Biography of William Hawi
William Hawi’s family comes from the village of Choueir in North Metn, Lebanon. William’s father, Amine Hawi, emigrated when he was twenty years old. His second son, William, was born in New York, U.S. in 1908. Before the family grew and spread its roots in the foreign land, Amine Hawi went back to his homeland in the beginning of 1910, along with his wife and three children. William Hawi had a passion for sports. He played football, tennis and loved swimming and skiing. His sports activities were topped by his participation in the creation of Al Salam Club in Achrafieh. William Hawi met Pierre Gemayel in sports meetings and the latter invited him in 1937 to join the Lebanese Phalange Organization.
In 1947, William Hawi married Marcelle Anis Ghobril. They lived in Beydoun quarter in Achrafieh and had a single daughter, Leila.
William Hawi owned a factory of mirrors, which exported its products to the Arab countries and became one of the most important factories in the Middle East before moving from Debbas Square to Jisr el Basha. With the Palestinian-Lebanese war in 1970, the region of Jisr el Basha fell under the control of the Palestinians living in the camps of Jisr el Basha and Tell el Zaatar and the factory became a primary target for destruction as revenge against its owner: William Hawi, leader of the Lebanese parties opposed to the Palestinian intervention in Lebanese affairs. The Palestinians broke into the factory, destroyed glass and machines before blowing up the facility.
William Hawi accepted Pierre Gemayel’s invitation and joined the Phalange Organization in 1937 even when it was working secretly and illegally following a decree ordering its dissolution in 18/11/1938. He was involved in several issues: consolidating the Party’s authority and creating and developing the Regulatory Forces in an atmosphere of discipline. William Hawi’s responsibilities increased and became diversified. He was appointed Head of the Second and Fourth Districts, President of the Recruitment Bureau in 1942, Head of the ‘Department of Security, Sport and Mobilization’ on May 29, 1952, and member of the Political Bureau on July 12, 1952. On June 16, 1958, he was in charge of organizing and leading the activists during the Lebanese events; this constituted the hub of the Party’s Regulatory Forces, of which he became the leader on February 6, 1961.
The discussions about creating the Phalange Security wing featured several conflicting opinions and lasted interminably before the Party took its final decision to agree to the presence of Regulatory Forces. On January 23, 1961, the Political Bureau dissolved the militants’ organization before inc
luding its members in the Lebanese Phalange Party and Hawi created the Regulatory Forces. On February 6, 1961, William Hawi was appointed Head of said Forces. In 1963, the “First Commandos” unit was created. It was followed by the “Second Commandos” unit, then by the “P.G.” troop. In 1973, the “Maghaweer” platoon was created and the “Combat School” established. Moreover, “Chef” William supervised the setting up of camps as well as the training organization and development.
When the French took Pierre Gemayel prisoner, Joseph Shader took over the political command while William Hawi was in charge of the organized security effort. He prepared and organized the strikes and demonstrations. He held secret meetings with An-Najdah (the rescuers) in the mirror factory he owned in Debbas Square. When the French found out about these meetings, they raided the factory several times and pursued William Hawi who escaped by hiding at his friends and neighbors.
In 1952, the Lebanese Phalange put William Hawi up for the Beirut Municipal Council in the Achrafieh-Rmeil region for the Christian Grec Orthodox seat, where he obtained the largest number of votes. In 1957, he individually ran for the Parliamentary elections opposite Ghassan Tueini and Nassim Majdalani but did not win. Despite its loss, the Phalange Party considered these elections to be a confirmation of its strength on the streets.
Events of 1958
During this period, the Lebanese and Arab scenes were marked by the halo of the Egyptian President, Gamal Abdel Nasser. The Phalange Party was fiercely opposed to the pro-Nasser movement that called for strikes and organized riots. It thus entrusted William Hawi with organizing and leading the activists to control the situation and protect its regions.
War of 1975
Events started escalating dramatically in favor of the Palestinians who started infiltrating the safe houses in the cities and villages, raising confusion and violating rights and properties.The Political Bureau held an extraordinary meeting on March 31, 1970 and created a “Higher Council” in charge of supervising the organization of the Party’s work relating to its security and that of the country. William Hawi was entrusted with the security issues and requirements. While the political command of the Party was trying to establish peace and dialogue, the military command led by William Hawi was preparing the Regulatory Forces, manning its human and material capacities in order to fight against the settlement plan that had already started to emerge. The state being unable to fulfill its duties and defend its people, and the governmental institutions being disabled, it was necessary to unify and organize the ranks of the parties for defense purposes. William Hawi was worried by the lack of weapons, ammunitions and supplies and by the absence of coordination between the allied Lebanese forces at the front. He held several meetings with the allied forces in order to create a “Unified Operation Room”, the first core of the “Lebanese Forces”.
William Hawi created a “Military Police” in charge of controlling the disorder and chaos that were everywhere and introduced a regulatory mechanism to guarantee road safetyand guide the citizens to these safe roads. Perhaps the most terrible ordeal he had to face was that famous massacre on December 6, 1975, that was later called the “Black Saturday” where he was also subjected to menaces and humiliation when he tried to rescue as many innocents as he could. Several persons owe him their lives, their dignity and their properties.
William Hawi engaged in a fight against corruption and in a battle for liberation when the Palestinians tried to control Beirut completely by isolating it with their surrounding military camps. The Quarantine camp fell within 24 hours under the attack orchestrated by William Hawi, which opened the road linking Beirut
to Kesserouan and Jbeil in December 1976. The camp of Jisr el Basha also fell after two days of the blockade organized by “Chef” William, paving the way for the liberation of the camp of Tell el Zaatar. However, the camp fell one building after the other. On July 11, 1976, the sources of the Lebanese allied forces announced the fall of the last bastion in Tell el Zaatar and declared that the Head of the Phalange War Council supervised this operation. On July 13, 1976, William Hawi was killed in the middle of the battlefield, before having the opportunity to celebrate his victory.
On July 13, 1976, at the boundaries of Tell el Zaatar, between Al Raii El Saleh and Gallery Matta, a shot was fired by a sniper and killed Hawi while he inspected his forces at the forefront of the battlefield as witnessed by his comrades who were with him.
Upon the death of William Hawi, Bashir Gemayel was appointed his replacement as president of the Kataeb Military Council and as the head of the unified command of the Lebanese forces, a coalition of the Christian militias of the Kataeb Party (created and organized by Hawi), National Liberal Party, the Tanzim and the Guardians of the Cedars. On July 7, 1980, these Christian militias were unified into one as the Lebanese Forces with Bashir Gemayel as their Commander-in-Chief. Gemayel was elected as president on August 24, 1982, but he was assassinated on September 14, 1982, before the beginning of his term.
The Lebanese Forces in addition to the Kataeb party are major forces in the current Lebanese March 14th Forces coalition at the heart of the present Lebanon conflict, Rafic Hariri UN probe / tribunal, and the on-going protests in down-town Beirut.