierre Jumayyil and his son Amin Jumayyil. By the start of the Lebanese Civil War that began in 1975, the party's membership had increased to 65,000, including a militia of nearly 10,000.
Throughout the civil war, the Phalange party was the most formidable Christian force, and its militia bore the brunt of the fighting on the Christian side. Because the party was part of the mostly Christian, right-wing coalition known as the Lebanese Front, the power of the Jumayyil family increased considerably. Ironically, as Pierre Jumayyil's son Bashir Jumayyil was consolidating his power through the integration of all right-wing militias into his Lebanese Forces, the role of the Phalange party diminished. Bashir, a member of the party, marginalized its traditional leadership, which he felt was too moderate.
During the 1980s, the Phalange lost much of its credibility and political stature. In 1982, under military pressure from Israel, which occupied a good deal of Lebanon, Bashir Jumayyil was elected president. He was assassinated before assuming office, and his brother Amin took his place. The corrupt and partisan rule of Amin further harmed the image of the party, and the death of Pierre Jumayyil in 1984 inaugurated a struggle for power within the party. The party was even attacked by the Lebanese Forces, the erstwhile political child of the Phalange, in 1985. George Saade, elected president of the party in 1987, tried to rejuvenate the organization, but the changing political sentiment in the country in favor of Syria did not help his cause. The Pha-lange was briefly led by Munir al-Hajj after Saade's death in 1998. The race to replace al-Hajj was a rivalry between Amin Jumayyil, who returned to Lebanon in July 2000, and Karim Pakradouni (who was not Maronite, but Armenian). In early 2002, Pakradouni became leader, and Jumayyil was expelled from the party in July 2002.
see also jumayyil, amin; jumayyil, bashir; jumayyil, pierre; lebanese civil war (1958); lebanese civil war (1975–1990); lebanese forces; lebanese front; maronites; saade, george.
AbuKhalil, As'ad. Historical Dictionary of Lebanon. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 1998.
AbuKhalil, As'ad. "Lebanon." Political Parties of the Middle East and North Africa, edited by Frank Tachau. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1994.
updated by michael r. fischbach
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