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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.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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