By: Garabet K Moumdjian
Antoine (Antun in modern Lebanese colloquial Arabic) Saadeh was the founder of the Syrian Social National Party (SSNP) in the 1930’s in Lebanon. He advocated the creation of a Greater Syria. For him, the newly established Republic of Lebanon was an anathema, the creation of the French mandatory power, through the direct complicity of the Maronite Patriarchate. Saadeh, himself a Christian (Greek Orthodox) never looked into the issue from a pure religious perspective. He was more interested in the ideological and geopolitical framework of the Greater Syria he advocated as a complete entity. In explaining his “Pan Syrian” ideology Saadeh says:
What I mean by saying that “…Within the Syrian spirit exist all the sciences, philosophies, and arts of the world,” has nothing to do with the idea that somehow negates the existence of intellect. This explanation is not in tandem with some of (Henri) Bergson’s theories. It is also not an intuition per se. It can not adhere to the logic, which, as of late, had become part of the basis for movements that possess blinding attributes from a psychological standpoint, such as unions that are formed on non-philosophical (…) to go with the flow of such conclusions. It also accentuates spiritual directions, which theorize the independent status of the mind vis-à-vis mater, while it simultaneously emphasizes the autonomy of its absolute source and the continuance of its covert elements in all spiritual aspects thus subduing oneself to it regardless of the intellect, intellectual abilities, and intellectual logic. Furthermore, some newly established schools of thought indicate that even though intellect and thought are important, the individual must somehow possess some freedom in his emotions vis-à-vis his intellect. In other words intellect can not be separated from emotions and feelings. Therefore, what I really meant is that the Syrian spirit has proved and still proves through analytical and pragmatic means, that its abilities are profound and that it possesses the elements of a real awakening and understanding and that it has the capability to comprehend itself in this existence.
Saadeh was condemned by a Lebanese military court and was shot to death in 1949.
One might not be in agreement with the ideological and political frameworks of Saadeh (This author being one himself). However, even a cursory look at Lebanon today makes one ponder how right Saadeh was in his analysis of the situation in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The endemic problems that he feared at the time still exist today and a permanent solution for the Lebanese problem, if such a solution ever exists, is yet to be found.
These translations are from original Arabic sources and SSNP publications dating back to the 1940’s and 1950’s.They represents some reminisces about him through the eyes of some of his friends and relatives There are some sections that are penned by Saadeh himself. I had undertaken the translations with the intent of publishing them online.
Garabet K Moumdjian
Sierra Madre, Ca 2008
* * * * *
AT THE MAQASID COLLEGE
(Ahmad Shuman Reminisces)
I was a naughty boy as school teachers would usually say. I loved demonstrations, turning over trams, and stoning the Senegalese and French “missionaries of civilization” with stones and other objects. That is until I was injured in my hip one day by one of their spears. On another occasion it was the butt of a respectful rifle on my head. It had a sound that still buzzes in my ears until today. From that day on I became a troublesome person, I mean a nationalist. I used to wait for events. Those were occasions for demonstrations and protests against all the countries of the world. If, for example, an Egyptian fell of the roof of a house in the depths of Al Sa’id We called for a populous demonstration in Beirut, during which we would turn over trams in protest of English occupation [in Egypt]. Or if a Tunisian or an Algerian cried fowl in the Arabic Maghrib, we would be in the midst of a battle on the boulevards of Bab Idris, Al Burj, and other places. This was the battle of hurrahs, pitiful life, and the fall of the government. Let those of us who fell fall, so that our free leaders live with wreaths of bay leaves and clay on their heads.
A-FINDING AN IDEOLOGY
Omar Ibn Al Khattab [later the third Caliph of Islam] did not go to the Prophet Muhammad Bin Abd Allah to swear his allegiance to Islam and tell him “I submit” until he visited the heathen statutes of his former gods and knelt before them to weep like a child. It was as if Omar was saying farewell to them and to a piece if his youth that he had spend believing in them.
Therefore, ideology for the believer is neither luxury, nor a council of friendship. It is not trading or playing the role of a middle man. It is also neither a clothing nor paint that covers the body.
It is the ultimate bread of life. By this I don’t mean that it is the bread that is grabbed by the teeth every day to be digested. It is not with this latter bread alone that one lives.
So, haw was it that I left this religion not to say the party? Yes, the party was almost a religion with its rubrics, initiations, principles, rules, philosophy, and beliefs. It is easier to swear at an adamant member of the Syrian Social National Party (Hizb Al Qawmi Al Suri Al Ijtima’i] (SSNP hereafter), and his family then to ridicule any of his party’s ideas or theories.
This is so because these ideas and theories are treated like God given rules that accept no discussion whatsoever, let alone being criticized.
My story dear reader is the story of tens of thousands of youth like me who opened their eyes on the negative reality of their fatherlands that had been bitten internally and externally by the sharp teeth of colonization.
The dictate of government is in the hands of the colonizers in Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco, Sophocles, Tatwan, Egypt, and the Sudan. Few collaborating Apes and monkeys have worn the robe of government and are ruling these nations.
This was even before the seeds that were planted by Balfour in Palestine, which mushroomed into Israel at the end.
Therefore, I was more than just a mere Arabian nationalist. I was one of those who believed that an Arabian Empire must be created. . In this sense, bilateral unifications such as unifying Lebanon to Syria was so logical that I did not allow my mind to discuss it even internally. Arab, Arabism, Nationalism, Freedom, and Empire were words that kept dinging in my ears while I was at home, on the street, on my student seat, and all anyplace else. This thinking was so intense that I thought I was a student of a Mawlawi Dervish Order whose students would internalize anything by swirling, dancing and repeating things indefinitely.
B-THE RESTLESS PARTY MEMBER
The current engulfed me and many of my friends as well. I had a neighbor, Munir Idu, who was my age. He saw Arabs, Arabism, and the idea of an Arabian empire differently from my and my other friends’ perspective. I asked him who he thought he was. He answered that he was a member of SSNP and that he does not believe in Lebanese or Arabic nationality.
I thought of him as a narrow minded, miserable fellow. He was a restless party member. As soon as one mentioned the SSNP his demeanor would change and the pupils of his eyes would swell out so as to enforce on you the idea that whatever the SSNP said was right. He would talk with his eyebrows, hands and feet. The nerves on his neck would swell to the extent that I at times feared that he would explode.
This was the first time I knew that there was a party called SSNP. The party was an underground and secretive organization during its fledgling period. This was a necessity because of the existence of the “loving mother,” France, and its mandate over Lebanon. I had a lot of arguments with this restless neighbor and I hated the SSNP because of him. Every time I started reading the book “The Emergence of Nations,” which was written by the leader of the SSNP, and would point to him that the author relied heavily on Western sources and the scientific method—which I adhered too anyways—his animosity toward me would grow.
As soon as the party’s existence was uncovered in 1935 and Mr. Antoine Saadeh, lecturer in German language at the American University of Beirut, was apprehended on charges of forming an unlawful, secret party that would compromise the security of the state as well as rule and order in it, it became known that he was the leader of the SSNP. He was taken to court and was judged in front of a French magistrate who could not even prove one of the several accusations that were brought against him or his party, let alone accusing them of Fascism and Nazism. The leader and his cohorts spent several months in jail. This period, which, by default, became a springboard for the party to jump ahead? The educated, school and university teachers, intellectuals, literary figures, politicians from all walks joined the party and started to imbibe from its principles, goals, and philosophy, as well as its present and future projects. This phenomenon soon reached Syria, Palestine, and even Jordan and Iraq.
The French fought it desperately. However, this “war” was an honest one. The leaders of the party were brought to the courts who had already compiled several accusations against them. One they were accused to be Fascists, while at another time as Nazists, pro-British, pro-American, even pro-Japanese, since Japan was an ally to Germany at the time. The judges would delve into these accusations and would not find even one that would prove to be germane to the party or its leader
I saw the party leader, Antoine Saadeh for the first time in my life during one of those court hearings in a military court, where he was talking to the judges in Arabic.
Saadeh was courageous and honest. His voice was very rational. The judges had to respect him, even though they, at times, had to render pre-ordered judgments against him or the party.
All this time, my dry attitude toward the party did not change. A heavy wall separated us. This was not because I felt that there was a vast valley separating me and the party. It was because I still felt that Saadeh's book was based solely ob Western sources that, for my opinion, was an anathema to his teachings in Arab nationalism. My stance toward the book was further solidified because it was printed in a very small font and had numerous western words scattered on its pages. All my trials to really study the book failed because of these circumstantial issues.
The so called Syrian nationalism that the party advocated was not real to me. It was the essence of legends and archaic stories. It was not strange that lots of rumors would surface regarding the leader and the party. It was not strange that the educated and intellectual class would rally around it. Furthermore, it was not strange that all those who were sick of sectarian strife and political complacency would try to find a solution through it. Lastly, it was not strange that members of philanthropic and scouting organizations who were sick of the malignant character of their organizations to try to find their remedy by joining the party.
I would dare say that the party was even more. Political parties formed before it were corrupt, segregating and were organized just to bring their leaders to governmental positions or secure jobs in some big companies in Lebanon or even abroad. One would go and soon another would fill his shoes. This would continue until the party would become an employment agency. All these helped the SSNP to forge its way ahead of all the rest.
The Lebanese constitute a mosaic of different people with different feelings and slogans. The Lebanese Nation—if there is really such a thing—is forges from different “nations” of diverse beliefs and different goals. Each Lebanese is a writer, a poet and a politician as such. After all, is not Lebanon the country of light and knowledge?
Take ten Lebanese and talk to them. You will see ten flags rising before you. You will find ten different languages and ten different nationalities. Each ascertains its superiority, while neither would indulge the others.
And what remains is this small piece of land called Lebanon. Its inhabitants are confused as to its origins. Who are they? What are they? To what nationality do they belong?
C-PRONOUNCING THE TRUTH
There has never been a consensus regarding the citizenship and the social reality of this country. The political moves were sectarian and tribal in nature. The reality had to be admitted to give peace to a populace divided among sectarian and tribal lines. Unity and nationality are two things that this people are thirsty for. It was for this reason that educated and intellectual people came to this party, which Antoine Saadeh formed in 1932. He called for a new nationality-- The Syrian nationality-- that people had forgotten.
Saadeh asked himself this question. “Who are we?” It was the springboard of his national and social thinking. Moreover, it was the cornerstone upon which the party was built. There was a nationality chaos in the minds of the people.
The answer came; we are all Syrians and from the same nation.
This was one of the logical realities that Saadeh stressed. The people were divided; One Part admitting its Arab roots, while another stressed its Phoenician ancestry.
Saadeh came to say that if being Phoenician was the thesis and being Arab was the antithesis—that is the two were diametrically opposed-- then admitting to their historical union, i.e. the Mediterranean and Syrian (Semite), would be a solution to the impasse.
Moreover, Saadeh theorized, his theory would altogether abandon the continuing discussion, and bring a solution based on the latest social theories of the time.
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.
This is what Saadeh meant in his explanation of the forth principle of the party, which states that the Syrian state is a unity of the Syrian people that was born through a long history, which predates our historical era. He, moreover, states, that the Syrian nation is one of the nations of the all-encompassing Arab State. Hence, being one of the nations of this all-encompassing Arab State does not undermine the absolute sovereignty of the Syrian state.
I already mentioned that the learned and intellectual circles had special interest in the SSNP. This is not a complement. The party was based on scientific notions within the American University of Beirut, where Saadeh used to teach. Thus he was able to attract faculty members as well as students. The party grew gradually and in secrecy.
I had also mentioned that the chaotic political and social realities as well as the sectarian strife helped the growth of the party. With his new party Saadeh came to put an end to the ever existing sectarian strife.
Of course Saadeh’s ideology would produce its opponents. Opposition political currents would fight it relentlessly and on several fronts. The first front would be the foreign colonizing power, whose rule would not be possible without igniting sectarian strife, which would put the people of the one nation against each other. This is the age long weapon of choice for any foreigner who wants to control a colonized people.
As for the other fronts that fought against the party these were sectarian forces that were fighting for their existence. For them this was a life or death fight. The party had to fight a gruesome war against these forces. This was a war that was to be fought on the internal and external fronts.
Those who fought the party stated that it was fighting a bloc that was the agent of Nazism and Fascism. The French colonizers tried hard to label the party as such. However, as was mentioned before, even the French judges who judged Saadeh could not pronounce such an agency, even though they imprisoned and tortured him in accordance with the directives of their superiors. This created a problem in the minds of many citizens who started to believe that the party was organized by Italian and German design. Perhaps this was due to the extreme organization of the party, and the way with which its members saluted leaders (by raising their arms high), which was contrary to the regular Lebanese, or Ottoman customary salutation. This added to the rumors that construed the party as Nazist or Facist.
The party, however, continued its work without hesitation. The leader did not have the time to answer wrong-Sayers. He devoted his work and life to build his party and to attract the intellectual, literary, and even political circles, many of whose members had faith in Saadeh and soon swore allegiance to him and the party. The road these people chose was a long and tiring one. Only a select few could tolerate the difficulties. That’s why some of the timid politicians and intellectuals who joined the party could not continue in its difficult path. They fell one after the other only to return to their previous situations that provided them with a place within the body politic of the state. None of these however could other a word of criticism to the party. Most of them remained silent and preferred their lucrative positions.
The party was strong at the time through its leader, who embodied all his party's principals within himself. He was not upset or bothered that some of the newcomers were leaving, because he was sure of himself and his principles, which constituted the ideology of his party.
Saadeh was very stringent on his principles and the ideology of his party. He would not negotiate on these principles. That is why he would not accept to even a minute change from those principles. This was his credo from which he would not bulge even if Naameh Tabit—the man who had earned his confidence—himself asked for such a ideological change (Tabit was at the time being considered for the vice-presidency of the party together with Adil Usayran and Salah Labaki). It was thus that Saadeh did not hesitate to oust Tabit from the ranks of the party when he sensed that the latter was diverting from the principles set forth. It is noteworthy to mention the story behind the ousting of Naameh Tabit from the party. By so doing Saadeh showed that his principles and the party ideology were above any human consideration. It was in 1947 when the leader was on his way from Cairo after a long deportation that Naameh Tabit and Asad al Ashqar went to visit him. He met them at the Shepard Hotel where they talked with him about the political situation in Lebanon. Tabit suggested to Saadeh to have the party work on a strictly Lebanese base and to not antagonize the rulers upon his return to the homeland. Saadeh did not speak about the issue, since he felt that it was not an honest suggestion and had hidden agendas written all around it. . Moreover, he was sure That Naameh Tabit and Asad al Ashqar were acting on the initiatives of some politicians who wanted the SSNP to become a totally Lebanese party and shed aside its Pan-Syrian aspirations. Tabit thought that Saadeh had finally accepted his point of view. However, as soon as Saadeh reached Lebanon he gave his famous and historical lecture where he underlined his attachment to the principles of the party and his adamant stance in not redrawing its political path. This was a strong hit for Tabit and those who stood behind him. The Lebanese government released a subpoena for Saadeh's apprehension, while the latter moved to Duhur al Shuwayr and declared open rebellion against the government, the army, and the police. The government was forced to redraw its subpoena. Tabit continued to claim that the party’s principles and ideology had to be reformulated, while his cohort, al Ashqar rejoined Saadeh. It was in this manner the al Ashqar remained while Tabit and another cohort, Ma’mun Elias, were ousted from the party only to form the Lebanese Democratic Republican Party.
The Tabit incident shows, if anything, that Saadeh was very dearly attached to his principles and ideological framework. He showed that these were not up for negotiation at any price, since they were sacred for him. This created a hula of sacredness around his personality. Some went as far as to say that Saadeh could become prime minister if only he would accept to change or divert a little from his principles.
He was even able to get millions of pounds—a big sum for those time—if he accepted a change in his principles. However, he would rather have his head cut off rather than attempt into such ludicrous negotiations.
Saadeh’ return to Lebanon was a big stride for the party. The leader and the party had chosen to stay and struggle. This was what Saadeh had formulated as “The right to struggle is the right to advance. Once again the party grew in numbers, while the incumbent governments tried to stop its advance and popularity, since the French had already given up on taming Saadeh and his youth. The Kata’ib (Phalange) Party was started in 1936 for the specific reason of fighting the SSNP. The French gave the Phalangists money and weapons, as well as their marine forces base as a headquarters for the new party. It was not a secret that the Kata’ib party was a pro French organization. It was hence comical for such a party that was in the pay of the French to come up with such rubrics as “the creation of a Lebanese nation,” and “a Lebanese identity,” as if nations and peoples are formed instantaneously rather than undergoing historical periods of formation.
In this regard Saadeh says:
“…there are neo-reactionary forces that try to destroy the reality. These are the French made Lebanese who believe in the “Lebanese Identity”, which tries to separate the Christians and the non- Christians from the rest of the Syrians. By creating such non-existent realities they not only marginalize a section of the people from its real identity, but even antagonize against the real identity and its continuation…
The Lebanese isolationist ideology, i.e. spiritual and social isolation, and the idea of establishing a separate Lebanese identity and nationality based on this isolationist idea shows, if anything, the sickness of those who advocate it. The Syrian mind feels this psychological rift because it is an ideology that is against social logic and truth.”
It was logical that such newly formed parties would use the situation to fight the SSNP and its ideology. However, the party did not care much about such actions, because it was on a different level then those around it.
D-THE TEACHER AND THE STUDENTS
I was not surprised that the secrecy of the party was unveiled and everybody knew who those few SSPN members were.
I was not surprised to know that a party such as the SSNP existed. That it advocated a Pan-Syrian nationality. I had been acquainted to these notions through the lectures that my teacher, Zaki al Naqqash, delivered at the Maqasid College during the 1930’s. He thought us History and Geography and I used to feel this Pan-Syrian belongingness throughout his lectures. Zaki al Naqqash would become a radiant sun every time he used to speak to us about Pan-Syrianess, its history, its geography, its ruins, and its civilizations.
He would stand in front of the class every morning and would say to us: “O children of life. Who is life for?” And we would answer: “To us.” Then he would continue: “And for whom are we.” And we would answer: “We are for Syria. At this point Naqqash would jump into the air by stating “Long Live Syria.” And we would follow: “Long live, long live, Long Live…”
We would then go to our classes with the “Long Live” salutation still echoing in our ears.
At the time we did not know that there was a secret party and that our teacher, al Naqqash was one of its first members. He was a first generation party member who believed in Saadeh’s principles. So were his friends George Abd al Masih, Fakhri al Maaluf, Abdallah al Qubersi.
In the beginning Zaki al Naqqash was a history teacher in a school in Nablus. In 1928 he wrote an article to the al Kashshaf [Scouting] magazine where he stated that despite the ups and down that Syria had lived the Syrian nationality or identity was and still is a very clear idea through Syria’s history. Saadeh had read this article. So when he formed the party in 1932 and Abd al Masih and al Qubersi became his disciples, he remembered al Naqqash’s article and asked al Qubersi about the author. When he was told that the author, Al Naqqash, was in Beirut, Saadeh send al Qubersi to him. Qubersi talked to al Naqqash about Saadeh and the party and al Naqqash went to Saadeh's house where he took his oath and joined the party with open arms.
Al Naqqash was not destined to remain with the party for long. As soon as the secret party became known and the leader and his disciples were imprisoned, al Naqqash had to leave, since the Maqasid College where he thought, refused to hire him if he did not leave the party. He even became an anti party figure on the surface in order to keep his position. However, deep inside him he was and remained a Pan-Syrian.
I still remember how we met him after he was released from prison at the Maqasid College. The principal, Mr. Abdallah al Mashnuq, announced to us that the head-teacher, Mr. Naqqash, had been released. As soon as we opened the classroom door he shouted my children… my children…my children, and tears came down his cheeks. We were crying in our jubilation for his release.
E-SAADEH’S RETURN… THE AWSOME CELEBRATION
I still remember—I do not think anybody could ever forget—that big celebration that Saadeh got on his return from Argentina in March 1947. He was sent away for a long, period and forced to live as an émigré. Qaumis (SSNP members) from as far away as Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Laziqiyya, and Jabal al Druz, Amman, Damascus and elsewhere had come in trucks, busses, and cars to welcome him starting at the small airport at Bir al Abd and all the way to al Usur square in the heart of the capital Beirut. It was a splendid welcome that surprised everybody.
SSNP membership grew as a result of Saadeh’s return. I don’t think that any leader in the Arab world had had such a reception as Saadeh did on his return from his forced exile. The celebration, if anything, showed how popular and charismatic he was with the youth and learned class. There, within the ranks of the wellcomers, stood the best intellectuals, doctors, attorneys, writers, pharmacists, journalists, and politicians of Beirut’s known families. Even more, Politicians from different Arab countries were among the welcomers and well wishers. The celebration created more hatred toward Saadeh in the minds of traditional politicians, who started to agitate for a new round of fighting against Saadeh and his party.
F-AT THE KUL SHAY’ [EVERYTHING] MAGAZINE
I was a journalist at the Kul Shay’ magazine in 1948. My friend, Adib Qaddura was one of the important leaders of the party in the Beirut area. He was adamant in asking me to join the party. He would tell me: “You must join the party. You must.” I would answer: “Let me write for the time being. I am writing in your publication anyway.”
One day I went to see him very early at his pharmacy. He met me saying: “I hope everything is well with you. Why are you so early today?” I told him: “yes, I am here to take my oath of allegiance.” He told me in his special Beiruti accent: “Did you see him.” I answered affirmatively.
