The King-Crane Commission Report, August 28, 1919
Prepared By The Commission For Use of Americans Only
Originally printed in Editor & Publisher, V.55, No. 27, 2nd Section, December 2, 1922
- The Interference of the Occupying Governments with the Commission's Inquiry
- Summaries of Arguments Presented to the Commission
- For and Against Zionism
- Arab Feeling Toward the French
- The Request for an American Mandate
- Special Discussions
- French Feeling Toward the British
- French "Rights"
- The "Greater Lebanon"
- The Emir Feisal's Position
- The "Rights of Minorities"
- "Complete Independence"
- Syrian Nationalism, Pan-Arabism, and Pan-lslamism
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
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 of 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
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
It may be remarked that a number of 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 of 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 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 the 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
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.
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 a 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 the afforestation, modern methods
of agriculture, utilization of water-power, reclamation of waste
lands, 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
The native Arabs and Christians, who so unitedly oppose Zionism,
urged 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,[NOTE: This alludes to the wars by
the Children of Israel when they "possessed" the Land
of Promise] 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 2,000 years ago; the Arabs conquered
the land 1,300 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 manoeuvre
away the present inhabitants; the Arabs are friendly toward the
Jews long resident in the land 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:
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.
- 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
- The French have not treated the natives as equals in Algeria
and Tunisia but have imposed differences in office holding and
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
- 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
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 subscriptions
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
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, whether
or not enlarged, under France in case the rest of Syria is under
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
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 prefer 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 surprising 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 their 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 2 stated that
they would welcome her while there were abundant assurances that
an American mandate would be satisfactory to practically all.
The 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
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
- 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
- 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
- The feeling that America is rich, and abundantly able to advance
the means for the desirable speedy development of the country
- 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 denationalize
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 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
[NOTE: It should not be overlooked that the first serious
rift in Anglo-French relations since the war occurred over Syria.
It has since grown to a chasm that threatens to engulf world peace;
but the beginning was in the Near East.]
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 a]l 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 as a new field for profitable commercial
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 for the
position 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.[NOTE:
France was given, and now holds, a man date over Syria, Including
Damascus. She held Cilicia for a time, but surrendered it to the
Nationalist Turks.] 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 established 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:
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
- It is apparently contrary to the wish of the majority of the
people m 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 Homs 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 intrigue 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.
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 Sheriff of Mecca, Hussein,
who was recognized during the war as King of the Hejaz, the Emir
Feisal led the Arabs in co-operation 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
The British Government has been advancing money to his government
for a long time, and at present allows it $750,000 per month (£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
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 the 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 co-operation 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
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
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
- 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 he 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 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
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-lslamism
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 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 Gliphate 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
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
worth while to give consideration to the criticism.
Pan-Arabism [NOTE: This is the portentous programme set
forth in the Turkish Nationalist Pact. It would apparently eliminate
both France and Great Britain from the confines of the former
Ottoman Empire] 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 theoretic 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 re-establish 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 re-establishment 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 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 here 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 Christians
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.