chapter  4
34 Pages

In the Shadow of Chehabism: Between Cooptation and Radicalization Between Cooptation and Integration: The Junblati Faction and the

On July 27, 1959, the Lebanese public was shocked by a brutal event that took place in Mount Lebanon. Naim Mughabghab, a Catholic deputy on his way to the presidential palace of Bayt al-Din, was assassinated by a mob of Druze followers of Junblat.1

Mughabghab’s assassination provoked a storm among the Lebanese public, particularly in Christian circles, which accused Junblat of being morally responsible for the assassination and providing the assassins with a safe haven in his palace. Three of his supporters were convicted of murder and sentenced to death, but they managed to escape to Syria shortly after the event. Junblat himself rejected these accusations and even sued several Lebanese newspapers for libel.2 The assassination of Mughabghab did not take place in a vacuum; to a great extent, it was a spontaneous vindictive act carried out by Junblat’s followers against a man whom they considered the most prominent proxy of Chamoun’s regime in the Shuf Mountains and, consequently, whom they held responsible for the deaths of their own families during the civil war. Furthermore, Mughabghab’s murder was a product of the growing activism and militancy of the Druze, particularly of the Junblati faction. Shortly after rising to power in 1958, President Chehab was faced with a wide

protest movement among the Druze community demanding modification of the state’s policy toward the Druze and their regions. That the voices of protest were not limited to circles adherent to Junblat indicated an indigenous crisis in the relationship between the Druze and the Lebanese state, infused by feelings of frustration and allegations of being victimized by a systematic discriminatory policy. Some Druze even claimed that the so-called policy of discrimination against their coreligionists was the main reason that many Druze joined the insurgent forces during the 1958 civil war.3

Immediately following the war, the Druze placed increased activity to increase their share in the representative and administrative institutions at the top of their priorities and this became the main axis of their relation vis-à-vis the Lebanese establishment. The new regime met this political activism with a largely conciliatory attitude and demonstrated a great measure of tolerance and cooperation particularly with Junblat and his camp. Although the Druze sense of deprivation had been severely aggravated during

Chamoun’s reign, their grievances were largely unaddressed until Chehab assumed the presidency.4 An organized effort against what the Druze called the discrimination policy has been launched on the declarative level led by al-D. uh.á-the organ of the spiritual leadership-and was simultaneously accompanied by an organized protest movement involving many politicians and intellectuals. Although Chehab’s election

to the presidency was received with real satisfaction by many Druze, the protest movement tirelessly pursued three main aims: enlarging the Druze representation in the parliament from six to seven seats; increasing their share of governmental posts; and, finally, increasing budgets allocated by the central government to develop infrastructure in heavily Druze regions. Accordingly, conferences were held and various petitions submitted to the president, though in fact these activities began prior to Chehab’s election with the establishment of the “Druze Association” in 1957. This association, which included several Druze notables and was headed by Amin

Khadir, was the first communal organization to be created with the intention of addressing Druze grievances and presenting an explicit advocacy of Druze rights. Early in 1957, the association had settled for publishing a few declarations that enunciated the Druze’s protest against what was called the systematic policy of discrimination and emphasized their historic contribution to Lebanon.5 The association substantially broadened its activities after 1958 to comprise more concrete steps, the most important being the initiative to raise Druze complaints before heads of state.6 Among the many claims put forth were four insistent demands: increasing the quota of Druze in the governmental positions; allotting significant financial resources toward improving utilities in Druze villages, 90 percent of which lacked electricity, running water, and road infrastructure; appointment of a second Druze minister in the incumbent government; and bestowing citizenship on 17,000 Druze of Syrian origin who were permanent residents of Lebanon. But, most significant, and listed as the first clause of the petition, was the call for the new regime to acknowledge the Druze community as one of the fundamental foundations of the Lebanese polity.7