Paris Peace Conf. 181.9102/10
Confidential Appendix to the Report Upon Syria
For the Use of Americans Only
Since the Commission was the American Section of a projected International Commission on Mandates in the Turkish Empire, it has seemed best to prepare the report in such form that copies could be furnished to representatives of all the Allied Powers, if that were desired. The body of the report, therefore, though trying squarely to face all the facts, has been written with that possibility in mind.
At the same time, there was material, involving criticism of our Allies, that ought not to come into a report to be put into their hands, and yet that the American Delegation to the Peace Conference and our own State Department ought to have, as involved in a complete statement of the case. That material prepared by Dr. Lybyer has been gathered into this Confidential Appendix.
The opportunity has also been taken to bring in some supplementary discussions, that treat with a little more detail certain important aspects of our inquiry and so throw light on the broader bearings of our report.
I—The Interference of the Occupying Governments With the Commission’s Inquiry
1. O. E. T. A. South—the British—
In each area the policy of the occupying government had a special effect upon the course of the inquiry.
At Jerusalem and Jaffa the British military governors were consulted in the preparation of the Commission’s programs. At the other places they prepared the entire program themselves. No attempt [Page 849]was discerned to hinder any groups which desired to meet the Commission, although there were a few complaints as to restricting the size of the delegations. In one or two cases it was necessary to request a governor to leave the room, since it was the uniform rule to allow no officials (nor indeed anyone besides the Commission, a delegation, and perhaps an interpreter chosen by the delegation) to be present during interviews.
There was some evidence that attempts had been made to influence opinion in favor of a British mandate, though with no great amount of success. The “Moslem Christian Committee” and the officials of Jaffa, the Kadi of Jenin, and some groups at Acre, were said to have been chosen by the occupying government and were declared not to represent the people. Two or three military governors seemed to have taken some action to procure votes for Britain. Orders had been issued at Jaffa against declaring for complete independence. Evidence appeared of some French activity in this area, likewise with little success. There was much enterprise on the part of members of the Arab Government at Damascus. Such persons were not hindered by the British authorities from moving about freely, distributing printed forms and giving instruction according to definite programs.
It may be remarked that a number of the British officials, including some at Jerusalem, were proceeding as though expecting that Britain will remain permanently in control of Palestine. For instance, they were planning for the growth of cities, the building of roads and railways, and the construction of harbors. On the other hand, some expressed a desire that America should come as mandatory power. There was a general agreement that France could come to the control of all Syria only with a great show of force, and the probability of considerable fighting.
2. O. E. T. A. West—the French—
It was too evident that in all O. E. T. A. West, the French military governors had worked with varying energy and success to obtain the reality or at least the appearance of a desire for a French mandate. Their propaganda, some of which they carried on directly, and some through native officials and agents, took many forms. The Commission saw inspired articles in the newspapers, attempts at browbeating and espionage, the hindrance by French soldiers of the attempts of individuals and groups to reach the Commission, and the ushering in of officials, manifestly unsuited to their positions, freshly appointed in the room of others who had been removed because they had declined to support a French mandate. Authentic information came to hand of threats and bribes and even imprisonment and banishment for the same purpose. The management of the sessions at Tyre, Baabda, and Tripoli was so bad as to be insulting [Page 850]to the intelligence and almost to the dignity of the Commission, and was saved from this at other places only by the greater intelligence and natural politeness of some French officers who kept their methods out of sight.
Agents of Prince Feisal were also working in a limited way in O. E. T. A. West, in support of the program of the Syrian Congress at Damascus. There was no evidence of direct action by the British in this territory. Perhaps there was an ulterior motive in the special and somewhat conspicuous kindnesses which they showed the Commission during these days.
3. O. E. T. A. East—the Arabs—
In O. E. T. A. East there were evidences of considerable pressure exerted by the Government to secure the union of all elements upon one program. This took the form for the more intelligent groups of the declaration of the Syrian Congress at Damascus. For others, as the Circassians and Bedouins, who appeared at Amman, a selection of simpler and more easily comprehensible points from this program was emphasized. In that area in particular, government agents tried hard to persuade, cajole, or threaten all, Christians and Moslems alike, into subscribing. No good evidence appeared anywhere of actual violence, imprisonment, or banishment with a view to influencing declarations before the Commission. The Emir Feisal had concluded agreements with the Druses and the Greek Orthodox Christians as represented by their patriarch, in which these agreed to support his government in return for a measure of autonomy and promises of proper treatment. It is noteworthy that these agreements involved a request for a British mandate, which the Druses and the Greek Orthodox stood by, while the Congress went over to asking for an American mandate by preference.
