1- The name: Present day Lebanon was never called Syria throughout history, except by some politically minded people and establishments. As a matter of fact, the name Syria comes according to St. Jerome 4th century AD) and many others from Tyre (or Sour). Present day Lebanon and a good deal of Syria were always (since prehistoric times) called Lebanon, and often conjointly, Sidonia (cf. the Bible, Homer, etc.) when the supremacy of Phoenician city-states was for Sidon, or Syria (or Tyria because the "sad" in Phoenician is pronounced "TS". Whence Tyre in English and Sour in Arabic, etc.) when Tyre was supreme.
Under Roman domination, the name Syria (or more correctly Tyria) was given to the eastern coast of the Mediterranean until the throne of Rome fell into the hands of the Phoenicians (the Severuses), who promptly divided this land into two parts. Present Syria, calling it Lebanese Phoenicia, with either Homs or Hama as capital, and present Lebanon, calling it Coastal Phoenicia, with Tyre as capital.
Consequently, it is correct to say that Syria was, at several times in history, a part of Lebanon, but the contrary never happened!
2- Greater Syria: is a political entity created in the thirties by Antoun Saadeh, a self-styled political philosopher. (I will not enter at present into the details of his philosophy which contains many fallacies, but will say that his political philosophy was traced upon Hitler's National Socialism, whence their original name Syrian National Socialist Party, and their flag, a variant of the swastika.) He picked up an idea which was not new, namely: an entity including Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, and Cyprus would be a viable economic entity, whereas each country by itself, is not. Remember that this was in the thirties, now, with the incredibly rapid progress of industry, even an economic union as vast as Europe or the USA, is considered hardly sufficient and there is a tendency to lift all economic barriers in the world. But this does not mean that small entities - even the size of a city, such as Monaco, Andorra, Malta, etc. are not viable, and these States refuse to merge with any other entity!
When, subsequent to World War One, the Allies met to dismantle the Ottoman Empire, the idea of the Fertile Crescent was formulated by British political thinkers who wished to oust France from the region. It resulted in the attempt by King Faisal I to conquer Syria (with British tacit support). Defeated by the French, his dream fell, and the French consolidated their mandate awarded by the Society of Nations over Lebanon and Syria, and the British had to satisfy themselves with a mandate over Palestine and Jordan.
The French government under the Third Republic, prompted by their political thinkers, attempted to wipe out the name Lebanon from the map. The reason was that Lebanon was notoriously and permanently inclined for self-rule: all the countries that composed the Ottoman Empire (including south-eastern Europe) were directly ruled by Turkey. Lebanon alone was always directly ruled by autochthons, except for a short spell prior to World War One, by a Christian but non-Turkish "Mutassarrif", and during W.W.I, by a Turkish Pasha. Despite their effort to merge Lebanon with Syria (cf. French diplomatic correspondence under the mandate) in the hope that they will drown the Lebanese in a Syrian entity, which will make the Lebanese as docile as the Syrians, they only succeeded in strengthening the Lebanese in their patriotism, and Lebanon was the first nation in all of Afro-Asia to win its independence. Syria and all the other so-called Arab States, won it later, and perhaps availed themselves of the trail blazed before them by Lebanon!
3- Lebanon is peerless: From the beginning of time, Lebanon was a peace-loving land. An industrious people seeking knowledge and freedom and prosperity for themselves and other peoples, the Lebanese were always reluctant to go to war: history (and the Bible) does not mention a war started by Lebanon, but it mentions several times when they hesitated to fight until it was too late. Historians always wondered why the Phoenicians never went on a campaign of conquest in the manner of the Greeks and Romans in ancient times, and the major powers in modern times, but their conquest was always a peaceful entry into uncivilized lands, spreading knowledge (the alphabet was taught to the "conquered" people almost as soon as it was invented) and prosperity. Today, only the prejudiced, the blind and deaf still ignore that the Phoenicians landed in America, in the IXth century BC, according to the Paraiba (Brazil) inscription, and the hundreds of inscriptions in the USA and Canada. Their astonishment at this particularity remained until the discovery (in the first half of this century) of the tablets of Ugarit, Mari and Ebla, which spoke of a God, El, who said to his people: War is against my wish; Plant the seeds of peace in the heart of the earth. This policy brought upon the Phoenicians tremendous distress and calamities. But they always and very rapidly bounced back and regained their glory. (About this glory, a mere glance at the Bible will show that it was all but incredible and caused the admiration of the whole world.)
But let us return to modern times. Fakhr Eddine, the "Founder of Modern Lebanon" to use the title of one of General Aziz Ahdab's books, fought against, and defeated the Turkish ruler of Syria who wanted to conquer Lebanon. Banished later he was offered a kingdom in Europe but refused, wanting to return to Lebanon, even if that meant his death, and it did! But superficial, or biased people often put Fakhr Eddine at par with Bashir II Chehab. Nothing could be more unjust: whereas the former was a scholar and a great patriot who, in order to keep Lebanon united, always forgave his vassals that sided with the Turks against him (a fact that hastened his downfall). Remember that the Turks, at that time, were laying siege to Vienna. Whereas Bashir sided with the enemies of Lebanon, once with Jazzar Pasha, another time with Ibrahim Pasha in order to remain in power and overtaxed his subjects so heavily that they revolted against him and against Ibrahim (cf. "Alammiyat Antelias", which was signed by people of all religions) and brought his downfall and the defeat of Ibrahim. (Mohammad Ali, Ibrahim's father cried out: "The European Chancelleries are in my pocket, but it is those cursed mountaineers who brought my defeat!")
