by Michael J. Totten
2nd part of 2
Jumblatt instinctively understands better than most how carefully Middle Eastern minorities must position themselves in order to survive.
"Do you think the long term interests of
"I think the interests are too interconnected between the Syrian regime and
"It will not change," Jumblatt said. "It will give them more prestige, of course, with their allies. At the same time, they are not going to use the bomb. It will provoke a series of armaments – an arms race – in
"How important is increasing the power and discipline of the Lebanese army?" McCutcheon said.
"The Lebanese army is composed of Lebanese," Jumblatt said. "One third Sunni, one third Shia, and the rest Christians and Druze. You also have to look at the allegiances of officers and soldiers. Most of the Christian officers are Aounists. And when I say Aounists, I mean Hezbollah. Most of them. Hezbollah was quite clever and was able to infiltrate. The Sunnis are there, and if you go that far, and if you have tension inside
He is almost certainly right that the Lebanese army would break apart along sectarian lines if another internal war breaks out. It happened during the civil war in the late 1970s. It happened repeatedly in
"Are you concerned about a replay of what happened last year up here on the mountain?" Lee Smith said, referring to Hezbollah's violent assault on West Beirut and Druze villages near the town of
"They can do anything on the mountain," Jumblatt said. "Just 20 miles from here you have the area of Jezzine, which is the second line of defense of Hezbollah. What is left of Jezzine is, of course, in a Christian area. Still, in ten years time or maybe more it will be a Shia area. 500 years ago it used to be Shia. On this side you have my old supply lines from the
"Do you think if the election wasn't pending in
"They are not that stupid," Jumblatt said. "They have to understand the population of the south. They inflicted the Israeli army with big losses. And they were good fighters. But, of course, three years later, I don’t think doing the same thing would be very popular in the south of
"How can you praise Hezbollah for being good fighters," James Kirchick said, "and protecting the people of the south when they were the reason
"Because my past," Jumblatt said, "my political heritage, from my father to myself, was to defend the Palestinian cause. That is my answer. And my father, although he was killed by the Syrians, was killed because he was defending the Palestinians in
"Do you support negotiations between
"It's enough to have been accused of betrayal after the 2006 war," Jumblatt said. "And to negotiate what?"
"Withdrawal from Shebaa Farms," Young said.
"It’s not to be negotiated with the Israelis," Jumblatt said. "It is to be negotiated with the United Nations. And first it is to be negotiated with the Syrians. Up until now, Shebaa Farms is not legally recognized as Lebanese territory."
"This is your position," Young said. "But it’s not the position of the state."
"Legally," Jumblatt said, "we need a signed document from the Syrian government, jointly signed by the Lebanese government, that says Shebaa Farms is Lebanese. So go to the United Nations. We could see if we could fix up an interim presence of United Nations forces in Shebaa. It could be possible, but I don't know. I don't think so."
"Is there any realistic way of either disarming Hezbollah or integrating them within the state and the army?" I said. "Or will this problem go on and on?"
"I think it will go on and on and on," Jumblatt said. "I think so. Unless – if you ask them, most of the Shia will give up their weapons in exchange for a political price. The political price will be maybe reshuffling of the actual Lebanese system. More power to the Shia community within the Lebanese sectarian system."
"That’s their ultimate goal, isn’t it?" I said.
"At the same time because, I mean, they are proud to have defended
"They have invaded several times with excuse and without excuse from 1978 up until now," Jumblatt said. "They came clear to
"But if Hezbollah was disarmed," I said, "integrated into the state and the army, and the border was quiet, they wouldn’t come back here. I mean, why would they?"
"Why would they send their soldiers up here?" Kirchick said.
"There's a lot of reasons," Nicholas Noe said. He wasn't part of the group I was traveling with. He showed up at Jumblatt's gathering independently of the rest of us.
"What?" Kirchick said.
"Water is one reason," Noe said.