Some British officers showed signs of disappointment at the declaration in favor of the Americans as first choice. One of them in consequence recommended to his government to decline a mandate over Syria, and the Commission was informed that Mr. Balfour sent a message to this effect, which General Allenby conveyed to the Emir Feisal. Evidence was presented that the Emir had tried immediately before the arrival of the Commission in Damascus to secure the support of certain councils for a request for a British mandate, and that he had failed. While he stated personally to the Commission that America and England are equally satisfactory to him, it may be that because of the benefits he has received and continues to receive from England, and because of the better prospect of a speedy larger Arab union if Syria and Mesopotamia and other areas are under the same supervision, he prefers in his inmost heart the mandate of Britain.[Page 851]
II—Summaries of Arguments Presented to the Commission
1. For and Against Zionism—
The arguments in favor of Zionism as presented by its supporters have often been stated and need not now be presented in detail. The chief elements are that Palestine belonged once to the Jews, and they were driven out by force; for two thousand years they have been longing and praying to come back; while the Jews of the world are now far too numerous to be collected in Palestine, they are entitled to have somewhere a state, which can be a refuge to the oppressed among them, and an expression of their continuance and unity; despite proposals at Paris, there is persecution of the Jews in Poland at the present moment; there is a prospect of the disintegration of the Jews in western civilization, and their coalescence with the nations where they reside; they should have an opportunity to restore their ancient language and culture and preserve them in the old environment; there is no need of displacing the present population, for with afforestation, modern methods of agriculture, utilization of waterpower, reclamation of wastelands, scientific irrigation, and the like, the land can contain several times its present number of inhabitants; if some of the present population desire to sell their lands, they will receive a good price and there is plenty of room for them in other Arab countries; the Jewish colonies have been a great benefit to the native Arabs by teaching methods of agriculture, improving sanitation, and the like; the unfolding of the Zionistic plan would bring great prosperity to all in the land, both present population and immigrants.
The native Arabs and Christians, who so unitedly oppose Zionism, urge the following principal considerations: the land is owned and occupied by them; Arabs were there before the Jews came; the Jews were immigrants, who treated the former inhabitants with the greatest cruelty, and who remained a comparatively short time; they were unable to maintain control over the whole land or even union among themselves; they were expelled by the Romans and formed permanent residence elsewhere 2000 years ago; the Arabs conquered the land 1300 years ago and have remained ever since; it is their actual home, and not merely a residence of long ago; as Christians and Moslems, they can honor all the Holy Places whereas the Jews can honor only their own; the Jews are a religion and not a nation; they will if given control forbid the use of the Arabic language, the measure which caused the break between the Young Turks and the Arabs; the Jewish colonies have shown no benevolence to the Arabs in their neighborhood; it is denied that their activities have influenced the Arabs toward progress; the Jews have much money, education, and shrewdness, and will soon buy out and manoeuver away the present inhabitants; the Arabs are friendly toward the Jews long resident in the land [Page 852]who use the Arabic language; they will resist to the uttermost the immigration of foreign Jews and the establishment of a Jewish Government.
2. Arab Feeling toward the French.—
While the Commission was prepared beforehand for some disinclination toward France in Syria, the strength, universality and persistency of Anti-French feeling among practically all Moslems and non-Catholic Christians (except a division of the Greek Orthodox), came as a distinct surprise. Friends of the French affirmed that it is due to German and Turkish, succeeded by Arab and British propaganda, and that it is not deep-seated. The Commission went to great pains in testing these affirmations by questioning. Germans and Turks did conduct a vigorous propaganda during the war against the French, and against the other Allies as well. There was no evidence found of direct propaganda by the British against the French, and frequent denials were made that the Arabs had worked thus. It was said several times that the French had themselves conducted an anti-French propaganda by their actions since the Armistice. On the other hand, it was charged that some Arabs were working against the French, and also against the British and all foreigners. Friends of France say that the Moslems of Syria resent the just punishment which the French gave them in 1860, and their disposition to treat the native Christians as fully equal to the Moslems, an attitude which the British do not take in Egypt and India.
