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Guardians of the Cedars

From Academic Kids

The Guardians of the Cedars are a right wing political movement and former militia in Lebanon. It was formed by Étienne Saqr and others along with the Lebanese Renewal Party in the early 1970s. It operated in the Lebanese Civil War under the slogan: No Palestinian will remain in Lebanon. This was officially amended to: It is the duty of each Lebanese to kill one Palestinian in June 1976.

The politics of Guardians of the Cedars is an extreme form of Lebanese nationalism which holds that the Lebanese are an ancient race and it is they, and not the Greeks, who are the founders of western civilisation. This has led Guardians of the Cedars to maintain that Lebanese people are not Arabs, indeed, to advocate the de-Arabisation of the Middle East and call for the restoration of the Phoenician language and alphabet. As a consequence, the Guardians of the Cedars have adopted positions hostile to Pan-Arabism and to Arabs in general. Saqr himself had fought against Muslim rebel forces back in the Lebanon Crisis of 1958. Fiercely anti-Palestinian, they cultivated close ties with the Israeli military. Unlike the Phalangists and the Tigers, who both cooperated semi-secretly with Israel, the Guardians of the Cedars incorporated collaboration with Israel into their ideology. This was based on the conviction that there was a commonality of interest between the Jewish state and the Maronite cause. The attitude of Guardians of the Cedars to the Palestinian presence in Lebanon is apparent from the content of one of their leaflets distributed in Sidon: "Germs live only in rot. Let us prevent rot from infiltrating society. Let us continue the work of destruction of the last bastions of the Palestinians and smash whatever life is left in this poisonous snake."

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. They joined with other Lebanese Christian and right-wing forces in 1976 to form the Lebanese Front. Guardians of the Cedars was able to field about 500-1000 fighters during the civil war.

The Guardians of the Cedars were involved in the alleged massacre of Palestinians at Tel al Zaatar refugee camp in 1976. 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."

It was in Sidon, during the Israeli occupation, that The Guardians of the Cedars were widely accused of acting as a death squad and were believed by many to be responsible for the murders and disappearances of hundreds of Palestinian civilians.

From the end of the civil war in 1990 until the Israeli withdawal from Lebanon in 2000 the Guardians of the Cedars formed an element of the South Lebanon Army. Since that date their military operations have ceased and they operate solely politically, campaigning to remove the Syrian presence in Lebanon. They have reorganized as a political party, but it remains banned in Lebanon.

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