views updated May 14 2018


Lebanese Maronite Christian Party (al-Kataʾib al-Lubnaniya or Phalange libanaise; kataʾib is Arabic for "phalanx," or phalange in French; the party is sometimes referred to in English as the Kataʾib); founded in November 1936, by Pierre Jumayyil with Charles Hilu, George Naqqash, Shafiq Nasif, and Emile Yared. The Phalange was founded as a paramilitary youth organization modeled on the fascist political organizations Jumayyil had seen and admired at the Berlin Olympics of that year, particularly the Hitler Youth, one of whose rallies he had attended. From its founding (with about 300 members), the Phalange has aligned itself with France and the West. At first it supported the Mandate government, but in 1942 it advocated independence and was suspended by the authorities. It reactivated itself in 1943 when Lebanon became effectively independent. Also that year Lebanon's leading Maronite and Sunni Muslim politicians established the unwritten National Pact, which institutionalized religious communalism as the basis of Lebanese politics and set the relative political power within the state of the different religious communities. The National Pact fixed a ratio for allotting parliamentary seats (six Christian to five Muslim), and assigned the three highest state offices to representatives of three communities: the presidency to a Maronite, the prime ministry to a Sunni, and the speakership of the Chamber of Deputies to a Shiʿa. (This distribution was based on a questionable census of 1932. No one from the Shiʿa, Druze, Greek Orthodox, Melkite, or other community was consulted.)

The preservation of Maronite hegemony via the National Pact became the Phalange's primary cause, and it has remained opposed to any change that would result in a dilution of Maronite power. It also has opposed any political tendency, such as pan-Arabism, pan-Syrianism, communism, and pan-Islamism, that would compromise Lebanese sovereignty or the uniquely "Phoenician," non-Arab culture it believes distinguishes Lebanon. It has been right wing, authoritarian, anti-Palestinian, anti-Islamic, and thoroughly sectarian, although it has at times formed tactical alliances with Muslim organizations holding compatible positions. Between 1943

and 1949, while it was primarily focusing on union activities, its first candidacies in legislative elections were failures. Dissolved on 20 July 1949, it was reborn on the following 3 August as the Lebanese Union, transformed in May 1951 into the Social Democratic Party, then into the Phalange Party the following year. At this time it had three deputies in parliament. In the 1958 crisis, the party backed the power in place, represented by the president, Camille Chamoun. Chamoun wanted the army to intervene against Muslim demonstrators, but the army commander, Fuʾad Chehab, refused to engage his forces in intercommunal fighting; Pierre Jumayyil stepped in to do so with the Phalange's considerable militia. As a result, in October 1958, Jumayyil became a minister in a multiparty government of national salvation, in which he held the public works, communications, health, national education and agriculture portfolios, under the new president, Chehab, who had been chosen largely because he had not taken sides in the civil war.

The party withdrew its support from Chehab (and his successor, the former Phalangist Charles Hilu), as his policies of administrative and (limited) economic reform, known as Chehabism, threatened the financial interests of Maronite oligarchs. In 1967, the Phalange sealed an alliance with two other Christian groups, Chamoun's National Liberal Party (NLP), and the National Bloc of Raymond Eddé, to form the Triple Alliance (al-Hilf al-Thulathi) in opposition to Chehabism. After the 1968 parliamentary elections, the Hilf coalition controlled the largest block of seats (the Phalange held nine). Lebanon then was being deeply affected by the Palestinian issue, which was beginning to destabilize its politics. Muslim and leftist Lebanese had always sympathized with the dispossessed Palestinians; Maronite Christians and conservatives, in general, had not. The outcome of the Arab-Israel War (1967), in which Lebanon had not participated, had made it clear that the Palestinian refugees in the country would not be returning to their homes, and armed Palestinian groups were organizing and carrying out anti-Israeli operations. Their activities tended to expose the government's weakness—it could prevent neither the guerrilla activities nor the Israeli reprisals they provoked—undermining its authority and polarizing the Lebanese. In January 1969 a new coalition cabinet that excluded right-wing Maronite parties, which opposed all reform, proclaimed its support for the Palestinian resistance, while allowing the army and police to attempt to repress political activity in the refugee camps. This resulted in fighting between government forces and Palestinian paramilitaries.

