While the second event, according to Seaver, took place on 13 April 1975, when unknown
assailants attempted to assassinate Pierre Gemayel, the leader of the Phalanges, while
he was attending the consecration of a new church in the Christian Beirut suburb of Ain
Rumana. Gemayel survived, but three of his bodyguards died. Seaver added that a
group of Maronite militiamen at Ayn Al-Rumana retaliated by ambushing a bus containing
mostly Palestinians on their way to the Tel-Al Za'atar refugee camp, killing twenty-seven
passengers. The incident incited heavy fighting throughout the country between the
Phalangists on the one hand and Palestinian militiamen and leftist Muslims on the other
hand, resulting in over 300 deaths in three days. The first incident highlighted the
Muslims' uneasiness about the privileges that the Christian elite were enjoying. The
protest was not just a protest against the opening of the company, but because it was
owned by one of the Christian power brokers. Moreover, it followed a constant outcry of
Muslim leaders against the privileges and wealth of the Christians.
After the Cairo Agreement in 1969, which sanctioned the arming of Palestinians in
Lebanon, the Christians perceived the continuing presence of the Palestinians in Lebanon
as a serious threat.
These above incidents are not the only factors, which led to the eruption of the Civil War.
The nature of nationalism in Lebanon has played a crucial role in making the Civil war
Twefik Khalaf noted that the Christians had a hidden agenda when fighting broke out
between the Phalanges and the Palestinians. The Phalanges wanted to hold on for a few
days and then engage the Lebanese Army in a Jordanian style campaign against the
The Christians may be indirectly blamed for the eruption of the civil war, due to the fact
that the demands of Muslims for more equality fell on deaf ears. As a result of a fifteen-
year Muslim boycott of the Lebanese state during the French mandate, there was always
considerable disequilibrium in the civil service, which was made up largely by Christians.
The disequilibrium continued well into the independent republic: young civil servants
appointed in the 1930s reached retiring age only in the 1960s. This ably explained the
reason behind the Christian control of the civil service.
In the fifties, Maronites and Greek Catholics Melkites and Sunni Muslims were over
represented at the expense of the Shi'ites. As Muslim communities lagged in university
education, Muslim deputies, parties and institutions were among the zealous champions
of the principle of proportionality or quota citing Article 95 of the constitution which
stipulated an adequate distribution of civil service posts among the communities.
Christians, with their educational advantages, rejected the Muslim demand, citing that
Article 12 of the constitution, stipulated that all citizens should have equal access to the
civil service and that the only criteria of selection was merit and ability.
The above example effectively explains that the different interpretation of the
constitution by Christians and Muslims had made them in conflict with each other.
Brenda Seaver criticised the Christian militias, as they often seemed to act in defiance of
the Lebanese Front's leadership. Ghassan Hage cited Christian notorious atrocities on
6 December 1975. The day was to be known later as "black Saturday", where more than
two hundred Muslims were brutally massacred by Christians. This event was usually
explained as an act of revenge for the killing of Christians in Muslim areas.
Simon Haddad recorded that Palestinian refugees were slaughtered in Tal Al Za'atar in
1976 and in Sabra and Shatila camps in 1982. Rex Brynen estimated that Christians
killed about one thousand Palestinians and Lebanese Muslims and evicted twenty
thousand from the Palestinian protected areas of the Al-Karantina and Al-Maslakh slum
The years between 1975-1990 were the darkest time for Christians. This was due to the
atrocities committed by the Christian militia and by the atrocities committed on
Christians by Muslims and Palestinians. Charles Sennott recalled the war memory of one
Christian villager Michael Abu Abdella from Damour. Abu Abdella remembered the attacks
that devastated his village Christian community and had caused thousands to flee.
During the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, a Phalange faction led by Elie Hobaiqa
attacked the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila and massacred about one
thousand unarmed refugees, including women, children, and old men. Israel was
blamed widely for not intervening to stop it once it had began.
However, the Lebanese forces denied its involvement and the victims' relatives have
recently launched criminal proceeding at a the Belgium supreme court against the
current Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was the Defence Minister during the 1982
Chapter 6: Causes of the Decline of the Christian status in Lebanon
The decline of the Christian role in Lebanon was caused by four factors. Firstly, the
typical strife with the Muslim foes, secondly by internal Christian division and fighting,
thirdly by foreign intervention and fourthly by voluntary and forced emigration of many
The political and social Christian decline can be traced to their struggle with the Muslim
majority. Christians were exhausted by their war with the Muslims. Fawaz Gerges noted
that Latif Abul-Husn believed that the 1975 war revolved around three main issues:
Reform of the political system, the national identity of Lebanon and Lebanon's
According to Abul-Husn, the Christians could have been in conflict with the Muslims over
the three above issues. The Muslims wanted to reform the political system, which
favoured Christians. They wanted to translate their numerical superiority into political
power. They wanted a system, which they could control. Moreover, they saw Christians as
an obstacle to the formation of an Islamic state similar to the rest of the Middle Eastern
states. The Muslims chose war instead of dialogue, due to the fact that the Christians
continued to ignore their grievances. The war was more destructive to the Christians than
to the Muslims.