How was it that I met the leader? I was at the Kul Shay’ magazine. Its owner and editor was my classmate Muhammad al Baalbaki. The leader, Antoine Saadeh used to write a column every Thursday under the rubric “The SSNP Leader Says.” His articles were one of a kind He wroth in depth and with integrity. It was in these articles that he first jotted down some of his most famous sayings such as: “The right to struggle is the right to advance,” “A medicine list does not make a doctor,” “Isolationism went bankrupt,” and “Arabism is bankrupt.” His articles were so popular that when we once met the famous Lebanese parliamentarian Habib Abu Shahla at he Burj Square in Beirut he asked me and Baalbaki: “What is the story behind Saadeh’s articles that you are publishing every week in Kul Shay’ magazine,” Baalbaki answered back: “You are welcome to write back answering him and I will definitely publish your writing.” Abu Shahla Answered back: “You think I am crazy? Why do I need to be involved in such a thing? Saadeh is a big man and a philosopher…”
Every week I used to write my own article at the magazine under the general title “I say the truth,” where I used to write and analyze the Lebanese political scene.
G-AN APPOINTMENT WITH THE LEADER
One day, while working at Kul Shay’ my friend Muhammad al Baalbaki asked me if I had seen the leader and listened to him. I told him I did not. He called the leader and got me an appointment to meet him. I remember that it was to be on a Thursday at nine and a half at night at his home near the al Khalidi Hospital in Ras Beirut.
It was my first meeting with the man. I still remember the feelings I got on meeting him and listening to his views. I saw myself in front of an extra ordinary man. He possessed charismatic character. Anyone who listens to him would be engulfed in his humanistic approach and purity of thought.
He also liked a good joke. At our meeting Saadeh asked Baalbaki about the government that was to be formed and who will take part in it. Baalbaki mentioned such and such from the Maronites, such from the orthodox, and Muhi al Din al Nasuli from the Sunnis. Muhi al Din was not a favorite guy at the time because he had carried the “The Carpet of Mercy” during the burial procession of the Maronite president Emile Eddeh. So I jokingly asked Baalbaki why he is not considering al Nasuli from the Maronites. Saadeh started to laugh loudly for my joke. His face was so beautiful when he used to laugh.
H-I SWORE ALLEGIANCE
On the next day I gave my oath and swore allegiance to the party in the offices of Adib Qaddura and in the presence of the party’s chief for Internal Affairs, Mustafa Ezzeddin. Abdallah al Qubersi, Tariq al Yafi, George Salibi and Fu’ad Abi Ajram were also present. This happened in 1949, just months before Saadeh’s execution.
I learned later that Saadeh would ask Muhammad and Adib: “Do not leave this young journalist, Ahmad Shuman, away from the party. I think that was why Baalbaki kept insisting to me that I had to join the party.
The new leader Jubran Jarih wrote about my joining the party in his book “With Antoine Saadeh: From 1932 to 1959. On page 56 he says:
“The Egyptian journalist Ahmad Shuman was one of those who followed the party’s path and the lectures and writings of its leader. He had very good and personal relations with several Qawmi members. From this viewpoint he was considered an insider to the party, its leadership, and its politics...
“…Finally, Shuman decided that it was time to join the party However, the question was how he could join if he was not a Syrian to begin with. He applied anyway. We were surprised that the leader accepted the offer and issued an exception order, which was the equivalent of granting him, Shuman, an honorary SSNP citizenship for him.”
I-THE MODEL PARTY
The SSNP was never a regular political, ideological party. It was something different. The leader wanted it to be a new school, which was destined to graduate a new generation of youth for whom organization and rules were sacred. These members would be the vanguards with their simple and pure way of life and submission to party rules and general civility. Being a person of clean and virtuous character was on the top of the list for Saadeh. He ruled by example and also solved issues between party members.
He was adamant that SSNP members would always keep their reputations unblemished. He was very forceful regarding the party’s rules. He would not refrain from ousting the nearest to him if that was necessary. High ranking party members were no exception to him. The rules were to be followed by all.
These characteristics were the cornerstone upon which Saadeh built his party. SNNP members thought that they were always being watched if not by the government then by their own peers. The SSNP member would not lie, would not gamble, would not endanger people’s fortitude, would not use the party for personal reasons, and would not spy for anyone. Members followed these rules not because they were afraid to be caught red handed, but rather out of love and respect for their leader and his principles that they had internalized.
The SSNP then was not a regular party but rather a school for men. It thought its members to obey and to be at the highest level of integrity.
For Saadeh these characteristics of himself and his comrades were the basis upon which the party was constructed. He firmly believed that if these characteristics were absent, any movement or political organization was destined to fail. For this reason he was very frank and very forceful toward his party members, because he wanted them to be as models for others to follow.
There was another important basis upon which Saadeh’s party was built. It was the basis of negating all aspects of sectarianism and purifying his members’ souls from it. SSNP members lived together without feeling the dividing forces of sectarian strife. A strife that was squeezing the country and separating its children from one another. Colonization was its biggest asset. It purred oil on the fire of sectarianism for its own purposes. This was the “divide and rule” policy that the French colonialists utilized. It wanted the Lebanese to be divided in to religious sects and political parties. It wanted them to fight against each other.
Saadeh knew this illness and prescribed an antidote. He exemplified the antidote by his own character. He reached a place where no one thought a man could reach in this regard. He killed and extracted the cancerous cells of sectarianism from the souls of his party comrades. He infused them with the cells of national unity. Sectarianism and religious sects were wiped out from the SSNP dictionaries. This can be considered the miracle of Saadeh. Extracting the cells of division and infusing the cells of unity in the souls of the people.
Until this hour I cannot explain the feelings we were engulfed in on that notorious day when Saadeh was executed. We slept at night on the news of his arrest. The arrest that [the Syrian president] Husni al Za’im had arranged in cohort with the Lebanese authorities.
I met Mohammed al Baalbaki early in the morning at the Kul Shay’ magazine offices. We were joking about the headline news of the daily newspapers that mentioned Saadeh’s execution. We saw a picture of him in front of a military tribunal yet we never believed that a court proceedings and the execution could be so swift.
We were wrong. We both started to cry. Baalbaki almost fell to the ground.
Yes, until this hour, and over fifty years later I exactly remember the fear that struck us. Baalbaki was trembling in an emotional state. He had given his oath to the leader himself and became a party member only two days ago in a special ceremony in Damascus.
My mind takes me to these events again. I and Labib Qaddura, the younger brother of Adib Qaddura, went almost every day to the place where our leader was executed. We sat on the very soil that was nurtured by his blood. Days later we saw other comrades visiting the place too. It became a party tradition to visit the burial site of the leader at the St. Elias Church every year on the eighth of July…
K-THE JULY 8TH DIRECTORATE
The party developed a secret organization called the July 8th Directorate. After the execution of Saadeh, the members of this directorate met in secret at the home of the new general secretary Amin al Husayni (Abu Jihad) the directorate was run by Munir Ido, on of the first SSNP members.
Several party members were taken into the directorate. I remember—since I was one of its members—asking al Husayni why other members like Kamil al Asaad, Bahij Taqiy al Din, and Nqula Rizqalla—all in the beginning of their political careers—were absent from the meetings of the directorate? The first was the son of the Shiite political leader Ahmad al Asaad. The second was just becoming a shining star as an attorney at law, while the third was the governor of the capital, Beirut. I remember that I told al Husayni that “if those guys are afraid to be known as SSNP members, we then don not need them at all!” Husayni replied to me saying that these guys had their special circumstances. That we understand their situation and it is better that their status be kept a secret.
Husayni’s home adjacent to the Raml [Sand] prison… The leader went into hiding there after the Jimmayzeh incident. The incident occurred when some of the party members had skirmishes with pistols with some Kata’ib party members. The SSNP headquarters and its newspapers offices were in the Jimmayzeh area, which was a Kata’ib stronghold. Anyway, Saadeh was wanted and he preferred to hide in Husayni’s house. Husayni told me that at the time the leader would go to the roof and hear his party members in the prison singing the famous party anthem “Suriyya Laki al Salam” [O Syria, our salutations to you] and tears would come down his cheeks.
L-CURRENTS THAT SHOCKED THE PARTY AND DEMORALIZED IT
The party had undergone several hardships and shocks during its existence. It always came out of them stronger. The deviation from the principles of the party that the Naameh Tabit, Ma’mun Elias, and Asad al Ashqar triumvirate called for did not materialize. We have mentioned that these three were the nearest to the leader and almost the first members of the SSNP. However, they were pragmatic and wanted quick results. They were not ready for the long and tumultuous road Saadeh had anticipated. Moreover, the triumvirate’s new policy of having the party deal only as a Lebanese entity and which Tabit elaborated so eloquently in the Baaaqlin meeting of 1944 were refuted completely by Saadeh in a lectures he delivered on January 7, 1948. It was during this lecture that he announced that he had dismissed the three musketeers from the SSNP. We know also that at least one of the “knights,” Asad al Ashqar came back to the leader when he was in Duhur al Shuwayr and pleaded him to accept him back into the party, since he now knew that he was wrong and that he would be “at the leader’s disposal.”
Al Ashqar went even further when he wrote about his encounter with the leader and said that it was Saadeh’s wise decision that the party principles remained intact, and those who wanted to negotiate upon them—and I was one of them—were wrong in their estimation.
The Triumvirate’s work was the first trial for the party. However, a stronger shock came on the heels of al Maliki’s death in 1955, when the SSNP was falsely accused of organizing the assassination. SSNP members in Damascus were tortured. This was happening at a time when the party was in its zenith in Syria. It had its cadres not only within the intellectual circles but also within the young officer corps of the Syrian army and the parliament.
It was thus that the new General Secretary of the party, George Abd al Masih, planted the first seeds of division within the party after the martyrdom of Saadeh. This happened when George declared his rebellion on the party leadership. The leadership expelled him in the accusation that he was involved in the assassination of Colonel al Maliki. George continued his rebellion and separated himself and his cohorts from the party. This became known as rebellion of 1957.
M-THE TRAP THE PARTY FELL IN
The revolution known as the Revolution of 1958 came. It divided the Lebanese deeply. This was a sectarian revolution that divided the country into two camps. The party tried to become the solution and the salvation from this cruel sectarian strife. People knew how the party looked at sectarianism. It was higher than the strife and it could really be the salvation. However, some of the party leadership lost their cool and allied themselves with one faction in the revolution.
The SSNP was no more the party that despised sectarianism. The principles that Saadeh had fought for so hard was washed down the drain. Newcomers, mostly political opportunists, turned the party’s principles and theories around. It was in vain that some true SSNP members tried to show that the party was innocent from such political manipulations.
O my God! All I need is one drop of your peace to extinguish the fire in my soul. O my God! Your protection that has thought me to dismiss all fear is once again attacking my soul to fill it with fear, hatred, and suspicion.
O my God! How can something like this happen?
How is it that a person opens his eyes to see his child, a piece of his body that he nurtured with his blood, mind, soul, and every other facility of his self, so that the child grows to be a man? And when the child grows to be a man he [the parent] instead of observing the
beautiful product of his labor sees the bitter reality that the child is not his. Neither has he had any attachment to his son, nor the son to him.
This was the bitter cup that the members of the Qawmi Party had to drink from when they witnessed what their party’s stance was during the events of 1958. They were totally disturbed, even fearful, that their leaders had gone to such shameful lengths that would become the coup-de-grace for the party, and make it the talk of the town.
I therefore declared that I abhor this stance. This was not the party on whose ideology I had sworn to endeavor.
The issue was not that simple. I wish it was, because that way it could have been solved through joking and smearing it as all such political problems are solved in Lebanon. It was an issue of utmost danger. I had believed in the cause and had dedicated my life to it.
It was on its doctrine and precepts that my whole life was based upon. I had faith in it. Nothing is harder on the self than being put in the position of condemning what you believe in. It does not make you happy. It is even less painful to be skinned rather than having your ideology being extracted from your mind and soul.
N-I DECLARED MY WITHDRAWAL
It was under these circumstances that I left the party in 1958. Adib Qaddura, a secretary of the party, followed in my footsteps. He also declared that his departure was in protest of the stance that party leaders adopted to stand beside [Lebanese president] Kamil Sham’un. Abdullah Muhsin, another secretary of the party, and a group of his followers were also against taking sides with a section of the Lebanese, whom the party considered to be one of its diehard enemies; A section that had to be neglected, marginalized, and fought against like all other sectarians whatever their religious belonging.
However, it must be stated that the party condemned the stance it observed during the revolution of 1958 when its leadership were freed from their prison cells to which they were condemned after the foolish coup d’etat that they attempted in 1968. They even called for a general conference of the party at Melkart Hotel in 1969. However, the cadre came out divided from this conference because of the divergent ideas of the leadership regarding political and ideological issues.
* * * * *
BEING THE WIFE OF A PROSECUTED LEADER
(Mrs. Saadeh Reminisces)
The leader [Saadeh] decided to return to Lebanon. We [himself, his wife and two daughters] were still living in the Tukoman region in Argentina. He wrote to officials in Lebanon about his desire to return before the parliamentary elections. All this was to no avail. So he decided to do things himself. From Buenos Aires he traveled to Brazil, where, with the help of some friends he was able to obtain a return visa to Lebanon. He first traveled to Cairo where he was met by Naameh Tabit, Ma’mun Elias, Asad al Ashqar and probably others from the party. He spent several days in Cairo. This is what I learned from the leader when I joined him seven months later.
The leader started thinking of returning to the motherland in 1946. The war was over. He had started writing about this in “Ibr al Hudud” [Through the Borders]. He was aware that his were not accepted as he wanted letters by officials in Lebanon. He had already established relations with party chapters in Northern America and Africa. He used to receive copies of party publications in Tukoman. He was surprised at the political, ideological, and even executive mistakes that he saw in these publications. All these made him more eager to return to Lebanon and take care of the issues himself.
This letter writing campaign took several months. Finally, a day was decided for the return. We had to sell our living quarters. The place belonged to an elderly Argentinean, who wanted to retire. The leader was able to negotiate with him in such a way that we were able to get back our initial investment plus some capital for our travel needs from him. The elderly Argentinean was an honest man.
However, a very damning event happened before we left Tukoman. We were busy boxing the furniture to send them in wooden crates to Buenos Aires. Several locals were helping us. I was upstairs putting beddings into a crate, while the maid was playing with [my daughter] Elisar who was two years old at the time. I did not notice how [my other daughter] Safiyya, ran to me crying “Mama, Mama,” only to tell me that “Elisar was hit by a car and was dead.” I ran out and saw Elisar in a corner with her head inside her arms. No one was trying to approach her. It was a crucial moment for me to carry my daughter in that situation, with her clothes covered in blood as if I was taking her to her burial place. Our happiness turned into sadness. The leader was at the corner of the street with some party members. Naaman Daw was a guest with us from San Juan. They all ran toward me. Some tried to call an ambulance, while others tried to find a doctor. It was at this moment that the driver of the car that hit Elisar came to us. He was an elderly person. We used his car to take my daughter to the hospital.
Elisar was lifeless on our way to the hospital. We were told to take her to the children’s section and have her under constant observation. They feared that she had a concussion and perhaps even a broken bone on her skull. While we were transferring her we heard her voice. We were Hopeful once again. I was completely done. I had no power in my legs. I thought I was paralyzed. My friends helped me get up.
At the children’s hospital a doctor treated Elisar and told us to leave her there until tomorrow. I refused to leave her there and took her back home. We called our doctor who also cautioned us of a possible of a skull concussion. He told us to take her to a hospital specializing in such cases. At ten that evening we transported Elisar to the new hospital. The leader was always beside her looking after her and always checking her pulse. I knew that in such cases blood spilling on the brain would affect the nervous system and the human pulse would slow. I sometimes thought that she was breathing and sometimes that she was dead. Next day I was really surprised when she called “Baba”. The leader jumped to her side and also took me in his arms in tears.
How did the accident take place? When the maid went to bring her some milk, Elisar walked to the front door where people were going out and coming in. Nobody noticed when she went outside. She went to Safiyya to play with her. Because she was too small the driver did not see her crossing the street. He hit her and continued driving until somebody shouted at him to stop.
Death became life again. She was normal within a couple of days. We went to Buenos Aires in December 1946.
When Saadeh decided to return to Lebanon before the parliamentary elections it was also decided that my daughters and I would travel later. We had very little time to prepare for his travel. I remember this incident only to show how frustrated we were while living in Tukoman. Elisar’s episode showed us, if anything, that what Jubran Massuh did to us was nothing. Yes, he was the reason of our misery there. However, we were able to uncover his treachery and to recover our capital.
Our return to Buenos Aires and from there to Lebanon was to continue the struggle that we had begun years ago. Our struggle was a noble and honest one. It was for the cause of a nation and the people of that nation.
Saadeh traveled to Brazil to get his return visa. He got it only after much effort was spent on that matter, since all Lebanese consulates and embassies had received instructions not to grant him one. However, some influential friends were able to get it through the offices of Fu’ad Lutfallah, Consul General of Lebanon in Brazil. It must be mentioned that Saadeh got his visa under the name Muja’es, the name on his travel documents when he left Lebanon.
The leader wrote to me about when he intended to travel to Lebanon and that he would write to me as soon as he reaches Beirut. His answer was very late. It had been twenty days and no news from him had yet arrived. I was in a very disturbed mood and was talking to nobody. Moreover, I had read in a Maronite magazine published in Buenos Aires that the leader “Muhammad Antoine Saadeh” had been arrested. Others said that he once again secluded himself in the mountains and that the authorities were relentlessly trying to arrest him…
It was twenty days later that I received a note from some party members that the leader was OK and that he had asked them to drop the note to me. They informed me that the leader indeed had to relocate to his mountain retreat in order not to be arrested. Saadeh later wrote to me himself detailing all the difficulties that he had to endure on his return. He wrote at length about the political situation and the climate surrounding the parliamentary elections and how the national front did. In the last part of his letter Saadeh wrote to me that Naameh Tabit and Ma’mun Elias were no longer honest toward him and the party. He also informed me to prepare myself and the kids to return to Lebanon by plane, since it was now more convenient and took a much shorter time.
I wrote him back asking what I should do with the furniture, since I did not know where and how he was living. He answered that I should return as soon as possible. He did not mention anything about the furniture. I traveled with my daughters, fourteen crates of books and other stuff.
When I reached Beirut I found that the leader had no bed, no furniture, not even a chair. Nobody was able to give us anything, while prices of goods were high because of the World War. I asked him why he did not write to me to bring the furniture. He said that he asked about that to our friend, who did not give him an answer on time and so he could not inform me regarding them.
It is years later now and I am telling you how I was sorry not to bring our furniture with me. Indeed, these pieces had memories all over them. My memories with the leader! I asked George Abd al Masih, the friend who did not answer my husband on time on why he did that. He told me that he did not think that it was an important issue at the time. He also said that how could he think at the time that those pieces of furniture would be so important for all of us, since the leader has now gone forever. It was therefore very hard for us to live like a family in Lebanon at the time... Was it not Naameh Tabit himself that advised my husband on not to bring the family home to Lebanon, because it was too risky. All these small things create the doubt that never leaves my mind regarding the leader and the actions of his closest associates. I can be wrong. But I can also be right in my suspicions…
We prepared to travel and took the ship to Genoa. There I went ashore and looked for an Italian person, whose family had sent a gift to him from Argentina. I asked the person to reserve us a room in a nearby and cheap hotel. He did what I asked him to do.
Ten days later we were on board of a small Greek ship. We were in first grade. But the smallness of the ship caused us much sickness. We could hardly use any water or the bathrooms. We complained when we reached Beirut and the captain was obliged to pay a fine. We reached Beirut when it was late at night. The captain did not want to dock in order not to pay for the night. We spent the night on board looking at the shore and trying to guess which light was emanating from what region. In the morning, while we had not yet set foot on Lebanese soil, I saw a lot of people looking at us from the deck. A lady with a bouquet of flowers was there apparently for me. I was not thinking about the people. All I thought at the moment was where the leader is and if he is in good hands. Elisar dropped one of her shoes into the sea. A worker rescued it and gave it back to her.
We came down. Party members welcomed us with the usual party salute. Now I could see their faces and start to recognize them. I saw Fayiz Sayigh, George Abd al Masih, Marcel Nassar, and Najla Ajami. Fayiz took us by the hand and we left the deck.
After resting for some hours in Beirut we took the cars and climbed the mountain road. There were motorcycles in front and behind us. I knew that this was an official affair. We reached Duhur al Shuwayr where the leader was heavily guarded.
When we reached the house I could not keep any official stance. I left everything in the car and ran to meet my husband and to see myself how he was doing in such circumstances. I ran to hold him and tell him not to leave me alone anymore. I ran to him as if knowing what his enemies, the enemies of our people, thought about this history making person. I ran to tell him that I was with him to the end. My embracing him was my certificate of loyalty to him. He was very pleased at meeting us. This you could see from the way he embraced the kids. He said he wanted us to be here in the summer. He was sorry that we were late. We entered the house that was his headquarters. I think it belonged to Jamil Yaaqub Muja’es.