4- Arabity: Lebanon is not Syrian and even less Arab. Philip Hitti, in his History of Lebanon, says that the Arab (Islamic) invasion consisted of not more than 23000 fighters, whereas the population of this part of the world was close to 7 million. Does it mean that the male part of this population was castrated and only the Arab invaders were allowed to reproduce in order to leave an Arab population?
The Turkish period which lasted for four centuries did not stamp Lebanon with either Turkish blood in the veins of the people nor change their customs or habits. Is it likely that other invasions, such as the Assyrian, Sumerian, Greek, Roman... which lasted for a considerably lesser time (some of which only two or three decades) could have achieved anything else? Moreover, we know that the so-called Greek and Roman periods were in fact an invasion of Phoenician scholars, philosophers... of Greece Homer, Euclid, the gods: Hercules (whose name is meaningless in Greek but means The Traveler in Phoenician), Athena (the Anat of the Ugaritic epopees), Poseidon etc, and the philosophers, legislators (the Beirut School of Law is credited of almost all the Law Codexes which are falsely called Roman; the professors of the School were called Ecumenical, i.e. Universal, Masters) and, yes! Emperors and Popes.
At any rate, Arabity is a fairly recent notion. In fact it was formulated by the British through Lawrence of Arabia (cf. his Seven Pillars of Wisdom) just prior to World War One. The idea was to create a force which would help the Allied Expeditionary Force under General Allenby coming up from Egypt to attack Turkey from the South. Lawrence was able to convince Sharif Hussein and his children, especially Faisal and Abdallah, to march up from the Hijaz on the Levant States, promising them kingdoms. In between the two wars, and due to the struggle of Britain and France to enlarge their influence over the region, Arabity gave way to the Fertile Crescent, as we said. But, close to the end of World War II, the British government (under Winston Churchill) pressed the countries of the Levant and Northern Africa to found the Arab League, hoping to cap and rule indirectly, as they did the so-called Trucial States. But W.W.II left Britain extenuated and forced to give way to the USA, who are notorious for political mismanagement, since only their "national interests", understand the interests of their super-capitalists. Under the insistence of the Lebanese government (Prime Minister Riad Solh) forced the inclusion of a clause on the Charter of the League stipulating that the decisions are binding only to the members approving them.
Furthermore, this Arab awakening (to use the title of a book by George Antonius, whose name does not underline his Arab origin, any more than Pakradouni's who is supposed to have dragged Pierre Gemayel and his Kataeb Party into Arabity) led to the creation, by Michel Aflak of the Arab Baath (Renaissance) Party, and Gamal Abdul Nasser's quest for the conquest by Egypt, under the standard of Arabity of the member States of the Arab League. Abdel Nasser invaded Yemen and forced a union upon Syria, thereby creating the ill-fated United Arab Republic. In 1958, his Syrian stooges tried to seize Lebanon but were repulsed. the Baath Party subsequently seized power in Syria and Iraq, but the Party was quickly divided into Syrian and Iraqi Baath, each claiming to be the genuine party, instead of joining hands in order to begin putting into action the aim of their Party, which is Arab unity. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, thereby putting into action their aim, almost all the Arab States sided against it! Is there better proof of the fallacy of such a philosophy? and the Arab League, is there any institution that has failed so much in producing results? Is there any positive incident on which the member States were agreed, except on the destruction of Lebanon?
5- Conclusion: Because of the industry and learning of his people which resulted in prosperity and a decent life, Lebanon was always coveted by all his neighbors and by distant peoples as well. This brought a succession of invasions, but none of which, except the Turkish one lasted for more than a couple of decades before they turned a reverse conquest by Lebanese intellectuals.
In speaking of nations and nationalities, one must always remember that the only beings in whom blood descent is paramount are horses (to use Said Akl's words)! People interact and intermarry but if, at the origin, they have strong physical and spiritual particularities which are intensified by the vicissitudes of time, their spiritual and physical particularities remain and will assimilate the newcomers!
Nevertheless, there is a danger in flooding the natives in a country with too many immigrants before they had time to assimilate those who arrived earlier. That is why Europe, who has already some 20 or a little more thousand Kurds, has raised hell because there is the threat of a few thousand Kurd immigrants, and are ruthlessly expelling the so-called "economic refugees", i.e. those who are fleeing the poverty of their countries. We, in Lebanon, because of our sisterly association with Syria and brotherly affiliation with the so-called Arab States (resulting in the so-called Taef Accord, which in reality was a dictate, not an accord), have an estimated one and a quarter million Syrian, half a million Palestinians and hundreds of thousands of other nationalities (an estimated 500000 of which were recently given wholesale the Lebanese nationality), all of whom are "economic refugees", because our "sister" will not allow us to check our borders. On 19/2/1998 the President of the Lebanese Republic declared officially that "foreign workers (this does not include the half a million new citizens) are draining away four billion dollars per annum, which is more than equivalent to our national budget!"
Let those who still advocate Greater Syria or pan-Arabism meditate!
By May and Alfred Murr.