|Najjadeh Party The Rescuers|
Mainly Sunni Muslim
|Politics of Lebanon
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
By the name ‘the rescuers’ or ‘the helpers’ (Arabic: حزب النجادة | An-Najjadah, Najjadah, Najjadeh or Najjada) is known as a Lebanese nationalist party of Fascist trend that appeared in Lebanon during the 1930s.
Lebanon in the 1930s witnessed the emergence of two paramilitary youth sport organizations of sectarian cast with clear fascist tendencies in Beirut and other Lebanese cities, the Lebanese Phalanges led by Pierre Gemayel and the Najjadah. The latter began its existence in 1933-34 as a Sunni Muslim boy-scouts organization founded and led by Muhi al-Din al-Nasuli, the editor of the influential pan-Arabist Muslim newspaper, “Beirut” (Arabic: Bayrut), with the purpose of protecting the Muslim community and to act as a counterweight to the Phalangists.
A keen admirer of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini – whom were viewed at the time in both Syria and Lebanon as role models of strong statebuilders – al-Nasuli’s newspaper (among others) was involved since 1933 in publishing Hitler's speeches and excerpts from Mein Kampf. He often criticized the "moral chaos" in public life and adopted the supremacist motto "Arabism Above All" on his own newspaper's masthead. Al-Nasuli's Bayrut also published glowing accounts of German youth's support of Hitler, featuring illustrated articles on girls in the Bund Deutscher Mädel, the female branch of the Hitler Youth. The leader of the anti-British Palestine Arab guerillas in 1936-1939, upon his return from a trip to Germany, was idolized on the Bayrut pages, with both the information and the editorials being presented by al-Nasuli himself.
Although al-Nasuli promoted the Najjadah as the Muslim equivalent of the Christian-dominated Phalanges, and Sunni Muslim students from the schools run by the Maqasid Islamic Charitable Association provided him a pool of potential recruits, the group initially lacked much of the dynamism and organizational skills of their Christian rivals. It did not attract a mass following until 1936 when Adnan al-Hakim, a Sunni university teacher and politician rose to the leadership of the organization and re-organized it into a structured political party, which grew rapidly thereafter.
Often described as the Muslim ‘twin brother’ of the Phalangists, the radical conservative and anti-Communist Najjadah also advocated Arab nationalism – expressed on its manifesto calling for Arab unity, the independence of the Arab world from foreign rule, and an Arab Lebanon – and although it never really worked for it, this did not prevent the party of attracting a very large following within the Sunni Muslim community, especially in Beirut during the late 1930s and early 1940s.
In ideological terms, the Najjadah adopted early on a pan-Arab nationalist line that strived for the suppression of all foreign influences (included that of the ruling colonial power in Lebanon, France), which deeply contrasted with the Phalange’s own Phoenicist and pro-Western views. The ambivalent relation of such pan-Arab concepts with a ethnocentric and racial nationalistic vision became apparent in its slogan “Arabism above all” (Arabic: al-uruba fawqa al-jami).
Structure and organization
The third largest Lebanese right-wing Party after the SSNP and the Kataeb Party or ‘Phalange’, the Najjadah claimed in 1940 to have some 30,000 adherents, well-organized into uniformed paramilitary sections according to the prevalent Fascist standards of the time, which included a militia branch and an official newspaper.
The mandate period: 1936-1943
Although by the mid-1930s both Najjadah and Phalange Parties ostensibly vied for Lebanon’s independence from France, their sectarian base and conflicting ideological/identitarian views over the Country’s future ensured that they would became entangled in the bitter political Christian-Muslim disputes.
The rivalry between these two right-wing movements almost reached serious proportions on November 21, 1936 at Beirut, when a demonstration organized by the Najjadah in support of the Muslim struggle in Palestine was confronted by Phalangist youth militants. Its members had marched through the streets and alleyways of the Muslim quarters hoisting the Syrian flag and banners with slogans calling for Arab unity, which was apparently taken by the Christian militants as a provocation. Supporters of the Najjadah – by now a true political party – immediately took on the streets to protect the Muslim districts of West Beirut and to counter possible Christian paramilitary organizations’ attacks on these areas.
The World War two and the Fall of France in June 1940, caused an upsurge of nationalistic agitation in Lebanon, mainly carried out by the Najjadah and often in collusion with their Phalangist arch-rivals. Believing that the time was ripe for action pressuring the weakened French to accept full Lebanese independence, Adnan Al-Hakim and Pierre Gemayel agreed to put aside temporarily their political differences to form an anti-French united front, which began organizing joint large-scale demonstrations. The first one occurred in 1941, when the Najjadah and the Phalangists organized a march at Beirut in protest against the food distribution system established by the French mandatory authorities, which degenerated into violence when French troops attempted to disperse the demonstration by force. This was later followed in November 1943 by a nation-wide strike called by both Parties, which once again resulted in violent street demonstrations broken up by the military, and led the French mandatory authorities to enforce a ban on the Najjadah’s (and other Lebanese parties) legal activities until the end of the War.
After independence: 1943-1975
The Najjadah survived underground though, and in the years following the French withdrawal their president even succeeded being elected deputy for Beirut in the Lebanese Parliament between 1956 and 1972. During the 1958 Lebanon crisis, the party fielded a trained militia force of 300 fighters dressed in khaki uniforms and equipped with Czechoslovakian-made small-arms which fought at the side of the anti-government forces, but saw its political influence sharply decline throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.
Decline and demise: 1975-1990
Faced with the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975-76, the Party – still headed by the now-ageing Adnan Al-Hakim – adopted a neutralist, non-confrontational stance by refusing to join either the conservative-Christian Lebanese Front or the leftist-Muslim Lebanese National Movement (LNM) coalitions. However, the Najjadah’s leadership refusal to participate in the ongoing civil conflict eroded its already fragile popular support base, causing many of its younger militants to desert the Party to enlist in the LNM-PLO alliance militias.
Marginalized during the war years, the Najjadah re-emerged afterwards as a small and weakened organization lacking any real political support base, currently led by Adnan’s grandson Moustafa Al-Hakim.
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- http://www.najjadeh.org Official Web Site (in Arabic).