Apart from the questions of process and recency, the anti-French feeling does seem to be deep-rooted in a large proportion of the Syrian population. This appears in an examination of the principal reasons given by the Syrians for their opposition to all French interference in their affairs. They say:
- The French are enemies of religion, having none at home, and supporting Roman Catholics abroad for purely political motives.
- They disapprove of the French attitude toward women.
- The French education is superficial, and inferior in character-building to the Anglo-Saxon. It leads to familiarity with that kind of French literature which is irreligious and immoral. The Moslems recognize that the time has come for the education of their women, and they say that those who receive French education tend to become uncontrollable.
- The French have not treated the natives as equals in Algeria and Tunisia, but have imposed indifferences in office holding arid in various civil rights. This argument was presented very often and developed in some detail.
- The French have shown a marked tendency to give an undue proportion of offices, concessions, and the like, to the Christians of Syria. Non-Catholics complain that the same discrimination is shown in favor of Catholics and Maronites.
- By this discrimination, and by various intrigues since the occupation, the French have increased the religious divisions in Syria, which had been reduced greatly during the war. They thus endanger the possibility of Syrian nationalism, on a non-religious basis.
- The French are inclined to a policy of colonization, by which they wish to substitute the use of the French language for native tongues, and make the people into Frenchmen. The Syrians wish to preserve the use of the Arabic language, and to retain their separateness. Furthermore, it is inherent in this policy that the French would never leave Syria.
- The French have lost so many men in the war, that they are unable to give needful protection or adequate administration. This is illustrated by the few soldiers and the inferior type of French officers and officials, now in Syria. (Friends of the French deny that France lacks good officials, and blame the French foreign office for choosing badly those who are sent out. Again, while for the English the Eastern service is a career and draws the best of the young men, for the French it seems a kind of exile and the best prefer to remain at home). It was affirmed that bribery and intrigue are worse in the French area now than under the Turks.
- The French have suffered financially in the war to such an extent that they have not the means to restore France itself or to develop what possessions they have already. They cannot therefore give Syria the financial and economic support she needs.
- The French are inclined toward financial exploitation of subject areas, and would govern Syria not for its own development, but for the profit of Frenchmen.
It is not necessary here to try to estimate the measure of truth that lies behind these statements. It is sufficient to note that most of the Syrians believe substantially the whole of this, and are therefore very strongly against French control of the country.
Much feeling persists in connection with the execution of Arabs by Jemal Pasha, and this acts against the French. Despite the fact that France was intriguing with the Arabs against the Turks before the Great War, the knowledge that M. Picot upon leaving his position as consul in 1914, failed to secure his correspondence, so that fatal evidence fell into Turkish hands, has played into position so that France is held responsible for the hangings. Every reference to the “Arab Martyrs”, by subcriptions for their orphans, exhibitions of these children, meetings of the relatives—the “Unfortunate Syrians”, now not only strengthens the sentiment for Arab Independence, but stirs feeling against France.
3. The Request for an American Mandate.—
Four possibilities were seriously contemplated by the supporters of a United Syria: absolute Independence, the mandate of Britain, the mandate of France, and the mandate of America. The only considerable groups that favored division were those who supported a separate Palestine for Zionism under Britain, and a separate Lebanon, [Page 854]whether or not enlarged, under France in case the rest of Syria is under another mandatory. Only Jews supported the Zionistic scheme, except that a few Christians were willing to entrust the question to the mandatory power. The Jews are distinctly for Britain as mandatory power, because of the Balfour Declaration, though many think if the scheme goes ahead, American Jews will become its chief promoters. France is felt to be against it and America indifferent. As regards the Lebanon, the official Maronites and Catholics who support a separation scheme are undoubtedly sincere. Not only have they many sentimental ties toward France but they realize that no other power than France will support them in their privileged situation.
