- Guardians of the Cedars
The Guardians of the Cedars (
Arabic: حراس الأرز or "Ḥurrās al-Arz") are a right-wing nationalist Lebanese party and former militiain Lebanon. It was formed by Étienne Saqr(also known with the kunya or "nom de guerre" "Abu Arz" or "Father of the Cedars") and others along with the Lebanese Renewal Party in the early 1970s. It operated in the Lebanese Civil Warunder the slogan: "Lebanon, at your service."
The Guardians of the Cedars started to form a militia in the years leading up to the Lebanese Civil War and commenced military operations in April
1975, Communiqué No. 1 was issued to denounce advocates of the partition of Lebanon. The second communiqué contained a bitter attack on the Palestinians. The third articulated the party's attitude on the issue of Lebanese identity: Lebanon should dissociate itself from Arabism. The party spread its messages by means of graffitiin East Beirut, including slogans against Syria, the "Palestinian Resistance", and Pan-Arabism, sometimes with violent anti-Palestinian tones, as in the slogan ﻋﻠﻰ ﻜﻝ ﻠﺒﻨﺎﻨﻲ ﺍﻥ ﻴﻘﺘﻝ ﻓﻠﺴﻁﻴﻨﻴﺎﹰ ("It is a duty for each Lebanese to kill a Palestinian"). [CHAKHTOURA Maria, "La guerre des graffiti", Beyrouth, Éditions Dar an-Nahar, 2005, page 121.] [Etienne Saqr, "The Ideology of the Guardians of the Cedars" (Lebanon 1977) original Title: من عقيدة حراس الأرز] [فضل شرورو "الأحزاب و التنظيمات و القوى في لبنان 1930-1980" بيروت 1981] [Micheal Kuderna, "Christliche gruppen im Libanon (Wiesbaden 1983)]
The Guardians of the Cedars joined other pro-status quo, mainly Christian Lebanese militias in
1976to form the Lebanese Front.
1976, they confronted Palestinian and leftist forces in West Beirut. A Guardians unit was also dispatched to Zaarour, above the mountain road to Zahle, to support Phalangistforces. In April, Guardian fighters held a line in the area of Hadeth, Kfar Shima, and Bsaba, south of Beirut, against a coalition of Palestinian, PSP, and SSNP forces.
In the summer of
1976, the Guardians were among the first militias to assault Tel al-Zaatar and help in committing one of the biggest step in the war toward cleaning the Lebanese territory from the Palestinian's suicides, the last remaining Palestinian military camp in east Beirut, which fell after a 52-day siege.
The actions of the Guardians and their allies following the capture of the camp have been widely reported as amounting to a massacre of many of its civilian inhabitants. During this battle, Saqr led a unit of Guardians force to
Chekka, where Christian civilians were being sieged by leftist-Palestinian forces, and fought off the Palestinian forces.
The Guardians and allied Christian militias then invaded the Koura region in northern Lebanon and reached Tripoli, to support Christian residents trapped by fighting. In
1978as part of the Lebanese Front they did small attacks on the Syrian army in Beirut and again in 1981in the Battle of Zahle. This came after the alliance between the Phalanges and most Christian groups with the Syrians had taken a twist.
1985the Guardians of the Cedars mounted a fierce defense of Kfar-Fallusand Jezzine, battling Palestinians and Shiite-Druze militias and protected thousands Christians of South Lebanon.
Towards the close of the 1980s, and continuing to
2000, most of the remaining fighting in Lebanon occurred in the south, inside the Israeli-occupied zone, under the Southern-Lebanese-Army influence led by Saad Haddadand later by Antoine Lahd, the latter who had close ties with the Ahrar party. The Guardians and other militias were largely reorganized into the South Lebanon Army, preserving much of the early ideology while adopting new military tactics.
The Guardians hold to several key beliefs:
* Lebanon is an ancient nation of unique ethnicity
* modern Lebanese people descended from the
Phoenicians, and are not related to Arabs
* the Lebanese, and not the
Greeks, are the founders of today's western civilisation
This has led the Guardians of the Cedars to maintain that Lebanese people are not
Arabs. The political consequence of this stance advocates the 'de-Arabisation' of Lebanon. Similarly, followers draw a distinction between Arabic and 'Lebanese', aiming to restore the form created by Lebanese philosopher Said Akl. The Guardians of the Cedars have adopted positions hostile to Pan-Arabism. This is believed to be the main reason why they did not grow as a party in Lebanon and were rejected by even the most staunch of Maronite political ideology supporters.