"Oh, come on," I said. "Be serious." Noe was putting forth an absurd conspiracy theory that had been bouncing around in
"Another reason," Noe said, "is possible rockets from some other crazy Sunni jihadist group that lobs them in to start a conflict. Another reason is possible transfer of population. Now you have [Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman in a lead role. These are all long-term threats. These might not be taken seriously by us as foreigners, but in
"Again?" I said incredulously. "With an armistice? Has
Hanin Ghaddar, an editor at NOW Lebanon who grew up in Hezbollah's southern stronghold, nodded in agreement with me. "Yeah," she said and laughed.
"The people of the south," Jumblatt said, "think the weapons of Hezbollah are protection against Israeli incursions."
That much is true. Supporting Hezbollah as a deterrent is perfectly logical if you sincerely believe Israelis want to annex
"Even though there were provocations at the same time?" Jonathan Foreman said. "Is there any way, in terms of states-within-states, is there any way…"
"I'm speaking about issues like that," Jumblatt said. "Realistically speaking. I’m not making moral judgments. This is
"You talk about the increasing strength of Hezbollah and the difficulty of your own supply lines," Foreman said. "Is there any way to strengthen the position of Hezbollah's opponents? Is there any way you and others can become stronger in relation to Hezbollah?"
"There is no way," Jumblatt said. "Again, it would be suicidal and an endless civil war without any results. I’m just concerned – I’m telling you, I’m concerned this very afternoon about the kidnapping and death of one of my Druze community members. We have to prepare for funerals tomorrow. And tomorrow there is this big Hezbollah celebration in the dahiyeh for [assassinated Hezbollah commander Imad] Mugniyeh. The Shias will come from the south to
"Are you worried something could happen?" Hanin Ghaddar said.
"Yes," Jumblatt said. "I am worried. I have been told now by the army that they have caught some people, and I hope they found who killed this guy. The people of Hezbollah are much more organized. It's a regular army."
"If today you could arrive at a deal where Hezbollah agrees to disarm in exchange for more political power – would that be such a bad thing?" Michael Young said.
"This process," Jumblatt said, "this system, cannot survive. This system, this confessional system, has proven to be obsolete. For internal and external reasons, we dispute this system. One day, I don’t know how – it will be time to change. We cannot be still be stuck…"
"Wouldn’t a deal like this be a way of changing?" Young said.
"Two parliaments, two chambers," Jumblatt said. "A senate for the interest of the communities where they can be equal, and one non-confessional parliament."
"If you can push Hezbollah into this logic and say…" Young said.
"Yes," Jumblatt said. "Of course. It’s a proposition. But also you have to convince my partners, with the sectarian division and hatred now between the Sunnis and the Shia, and with the obsolete and backward mentality of some of the Maronites. They are still ruling
"Is that the socialist Jumblatt speaking?" Hitchens said.
"The socialist Jumblatt died a long time ago," Jumblatt said.
Everyone laughed even harder. We all knew it was true despite his political party's brand name.
"He died with my father," Jumblatt said. "He had a dream with the leftist parties to change
"Not for the first time," Hitchens said.
Most of us in the room laughed again. We were familiar with Hitchens' slim volume denouncing Nixon's former secretary of state .
"Can you say a few words about what the Progressive Socialist Party means to you and what you might mean for them?" Hitchens said.
"My father studied in
I have no idea how much of the Jumblatt family land was redistributed to poor Druze in
He had to cut our time short, however, so he could defuse a crisis.
As he said in the interview, a Druze man died that day after he was violently attacked by
Hezbollah supporters a few days before. Enraged members of his community wanted revenge, and they set up road blocks on the highway over the mountains from
It doesn't take much to spark sectarian violence in
A tiny fraction of
No matter how much Jumblatt may deplore
No matter how the Druze choose to navigate their way through Lebanese, Syrian, Israeli, and Middle East politics generally, they will fight with their tribe against any and all who would single them out for abuse. As local and regional minorities, they are unique in some ways. But they're more like the Israeli and Kurdish minorities than they are like the Bahais, the Copts, or the Alawites. They will not roll over, and they have more say in the direction of
Michael J. Totten
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