On Revolutions, Past and Present

Thomas Babington Macaulay, the British historian and politician, once had this to say about the French Revolution and its discontents (as Roy Mottahedeh reminds us in the preface to his The Mantle of the Prophet):

“A traveller falls in with a berry which he has never before seen. He tastes it, and finds it sweet and refreshing. He praises it, and resolves to introduce it into his own country. But in a few minutes he is taken violently sick; he is convulsed; he is at the point of death. He of course changes his opinion, denounces this delicious food a poison, blames his own folly in tasting it, and cautions his friends against it. After a long and violent struggle he recovers, and finds himself much exhausted by his sufferings, but free from some chronic complaints which had been the torment of his life. He then changes his opinion again, and pronounces this fruit a very powerful remedy, which ought to be employed only in extreme cases and with great caution, but which ought not to be absolutely excluded from the Pharmacopoeia.

“And would it not be the height of absurdity to call such a man fickle and inconsistent, because he had repeatedly altered his judgment? If he had not altered his judgment, would he have been a rational being? It was exactly the same with the French Revolution. That event was a new phaenomenon in politics. Nothing that had gone before enabled any person to judge with certainty of the course which affairs might take. At first the effect was the reform of great abuses; and honest men rejoiced. Then came commotion, proscription, confiscation, bankruptcy, the assignats, the maximum, civil war, foreign war, revolutionary tribunals, guillotinades, noyades, fusillades. Yet a little while, and a military despotism rose out of the confusion, and menaced the independence of every state in Europe. And yet again a little while, and the old dynasty returned, followed by a train of emigrants eager to restore the old abuses.

We have now, we think, the whole before us. We should therefore be justly accused of levity or insincerity if our language concerning those events were constantly changing. It is our deliberate opinion that the French Revolution, in spite of all its crimes and follies, was a great blessing to mankind. But it was not only natural, but inevitable, that those who had only seen the first act should be ignorant of the catastrophe, and should be alternately elated and depressed as the plot went on disclosing itself to them. A man who had held exactly the same opinion about the Revolution in 1789, in 1794, in 1804, in 1814, and in 1834, would have been either a divinely inspired prophet, or an obstinate fool.

We are now, I feel, at a moment of deep ideological entrenchment and polarization in the debate about the Syrian revolution. Ten years from today, the situation may be very different. That’s all I really wanted to say.

Back in the US, fresh with lots of material from the old country. More soon enough.


110 thoughts on “On Revolutions, Past and Present

  1. Interpretations of the impact and the rationale for a major event changes over time. It always has and it always will. I still believe that one of the most succinct expressions of this is found in the reply by Keynes when he was criticized for having changes his mind : “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?

    Posted by ghassan karam | July 8, 2012, 8:52 pm
  2. Ahhhhhhhhh, yes Nice post: “, at a moment of deep ideological entrenchment and polarization in the debate about the Syrian revolution.”

    I dont believe QN that we arrived at this moment quite suddenly, we cheered Egypts revolution, Tunisia’s and Libya’s . Well Syrias “revolution” is a little bit more convuleted. Only time will tell, maybe a Arab version of a “Thucydides” (dubbed the father of Scientific history) may emerge and doument and analyze this period. Care to take up this mantle?

    Posted by Enlightened | July 8, 2012, 9:53 pm
  3. ” at a moment of deep ideological entrenchment and polarization in the debate about the Syrian revolution.”….. Assuming that the debate is split, smack-bang in the middle. Is it? I was under the impression that it is overwhelmingly in favor of the uprising.
    Whatever the next ten years bring, the important thing is to look back at the source of the unrest. It was by and large a civilian non-violent resistance against economic, social and political oppression. It was the brutal suppression of the uprising that led to its spiraling out of control. Perhaps we need to huddle around this truth before it gets lost in the dust of obfuscation, concentrate on the means and let the ends be the ends.

    Posted by Maverick | July 8, 2012, 11:38 pm
  4. Good post QN. Few people will understand that the Berry in question refers to a certain Lebanese politician from whom we have experienced the sweet and the sour.

    Posted by Nadim Shehadi | July 9, 2012, 2:14 am
  5. Timely post, Qifa. I see the “lots of material” you brought from the “old country” are starting to sediment. I agree with the comments so far too. Just one reflexion: the speed of History is not at all the same as when these thoughts were written. The Communication revolution has accelerated/multiplied the feelings that are described in them, and they happen in different milieus “at the same time”, without the anesthetizing effect that the passed time could effect on those feelings and reactions. Imagine that all your present relations with distant correspondents were kept through letters that had to cross the Ocean in a boat…that is the difference between then and now. Add to it that relatively few people could read and write at the time, and compare that to the mass exposure to TV of today in all over the world…plus all the rapidly expanding social networks…all of it make these Arab revolts all the more perplexing, but promising too.

    Posted by mj | July 9, 2012, 3:18 am
  6. There are so many obstinate fools these days.

    Posted by Maysaloon | July 9, 2012, 4:26 am
  7. Good comments guys.

    MJ, I’ll try to get the material up before it corks. 😉

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 9, 2012, 6:59 am
  8. QN,

    A judgment on any specific event will always be held posthumously. But patterns can, and must, be discerned from history. That is most demonstrably true in natural sciences, where the implications of the great advancements is only observed and recognised ages (and sometimes, millennia) after the fact.

    Revolutions (and social upheaval in general) falls largely in the same category. But again, patterns have been recognised and debated. Most crucial to our topic here is the philosophic and historic narrative about the European enlightenment and the role of the French revolution (or, revolution in general). I’ve posted about it before, but here goes again:

    … A sign of what? A sign of the existence of a cause, of a permanent cause, which, throughout history itself, has guided men on the way of progress. A constant cause that must be shown to have acted in the past, acts now, and will act in the future. Consequently, the event that will be a sign: rememorativum, demonstrativum, prognosticum. It must be a sign that shows that it has always been like that (the rememorative sign), a sign that shows that things are also taking place now (the demonstrative sign), and a sign that shows that it will always happen like that (the prognostic sign). In this way we can be sure that the cause that makes progress possible has not just acted at a particular moment, but that it guarantees a general tendency of mankind as a whole to move in the direction of progress. That is the question: “Is there around us an event that is rememorative, demonstrative, and prognostic of a permanent progress that affects mankind as a whole?”

    From Kant to Foucault, there seems to be substantial evidence behind the opinion that that event is what we call, “revolution.”

    Posted by Yazan | July 9, 2012, 7:13 am
  9. Shukran Yazan bek.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 9, 2012, 7:26 am
  10. My bet is that in 10 years the Syrian revolution will be seen as just one small part of the transition to Islamic rule in Arab countries. Just as Arab nationalism failed, Islamic rule has to fail to make room for real democracy. This will take a decade or two or three.

    The French revolution did not lead to democracy, it lead to ultra nationalism in the form of Napoleon and to the Napoleonic wars. Let’s not forget the millions of French Napoleon got killed, for example the one million who died marching in and out of Russia. And of course let us not forget that a weakened France post 1812 could not stop German unification nor could it be a real counterbalance to Germany with all the horrible consequences of that. These are the facts.

    Sometimes the “berry” is good long term, as in the case of the US, though I am not sure that Mexicans and Native Americans and even some African Americans would agree. In the case of France, the “berry” was poisonous through and through for the French and for Europe. How about the “berry” of the Russian revolution? That was the most poisonous “berry” of all with no redeeming value whatsoever.

    Revolutions are dicey things. They can go either way and can go spectacularly bad for the people involved. I am prepared to change my views as the facts change but my current assessment is that the Syrian revolution is going to be spectacularly bad for Syrians and just plain bad for its neighbors (a good model is the Lebanese civil war).

    Posted by AIG | July 9, 2012, 10:26 am
  11. Very interesting analysis and historical perspective, AIG. How do you see Israel’s democracy through the prism of the principles you laid out? Is there democracy now? If so, was it preceded by some extremism? which one?
    If not, is the current status some kind of extremism that will fail and be followed by true democracy? I’m curious as I admire your thinking out-of-the-box which often ends up being right.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 9, 2012, 11:39 am
  12. I think Syria will be fine. The only thing she has to worry about is foreign interference. Similarly Egypt will be fine as well, as long as the.military takes orders from the president.

    A totally free multiparty government with regularly scheduled elections will work fine, just as it does in Turkey.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 9, 2012, 11:47 am
  13. HP,

    Israel is a far from perfect democracy but a very robust one as its ability to prosper in our troubled neighborhood proves. And naturally, Israel is not something that Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular are happy about, so again you see that “extremism” or “revolution” does not often lead to a good result for everybody. It often leads as in the case of mandatory Palestine to civil war and external wars. And the losers in these wars are usually not happy with the results.