Saqr himself had fought against pan-Arab forces back in the
Lebanon Crisis of 1958. During that time Camille Chamounentered Lebanon in the Baghdad Allianceled by the US, but faced stiff resistance from a huge section of the Lebanese people, and this later led to the failure of this alliance.
After heavy Palestinian involvement in the
Lebanese Civil War, the Guardians cultivated ties with the Israeli military, receiving weapons and support. Some followers maintain that this was a collaboration of necessity, and not an ideological agreement with the Israelis. Others disagree, claiming that collaboration with Israel was based on the conviction that there was a commonality of interest between the two countries. Other similarly-aligned militias, such as the Phalangists, Ahrar and the Tigers, also cooperated semi-secretly with Israel. This cooperation was later emphasized by Saqr who said : "Lebanon's power is in Israel's power, and Lebanon's weakness lies in Israel's weakness".
This alliance with Israel played a major role in banning the party, and expelling its members who mostly fled to Israel. Saqr who now lives in Tel Aviv has since admitted that Israel has been funding the group throughout its existence, even before the war began. Saqr is now considered as a traitor to the Lebanese government, alongside the likes of
Antione Lahdwho like Saqr resides in Tel Aviv under Mossad protection.
Front of the Guardians of the Cedar
The Front of the Guardians of the Cedar – FGoC ("Al-Jabhat li-Hurras el-Arz"), sometimes known by its Arabic acronym, JIHA, was a Christian right-wing grouping that appeared in 1974. Apparently a splinter of the
Guardians of the Cedars, they held similar views to those of this party – expressed just prior to the war in anti- palestiniangraffitis bearing the ‘JIHA’ signature scrubbed in the walls of east Beirut’s buildings – very little is known about this small and obscure organization. Estimated at about 100 members, the JIHA operated mainly in the eastern sector of the Lebanese Capital during the 1975-77 phase of the Lebanese Civil War, but nothing was heard from them afterwards. It is assumed that they might have been re-absorbed into the GoC or by the Lebanese Forcesin 1977.
Lebanese Renewal Party
The Lebanese Renewal Party (LRP) is a banned
political partyin Lebanonformed in 1972 as the politicalarm of the paramilitaryforce known as the Guardians of the Cedars. It is often characterized as right-wing extremist, but by its followers as a patriotic nationalistmovement. Its membership is almost exclusively Christian, but it is a secular organization. The party is still led by its founder, Étienne Saqr(Abu Arz).Fact|date=July 2007
It was formed by
right-wingactivists opposed to the presence of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The refugee population also included a substantial element of Palestine Liberation Organization(PLO) fighters, especially after the 1970 Black Septemberevents in Jordan. This created severe tension in Lebanon, and is believed by many to have been a driving factor behind the outbreak of civil war in 1975.Fact|date=July 2007
Lebanese Civil War, the party and its militia was a small but active part of the Maronite-led alliance fighting the Palestinianrepresented by the Rejectionist Frontand PLO , and its allies in the Lebanese National Movement(LNM) of Kamal Jumblatt. During the early fighting in the war, the party was implicated in the massacres of Karantina and Tel al-Zaatar. In 1977, the main Christian-backed militias (LRP plus the National Liberal Party and the Kataeb Party) formed the Lebanese Frontcoalition. Their militias joined under the name of the Lebanese Forces, but the Lebanese Forces soon fell under the command of Bashir Gemayeland the Phalange. The LNR and the Guardians of the Cedars were uncompromisingly opposed to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.Fact|date=July 2007
1982 Lebanon Warthe party cooperated with Israel Defense Forces, and its militia joined the South Lebanon Army(SLA). After the withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon in 2000, most of the leadership fled to Israel. The group was banned by the Syrian-dominated government and decided to give up its arms to become a traditional political party. It remains banned, and is only a minor force in national life. Still, some of the rhetoric used by the LRP in advocating its domestic policies was revived during the Cedar Revolutionin 2005, which forced the withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon and led to expectations of political reform.Fact|date=July 2007