Eventually, under outside pressure, a formal agreement was made between the government and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) giving Palestinians legal status and, in effect, ceding the PLO an autonomous state within the state. In 1970, after Jumayyil withdrew his candidacy, Sulayman Franjiyya, a nationalist and enemy of the PLO, was elected president. Further polarizing the situation was the arrival later that year and into 1971 of large numbers of Palestinians, including many PLO fighters, who had been expelled from Jordan in the wake of Black September 1970. Franjiyya's government, like Hilu's, did almost nothing to provide security against Israeli attacks on Lebanese territory in the south, which were indiscriminately hitting Lebanese—predominantly poor Shiites—as well as Palestinian targets. Tens of thousands of South Lebanese Shiites migrated to Beirut to escape Israeli shelling, and little provision was made for them. Lebanon remained neutral in the Arab-Israel War (1973). Franjiyya, unable to use the army effectively against the Palestinians, encouraged the army to arm and train the Maronite militias. On 13 April 1975, unknown persons attempted to assassinate Pierre Jumayyil; in retaliation, Phalangists attacked a bus carrying Palestinian civilians through a Christian area of East Beirut, killing twenty-six. Fighting then broke out between armed factional groups and violence spread around the country: this was the beginning of the Lebanese Civil War of 1975–1990. The main antagonists at first were the Phalange and its militia, and the Lebanese National Movement (LMN), which loosely united fifteen organizations of the left around the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) of the Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt and advocated reform of the Lebanese system. The PLO was aligned with the LNM and established a joint command with its militia. The Phalange was joined by other right-wing Maronite groups (soon to form an alliance, the Lebanese Front, and later a joint militia command, the Lebanese Forces [LF]), commanded by Bashir Jumayyil, son of Pierre.

In January 1976 the LF destroyed a Palestinian refugee camp and a Muslim neighborhood in East Beirut. In March Muslim troops of the Lebanese army mutinied and formed the Lebanese Arab Army, which joined with the LNM. It attacked Christian areas of Beirut and forced President Franjiyya to flee. In May Ilyas Sarkis, with Syrian support, was elected to become president in September at the end of Franjiyya's term. At the end of May, the LF was about to be defeated, and Syria, after having for months attempted to mediate a settlement, intervened militarily against the LNM and the Palestinians. This move was supported by Jordan, Israel, France, and the United States. By mid-August the Syrian forces had gained control and agreed to a cease-fire. A truce was agreed to and the Arab League sanctioned an Arab Deterrent Force (ADF) (consisting almost entirely of Syrian troops already in place) to be deployed to keep the peace. The ADF and Lebanese government authority did not extend to South Lebanon, largely controlled by the PLO, where Israel and Christian militias backed by Israel continued to attack. The diplomatic peace offensive by Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat toward Israel in 1977 drove the Syrians closer to the PLO and away from the Sarkis government. By 1978 the Lebanese Forces (under control of the Phalange, the Lebanese Front alliance having deteriorated) were firmly allied with Israel and operating independently of the government, and Syria switched its support to their opponents, the LMN.

After a PLO attack within Israel, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) invaded South Lebanon in March 1978, intending to destroy PLO bases and drive PLO fighters away from the border by creating a "security zone" on the Lebanese side. The Israelis organized, trained and armed a Christian militia called the South Lebanon Army (SLA) as their proxy to patrol the border area after they withdrew in October. In June 1978, Tony Franjiyya, son of Sulayman Franjiyya and a potential rival to Bashir Jumayyil for the presidency, was assassinated by an LF commando under directed by Samir Geagea. In November 1979, the principal figures in the political section of the Phalange were Pierre Jumayyil, Antoine Ayyub, Georges ʿOmayra, Pierre Sayigh, Elie Karame, Munir al-Hajj, Karim Pakraduni, Ibrahim Najjar, Joseph Saadeh, Georges ʿAql, Edmond Rizq and Laura Jumayyil. On 31 January, the alliance with the NLP of Camille Chamoun was broken, following confrontations between the LF and the LDP's militia, the Tigers. Between 7 and 9 July, combat between members of the two parties caused more than 500 deaths, and the Tigers were decimated. In 1980 and 1981 there was also frequent fighting between the LF and the ADF, in which Israel at least once intervened significantly in support of the LF. In June 1982 the Israelis invaded Lebanon again, this time going as far north as Beirut and besieging the city for weeks, side by side with the LF, using artillery shelling and aerial saturation bombing, including phosphorus bombs, turning much of the city to rubble. A cease-fire was arranged by the United States, and a withdrawal of the PLO leadership along with about 13,000 PLO and Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) fighters to Tunis was arranged under the supervision of a Multinational Force (MF). Israel also meant to ensure that Bashir Jumayyil became president, and he was duly elected on 23 August. The MF left Beirut on 10 September. On 14 September Jumayyil was assassinated (by pan-Syrian nationalists). Israeli forces then moved in to help the LF secure the city. Two days later the IDF helped the LF enter the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps and looked on passively as over three days they slaughtered approximately 1,500 to 3,000 civilians, ostensibly in reprisal for Jumayyil's assassination. On 20 September the MF was redeployed to Beirut. On 21 September Amin Jumayyil, Bashir's brother, was elected president, and at the end of September the Israelis left the city.