    The worst kind of wars are when everybody is a loser, as in the case of the Lebanese civil war and in my assessment what is happening in Syria. The civil war in mandatory Palestine was much more conclusive because of the population transfers (ethnic cleansing) between the Arab world and Israel. 800,000 Palestinians were moved to the Arab world and about the same number of Jews were moved to Israel. If breaking up Lebanon along sectarian lines were feasible, it would be a much more stable and successful solution than the current one.

    I am not sure I answered your question. If not, please elaborate.

    Posted by AIG | July 9, 2012, 12:21 pm
  14. AP,

    The civil war in Lebanon lasted 15 years and ended only with Syrian intervention. The civil war in Syria can last just as long. What is your definition of “fine”?

    Describing a country like Egypt with about 50% illiteracy rate as “fine” is also stretching it a bit.

    Posted by AIG | July 9, 2012, 12:26 pm
  15. AIG,

    Every free country in the world has its own “mishugas”. Before the US became really free, we had a civil war that makes all the ME civil wars look like child’s play. Then we had to wait another 100 years for white America to really accept equality for blacks. As Americans we can look to the original Constitution to see that our “free country” took several years for blacks and women to vote. I guess our “democracy” was like Saudi Arabia today, 200 years ago.

    As you mentioned above, for France and a large part of Europe it took many agonizing wars to come to the point where we are today. And who knows, Europe is teetering again – this time economically. Which could become civil unrest if it gets any worse.

    The Arabs are smart people who have as much chance as anyone. If there is anything I like about the Islamists, they seem to be less corrupt than the monarchs and despots. I say lets give them a chance. I can’t believe this guy Morsi is going to be a theocrat like Nejad. But of course, these fledgling Arab democracies are highly susceptible to outside influences and whatever military overlords waiting in the wings.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 9, 2012, 1:10 pm
  16. There is one major difference between then and now that needs to be taken into consideration.

    The revolutions are now televised.

    Posted by Monolith | July 9, 2012, 2:15 pm
  17. I like the way AIG puts it, “transition to Islamic rule in Arab countries”. It is the way I see it too. More democracy, right now, means more power for people who like to mix religion with politics. The practice of the universal vote has arrived when the virus of religion has deeply penetrated the masses.

    Viruses have a cycle, this one will have its too. Meanwhile, watching religious people govern is the best anti-viral for the affected. Liberals will have to defend themselves. Women, religious and not, will have to fight the fight. It wont be easy, but it will be clarifying.

    On the other hand, I cannot imagine Egyptian MB, for instance, being able to wield in Egypt a total and radical control a la Khomeini post-Sha.

    Posted by mj | July 9, 2012, 2:25 pm
  18. MJ,

    “On the other hand, I cannot imagine Egyptian MB, for instance, being able to wield in Egypt a total and radical control a la Khomeini post-Sha.”

    I couldn’t imagine the Palestinian MB making mince meat of Fatah in Gaza and gaining total control, but there it is. My advice is to dare to imagine. I am not saying it is going to happen for certain, but I wouldn’t rule it out. You would be surprised how much an ideologically motivated group with a willingness to sacrifice can accomplish. On average the Palestinians are more liberal and more educated than the Egyptians and yet if it weren’t for Israeli support, Hamas would take over the West Bank from Abbas also.

    The tell tale sign to look out for is the Egyptian MB putting in place something like the “revolutionary guard” in Iran.

    Posted by AIG | July 9, 2012, 2:59 pm
  19. Thanks, AIG. Your response adds to the interesting takes on the various happenings, present and past, in the Middle East.
    The issue of instituting democracy in a multi-cultural, multi-religious, and/or multi-ethnic society appears to always be a major challenge. Yugoslavia was held together by dictatorship and when then that faltered, the splintering happened so that each resulting entity had some kind of homogeneity along one of the above cleavages. I guess the same happened in Palestine and may have worked OK if the separation solution had been accepted right away; instead, many wars followed and it’s still not quite settled. You’re candidly calling it mutual ethnic cleansing, which probably is the more accurate way to describe it. The cleavage in Egypt would clearly be a purely religious one since the overwhelming majority of Egyptians are quite similar ethnically (sort of like the case of Yugoslavia). I think the case is also pretty similar in Syria. I can’t quite figure out what would apply in Lebanon. On the one hand, there are obvious religious cleavages. Still, it does seem to me there is some ethnic difference that goes along with the religious affiliations. Maybe QN can elucidate what the facts say about that topic.

    Israel is an interesting case, in that the religious homogeneity (or tribal belonging, if you prefer that definition), does effectively transcends what otherwise would be clear ethnic differences (from Africans to Europeans to Russians to original Middle-Easterners). The dynamics of population growth, however, do risk upsetting the balance if the Arab population in Israel, mostly Muslim but also Druze and Christian, continues an asymmetric growth which eventually is not balanced by continued immigration.

    The ideal system, in my opinion, is one founded on very strong principles, as in the U.S., and contains protections for minorities that continue to be adapted and improved. Interestingly, I accidentally came upon websites and articles recently that referred to the Syrian Social Nationalist Party ( Its founder, a Christian, had advocated a Greater Syria based on full separation of church and state and many other laudable principles. He did observe that the area had common ethnicity. The premise of anti-zionism in the party’s foundation was consistent with the rejection of any separatism based on religion. The chap was executed after a couple of attempts he made with supporters at seizing power. Many others were executed with him and there is a majority sentiment in the area that thinks negatively of that movement, for reasons probably unrelated necessarily to its principles. Yet, when one looks at these principles with the perspective of recent developments and analyses, one can’t help but have some level of admiration at what was a pretty visionary and perhaps correct notion.

    I have to be careful and state that the above analysis is done objectively as an intellectual exercise without any desire to make a political statement one way or the other.

    If you happen to have comments, critiques, or other thoughts on the above, your thoughts always make interesting read.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 9, 2012, 7:08 pm
  20. I prefer the english approach: They watched the Revolution from afar, read about it, and discussed it in cafes.

    Posted by Lemma | July 9, 2012, 7:29 pm
  21. @HonestPatriot: re. PPS, you say “The premise of anti-zionism in the party’s foundation was consistent with the rejection of any separatism based on religion.”. Not quite. Antun Saadeh accepted all religions as part of his common ethnicity except the Jews. This had nothing to do with Zionism. When the PPS was started, Zionism existed but was not a strong force, and in any case it was a European movement. Even after the creation of Israel, most of the Jews of “greater Syria” would have been happiest to stay where they were — especially since they were not terribly welcome in Israel. Lebanon experienced a large influx of Jews from elsewhere in the Arab world in the years following the creation of Israel precisely because they were no longer welcome in “greater Syria”, did not want to go to Israel (in fact, some went and came back) and were welcome enough in Lebanon

    Posted by Sam Adams The Dog | July 9, 2012, 7:46 pm
  22. i’m only a dog (iOAD™),but I don’t understand why those who discuss the Arab Spring, in all its manifestations, do not refer more often to the revolutions of 1848.

    Louis B. Namier, in an essay entitled “1848, Seed Plot of History”, wrote:

    “Most of the men of 1848 lacked political experience, and before a
    year was out the ‘trees of liberty’ planted by them had withered

    And then:

    “None the less, 1848 remains a seed-plot of history. It crystal-
    lized ideas and projected the pattern of things to come; it deter-
    mined the course of the century which followed. It planned, and its
    schemes have been realized: but ‘non vi si pensa quanto sangue

    It seems to me that the first part has come to pass; we shall see about the second.

    Posted by samadamsthedog | July 9, 2012, 7:58 pm
  23. AIG

    Your comments seldom surprise me (probably because I’ve been reading them for over 5 years). But this one did:

    “Revolutions are dicey things. They can go either way and can go spectacularly bad for the people involved. I am prepared to change my views as the facts change but my current assessment is that the Syrian revolution is going to be spectacularly bad for Syrians and just plain bad for its neighbors (a good model is the Lebanese civil war).”

    Given your longstanding advocacy for democracy in Syria as well as your view that this can only be achieved after a phase during which Islamist parties are in charge, I’m curious as to why you now argue that the Syrian revolution is going to be spectacularly bad for Syrians. What went wrong early on, and how could it have gone differently?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 9, 2012, 8:10 pm
  24. I couldn’t imagine the Palestinian MB making mince meat of Fatah in Gaza and gaining total control, but there it is.


    And Hamas and the PA are not even close to being democracies.

    And Egypt cannot be another Hamas. The Islamist government will not be powerful enough to control 80+ million people, a wary military, and an international community that cannot support this huge population.

    Democracy and freedom evolves and takes time.

    The Zionist Project worked well because Jews tend to be good organizers. For every country they were kicked out of, they entered another, and set up shop: stores, services, hospitals, butchers, rabbis, shuls, community centers, and movie studios;)

    The most powerful bureaucrats in Israel work for the socialist Histadrut labor union:

    And you thought the IDF was powerful…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 9, 2012, 8:23 pm
  25. AIG…
    A true revolution CANNOT, usually, go spectacularly wrong for the people. If it does then it is not a revolution, instead it is ,charitably, a misguided attempt at a revolution that the public is not ready for.It is a failed revolution. The best example is that of the “Russian Revolution” of 1917. It created one of the cruelest and bloodiest eras in history and brought to power a statist dictatorship that ruled through fear and intimidation for 70 years.
    A revolution is a total transformation of society that moves it forward towards more liberty and freedom. If that fails to materialize then please do not call it a revolution. In my book, Hannah Arendt in On Revolution presents the best exposition about the subject ever attempted.
    I am not sure that many have noticed but I have tried ever since Dec 2010 not to use the term revolution in describing the Arab Spring since so far we have not had a single one yet. Not Egypt, not Yemen, not Libya , not Tunis and I doubt that Syria will be a true revolution. All of these uprisings ,I have supported and will continue to do so because they are steps in the right direction, the direction of greater democracy. The Syrian uprising will be ,I think, the most important of the development in the Arab Spring. Only once the uprising in Syria succeeds will there be a chance to take the Arab Spring to the GCC in general and Saudi Arabia in particular. Unless that happens then the Arab Spring will continue to be a mirage. Who has killed the Arab Spring ? Ask the Saudis. BTW, this is one reason that I do not think that a true revolution is about to take place in Lebanon. I am still awaiting the charismatic young leader that rejects both Iran and Saudi Arabia.
    Ad finally let me assure samthedog that if he was to go back to the early days of the Arab Spring then he is bound to find 10’s, possibly 100’s, of times that I made references to Annus Mirabilis, 1848.

    Posted by gkaram | July 9, 2012, 11:28 pm
  26. AIG, I don’t think it’s fair to say that the French Revolution was a failure. Even if the First Republic did not endure, it heralded the birth of participatory democracy and political liberalism that lasts until today. European absolutism never recovered. In the 21st century, how can it be said that the first manifestations (in Europe) of our current ideologies was somehow a failure or a bad idea? Even if one can say that there is a straight causal line between the storming of the Bastille and Napoleon’s coup, how much greater misery were the Napoleonic Wars compared to continuing decades of absolutist governments in Europe? And to say that the French Revolution lead inevitably to Prussian-lead German unification is I think a bit silly. If anything, the legacy of the French Revolution was felt strongest in the Revolutions of 1848, which nearly unified Germany under a democratic, liberal government.

    If Syrians (or the Arab world in general) didn’t want to risk the possibility of years of slaughter for democracy, then they’ll stay in the dark ages forever. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

    Lemma, As an Englishman, I actually despair at my country’s lack of a revolutionary tradition. So much that is wrong with our political culture is the ossified remains of what other countries swept away decades or centuries ago. Like the House of Lords, which finally might (might) be significantly reformed starting today, generations after other countries stopped thinking it was a good idea to have Bishops as part of a legislative body.

    Posted by Will | July 9, 2012, 11:35 pm
  27. QN,

    Of course I am for democracy in Syria and always have been. And the scenario I was hoping for is something similar to Tunisia. But though I think Assad will eventually be gone, my current assessment is that the civil war in Syria will not stop even when Assad is out of the picture. Too much blood has been spilled and too many people massacred and too many cities devastated. Syria is resembling more and more Somalia and Zimbabwe. And if this horrible civil war continues for several years, I just don’t see how this could end well for Syrians. Whoever wins, the victory will be hollow.

    Add to that the fact that the opposition is far from being united and it is a recipe for catastrophe. It means that if the remnants of the regime are vanquished you will still have several war lords to deal with not to mention the jihadists. And to cap it all, unlike Iraq, Syria has very little oil. So how will the country be redeveloped?

    What went wrong? If you remember, for years I told Alex that Assad is like a man riding a tiger. If he gets off without taming the tiger, he will be eaten. But Assad chose not to tame the tiger, just continue and abuse it. He knows that, and will not get off. Assad and the minorities in Syria are willing to bring the house down instead of letting the Islamists own it. Assad is not stupid, he knows he can’t win. As long as he is there, Syria will suffer under sanctions and have no chance of economic development. He has wrecked relations with Turkey and the Gulf Arabs. So there will be no exporting of oil, no tourism, no investment from the Gulf and no trade with Turkey. If he stays, he knows it is the Zimbabwe scenario for Syria. Yet, that is what he is attempting to do and he has gotten the minorities on his side by sectarian manipulation.

    There is not much the opposition could have done to change things. They had to take their chances and hope things would turn out differently.

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2012, 12:50 am
  28. Who said Revolutions were beautiful at short distance? The romantic idea about them is the souvenir crafted by the people that more directly benefited from them. Still, when a society becomes paralyzed because it is governed by oppression, fear,corruption and fraud at its top, the people will eventually decide it is necessary to break with it, and it will be ready to pay the highest price.

    No oppressor clique “leaves” without a fight. The forces able to push them out are often not necessarily the ones we like. And so what?

    Didn’t “Universal” suffrage mean actually a minority of the male (white) population? Does it mean it was a step back in the fight for better governance? Are we people, looking from a safe place, allowed to condemn historic events as counterproductive because we are afraid that we will not live to see the results that would please us?

    There was never such thing as a “soft” or “predictable” Revolution. They were always ugly, costly, difficult or impossible to control from in and outside. I’m afraid Revolution’s only indisputable adjective was and still is “necessary”.

    Posted by mj | July 10, 2012, 3:29 am
  29. Let’s not romanticize revolutions. Like anything else in life they are subject to cost benefit analysis and are not “necessary”. If you told Syrians that the revolution would be a 3 month affair in which a few people are killed they would be for it. If you told them it was a 15 year affair in which many die, the economy is devastated and a whole generation grows up uneducated, they would be against it. And so would be any sensible person. Of course you can’t know these things in advance, but it is wishful thinking to discount bad scenarios and insist that everything will be fine and is for the best.

    Most Lebanese on this blog are reluctant to use any force in solving Lebanon’s issues because they believe there cannot be a winner in a civil war in Lebanon. Why can’t this logic be applied to Syria? Would you criticize a Syrian for not revolting because he thinks that would lead to a prolonged civil war with no winners? Would you tell him that it is his duty to revolt and that it was necessary? How about a Syrian that decides to leave Syria instead of revolting? Is it necessary that he stay in Syria and suffer the consequences of his necessary revolt?

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2012, 9:24 am
    I understand the premise and facts you cite but I’m somewhat confused by conflicting narratives on this question. On the one hand, I do know that there has always been some level of discrimination against minorities in the area, which certainly include Jews in Arab countries, but that also include Christians who, in those eras, were also sometimes mistreated.
    Looking at the principles involved in the PPS foundation by Antoun Saadeh & his partners, one does not see that, out of principle, the Jews were to be excluded. We have to remember that anti-Zionism was opposition to what was indeed a secular or semi-secular movement where Jewry was defined in the same manner that AIG has explained, belonging to a “tribe.” Judaism as a religion should have been clearly included in the encompassing unitarity advocated by Saadeh.
    I recognize that principle and reality often differ but find it very difficult to distill purely objective facts about that issue. Maybe in time, after a very long time, the true historical reality will emerge and your premise would either be confirmed or proven wrong (partially or totally). It is not difficult to imagine that, with the creation of the Nation of Israel, there would have been some (unfair) backlash against Jews in the Arab countries. But to extrapolate from that to the fact that the PPS foundation included an explicit or implicit exclusion of Jews is I think far fetched unless, in time, facts provide the evidence.
    In the end, if one can let History take care of facts and focus on a pragmatic approach to achieve peace and prosperity for all inhabitants in the area, then there would be hope for good things to develop. But I think I’m dreaming. Politics, egos, religious extremism, seem always to find their way as spoilers. Reasonable accommodation that lets ordinary folks live and prosper is the best one can hope for, in the near future.

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 10, 2012, 11:20 am
  31. AIG says “Revolutions are not necessary”. That is an oxymoron if I have ever heard any. Each and every single paradigm shift that has ever taken place in any and all fields is a revolution.

    Posted by gkaram | July 10, 2012, 11:35 am
  32. GK,

    The fact that something happens does not make it necessary that it will happen and certainly it is not necessary that it will happen at that point in time. The fact I went to the movies does not mean that it was necessary that I do so. And the fact that the Syrians revolted does not mean that it was necessary that they do so. And if scientific revolutions were so necessary they would not have happened just in the West. Science is a result of certain societal properties that are not necessary at all. That is so obvious that I really do not understand what you are aiming at.

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2012, 12:17 pm
  33. HP,

    Are you denying that Antoun Saadeh was a raving antisemite? His quotes on this issue are quite clear. He explicitly denied that Jews living in Syria for centuries were part of the Syrian nation. He argued that Cypriots were part of Syria but not Jews. There is no ambiguity whatsoever on the SSNP founding stand about Jews.

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2012, 12:20 pm
  34. AIG
    Real revolutions, in all fields, are not planned. They take place only because of the failure of the system in place to serve going forward. Neither Copernicus, nor Galileo or Newton set out to create a revolution. They simply found out that the old established “vision” does not work any longer and further more that the old vision is based on wrong premises.The same is true of social science and politics especially from a neo h
    Hegelian perspective and in particular a Marxist understanding of history. History unfolds forward but the conflicts are resolved into a new synthesis/revolution only when conditions are ripe. Circumstances cannot be forced. That is why when a revolution takes place it does so because it must. These are the laws of motion . Allow me to mention again the Russian Revolution of 1917. It did turn out to be a colossus failure simply because Lenin would not listen to Rosa Luxembourg who told him that revolutions cannot be forced.
    I would like to think that the Syrian uprising is a real revolution, but unfortunately I do not think that it is. It is however a genuine movement against 40 years of terror, tyranny, cult of personality ,exploitation, fear and outright butchery. Was that necessary? Of course it was. How else was the Baath going to be driven from power? And finally let me also stress that revolutions need not be violent and bloody. They are possible once the majority of the stakeholders decide that the current system is broke and that efforts at internal modifications are not possible. That is when the youth rises and throw away the status quo in favour of a new model that is more responsive to the new vision and new realities. Revolutions are a must, they have always taken place and always will, until the end of history, that is.

    Posted by ghassan karam | July 10, 2012, 1:03 pm
  35. AIG, I haven’t researched Saadeh. Can you help with links to his words/statements along those lines.
    For Saadeh to somehow single “Jews” who already lived in Syria and Lebanon on the basis of their religion would be the ultimate in hypocrisy and inconsistency. I’d be interested in reading exactly what he said and how, if what you say is true, he reasoned it.

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 10, 2012, 1:22 pm
  36. By “haven’t researched” I meant have not looked beyond the original principles of the PPS (from their website — which is in Arabic). Those seemed reasonable to me (without necessarily agreeing with them) and did not contain any hint of the exclusionary mentality you mention. That’s why I’d be interested in seeing references/records to such.

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 10, 2012, 1:24 pm
  37. OK, some more thoughts while I await help for references (from AIG or Sam). Saadeh and the PPS made no bones about being virulently anti-zionists. One school of thought maintains that anti-zionism is NOT antisemitism. To others (who I assume COULD include AIG and/or Sam [but I don’t know that for a fact]), any anti-zionist is, ipso facto, an antisemite. Maybe herein lies the crux of the different views of Saadeh (??).
    As a personal thought and opinion, I have consistently weighed in favor of full separation of church/mosque/temple and state. In coming across the PPS founding principles I was impressed to see this separation principle not only prominently featured but also reinforced by an article that expressly forbids religious authorities from having any involvement in politics. Now that may be carrying it too far if it does imply discrimination against religious authorities but still, in the Middle East, we are so far away from any hint of secularism that it doesn’t hurt to go overboard with the hope of achieving, in the end, a civilized balance that takes away religious extremism from politics.

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 10, 2012, 1:31 pm
  38. Is there someone trying to send the following message? 😉

    Syrian oppositional activists:

    I sympathize with your cause. By your uprising, you may have hoped for the best, but more realistically, you should now expect the worst.

    Posted by Badr | July 10, 2012, 1:39 pm
  39. HP- you say “I can’t quite figure out what would apply in Lebanon. On the one hand, there are obvious religious cleavages. Still, it does seem to me there is some ethnic difference that goes along with the religious affiliations. Maybe QN can elucidate what the facts say about that topic.”

    Are you referring to some Maronites claim to be Phoenician or French? Or the Armenians and Kurds? How do you see ethnic differences along the general religious affiliations in Lebanon? Can you give some examples?
    This Topic has been discussed here at length, but your statement, however veiled by ambiguity to reflect innocence, it is still similar to those of the forgone Lebanese rightwing Christian Maronites who longed to be identified as non Arab and it begs to be either clarified by you or challenged by the experts on this forum.

    Posted by Vulcan | July 10, 2012, 2:07 pm
  40. HP,

    Read the fourth principle:

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2012, 2:07 pm
  41. Badr,

    I always support Israel to win the world cup but I would never bet that they actually succeed.

    I am not trying to send a message to anybody. The opposition on the ground has better sources of information than I do and can make their own assessments. I am just stating my assessment based on the facts I have and I would be more than happy to be proven wrong.

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2012, 2:19 pm
  42. HP,

    This is an explanation of it in English:
    “However, Saadeh did not include the Jews in his new nationality. He stressed that the Jews were not equal to others that belonged to this nationality. Such a vagrant announcement would go as an anathema to the theory itself, since neglecting a group who possesses all the necessary elements to be within this nationality defaults the theory itself.

    According to Saadeh, there were lots of homogeneous migrations into Syria where people had melted within one national pot to be able to become one people and one land. The only massive migration that would not be considered homogeneous to this mix is that of the Jews. This migration is not tolerated because the Jews had melted within the pots of many peoples and nations before arriving in the area. Therefore, it is at odds with the other people of Syria. Its thinking is different, and its goals are contrary to the goals of the Syrian nation. Therefore the “new” Syrians must fight against this Jewish immigration by all means.”

    It is not Zionism that causes Saadeh to reject Jews, it is just some genetic mumbo jumbo that cannot be classified as anything but racism.

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2012, 2:27 pm
  43. AIG….

    Seriously, now you’re going after Antun Saade? Dude, if you want to think of yourself as one of his proverbial Syrians, go right ahead and think so!

    Posted by Gabriel | July 10, 2012, 3:33 pm
  44. Gabriel,

    Next time actually read the comments before jumping in with your irrelevant nonsense.

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2012, 4:38 pm
  45. AIG,

    I read the comments, especially the supposedly offensive 4th principle. Nothing “anti-Semitic” about the 4th principle. Perhaps you got the # of the Principle wrong.

    Thanks for the thesis- written in English- philosophizing about the 1 sentence Arabic 4th principle. That whole article is simply “mumbo jumbo that cannot be classified as anything but” pretentious rubbish.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 10, 2012, 4:48 pm
  46. PS: Translation of Offensive 4th Principle:

    المبدأ الرابع: الأمة السورية هي وحدة الشعب السوري المتولدة من تاريخ طويل يرجع إلى ما قبل الزمن التاريخي الجلي.

    Fourth Principle: The Syrian Nation is the Unity of the Syrian Peoples which was born from a long history starting from Pre-History.

    At no point in this Principle does he bring up Religion. In fact, I would humbly suggest that the Pre-historic Syrians had nothing to do with any of the extant religions today!

    As I said: If you fancy yourself being a Syrian, I’m sure Antun Saade would personally rise from his grave and welcome you as one.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 10, 2012, 4:53 pm
  47. Gabriel,
    You just read that one sentence? Read the whole section, especially the last paragraph. Boy are you a joke.

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2012, 5:18 pm
  48. Here are the last two paragraphs since it is so difficult for you to see them:

    وكذلك الذي يعلم أنه منحدر من أصل فينيقي (كنعاني) أو عربي أو صليبي لا يعود يهمه سوى مسألة متحده الاجتماعي، الذي تجري ضمنه جميع شؤون حياته، والذي على مصيره يتوقف مصير عياله وذريته وآماله ومثله العليا. هذا هو الوجدان القومي الصحيح. فإذا كانت النعرة الفينيقية هي الـThese والنعرة العربية هي الـAntithese أو بالعكس، أي إذا كانت النعرتان الدينيتان تضعان نظريتين متعارضتين، فمما لاشك فيه أن مبدأ وحدة الأمة السورية المؤلفة من سلالتين أساسيتين مديترانيّة وآرية، من العناصر التي كونت في مجرى التاريخ المزاج السوري والطابع السوري النفسي والعقلي، هو المبدأ الذي يقدم الـSynthese أو المخرج النظري من تعارض النظريتين مذهباً واحداً هو القومية. إن في هذا المبدأ إنهاء جدل عقيم يهمل الواقع المحسوس ويتشبث باللاحسي. جدل يحل علم الكلام محل علم الاجتماع. لا يمكن أن يؤول هذا المبدأ بأنه يجعل اليهودي مساوياً في الحقوق والمطالب للسوري، وداخلاً في معنى الأمة السورية. فتأويل كهذا بعيد جداً عن مدلول هذا المبدأ الذي لا يقول، مطلقاً، باعتبار العناصر المحافظة على عصبيات أو نعرات قومية أو خاصة، غريبة، داخلة في معنى الأمة السورية. إن هذه العناصر ليست داخلة في وحدة الشعب.

