The Jumblatt Trap.

It's late, and I have been wandering around the Web, settling here and there. One of the places I found myself in was Harry's Place, which is a weblog maintained by those who consider themselves on the secular left but who supported the Iraq War and parts of the neoconservative movement.

One of the links there led me to this Iranian TV video in which a Persian interviewer assails Walid Jumblatt, the Druze Leader of Lebanon, who condemns Syria and expresses the trouble any big man of a small state would have when surrounded by powerful neighbours.

Jumblatt is associated with a political tradition which goes back over a thousand years, and which is, if not tranquil, deeply civilised. He is under a death threat from just about anyone and his father died at the hands of the Syrians. On the video, Jumblatt cheerfully acknowledges lying to and about the bigger power, which makes the assaults of the interviewer mean less.

What this made me think of was how complicated the outlook of a man like Jumblatt must be. Wikipedia, which of course is subject to all sorts of editing and intervention, has him down as a sort of liar or opinion-changer, here supporting America and condemning Saddam, there sucking up to Syria, there condemning Saddam and Israel in crude populist terms. In a land where almost all have blood on their hands he has his share, and has suffered the deaths of those of his blood too.

But what must it be to be a man of a small country whose big neighbours want you, personally, dead, your family gone or enslaved, and your country a satrap? One doesn't have to think of the whirligig that was Francois Miterrand during the occupation and partition of France by the Nazis to get the point. Something goes into the soul in such times, of the sort that can still be detected in the children of the mountains in Donegal, just a little.

What it is, I'm not sure. An easy relationship with truth or words? A will to independence and an understanding of the intimate closeness of death, and a determination to draw attention from those ditches where a man in some circumstances might be asked to die? Defiance and confidence in bullshit in the face of despair?

The interview is fascinating to me. I bow to no one in my genuine concern for Israel. But Lebanon, too has its life. Everyone alive does, which is a fatuous statement. Less fatuous though than the incessant demands made across policy spheres for lines and hard choices and clean breaks by those who are never under sentence of death and who don't have to fight the wars they support.

The picture above, by the way, is taken from an organisation called 'The campaign for good governance in Lebanon'. The Cardinal is a Marionite, and Eastern Orthodox churchman in communion with the Holy See. I wrote about this sort of person a few months ago here.

Here and here are a couple of other sources on Jumblatt, just to make my point. Here is BBC background on the major Lebanese political players. I might warn you that if you go to them with some unsophisticated moral agenda you'll be offended by Jumblatt, but if you understand the contortions that his political position force him into, you may understand him a bit more. I don't pretend to, much. I respect him though.

If you are up of a night and want to see one of the discussions at the edges of the insane plates that sometimes subduct within the lands where Islam had its greatest impact, between a Persian and a Druze who values Jesus Christ and Gandhi, have a look. The Druze, crudely, are non-Quranic Shia/Ismaili Muslims. If just that makes you think I'll be glad....


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