After bringing everything in and settling down many people started to visit us from all corners of the country. People came in busses raising the party banners and singing its anthems. I saw all this and my heart was full with joy. I understood what Saadeh’s mission had done with the people’s thinking and understanding. Life was hard when all your moves are watched by guards. I did not have enough time with my husband alone. We would take some nightly trips while the guards were watching us from afar
Some political figures used to visit us from time to time. I don’t remember their names now. The deliberations were always regarding the arrest warrant and how to annul it. The leader would tell me that the government was ready to do that, depending on what kind of actions he [Saadeh] would take. The government wanted my husband to visit all security offices and to talk with the officials regarding his case, while the leader with say that the protocol was that he, as a political figure, should not do what he was asked to do and that the government should initiate some sort of reconciliation between itself and the party. One day a governmental minister came and told my husband that the government was ready to talk with him regarding the arrest warrant and its annulment. The leader went to Beirut and came to an agreement with the government. Several days later we returned to Beirut. Our friends had already rented an apartment for us in Ras Beirut, neat the American University. It was on Jeanne d’Arc Street, next to Dr. Mustafa al Khalidi’s office in the Shuqayr building.
* * * * *
We settled in Beirut late in October. On November 2, the leader published a statement regarding the Balfour Agreement and urged the people to demonstrate against it. The Government was opposed to the demonstration and banned it. This was happening at the time that the issue of Fayiz Sayigh was being discussed within the party. The leader was intolerant regarding the latter’s mistakes. Moreover, some of the graduates of the American University of Beirut [AUB] were already coming up with new ideas that the leader considered as unorthodox to the initial principles and the ideology of the party.
It must be stated here that when Saadeh reached Cairo on his return from Argentina, a hot debate had ensued between him and Naameh Tabit and Ma’mun Elias about the articles that Tabit used to sign as the general secretary of the SSNP during Saadeh’s exile. Saadeh gad made it clear to both of them that Tibet’s writings were against the principles and the ideology of the party. He told them that he had read those articles and those that Sayigh had written while he was in Tukoman and was very angry and despaired.
Sayigh had gone as far as having his own ideas incorporated within the educational framework of new party initiates. Saadeh painstakingly wrote all these down and pointed how they were against party ideology while he was in Tukoman. He sent those extensive writings to Lebanon. However, the culprits did not budge. It was for this reason that Saadeh decided that he has to return to Lebanon under any circumstances, since not doing so would mean the end of the party he created.
Tabit and Elias did not change their stance or behavior toward the leader. Saadeh had no other choice but to expel them from the party.
Saadeh’s communication with party members from Tukoman was very slow. Moreover, his corrective writings were not being read or implemented in Lebanon. He had told me this several times. All these people would tell Saadeh is to remain in exile and to never return to Lebanon.
When I returned to Lebanon I never saw Tabit or Elias. There issue was already determined.
I must open a little window into the leader’s family life during this period. As soon as we settled down in Beirut the leader started to give more care to his own family beside his bigger one, the party. Whatever his preoccupations with party matters he would find time to play with his little daughters. He would seem so playful that no one would think that his head was full of important political things or that dangerous events were happening around him. He would have Elisar sit on his knees and sing, recite a poem, or tell a story. He would then do the same with Safiyya. She used to talk in classical Arabic. That was what we had taught her to do. If I interfered with something about the story she would say that that part was not in the book. She would even bring the book to make her point.
Sometimes, when the leader saw that I was brushing their hair, he would take the chore on himself. He was so emotionally involved with the kids that I only admired him for that.
He would also create time for us. We would go together on small walks in the mountains. He used to do this anytime he saw that I was disturbed by his political undertakings.
He would talk only about nature during those walks. No politics would cross his lips unless some comrade came to him to tell him something or ask about an issue. The only time he would speak about what happened with him during the day was when we retired to bed and were preparing to sleep.
The arrest warrant for him was still in force at the time. He would sometimes spend the night at some other house. He would tell me about his intention only minutes before his departure. I would wait sleepless until his return. Upon my insistence he took me and showed me the tent that he used when he spent the night outside. This was a place where he would go to escape detention. The place was deep in nature and had no roads. It was a frightening wilderness.
When the government did not allow the SSNP from going ahead with the Balfour demonstration on November 2, 1947, the leader was harassed more and more by government agents. He started to lecture to people from his home. The lectures grew and the party rented a hall in Ras Beirut. This hall also was too small to handle the crowds that would come to listen to Saadeh. We had to put speakers outside the hall to accommodate the five hundred or so people who wanted to hear him.
Meetings were going on all day at the leader’s office. . From military training to administrative issues, to lectures to radio talks all took his time. His articles in the newspapers created an atmosphere of anger toward an incapable government. He did not leave the feudal lords out of his circle of criticism. The more the party grew in power the more the government would expand its harassment methods. Moreover, the government spent a lot of money to buy newspapermen and the radio station and make them write against Saadeh and the SSNP. All this came into the open in 1949.
The party’s central board members’ activities were not commensurate to the leader’s work. A lot had to be done during the negotiation sessions with the government. Board members were always busy with something else. At some point Saadeh put them on the spot, since everything was left on him and him alone.
There were issues that were talked about in the central board meetings that I did not know at all. All I knew was that the rift between Saadeh and the central board widened to such an extent that he dissolved the body months prior to the events of 1949.
How did the leader and his family live during this period? When I left Argentina I had some money with me from the proceeds of the furniture sale and what my brother had given me for just in case. I paid for our travel and stay in Genoa out of this money. . I had also received a check for $1,500 when I was in Brazil dining with some of our friends. I gave that check to Saadeh upon my return. When we decided to move to Ras Beirut Saadeh gave the check to some comrades who were tasked with finding us a house for rent. They paid some of the money for rent and the rest—most of the money—was used for printing. The check was handled by comrade Rafiq al Ashqar. I had some money left and I was using it for our expenses. Soon this money evaporated and I mad nothing but the golden coins that my brother had given to me in Argentina. . I used the golden pieces too until they were gone. I was even going to sell my golden ring and watch to make ends meet when one of the good hearted party members, Fadil Antiba, said that that was enough. “Yesterday you sold your golden pieces. Today you are selling the ring and the watch. What are you going to do in two months?” The member told comrades that something had to be done and a pension must be decided so that the leader or his wife would not worry about daily living expenses. I was told that a decision was taken to pay my husband 150 liras on a monthly basis. I was told how I wanted to receive the money? I told that it would be best my friend Fayiza Antiba [Fadil’s wife] would bring it to me.
This was how we lived. We had to be extremely economical in our spending habits, since I also had to feed the guards in and around the house. I told the leader that the monthly allowance was not enough. He told me to ask comrade Zakki Nasif, who told me that he will take care of the issue.
I found that I was pregnant just after settling in Beirut. I wasn’t happy, since I knew that being pregnant in such a hot political situation was going to be trouble. . We did not have any furniture in the house. We had brought only those few things that were in the mountain home. Few months later these were asked back by their owners. We spent some time without even a bed for us or for the children.
When I speak about those tiring days all I hear is the leader’s encouraging words in these dire instances. He was sleeping on a broken bed and still he would not mind. He did not have something to cover himself at night because he had given everything to the guards. We were living in sub standard conditions. He would tell me that whoever is carrying a big cause on his arms does not care about such living conditions. Comrade Yussif Taj was really disturbed when he saw the leader sleeping on the broken bed one day. He directly went and bought beds and covers for us as well as a dining table and some chairs. Now at least we had a place where guests could sit if they visited us.
The leader had gotten some money when he was in Duhur al Shuwayr in 1947. He gave it to the comrades during a meeting. His cousin, Elias Muja’es did not allow it and took the money and put it in his pocket. Later he took Saadeh to the monastery near Duhur al Shuwayr and told him that the monks were selling some parcels and that Saadeh had to buy one parcel with the money so that he could later build a house over it. It so happened. A house was erected on the land. However, Saadeh did not have time to live in that house. I used to see monks coming and going beside the house. I stopped one of them for guidance one day. He turned to me with tears in his eyes. He loved the leader and told me that he had a long talk with him at one time. He mentioned that he saw him as an extremely intelligent and selfless man. Hearing these remarks were very precious and made me really happy.
Meetings at Duhur al Shuwayr with party members and political leaders took much of the leader’s time. We would only see him alone late at night when the children were sleeping. He would go and kiss them and see that the windows in their room were closed. We would sit down to talk a bit. I would urge him to go to sleep since he would wake up early the next morning. He would say that it was important for him to sit idle those several minutes to empty his head and to have some time with me. . He would brief me about the most important events of the day, or about the activities of some of the comrades. I would give him my opinion regarding some issues. I think I forgot most of the issues we used to discuss. I only remember bits of it now.
Days passed and the movement got stronger. The leader’s responsibilities grew with time too. From writing to lectures to radio talks to meetings with leaders of religious sects he was really consumed. These activities made even Riad al Sulh, a shining political figure at the time, nervous, since a lot of his people were attending the SSNP events.
I remember that Kamal Jumblat met the leader at the latter’s office and had a long discussion with him about the party and its ideology. He had only words of amazement for the leader and his principles. He even admitted that his next visit would be the one for his taking his oath and be admitted to the party. However, couple of days later he announced the formation of his socialist party and mentioned the names of some of his closest colleagues in it.
Saadeh wanted to have his home in Duhur al Shuwayr where he was born. He decided to build his home on that piece of land he had bought. He even went there when the foundation was laid. He could not continue overseeing the building because of his preoccupations in politics. . I was in Beirut looking after the kids. I was almost ready to give birth. Saadeh decided to stay at the house of his cousin, Wadih Elias for a while and rest before returning to Beirut.
It was during his stay at Wadih’s house that our third daughter, Raghida, was born. I had her at home by Doctor Mustafa al Khalidi who was our neighbor. He was sad when Raghida was born, since he had said that this time the leader was going to have a son. He had to go and tell the leader himself…When he exited the house the guards wanted to hear the news of a son in order to start firing their guns as was the custom. The doctor told them nothing. When he met the leader Saadeh told him that there is no difference between a boy and a girl. Of course SSNP members wanted the leader to have a baby boy…
Saadeh came to Beirut to see his newborn daughter. Abdallah Saadeh and his wife came all the way from Tripoli to congratulate us. Raghida was born at 10:30 at night on July 15, 1948.
The summer was very hot in Beirut. The leader wanted us to go to Bayt Qasis in the mountains. The house he chose there was secluded and good for the family. We went there when Raghida was seven days old. Same thing happened here. Politicians would visit my husband and discuss politics with him, while newspapers allied with Riad al Sulh continued their smear campaign against Saadeh and the party. Abdallah al Mashnuq and Muhyi al Din al Nasuli would write bad things about my husband in "Beirut al Massa’" [The Beirut Evening]. Kul Shay’ would write against those writers, who tried to show the leader as somebody who does not believe and is against in Arabism and the seventy million Arabs it represents, since he would not say that “Palestine was lost to the Arabs,” as the leader announced in one of his lectures where he said that the Palestine tragedy is coming and we are not ready….The leader’s articles about those very important issues brought many non SSNP members closer to him. One such person was Muhamad al Baalbaki who visited Saadeh several times.
I want to emphasize that what the leader tried to say in his famous Palestine speech was that he foresaw the tragedy before it happened and wrote and spoke about it. Palestine was his motivation and he was sad that the Arab political circles did not take his words to wakeup and see the reality. . Saadeh started writing about Palestine when he was still a mere seventeen years old lad. He talked about Jewish ambitions regarding the land and the ignorance of Syrian leaders regarding this. It was a year after this episode that what Arabs thought to have accomplished in their dreams became a solid tragedy when the League of Nations announced the division of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. That day Saadeh would not talk to anybody. He was in a very deep sadness…This is how he accepted the sad news of that October day in 1948…
I also remember the first coup d’etat that Husni al Zai'm did against Shukri al Quatli in Damascus. The damascene newspapers published al Zai’m’s pictures and explained why he rebelled. Al Zai’m even published his principles in the newspapers. These were exact replicas of SSNP principles. The coup d’etat was not an important one even though it changed the government in Syria. However, I know that after the change in government the Syrians were not looking so friendly toward the Lebanese any more.
It was at this historical junction that the leader started ordering his colleagues to work more for the party and the cause. The leadership was not aware of what Saadeh was telling them. It did not feel the responsibility that Saadeh wanted them to carry. I remember that at the time Saadeh said nothing about the coup d’etat in Damascus so that he and the party would stay away from any turmoil. However, when the party’s Ladies Auxiliary organized a celebration at the home of comrades Raja and Hiyam Nasrrallah at Hadas, where many prominent people talked. Qubersi asked Saadeh to also evaluate the event. His words were clear. He called the new regime that of the Mamluks [a poor choice at the time, yet one that needed courage to announce]. He was angry at the Abdallah’s for organizing the event and putting him at that situation before he asked his opinion regarding the event. I was sitting beside him and heard him murmur that “this is irresponsibility at its zenith…”
Days passed as if we were on the mouth of a volcano. The party felt that there was a conspiracy against it and the life of its leader, who openly stated that the government was against the party. The government was trying to sabotage all of the party’s activities be those lectures, dinners at SSNP members’ homes. It would cancel events at the last moment by sending in gendarmes to clear crowds. This is what happened at the event taking place at the home of comrade Janin Baltaji. The evening started normal with recitations, poems, and singing, when a group of internal security forces came in. the officer in charge declared the event over. The leader had already informed party security members to surround the internal forces and not let them out... The officer saw what the situation was and started pleading with the leader to do as the government had ordered. However, Saadeh took to the podium and delivered his talk where he said that the event is going to continue and that the SSNP condemns the government’s one sided actions that were against logic. Those present were encouraged by what the leader said and started to shout hurrahs in the presence of the internal forces whose demeanor had changed and they sat with the guests to eat from the food and sweets that were prepared for the event.
I also remember that the leader’s birthday celebration was decided to be celebrated on March one, 1949, at the Normandie Hotel. It was made known that many political and civic personalities were going to attend it. The SSNP had already secured a written permission for the event. Invitations were sent and all preparations were done... On March one, and just before the party was to start, the government ordered the party to be canceled. Once again internal security forces were sent to the hotel to enforce the government’s decision. SSNP members were there to inform the guests that the party was transferred to another local, the house of comrade Iskandar Shawi in al Ashrafiyye area of Beirut. The party took place at the new location. I think Sami al Sulh was there too. One of our friends captured the event on an 8mm film. This friend was an Armenian that went with the last name of Hagopian. He was from America and was teaching at the American University of Beirut [AUB]. He had met the leader once. He and his wife started visiting us. They would also attend all our events.
I remember when Prof. Hagopian and his wife came to visit me when I was a prisoner at the Sednaya Monastery [near Damascus]. I was in a very sad mood. As soon as I saw them I started to cry. So did Mrs. Hagopian while she hugged me. The Hagopians used to talk only in English. They were from The United States and were sent so that the husband would teach at AUB. Their mother tongue was Armenian. Therefore, I accepted them at the Patriarch’s [Alexander Tahhan at the time] office in the presence of the head of the monastery, Sister Maria Hassunah. It was she, Sister Hassunah, that wanted me to accept my guests at the Patriarch’s office an in his presence. We sat there talking in English. Sister Hassunah, who was there to observe me all the time, wanted us to talk in Arabic. I told her that these people are from the United States and they speak English and Armenian only. I was mad at the way things were going, especially when Mrs. Hagopian told me that when they arrived and asked to see me the sister took their passports and wrote their names on a paper. I told the Patriarch and the sister that I would not receive any guests under such circumstances of spying on all my moves. The result was that they started to spy on me even in my personal room…
When we went to the mountains after Raghida was born the leader was preoccupied with building his new house. I know that there was some misunderstanding between comrades Edgar Abboud and William Saba regarding the architecture of the building. This misunderstanding evolved to such an extent that neither would come to see the progress of the building while the other was present. Raghida was only days old at the time. The maid I had was only eighteen years old and was not an expert. The furniture was not suitable. I had to constantly be at our Bayt Qassis home. Therefore, I knew nothing about the issues between the architects. George Abd al Masih had to bring in the building materials since he owned a truck for such purposes. He also was not accurate in his promises. The building took much longer than what was expected. Abd al Masih was the one who continued overseeing the building after the leader was martyred. At the time I was not allowed to return to Lebanon [hence my exile at Sednaya Monastery]. And al Masih finally did a good job. He had the house ready before I could return to Lebanon after the fall of President Bishara al Khuri.
* * * * *
When troubled about events and politics Saadeh used to put writing aside and would take his dog, Nick, to a walk. He would usually head toward the sea. He liked to stroll alone, while the guards followed him at a distance. Sometimes he would ask me to accompany him. I would whenever I had the time, especially when the kids were asleep. Otherwise, I would encourage him to go alone, since our third daughter, Raghida, was still too young and needed my constant attention. Upon his return Saadeh would go to the kids and would ask me to sit with him at his office. I would read while he wrote. We would assume total silence while he was writing. He would look at me from time to time and our eyes would meet. He would have a smile on his face. I always wanted to create the best atmosphere for him to write. He would write until midnight. Sometimes, if he was not finished yet, he would tell me to go sleep while he continued with his writing. I would go to our chamber but would not go to sleep until he joined me and I was sure that he was sleeping.
Those times that we spent in silence were the ones when we would really explore and understand each other. How many times would he come home at three o’clock in the morning and would find me waiting for him. . He was really comfortable at home, because he knew that he was away from the conspiracies that were being woven around him. I would sometimes sleep with the kids so that he would have full comfort in the bedroom. He would never go directly to sleep before he came to our room and kissed us each. If I was awake the first thing he would ask was why I waited for him for so long. If I felt that he wanted to speak about the events of the day we would go to the office and he would empty his heart in front of me…
After March 1, 1949, signs of tiredness were apparent on his face. He would isolate himself in the office and would write and write. He was working on the second volume of his book, “Nushu’ al Umam,” [The Formation of Nations]. He had already finished the research and had lots of notes on index cards. He was also anxious to write his memoirs. He told me that he wanted to relegate responsibilities to other party leaders and be done with it, since most of them were not up to his expectations or at the level of their responsibilities... Therefore, he presumed, it would be better for the party if he quit administrative work and dedicated himself to writing his memoirs and expanding on the part ideology. It was as if he was feeling the danger that awaited him. He wanted to leave behind as much ideological knowledge as he could….
All this writing and researching made him sick with a hard bout of influenza. He also developed sinus infection after spending some time during an event on the roof of one comrade’s home. He had to be in bed. It was a long sickness.
The newspapers continued their smear campaign on the party and the leader. Saadeh continued to rebuff those writers from his bed. Muhammad Yussif Hammud and Muhammad al Baalbaki would visit him and critique his articles before they were published. Saadeh would also read these articles to me before sending them for publication. I knew what his pain was and would be concerned regarding the retaliations to his articles.
I had known the leader in many situations. However, at this juncture, when the smear campaign against him and the party was at its zenith, he had to be at the forefront in writing and answering the blasphemers regarding the issue of Arab nationalism. Saadeh was right in his predictions regarding Palestine. He had foreseen that a year before when he wrote his article about the tragedy in Palestine. This event had its profound effect on the leader, since he saw what the Zionists were planning and nobody was ready to accept what he told them about that at the time.
After he took care of Naameh Tabit, Elias Ma’mun and Fayiz Sayigh, there were still comrades in the party who were uncertain if Sayigh’s ideas were against the principles of the SSNP... Some questioned the issue of why there would be no tolerance inside the party to new ideas. Those people even met with Saadeh to express and discuss their ideas. It was as if Fayiz Sayigh was there again and discussing his ideas…
We were invited to a luncheon at the home of a high ranking party member, Asad al Ashqar. Al Ashqar gave a speech and those present understood that he wanted to distance himself from all ideas related to Fayiz Sayigh. He wanted to make sure that Saadeh knew that he was not tainted with the ideas of those expelled from the party.
At the end of April the leader addressed the central bodies of the party and put them at their responsibilities, since many questions had arisen regarding their activity levels within the workings of the party. They were supposed to take over lots of responsibilities and they were shying away from them. The leader wanted them to know that this was not a game. The leader was aware of the impotence of these central body members and had started training some university students and new graduates to take over. He had established a portfolio for each of them and was training them in that aspect. I would see many of those young people at the office working on projects that the leader wanted them to finish. I remember Hisham Sharabi and George Atiyyeh from amongst this group.
Saadeh’s main concern was the establishing of a printed mouthpiece for the party. He would tell me that a party organ would do a great deal for the organization and would be a crucial instrument in silencing the party’s enemies. He would say that a party newspaper would make our voice reach to all people in all corners of the Arab world. We would thus be able to awaken the regular citizen from the torpor he is in.
The party organ, “al Jabal al Jadid,” [The New Mountain] was printed at Faddul’s printing house in al Jimmayzeh. The leader’s articles were the most important piece that people would read. Even journalists and the intelligentsia waited for them. Some would tell how exited they were with Saadeh’s articles, while others, mainly enemies, waited for them in order to prepare smearing replies to fill their papers’ pages.
Saadeh used to oversee all activities at the newspaper offices. He would write the editorials and see what went on each and every page. . He would do this until evening. Then he would come home for dinner. This was his “quality time,” even if the food we ate was not of quality. We would eat potatoes, tomatoes, labni, cheese, and sometimes, if we were lucky, some ham and soup. His quality time was what he spent with his wife and kids.
Raghida was almost six months old at the time. She was attached tremendously to her father. She would not go to sleep until he came to her. She would know if her father was at home, even if he was away from her. If Saadeh opened her room door even marginally she would call him and hug him. From Raghida he would go to the other daughters and play with them as well. Elisar would talk to him about what she did at school. When he asked her “do you like your school,” Elisar would say “yes. I like it. I want to play by myself, because the rest of the kids are dirty and they play with dirt.” She used to attend the Lebanese Ladies Kindergarten.