In 1983, a civil war erupted in the mountains between the Phalanges and the Druze on a
large scale. The Druze defeated the Christians. They drew no distinction between their
Christian supporters and opponents. Around sixty villages were devastated, thousands of
civilians were murdered, and tens of thousands were driven out or had fled. The spiritual
leader of the Druze, Sheikh Abu Shakra, summed up the brutality of this phase of the
civil war stating that the Christians would never again live in the Druze Mountain. For
the Christians, the episode was a disaster of a similar magnitude as in the Chouf, where
about fifty Christian villages were razed to the ground in 1983.
Theodore Hanf noted that there had been radical changes in the southern section of
Mount Lebanon, the upper Metn, the Aley region and the Chouf. In 1975, the Christians
comprised a good half of the population, a decade later about 1 per cent. The Christians
were expelled from the coastal strip in the first two years of the war. They were
eradicated from certain areas and replaced by Muslims. There were several wars between
Christians and Muslims but the 1983 Mountain war stands as the most significant war,
which caused the death of thousands of Christians and expelled them from the Mountain
At the end of the civil war in 1990, as Christian-Muslim relations improved, many
Christians started to return to their villages. The government even started to financially
aid them to renovate or build new houses.
The struggle with the Muslims caused the Christians to slowly surrender their traditional
hold of power and opted to emigrate seeking a better future.
The decline of the Christian power in Lebanon can be also traced to internal divisions and
infighting among the Christians themselves. The Phalanges saw that the Maronite
political pluralism ought perhaps to be tolerated, but the community's military power had
to be under one authority, and that authority had to be theirs. For this reason the
Phalanges sought to break the independent power of their two principal partners, the
Franjiyya and the Liberal National Party. The relations with Franjiyya worsened after they
disagreed over relations with Syria.
The Phalanges sought to expand their party organisation into Northern Lebanon and to
undermine the Franjiyya family's economic base by disputing Franjiyya's right to raise
levies in the heavily industrialised region around Chekka, South of Tripoli. Franjiyya
responded to the challenge by killing the chief Phalanges organiser, Jud Bayeh. The
Phalanges retaliated by shelling Tony Franjiyya's home in the village of Ehden, killing him
and his immediate family in June 1978. Itamar Rabinovich questioned whether or not
his assassination had been planned; it is obvious that excessive brutality divided the
Christian camp. Franjiyya accused Lebanese Forces of collaboration with Israel and
opted to side with Syria.
In 1980, Bashir Gemayel's militia destroyed the military infrastructure of the Tigers, the
National Liberal Party's militia, in the Beirut area. The Phalanges sought to expand their
mandate and their demographic and territorial bases by becoming the representative
authority for all Lebanese Christians not just the Maronites.
On 31 January 1990, after the Lebanese forces announced its reluctant endorsement of
the Ta'if Accord, Michel Aoun had to consolidate his position with his Christian
constituency. He attempted to wrest control of the small Christian area between Beirut
and Jebail, but in the process inaugurated a Christian civil war in January 1990. Kail
Ellis commented that the conflict lasted until July of that year and ended without a clear-
cut victory for Aoun. Before the fighting stopped in mid-March, nearly 750 civilians
had been killed and 3,000 wounded, but the Lebanese Forces continued to support the
new accord. Ellis noted that the war had negative political consequences for the
Christian community and that it was estimated that the war had caused $1.2 billion in
Another reason for the decline of Christian influence in Lebanon is that not all Christians
shared the dream of a Christian state. For example, Christian members of both Lebanese
communists and the national progressive parties aimed for a non-secular political system
and called for the abolition of the religious based political system. Theodore Hanf noted
that the civil war between the Christian communities had weakened them more than all
the previous attacks of Lebanese and foreign foes.
Christian relations with foreign powers have also contributed to their decline. In the
words of Lebanon's premier columnist, Ghassan Tueni, it was the others' war. Lebanon
was used as a battlefield for the ongoing clashes in the Middle East and the superpower
rivalries resulting from the cold war.
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested