Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Syro-Palestine

My blog has multiple posts documenting that the Arabs residing in the territory of what was to become the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine viewed themselves not as "Palestinians" but "Southern Syrians" and did not reognize "Palestine" as a separate geo-political entity.

Have you heard of the 1921 Syro-Palestinian Congress?

It was founded on August 25, 1921 in Geneva by a group of Arabs from Greater Syrian, including  Palestine and even the Syrian National Society based in Boston, under the auspices of the Syrian Unity Party. The main aim of the congress was to try to influence the terms of the proposed League of Nations mandate over the region that would be awarded to France.

Its formation followed the July 1919 "Pan-Syrian" Syrian National Congress. 

On September 21, after almost a month of deliberations in the Plainpalais Assembly Hall , a public statement to the League of Nations was issued demanding:

Recognition of the independence and national rule (al-Sultan al-Qawmi) of Syria, Lebanon and Palestine; Recognition of the right of these countries to unite in the framework of a civilian government, responsible to a parliament elected by the people, and in association with the other Arab lands; Immediate annulment of the Mandate; Departure of the French and British forces from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine; and the annulment of the Balfour Declaration.

From the New York Times report:

Some of the attendees:

The members of the Interim Executive Committee of the Syro-Palestinian Congress:

Additional source.

An academic review suggests, contradistinctively, that Arabs representing Palestine "desired separate recognition of their cause". The author, Reem Bailony, notes that

in 1922, the Congress collected Palestinian protests against Zionism, the Balfour declaration, and the British mandate, in order to publish them throughout Egyptian newspapers. The Jerusalem branch was run by the Palestinian notable, Haj Amin al-Husayni [Jamal al-Husayni was the acting as secretary of the Jerusalem committee]. It acted as an important linkage between the activists within Syria, and those in Cairo and Europe

As Raja Adal suggests, to former Ottomans like Arslan, Syria meant "greater Syria and included not only the French mandates of Syria and Lebanon but also the British mandate of Palestine".

In other words, throughout the 1920s, the Mufti of Palestine was a pro-United Syria activist. A central figure, Michel Lutfallah, a Greek-Orthodox from a wealthy merchant landowner family of the Syrian community in Egypt, was the driving force and financier of the Congress and was appointed its president, was known for his "steadfast friendship" to the Hashemite family. Just prior to the French bombardment of Damascus in October 1925 responding to the Syrian Revolt which had begun in August, the Congress addressed an appeal to the League of Nations’ General Assembly to inform about ‘the unhappy position of the Syro-Palestinian people’.

For sure, other voices in Lebanon sought a reverse course of complete atomization of Syria into its Moslem Shiite and Sunni, Christian, Druze, Alawite, Ismaili, Kurd and Circassian and other components. Nevertheless, the concept of a 'Greater Syria' was the dominant narrative.

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