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Amid this complex landscape it also seems as if these days there is little or no ideological content in Lebanon's political parties, even though some foreign journalists still call the predominantly Maronite Kataeb, or Phalangist party, right-wing and Amal leftist. A party may have a name like the Progressive Socialist Party, but then it turns out to be just a party representing the Druze communities of Lebanon and their leader Walid Jumblatt.


Walid Jumblatt

We had lunch with Jumblatt the day after the incident on Hamra Street, driving up to his fortress in Mukhtara, the capital of the Chouf Mountains, where most of Lebanon's Druze live. An hour's SUV race from Beirut, we came to what looked like a fortified 15th-century Italian manor house at the top of a steep drive. Before we could drive through its gates, tough-looking men in civilian clothes but carrying AK47s searched our vehicles. For a moment it looked like one of the scenes in The Godfather when the Mafia family "goes to the mattresses". There are few places in Lebanon where Hitchens, Totten and myself could be safer from the SSNP and its allies. Last May, Hizbollah attempted an invasion of Jumblatt's valleys and was soundly defeated, even though the Druze leader's outnumbered fighters no longer possess the kind of heavy weapons that Hizbollah has in large quantities. The Druze, like the Kurds from whom they may be descended, are a mountain people with a martial tradition that has served them well.


Jumblatt's castle at Mukhtara in Lebanon's Chouf mountains

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