Many of their followers, especially those who have personal ties with the United States, would rather have the United States than France. Those outside the Lebanon area who are undoubtedly for France as a mandatory power are comparatively few. They include most of the Catholics of every description, and a section of the Greek Orthodox who would have been for a Russian Mandate had Russia not collapsed. The latter group prefers France to Britain, but there was evidence that many of them would prefer America to France, if there were a certainty of acceptance.
In all Syria surprisingly few, aside from the Druses, declared for Britain as first choice—not nearly so many as for France. The fact is that Britain and America were classed together, with a distinct preference for America, but both were greatly preferred to France. The Jews and the majority of the Greek Orthodox, and some of the Protestants, were for Britain. The great majority of the Moslems were for Britain as second choice. Most of those who made Britain their first choice were for America as second choice. Practically no one was for America or England as first choice and France as second choice.
Practically all of the Moslems, who number about four-fifths of the population of Syria, are for America as their first choice. It is true that there was little direct expression of this in Palestine, since after the first declarations at Jaffa, the question of choice of mandate was held up and referred to Damascus. Possibly this was done under instructions from the Emir Feisal, who may have been trying to hold the field for Britain. If so the evidence of sincere declaration for America is all the stronger, since the Congress reached unanimity for America. As for the Christians, while comparatively few declared directly for America as first choice—only a part of the Protestants and Syrian Orthodox and Armenians—they were bound by old ties and recent agreements to declare for Britain or France, but a large proportion mentioned America as second choice, and stated that they would welcome her, while there were abundant assurances that an American mandate would be satisfactory to practically all. The [Page 855]members of the Commission can entertain no doubt of the genuineness of the desire for the United States as mandatory power, in view of the countless earnest appeals, both by individuals and groups, and of the manifest enthusiasm shown on many occasions, in spite of the Commission’s discouragement of demonstrations and avoidance of every form of ostentation. It was furthermore always possible to ask why a group or individual objected to France or England, but not to ask why a group failed to declare for the United States. It is of course also a fact that France and only less openly England were making bids for the mandate, while the United States was not.
The principal reasons advanced for desiring an American mandate were as follows:
- Confidence in President Wilson as mainly responsible for the freedom of Syria, and as championing the rights of small and oppressed peoples.
- Gratitude to America for relief of the starving and naked. Thanks to President Wilson and America was expressed in a thousand forms and with the greatest emotion, independently of the desire as regards a mandate.
- The feeling that America came into the war for no selfish reason, and could be trusted to take care of a small people in an unselfish way.
- The knowledge that America is not a colonizing power, seeking to govern for the advantage of its own people, and to exploit the governed. The examples of Cuba and the Philippines were frequently cited.
- The feeling that America can be relied upon to withdraw from the country when her work is done, which is the case with no other power. The experience of Cuba was contrasted with that of Egypt and Algeria.
- The feeling that America is rich, and abundantly able to advance the means for the desirable speedy development of the country economically.
- A hearty approval of and desire for the extension of American education in the country. England has done little educationally for Syria. While France has done much, she seeks to denationalise the native peoples and make Frenchmen of them. America, especially through the Syrian Protestant College, has taught Syrian nationalism. The American training and the Anglo-Saxon literature and civilization, are regarded as morally superior to the French.
- A conviction that America will be absolutely fair and just as between the different religions and sects. France would be expected to favor Christians, especially Roman Catholics, and England to favor Moslems.
- America is abundantly supplied with trained men, from whom experts can be supplied in “various branches of science, industry, administration, and above all education.”
- The Americans are “lovers of humanity.”
Many British officials, not excepting General Allenby, think the best solution to be an American mandate over the whole of Syria. England might be very glad to get out of the difficulties of the situation [Page 856]in this way. As for France, she cannot desire to take the whole of Syria, when so much of it is utterly averse to her. She also may ultimately conclude that the best way out is complete withdrawal. This would perhaps not hurt her pride seriously if at the same time England were to withdraw, and if her special pre-war relationships be scrupulously continued.
