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The Near East Dilemma: Discussion, May 17, 2009, (Part 2)

Jean Dayeh, a Lebanese author and a veteran journalist investigative reporter, published recently “Jubran Tueny Sr. and the Century of Renaissance” in the Near East.

The first part of my review covered the background.

Around 1919, Syrian was the name of the populations comprising the current States of Syrian, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan. This region is coined Levant by France, a former mandated power to the region.

Part two explains in details the positions of the various Levant countries (Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine) political parties and intelligentsia of the period during and after the First World War.

The discussions reported on the preferred status for Syria during the year 1919 and a couple of years afterward.  The year 1919 was critical for the Near East and the entire Arab World.

After almost a century, we are still reaping the consequences of the resolutions of the lengthy convention of the League of Nations that met in Paris for many months. The convention main purpose was to divide the spoils of the First World War.  Never such profusion of Syrian intellectual activities was so prolific and so divergent for uniting the spirits under a unified desire for autonomy.

The Lebanese and Syrian immigrants in the USA, France, and Egypt were very active.  In Egypt, there were first, the “Syrian Union Party” headed by Michel Lotfallah and the vice president was Mohammad Rasheed Rida.  This party supported the efforts of the Maronite Patriarch Howayek to have Lebanon under French mandate as preliminary phase to Lebanon’s independence and attaching four adjacent territories belonging to Syria so that Greater Lebanon could be “self-sufficient agriculturally”!

The second political party created in Cairo (Egypt) was the “Moderate Syrian Party” with founders Nicholas Choukry and Phares Nemr (owner of the daily “Al Mokkatam“),

The third party established in Egypt was the “Syrian Union” and headed by Nasseem Saybaa, Sami Juraidiny, Yacoob Saraaf (owner of the daily “Al Moktataf”, and Khalil Khayat.  Nasseem Saybaa expressed the position of this party for willingness to accepting a temporary USA mandate over all Syria unde the legitimate authority of King Faisal.  This political party was worried that England and France will not withdraw their armies in the region: There were indications that these two colonial powers intended to establish a Jewish State in Palestine.  The “Syrian Union” hoped to the last minutes that the US Congress would turn down the League of Nations proposed resolutions, but in vain.

In the small town of Mansoura, Egypt, a journalist Jubran Tueny Sr. (later the founder of the daily Al Nahar “The Day” in Lebanon) was for a French mandate over an independent Greater Lebanon on the ground that France saved the Lebanese immigrants from slaughter in Haiti while the US did not deign to intervene.

Tueny was convinced that it was the US that implicitly encouraged a Jewish “homeland” in Palestine, simply because the US lumped the Near East as Asia.  Tueny refused the presence of the Hijaz army (under the Hussein of Mecca) in Damascus and wanted it to withdraw as the Turkish forces did, because urban Syria is distinct from the nomadic Arab culture and civilization.

Chebli Chmayel was a sociologist and prolific thinker that spread the Masonic ideology that “those who tend the land should own it” (referring to the new Jewish immigrants who first focused on agriculture in colonies). Chmayel was typical of Masonic members who believed that democracy means that the majority of an ethnic group in a nation should govern and rule.

Both Syrian political parties founded in Egypt demanded an independent and secular Syrian nation, comprising Lebanon, but headed by King Faisal.

In Latin America there were Nehmeh Yafeth (an industrialist and wholesale merchant in Sao Paolo, Brazil) and Khalil Saadeh (father of Antoun Saadeh, the founder of the Syrian National Social Party in 1936).

Khalil Saadeh headed the “Democratic National Party” in Brazil and demanded the total independence of the Syrian Nation with no mandate and for Mount Lebanon to enjoy an autonomous State status within Syria.  Khalil Saadeh wrote the Arabic/English dictionary, and translated the new testament of Barnabas.  Khalil Saadeh could never digest the idea that a tribal leader from Mecca should be appointed King to urban Syria; he claimed that the Syrian people were not Arab, even if they spoke Arabic, and their culture has nothing to do with nomadic culture and literature.

In the USA, especially in the City of New York, there were the “Committee for Liberating Syria and Mount Lebanon” headed by Ayoub Thabet (later would be appointed first President to Lebanon by the French mandate) and Jubran Khalil Jubran as secretary.  The main members were Amine Rihany, Michael Nouaymeh, Abel Massih Hadad (owner of the daily “Al Saeh”, The Tourist), and Nasseeb Arida.

This council attempted to send volunteers under the “Orient Regiment” to fight alongside the French during the war but the efforts fizzled. This party was for the total independence of Syria after a brief mandate by France or the USA; Mount Lebanon was to enjoy strict decentralized status within the Syrian Nation.

The other political party in NY was the “Lebanese Renaissance” party and headed by Naoum Moukarzel (owner of the daily “Al Houda”).  This party was a staunch supporter of French mandate and giving Lebanon a Maronite authority and character.

In Paris there were the “Central Syrian Association” headed by Choukry Ghanem, and Dr. George Samneh.

In Mount Lebanon, the members of the “Administrative Council of Mount Lebanon” were for a confederate status of Lebanon with Syria under King Faisal.  Even Saadallah Howeiyek, brother of the Maronite Patriarch, and a member of this governing body was not with the Patriarch position for a separate Lebanese State under French mandate.

