On Sunday, Lebanon’s Kataeb celebrated the party’s 72nd anniversary and held the second commemoration of the assassination of Lebanese MP and Minister Pierre Amin Gemayel, who was gunned down in the eastern suburb of Jdeideh on the eve of Lebanese Independence Day in 2006.
4,200 party supporters, young and old, took an oath to become official party members during the commemoration, who were dubbed the “Pierre Amin Gemayel 2008” group.
Amin Gemayel, a former Lebanese president and the president of the Kataeb, began his speech by asking the crowd, “How could we have started the ceremony and speeches and Pierre has not yet arrived?” Gemayel also mourned the loss of Pierre’s bodyguard, Samir Shartouni, and Antoine Ghanem, a long time member of the party, who were both also assassinated.
Gemayel also told newly sworn in members of the party that death was “no stranger” to the Gemayel family, “for the old and young have always answered the call of their country.”
The list of assassinations to his, the Gemayel, family and the Kataeb party includes Pierre’s uncle Bachir, also killed at age 34, nine days before his inauguration, and niece Maya. Samir Shartouni, Pierre’s bodyguard, was killed during the shooting of the MP.
“The party of martyrs opens its gates and arms to welcome the new generation and allows them to grow in a purely patriotic environment … I hereby welcome you, dear comrades, to the party,” Gemayel said.
Gemayel set “three fixed principles” as the basis of the Lebanese state, namely the establishment of the Republic of Lebanon in 1920, the 1943 National Pact, and the existence and role of Christians in Lebanon.
Since the Taif Agreement, which was signed in 1989 to end the 15 year civil war, Gemayel said, “some have been practicing federalism in a separatist manner while others have been contemplating it in silence.”
“Why all this cowardice and hypocrisy?… A country needs a system that suits its structure, meets the ambitions and diversity of its people and guarantees its security, freedoms and stability,” he said.
“Not long ago, we pledged to rise again after every ordeal… We believed in the saying of no victor, no vanquished … At the time, we turned our backs to the murderers of our sons, brothers, children, elderly to keep the 10,452 km2 as one country. Now we find that some of us seek to make each of these five digits a state on its own… A state for strangers,” Gemayel added.
The Kataeb leader highlighted the difference between “the Lebanese and non-Lebanese” based on loyalty to and rule of the state and its institutions. “The state cannot allow any illegal military presence on any of its territories. Not the weapons of Palestinian organizations [inside and outside camps]. Not the weapons of Hezbollah in the South, Bekaa, the capital, the southern suburbs… The time has come [for these weapons to be] handed over to the state.”
He also supported his call for absolute state authority across all Lebanese territories by calling for a “national workshop” to discuss the military, political and security solution to Lebanon’s problems. The former president said talks of a national defense strategy should center on a “strategy of peace and not a strategy of war” as Lebanon’s peace was its only defense. “A country cannot have two states, nor the state two armies.”
Gemayel emphasized his party’s rejection of illegitimate arms “in the hands of both Lebanese and foreign parties in Lebanon,” which he said placed Lebanon under the threat of Israeli aggression, and of the resettlement of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
Last month, Israel threatened that any Hezbollah strike would bring “enormous destruction” using “disproportionate force” against Lebanese villages, especially as the country had legitimated Hezbollah’s presence by making it part of a national unity government.
Gemayel also tied Lebanon’s political struggles to the country’s social and economic strife. “We have many suggestions to improve living conditions, such as the establishment of a fund to aid needy families … but handling economic and livelihood issues are useless as long as the security situation remains in the hands of authorities that defy the authority of the Lebanese state.”
Investment and employment opportunities were lost to the threat of another May 7, Gemayel said, adding his regret for Lebanon’s high rates of emigration. “What is said for investment and employment can also be said for aid and donations. In light of the dual weaponry phenomenon, Arab and other countries cannot fulfill their duties toward Lebanon, for the resolutions of Paris I, Paris II and Paris III cannot coexist with Zelzal I, Zelzal II and Zelzal III missiles.”
Gemayel called on his “new comrades” to preserve the path of the Kataeb party, which had stood true to its founding principles since 1936.
“And today, we remain Kataeb in the March 14 gathering. We are not fans of custodianship. We do not like to be followers. We cannot be dissolved. We have learned to assume loyalty in our alliances, equality in representation and partnership in decisions. This is how we were raised. This is how we lived. This is how we shall remain,” he concluded.
The ceremony joined Minister of State Ibrahim Shamseddine on behalf of the president, MP Mohammad Qabbani on behalf of the prime minister, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, his wife, MP Strida Geagea, Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt and a number of dignitaries and Lebanese officials.
Delegations representing the Marada, Tashnaq and Communist parties were present, but there was a notable absence of a representative of Speaker Nabih Berri and his Amal Movement.