    إن في سورية عناصر وهجرات كبيرة متجانسة مع المزيج السوري الأصلي، يمكن ان تهضمها الأمة إذا مر عليها الزمن الكافي لذلك، ويمكن أن تذوب فيها وتزول عصبياتها الخاصة. وفيها هجرة كبيرة لا يمكن بوجه من الوجوه أن تتفق مع مبدأ القومية السورية هي الهجرة اليهودية. إنها هجرة خطرة لا يمكن أن تهضم لأنها هجرة شعب اختلط مع شعوب كثيرة فهو خليط متنافر خطر وله عقائد غريبة جامدة وأهدافه تتضارب مع حقيقة الأمة السورية وحقوقها وسيادتها ومع المثل العليا السورية تضارباً جوهرياً. وعلى السوريين القوميين أن يدفعوا هذه الهجرة بكل قوتهم.

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2012, 5:31 pm
  49. AIG,
    In the link you give, here’s the fourth principle and my translation of it:
    المبدأ الرابع: الأمة السورية هي وحدة الشعب السوري المتولدة من تاريخ طويل يرجع إلى ما قبل الزمن التاريخي الجلي.
    “Fourth Principle: The Syrian Nation is defined by the unity of the Syrian people, derived from a long history which goes back to times earlier than the current generation.”
    Well, where’s the antisemitism in that statement. If anything, it’s almost a circular definition, and so somewhat lacking in clarity.

    Well, I am not using pretenses to innocently (and falsely) introduce racist notions within the current Lebanese population. I’m simply observing that there are some noticeable differences. The most obvious are ones you quoted, in particular Armenians in Lebanon who, to a good extent, have preserved many of the traits belonging to their ancestors (not to mention the language and culture, etc.). For closer elements, like, say the Maronites and the Sunnis (recognizing that the boundaries are not sharply defined), I day that they are less similar, from an ethnic point of view, than the Muslim Bosnians and the Bosnian Serbs, two groups that are indistinguishable ethnically but antipodal in their religious beliefs which end up translating into political structure. Maronites and other Christians in Lebanon can legitimately trace their origins to the population of Mount Lebanon, an area that did have a distinct status within the Ottoman Empire. The French expanded the boundaries of Mount Lebanon to those of modern day Lebanon and the added population, in majority Muslim, came from cities. In any case, my comment on this, made en-passant, has no significant bearing on the main description of what Antoun Saadeh intended. I think the context I was trying to define is one where the notion of a completely secular nation, as defined by Saadeh, specifically excluding and neutralizing any intermingling of religion and politics, in hindsight, seems to have some merit, at least from an intellectual exercise.

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 10, 2012, 5:38 pm
  50. …. catching up with the posts… above was just addressing article IV… more when I read the rest of AIG’s posts…

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 10, 2012, 5:41 pm
  51. HP,

    Please do us all a favor and translate also the last two paragraphs of the section, the ones I posted.

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2012, 5:47 pm
  52. Yikes! I see it. The first statement is pretty bad and I can’t see how one can interpret it in some kind of acceptable way. The second statement can have an interpretation that explains it as an anti-zionist and specifically anti-immigration principle. So let’s look at those 2 statements.

    First One:

    لا يمكن أن يؤول هذا المبدأ بأنه يجعل اليهودي مساوياً في الحقوق والمطالب للسوري، وداخلاً في معنى الأمة السورية. فتأويل كهذا بعيد جداً عن مدلول هذا المبدأ الذي لا يقول، مطلقاً، باعتبار العناصر المحافظة على عصبيات أو نعرات قومية أو خاصة، غريبة، داخلة في معنى الأمة السورية. إن هذه العناصر ليست داخلة في وحدة الشعب.

    This is a “Yikes!” My amateurish translation:
    “One cannot take this principle as defining the Jew as equal in rights and obligations to the Syrian and as part of what is meant as the Syrian Nation. Because such an interpretation is far from the principle which absolutely does Not say, that special and foreign races and ethnicities are included in the definition and meaning of the Syrian Nation. These elements are NOT included in the unity of the people.”

    Pretty bad, huh!
    A reading of this clearly gives rise to the accusation that Saadeh was anti-Jew (I don’t quite like the term antisemite because Arabs are semites, and so are Syrians, and Saadeh was clearly not anti-Syrian. I recognize that the term “antisemite” has a common usage to mean anti-Jewish but this usage is inconsistent with its etymology).
    Regardless of possible other writings that may try to explain away what this implies, for example by claiming that it is a defensive move against incorporating the Jewish immigrants to the area, it’s as bad as it gets.

    Second one:

    إن في سورية عناصر وهجرات كبيرة متجانسة مع المزيج السوري الأصلي، يمكن ان تهضمها الأمة إذا مر عليها الزمن الكافي لذلك، ويمكن أن تذوب فيها وتزول عصبياتها الخاصة. وفيها هجرة كبيرة لا يمكن بوجه من الوجوه أن تتفق مع مبدأ القومية السورية هي الهجرة اليهودية. إنها هجرة خطرة لا يمكن أن تهضم لأنها هجرة شعب اختلط مع شعوب كثيرة فهو خليط متنافر خطر وله عقائد غريبة جامدة وأهدافه تتضارب مع حقيقة الأمة السورية وحقوقها وسيادتها ومع المثل العليا السورية تضارباً جوهرياً. وعلى السوريين القوميين أن يدفعوا هذه الهجرة بكل قوتهم.

    This one can be subject to interpretation that the intended exclusion is towards the Jewish immigrants. It’s still bad, however, because it also seems to lump with it the Jews native to the area by saying that their intermixing with the immigrants has diluted their “purity” (my word) to the point that they can no longer be included.
    Sheesh!… Unless there are other writings or interpretation that reverse these ideas, this is awful. It regrettably destroys the otherwise logical foundational principles.

    My amateurish translation of that second exceprt:
    “There are within Syria large ethnicities and migrations that are congruent with the original Syrian trait. These additions can readily be incorporated within the Syrian nation is sufficient time has passed and any distinctive fanaticism within it has been dissolved and absorbed within the nation. However, one migration can in no way be consistent with the principles of the Syrian nation, and that is the Jewish migration. This migration is dangerous and cannot be digested because it is the migration of a people that has been intermixed with many other people so that it is a dangerous mix that brings with it strange and rigid beliefs and goals which are in conflict with the true principles, rights, and sovereignty of Syria and this conflict is fundamental and essential. The true Syrians must defend against this migration with all their might.”

    Well, OK. Here, it seems that the target of Saadeh’s virulent ire are the Jewish immigrants to the region. He fails to take exception of the native Jews, in this way committing, in my opinion, a capital sin. This failure to except the native folks is clearly evident in the first excerpt, in which he seems to lump ALL Jews in this sweeping negative attitude.

    — end of analysis with the disclaimer that it is based only on cursory readings and what is being given in this comments thread —

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 10, 2012, 6:14 pm
  53. HP,

    Just like the word “dogma” has no relation to “dog” and “ma”, “antisemitism” is a word invented in 19th century Europe and it means hatred of Jews. It has nothing to do with Semitic people.

    Just to help you understand, when Saadeh talks about “Jewish immigrants” he means the native Jews of Greater Syria that of course immigrated there many centuries before. He is not talking about recent immigrants to mandatory Palestine. Notice how he references other “migrations” that are ok. The second paragraph cannot be interpreted in a good way either.

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2012, 6:25 pm
  54. AIG,
    Just like the word “dogma” has no relation to “dog” and “ma”, “antisemitism” is a word invented in 19th century Europe and it means hatred of Jews. It has nothing to do with Semitic people.
    I know and I’ve read the Wikipedia article on the word which probably was written by strong advocates.
    Still, the etymology, original or perceived, is nowhere near similar to the separation or the syllables in the word (dog-ma, very funny indeed) you cite.
    I wish there was a better word. As it stands it keeps being subject to new theories and interpretations which ends up confusing the issue when one wants to use the word. See the “RECENT DEVELOPMENTS” section of this article:
    There’s no valid excuse, as I see it, to what Saadeh expressed. I wonder what he and his cohorts were suggesting to do with the Jews in the area. Disappointing to say the least, for someone who otherwise was a strong visionary.
    Still, it is obvious that his summary trial and execution had nothing to do with that particular view he held!

    Always interesting to take these detours in recent History. The sad reality, which hopefully will change, is that the objective history of all these happenings is not captured in a simple and didactic way that would educate all the new generations in the area. Who knows, maybe our exchanges will inspire such objective narration once the area settles into better stability than it has now.