Safiyya was in the second grade that year and was about six years old. She was very intelligent and had a photographic memory. She memorized stories and even long poems in Classical Arabic. She would act above her real age. She went to stroll with her father and would not bother him if he was busy. She liked to sit down with him in the guest room to have tea.
We would go on a trip by the see. Saadeh had found this small, isolated Swiss tea house at the beach where they played classical music. He promised to take me there. We got used to the place. It gave us some quality time away from the hodge-podge of politics and intrigues.
I remember today and say to myself why is it that we did not take more trips like this to change ourselves a bit. We liked nature and we wanted to be free as the birds. We knew that the leader was not for his family. He had a mission and we were to help him in his work.
It was June 9, 1949. The government had already decided to “take care” of the leader. It worked with several Kata’ib members who worked within the security forces. It so happened that the Kata’ib were having a celebration at a café in al Jimmayzeh near the restaurant that Saadeh used to frequent everyday during his work at the party newspaper. Some Kata’ib members fired on the printing house. Saadeh was quickly taken out and put in a car that sped to another area while the firing continued. It was said that they even fired at the car transporting the leader, which continued its way. Saadeh came home at around nine at night. We were still in our apartment at the Shuqayr building. I was waiting for somebody to say something. No one talked until Saadeh himself told me what happened when we were alone for a moment. The movement of the comrades in the office was not normal. More and more comrades started to arrive. Phone calls were made to officials. The leader was asking some friends about what the situation was at the printing house. A phone call came and we were informed that the printing place was engulfed in fire. He told me to gather things while he started to gather his papers and other stuff from the office. At one o’clock in the morning we got a phone call from a “friend,” who did not want to give his name saying that the government had given order for his detention and that internal security forces were on their way to his house.
Saadeh told those around him of the news. He said that his personal papers were in a small suitcase. He came to my room and hugged my. He told the comrades to take all the guns that were in the house to some place else. Nobody wanted to do that. They wanted to keep the guns in case of a skirmish with the security forces. Saadeh said that it is better to transport the guns and not to lose them.
This was the farewell that I was not used to. It was a farewell after all the work we had done. A farewell overtly fabricated by the government. The leader had a lot of problems within the party. More problems arose with politicians who were extremely sectarian. Saadeh had to endure all these problems alone, especially during the months after the June incident of 1949. I was afraid when he was away from home and from what people were saying behind my back making an effort so that I could hear them. I used to see the leader as a tired person. He was tired that his comrades were not up to par with his activities. He was tired that they were not doing their utmost for the cause and for the ideology upon which they had swore. These were the things that troubled me a lot during the last days…
The leader left home a little after one o’clock in the morning. We put the guns inside blankets and bedding sheets and comrades took them away through a back door in the garden so that they won’t be confiscated by security forces. As soon as the last of the guns were taken I heard the heavy boots of the security forces outside. There were about sixty SSNP members including some high ranking cadres in the house. I remember Jubran Jrayj. The security forces entered the house and took over. There were many of them. The first thing they asked was what were all of us doing there? The answer was that we were all SSNP members and had come to know what happened to the leader after the incident at the printing house. The officer said that he had orders to take all of us for interrogation. “You are all under arrest,” he said. “Please follow me to the center.” Jubran told him that nobody would go until we know what the charges are against us. The officer answered that that is what we will know when we go to the center. “However—he added—if you do not obey me there is going to be a fight and I would not be responsible for the consequences.” We answered that we will not go under orders and that we had to confer between us. Jubran and some other leaders talked and came to the conclusion that a fight would not be conducive, especially with so many armed security forces around. It was decided that we will go of our own right and let us see what this is all about.
Scores of SSNP members were led to the military jeeps to take them to prison. That the security forces had brought so many military cars was an indication that they knew that many party members were at the leader’s home. The last to be taken were the guards. I, my three sleeping daughters and the maid remained at home. When the guards were informed that they had to surrender they gave their two pistols to me. I quickly hid them on myself.
After taking the party members and depositing them in the prisons the security forces returned and started a thorough inspection at our home. I told them that there are only women and children in the house and how dare they do what they were doing. I also asked them why the area's Mukhtar [Prefect] isn't with them as is customary in these situations. I was told by the officer in charge, Muhammad Jawad, that the prefect was not at his home and that they need nothing but Antoine Saadeh because he is wanted. I told them he is not at home and that I do not know where he is. Regardless they started searching the house and went from one room to another in groups. I asked them that I should be present wherever they were searching. I told them that they can plant something inside and I would not know about it. Nobody cared about what I said…
It was obvious that they were looking for a person rather than the things they turned upside down. They opened closets and turned over beds. They did this more than once and at different times. When they found nothing they went to the balcony and sat on the chairs until morning. After that the officer, Muhammad Jawad, went into the leader’s office and started looking into his papers and files. I shouted at his face: “You told me that you were looking for the leader. So what are you doing now with the papers? I won’t let you to go through his papers.” I said this thinking that I am speaking to law enforcement people who understood the law. They just left everything as is and went outside. Some surrounded the house while others remained on the staircase.
I went into the office to look at what they have done. I noticed that some things were missing like some typographic letters used in printing that we had brought with us from Buenos Aires. The leader had arranged for renting a linotype machine to use with this letters to write his articles and make them ready for printing. The security forces had also taken a recording machine that the leader’s friend in Brazil had given it to him as a present. In the morning I heard one security forces member telling his friend: “Look at this beautiful chandelier. I am going to take it home with me.”
Not only the leader’s house but the houses of many SSNP members in Beirut and the mountains underwent the same searches. It was ironic that even though the SSNP printing house was burned and our members were only defending themselves during the Jimmayzeh incident, the whole wrath of the security apparatus was on us rather than on the side that started the shooting. It seemed that it was an orchestrated effort that had been planned in advance. Some female comrades would come to visit me and inform me that the situation was the same and that the security forces were still hunting down SSNP members and arresting them. They also informed me that the government had ordered security forces to fire on my husband whenever he was seen on the pretext that he did not follow orders to surrender. Every move the government made was an indication that their primary target was to get rid of Saadeh.
The leader had gone into hiding. Very few of his closest associates new where he was hiding. I used to contact him through a comrade named Joseph Haddad from Ain Anub. He was the most trusted of the leader’s own bodyguards. . Haddad would then himself get in touch with another comrade—I think it was central board member Elias Jirji—so that my message would reach my husband.
I heard about Saadeh three days after the Jimmayzeh incident. I learned through the means I explained earlier that he was moving from house to house always wary of the security forces… I was alone in the house with my daughters and the maid. Officer Jawad would pay us visits almost every night and would do some unlawful searching, even though he knew that that was against the law. He would come without the prefect as was customary. We hadn’t had a sense of sleep since June 9, 1949. One day I woke up on a strong noise only to see that they took off a door from its place. We had no sleep and even food tasted bad…
When I heard the noise I jumped and opened my door only to see that a pistol was directed at my head. I recognized that it was officer Jawad. I told him what he wanted and he replied that he wants to search the house again. I yelled that the kids were sleep and they had done the searching a zillion times. This was the last time I saw officer Jawad.
Frankly, I was happy that they were coming to search. I was sure that as long as they were searching, the leader was alive and well. I wished that he would leave the country to a far away and unknown place…
Riad al Sulh wanted to find the leader. He had many people work on this project. We had a mole. She was named Edil Sariy al Din and was a new SSNP recruit. She was tasked by al Sulh for finding the leader. She tried to wow Fayiza Antiba and told her that that Majid Arslan had contacted her and told her that he was trying to lift the arrest warrant for Saadeh and that he needed to know where he was. After inquiring from her on why she is doing this she told me about Edil and her plan. I told her that I have to ask people to know about Saadeh’s whereabouts since I don’t know at the moment where he is. She went to her home where Edil was apparently waiting for her. When Edil came out from Fayiza’s house empty handed Security forces went in and arrested her [Fayiza] and took her to prison. She remained there for about three months. Her brother, Rushdi, tried to have her released but to no avail.
I wrote to Saadeh that same day about what Edil was doing. I also wrote that Fayiza was arrested. I also told him that Khalil Bishara al Khuri wanted to meet him and that he had asked this to an SSNP member who came and told me about it.
My neighbor Mrs. Tabbara came out to be a real friend during those tiring times. I told her that I might be arrested too. I instructed her to take care of my daughters and especially Raghida who was ten months old. I told her that in case I was arrested I had prepared a suitcase for the kids and that she had to take them to her house. She accepted without any hesitation.
* * * * *
Yusra Hakim and her brother Ahmad used to visit me. Yusra would tell me that she is ready to work for us and she would also put me in the general political atmosphere. Her brother, who was younger than her, was also enthusiastic, but he has not on the same level as Yusra. That was why I used to avoid him. I just listened to his news, which were not that accurate. He would even tell me that he wanted to get involved in some activities, which I did not condone. Yusra used to be more accurate than some comrades that I used to get news from.
The female comrades that visited me would take my letters to other comrades or to a group of them that had to meet at some place unknown to me. I used to get some instructions from Saadeh, which I used to complete very carefully.
This went on for some time. I used to meet comrades away from home and in different places. Only comrade Joseph Haddad was instructed by the leader to see me. He would visit me and ask for some documents or other stuff that the leader needed. He had to climb some walls so that he would not be seen by security forces who were watching our house. I used to wait for his visits so that I would now of the latest news about my husband. At least I would know that the leader was safe, since he would ask about things only my husband knew about. None of the female comrades knew about Joseph’s visits. This continued until my husband relocated to the mountains. I did not know what part of the mountains he had relocated to. All I knew afterwards was that he was able to meet George Abd al Masih and things were arranged for him. It might be that his decision to go to Damascus was one of these arrangements. I could not confirm this when I met my husband in Damascus for a few hours one day shy of the [Husni al Za'im’s] revolution on July 2, 1949. The house where I met my husband was a busy place with activities regarding the military coup that was about to take place. Therefore, I had no time to understand from Saadeh what the motives were behind the Jimmayzeh incident.
I knew from Joseph that the leader had traveled to Damascus. Then comrade Fu’ad Zahlan came to tell me that Saadeh was in Damascus and that he was all right. Some days later Widad Shawwaf and her brother Qasim came to visit me. She told me that I have to travel to al Ladiqiyya [in Syria] to see the leader. I refused since they had no written request from my husband regarding my traveling. At the time I knew nobody from the Shawwaf family in order to be sure about Widad and her brother. They left and came the second day with a small note from my husband asking me to take the children and meet him in al Ladiqiyya after some time. I took the children and the maid, as well as some clothes. I put the beddings and kitchen utensils in neighbor’s houses. I deposited the books that belonged to a Palestinian family—the Sabbagh family most probably—with the landlord, Mrs. Shuqayr.
In order to pass the borders without making it known to the authorities that I was traveling I took Yusra’s identity card and covered my face with a thick black silk scarf so that nobody could see my face. I came out from the house of Doctor Mustafa al Khalidi since my house was being watched constantly. Widad’s uncle’s wife and her mother, as well as Qasim were with us in the same car. We took the seashore route all the way to al Ladiqiyya. We went down as guests at the Shawwaf family house. I do not remember how long we stayed there until we were arrested. Anyway, I do not think it was more than three or four days. We met SSNP leader Elias Jirji who was passing through al Ladiqiyya on his way for a mission whose particulars were unknown to me. He told me that the leader is in Damascus and that he is in good health. I did not tell him that I was supposed to meet my husband in al Ladiqiyya. I did so thinking that the leader perhaps did not want anyone to know about that. Besides, Elias did not mention anything about Saadeh’s visit to al Ladiqiyya.
That night, July 1, 1949, I heard people pounding the front door at three in the morning. When Mrs. Maryam Shawwaf, Um Fu’ad [Mother of Fu’ad], opened the door Security forces entered the house and came to the door of the room where I was staying. They said they wanted to enter and search the room. I put my rob on and opened the door. My daughters were sleep with the maid in the same room... They came in and searched the travel trunks and even my handbag. They also searched SSNP leader Fu’ad Shawwaf’s room, arrested him, and took him with them. At that moment I felt that the Damascus government was not on our side any more. The way they searched the house was a hint that they thought that Saadeh could have been there and that he was the real target. I noticed that one of the security force members was looking inside the big cabinets where a person could hide.
The security forces were not allowing anyone from either entering or leaving the premises. Only Qasim, Fu’ad’s brother was left in the house. At six o’clock in the morning the officer came in and told me that I have to go with them and that I had to prepare myself, the kids, and the maid too. A military pick-up was in front of the house. We were all put in it with our travel trunks. They did not want to tell me where we were going. Some hours later we were about to cross the Syrian/Lebanese border at the Dabbusiyye point. The officer turned to me and said that they were not going to give me up to the Lebanese authorities. He told me that he can take me back to Lebanon. I told him that he was tasked with a specific mission. If that mission is to give me up to the Lebanese authorities I am not afraid of that because I had done nothing wrong. If however, his mission was something else, why was he not telling me where we are going? He then told me that the [Syrian] government had instructed him to take me to Damascus. I said no. He said you will like it there…
We were in the car for about eight hours. They took the Tartus-Safita-Homs road. We stopped in Homs. I asked them that the kids are thirsty and hungry. They refused. I had some food and water with me and I gave these to the kids. We finally reached Damascus and were taken to Barada Hotel. Our room was on the fifth floor. We had two beds, while the maid was given a separate bed at the next room. I was still confused and could not understand what was happening to us. Why were we led to Damascus? Why were we in a hotel, room not of our choosing? Several hours later I saw that we were under the strict control of the security forces.
I made dinner for the kids and breastfed Raghida and went to bed without being able to close my eyes. The day’s events were confusing my mind. At ten o’clock I heard a knock at the door. I opened it and found a heavy bodied man waiting there. He told me that he is the police chief and that he had come to tell me that I was free and could come out and into the hotel anytime I wished. He added that all he can say was to thank me for my cooperation. I thanked him too.
Several hours later SSNP leader Najib Shuwayri came to visit me. He told me that he might come tomorrow to take me and the kids to see Saadeh. . He said that he will be there at five p.m. on Saturday, June2, 1949. He came the next day in his car and took us on a city tour in order to avoid any security forces following us. At eight in the evening we reached the Qubbani house.
When we were inside I told comrade Najib that the new made was only with us for a week before all these things started. I told him that I was unsure that she could be trusted, especially since we were going to meet Saadeh. I also told him that I had seen her talking to the security forces at the hotel and that I was suspicious of her. He said it is all right. We went into the living room where my husband was talking with some of the party members. There were other comrades in the dining room looking into a big map and some other documents while talking and discussing issues. Saadeh stood to hug us one by one. He took Raghida in his lap and kissed her while she was asleep. He said he wished she was awake so that he can play with her. . He than put Safiyya and Elisar on each knee and started playing with them. I noticed that he was very tired and that tiredness was showing on his face.
He left us and went to the dining table where comrades wanted his opinions regarding some issues. All of them look tired. It was obvious that we were living in dangerous moments. At ten Saadeh asked me to remain, while he instructed comrades to take the kids and the maid to the hotel. Najib went with the kids.
We went to his room and sat on his bed talking about all the things that happened since the Jimmayzeh event. I learned how he traveled to Damascus with a crooked identity card with some friends. He told me how Husni al Za’im welcomed him during the first meeting and gave him a pistol as a gift on their second meeting. He told me how he was enthusiastic to help the SSNP revolution in Lebanon and how he later backed from his previous stance. He told me how al Za’im said to him that he could not help with the revolution in Lebanon, since he has to strengthen himself and his revolution in Damascus and that the revolution in Lebanon is the SSNP’s business alone. Saadeh told me how he wrote to his comrades in Lebanon about al Za’im’s aloofness regarding the situation in Lebanon and that it maws better to postpone the revolution because Syria was not going to back it up. He told me how the comrades were furious at al Za’im’s treachery. He told me that after thinking a lot he decided to support the comrades since he could not leave them at this critical point and that he has to take the responsibility on his shoulders. Years later I remembered our talk when I was talking to George Abd al Masih in 1955. Abd al Masih told me that yes it was him who put Saadeh on the spot regarding the revolution in Lebanon. I asked Abd al Masih why he told Saadeh that he must keep on with the revolution in Lebanon when he [George] himself had said to me that the SSNP was not ready for the revolution. Abd al Masih shouted at me and said. There was no way back. We told we would have hundreds of people and not even seventeen showed up. He concluded by saying that what had happened had happened and that was it…
We talked until two o’clock in the morning. I asked him if he had a plan for his safety in case the revolution failed. He told me when was it that the leader thought about his own safety? He did not answer me when I insisted upon my question. He gave me a sum of 6,000 Syrian Liras [pounds] and told me that it came from a comrade living overseas for the house to be built in Duhur al Shuwayr. Outside I found comrades Isam al Mahayiri, Najib al Shuwayri, and Edil Saab sitting in the living room. I told them that they have to come up with a plan to have Saadeh out of Lebanon in case the revolution failed. They asked me if this is what Saadeh wanted. I told them that he never thinks that way, but, are we ready to loose him?
I reached my hotel room at three in the morning. I wanted to be beside my husband. I put the kids and the maid at the house of a comrade so that I can be near my husband. Next day was Sunday, July 3, 1949 Edil visited me at the hotel and I asked her to give me a room in her house. She said that she was sorry and could not offer me a room since she had other renters in the house.
I asked the same thing from comrade Najib. I wanted to be away from the eyes of the security forces and be able to see my husband more. He promised that he will look into the issue and went.
Next day Maaruf Saab visited me. We talked about what would happen if the revolution failed and on how could we keep Saadeh safe? This conversation too ended without a tangible result.
On Tuesday the news of the revolution’s failure were in all the newspapers. I was angry that nobody listened to me when I brought about the very important subject of this failure. When SSNP leader Ajjaj al Mukhtar came to visit me I shouted at him in a voice filled with pain and agony. ‘Take me to my husband. I want to be with him,” I told him. “Put me in any place but take me away from this hotel room,” I shouted and continued: “Just let me live in a room and know who their owners are.” Only one answer kept coming to me; “Please be patient Mrs. Saadeh. Give us a couple of days and we will find you a house.” This is what comrade Najib Shuwayri told me too. I felt that none of them understood my true feelings and the disturbance that engulfed me.
As soon as it was Wednesday I decided to do something against my conscience. I did this because at the time I believed that those who were telling me that they could not take me to the leader were seeing him every day but were not allowed to comply with my request of seeing my husband. I also believed that nobody was aware of the level of my disturbance. It was eleven o’clock in the morning when Maaruf Saab and Bashir Musally visited me. Maaruf told me that Saadeh was going to meet Syria’s new president, Husni al Za’im at ten o’clock that night at the Presidential Palace. This news came like a lightning on my head. I was thinking for a long time how high a price we had paid for allying ourselves with this stance-shifting person. As soon as I heard Maaruf talking about the meeting I shouted: “What kind of understanding can we have with this person who betrayed us more than once? How can we put our faith in him? I only see him as a person who shifts sides as it suites him. So how can we trust him after this revolution?” I pleaded to comrade Bashir: “I can not stay here for a minute. I want to go where Saadeh is. I want to talk to him. I want to tell him that I am very disturbed regarding his meeting with this Husni al Za’im guy. What is the matter with you? You come and you go and you see my husband, while I, his wife, can not see him even for a moment.”
Maaruf told me that they had no time and that the leader was now in a far place which only he knew. I told him: “do you have time if I throw myself from the balcony. Would not you be required to arrange for my funeral? Is not this a more consuming job than taking me to see Saadeh for ten minutes? I am getting mad at the way you are treating me. Maaruf told me that he can not take me and that he had no place for me. However, he said that comrade Bashir will take me to his home. He also mentioned before he left that he expects a lot of good from this meeting with al Za’im. I told him that I do not expect any good from the meeting. “How,” I concluded would this meeting generate any good when all the meetings before the defunct revolution were bad?”
I took my daughters and my maid and went to comrade Bashir’s home. We decided to leave our suitcases at the hotel so that the guards would not notice that we were leaving for good. We also asked comrade George Baladi who worked at the Ministry of Commerce near Barada Hotel to pay the hotel bill and bring the suitcases in the afternoon to comrade Bashir’s home.
Comrade Bashir’s sister, comrade Usayma, and their relative Amal were at home when we arrived. So where Bashir’s brothers, Munzir, Ziyad, and Walid. I was very happy to see all of them. The next day, Thursday, July 7, however, Security forces stormed the house just after we had our lunch. They ordered me to be transported to St Sednaya Monastery, which was a short distance outside Damascus. When they showed up I knew that something was very wrong. I thought that they might have apprehended Saadeh or even handed him over to the Lebanese government. I also was very disturbed since Maaruf Saab did not show up to tell me how the meeting went. So I asked the security forces why they were taking me to Sednaya. They told me that it was for my and my daughters’ protection. I said that I was capable to take care of myself and my daughters and that they should not bother. They answered back that these were their orders and that they had to comply with them. Comrade George Baladi was with them. Actually he had brought them since he knew the owner of Barada Hotel and the security forces had asked him to take them to where I was staying. I asked George to ask Adib Chichakly about me being taken to Sednaya. George went and came back to tell me that Adib had told him that it was better for me to go with the security forces. I gave him the sum that Saadeh had given to me and that was earmarked for the building of the home in Duhur al Shuwayr. I told him to give him back to my husband. I also told him to tell Saadeh not to remain in the country and to go as far away as possible. I also instructed him to tell my husband that he should not bother about me. However, events had taken a negative direction. The conspiracy of killing Saadeh had already been arranged and I was still away from him.