In May 1983, under pressure from the United States, Amin Jumayyil agreed to sign a peace treaty with Israel, which was actually ratified by parliament. Opposition to this treaty among Lebanese—and by the Syrians—was so great, however, that Jumayyil felt obliged to refuse to sign it. The Israelis, who had been protecting Jumayyil's government from its factional enemies, then withdrew their forces from the Shuf district southeast of Beirut, a largely Druze area held by the Phalange. Fighting broke out between the Phalange and the Druze militia directed by Walid Jumblatt, which had Palestinian and Syrian support. These were some of the biggest battles of the war. After several months the Phalange were expelled from the area. Jumayyil, with support from Syria, repudiated the agreement with Israel in March 1984. In August 1984 Pierre Jumayyil died; he was succeeded by Elie Karame, but his death set off power struggles within the Phalange and the LF. In March 1985, a split opened between the Lebanese Forces on one side and President Jumayyil and the Phalange on the other. An agreement had been reached for the LF to turn back to the government the public property, offices and functions it had taken over in its Beirut enclave during the war. Samir Geagea, a senior LF commander, had himself named chief of staff and proclaimed the LF independent of the Phalange. On 9 May, Geagea was ousted and Elie Hobeika was appointed to replace him. Hobeika tried to end the hostilities between his movement and Syria. In December Hobeika signed an agreement for peace and political reform with the leaders of the Shiite Amal and the Druze militia, but it never took effect because he lost control of the LF. Geagea revolted, and, after fighting between followers of the two men, Geagea took over command of the Lebanese Forces, evicting Hobeika and reestablishing the LF's ties with Israel. Hobeika, who had worked closely with the Israelis and had been one of the LF commanders in charge of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, organized a splinter LF under the protection of the Syrians. George Saade was elected head of the Phalange in 1987, succeeding Karame.

With the end of his presidential term in 1988, with no successor selected, Amin Jumayyil appointed General Michel Aoun as "interim president" and, having received death threats from Geagea, left Lebanon. Geagea supported the Taʾif Accords of 1989, causing a split in the LF; some members supported Aoun, who opposed the accords, and the two factions fought into October when the Syrians finally defeated Aoun's forces and ended the civil war. The same month, the head of the NLP, Dany Chamoun, former head of the Tigers militia and son of Camille Chamoun, was assassinated by an LF commando. Both Geagea and Saade were included in the national unity cabinet formed in December 1990, but in March 1991 Geagea resigned to reconstitute the LF as a political party. In June 1991, Amin Jumayyil met with Shimon Peres in Brussels, and discussed the situation in South Lebanon. In 1992, he returned home and persuaded the Phalange party to boycott the parliamentary elections, the first since before the civil war; he was obliged, under government pressure, to cut his stay short. The LF Party also was unsuccessful in these elections; in 1994 the party was banned after the bombing of a church in Junieh in which ten people were killed, and responsibility for it, and for the assassination of Dany Chamoun and a number of other people were traced to Geagea. Geagea received a death sentence, commuted to life imprisonment, for the Chamoun killing, and remained in prison in 2004. A rump LF organization remains, run by Geagea's wife Strida. On 21 March 1998, Munir al-Hajj became head of the Phalange, following the death of George Saade. In July 2000 Amin Jumayyil returned to Lebanon again and campaigned to regain the leadership of the Phalange, but Karim Pakraduni was elected in 2002. Frustrated, Jumayyil formed a splinter group called the Phalange Base (al-Kataʾib al-Qaʿida). In July 2002 he was expelled from the party, and sued for insulting the leadership.

SEE ALSO Arab Deterrent Force;Arab-Israel War (1967);Arab-Israel War (1973);Black September 1970;Chamoun, Camille;Franjiyya, Sulayman;Geagea, Samir;Hobeika, Elie;Israel Defense Force;Jumayyil, Bashir;Jumblatt, Kamal;Jumblatt, Walid Kamal;Lebanese Forces;Lebanese National Movement;Palestine Liberation Army;Palestine Liberation Organization;Pan-Arabism;Taʾif Accord.


views updated May 08 2018


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 laterjust before Lebanese independencesided 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 (19751990); 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.

as'ad abukhalil
updated by michael r. fischbach


views updated May 29 2018

phalange (strictly, phalanx) One of the bones of the digits.