Fourth Basic Principle

The Syrian nation is the product of the ethnic unity of the Syrian people which developed throughout history.

This principle defines what constitutes the nation mentioned in previous articles. lt reveals the concrete actuality of the nation which is the final outcome of the long history of all the people that have settled in Syria, inhabited it, interacted

with each other and finally became fused in one people. This process started with the people of the Neolithic age who preceded the Canaanites and Chaldeans in settling this land, and continued through to the Akkadians, the Canaanites, the Chaldeans, Assyrians, Arameans, Amorites, and Hittites. Thus the principle of Syrian nationhood is not based on race or blood, but rather on the natural social unity derived from homogeneous intermixing. Through this principle the interests, the aims and the ideals of the Syrian nation are unified and the national cause is guarded against disharmony, disintegration and strife that result from primitive loyalties to blood ties.

The alleged racial purity of any nation is a groundless myth. It is found only in savage groups, and even there it is rare. The Syrian nation consists of a mixture of Canaanites, Akkadians, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Arameans, Hiffites, and Metanni as the French nation is a mixture of Gauls, Ligurians, Franks, etc… and the Italian nation of Romans, Latins, Etruscans, etc… the same being true of every other nation.

The Syrian nation denotes this society which possesses organic unity. Though of mixed origins, this society has come to constitute a single society living in a distinguished environment known historically as Syria or the Fertile Crescent. The common stocks, Canaanites, Chaldeans, Arameans, Assyrians, Amorites, Hiffites, Metanni and Akkadians etc…whose blending is an indisputable historical fact constitute the ethnic-historical-cultural basis of Syria’s unity whereas the Syrian Fertile Crescent constitutes the geographic-economic-strategic basis of this unity.

This ethnic and geographical reality has been marred by successive historic events which destroyed documentation and led to the substitution of various foreign accounts for authentic facts and distorted through various interpretations of our national history. A large number of historians have confined their definition of SYRIA to Byzantine or late Hellenic ‘Syria’, whose boundaries extended from the Taurus range and the Euphrates to the Suez thus excluding the Assyrians and Chaldeans from Syrian History. Other historians have further confined this definition to the region between Cilicia and Palestine, thus leaving out Palestine. All these historians were aliens who were unable to grasp the reality of the Syrian nation and its environment and the process of its development. Moreover, most of the Syrian historians who derived their information from foreign sources without adequate criticism, have followed their lead-Thus the truth was falsified and our genuine cause was lost.

The history of the ancient Syrian states (Akkadian, Chaldean, Assyrian, Hittite, Canaanite, Aramean, Amorite) point to one and the same trend: the political, economic, and social unity of the Syrian Fertile Crescent-This fact should enable us to view the Assyrian and Chaldean wars, aimed at dominating the whole of Syria, in a new light. These were internal wars, a struggle for supremacy among the powerful groups and dynasties within the nation which was still in the making and which later attained its maturity.

This principle is not in the least incompatible with the fact that Syria is one of the nations of the Arab World, nor is this latter fact at variance with the statement that Syria is a complete nation with sovereign rights over its territory and consequently with a distinct and independent national cause. It is the overlooking of this principle that has given the religious sects in Syria the means of disuniting the country into a Mohammedan-Arab faction on the one hand and a Christian-Phoenician one, on the other, so that the unity of the nation is thereby destroyed and its energies dissipated.

This principle would redeem Syria from the blood bigotries which are apt to cause the neglect of national interests. For those Syrians who believe or feel that they are of Aramaic extraction would no longer be actuated to fan Aramaic blood loyalty , so long as the principle of Social Nationalist unity and the equality of civic, political and social rights and duties are guaranteed, and no ethnic or racial discrimination in Syria is made. Similarly, those Syrians who claim to descend from a Phoenician (Canaanite), Arab, or Crusader stock, would no longer have allegiance but to their Syrian community. Thus would genuine national consciousness arise. The unity of the Syrian nation arose from the elements which have formed in the course of history the Syrian people and the mental and spiritual traits of the Syrian nation.

This principle cannot be said to imply that Jews are a part of the Syrian nation and equal in rights and duties to the Syrians. Such an interpretation is incompatible with this principle which excludes the integration of elements with alien and exclusive racial loyalties in the Syrian nation. Such elements cannot fit into any homogeneous nation.

There are large settlements of immigrants in Syria, such as the Armenians, Kurds and Circassians, whose assimilation is possible given sufficient time. These elements may dissolve in the nation and lose their special loyalties. But there is one large settlement which can not in any respect be reconciled to the principle of Syrian nationalism, and that is the Jewish settlement. IT is a dangerous settlement which can never be assimilated because it consists of a people that, although it has mixed with many other peoples, has remained a heterogeneous mixture, not a nation, with strange stagnant beliefs and aims of its own, essentially incompatible with Syrian rights and sovereignty ideals. It is the duty of the Syrian Social Nationalists to repulse the immigration of this people with all their might.