We went to Sednaya. The Monastery’s Head Sister put us in a room with only one old bed. We stayed there for two days. We asked for some mattresses and were given some so that the children could have a better place to sleep. I saw that there was a policemen on guard outside the door at all times. I understood that we were under unofficial house arrest. We asked to transfer to another room with at least two beds. We transferred to our new room and we stayed there until we left Sednaya months later.
* * * * *
ABDALLAH AL QUBERSI REMINISCES
MARCH 1, 1949, OR THE LAST FAREWELL SPEECH
At the end of February 1949 my wife and children were the guests of Saadeh’s wife, the First Lady of the party. I was still working one night at my office at the Maarad Street. The phone rang at 9 o’clock. It was Saadeh speaking.
He told me that the celebration for March 1 is next Sunday at the Normandy Hotel and that some governmental figures and journalists had been invited. He also told me that it was decided that the head of the radio station—whose name I don’t recall now-- was to introduce him. “Is this possible when you are around,” he told me. I told him that the decision was that of the party’s central committee. “That might be their decision, but mine is that you will introduce me. I am waiting for you. Your wife and kids are here. We are waiting…”
I was happy that Saadeh’s faith in me had not dwindled even though I was not completing my assignments in the party because I was preoccupied by my work. I got a taxi and rushed to his house. Saadeh’s middle daughter, Elisar, was very upset that evening. She didn’t give her father time to talk to me. I don’t want that, I don’t want that she was repeating. He carried her with gentleness and started playing with her in her bedroom until she was calmed down. He then told me a bout his decision that I should introduce him and told me that he was going to inform the president of the central committee about that.
It is really strange how the Lebanese government persecuted the leader and the party. It is true that the Lebanese always gather the heavy price of their mistakes. When it ordered the closure of our “al Nahda” newspaper we replaced it with the al Jewel al Jadid.”…And now it ordered to prevent the March 1 celebration at the Normandy Hotel. When the National Security inspectors informed me of this decision they told me: “You can celebrate at the house but not at the hotel. You are forbidden to go out demonstrating on the street.”
It seems that after this order it was decided to have the march 1 celebration for SSNP members at the home of comrade Hani Baltaji in Ras Beirut, near the Hbeysh police precinct. A big crowd gathered in the halls and the garden of the house. While the leader was delivering his speech standing on a chair with comrades Jubran Jrayj and some of the knights of the party voices were heard from outside. Somebody told the leader that the police of the precinct wanted to come in and that they will use force if their request is not met. Saadeh ordered them to come in and asked the party members to be hospitable to them. The sergeant and three policemen came in while the others waited outside. Saadeh continued his speech in a very calm manner. The speech was considered as mental preparation for the revolution.
What I remember of the event is that I was with the First Lady in the Eastern Hall. As soon as the police tried to enter and I tried to stop them she turned to me and said: “I want to fight with my husband.”
The big celebration of March 1 to which government representatives, lawyers, doctors, journalists, and other important people were invited and that was supposed to take place at Normandy Hotel was transferred to the house of comrades Iskandar and Fu’ad Shawi in al Ashrafiyye district of Beirut. It was decided that I introduce Saadeh and one of his first aids, Dr. Hisham Sharabi give the welcoming remarks.
We left some comrades at the Normandy Hotel so that they can transfer those who didn’t know of the transfer to al Ashrafiyye. I remember that Prime Minister Sami al Sulh arrived at the hotel and some comrades brought him to al Ashrafiyye. I also remember that Jean Tayyan, the leader of the lawyers’ syndicate, was amongst those present.
My speech was very poetic. I started it by how I perceived the victory of the awakening, which was being celebrated in the presence of a big crowd, while Saadeh was mounting a horse and was accompanied by horse riding army knights while entering the celebration square.
The speech he gave that night was his farewell speech. It was the speech of March 1, 1949, after which we don’t remember Saadeh delivering another speech. I want to reproduce this speech in its entirety, because what he said in it was a revolution in itself:
“The pot of awakening is boiling,” said Saadeh at comrade Baltaji’s home. That pot was boiling indeed, because the waiting in Saadeh’s and his SSNP members’ chests had reache3d its peak… It had peaked as it had before during the reign of President Bishara al Khuri’s and Riyad al Sulh’s times. It was peaked because of accumulated layers of corruption and persecution against the party and the whole Lebanese people (the best example in demonstrating the situation would be the may 25, 1947 elections).
This all proved without any doubt that there was the sincere urgency of a revolution against the rulers who persecuted the party and the people.
The question that asserts itself is why all this talk about the revolution that was in the process of happening. Wasn’t the party itself a statement of refusal to the status-quo in Lebanon, the Fertile Crescent, and the Arab world at the time? Wasn’t the party’s ideology and rules evidence enough that the reason for the revolution was to change the existing ruling elites and their educational, economical, and social, military, police, and secret infrastructures and to bring forth a new structure to replace what already was decaying with its sectarian, feudal, chaotic, tribal ailments that were degrading for the people and society at the same time?
Could bringing forth such new government structures happen by mere speeches, political agitation and hurrahs? Or it could only be achieved with iron and fire when the hour of reality bangs. Wouldn’t this happen when the party was at the zenith of its power with its cadre and popularity strong?
Then of course, isn’t there in Saadeh’s speech at Bshamun, from the balcony of comrade Adil Mas’ud in 1948, indications that the man had become a living martyr when he shouted: “Life is but only a proud stance. My life is worth only that to me.”
Also, what were the indications in our Arab world, or the whole world for that mater, that informed us that the destiny of our land and people with the Sykes-Picot Agreement of World War I had stopped with the French army leaving our country?
Wasn’t the calamity of Hagana’s and Aragon’s bands’ stealing the big part of Palestine enough to shake our people in the whole Arab world, which was boiling with the demand of ridding itself from the leaders who caused that calamity to happen?
Saadeh was cautioning even before his party was formed, about the loss of Palestine.
The declaration of the formation of Israel on May 15, 1948 was enough to move all revolutionary forces to fight against the complacent existing regimes and to replace them with progressive regimes that know their responsibilities and how to react to devious programs of partitioning the Arab people and immerse it in new catastrophes.
And more importantly, wasn’t Husni al Za’im’s successful coup d’etat and his program of separation of religion and state and his call to the youth to take responsibility, a strong indication for Saadeh to make his revolution happen in Lebanon, which would—in the case it succeeded—make it a beacon to its surrounding environment…
JUNE 9, 1949 AND ITS AFTERMATH
Saadeh asked me to visit my friend, former judge Nazim Raad, who had been appointed as head of the Lebanese police force. This meeting was to take place on June 9, 1949. My task was to inform Raad to the party meeting that the Kata’ib party had announced for that day at a café near their headquarters in Jimmayzeh. I went to see Raad a day earlier. He met me and I told him about the danger of a clash between SSNP and Kata’ib members because of the big crowd that would gather at the café.
This danger was eminent especially since Riyad al Sulh was successful in finding a modus-vivandi between the Kata’ib and the Najjadah parties, who were now united against the SSNP whose newspaper, al Jeel al Jadeed, was printed in Jimmayzeh, at the printing house of comrade Michelle Faddul. It so happened, that Faddul’s printing house was directly opposite the café where the enlarged Kata’ib meeting was to take place. Raad promised me to take the necessary measures in case anything happened on the condition that SSNP members would not be the ones to start any skirmish. I went to Saadeh and told him what had transpired during my meeting with Raad.
The strange thing was that I was content with what Mr. Nazim Raad told me, since I new him as a friend and a very clean judge, who had been on the bench during our trial in December 1936, which resulted in a very just decision being rendered. So next day I went about my work. I didn’t know what happened during that cursed day until comrade Fawzi al Maaluf—former President of A.U.B.’s Alumni Association and the son of a well respected family in whose ancestral home the SSNP was formed-- knocked on my door at 10 p.m. asking me to go directly to Saadeh’s house. I was worried of such an order at this late time in the night. Nevertheless, we went to the leader’s house only to see that it was full with party members with lots of weapons around. Saadeh was in his office angry, nervous, with lines showing on his forehead. The revolution was coming out of his eyes before his mouth. I sat down with the other Central Committee leaders. It was from their reports that I finally understood what had transpired that day.
Apparently Saadeh was at his office at the newspaper when he saw a bunch of Kata’ib members on the street. He decided to leave so that his presence would not be construed as a provocation for a skirmish. He went down with his driver, Ali Awad to take his car. As soon as the driver opened the car door and Saadeh got in the crowd became agitated at his presence and started throwing stones at the car.
The driver, however, started the car and they were on their way, when the crowd passed the front door of the printing house and attacked by firing inside. Five of our comrades who worked at the newspapers were injured. They were taken to Otel Deaux Hospital under heavy police guard. Our comrades at the newspaper had no weapons to defend themselves. I remember that comrades Victor Asaad, Wadih al Ashqar, and Fu’ad al Shawi were among the injured comrades that day.
Comrade Jubran Jrayj was standing beside Saadeh. He was asked by us what he saw at the Kata’ib headquarters since Saadeh had sent him over for surveillance. He said that the headquarters was surrounded by Kata’ib members and police forces. He also said that he met Mr. Hamid Mu’awwad, who told him that the Kata’ib were preparing just in case the SSNP decided to attack the headquarters. The Kata’ib was not wrong in their estimation. Saadeh had called upon many fighters. I saw them and their weapons as well as bottles filled with fuel and wrapped around with nails. Jrayj wanted us to be very cautious in what future steps we take. Saadeh calmed down. He asked me, Jrayj and comrade Ibrahim Yammut to go to the Jimmayzeh police precinct and to get permission to talk with our wounded comrades at the hospital.
He also ordered Jrayj and Yammut to go to the party office on Maarad Street to bring something from there. It was 11:30 p.m. by now. We first went to the Maarad office, and then stopped at the Jimmayzeh precinct. The roads seemed almost deserted since people feared SSNP revenge…
At the precinct we were met by district attorney Asaad al Badawi. He was a professional and clean judge. He too was nervous. He asked me what I was doing there. I told him that I came to get permission to visit our wounded comrades since they might need help or something. Before answering me he was called over by police commissioner Isam Halwani who told him that it was better to send a police force to Ras Beirut. When the commissioner saw me he had already uttered his words. I quickly understood that that force intended for Ras Beirut was being sent against us…
I looked inside the room where the attorney general went and I saw Sheikh Pierre al Jmayyil, and Mr.’s Joseph Shader, Joseph Saadeh, and Jaques Shadid, all important Kata’ib cadres. They were sitting in complete science as waiting for something very important.
I went down to tell my comrades that it’s best for us to go quickly to Saadeh, since a police force was being sent over to where he was. When we approached the big tree near the leader’s house and to the south of al Khalidi Hospital we saw him and others with weapons. I asked the leader to leave the place at once to a safe place because I know that a police force was coming over to capture him. I explained to him what I saw at the precinct. We went to the front door of Dr. Fu’ad Ghusn’s house near the British Cultural Center. We were joined there with Edgar Abboud, Khalid Jumblat, Fu’ad al Shawi, Kamil Abu Kamil, and comrade Miss. Mu’azzaz Rawdah.
Saadeh ordered al Shawi to go to the Kata’ib headquarters in al Jimmayzeh to attack it. Of course this order remained an order and was never materialized.
Saadeh got into a car while I and the rest of the above mentioned comrades stood aside. I asked him: “Don’t forget to send us instructions on what to do.” He answered back: “My instructions will be as much as the information you send to me…” These were the last words of Saadeh that I heard. They were the last words of farewell.
The car raced away to the house of comrade Rawdah in al ‘Uzaii. When the police arrived at Saadeh’s house they couldn’t find him there. They apprehended everybody else in the house. The leader had ordered the rest of us to not sleep in our houses.
My wife and two kids, Dayaa’ and Hanan were visiting their uncle, Bishop Bulos al Khuri of Sayda and Sur, who resided at Jdeydet Marjaayun. It was almost 2:00 a.m. I asked myself where I can go to at this time. I went home with Duha, Sabah, and Atif. They slept while I thought about how we were all in the mouth of a giant volcano about to burst…
I left my kids at their uncle’s. I put Saadeh’s letters to me—about 20—as well as other party documents into a suitcase. I had prepared two options in my mind; I could stay with my mother’s uncle’s brother, the good man Jirjis Shiykhani (A.K.A. Petromin) who lived in the middle of Wadi-Abu-Jamil, or I could try to stay at my old friend George Sarkis’ (Kaftun) house. I went to the first house only to be met with cold faces even though I knew how much he loved me and my family. I knew that I was not welcomed. I later knew the reason of the coldness. Jirjis was a courageous, loving, and benevolent person. So was his wife. However, the apartment beside theirs’ was rented by a policeman. That was dangerous for me and them.
George Sarkis’s home is somewhat isolated on a street forking from al Makhul Street. I went there and I was sure that I was going to my own home. Our lovely brother, who was Saadeh’s bodyguard when the party was still underground, took me aside and whispered in my ear that he was being watched. He also told me that A.U.B., his work boss, has instructed employees to not have any relations with political parties whatsoever. I was sad. 40 years has passed since this event. George Sarkis is dead, yet he remains as one of the best friends I could remember. I understood the situation that my family and friends were put in on that day. I don’t keep any grudge regarding them.
I had to find a safe-house for me under any circumstances. I took my suitcase and went to the home of A.U.B.’s pharmacist, my friend Michelle Ref1ah. I stayed in a room used for mixing pharmaceuticals. Soon comrade Nasri Surur, Comrade George Abd al Masih, came to visit me. I asked him to put all my papers into a tin can and close it firmly before burying it in the garden of their home so that it won’t get any dampness from the ground. He did this with the help of his father. The sad thing was that Nasri was apprehended as an SSNP member partaking in the revolution. Out of fear his father unearthed the documents and burned them. All the letters that Saadeh had written to me were thus destroyed. I later found one letter from him to me amongst the leader’s papers and published it. It was a letter he wrote to me from Cyprus. In it he says: “If the British government hands me over to the French It would be as if you, Abdallah, were the one who did it.” The letter is published in his three volume letters collection.
I had to find a place. I had an Idea. I went to the house of Francis Saleh, the fiancé of my wife’s sister, comrade Miss. Leyla Barbir. He lived with his mother and a relative on Madam Currie Street, opposite the White house that remains until today. This house was destroyed several months ago.
Francis Saleh-- whose name is going to be mentioned a lot in this memoirs—was a very calm nationalist. He was generous, secretive and artistic. He and his mother welcomed me to their home. He gave me a room that resembled a prison cell since I was unable to go out and come in to it during the day. I had to do this since his relative who lived there operated a tailoring atelier tailor with lots workers and customers visiting her during the day.
My wife knew where I was hiding when she returned from Marjaayun that day. She was nervous and afraid…
It had been 6 years since our release from the Miyeh-u-Miyeh Prison. We had forgotten the prison, its dirtiness, and its torture… Once again prison came to me in the form of my room with its closed curtains and windows. I could not see the sun all day long.
Francis’ mother and her relative would bring me my daily food and drink early in the morning before the workers arrived. They would also bring me all the newspapers published in Beirut. My wife had brought party publications and other books to me.
Nobody, even my kids, was allowed to see me. My wife would only come with her sister and see me by taking all precautions. It was mainly from her that I was informed of what was happening outside.
Riyad Sulh’s government started an all-out-war against us. The intention was to get rid of Antoine Saadeh and his party. We were accused of the highest level of treason. The SSNP was “Lebanon’s number one enemy.” Moreover, “It collaborates with the Jews” even though it was formed to fight against them. The rulers didn’t leave any rumor they didn’t use against us. So did the Lebanese, Arab, and foreign newspapers. They wanted to vilify and humiliate us before giving us the coup de grace. My wife used to think that Riyad al Sulh was a personal friend of her maternal uncle, the lawyer Fahim Khuri-- who was one of the founders of “Ismat al Amal al Qawmi” party (The Esteem of National Work Party) together with Ali Nasir al Din, Salah Bayhum, Qustantin Yeni, Fu’ad al Nakad, and Muhammad Ali al Ruz…
Therefore, she was adamant in making her uncle interfere with my affair in order to save me from a more cruel punishment. She couldn’t ask him at the beginning when the campaign against us was at its peak and he too was condemning us.
Before Saadeh’s announcement of the revolution, and in the presence of a legal certificate for the party to operate, lots of accusations were being thrown at the part. And even though the Attorney General of the Court of Appeals, Yussif Sharbil, did sign an order that we should not be watched. This continued up until the Jimmayzeh event. After that all hell broke lose. Even though we were the victims of that incident, we became the criminals. The real criminals were not prosecuted. Sharbil tried to find other means to finish us because he knew that he couldn’t do it in a legal way.
Regardless of this legal issue about which we knew later from people close to President Bishara al Khuri, the government’s instructions to the police, security, and judicial forces were clear; Do whatever is deemed necessary to get rid of the SSNP. I remember, for example, that they went into high ranking comrade Inaam Raad’s house and they started to cut of the carpets into pieces, they threw food stuff they found in the kitchen. They destroyed furniture. They did the same in the case of high ranking comrade Yussif al Ashqar too. They also took a big sum of money they found at the latter’s residence.
The two examples I give are for the sake of history. Many SSNP members’ houses were treated the same way... Only with the help of some honest policemen and judicial employees did some of our members reach peace.
I think that my and other high ranking party members’ homes were left unharmed because of our political and social stature. Throughout my political career I was a lawyer and my syndicate never left me alone. In this regards I have but to attest to the honesty and courage of some friends and mentors such as Najib al Debs, Jean Shalakh, Edmond Kaspar, Fu’ad al Khuri, Fu’ad Rizq, Nemr Wahbi, Fillip Saadeh, George Philipides, and Jebra’il Nassar.
GETTING IN TOUCH WITH HUSNI AL ZA’IM
I said before, that during the first days of his hiding Saadeh was at the villa of Mu’azzaz Berto Rawdah in al Uzaii. From there he moved to Aley. Before we talk about why he left to Damascus we must discuss the reasons behind that move.
Damascus was living the era of Husni al Za’im. This was the era of the first such revolutionary period in the Arab world that took place at the beginning of 1949. Our dear, old comrade Akram al Huwrani was one of the heroes of this new era. He later played an important role during the [Gamal] Abd al Nasser’s era [in Egypt] where he was appointed as an advisor to Nasser. When he was elevated to such a position he forgot the SSNP and the ideology on which he had given his auth of allegiance.
We were in favor of Husni al Za’im’s coup d’etat because Akram was behind it. He came and told us how the new regime was tossing out all the decaying traditions of the past. He also spoke about how these revolutionary changes would topple the rulers of Lebanon, such as Prime Minister Riyad al Sulh and President Bishara al Khuri.
From the beginning Saadeh knew that his movements were going to be rejected by these two ruling men. He knew this because they knew that Husni al Za’im was a natural ally to Saadeh against both of them. That’s why he left his home in Ras Beirut in April  to live first at the home of a faithful—now deceased-- SSNP collaborator, Iskandar Nasrallah, who was the father of our—now deceased—comrade Raja Nasrallah and Amina Nasrallah (nee Muhsin—the latter being one of the high ranking female cadres of the party and a famous literary figure of the time, as well as the wife of ex party leader Abdallah Muhsin.
Without asking for permission first I took my wife and children to al Hadas, a suburb of Beirut to meet Saadeh and see how he was doing, what was the situation after the surprising coup d’etat in Damascus, since I was also the president of the political wing of the party.
We were just nearing the house where Saadeh was when we were greeted with hurrahs and whistling. Lots of comrades from al Hadas and Beirut had gathered outside the house. I saw our central committee member Fayiza Maaluf introducing the speakers from a speaker that was situated above the main entrance to the house. As soon as she saw me she announced that it was time for me to deliver my speech.
As a practicing lawyer and an orator since my childhood I didn’t hesitate to accept her challenge. I asked some comrades to take off my winter coat I was wearing. Al Za’im’s coup d’etat came to my mind. I took the microphone and delivered a speech about the revolution in Syria. I remember that I started my speech by saying:
‘Any military coup d’etat that is not preceded by a revolution of minds and souls is an unfinished revolution. The power that the revolutionaries get from the military is nothing but an extension to the will and power of the people. It is the people who will judge in the end. They will either stand or support the revolution so that it moves forward, or they will shun away from it at let it fail…”
I concluded by saying:
“Why did you call upon me to deliver this speech?" When the leader is among us it is he and only he that must talk to us and we will listen. Please Speak OUR LEADER…”
Saadeh stood in front of that small crowd first to congratulate me for my oratory, something I am proud of until today. Then he announced: It is not bad that we are called dictators if we want to bring down corrupt dictators. We are proud that we fight against dictatorship and corruption wherever and whenever we find it.” This speech was recorded by central committee member Ibrahim Yammut and was published in one of our newspapers, al Binaa’…
When the speaking was over I went to Saadeh to ask him to leave. He took my hand and squeezed hard on it congratulating me for my speech. I realized that there was something else behind the congratulation. While in the car returning to Beirut I told my wife, Georgette: “Tonight I will receive a reprimand letter from the leader.” She said that I had done a good job Abd that Saadeh seemed happy with what I have done. I told her that Saadeh showed his disturbance about what I said through how he held my hand.