III. Special Discussions
1. French Feeling toward the British—
It is evident that the French feel resentment toward the British as not having played a fair game in the Syrian area. Without going into historical details, the Sykes-Picot agreement provided that France should have ownership or influence in a large area, including Damascus and Cilicia, and extending to Sivas and Harpoot, while England should be in a similar position toward the former Turkish area southeast of this. At the present moment, France is threatened with the loss of all her sphere, while England complacently holds all that was then assigned to her, and extends her influence toward much of the rest. America, by showing interest in Armenia, and even by the sending of the Commission on Mandates to Syria, seems to the French to be an accomplice of England in despoiling France. The French feel that the English took advantage of their dire necessity, by reason of which they were obliged to keep practically all of their men in France, to occupy more than a due share of Syria, and to seduce the affection of the Arabs. They also resent the payment by the English to the Emir Feisal of a large monthly subsidy, which they claim covers a multitude of bribes, and enables the British to stand off and show clean hands while Arab agents do dirty work in their interest. They feel that in arming the Arabs, the British are again working against the French. They claim further that the British are more or less directly responsible for the undeniably strong anti-French feeling shown by practically all the Moslem and non-Catholic Christian elements of Syria. They feel that Britain has been unable to resist the desire to connect Egypt with Mesopotamia under one control as a bulwark of India and a new field for profitable commercial exploitation.
It cannot be denied that some of the French contentions are difficult of refutation, and that the whole situation is such that British honor would seem cleaner if Britain were to withdraw wholly from Syria. Yet the aversion of the people to France, however it may have arisen, is so great and deep-seated that England cannot leave Syria to France without seeming to abandon her friends to their enemies, a process which would probably react strongly in Egypt and elsewhere in the Moslem world. There is good reason then for the position [Page 857]of many Englishmen, who are strongly desirous that America should take the whole situation off their hands, including with the French and Arab entanglements, the promises to Zionism.
2. French “Rights”—
The denial in the “Damascus Program” that the French have “Rights” anywhere in Syria leads to an inquiry into the bases on which such rights might be claimed. In brief, there have been in Syria Roman Catholic missionary workers, using principally the French language, for several centuries. These have developed an extensive system of churches, schools, and monasteries. France has had commercial relations and small groups of resident citizens since the Middle Ages. French has long been the principal western language used in Syria. France has taken a special interest in the Maronites, and intervened on their behalf in the Lebanon in 1860.
None of these relationships, however, give the least “right” to claim territory or mandatory control. Otherwise it could be held that America, through her missionary work and business relationships, had acquired a measure of political rights in India, China, South America, and Syria itself. France herself could claim all of Turkey with nearly the same justification. It would compromise all the missionary work in the world if the doctrine were admitted that such work establishes political claims. No doubt the French have acquired many personal relationships and sentimental attachments. But there is no reason why any tie that France has had with Syria in the past should be severed or even weakened under the control of another mandatory power, or in an independent Syria.
3. The “Greater Lebanon”—
The latest policy pushed by the French in the Lebanon region contemplates complete separation of the country from Tyre to Tripoli, as far inland as the crest of the Anti-Lebanon, to be given to France in case the remainder of Syria should go to another mandatory power. Such a plan is objectionable for many reasons:
- It is apparently contrary to the wish of the majority of the people in the area itself.
- The Syrians outside the area are so opposed to the plan as to be inclined to make war rather than accept it.
- If put into effect by overwhelming force, a state of settled equilibrium could probably never be attained, because of such questions as the just control of “Hollow Syria”, where the Christians by their own figures own 65 per cent of the property, but have only 40 per cent of the population; the water supply of Horns, which comes from territory claimed for the “Greater Lebanon”; the commercial access to the sea of the regions of Damascus and Aleppo. In short, the land is too small, and too intimately connected, to be capable of satisfactory division.
- The separation off of the Greater Lebanon, especially if accompanied by a separation off of Palestine, would intensify the religious differences in Syria, which it is most desirable to diminish in favor of the growth of national feeling. The tendency would be for Christian Syrians to concentrate in the Lebanon, Jews in Palestine, and Moslem Syrians in the remainder of the country.
- The government in each area would countenance and probably conduct intrigues in the other regions.
- The three areas would be implicitly hostile, and must either carry heavy burdens of armament against each other, or be protected at great expense by the mandatory powers.