The Lebanese leaders were the most confused and disunited as to their status after the war.  Woodrow Wilson, the President of the USA, was confused by the diversity of opinions emanating from the Lebanese leaders assembled in Paris during the convention.  Wilson thus dispatched the investigative commission King-Crane to report the people wishes for their status.  France and England refused to join the commission because they had set on a project to divide and get mandate over the Near East.

The Syrian population did not have an army to fight the Turks alongside the “allies”; they were suffering famine and calamities due to locust invasion and the perpetual requisitions of the Turkish army in foodstuff and coerced soldiers.

The concept and principles of waging war, then and now, that only those parties or nations that effectively participated in the war were eligible to divide the spoil.  Syria who had no army was considered having no “legitimate rights” to share independence at the League of Nations who won the war.

Background to the Near East Dilemma; (Part 1, May 16, 2009)

Note:  This essay is of two parts.  The first part lay down the background story and issues; the second part will explain in details the positions of the various Syrian political parties and intelligentsia of the period during and after the First World War.

The year 1919 was critical for the Near East (Levant) and the entire Arab World.

At the time, Syrian was the name of the populations comprising the current States of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and current Jordan.

Before that date, the Syrians were called Turks because they held a Turkish (Ottoman) passport.

After almost a century, the people in this region are reaping the consequences of the resolutions of the League of Nations that met in Paris for many months to divide the spoils of the First World War.

Jean Dayeh is an author and a veteran journalist investigative reporter; he published recently “Jubran Tueny Sr. and the Century of Renaissance” in the Near East.  The manuscript contains two great chapters on the case of the Syrian dilemma and the Palestinian/Zionism problems.

From old published articles and replies by different daily journalists, thinkers, and politicians Dayeh explained the premises for the confusion and disunity in the Syrian societies of Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, and the current Syrian State; the ideological and political divergences prevented an alternative resolution for populations that were just getting out of the hegemony of the Ottoman Empire that lasted over 5 centuries.

During the war, the British encouraged the Shereef of Mecca Hussein al Hashemy to join the allies for fighting against the Ottoman Empire.  The British promised Hussein of Mecca mandate over Syria and Iraq.  In the same time, Britain and France had a more real politics plan for the Near East.  The diplomats of the two nations Sykes and Pico agreed in 1916 to divide the region so that France would have mandate over Syria and Lebanon and Britain mandate over Iraq, Palestine and Jordan.  Britain Foreign Affairs Balfour had promised the Zionist movement a State in Palestine.

The sons of Hussein were appointed Kings; Faisal on Syria and Abdullah King on the newly created State of Jordan by Britain.  “King” Faisal entered Damascus as the Turkish army withdrew.  A nucleus of a new Syrian army was formed; the soldiers had to swear allegiance to the King of Mecca and agree to fight in the Arabic Peninsula if duty called.

The flag of Mecca was raised in Damascus and postal stamps and coins left no doubt as to the plans of the King of Mecca to joining Syria in an Arab Nation.  The worst part is that Faisal had promised the Zionist movement during the meetings of the League of Nations in Paris that if the Jews become majority in Palestine then they could form a confederate State with the Arab Nation.

It is to be noted that the concept of waging war, then and now, that only those parties or nations that effectively participated in the war were eligible to divide the spoil.  The Syrian population did not have an army to fight and they were suffering famine and calamities due to locust invasion and the perpetual requisitions of the Turkish army in foodstuff and coerced soldiers.

President Woodrow Wilson of the USA was suffering of critical health problems during the Paris Convention and died shortly after; thus France and England decided on the Middle East spoil.  Nevertheless, the USA sent a fact-finding commission King-Crane to comprehend the wishes and desires of the Syrian populations.

England and France declined to join the commission because they had already decided on the spoil and their armies were on the ground in the Near East and pressured the populations to be biased.  With all the political pressures of France and England, a few Christians in Mount Lebanon preferred a French mandate, a few Palestinians opted for a British mandate, many were in favor of a USA mandate but the vast majority of Moslems and Christians wanted an independent State with Faisal as King in Damascus.

The Christian Maronite Patriarch Howayek hurried to Paris for the convention and harassed Clemenceau to decide on a Greater Lebanon by adjoining many parts to Mount Lebanon in return for a French mandate. Clemenceau dispatched an army in 1920 and defeated the small Syrian army in Mayssaloun.  King Faisal was sent packing to reign as King in Iraq.

By 1920, the Zionist movement managed to lure a few Jews to establish agricultural colonies.  Tel Aviv was the main coastal colony.  The Jewish Diaspora had felt the impossibility of establishing a Jewish state and money was trickling.  The Jews in Tel Aviv went on a rampage and confiscate the Zionist money in order to buy food; and the Rothschild delegate in Palestine was ordered to stop payment on land purchased for new colonies.

Nevertheless, the Zionist movement refused hopeless Jews visa exit out of Palestine.  The Palestinian government, under British mandate, had permitted to add Hebrew names to the English and Arabic administrative institutions. Things have changed since then.


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adonis49

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