It was almost 11:00 p.m. and I was about to take off my clothes to prepare to sleep when I heard the door bell ringing. I told my wife that this is a messenger from Saadeh with the reprimand letter. She laughed mockingly while I opened the door. Comrade Fawzi al Maaluf brought me a letter printed on a typewriter (which is published in Saadeh’s 3 volume letters collection0. I opened it and read two criticisms:
First: As the president of the party’s political wing how could I take a stance regarding Husni al Za’im’s revolution without first consulting with other members of the political commission and reaching a decision concerning our stance regarding that revolution.
Second: How could I pronounce that “when the Leader is among us and when he is with us only he talks?” Aren’t there other orators in the party? The party has scores of such talented people. Saadeh is not the only orator and thinker. And lastly, why put the leader into such a position before consulting him?
I accepted the criticisms happily. Saadeh always taught us the right way, the way of the mind, reason, and responsibility. We still learn from him even at our middle life age. We kept learning from him even after his martyrdom. He is the model we always try to emulate.
The letter had no negative effect on our relationship. Shortly after this he called upon me and comrades Abdallah Saadeh, Khalid Jumblat, Abdallah Muhsin, Adib Qaddura to meet him. He asked us to form a delegation under the presidency of comrade Abdallah Saadeh to quickly go to Damascus. As soon as we reach Damascus comrade Maaruf Saab would join us and we would ask for a meeting with Husni al Za’im to congratulate him for the success of the revolution and ask him to assist us in our efforts to topple the existing regime in Lebanon and build a new government that would be a loyal ally to him and his government in Damascus.
We all went in the same car on a Sunday. We all thought that our mission was going to be easy and successful. On our way we saw an official motorcade pass us by. Lebanese Prime Minister Riyad al Sulh was also heading to Damascus to meet Husni al Za’im! This was a catastrophe. Our mission became an impossible one. Sulh would be able to turn al Za’im’s beliefs upside down against us. We were not sure that we would be able to meet him since his time would be devoted to his meetings with the official Lebanese delegation.
We sent comrade Adib Qaddura to the Orient Palace Hotel, which was one of the most elegant in Damascus at the time. We asked him to survey the situation for us. He knew Riyad al Sulh and he was able to meet him and the other members of his delegation. I must state here that Qaddura was married to the niece of Syria’s ex president, Shukri al Quatli, who was ousted and imprisoned by Husni al Za’im.
We had to be very cautious in order not to have any contact with the official Lebanese delegation while in Damascus. Our mission had to be shrouded in total secrecy. We went to the Souk al Hamidiyeh area to find a restaurant and a hotel. Our intention was to meet with al Za’im even if that was very late at night.
At 5 or 6 p.m. we called the presidential palace. Comrade Adib talked personally with Husni al Za’im Abd told him that we are in Damascus since morning. Al Za’im answered that he had eaten heavily with Riyad Bek and that he wasn’t feeling well. He asked us to postpone our meeting with him. We were very angry. We went to find a hotel. Comrade Abdallah Saadeh was inspecting the bedding with his nose to see if it was clean. A clean person of the soul searches for everything that is clean!!!
We ate at a local eatery. We were surprised to see Mr. Abd al Rahman al Sulh, the son of Lebanon’s ex Prime Minister Sami al Sulh, there. He was a very good friend and ally to Husni al Za’im and was rumored to become the next prime minister of Lebanon. We were happy to meet him because he was also a friend and ally to us. He remained like that until his death…
We returned to Beirut without accomplishing our mission. However, comrade Maaruf Saab had taken care of the situation in Damascus. The situation was opportune for us. Husni al Za’im was searching for allies in Lebanon. Who else except our party could be that ally, especially since our comrade of the time, Akram Huwrani was with al Za’im at the time.
I had mentioned before that Saadeh was trying to find honest and serious means to get weapons for the revolution. The revolution in his mind was either a dream or a big mistake. It could be the reason for the party’s demise, since Riyad al Sulh and Bishara al Khuri used the implication of it to create the al Kata’ib-al Najjadah alliance. Therefore, the revolution was a sacred duty now.
How did I know that?
Comrade Joseph Haddad from Ain Anub was from a loyal and known SSNP family. He was with Saadeh all the time. Saadeh sent him to meet me at comrade Jubran Jrayj’s home, while the latter was imprisoned for some time. Joseph came to me with comrade Jubran's niece, and comrade Fu’ad Qatrib. Joseph told me that Saadeh wanted to know where I was hiding so that he can send for me to join him at any given moment.
Joseph also told me that comrade Iskandar al Shawi and others are in constant communication with our fighters, and that the revolution will be announced soon and that all comrades are waiting for Saadeh’s order. Furthermore, Joseph also confided in me that many Syrian fighters would join us when the fighting starts. Comrade Joseph Haddad is still living. He is honest in his beliefs. He is a witness to what I mention here. I have to call upon him as a witness since some villains fabricated the rumor that Saadeh asked for me to join him while I opted to keep low and safe. This is nothing but a cheap lie…
HOW SAADEH MOVED FROM ALEY TO DAMASCUS
Comrade Joseph Haddad told me That Saadeh is hiding in their house in Aley since several days. He also mentioned that he had to move to comrade Fu’ad Zahlan’s house because a stray bullet mistakenly fired from the rifle of one of his guards had created some commotion on the street, thus opening the door for speculations.
Letters between Damascus and Aley were going back and forth. The contact in Damascus was comrade Maaruf Saab The president of the Damascus political wing of the party. Communications with Syrian military personnel (officers, soldiers) were conducted by Iskandar Shawi and Joseph Haddad.
Saadeh had to meet Husni al Za’im who was now insisting on meeting him. It was at the Zahlan house that a plan was drawn up of how to smuggle the Leader to Damascus.
When we were in Venezuela comrade Zahlan told me how he was able to smuggle Saadeh from Aley to Damascus. He said:
“Saadeh put on a European hat and some dark colored sunglasses. He set in the back seat of the car while Um Hisham sat beside him. Honestly, I think Saadeh was frightened from the journey. We moved from Aley at 2:00 p.m. in June of 1949. The situation was very dire in Lebanon. The government had spies all over searching for Saadeh. All our friends had turned against us. Even the Communists feared us because they thought that we were Facist terrorists. They were betraying SSNP members by showing the police with their fingers about any of our members even if they had been out of the party or had nothing to do with it anymore. That is why Saadeh’s fears were reasonable.
The plan was as follows:
“Comrade Fu’ad Zahlan’s car (carrying Saadeh) would pass without stopping at the
Masnaa checkpoint at the Lebanese Border. After that comrade Edgar Abboud, driving another car, would enter the checkpoint legally and wait to be allowed to pass. After this second car left the checkpoint. Saadeh would come down from Zahlan’s car and get into Abboud’s car. At the Syrian checkpoint at Jdeydet Yabus, SSNP members would wait for Saadeh with governmental officials to greet and to transport him to Damascus (The wife of comrade Fu’ad Zahlan insists until today that her now deceased husband delivered Saadeh to our people at Yabus).
The plan was successful. Saadeh got to the other car, while Zahlan returned to the Masnaa checkpoint to apologize for his behavior. Zahlan was a master in apologizing and making friends out of enemies. He was able to solve his predicament and show his and the car’s identity cards and return.
This was a well devised plan that enabled Saadeh to go through the border without any problems. He was now in the hospitality of the SSNP Damascus Branch and Husni al Za’im himself.
I don’t have any details about Saadeh’s stay in Damascus. I was told through a source whose accuracy I can’t confirm, that Saadeh had all party leaders including Maaruf Saab, Jirji Qneyzih, Abdallah Muhsin, and Isam Mahayiri (Who was the party’s official spokesman in Damascus and he trusted him a lot) to a meeting where he discussed the issue of a coup in Lebanon after he listened to their points of view:
“Let’s say that one of you was walking with his sister or wife in an isolated place and had no weapon on him. An armed man approaches them and tries to rape the sister or the wife. Would you let this happen even though you know what will happen to you next?” All of them answered: “we would fight without a doubt.”
Saadeh Continued: “The sister or the wife is not more precious than liberty in Lebanon. This liberty has been raped. Can we stay silent against those who rape freedom in our country?” The answer was: “No, never.” The source told me that this was unanimous answer of all who were present. “Let’s go to revolution then. Let’s get prepared.”
The plan of the revolution—as it was related to me by some of those who were at this meeting and whom I met later in 1949 at prison or outside, like comrade Munir al Shaar—was as follows.
1.Take over the Rashayya Castle and the area under the leadership of comrade Zeyd al Atrash.
2.Take over the police precinct at Mashghara and move from there to Shtura to meet with the tribes that had promised to off the main road against the military.
3.Cut off the Aley-Beirut road from Ser Hammul where an SSNP force is stationed under the leadership of George Abd al Masih, whom Saadeh had raised to the level of second in command in the party.
4.Take over the police precinct at Mtayn under the leadership of now deceased comrade Emil Raad.
5.Take over the police precinct at Brummana.
6.Take over the police precinct at Ghbayri in Burj-al-Barajina.
This plan had no similarities and no cross references to the plan that was prepared by Colonel Qaysar Zahran Yammin and given to Saadeh in my presence at the end of 1948 or the beginning of 1949. Moreover, this can’t be the whole plan. Most of those who took part in this revolutionary work—and most of them are under the ground—know more about the details. Under no circumstances could I envision that Saadeh would have foreseen victory by taking over some police precincts or cutting the road in couple of places. He most probably thought that these actions would make his allies move and the police and military forces would be divided and would join the revolution. So would do the forces opposing Bishara al Khuri and Riyad al Sulh who would come to back the SSNP effort and would thus rally around it. Saadeh was betting that the agony of the people will erupt just by announcing the revolution…
Saadeh was right to bet that the Lebanese where exhausted and needed change. They wanted to at least change their lying rulers if not their whole system of lies and corruption that had transformed Lebanon into their own farm and were milking it dry (this last example was something that was repeated daily in the mouths of many people and is not my own invention).
How was this plan executed?
It was necessary, as a first step, to publish a call about the revolution and its goals. This call was published on July 4, 1949. This statement makes it clear without any doubt that Saadeh didn’t intend to hand over Lebanon to Husni al Za’im to annex to his Damascene Republic. Saadeh was not yet attempting to annex Lebanon to a Greater Syria or to bring forth the amalgamation of the two entities as some Lebanese were calling for. On the contrary, the goal was to correct the political situation in Lebanon by incorporating the SSNP’s principles into the new government. The most important among these principles was the division of religion from the state and the cancellation of the sectarian, feudal system. Afterwards time would be devoted to take care of the economy and the political, social, and educational spheres, on the principal that Lebanon was a whole unit that could not be partitioned and that there are no sectarian or other boundaries among the people of the state.
After this statement was made public and published SSNP forces started coming from Damascus by way of Deyr al Ashaa’ir and Yanta. Saadeh was at the forefront of these forces. He made a small speech in Yanta and then returned to Damascus to wait for the results. I was told that comrade Isam al Mahayiri was beside him all the time.
At the decided hour the Mtayn, Ghbayri, Mashghara police precincts was attacked. It was really sad that the government knew about the whole plan. In Mashghara SSNP forces were surrounded and comrade Assaf Karam was killed. The rest were taken by the government forces. Comrade Sham’un, President Kamil Sham'un's relative, was killed at Hammul. Others, like Adib al Jadaa, and Yussif Qa’idbiyeh were apprehended. The same was the fate of those who attacked the Ghbayri and Mtayn precincts. The force send to attack and take over the castle in Rashayya was ambushed by internal security forces. Zeyd al Atrash and others escaped (I should mention here that comrade Munir al Shaar was in his hotel room in Damascus when the force that was to attack the castle in Rashayya passed in front of the hotel and he was taken with them even though he had no military experience).
Some of Saadeh’s aides such as Maaruf Saab, Elias Jirji, Isam al Maayiri, and Abdallah Muhsin went to Amman then returned to Damascus. All of them were trying to save Saadeh’s life so he can remain as the head of the party and to work and to prepare for a second revolution. Saadeh got into a car that was to take him to Jordan. The driver was comrade Subhi Farhat. They had gone just 35 kilometers on their way to Daraa when Saadeh asked Farhat to return to Damascus. Farhat was hesitant. Saadeh insisted. I heard later that he told Subhi. :”How do you want me to escape with my life when my comrades are either dead or in prison…all those in prison could be executed. Do you want me to save my life and leave all these heroes to be hanged?” They returned to Damascus.
(it seems that this last paragraph does not constitute the truth, as per what comrade Elias Jirji writes in his famous article printed in al Binaa’ newspaper on August 8, 1988. Saadeh returned to Damascus. He didn’t go to Amman. Elias Jirji repeated this in his book “Maasir Min Saadeh” (Reminders from Saadeh).
What about the Lebanese government and President Bishara al Khuri and Prime Minister Riyad al Sulh? I used to read their positions in the newspapers al Hayat and al Nahar. They were furious that Saadeh would dare to declare a revolution against them and their rule. They left no big or small indecency that they didn’t tie to Saadeh. They even found a traitor named Muhammad Araki who brought forth a fabricated letter that specified Saadeh’s dealings with the Jews through comrade Jamil Yunis…
I heard with my own ears Prime Minister Riyad al Sulh saying that Antoine Saadeh will soon be caught…
The story of those SSNP members that were apprehended during the fighting was even worse. What torture did they endure? I will only tell what a security force member and a friend told me about a comrade from Malaa’ib family. He was caught while bleeding from a wound. They brought him to a police precinct not so far away from the Ministry of Defense near the Beirut Central Museum. They put him to the ground and started hitting him on the head with their heavy batons. They continued to do so until he was unable to take his head up. He was killed there in front of the police officers and other employees…
HOW THE TRAITOR HUSNI AL ZA’IM HANDED ANTOINE SAADEH
TO THE LEBANESE GOVERNMENT AND SAADEH’S S EXECUTION
Here I get my information from their sources. Husni al Za’im’s brother-in-law (aadil), Nazih Qansah, who was one of the closest people to al Za’im, wrote a book that I read. I also interviewed SNNP Central Committee members Fu’ad Abu Ajram, Adib Qaddura, Dr. George Salibi, and Prince Farid Shehab at his palace in Hadas who at the time was still occupying the post of director of National Security (Surety General). I also listened to Sheikh Munir Taqiy al Din who was present at Saadeh’s trial. Finally, I listened to the famous Lebanese literary figure, Amin Nakhle and attorney Joseph al Khuri Salameh. I can therefore say that my information is pretty accurate and historically valid.
Husni al Za’im’s Prime Minister, Muhsin al Barazi. He was related to Riyad al Sulh through his wife. Al Barazi was also a very close friend to al Sulh. This friendship was used to put pressure on al Barazi and through him on Husni al Za’im. Then there were the issues of the Syrian-Lebanese economic relations and the negotiations concerning those relations. The Lebanese government was refusing some of the points of this yet to be signed economic treaty. It is interesting that during these negotiations the Lebanese government accepted all what it refused for the benefit of Damascus.
Of course there was also the intervention of colonial powers that were disturbed by Saadeh’s revolutionary and unifying treatises.
All these forces amalgamated and, with some money spent by al Barazi, effected Husni al Za’im’s judgment to the extent that he accepted handing over his friend, Saadeh, to whom he had given his personal handgun as a sign of friendship and loyalty. Husni al Za’im was somehow persuaded that Saadeh would at the end kill him and would take his place.
It was hence that a plan was devised to hand over Saadeh to the Lebanese government. The government would not only take custody of Saadeh but would also see to it that he was executed (I, comrade Qaddura and others heard this last statement from Prince Farid Shehab). Al Barazi writes in his book that Husni al Za’im asked the head of the Syrian police, Ibrahim al Husayni, to have Saadeh killed in Damascus. I lately heard from the head of the Journalists syndicate, Muhammad al Baalbaki, that al Za’im had threatened Riyad al Sulh that if the latter did not execute Saadeh as soon as possible he would take over Lebanon militarily.
Saadeh had asked for an appointment with Husni al Za’im to discuss with him a plan to continue the revolution [in Lebanon]. I was told that there was a plan by which many Syrian youth would go to fight in Lebanon under the SNNP banner.
Comrades Maaruf Saab and Abdallah Muhsin advised Saadeh not to see Husni al Za’im. He insisted…The head of the police, Ibrahim al Husayni, was already arranging for Saadeh not to leave his residence and to accompany him to al Za’im where the trap was set.
Comrade Subhi Farhat drove Saadeh to the presidential palace. As soon as Saadeh was taken into the palace Farhat was apprehended and imprisoned. Saadeh went inside and met al Za’im who told him: “You have to arrange your work with your people.” Saadeh threw the handgun that al Za’im had given to him as a present to his face and turned around to hand himself over to Prince Farid Shehab, Director of Lebanese General Security, and Nur al Din al Rifaai, director of Lebanese Internal Security Forces. At that moment Husni al Za’im accomplished what I later called in one of my articles to be “the traitor of the 20th Century.” I say this because al Za’im’s treason—he himself being the leader of a revolution and a new president—has no historical equivalent neither in the 20th nor any other century…
Saadeh was seated in the back of a car between the two directors while an armed guard sat beside the driver.
When the car reached Wadi al Harir (Silk Valley) that was Lebanese territory Nur al Din al Rifaai asked Saadeh to get out if he had a personal need. His intention was to kill him from the back and later give the excuse that Saadeh tried to escape. However, Prince Farid Shehab insisted that Saadeh did not get out (as he told us later). This way Saadeh was spared being killed in accordance with the plan set for him between Damascus and Lebanon.
Saadeh was then taken to the Internal Security Forces central station near the National Museum. President Bishara al Khuri, Prime Minister Riyad al Sulh, and Defense Minister Prince Majid Arslan came to make sure that he was really caught and chained. Yussif Sharbil was the Attorney General of the Appeal’s Court. The Interrogating judge was Mr. Adib Ufaysh, a classmate of mine. Both were fed all kinds of lies about Saadeh through the government, newspapers, and rumors. They were officers of law who were bound by the directives of their superiors. It is true that the judiciary is an independent power. However, that independence disappears in political cases and nobody cares amount it.
I know Saadeh as I know myself. I don’t think that he rejected any of the events of the revolution from its planning to its execution. If he wanted to get away from his responsibilities he would not have gone to the presidential palace in Damascus in the first place knowing that he would be handed over once there. He could have also gone to Jordan or to Argentina or any other country if he wanted so. However, the Lebanese government and the press intentionally tried to destroy his heroism by presenting him as someone who did everything to save himself from death. Those who really know Saadeh and possess a bit of intelligence would also know that Saadeh would have never undermined his integrity even if the price was his life…
Now deceased syndicate leader Jean Shalakh told me that his very close friend, Prince Farid Shehab, had told him that after Adib Ufaysh had completed Saadeh’s interrogation had asked him: “Antoine, You are an intelligent person and you know what your fate awaits you. Would you really tell me what your feelings are right now?” Without any hesitation Saadeh answered: “I will die, however, my party will remain.” Sharbil got angry at how political midgets rule the day while they don’t know anything about heroes or heroism because there is a vast distance between them.
Saadeh’s case was moved to a military tribunal on several charges each carrying a maximum sentence of death. I was told that he, Saadeh saw his own coffin in the yard of the military tribunal. It was a coffin made from wood that was taken from wooden boxes. I say this because I exhumed that coffin from the Mar Elias Cemetery…
A friend of us, Col. Bridi, who was amongst the officers who were called to security duty at the military tribunal told me that he was thinking about how he could direct his machinegun at the tribunal and save Saadeh and take him away from all that was happening. Saadeh was put face-to-face with some of his accusers who—according to the military tribunal—were intimidated by his presence and were negating their previous accusations. It was said that Saadeh himself had negated some of his early statements, something that can never be believed. Saadeh had never escaped from what he said during his whole life. He defied death. Wasn’t he who said” “Life is but a stance of integrity.” This was Saadeh’s legacy in our life…
The tribunal was a farce. The president, Col. Anwar Karam—who in 1958 became our ally and who died in our presence in Paris, where all of us had escaped after our second futile coup d’etat in 1961—had Col. Rene Samrani, Ltn. Abd al Aziz Ahdab, and civilian judge Gabriel Basila at his side. The Attorney General was Yussif Sharbil, while Michele Talhameh represented the government (this was the person who wrote and published a poem in the Saint Joseph University Magazine in 1919 about Deyr al Qamar, where he said that “the city was the pearl in Syria’s eyes!”
I say and I mean that the tribunal was a farce. Now deceased great journalist and ex minister Abdallah Mashnuq invited us—Fu’ad Abu Ajram, Adib Qaddura, and I-- to launch at the Bristol Hotel (in 1950) and showed us a copy of the Saadeh’s final verdict written by Riyad al Sulh himself. I wish we had recorded his conversation with us that day…
In his remarks about the heroes of the revolution such as Adib al Jadaa, Yussif Qa’idbiyeh, Munir al Shaar and others, Attorney General Yussif Sharbil says that Saadeh talked for two hours in defense of those and other heroes. Saadeh was also defending himself and asked no attorney be delegated with that task.