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 10, 2012, 7:13 pm
  55. AIG…

    You are being very silly. You quoted the 4th “principle”. There is nothing anti-semitic about the 4th principle.

    Putting aside HP’s analysis…. what precisely is wrong with this “Coles Notes” expansion of the offensive 4th principle? He is talking about National identity. It seems remarkable that someone who views the “Jews” as an exceptional nation to take exception that Antun Saade may see the “Syrian” nation as exceptional.

    And to boot, you accuse him of being a racist.

    Take a chill pill, and have a reality check.

    There is nothing inconsistent with those two paragraphs with the notion that you can be a Jew, who identifies with being a “Syrian”, and wanting to be a member of the proverbial Nation. Of course, if you want the Jews to be exceptional, why take offense at the statement at all!

    Posted by Gabriel | July 10, 2012, 10:51 pm
  56. “Putting aside HP’s analysis….”

    Why, because he agrees with me? HP’s mother tongue is Arabic and he came to the same conclusion as me and as in fact any sensible reader would. If you think HP does not understand what he reads in Arabic, just tell him so. Saadeh is clearly anti-Jewish and you are a two bit troll.

    Posted by AIG | July 11, 2012, 12:29 am
  57. AIG:

    Because HP is clearly babying you. Personally, I’d find it rather offensive being patronized in this manner.

    He understood quite clearly what he read in Arabic- and he read it correctly. But he didn’t call you out on your BS.

    The context of the troublesome sentence is the sentence that precedes it. Saade is clearly theorizing that the “Phoenician” and the “Arab” have to subordinate their identity to the “Syrian” one. Saade- in principle- is not expecting more from the Jew (at least not in this paragraph- I haven’t read any of his other writing) than he is from the “Arabs” and the “Phoenicians”. The absurdity of the reference to the Phoenicians is telling enough!

    Simply put, stop being a hypocrite. You are Jew. Bravo. Good for you. You don’t want to subordinate your “Identity” to a Syrian one. Good. Don’t. But then you are advocate of some sort of Jewish Exceptionalism. In that sense, you are no different from Saade. So don’t call him a Rabid Racist. Or at least admit to being one yourself.

    If you want to subordinate you “Jewishness” to your “Syrianness”… and you feel that being a Jew Hater, Antun does not leave room for this in his Grand Theory of Syrian Identity to allow you to do that… then the onus is on you to produce, and post the exact writing in which he expresses that thought.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 11, 2012, 5:34 am
  58. Also, just for the record… HP’s translation of the first sentence is not correct:

    لا يمكن أن يؤول هذا المبدأ بأنه يجعل اليهودي مساوياً في الحقوق والمطالب للسوري، وداخلاً في معنى الأمة السورية. فتأويل كهذا بعيد جداً عن مدلول هذا المبدأ الذي لا يقول، مطلقاً، باعتبار العناصر المحافظة على عصبيات أو نعرات قومية أو خاصة، غريبة، داخلة في معنى الأمة السورية. إن هذه العناصر ليست داخلة في وحدة الشعب.

    HP Translated:

    “One cannot take this principle as defining the Jew as equal in rights and obligations to the Syrian and as part of what is meant as the Syrian Nation. Because such an interpretation is far from the principle which absolutely does Not say, that special and foreign races and ethnicities are included in the definition and meaning of the Syrian Nation. These elements are NOT included in the unity of the people.”

    What the sentence actually says:

    “One cannot interpret this Principle (4th) to imply that the “Jew” is equal in Rights and Obligations to the “Syrian”, and part of the “Syrian” Nation. For this principle does not allow for Groups that guard Fanatical or foreign “National” Prides within the context of the “Syrian” nation. These groups do not contribute to the Unity of the People”.

    Swap every reference to “Syrian” to “Jewish”, and you’d end up well- with your sentiments!

    Posted by Gabriel | July 11, 2012, 6:00 am
  59. Gabriel,

    At the risk of splitting hairs, and not knowing anything about the author, by singling out “Jew”, the author is already guilty of anti-semitism (or anti-Judaism)”

    Most countries and states are made up of different cultures, religions, sects, etc. Syria is no different: Sunni, Shia, Alawi, Christian, Kurd, and at one time, Jews.

    By singling out Jews, the author has branded himself a racist and a bigot.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 11, 2012, 7:15 am
  60. AP,

    You guys keep on stating that Judaism (Jews) constitute a nation…Then you want to define it as a religion whenever it suits you best!…I think you think you are the chosen ones…

    Posted by danny | July 11, 2012, 7:37 am
  61. Gaby and AIG,

    I don’t think Gaby’s translation leads to a different conclusion about specifically targeting the Jews for exclusion from the Syrian Nation. On the other hand, while I did not “call (AIG) on (the equivalent behavior of Israel)” because that is not what we are discussing, I was not implying any specific position on that subject. I do have issues with exclusionary policies of Israel against certain people but that’s a separate subject. At the risk of being still accused of “babying AIG” I do have to say that there is a difference in that Saadeh was being all-inclusive to all colors within the Syrian Nation and then took specific exception to the Jews. Regardless of how you translate it or read it, that is obviously bad, in my opinion. While it does not absolve Israel from its principles and policies, Zionism seeks to include all Jews and exclude all others (in a simplistic interpretation). It is still discrimination but one in which every non-Jew is equal. Minor difference?
    I think AP and others may jump now to say Israel has included (and does include) many non-Jews and treats them well, etc., etc. That is true but there’s no denying the underlying principles of “Homeland for the Jews” and “maintaining the Jewish character,” something that is so important to Israel that they insist on having everyone accept it as part of the country’s definition. One can accuse Saadeh of the same. However, Saadeh was not looking for Syrians to immigrate from all over the world. On the other hand, his singular exclusion of the Jews goes overboard.
    We have a bag of “bads” here. Some more bad than others. Tough to find the “good” in all this.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 11, 2012, 8:34 am
  62. Hi Danny,

    Italians are a nation or a “people”. The Irish are a nation. The French. Palestinians are a nation. Kurds are a nation. Tibetans(sp) are a nation. Jews are a nation. Are the Alawis a nation? Are the Druze a nation?

    Nationhood/Peoplehood, like religion, is SELF-identification. Most Jews, I think, consider themselves belonging to (yaani) “the Jewish People”. Some jews may just consider themselves “American” or “French” and of the jewish religion. Similarly, a Palestinian or Italian may feel the same way if he lives outside of their “homeland”.

    I can’t force you to recognize me as a people, but, in the end, it is MY decision how I define myself, my religion, my nation, and my “peoplehood”.

    For any Arab, Jew or ethnicity living outside their “homeland”, they can identify however they want and prove their allegiance to the country they are living in by participating in all levels of society. When a leader of whatever country calls into question the allegiance of said “people” to his/her country, one must be very cautious. We saw what this type of situation caused in Nazi Germany, and we are witnessing odd similarities against muslims and Arabs in Europe today. How were Jews not showng “allegiance” to Germany? How are Arabs not showing “allegiance” to Europe and the countries that make up Europe? How are Jews not showing “allegiance” to America? Let’s ask Pat Buchanan!;)

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 11, 2012, 8:44 am
  63. AP, my, my. Is that really your writing. Never mind the content at all. The style is so different from what I recall of your (admittedly only older) posts. You’re majoring in English or journalism or communications or something? Or taking continuing education courses in such? Was any of that material “borrowed” ? (apologies for this insinuation but I’m really impressed).

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 11, 2012, 9:25 am
  64. Danny, a devout Jew does not “think” he/she is a member of a “Chosen People.” A devout Jew KNOWS he/she is. It says so in the Torah.

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 11, 2012, 9:31 am
  65. On the other hand, many Jews (most in Israel??) are secular, non-religious, non-believers. For them I have to assume that a belonging along the description of AP is what represents a more accurate understanding.

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 11, 2012, 9:34 am
  66. If you’re confused, join the club! In the end, these human groupings are but a power play. Rationales and interpretations and principles will be invented and manipulated. Best documented example is Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. Still makes for fascinating reading.

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 11, 2012, 9:37 am
  67. HP:

    As I wrote, I don’t disagree with your reading (or necessarily your final assessment). I think your translation of the first statement did fall a little short.

    I do think however that this IS the discussion and the point of the discussion. In that sense, you did baby the Lad. See below for my response to AP.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 11, 2012, 10:13 am
  68. AP:

    Yes in principle, and under “normal” circumstances, I would agree with you. The relevant passage would be offensive based on its exclusion of “Jews”.

    But this is a classic example of what I call discussion derailing. QN started a wonderful discussion that was going very well and nicely with lots of nice ideas on “Revolutions”. Somehow, because of some comment made by HP, we started talking about Antun Saade and whether or not he’s a Racist. Then AIG produced 1 website discussing a Manifesto and the 4th Principle of Syrian Identity that had nothing essentially racist in it.

