In 1936, while attending the Berlin Olympic Games a young Lebanese athlete, Pierre Gemayel, admired the organization and fierce nationalism of the Nazis and founded al-Katiib al-Lubnaynee [the Phalange of Lebanon] in the hopes of bringing fascism to Lebanon.
What began simply as a student organization supported by a Christian new to wealth in a nation that admired old money, grew to become the largest Christian bloc in Lebanon with its own militia and a Lebanese president being elected under its banner.
The Phalange preaches Christian supremacy in the sectarian country that is Lebanon. Upon achieving independence in the 1940s from French Mandate rule, Lebanon was the only Middle Eastern nation with a Christian majority. But as the years wore by, the Muslim population began to grow. The majority was slim even upon independence with 55%, but by the 1970s it was clear that the Christians had become the minority.
This would not matter in most country, but Lebanon’s confessional politics appropriated fixed parliamentary power to Christians. The Maronite community had the presidency and a 6:5 ration in the parliament de jure. An increasingly wealthy and numerous Muslim community began to ask why should the Christian have a de jure parliamentary majority even they are no longer the majority? Instead of a compromise being made where by a new confessional, or better yet a secular, system of elections was installed; the Phalange pushed back against the Muslim argument.
Lebanon is a sectarian country as is, a nation where people looking at their interests not through national lenses but through “what is good for my sect” ones. Losing Christian power was not a question of fair or unfair, it was simply about power and who has it does not want to lose it even if they know in their heart that the other side has a point. Whether that was the Phalange thinking is irrelevant, what matters is that they wore the dominant Christian group and refused a compromise with Muslim instead preaching a slogan of “quality versus quantity” whereby it may be true that Christians are a minority, but, the Phalange would argue in bigoted tones, the Christians still deserve more fixed power because they are simply better than Muslim Lebanese.
Needless to say, this fascist ideology of religious superiority did not take well with Muslims. Eventually, a civil war broke out between the Lebanese that lasted from 1975-1995. What was the end result? Besides the 150,000 dead, a compromise, which could have been reached in the beginning, was signed whereby the parliament is now split 50:50 Muslims and Christians.
What is Israel’s role in this? Thanks to the work of Israeli history, it is well-known now that Israel’s ties to the Phalange go back to the 1950s. From the 1950s, Israel believed that right-wing Christian supremacists in Lebanon would benefit it. The Maronite church had a secret agreement with the Jewish Agency even before Israel was established. Israel’s establishment believed, correctly, that the Phalange needed a strong ally to survive in Lebanon against the forces of pan-Arabism. And once the Palestinians become a militarized presence in Lebanon, the merger of interests become stronger. More than just providing access to the Sabre and Chatila Palestinian refugee camps and flares during the night as the Phalange massacre innocent Palestinians, the Israelis armed and trained the Phalange for decades. Bashir Gemayel, son of Pierre who rose during the Civil War years to become head of the Phalange, was Israel’s favorite son. Sharon dined at his home [and attended his funeral] and Bashir’s widow Solange promised Sharon that once Bashir was president, the Defense Minister would be the first guest. Israel was not just an innocent bystander in Sabra and Shatile. The sectarian, fascistic Christian militia used arms provided by Israel [and America]. And Israel’s own Kahane Commission found the IDF “indirectly” responsible and called for Sharon’s resignation.
Bashir Gemayel was beloved by his followers, and when Habib Shartouni, a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and also a Maronite Catholic, assassinated the Phalange took vengeance on innocent Palestinians whom were aligned, within Lebanon, with the SSNP.
Recently, a photo resurfaced that should remind all patriotic Lebanese that, ONE) Israel is as guilty for Sabre and Chatile as the Phalange and 2) was a traitor Bashir was:
Bashir with Arial Sharon, son learning from the father.
This was a man whom it would be an insult to Benedict Arnold to compare him to since Arnold at least had military skills, while Bashir could not spew hateful propaganda.
It is shame that some Lebanese – in Lebanon and around the world – still celebrate this inept, worthless, talentless thug.