The definition of the Syrian nation expounded in this principle is clearly different from the various definitions of ‘Syria’ common in historical and literary works in Syria and abroad. While historical research unceasingly uncovers evidence of Unitarian tendencies in the civilization of the “Near East”, scholars have frequently confined their definition of Syria to the western part of the Fertile Crescent. Saadeh has often stated that the limitations of terminology should not detract from an understanding of the nature of the one nation that has been shaped in the confines of the Fertile Crescent. Indeed, he has suggested that if the ‘name’ has limitation, the name can be altered to reflect the unity of the nation. Indeed, he suggested that ‘Souraqia’, an amalgamation of the Arabic forms of Syria and Iraq, could be used to reflect the unity of the western and eastern components of the Fertile Crescent, although he continued to favor Syria because of its Syrian origin (possibly a derivation from Assyrian, see below) over Iraq which is of Persian derivation. Furthermore, it should be remembered that before the formation of the modern state of Iraq in the wake of the First World War, the term referred to southern Mesopotamia and did not include the district of Mosul.

Several theories have been advanced to explain the origin of the name Syria. It is, in form, a Greek name (Suria) first used by the Greek historian Herodotus (20). Herodotus applies the name Syrians to the Phoenicians, Palestinians, and interestingly the Cappadocians. He does not use distinction between Syrian and Assyrian consistently and states: ‘These people used to be called Syrians by the Greeks, Assyrians being the name for them elsewhere’. The various theories on the etymology of ‘Syria’ can be categorized as follows:

– from ‘Assyria’ by elimination of the prefix. This is a popular theory and has strong elements to support it considering that the Assyrian empire included at various times the entire western part of the Crescent. It is suggested by the statement of Herodotus mentioned above. Further evidence comes from the Syrian writer Lucian who, writing in Greek, referred to himself interchangeably as ‘Syrian’ and ‘Assyrian’.

-from the Semitic name of the city of Tyre, ‘Sur’. The Greeks, however, referred to the city as ‘Tur’ and it is difficult to see how they would derive the name of the land with an ‘s’. Chroniclers of the crusades have stated that the inhabitants of the region gave this explanation for the etymology of the name of the land. The reliability and relevance of this late testimony, however, are difficult to ascertain.

-from the Ugaritic and biblical ‘Siryon’, a name for Mt. Hermon. The Greeks, however, would have maintained the ‘i’ and had no need to substitute a ‘u’ as in “Suria’.

-from the Egyptian ‘Hrw’ (Hurri) used to refer to western Syria during the Eighteenth to the Twenty-First Dynasties. This assumes a transformation of the ‘H’ to the Coptic -S-, apparently a development with many precedents. Herodotus could easily have utilized the term the Egyptians used to refer to their northeastern neighbors.

The Unitarian stirring in the confines of the Fertile Crescent became manifest in the development of economic ties, cultural interactions, and population mixing all antecedent to the earliest political forms of unity. The unity of the life cycle within the Fertile Crescent has preceded the political unity of the first territorial empire by the Akkadian rulers. The unity of life has persisted when political unity was lacking. It should be highlighted that the recurring territorial empires arising in Syria under the mantles of the various forming elements of the Syrian nation, have contributed to the maintenance and promotion of the unity of life. Thus the Babylonian empire of Hammurapi, the Assyrian empire, the Neo-Babylonian state, the Seleucide rule etc… have given political and administrative facilitatory forms to the unity of life prevalent within the confines of the Syrian homeland.

Saadeh ascribed the failure of historians in general to grasp the historical unity within the confines of the Fertile Crescent to the influence of Greek and Roman historians. A similar opinion has been independently advanced recently by the British historians Amelie Kuhn and Susan Sherwin-White: ‘Traditional approaches to the study of the Hellenistic East after Alexander have been mainly hellenocentric and have selected as of prime importance the establishment and spread of Greek culture. This is a serious lack which stems from the overriding significance attached to the classical tradition in which most scholars of the ancient world have been educated. One of the results of this is that where there is no clear Greek evidence a political, social and cultural vacuum is assumed. Another distorting factor has been the preoccupation of Roman historians who have tended (not unnaturally) to concentrate almost exclusively on those regions of the Seleucide empire which by the first century BC had become part of the Roman empire. This approach has led them to…[ignore] the central importance of the vast territories controlled by the Seleucid east of the Euphrates’.

The question of limiting the term ‘Syria’ to the western part of the Fertile Crescent is examined by another historian in the same collection, Fergus Millar: ‘By ‘Syria’ I mean anywhere west of the Euphrates and south of the Amanus mountains-essentially therefore the area west of the Euphrates where Semitic languages were used … This begs a question about Asia Minor (and especially Cilicia), from which Aramaic documents are known, and a far more important one about northern Mesopotamia and about Babylonia; Should we not, that is, see the various Aramaic-speaking areas of the Fertile Crescent as representing a single culture, or at any rate closely connected cultures, and therefore not attempt to study the one area without the others?’.