- The mandatory powers would themselves be in danger of hostility over the questions which would inevitably arise between the portions of a country and a people thus unnaturally severed.
A plan which would add to the Greater Lebanon the remainder of O. E. T. A. West, extending from Tripoli to Alexandretta, and give the whole to France, and at the same time give the interior to Britain, would intensify all the above difficulties, and would besides cut off Aleppo and western Mesopotamia from access to the sea.
4. The Emir Feisal’s Position—
Unless the attempt be made to rule Syria as a conquered country, or unless the experiment of republican government be tried in the old land, the obvious plan is that the Emir Feisal should be head of the State, Third son of the Sherif of Mecca, Hussein, who was recognized during the war as King of the Hejaz, the Emir Feisal led the Arabs in cooperation with the Allies against the Turks, and entered Damascus in triumph. He spent several months in Paris, and returned a few weeks before the arrival of the Commission. He had agreed with Clemenceau to labor at allaying the Arab feeling against the French, but believing after a time that the French were playing false with him, he ceased his efforts. Shortly before the arrival of the Commission in Damascus, he endeavored to obtain declarations in favor of a British mandate. He assured the Commission that he will be pleased with either Britain or America as Mandatory Power.
The British Government has been advancing money to his government for a long time, and at present allows it $750,000 per month (LE 150,000). Of this Feisal draws about 200,000 per month for his personal expenses, staff, propaganda, agents, etc. The balance is spent on the administration and the army of 7,000 and gendarmerie of 4,500, in supplement to the inadequate receipts from taxation.
The estimate was made that the Prince could manage under settled conditions with a salary of $125,000 per year, and that after a few years the country could carry itself by taxation, maintaining a very small army. This does not allow for carrying a portion of the Ottoman debt, nor for large expenditure on needed public improvements.[Page 859]
The present attachment of the population to Prince Feisal varies in the different regions. Not many Christians declared themselves positively in favor of him. Some others said he is a good man, with bad advisers. Others fear him because of his membership in a powerful Moslem family. The Moslems of Palestine made almost no declarations in his favor. It was said that if he would come to Palestine, all Arabs would be enthusiastically for him. In all O. E. T. A. East, and among the Moslems of the West, he was asked for, often with enthusiasm. An exception was found in some Moslems of the north, who said they do not know him.
Emir Feisal gave the impression of being kindly, gentle, and wise. Whatever be the case previously, he has had during the past two years in the desert and at Damascus and Paris an excellent political education. He desires the friendly cooperation of the Moslems and Christians of Syria, and wishes to promote the education of Moslem women. Some say that he is not as strong as the men around him, but he gave the impression of being able to maintain his leadership. He promises well as a constitutional monarch, who could work amicably in coordination with a mandatory power.
It should be provided in case he remain the head of the Syrian state, that he renounce all rights of inheritance of the crown of the Hejaz; otherwise serious complications might arise in the future.
5. The “Rights of Minorities”—
One clause in the Damascus program promises full recognition of the “rights of minorities” in the Syrian constitution. On account of the evident fears of many Christians, based on the policy of massacre that has been employed so often in Turkey, the Commissioners took pains to inquire of many Moslem groups what they propose to do to ensure the rights of the smaller sections of the population. The answer was sometimes given, logically enough, that there would be no minorities, since all would be absolutely equal in the new state. But ordinarily, the promise was made of constitutional guarantees. There was discussion in the Damascus Congress of a proposal to grant Moslems one-half of the seats in the future legislative assembly while the other half would be distributed among the rest of the population. What method might be used in apportioning seats to different groups and sects, as the Druses, Maronites, Shiites, Nusairiyeh, Ismailians, Turks, Jews, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholics, etc. was not discussed; the mere enumeration suggests the difficulty of the problem.
Mention has been made already of the agreements made by Prince Feisal with the Druses and the Greek Orthodox. He promised in return for the Greek Orthodox support that he would govern under seven conditions:
- He would rule in the fear of God without despotism.
- He would establish constitutional government.
- He would respect all religions.
- Equal rights should be enjoyed by all.
- Public security should be guaranteed for all; the private carrying of rifles should be prevented.
