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JUMBLATT, KAMAL (Kamal Joumblatt, 191’7-1977), Lebanese politician, traditional Druze chieftain, leader and ideologue of the Left. Born in the mountain village of al-Mukhtarah, Jumblatt attended the Lazarist school of `Ayntirah and received his university education at the Sorbonne. He later studied law at the Jesuit Saint Joseph University in Beirut.

Kamal Junblat,

Elected to parliament for the first time in 1943 at the age of twenty-six, Jumblatt entered politics following the death of his brother-in-law, Hikmat Jumblatt, and assumed the three-century-old leadership of one of the two clans of the Druze community in Mount Lebanon, the other being the Arslani clan. (Kamal’s father, Fuad Jumblatt, was assassinated in 1921 in unclear circumstances.) At odds with an entire generation of notables, Jumblatt’s career deeply marked Lebanese politics. In 1949, he launched the Progressive Socialist Party. With its predominantly Druze power base, the party grew to become a loose coalition of deputies from different sectarian groups, mostly from Jumblatt’s electoral district in the Shouf (Shuf).

In 1952, Jumblatt, along with a number of influential politicians, including Camille Chamoun (Sham’un), played a central role in the opposition campaign against President Bechara al-Khoury (Bisharah al-Khuri), thus forcing his resignation. Jumblatt’s first political setback was his defeat in the 1957 parliamentary elections, believed to have been influenced by President Chamoun, who was Jumblatt’s Maronite rival in the Shouf For Jumblatt, this one-time electoral defeat was an intolerable challenge to his historical leadership of the Druze community. A year later, in 1958, Jumblatt was a leading instigator of the short-lived armed rebellion against Chamoun.

Prior to the 1958 crisis, Jumblatt had distanced himself from Arab nationalism, but by the late 1950s he began to draw closer to Arab nationalist politics. Under the regime of General Fouad Chehab (Fu’ad Shihab), who was elected president after the 1958 crisis, Jumblatt held several cabinet posts. Jumblatt held seven cabinet posts, the first in 1946-1947 and the last in 1969-1970.

But he never declared a truce with the political system, the governments he backed, or even the cabinets of which he was a member.

Beginning in the late 1960s. Jumblatt opted for unprecedented maximalism, as evidenced by his support for Palestinian militarism in Lebanon and a radical leftist platform. Jumblatt was instrumental in the prolongation of the six-month ministerial crisis in 1969, which ended only after the signing of the 1969 Cairo Agreement between the Lebanese government and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In his capacity as minister of the interior in the cabinet formed after the 1969 crisis, Jumblatt legalized a number of radical and antisystem parties.

The high point of Jumblatt’s career came in the first half of the 1970s. In 1972, Jumblatt was the recipient of the Soviet Lenin Medal for Peace. A year later, he became secretary-general of a leftist, pro-PLO, Pan-Arab organization, the Arab Front for the Support of the Palestinian Revolution.

Jumblatt’s actual power peaked just before the outbreak of war in 1975-1976, when Jumblatt’s protege, and nominee for the premiership, Rashid al-Sulh, formed the last prewar cabinet. Jumblatt’s growing influence on the eve of the war was due not only to his leadership of the Left and his close alliance with the PLO, but also to his ability to mobilize Lebanon’s PanArab “street,” particularly in Beirut. This ability to inspire Arab nationalist protest undercut the power base of traditional Sunni leaders, thus upsetting the Maronite-Sunni confessional political balance, which had been in operation since independence in 1943

In the 1975-1976 war, Jumblatt initially sought a political settlement. In August 1975, the Jumblatt-led leftist coalition, known as the Lebanese National Movement, proposed an Interim Program for Democratic Reform calling for sweeping changes. In October 1975, a National Dialogue Committee was formed to discuss reform proposals and ways to end the war, but no agreement was forthcoming.

The stalemate was broken with the announcement by President Suleiman Frangiyeh (Sulayman Franjiyah) on 14 February 1976 of a Syrian-sponsored proposal known as the Constitutional Document. The proposal called for a more equitable confessional representation in government, but it reaffirmed the allocation of the top three government posts to Lebanon’s three largest communities (Maronite, Sunni, and ShN). The proposal greatly displeased Jumblatt, and his differences with Damascus, the main architect of the Constitutional Document, turned into open hostility.

By March 1976, when Jumblatt was publicly calling for a “military solution,” fighting spread to new areas, notably Mount Lebanon, where Palestinian forces launched large-scale offensives against Christian forces. In the fall of 1976 fighting escalated between Palestinian forces, backed by Jumblatt and the Left, and the Syrian army, backed by Christian and Muslim leaders. Hostilities ended when Syrian troops overran Palestinian strongholds and advanced toward Beirut. Jumblatt, the main loser in the war, retreated to his home village, where he was assassinated on 16 March 1977.

At the age of twenty-nine, Jumblatt’s son, Walid, succeeded his father as the leader of both the Jumblatti Druze clan and Lebanon’s Left. Walid also became the heir to his father’s controversial politics, in which, ironically, he had played not even a minor role.

[See also Druze; Lebanon.]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Works by Kamal Jumblatt

Lubnan fi waqi’ ihi wa-murtajdh. 2d ed. Beirut, 1957. Revealing lecture delivered on to December 1956 at the Cenacle Libanais in which Jumblatt outlines his reading of Lebanese and Arab politics prior to the 1958 crisis and his embrace of Arab nationalism.

I Speak for Lebanon. Translated by Michael Pallis. London, 1982. Jumblatt’s critical reading of Lebanon’s confessional politics and his account of the internal and external dimensions of the 19751976 war, written after defeat. Published posthumously.

Ahadith `an al-hurriyah. 2d ed. Beirut, 1987. Collection of writings by Jumblatt.

Haqiqat al-thawrah al-Lubnaniyah. 2d ed. Beirut, 1987. Jumblatt’s account of the 1958 crisis.

Lubnan wa-Harb al-Taswiyah. 2d ed. Beirut, 1987. Collection of Jumblatt’s writings on the 1975-1976 war.

Rub` Barn min al-nidal. 2d ed. Beirut, 1987. Detailed account of Jumblatt’s political activities, with emphasis on the Progressive Socialist party.

Works on Kamal Jumblatt

Abu Izzedin, Nejla M. The Druzes: A New Study of Their History, Faith, and Society. Leiden, 1984. General work on the Druze. Betts, Robert B. The Druze. New Haven, 1988. Brief overview of the origins, social structure, and modern history of the Druze in Lebanon, Syria, and Israel.

El-Khazen, Farid. “Kamal Jumblatt, the Uncrowned Druze Prince of the Left.” Middle Eastern Studies 24 (April 1988): 178-205. Thorough assessment of Jumblatt’s chameleon politics, particularly his role in the 1975-1976 war.

Khalil, Khalil Ahmad. Kamal Junblat: Thawrat al-amir al-hadith. Beirut, 1984. Overview of Jumblatt’s political career and thought written by a party member.

Shtai, Faris. Al-Hizb al-Taqadumi al-Ishtiraki wa Dawruhu fi al-Siya-sah al-Lubnaniyah. 3 vols. Beirut, 1989. Comprehensive work on the Progressive Socialist Party and its role in Lebanese politics. Suleiman, Michael. Political Parties in Lebanon. Ithaca, N.Y., 1967. The best study in English on prewar political parties in Lebanon, including the Progressive Socialist party.

FARID EL-KHAZEN

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/jumblatt-kamal/
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  • writerPosted On: July 13, 2014
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