Walid Jumblatt looked a worried man yesterday. He seemed a trifle frail. He was, after all, commemorating the brutal murder 40 years ago of his Druze father Kamal, an earnest and secular socialist who might have been compared to the pre-First World War MP Keir Hardie, although Hardie spent 11 years in the mines and did not live in a palace. Kamal’s butchering – he was shot to death in his car, along with his driver and bodyguard, not long after the start of the Lebanese civil war – was followed by a massacre of hundreds of Christians by their Druze neighbours in surrounding villages.
Walid has ever since tried to make amends for this terrible act – not least because he believes Kamal was killed on the orders of the Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad’s father. So his short speech outside his palace at Mukhtara, like much of his recent political work, was about reconciliation between Christians and Druze. He has never failed to mention the murder of the Christian villagers and that this crime should never happen again. The official figure of dead – if “official” figures exist in war – was 219. Most had their throats cut.