- Public instruction should be equal: Greek Orthodox schools should be on the same basis as Moslem schools.
- No one Should hold office because of family or influence, but only because fitted for the place.
These conditions are superior in form, from the standpoint of a modern state, to the Turkish system of recognizing a certain measure of autonomy and self-government in various religious groups, thus perpetuating differences and making concessions which later become privileges and the source of friction. It would be better to aim at one system of education, wherein certain hours each week should be set aside for religious instruction under special teachers for each group, than to have several state-supported school systems. But these are details for future adjustment. Suffice it to say that great readiness was shown by the majority group to provide adequately for the protection and rights of the other groups, and it remains only to bring this purpose into action.
It is desirable to bear in mind that the Moslem and Druse minority in the Lebanon is also in need of protection, and that in the event of a Jewish majority in Palestine, Moslems and Christians would need protection there. A former governor of the Lebanon stated that a large part of his work was given to watching lest the Maronites and other Christians infringe the rights of the Moslems and Druses.
6. “Complete Independence”—
One item in the Damascus program deserves special attention, as going below the problem of a mandate, namely the request for “complete independence”. The protest against the application to Syria of Article 22 of the Covenant is closely related to this. The feeling that the Syrians are in at least as advanced a condition as were the different Balkan States when their independence was arranged for was present in the first Moslems whom the Commission met in Syria, and the same note was sounded everywhere by some of the delegations. The groups which were inclined to support this view in an extreme form were Bedouins, villagers of the south and east, and some of the younger Moslem men. The Syrian Union Party declared in this direction, and the few but prominent men and women related to the “Arab Martyrs”—the men who were executed by Jemal Pasha for intrigues against the Turkish Government—were very emphatic against any form of relationship to another nation: The Syrian Union Party ask that the League of Nations guarantee the independence and the Constitution of Syria. The declaration was made that when [Page 861]Syrians now abroad return, there will be a sufficiency of educated and trained men to govern the country well.
On the other hand, a large proportion of the learned men and of others from the older and wiser among the Moslems, recognized fully that some form of mandatory control is necessary, since the Syrians have long been in subjection, few of them are educated, and the country is poor and backward in its development. The Christians and most other non-Moslem groups are unanimous in the belief that a strong mandate is necessary for a considerable time, because they do not feel confidence in an Arab Government, which in a country four-fifths Moslem might be too favorable to the majority.
The Nations in forming the League have pronounced in the Covenant that Syria should be under mandatory control. The Commission did not find reason to recommend modification of this decision but abundant cause for holding it to be just. The failure of the Young Turkish attempt to conduct a self-governing state in which Moslems and Christians should be equal makes it especially desirable that the new Syrian state should in its first years be watched closely, since it has the additional difficulty to be overcome of emergence from subjection.
The 4th Article of the “Damascus Program” provides for the possibility of a mandate, defining it “as equivalent to the rendering of economical and technical assistance that does not prejudice our complete independence”. Here also the restriction may be too great. The Mandatory Power should have a real control over the administration, so as to eliminate as far as possible corruption, waste, inertia, serious errors of judgment, etc.
In spite of all that was said in favor of complete independence, it is altogether probable that either America or Britain would be allowed without resistance as much control as the Council of the League of Nations judges to be wise. In fact assurance was given on very high authority that the demand for complete independence is to an extent artificial, being in part motivated by the fear of a French mandate, and in part by apprehension of the conversion of mandatory control into permanent possession. If adequate assurances be had against both these possibilities, the objectors to a mandate, limited so as to secure its exercise in the interests of Syria, will be reduced to a small and impotent group. In time, when all things are ready, a true and lasting “complete independence” can be awarded by the League of Nations.
7. Syrian Nationalism, Pan-Arabism, and Pan-Islamism—
The programs presented to the Commission by all the Moslems and about two thirds of the Christians of Syria were nationalistic; that is to say, they called for a United Syria under a democratic constitution, making no distinctions on the basis of religion. In response to repeated [Page 862]questions in many places, it was steadily affirmed by the Moslems that they had no desire whatever for Moslem privilege in the government, nor for political union with the Arabs of the Hejaz, whom they felt to be in another state of civilization. They asked regularly for the independence of Mesopotamia, and a few of them hoped for some form of political union with that area. A few asked for the independence of all Arab countries.