The Lebanese Renewal Party is
ethnocentric, and believes that Lebanon is not an Arabcountry. It labored extensively to create or discover non-Arab cultural expressions, and went so far as to design a new alphabetfor Lebanese Arabic, which it claims is a language in its own right. Accordingly, the party was staunchly opposed to Pan-Arabism, which was advocated by many in the LNM and the left-wingPalestinian movements. As far as the Lebanese Christian community is concerned, the belief that Lebanon is not an Arab country was substantiated by some segments of Lebanese society, espcecially the Maronites. Fact|date=July 2007
One of the main themes of the party's rhetoric was its preoccupation with ridding Lebanon of Palestinians. It regularly employed
hate speech, as when the party asserted that it was "the duty of every Lebanese to kill one Palestinian" and compared them with germs, snakes, and a cancerin the body of the nation. The party still insists that all Palestinians, Syrians and other foreigners must leave Lebanon.Fact|date=July 2007
Another distinguishing element of the party's politics was that it advocated cooperation with Israel. While there were several other movements on the Christian side in Lebanon that cooperated with Israel during the war, the LNR was the only organization openly and ideologically committed to this, regarding a Lebanese-Israeli axis as the best protection against Arabism and the Palestinians.Fact|date=July 2007
Attitude towards the Palestinians
Saqr summed the Guardians of the Cedars attitude to Palestinians in an interview with the "
Jerusalem Post" on July 23 1982::"It is the Palestinians we have to deal with. Ten years ago there were 84,000; now there are between 600,000 and 700,000. In six years there will be two million. We can’t let it come to that." His solution: "Very simple. We shall drive them to the borders of ’brotherly’ Syria... Anyone who looks back, stops or returns will be shot on the spot. We have the moral right, reinforced by well-organized public relations plans and political preparations."
GoC slogan during the civil war was "It's the duty of every Lebanese to kill a Palestinian". [ [http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/NewsDesk.nsf/Lebanon/858942425B8FCE80C225707E00386A11?OpenDocument Naharnet Newsdesk - Guardians of Cedars Party Protests Arrests, Clarifies Stance on Palestinians ] ]
End of the militia
1989saw the Guardians once more fighting the Syrians alongside the Lebanese Armyin support of the Lebanese government of General Michel Aoun. In a statement in 1990, the GoC greeted the occupation of Kuwaitby Saddam Husseinby asserting that "Arabism is the undisputed lie of the 20th century." The Guardians called upon the people to rally around the leadership of General Aoun, and demanded the withdrawal of Lebanon from the Arab League.
As the Lebanese Civil War drew to a close in
1990, political changes weakened the right-wing movements which had existed in earlier decades. In October 1990, as part of the end of the war, the reorganized Lebanese government forced Prime Minister Aoun out of power under Syrian demands and commands. From this year on, Syria occupied Lebanon till its withdrawal in 2005. Samir Geagea's "Lebanese Forces" militia captured Saqr because he had supported Aoun. During this incident, he suffered an unspecified injury. He was forced to seek refuge in Jezzine, and finally left Lebanon for Europe after Israel pulled its forces out of Lebanon. Several other members of the Guardians are presently wanted by the Lebanese government, in order to answer for war-crimes.
From the end of the civil war in
1990until the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000the Guardians of the Cedars formed an element of the now-defunct South Lebanon Army. Since that date their military operations have ceased and they operate solely politically, campaigning to remove the Syrian presence in Lebanon.
Today, the newly-reorganized GoC is a legal and fully-functional political partyFact|date=February 2007; lately, the term "Harakat al-Qawmiyya al-Lubnaniyya" (Lebanese Nationalism Movement) was added to its name.
Lebanese Civil War
Tel al-Zaatar Massacre
Mordechi Nissan, "The Conscience of Lebanon
Robert Fisk, "Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War" "
* [http://www.lebpolitics.com Lebanese Politics] - Lebanese political discussions
* [http://www.gotc.org/ Guardians of the Cedars]
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