This is not right. Saadeh asked for Jean Tayyan to be his defense attorney. The latter refused. Saadeh than asked that famous law expert and Member of Parliament Emil Lahhud to represent him as his defense lawyer The latter accepted to represent him and appeared at the military tribunal. He asked for a 24 hour period in order to look at the case and prepare his defense. The tribunal secluded itself and refused Lahhud’s request. Lahhud protested this decision and left the building even though Saadeh asked him to stay beside him. Saadeh deserved and had the right to have someone of Lahhud’s caliber beside him just for the record. However, Lahhud was also right in protesting and leaving, since he was denied the most basic precept of law, that of knowing his defendant’s case, and defend him accordingly…
Sheikh Munir Taqiy al Din told me that Saadeh gave a two hour speech in his defense. He left no accusation against him that he didn’t negate. Moreover when Yussif Sharbil tried to mock him by stating the following piece of poetry:
When under a leadership the ladybugs meet
They think that they are a marvelous feat
Saadeh answered him back with a poetic segment:
Ladybugs remain cowards even if they fly
While snails stand tall even as they die
This I was told by Beirut’s Attorney General Dimitry al Hayik. Lately, in yet another conversation, Beirut Municipality Head, Shafiq al Sarduk, also verified it.
The poetic segment that Saadeh uttered remained in the minds of political figures for a long time.
Col. Bridi, Director of Military Police, was changing guards every hour inside the courtroom while Saadeh was defending himself. He thought that Saadeh's sincerity would undermine the guard’s integrity and they might rebel against their leaders…
After this farce, this may be called execution under the pretence of the law. The tribunal rendered a unanimous decision to execute Saadeh. I already mentioned that Saadeh had seen his own coffin at the yard outside the courtroom. He also knew that the trial was nothing but a previously designed plan. Therefore, his conclusion was that he was going to be executed by a firing squad.
No one defies death. Saadeh embraced it without fearing it. This is the conclusion that can be surmised through those who were there at the time and according to the following events:
1.He was taken al Raml Prison under heavy security. The prison was surrounded by internal security police and the military. When he was finally in his cell He put his jacket under his head and went into a deep sleep.
2.Officer Kamal al Zahid, his friend since 1935, came with an aid to help him write the remaining of his [Saadeh’s] book “The Emergence of Nations” that was published later. As Zahid came in awakened Saadeh, the latter said: “Are you still here Kamal.” “Yes, I am here. Is there any request that I can do?” Kamal replied. Saadeh asked for some tea. Kamal al Zahid later told me with tears in his eyes that he was astonished at a soon to be executed person going into a deep sleep as if the death verdict meant nothing to him.
3.The clergyman, Father Eliya Berbari was brought to the cell at 2:00 a.m. so that he can give Saadeh his last communion as was the tradition. Father Berbari tells how he got his last communion. He also tells of his last request to see his family; his wife and his daughters, and how that request was rejected…We knew all these from Sa’id Taqiy al Din’s article titled “The Clergy Who knew him Told Me.”
4.Judge Fu’ad Bulos from Kfar Aqqa, al Kura came as a representative of the attorney general to register Saadeh’s final will and testament. Saadeh left all what he possesses to his wife and daughters: Safiyya, Elisar, and Raghida. He had 400 Syrian Liras in his pocket. He gave them to the judge to be divided amongst his family equally.
5.When the hour of the execution came Saadeh was taken to the office of the prison’s director with his hands chained. He asked for a cup of coffee. The officer in charge didn’t allow him to speak a word.
6.The execution entourage went from al Raml Prison to the al Jenah area in al Ramlet al Bayda. It was a sandy yard surrounded by high rocks. If I had enough money I would have bought that piece of land and leave it as is to remain a witness to that night. However, it is now filled with hi-rise buildings.
7.As soon as the entourage was in the yard Saadeh went ahead of his guards and stood on the wooden plaque that was to be his execution platform.
8.An Officer—most probably Bridi—came and asked him to fall down on his knees. There was some gravel under his knees. Saadeh asked the officer to remove them and he did. Saadeh thanked him. When the time came to close his eyes with a black scarf Saadeh refused to wear it and wanted his eyes to remain open to see the bullets that would pierce his chest as was later written in the an Nahar newspaper.
9.The sign was given and twelve bullets were fired. Saadeh fell to the ground. Officer Bridi approached him and fired a Bullet of mercy at his head.
10.After Saadeh’s body was put into that wooden coffin, it was taken to Mar Elias of Batina Church that exists until today. The coffin was dripping blood even as it was lowered into the ground at the Mar Elias Cemetery.
11.I myself saw Father Berbari with swollen eyes from how much he cried since his encounter with Saadeh at his cell in the prison, the execution site, the execution, the funeral, until he reached his home. He told me that he couldn’t sleep for 15 days. His interview which I mentioned above is enough to express his feelings…
12.Col. Bridi told me three months later that Saadeh asked him something. He only told me what that was years later when he was on his deathbed.
HOW I WAS INFORMED OF THE EXECUTION
AND WHAT WAS ITS REMIFICATIONS
I was still hiding at Francis Saleh’s home on Madam Currie Boulevard in Ras Beirut. I mentioned that I was feeling like a prisoner in that house turned atelier. My wife took pity on me and one night she sent my daughter, Hanna, still ten months old to me accompanied by now deceased attorney comrade Emil Najm. I took the infant and started kissing her while she was screaming. The female workers had already left. There was no one in the house except me. Hanan was embarrassing me with her screaming. She had forgotten her daddy. I told Emil: “Take her back to her mother before she sends me to prison…”
Another time, still at the beginning of my recluse in this hideaway, my wife came with her sisters Faridah, Dr. Tawfiq Farah’s wife, and Leyla, Francis’s fiancé. All three sisters took pity on me and my predicament since I was sitting between four walls with no friend till night. They asked me to go for a ride with them toward the airport. We took off in Leila’s car. Faridah was singing “Ya Rabii al Shabab Ma Ahlak,” (O Spring of Life How Beautiful you are)…I was just opening my chest to the June evening breeze. We were now in the proximity of Beirut International Airport. We returned in one piece. Suddenly and out of nowhere a military police transport truck appeared. I was sitting in the back, between my wife and Faridah. Leila and her fiancé were in the front. I asked Faridah to continue singing and she did. I told her” Don’t be afraid at all. If you fear that means that I will go to prison.” We reached the military police checkpoint that was now set up on the street. One of the military police looked at us and said: “How awesome. Are you riding for fun?” And he signaled us by his hand to cross the checkpoint. We speeded up and my wife told me that one of the military police was telling another: “It was Abdallah Qubersi.” I looked back and saw that nobody was following us. Later when I gave myself up in through Col. Bridi in September of 1949 he told me: “Do you remember your ride to the airport. One of my men knew you at the checkpoint. However, they decided to let you go. I used to tell them to treat you well if and when they saw you. After all, aren’t you the military police’s attorney when we are sewed? We must return your favor with a favor.”
My days were gloomy. I read the newspapers. I read Victor Hugo’s “La Miserable”… I also read [Tomas] Carlyle’s writings about how mysterious the human being is. I just read without getting tired. I was also disturbed and finicky to the extreme. My nervousness rose after I heard the news of our defunct revolution. I was waiting for the news every day.
On July 7, 1949, my wife came to tell me that al Hadaf newspaper, owned and edited by my friend, comrade Zuhayr Usayran, had published a news item, which stated that Husni al Za’im had handed over Antoine Saadeh to the Lebanese authorities and that the government ordered all issues of the newspaper to be confiscated. ..
I told my wife: “What do you think.” She answered: “The leader is now trapped.” I quickly shunned her saying: “Can something like this happen when he [Saadeh] is a guest of and under the protection of a person like Husni al Za’im. Moreover, Riyad al Sulh has now been saying for three days and to no avail that Saadeh will fall into the trap during hours. If he really got him he will announce it through the radio and all the newspapers. Therefore, I don’t think that the leader is trapped. He is a man that knows how to take charge in difficult situations…”
I confess now that al Hadaf’s news item disturbed me a lot. I was disturbed because I knew that Riyad al Sulh had very good relations with the Usayran family and especially with Adel and Zuhayr Usayran (who later became the head of the journalists’ syndicate.
I didn’t sleep that night. I thought that even if Saadeh was apprehended he couldn’t be executed with such swiftness. When the sound of the twelve bullets that tore his chest was heard during that night I did not shiver but asked myself: “What were these bullets for?”
It was o’clock six in the morning and it seems that sleep had taken me for a little while when I heard a newspaper seller shouting: “Antoine Saadeh’s execution today.”
That was the cursed morning of July 8, 1949. I went out to the living room to find that the tailor relative was there alert, and with open eyes. I begged her to buy all the newspapers for me. She called the man and went down and brought all that he had for me to read.
She was reading the front pages when my eyes caught a picture of Antoine Saadeh behind bars at the military court. I instantly understood that the man was sentenced to death. It was for the first time in my life that my nerves gave in. I passed out on my bed. The relative tried to wake me up by sprinkling some cologne on my face. I got up broken. I did not believe that Saadeh was executed and killed…
Saadeh is dead and I am still alive?
The great person dies while we still walk the earth. How can a political person be executed and the law prohibits that?
I don’t believe…
But I read and believed…
I came to my senses. I am like this always. Serious events exhaust me. It happens for seconds and not even minutes. Then I retake control of my situation.
Yes, the stress of the situation made me pass out. It happened because the event was something I could not handle even though I was seeing nightmares all night. I came back to my senses. I come back as a person who is used to strenuous situations. I return to continue the struggle…
I asked Francis’s relative to get me some lemonade and biscuits before the female workers arrive. I asked her to lock my door until the next morning. I told her I don’t want to se anybody. Not even my wife. Let Francis go and tell her about my decision. I want to be alone with myself. I wanted to live that day with the martyred Antoine Saadeh…
I drank a glass of lemonade and some paper and started writing a eulogy for our leader. I titled it “The Death of the Eagle.” I felt that a volcano was exploding inside me. I felt that sulfur and fire were coming out of my mouth. I felt like totally hysterical. This was the hysteria of revenge for the blood of my martyred leader. I wish I had a fighting commando group with me at that moment. I wish I had guns. I would have killed any person wearing the military uniform. The army killed my leader. Of course my thinking was not clear but rather euphoric. What had the army to do with this? The army only did its duty. It’s not the army. It’s who rules the army!!!
I wrote 129 pages in 24 hours. I kept this writing because it reflected my raw feelings of the moment. I kept it until the second revolution of 1961. It was found by those who were sent to look into my papers. It was taken away and put in the depot of the military court. Even my good friend Michele Abu Shaqra could not find it for me even though he was the head registrar of the court.
If one day I find it. I would have published it as part of these memoirs. I started with Socrates…then with Jesus…then Galileo, then all the important thinkers of the world who were killed because they rebelled. Then and only then those who killed them absorbed their vision and thinking…
I said in that writing that the era of Bishara al Khuri and Riyad al Sulh is an extension of 14th century witch-hunting. I was not exaggerating. I looked at all the laws of the time concerning the defense of individuals in front of military tribunals. I didn’t find anything that could even distantly explain what was done on that cursed day. I was writing with a pen of fire and the ink of blood…
What could we expect of a person who announces a revolution? What else is there for a leader of a defunct revolution except certain death…?
What happened to Zapata in Mexico?
What happens to the eagle when it delves down on vicious animals?
* * * * *
NAWWAF HARDAN REMINISCES
We finally reached the airport… Thousands of SSNP members had crowded both sides of the road leading to the airport entrance under the supervision of the party’s security coordinator, George Abd al Masih. The airplane that was bringing Saadeh from Cairo started roaming above the airport. The hearts and eyes of SSNP members were with the plane. They wanted time to fly by in order for them to see Saadeh.
After the airplane docked and national security procedures were completed and, after minutes that seemed like hours, we finally saw him. He walked in very sure steps surrounded by party central executive members Naameh Tabit, Fu’ad Abi Ajram, Maaruf Saab, Abdallah al Qubersi, Abdallah Saadeh, Fayiz Sayigh, Elias Jirji, Ma’mun Elias, Abdallah Muhsin, Jubran Jrayj, and others. We saw him coming towards us, the thousands of SSNP members waiting for him. He was there in his inspiring face and big stature. His right hand was high as he waived it at us. He had a smile on his lips. His eyes were inspiring confidence. He was bringing hope to all of us. He was the embodiment of heroism and knighthood. He brought with him the trust of victory.
He started roaming amongst the waves of his followers who waived his pictures and the party flags. It was a scene to be remembered. It was an organized demonstration. He was finally inside the car of one of the party leaders. His convoy was led by police motorcycles to the home of central committee member Ma’mun Elias in Ghbayri.
We followed his entourage on foot. He came out of the car and went inside to the open hall surrounded with pine trees. The crowd waited for Saadeh to reappear and to talk to them. He finally came out from the second story balcony to talk to the gathered masses of people.
The crowd started shouting as soon as Saadeh appeared on the balcony surrounded with high party officials. Saadeh once again waived his right hand at the crowd and everybody saw his comforting smile again.
“Long live Syria. Long Live Saadeh,” shouted the crowd. “O sons of life…who is life for…”
-To whom we do live?
-Who is our leader?
-Long live Syria.
-Long live, long live, long live…
-Long live Saadeh
-Long live, long live, long live.
At this point Saadeh raised both his arms in a parallel fashion, a sign that he wanted us to stop. Everybody was silent.
Fayiz Sayigh asked Saadeh: “O our honored leader. If I am standing here at this very special and happy moment, it is because the heart of every SSNP member is happy for your presence. If I stand here to explain to you how each and every SSNP member misses you, I am trying to the impossible. The feelings that this big crowd expressed is impossible to describe in words. I think that you understood that from the moment your plane touched the ground at the airport and we are looking at you whenever you go. At the midst of all this there is one thing that expresses everybody’s wish: We are ready. There is no vote of confidence that is stronger than that given by the hearts and souls of this big crowd. Very near to where we stand sleeps a martyr. He was our first martyr. He will vouch for what I say: It is in his deep silence that our martyr cries; Saadeh, We are honest in our oath. We walk behind you till death, so that the nation can walk on our bodies toward life.”
Saadeh hugged Sayigh with a smile on his face. A smile that showed how effected he was form his words. The crowd started shouting again. Showing their allegiance to what Sayigh had said.
Saadeh then turned toward the crowd with his arms open in the air. Everyone knew that he was going to talk. The shouting stopped. A deep silence followed…
Comrade Asaad Rahhal from the Marjaayun Chapter was standing beside me. He said: I have my hand on my heart, because I am afraid that Saadeh will not be able to deliver an oratory after nine years in exile. I hope that he will at least speak as Sayigh did.”
I told him: “I also hope that what you said is true.”
Saadeh’s voice was high-pitched and confident.
“O SSNP members;”
Should I say that his voice rang like a bell? Or like the music of angels that comes upon you from above.
The pen is unable to describe what SSNP members felt when Saadeh started to speak. A voice filled with confidence, hope, and the feeling of a miracle. His was a voice full of heroism coming from the deepest part of his soul. He talked to the crowd from his soul and conscience. He talked to their conscience.
This was the way that the SSNP members felt when they heard Saadeh. This was the way I felt. They greeted him with hurrahs and claps that was the explosion of their deep emotions. Saadeh asked them to stop and they did.
“This day is the happiest day I saw in my life. I return after nine years of exile to rejoin this growing group. This is a group that declined to have its grave of history under this sun.”
I already mentioned that Fayiz Sayigh was a big orator. The SSNP members were used to his eloquent oratory. However, as soon as these same members heard Saadeh’s first utterances, Sayigh’s image got dimmed and Saadeh’s came to replace it…
Saadeh was not doing oratory. Oratory was subdued under his voice. He was the master of the word. He and only he was the captain of the moment.
His sentences were like those that were given from a deity sitting in heaven. Each word was a flowing spring giving us hope, faith, and heroism.
Sayigh’s oratorical image got dimmed in front of us that day. It vanished totally so that Saadeh’s would take its place. He was not a regular human at that moment. He seemed to be one of the legendary heroes of our nation. The nation’s might had sent him to us so that he could lead its new awakening whose road had already been prepared…
His head was high and unwavering as he talked to us from the second story balcony of that house. As if an electrical cord was laid between him and his listeners. He united with them as they united with him. He was able to tell them exactly what was going in his mind.
He appeared to us as one of the huge figures of our nation’s history who was reincarnated in a new form to talk to his people and to make them walk on the road of struggle and heroism.
There is no doubt in my mind that on this day we saw him as the greatest orator in the world. I say this based on the effect that his words had on us, the crowd that was gathered to hear him.
In jubilation and proud ness I looked at my friend Asaad Rahhal and I saw that he also was eyeing me. I said to him: “He is a great orator.” He answered back: “and nobody we heard before him or after him can be him. Now I know why Saadeh is called The Leader…”
Saadeh continued his speech like a mature waterfall whose waters keep pouring down from the heights and controls the hearts and minds of his listeners and pumping confidence into them for the victory of the nation and life.
When he was almost at the end of his speech we could not shout anymore because our thoughts were dried and our voices gone.
Finally Saadeh asked us, his soldiers, to return to our ideological purity and the real struggle by uttering these words: “My word to you, O SSNP members, is to return to the struggle. How I would have wished to be able to shake the hands of each one of you and to know him or her personally. However, time is of the essence. But my goal today as in the past is to visit you in your villages and hamlets and to renew my faith in you.”
Once again the hurrahs started to pour out of our dried throats. We didn’t want him to stop. We didn’t want him to go in. Whatever days and years pass by one could not forget the spiritual height that each of us felt on that day.
It had to end. Saadeh went in followed by the other leaders.
A little while later I saw comrade Farris Maaluli, the Internal Deputy of the party looking around as if trying to fide someone. As soon as he saw me he signaled for me to approach him. It was very hard to maneuver my way through the crowd. I reached him after having to struggle to make way for me.
-Saadeh wants to know and get acquainted to the leaders of the party chapters. Go and enter the house from the back door and present yourself as the head of the Marjaayun district.
I didn’t wait for another word from him. Once again I struggled to make my way to the back door where I met some of the other chapter directors who were talking to party’s Central Executive member Abd al Masih.
When almost all of us were there Abd al Masih led us to the stairs. We climbed and entered a big hall. Saadeh was sitting at the center of the wall opposite the door to the hall talking to central committee members who were debriefing him about the issues and once in a while listening to what he had to say to them.
Saadeh stopped when Abd al Masih approached him and murmured some words into his ears. Saadeh stood up so that each one of us can shake hands with him and introduce ourselves.
When it was my turn I approached him humbly. I was not believing that I am about to hold the hand of that great man whom we patiently waited to appear after a long exile.
I saluted him and then introduced myself he held his hand to me and looked at me with gentle eyes. He strongly pressed on my hand with his. Then I heard him asking me:
-Are you from Marjaayun itself Mr. Regional director?
All my shyness went away since I noticed and felt that he was so close to me. I thought that he is my brother, father, or friend, besides being my leader. I answered back:
-No, Mr. Saadeh. I am from a village that is 15 kilometers away from Marjaayun. It is located on the peak of Mt. Aramun. It is named Rashayya al Fikhar.
-I know a fried from Argentina who is from Rashayya al Fikhar. His name is Elias Fakhoury. He later relocated to Brazil. He was a very active comrade.
-I know him by name only.
-How many party groups do we have in the Marjaayun area?
-Very well. Very well. I will cal upon you soon and we will talk at length about Marjaayun that I want to visit soon.
-The people will come in droves to meet you. They will come from Mt. Aramun to the banks of the Litani River. The Party’s popularity in Marjaayun is very high.
-Tell your friends there to remain as ready soldiers on the borders of Palestine.
-They will, Mr. Saadeh.
He shook my hand again while the smile never left his face. My heart was pounding with endless joy and proud ness.
I walked to the right so that comrade Kamal Kanj Abu Saleh from Majdal Shams, The Golan Heights, whose name was called through the microphone.
I went back toward my friends from Marjaayun and told them about my brief meeting with Saadeh and about his intention to visit our area at the first opportune moment. Their joy was great when they heard this.
We returned to Marjaayun the same night singing party songs. Our faith in Saadeh had grown even bigger that day.
* * *
THE ARREST WARRANT
Three days after Saadeh’s return to Lebanon I heard, while I was in Rashayya al Fikhar, that a warrant for arrest has been issued against Saadeh, because of the speech he had given on the day he returned. The government alleged that during his speech Saadeh attacked the government.
When I heard the news I hurried to Beirut. I went to the party center where I was told that what I have heard was true. And that General Security Directorate had questioned Central Committee member Naameh Tabit at night to know from him where Saadeh was. I was also told that Tibet’s house was secretly put under surveillance.
I also learned that Saadeh had decided to not answer the arrest warrant and do what the government had ordered because he saw it as a persecutory and vengeful act to tarnish the party and its leader, since legally there was nothing against the government in his speech to the extent that warrants his arrest. Saadeh also found it ironic that the government would do such a thing through the agitation of the mandatory power [France] after only three days from his return from his nine year exile.
I also learned that Saadeh went to Bshamun where SSNP members were guarding him in a way that no government agency would risk capturing him. Saadeh then moved to Aley from where he wrote a letter to the director of General Security where he said that he was amazed at how the government would create such lame excuses regarding his speech on the day of his return and that accordingly he proclaims:
1-That his speech contained nothing antagonistic to the government.
2-That he sees the Lebanese model as something that gives right to people to express their minds.
3-That his speech contained elements of previous speeches that the government had not found as antagonistic.
