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Sheikh Pierre Gemayel (Arabic: الشيخ بيار الجميّل‎) (November 6, 1905 – August 29, 1984) (last name also spelt Jmayyel, Jemayyel or al-Jumayyil, Sheikh is an honorific title in Arab countries), was a Lebanese political leader. He is remembered as the founder of the Kataeb Party (also known as the Phalangist Party), as a parliamentary powerbroker, and as the father of Bachir Gemayel and Amine Gemayel, both of whom were elected to the Presidency of the Republic in his lifetime. He opposed the French Mandate over Lebanon in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and advocated an independent state, free from foreign control. He was known for his deft political maneuvering, which led him to take positions which were seen by supporters as pragmatic, but by opponents as contradictory, or even hypocritical. Although publicly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, he later changed his position due to Palestinian support of the Lebanese National Movement and its calls to end the National Pact and establish non-sectarian democracy.

A controversial politician, he survived several assassination attempts. Several of his descendants were less fortunate. His son, Bachir Gemayel was assassinated on 14 September 1982 after being elected to the Presidency. His grandson Pierre Amine Gemayel, a Cabinet Minister, was similarly assassinated. Several other descendants of Pierre Gemayel have also been murdered.


Early life

Bachir Gemayel with his father Pierre Gemayel and William Hawi's family at the Kataeb anniversary event in 1977

Pierre Gemayel was born on 6 November 1905, in the village of Bikfaya, Lebanon, where his family had played a prominent role since 1540. His father and uncle were forced to flee to Egypt after being sentenced to death in 1914 for opposing Ottoman rule, returning to Lebanon only at the end of World War I.

Gemayel, a Christian Maronite, was educated at Jesuit school. He went on to study pharmacology at the French Faculty of Medicine in Beirut, where he later opened a pharmacy. He also took an interest in sport, and attended the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin. [1] On his return to Lebanon later that year, he founded the Kataeb El Loubnani Party in the west called the Phalange.

Charles Helou, who later served as Lebanon's President from 1964 to 1970, worked with Pierre Gemayel in the early organization of the party. By the time of his presidency, however, Helou was no longer a party member, and Gemayel unsuccessfully opposed him in the presidential election of 1964.

Independence and Post-Independence leader

In the years before and after Lebanon's independence, Gemayel's influence and that of the Kataeb Party was limited. It survived a French attempt to forcibly dissolve it in 1937 and took part in an uprising against the French Mandate in 1943, but despite its membership of 35,000, it operated on the fringes of Lebanese politics. It was not until the Civil War of 1958, that Gemayel emerged as a leader of the far right-wing separatist (mainly Christian) movement that opposed a Nasserist and Arab-nationalist inspired attempt to overthrow the government of president Camille Chamoun and supported the return of foreign troops to Lebanon. In the aftermath of the war, Gemayel was appointed a cabinet minister in a four-member Unity government. Two years later, Gemayel was elected to the National Assembly, from a Beirut constituency, a seat he held for the rest of his life. By the end of the 1960s, the Kataeb Party held 9 seats in the National Assembly, making it one of the largest groupings in Lebanon's notoriously fractured and sectarian parliament. Although his bids for the presidency in 1964 and 1970 were unsuccessful, Gemayel continued to hold cabinet posts intermittently throughout the remaining quarter-century of his life.

William Hawi, Chief of the Kataeb Security Council, and Pierre Gemayel

Lebanon has long been a battleground in the Israeli-Arab conflict, and Gemayel's position was always solid and consistent advocating a Lebanon separated from the other Arab states and linked to France and the West. He opposed the presence of the Palestinian refugees. His supporters viewed this as a sign of strength and patriotism, while his detractors saw it as incoherent. Gemayel reluctantly signed the Cairo Agreement of 1969 under enormous pressure from the international community, which allowed Palestinian guerrillas to set up bases on Lebanese soil, from which to carry out actions against Israel. He later defended his actions, saying that Lebanon really had no choice. In the 1970s, he came to oppose the armed Palestinian presence in Lebanon. The Kataeb created a military Security Council lead by William Hawi, which came to be commanded by Gemayel's son Bachir upon the assassination of Hawi.

Gemayel was also to reverse his position on The Syrian intervention in the Lebanese Civil War of 1975 to 1990. He initially welcomed Syrian intervention on the side of the Christians and against the National Movement, but he soon became convinced that Syria was occupying Lebanon for reasons of its own. In 1976, he joined other mainly Christian leaders, including former president Camille Chamoun, the diplomat Charles Malik, and the Guardians of the Cedars leader Étienne Saqr, to oppose the Syrians. On October 11, 1978, Gemayel bitterly denounced the Syrian military presence, and the Lebanese Front joined the Lebanese regular army in a successful "Hundred Days War" against the Syrian army.

Later years

Gemayel saw his younger son, Bachir Gemayel, elected President of Lebanon on August 23, 1982, only to be assassinated on September 14, nine days before his scheduled inauguration. Bachir's older brother, Amine Gemayel was elected to replace him. Pierre Gemayel himself initially stayed out of his son's government, but in early 1984, after participating in two conferences in Geneva and Lausanne, Switzerland, aimed at ending the civil war and the occupation of the country by Syrian and Israeli troops (which had invaded the country in 1982), he agreed to serve once more in a Cabinet of National Unity. He was still in office when he died in Bikfaya, on 29 August 1984, aged 78 years.

See also


  1. ^ Fisk, Robert (2002). Pity The Nation. Nation Books. pp. 48–49.  

External links



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