The Commissioners often asked the question of Moslems, whether they considered the Caliphate to be at Stamboul or at Mecca. With very few exceptions they replied that it belongs now to King Hussein in Mecca. One or two said that it belongs still to the Turkish Sultan, and cannot be changed except by an agreement of all the Moslems in the world. All affirmed that King Hussein is in no sense their political head, but only their religious head. Prayers are said in his name, and certain seals for public documents bear his name.
Certain Christians, on the other hand, affirmed that the sentiment of Syrian Nationalism is new and feeble, and that the expressions of it made before the Commission gave a false impression. They claimed that the Christians who adhere to this view do so as making a desperate effort to live on good terms with the Moslem majority, and that the Moslems much prefer a Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic Scheme, and would quickly abandon Syrian nationalism if they saw a chance for the success of either of these ideas. It would seem safe to assume that those who speak for themselves strike nearer the truth than others who assume to speak for them. Nevertheless it is worthwhile to give consideration to the criticism.
Pan-Arabism in a narrower sense would unite under one independent government the Arab-speaking portions of the former Turkish Empire. This would not necessarily be a theocratic Moslem state, though the large majority would belong to the different Moslem sects. It is hard to see how such a federated state, with its territory largely desert and lacking a center and speedy communications, could be more of a danger to the world than the Turkey of which it formed a part.
In a larger sense Pan-Arabism would wish to add also the Arab-speaking belt across North Africa. Since this is held by three great powers, each of whom has a larger population and infinitely greater resources than the Pan-Arab area contains its accomplishment against their will is a mere dream.
Pan-Islamism in a narrow sense would reestablish one government in the former Turkish empire by agreement of the two Moslem groups of north and south, the Turks and the Arabs. The Commission found no sign of a desire for the reestablishment of the rule of Turkey over the Arabs. One former deputy in the Turkish Parliament did indeed suggest that an Ottoman prince might be chosen as king of Syria, but this was an individual opinion. On the other hand there were [Page 863]many expressions of joy and thankfulness because of the end of Turkish rule. If there is any thought of a federation of Arabs with Turks, or of a political union of any sort, the Commission saw no trace of it. Still less was there any sign of movement toward the realization of a larger Pan-Islamic idea. The Turks had some thought of this early in the war, but it disappeared in favor of a Pan-Turanian idea on a racial or linguistic rather than a religious basis, from the time when Jemal Pasha hanged the leaders of the Syrian Arabs.
One may conjure up the picture of an attempt at restoring the Saracen Empire, by the stages of Syrian, Arabian, and Mesopotamian independence, followed by federal union in a strong conquering state, which would then become imperialistic in the directions of Persia, Armenia, Turkey, and North Africa; but the Commission discerned no trace of such a notion, nor is it practically conceivable under present world conditions. If the European civilization has sufficient wisdom to avoid further extensive self-destruction, it can with the greatest ease control the Moslem world; it is not necessary for those who labor to establish the League of Nations to contemplate the opposite possibility.
The fundamental question in this connection and indeed in several other great immediate problems is the basal attitude of the Christian toward the Moslem world; shall this be friendly or hostile? In the war now ending, Christian Governments gave their Moslem Allies promises of fair treatment and full rights. Now the Moslems of Syria offer their hands to their non-Moslem fellow-Citizens with the promise of putting religious separation out of sight. Shall they be taken at their word? Or shall they be told: we do not believe what you say; we do not trust you; we think it best to break our word with you, so that you may not have the opportunity to break your word with us?
The western world is already committed to the attempt to live in peace and friendship with the Moslem peoples, and to manage governments in such a way as to separate politics from religion. Syria offers an excellent opportunity to establish a state where members of the three great monotheistic religions can live together in harmony; because it is a country of one language, which has long had freedom of movement and of business relations through being unified under the Turkish rule. Since now the majority declare for nationalism, independent of religion, it is necessary only to hold them to this view through mandatory control until they shall have established the method and practice of it. Dangers may readily arise from unwise and unfaithful dealings with this people, but there is great hope of peace and progress if they be handled frankly and loyally.