    When called out on this fact, he mocked me for not reading further. Apparently the website was not simply a re-telling of the Guiding Principles of the SSNP… but an explanation thereof. The heading of the webpage says as much: It is titled, ” Explanation of the Principles”.

    It purports that the explanation of the principles come from none other than Antun himself.

    The principle itself is innocent enough:

    “Fourth Principle: The Syrian Nation is the Unity of the Syrian Peoples which was born from a long history starting from Pre-History.”

    In the explanation, Antun goes off on a tangent. It is clear he is writing/speaking to a Lebanese audience. He makes reference to “Arabs” and “Phoenicians” (as if Phoenicians exist today!). He makes no reference to Alawis and Muslims and Sunni and Shia. He basically says that when he speaks of the “Unity” of the Syrian people he is speaking within the context that you may well be an Arab with an associated pride, or a “Phoenician” with an associated pride, but that there is a glue that binds you that extends far before the various conquests. The Syrian glue is what he is emotionally appealing to.

    The reference to Jews- where it is made- and where he has explicitly introduced an exception relates to an example for which he explicitly states it is not consistent with the idea of a Syrian identity. When he does make reference to the “Jews”, he speaks of them specifically within the context of them being “Migrants” who have intermixed with Europeans, and who come with a more Fundamental and Exceptional National identity of their own. He says that this type of approach is not consistent with building of a Unified Syrian Identity.

    As I wrote to AIG, flip the words Jew and Syrian, and he himself would not disagree with the sentiment.

    I am not here to agree with Antun or disagree with him. I think the statement itself is relatively benign. Do I agree with HP that it is “somewhat” offensive. Yes. It would have been nicer if Antun added the various Caveats, the “buts” and “exceptions” to stress that Syrian Jews were not the object of his analysis. Was it an unintentional oversight? Perhaps. But perhaps it was not. Perhaps the oversight was intentional and he really is anti-Semitic.

    This passage alone is not enough to make this assessment.

    Ditto for not bringing up Kurds and Armenians and other groupings. Perhaps he wrote elsewhere about the issue. I’m not going to research the topic as the subject of Antun Saade does not interest me much. But for the sake of constructive discussions, this type of decontextualized derailment should not be encouraged.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 11, 2012, 10:27 am
  69. You’re majoring in English or journalism or communications or something?


    Thank you for the compliment. You just caught me in a rare instance where I felt smart and had something intelligent to say. Yes, I’m usually sarcastic, lazy, full of spelling mistakes, and inane. I won’t let it happen again;)

    AIG and I, I think, feel the same on this subject, but certainly “many” Jews do not share our opinion on our “peoplehood”. I think most Jews feel they are a member of “the jewish people” but are Americans (or whatever).

    Gabriel, I’ll respond to your post a little later. I don’t get paid for this.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 11, 2012, 10:46 am
  70. AP,

    Thank you for your explanation (opinion)…thank God non of my Jewish friends subscribe to this absurd idea of the Jewish Nation. They are Canadians first and only!!!… and Jewish by religion!



    Posted by danny | July 11, 2012, 10:48 am
  71. …thank God non of my Jewish friends subscribe to this absurd idea of the Jewish Nation.


    Would you still be friends with them if they did? It’s really not a big deal if you think about it. BTW – I prefere the term “Jewish People” not “Nation”. The term “jewish people” is used in a LOT of writing including the writings of non-Jews. A lot of non-jews admit or recognize a “jewish people” and they don’t lose sleep over it.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 11, 2012, 11:10 am
  72. AP,

    They still are my friends. However; it is so silly trying to call disparate groupings of people from different cultures a “nation” who don’t even live where your “homeland” is and never been there for that matter… I agree more with “People of Jewish faith” or “Jewish people” as you put it!

    Posted by danny | July 11, 2012, 11:15 am
  73. HP:

    “While it does not absolve Israel from its principles and policies, Zionism seeks to include all Jews and exclude all others (in a simplistic interpretation). It is still discrimination but one in which every non-Jew is equal. Minor difference?”

    To address this specific comment. I don’t think it is exactly correct. Israel has been quite lax in allowing migration from Russia, even when they some of these migrants are not “Jewish”. More recently in the news were the thousands of “African” migrants in Israel causing a little raucous, many of them were eager to claim refugee status, and as signatory to the convention, Israel has granted this status to some of the said migrants.

    I don’t think there is an essential difference in the two narratives. Israel is not against “Arab” migration per se, into Israel. It is against a major influx of non-Jewish migration that would destroy the essentially “Jewish” character of the state. That is not very different from the sentiment that Antun speaks of when he speaks of the Syrian Nation. In that very passage, he refers to the trickle of foreign migration that is healthy and can be incorporated into the Syrian identity, and I quote:

    إن في سورية عناصر وهجرات كبيرة متجانسة مع المزيج السوري الأصلي، يمكن ان تهضمها الأمة إذا مر عليها الزمن الكافي لذلك،

    Where he clearly takes exception is to the influx of people that threatened or were at odds with his concept of Syrian national identity.

    Why did he take specific aim @ the Jewish question is a valid and different question. I don’t know when he penned his Manifesto, and what the various national rumblings looked like in the area at the time. I suppose the Armenian influx came under a vary different context from the “Zionist” one. I don’t know what the Kurds and other groups were doing then.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 11, 2012, 12:12 pm
  74. D’you Eat?

    But this is a classic example of what I call discussion derailing. QN started a wonderful discussion…


    No disrespect to QN, but I often don’t read thread articles carefully and I never assume the discussion has to reflect the webmasters article. I consider these websites empty blackboards where we can discuss anything we want, at the pleasure of the owner/webmaster/tyrant.

    In the explanation, Antun goes off on a tangent. It is clear he is writing…

    Thanks for the summary.

    I am not here to agree with Antun or disagree with him. I think the statement itself is relatively benign.


    That’s your feeling and your observation. It’s all relative. Compared to the anti-semitism (yes, Arabs are semites ) we seen from Hamas, Hezbollah, Ahmad of Persia, etc it IS benign. To me it is typical anti-semitism as expressed today without many taking notice, like Arab terrorists portrayed in Hollywood.

    But for the sake of constructive discussions, this type of decontextualized derailment should not be encouraged.


    If you want to chime in about perceived anti-semitism where there is none, I think that’s fine. If you don’t like the discussion, you can always opt out. When I read about the nuances of the Lebanese body politic, I usually keep scrolling until the word “Jew” jumps out;)

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 11, 2012, 12:51 pm
  75. OK, I gonna change the topic. I hope this doesn’t upset anyone.

    I’ve always believed arab terrorism was the weapon used (by arab governments) against Israel and the West because of the technological disparity AND because it is untraceable. The excuse used throughout the past several decades was that this was a logical phenomenon due to the oppression, subjugation, humiliation and many other -ion words of an entire people (aka “the Palestinians”).

    Anyway, after many years, I came to believe that, knowing the answer was a bit more complicated. The are exceptions. Every friggin day I open the BBC Middle East page, some bomb has killed a few dozen arabs in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, etc, which isn’t in Israel or Palestine. And Syria, of course, is now staring us in the face. The “-ion” axiom is losing any meaning as I sort of always expected.

    Now if arab terrorism was the “poor man’s” way of fighting the West and bring attention to the plight of the Palestinians, why isn’t this same phenomenon being directed against Russia and China.

    Can anyone ‘splain that to me?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 11, 2012, 1:06 pm
  76. AP,

    You think Taiwan, Nepal or the Chechens don’t have a beef to pick with China or Russia?

    Who the FCUK do you think you are?

    What the FCUK is your problem? You don’t even live in Israel.

    Posted by Monolith | July 11, 2012, 2:43 pm
  77. Do you even have an Israeli passport?

    Posted by Monolith | July 11, 2012, 2:45 pm
  78. At least the resident atheist Israeli Jew on this blog is trying every which way he can to justify why his “tribe” should “justifiably” occupy the “holy” land he doesn’t believe in but believes in … or whatever.

    Posted by Monolith | July 11, 2012, 2:57 pm
  79. How many commentators on this blog have but a Lebanese passport and nothing else?

    About 2%?

    Posted by Monolith | July 11, 2012, 3:11 pm
  80. Monolith,

    Are we going back to the “-ion” occupation thread? Is the occupation really the worst thing the ME is facing today Habib? Anyway, I demand an answer to my question above!

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 11, 2012, 3:38 pm
  81. Go ask the native Americans before they were wiped out with the “-ion” germs you brought to the continent that wiped them out.

