The Gemayel family is almost a dynasty within Lebanese politics. But it has paid a high price for its elevated status over the decades. A number of members have died at the hands of political assassins. Pierre’s father, Amin, said the family would not be shaken from its faith. “We won’t allow evil to win,” he said.
The Gemayal history is bound closely to that of the Maronite community. One of the patchworks of communities that make up this troubled country. As an eminent family in the north it was at the forefront of the struggle against Ottoman rule. It was another Pierre Gemayel who stamped the family name on the modern era when he founded the nationalist Phalangist or Kataeb Party in 1936.
During the civil war that erupted in 1975 the Phalangist militia played a lead role in the battle against Palestinian fighters infiltrating from Syria. In the bitter struggle that followed Gemayel allied his Phalangists to Israel and the conflict widened. His son, Bashir, who headed Lebanese Forces, was elected President in 1982 the year Israel invaded the south of country. Hostilities intensified even further. Bashir was assassinated a month later. But the Gemayel ascendancy was not broken. Bashir brother Amin, succeeded him.
The fighting was also to claim the life of Bashir’s daughter. Under Amin’s rule, which lasted 6 years, Lebanon negotiated a US-brokered peace treaty with Israel. But violence continued to plague the country after the departure of the multinational peacekeeping force.
Finally under the Taif accords of 1989 a resolution to the conflict was found. But now the shadow of Syria hung over the country. The Gemayel family took refuge in Paris. They were not to return until 2000 when the country appeared stable enough. It was after the return that Pierre Gemayel fatefully entered the political fray.