Lebanese Druze politician Walid Jumblatt, whose fighters have shelled U.S. Marines in Beirut, yesterday asked American Druze leaders to lobby on Capitol Hill to explain their community's view of the situation in Lebanon and to urge the Reagan administration to remain neutral in the escalating conflict.
Washington hotelier Munir Zeinel Deen, chairman of the newly formed American-Druze Public Affairs Committee (ADPAC), said he had received a message from Jumblatt asking for immediate representations to members of Congress to counter the impression that the Lebanese Druze see the United States as their enemy.
"The U.S. government must understand that the Druze are not fighting the Marines," Deen said. "They're only fighting back at the Lebanese army that's hiding behind the Marines' lines."
Relative newcomers to Middle East politics, American Druze are being forced to learn quickly the rules of lobbying. "We're new at this game," Deen said. "That's why it's so hard for us to fight the odds."
"One of the problems," according to James Sams, a Washington attorney of Druze origin, "is that all of a sudden people who are not experts in political matters are being asked to become spokesmen."
"We've never had to do this before," said Raymond H. Hamden, a clinical psychologist and vice chairman of ADPAC. "I'm sorry we have to do it now. This is a senseless and useless war."
Until this summer, the American Druze Society, a tax-exempt charitable and educational body, was the only organization for an estimated 27,000 Druze in this country.
ADPAC was founded last month to help change "the public's perception and attitude toward Druze in the U.S. and of Arabs in general."
Last week it sent a delegation to the State Department to explain its call for a more evenhanded American policy in Lebanon; it previously urged the administration to pressure the Lebanese government not to antagonize the Druze.
Druze representatives plan to meet later this week with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Charles H. Percy (R-Ill.) and other legislators concerned with the deteriorating situation in Lebanon.
American Druze say they feel weak and disadvantaged compared with experienced lobby groups such as the pro-Phalangist American-Lebanese League, and think their cause receives little publicity. They also say they suffer from a prejudice against Arabs.
The Druze speak Arabic but are not Moslems, although their religion, which includes a belief in reincarnation, is an offshoot of Islam. Some scholars classify them as having a distinct ethnic identity.
"The Druze are being seen as savages and as victimizers," Hamden said. "I can well understand this from the way the information from Lebanon has been disseminated. But you have to look at the history. What is being seen now is the immediacy of the war."
Press reports from Lebanon in recent days have recounted killings of Druze and Phalangists.
Sami Merhi, a New Jersey businessman and national president of the American Druze Society, said his group wants the U.S. government to use its influence to effect an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon.
ADPAC says it wants the administration to remove the Marines from Lebanon unless President Amin Gemayel ceases support for the "policy of domination and bigotry of the Phalange."