    Posted by Monolith | July 11, 2012, 4:05 pm
  82. Monolith, it seems that your views are through a monochromatic prism. But that’s stating the obvious, I guess, something overtly symbolized by your moniker. If one filters the bad words and street-language tone, you make a couple of decent points. Not easy to filter those out, though.

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 11, 2012, 4:12 pm
  83. No, You’re not a cancer. You’re the cure to the ME and the Levant!

    Just ask the Europeans and the Russians that tried to get rid of you like a virulent pest 60 years ago … and that we have had to live with and are forced to make do with today … because we “get” you.

    You are the “light” and “beacon” !

    Posted by Monolith | July 11, 2012, 4:16 pm
  84. HP,

    You can reason with “reasonable” people. The rest, unfortunately, you have to address in their very own special and peculiar “street” or “hood” language.

    Posted by Monolith | July 11, 2012, 4:23 pm
  85. I’m not sure which history books you follow, HP … but it doesn’t look like these immigrants/colonialists next door hold the natives in the region in much high regard or respect.

    Maybe I’m totally mistaken. I just read AIG’s comments and learn from them on this blog.

    Israelis are not racists. They’re Kosher.

    Posted by Monolith | July 11, 2012, 4:41 pm
  86. European and Russian Jews are peace loving Hara Krishnas that we in this area just don’t get.

    That’s why they had to resort to creating a Nuclear Arsenal because they’re just earth hugging peaceful people that like flying F16’s for the sake and joy of just flying.

    Posted by Monolith | July 11, 2012, 5:06 pm
  87. Monolith,

    Excellent posts. European and Russian Jews are actually Khazars or “impostor” Joos. It is only the Sephardi and Mizrakhi (kh is silent) jews that are the real Joos. And these “arab joos” are VERY peace loving, but because they’re dark, no one listens to them.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 11, 2012, 6:03 pm
  88. Really? So why the FCUK do Europeans have to listen to your crappy songs every year at the Eurovision song contest ? Make your minds up already! Are you semitic Joos or Europeans?

    Bashar apparently is deeply into American country music. Shouldn’t he be able to qualify for American Idol?

    Posted by Monolith | July 11, 2012, 6:57 pm
  89. The New Joo Monolith NewZ

    Are you semitic Joos or Europeans?


    We’re Europeans, Persians, Africans, Americans, Indians, Middle Easterners, South Americans, Asians and Polocks.

    Look behind you. We’re everywhere.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 11, 2012, 7:58 pm
  90. HP,

    Thanks for posting the article. One paragraph said:

    Renovations on the ruined synagogue in central Beirut began in 2009 after an agreement between various religious denominations and permission from the Lebanese government, planning authorities and even Hezbollah. The project received the green light after political officials and community leaders became convinced it could show that Lebanon is an open country, tolerant of many faiths including Judaism.

    I’ll skip the sarcastic quip and let someone else have a go at it…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 11, 2012, 9:26 pm
  91. AP….

    It’s better than a kick in the balls!

    How’s that for a quip?

    Posted by Gabriel | July 12, 2012, 12:56 am
  92. It’s better than a kick in the balls!


    I was going to thank Hezbollah and the Lebanese people for their graciousness in allowing the restoration of this synagogue by the remaining “dozens” of Lebanese jews. Solid proof, no doubt, showing Lebanon is extremely “tolerant of many faiths including Judaism”.

    My only question is why Hezbollah is turning away from their quest to drive Jews ‘to ends of the earth’? Personally, I think Hezbollah is moderating, and focusing instead on the immediate crisis caused by Hezbollah’s friend Dr. Assad and the not-so-pretty sight of 17,000 dead arabs not caused by the evil “hardline” Likud party.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 12, 2012, 7:03 am
  93. … or maybe they went through all that renovation effort to provide a Prayer space for those arrested in the following incident!

    Posted by Gabriel | July 12, 2012, 11:10 am
  94. Gabriel,

    Agreed, And I’m with you. I think all anti-Zionist and anti-semitic religious jews (like the Satmar) should spend more time praying in arab countries.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 12, 2012, 1:54 pm
  95. AP, the decision to restore the Beirut synagogue preceded the recent uprising in Syria. I don’t think Hezbollah expect it and supported the synagogue in expectation of that development. Your suggestion that the party is moderating is reasonable. In fact, they are on record as welcoming all faiths, including the Jewish faith, and only having a bone to pick with the Zionist occupation of Arab land. Admittedly, this statement is subject to interpretation. Still, I think “moderating” is a good guess. How much, for how long, whether it’s sincere or just temporary appeasement until a fundamental old agenda re-emerges, all of that is anyone’s guess and there’s no penury of experts willing to chime in.
    No, I’m not inviting such chiming here, lest I be accused again of diverting the focus of this thread like I did (successfully I must say! ;-)) with the introduction of the topic of Antoun Saadeh.

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 12, 2012, 2:36 pm
  96. HP,

    When there are regular services at the Beirut synagogue, let me know.

    Posted by AIG | July 12, 2012, 3:45 pm
  97. By the way, my bet is that there will be regular services there a few days after the messiah comes.
    This is a recent update of where things stand:

    Posted by AIG | July 12, 2012, 3:57 pm
  98. HP,

    When I said, Personally, I think Hezbollah is moderating…, I was saying this tongue in cheek. This is one of my problems employing sarcasm; I frequently get misinterpreted.

    Just because they are allowing a bare-bones remnant or token group of jews rebuild a synagogue does not mean Hezbollah is moderating. Like I suggested above, let them help millions of Syrians seeking basic freedoms; not a handful of forgotten elderly jews building a house prayer.

    One of the main strategies of the “enlightened” anti-semites is to show how they permit freedom of religion, while they continue to kill off freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and free elections. An easy sham to identify.

    I second AIG’s comment.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 12, 2012, 3:58 pm
  99. AIG, AP, interesting. I happened upon what someone claims is an “illicit” picture of the synagogue, apparently from March 2012.

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 12, 2012, 4:45 pm
  100. “When there are regular services at the Beirut synagogue, let me know.”

    Why ? You intend to go pray ?

    Posted by Monolith | July 13, 2012, 6:01 am
  101. Monolith,

    As the two links above show, the synagogue restoration is for appearances and propaganda only. No people are allowed to go in and security is tight. There are no prayer services; it is just a monument to look at from the outside.

    For comparison, here are some mosques in Israel that are used everyday (the one’s that are maintained), without Israeli security, where people can come and go as they please.

    Almost a jewish communities in arab countries have vanished. In Israel, arab communities are growing.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 13, 2012, 7:10 am
  102. AP, please don’t equate Arab with Muslim, nor Muslim with Arab. I know you know that. It’s just the expression you use. What happened to that unique style of many posts ago. Was that “borrowed” text?

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 13, 2012, 8:54 am
  103. HP,

    Where did I equate “Arab with Muslim”? NOTHING was “borrowed”. Like I said, sometimes I know what I’m talking about, sometimes I don’t;) Sometimes, I don’t even make spelling mistakes.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 13, 2012, 9:12 am
  104. HP,

    Perhaps you should take your own advice to heart and not equate the renovation of a synagogue with the return of Jewish life to Beirut. But if you “borrowed” that text, please ignore this comment.

    Posted by AIG | July 13, 2012, 11:00 am
  105. Joos Lose

    OK. I did another Google search. This time the key words were: “Arab League Russia” for the first search, and then for the second search “Arab League Israel”. The question I have is how the Arab League treats Israel differently than Russia (if at all), considering Russia is supporting a country that has murdered about 13000 civilians compared to Israel’s recent wars with Gaza and Lebanon where about 3000 perished in total.

    Here are some articles I found:

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 13, 2012, 1:22 pm
  106. AIG,

    Define Jewish life in Beirut?

    Is it around the synagogue the Lebanese Jews could have taken up arms protecting … but didn’t?

    Were they evicted by the strands of their hair from Lebanon and had their property confiscated?

    Where is the major lawsuit in international courts by the Israeli Zionist machine for the plight and the rights of the Jews of Lebanon that had to suffer at the hands of … Evil Lebanese?

    You’re so full of arrogant shit !

    Posted by Monolith | July 13, 2012, 2:04 pm
  107. We have a lot of respect for Jews … but unfortunately need to destroy the century old synagogue to build a security wall through it. Nothing personal. I’m sure you understand.

    Posted by Monolith | July 13, 2012, 2:20 pm
  108. Hariri’s house is next to it … and his security is paramount to the survival of Lebanon.

    Posted by Monolith | July 13, 2012, 2:23 pm
  109. This spoiled “Elite” needs some more time out please, the few posts sympathizing with him for not being able to switch residence from 3alley to Beirut may have re-energized him, now we have to put up with his usual asinine stupidity and flagrant bigotry. He is truly a Dunce, no matter which name he goes by.

    Posted by Vulcan | July 13, 2012, 2:46 pm

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