4-That he does not regard some journalistic printings as the exact expression of what he said. And that there is nobody in Lebanon is Lebanese more than he is and he certainly is conscious to keep Lebanon’s and the Lebanese prestige above all others.
I remained in Beirut following Saadeh’s news. Two days later I learned that he had published an open letter to the Lebanese people titled “ The First Press Release,” which the party center had widely distributed thus creating a political storm.
After that Saadeh relocated to Ras al Matn, then to Duhur al Shuwayr where he settled down surrounded by heavily armed guards. He started accepting the visits of his party leadership, politicians, journalists, and friends during the day. As if there was no arrest warrant against him…
A lot of journalists—Lebanese and foreign—came to the party headquarters in Beirut. They requested that they interview Saadeh. Some waited for days until he was able to have his wish. Saadeh would then meet with them and would make very serious statements that, once published, would have a great effect on the people. This was especially true within the SSNP circles, for which these statements would agitate their revolutionary instincts…
On March 20 comrade Farris Maaluli informed me that Saadeh had asked him that I go to Duhur al Shuwayr and see him. He also informed me that I had to go to the business place of comrade Farid al Sabbagh in Duhur al Shuwayr and he would lead me to Saadeh.
I went to Duhur al Shuwayr immediately and got to Sabbagh’s place. I already knew comrade Sabbagh and he welcomed me. I told him why I was there. He asked another comrade to go with me to see Saadeh. We walked to the house of another comrade where I was told to wait until Saadeh was ready to see me.
It was already 11 A.M. I sat in a wide hall. It wasn’t long before Saadeh appeared. I stood up and saluted him and walked closer to him as he was approaching me. As he was taking my hand he told me:
- Hallow, hallow, comrade Nawwaf, How are you?
- I am well sir. I am happy to see you.
- Come, let’s sit down here and talk a bit.
He then called for comrade Amin Seri al Din—his personal guard who was also armed at all times.
-I will be occupied with the Marjaayun area director for about an hour. Don’t let anyone enter before we are done.
We sat on a table that had some papers, books, and documents on it. He asked me to give him a verbal report about the party chapter in Marjaayun, together with the names of comrades responsible for certain party administration posts. I started my report and he went on taking notes and asking questions about the subject.
At one point he asked me to stop and give him the names of the comrades that I think are the most loyal and who can be trusted. I gave him the names of some comrades such as: George Maaluf, Fahd Abu Absi, Salem Saliba, Niimat Allah and Khalil Herdaan, Emil Mitry, Jirjis al Ghrayyib from Rashayya al Fikhar; Suleiman, Ali and Muhanna Sliqa from Firdays; Alam al Din Sharruf and Maaruf Qays from Hasbayya; Farris Mas’ud from Ain Jarfa; Yaaqub Khnayfis from Blaat; Abd al Karim Traad, Hassan Ghanim, and Nemr from Dibbin; Asaad Rahhal, Emil Tayyar, and Sami al Khuri from Jdeydet Marjaayun; Niimat Allah Musa from al Mari; Edmond and Jirjis Haddad from Ibl al Saqi; Hasan Abu Salha from Khalwat al Fir; Nassar and Salim Maddah, Farris Abu Qansouh and Mahmud Kanj Abu al Izz from Mimas. He wrote down all these names in a special copybook he held.
After that he asked me about myself and my family, my economic situation and how long have I been a member of the party. I was astonished by the details he was asking. I thought that he wanted to know everything about the person with whom he wanted to work. He wanted to have a complete and an in depth picture of the person. I haven’t seen a leader who would go to such detail in his work.
After this he asked me about how strong I thought the party was in Marjaayun and how well acquainted I was with the people I mentioned earlier. I answered by giving the names of some of the influential people with whom we had very good relations such as comrade Bahjat Shams, head of the Hasbayya area municipality. I also mentioned to him that I trained his two brothers, Ra’uf and Izzat Shams, before they joined the party.
He also asked me about the [parliamentary] elections in the area. I answered that usually there are two lists that are formed southern Lebanon that struggle against each other before every election. One of these lists is headed by Ahmad al Asaad, while the second is headed by Kazim al Khalil. I also told him that these people usually complete their lists of candidates, especially the Christian Orthodox and Catholic candidates for a big sum of money.
He told me: “The parliamentary elections are going to take place on the 25th of next May. We can’t let this pass by without having our say in it. Therefore, during the coming weeks our attention, besides our struggle with the government, must also be centered on these elections. I have already asked our financial advisor, comrade Abdallah Muhsin to head our election efforts in southern Lebanon. I therefore ask of you to cooperate with the Tyre area director of the party, comrade Mustafa Izz al Din, and under his guidance study the issue elections. I want you both to get in touch with me when things require my attention. You should also visit Ahmad al Asaad and Kazim al Khalil with comrade Izz al Din and understand from them what is their view regarding our struggle with the government. I want you to know which of the two is better equipped to work with us, knowing beforehand that our party will decide with which of them to cooperate, based on their stance regarding us and the government. Don’t forget to visit all party groups in your area and to put the comrades in the election atmosphere. Tell them also that the party will never withdraw from its stance against the government for election profits and that the government has first to withdraw the arrest warrant it issued against me haphazardly and which smells of persecution.”
As he was finishing his remarks he had stood and started to organize the papers that were on the table. I understood that our visit had ended. I stood up and saluted him. He shook my hand smiling. I turned around and went out of the door.
* * *
I WENT TO MY VILLAGE, Rashayya al Fikhar. When I reached home I was told that my wife had given birth to our first kid, a healthy daughter whom I named Ikhlas.
I took my newborn daughter in my arms and kissed her several times. I went back to Beirut and found that the Tyre area director of the party, Mustafa Izz al Din, had rented a room at the al Hadis Hotel, which we frequented when we were in the capital. It was located at the Al Dabbas Square. I told him about what had transpired during my meeting with Saadeh, and that we were now to head the electoral campaign of our part in southern Lebanon.
We went together to visit SSNP Central Executive Board member Abdallah Muhsin who worked in an office near the Lebanese Parliament building. We understood from him that Saadeh had already talked with him about our commission the day before. He instructed us to return to our areas and start visiting our party groups and make them aware of our election campaign. We were also instructed to tell our comrades that the government was weakening against Saadeh’s resisting stance regarding the arrest warrant issued against him.
I had an agreement with Mustafa to visit me in ten days in Marjaayun so that together we could visit Ahmad al Asaad in his village, al Tibeh.
I returned and started visiting our comrades in the different villages and town of the Marjaayun area. During my meetings I explained to our comrades how the government’s decision was ruthless regarding Saadeh. I also told them about the letter he wrote to the Director of General Security and its content. I assured them that Saadeh was in Duhur al Shuwayr surrounded by SSNP armed guards who were ready to face death itself while preserving Saadeh and “not letting even one hair to drop from his head.”
I also told our comrades that the party is going to wage its own election campaign all over Lebanon and they have to stand united and strong regarding any traditional candidate who would bribe them with promises. This means that they were to stay put until directions came to them from the party itself so that they can choose accordingly.
At the expected time I found Mustafa waiting for me at the home of comrade Asaad Rahhal in Marjaayun. We asked for comrade Muhammad al Shammah from Sidon and comrade Amin al Sabbah from Nabatiyyeh so that they would accompany us to the palace of Ahmad al Asaad in al Tibeh. When we reached the place was full with al Asaad’s people. We introduced ourselves as the representatives of the SSNP and that we had come to see Ahmad Bek. The person welcomed us and took us to the palace hall where Abu Kamel was sitting at center-stage surrounded with his people as well as Asaad and Nazih al Asaad, as well as his young son, Kamel al Asaad.
Abu Kamal welcomed us very warmly. He said good things about our party. He also attached Riyad al Sulh’s government, which, according to him, “committed a big crime by issuing an arrest warrant against Saadeh one day after he had arrived from his exile.” According to al Asaad what the government did was a crime for which it had to be tried. He also said that the people had to revolt against such a tyrant government that persecuted intellectuals and tried to put a halt against honest party work. He then asked us about Saadeh and his health.
Comrade Mustafa answered: “Saadeh is in good health and very well. He is currently in Duhur al Shuwayr and is guarded by SSNP members and that the government couldn’t reach him or put artificial walls between him and the people who love him.” He then handed al Asaad a copy of Saadeh’s “First Proclamation.”
Comrade Mustafa then introduced me as the director of the SSNP’s Marjaayun area and then introduced himself as that of Tyre. He also introduced the two comrades accompanying us as high ranking comrades from Sidon and Nabatiyyeh.
Al Asaad read the proclamation and said that he admires Saadeh and his ideas a lot. He once again had bitter words against the government and said that he wants to meet Saadeh and with him arrange for a popular opposition to rid the people from this tyrannical government. He also said that he wished to be able to meet him in person if the situation permits. He then asked his people to read the proclamation and be informed about its content.
I talked next and I suggested that he visit Saadeh at Duhur al Shuwayr. I said that Saadeh would be very happy for such a visit that would create the atmosphere between two leaders to talk and decide on many urgent matters. He answered that he will be ready for such a visit to “Mr. Saadeh” in about a week, after he is done with accepting the visits of southern Lebanon’s groups, who come every day to tell him that they are with him and his election list. He asked me to come to al Tibeh and personally tell him if Saadeh is willing to meet him.
He purposely spoke with a high pitch so that everyone present could hear what he told us. I think he did this on purpose so that some of those present would relate his positive stance about Saadeh and the SSNP to the government. He was thus waging a war of thoughts against the government to make it understand that he would join a united front with the SSNP if the latter chose to back his opponent in the coming elections.
After talking about several issues including the elections in southern Lebanon we excused ourselves from Abu Kamel. His son, Kamel, who was then 10 years old, walked with us and took us to another room in the palace where we sat down and talked with Asaad and Nazih al Asaad. They asked many questions and we answered them. We saw that Nazih had a very positive view regarding the SSNP (Nazih later became a member of the SSNP. He was an honest and hard struggling comrade. He was appointed as the party’s southern Lebanon director for more than a term). We were amazed that the very young Kamel was also asking questions and inquiring about the SSNP and its ideology. He also mentioned that he loves Saadeh and wishes to know him personally.
We left al Tibeh to Marjaayun and from there to my village, Rashayya al Fikhar where we stopped for three days discussing the election campaign. Comrade Mustafa Izz al Din left for Tyre. We had already decided to meet in a week at comrade al Shammah’s home in Sidon.
We met at the expected date and time at comrade al Shammah’s home. We learned from him that comrade Nazmi Azqoul, who worked as an attorney in Sidon, wishes to propose himself as the candidate for the Christian Orthodox seat in the coming parliamentary elections. So we visited Azqoul and he spoke to us about his candidature. He asked us to start campaigning for him in Tyre, Marjaayun, Nabatiyyeh, and Sidon.
We told him that we can’t do that without Saadeh’s order. Therefore, if he wishes to run for elections, he has to meet Saadeh in Duhur al Shuwayr and propose his candidacy to him. If Saadeh agrees to it we would then do the required campaigning.
From Sidon we went to Tyre to visit Kazim al Khalil, the head of the other or “the second” election list opposed to Ahmad al Asaad in southern Lebanon. We wanted to know his stance toward our party and the arrest warrant for Saadeh.
Kazim al Khalil gave us a very warm welcome in his house, especially when he knew that I was from Marjaayun, which was considered to be an Asaad domain. He wanted to have votes from that area. We heard very good words from him regarding the SSNP, while at the same time he was sure to tell us that he was totally against the government’s despotism against us.
I returned to Beirut and met comrade Abdallah Muhsin and gave him a detailed report about our meetings with Ahmad al Asaad and Kazim al Khalil as well as comrade Azqoul’s candidacy issue. He asked me to go to Duhur al Shuwayr and meet Saadeh and tell him all this and get my instructions from him.
I met Saadeh and reported everything to him. He was very happy that Ahmad al Asaad was eager to visit him, since al Asaad was a former head of the Lebanese Parliament and Prime Minister Riyad al Sulh’s political opponent, and also because such a visit would give more weight to the SSNP within the political circles and the printed media.
Saadeh then asked me about what I make of comrade Nazmi Azqoul’s candidacy? I told him that Azqoul’s winning possibilities are nil, since the Christian Orthodox and Catholic seats are usually decided by the list heads, i.e. al Asaad and Kazim al Khalil for a large sum of money that aspiring candidates have to pay to them. I said that since comrade Azqoul couldn’t come up with such a sum, his only chance is if you, Mr. Saadeh, would nominate him, just to make his name visible for future elections. I also said that even if Azqoul didn’t win, the party would show its muscle in the area.
Saadeh shook his head and said that he will study the issue and decide on it later.
He asked me if I knew a comrade by the name Lutfi Traboulsi who wants to announce his candidacy for the Catholic seat in southern Lebanon. I told him that I don’t know a comrade by such name.
Saadeh said that Traboulsi is visiting the party headquarters in Beirut. Saadeh asked me to meet with this comrade and understand his ideas and prepare a report about him. He also told me that it would be better if I brought Traboulsi with me to meet him.
After this Saadeh told me that it was time for the SSNP to publish its first election communiqué regarding southern Lebanon and that this document must bear Mustafa Izz al Din’s and my [Nawwaf Hardan] signatures as the directors of the SSNP’s electoral campaign in Tyre and Marjaayun. He told me that the press release must state that the SSNP will announce its decision regarding the elections in southern Lebanon at the most opportune moment. He also asked me to see to it that the press release gets distributed all over the south, so that SSNP members and the population ant large start talking about the party’s importance in these elections.
I asked him if he was going to write the press release or just tell me what to write and I will write it.
He said: “Do you, comrade Nawwaf, want your leader to do macro manage and at the same time micro manage all issues pertaining to the party? There is a table in the other room. Go there and write the press release.”
He told me this in such an encouraging way that I was filled with pride that he wanted me to write such an important document. I took some paper and a pen and went to the other room and sat down to write. At the same moment Saadeh’s Farid al Sabbagh, Saadeh’s personal bodyguard came in accompanied by a journalist from Damascus who had an appointment with Saadeh.
Some time later I finished writing the communiqué and ended it with the following sentence: “The SSNP will elect to parliament only those who it considers real friends and who possess the knowledge of its program and believes in the party’s struggle against those who want our people to be left in the dark.”
I returned to Saadeh’s office and listened to what he was answering the damascene journalist. I waited for my turn to talk to him.
When comrade al Sabbagh escorted the journalist out of the office I presented my writing to Saadeh. He smiled while reading and then said: “Very good. However, this last sentence has to be short, precise, and more flexible. It must be as forceful and as eye catching.” He took a pen and omitted the last sentence and replaced it with one that read: “The SSNP would elect to parliament those who are ready to be servants to the people and not lords over them.”
The final product read as follows:
Directorates of Southern Lebanon
A Communiqué to the People of Southern Lebanon
There are lots of rumors that are making rounds about the party’s stance regarding the forthcoming elections. These rumors state that the party will back this or that faction.
Since all these rumors are not based on reality or the official stance of the SSNP,
And since the SSNP intends to partake of these elections by depending on the awareness of the people to the party and its programs and their readiness to work for the noble principals that the party espouses,
We ask the people at large and our supporters in particular to be aware of these rumors that are meant only to misinform and confuse them.
We urge the people to wait for the official party directives that will be published soon.
We want to assure to our people that the SSNP would elect to parliament those who are ready to be servants to the people and not lords over them.
April 20, 1947.
SSNP Director of Electoral Committee of Tyre:
Mustafa Izz al Din
SSNP Director of Electoral Committee of Marjaayun:
Saadeh also told me:
-Go find comrade Jubran Jrayj in the printing house that is located in the Antoine Bek Khan and tell him that it is my order to print a huge quantity of the press release.
He then started looking at me and smiling while I was astonished at why he was smiling. He told me:
-You and comrade Mustafa are still at a young age. That is why you can’t expose a seriousness in your characters, which is the hallmark of politicians or those involved in politics. Now you are doing political consultations in the name of the party and meeting politicians and other important individuals. Therefore I find it very important [here his smile widened] that you start growing your mustaches and use neck ties and eyeglasses so as to impose seriousness to your characters.
I understood what was going on in his mind. I started to smile too. If I was not the victim of the situation I would have laughed out loud…
Mustafa Izz al Din was twenty three years old. I was a year older then him.
We were still very young and we really did not inspire a seriousness of character. It was more then possible that the politicians with whom we were dealing would ask themselves: Didn’t the SSNP find among its members except those youngsters to negotiate with us? Don’t they have older and more mature partisans to do the job?
Against all the odds Saadeh had put his trust in us. He encouraged us and wanted us to be the electoral directors speaking in the name of the party as the directors of Marjaayun and Tyre. He wanted us to gain experience from our work and be more certain about our own abilities so that we would have a clear picture about the politicians and leaders of Lebanon at the time.
I had nothing more to discuss with him. I excused myself and returned to Beirut where I went to the printing house and told comrade Jrayj what Saadeh had ordered regarding the communiqué. He told me that the copies will be ready the next day and that he will send them to the party headquarters where I could pick them up.
I remained in Beirut waiting for comrade Mustafa Izz al Din to arrive fro Tyre so that I could give him his half of the printed press release. I knew from comrade Abdallah Muhsin that comrade Traboulsi, who was aspiring to nominate himself for the Catholic seat in southern Lebanon, was a party member for a long period of time and possessed a huge fortune. However, he had not been an active member in the party.
I met him in the morning of next day at the party headquarters. When he found out who I was he came toward me smiling and started making very friendly conversation with me. He then told me that he wants to nominate himself for the Catholic seat from southern Lebanon and that he is counting on the SSNP votes in that regard.
I told him that he can’t count on our votes since the party didn’t decide yet regarding his nomination. I also told him that he has to first meet Saadeh and tell him about his intentions. The following conversation ensued:
-I am ready to present any amount of money the he requires.
-I advise you not even to talk about that in the presence of Saadeh since I know beforehand what his answer will be to you. If you insist on buying that parliamentary seat with your own money, it would be better that you go to Ahmad al Asaad or Kazim al Khalil and pay one of them more than other Catholic nominees are paying and you become an MP [Member of parliament].
-I will see to that later. However, at this time, I need that you get me an appointment with Saadeh.
-I am going to Marjaayun in the morning to distribute our first electoral communiqué. I will return in three days. If you wait for me I can then take you to meet Saadeh.
-I will be waiting for you here after three days…In the morning.
During our conversation an employee of the printing house had brought the printed package. Comrade Farris Maaluli told me that my package had arrived.
I gave a portion of the printed flyers to comrade Traboulsi and gave some to other comrades at the headquarters. The rest I divided into two equal portions. One was for comrade Mustafa Izz al Din and the second was for me. I wrote a letter to Mustafa and gave it to comrade Maaluli. I wrote in it that I will go to Marjaayun and Nabatiyyeh and distribute the flyers and that he has to the same in Tyre and Sidon.
On my way to Marjaayun I stopped first at Nabatiyyeh and gave a portion of the flyers to SSNP chapter leader, comrade Muhammad Amin al Sabbah, to distribute it in and around Nabatiyyeh. I continued to Marjaayun where I gave the some of the flyers to my second in command, comrade Asaad Rahhal to distribute in the Western region of Marjaayun, Dibbin, Blaat, Ibl al Saqi, Deyr Mimas, al Khirbeh, al Qlayaa, and al Khiyam. I continued my way to Rashayya al Fikhar and arranged with some comrades to distribute the flyers in the Eastern region.
After they returned the comrades told me that the flyer created an important interest in the ranks of SSNP members and the population at large.
“I Won’t Sell SSNP Members’ Sacrifices and Pains
for All the Treasures of the World.”
I returned to Beirut three days later and found comrade Traboulsi impatiently waiting for me at the headquarters. I had already wondered a lot about why this comrade wanted to be elected for parliament and the extent he was ready to go for that reason. I was disgusted by his tactics and coming to the SSNP headquarters to ask or rather to beg for SSNP members votes for his campaign. He was an SSNP member only by name. He had done nothing for the party. He had nothing to do with the SSNP members sacrifices and pains. He was so far away from all of that…
We went together to Duhur al Shuwayr and got to the house where Saadeh was meeting his visitors. We put our names on the list of visitors and comrade Yusuf al Khal took it inside. He came back and said: “Saadeh will see you first comrade Nawwaf. Then he will see you both.”
We sat down waiting for our turn. I was called in. Saadeh started talking as soon as I got into his office:
-What’s the matter with you comrade Nawwaf. Then he continued with a Shuwayrian accent: What did you do once again?
-We distributed the election flyer in the south. It had a very positive effect on SSNP members. The population at large showed interest in it. I now have comrade Traboulsi with me. He is here to ask you for your blessing for him to run for the Catholic seat in the south. He is dying to achieve this.
-What is his party status?
-He became a member years ago and remained on the margin without working or having any effect.
-What is his personal status?
-It seems that he is very rich. He thinks that money will buy him a seat in the parliament. He told me that he is ready to give any amount you ask in order to adopt his candidacy.
Saadeh shook his head and I saw his forehead get lined up in a sign of anger. He told me:
-What do you think the part’s stance should be regarding him?
-I don’t believe what I see from him. I disgust his tactics and his lust for using the party for his own ends. He just came around to tell us that he was a party member because the elections are so close. Where was he before that? Other members sacrifice and work hard and fight the colonialist power and the government. I really wander, Sir, about this kind of comrades who think they can manipulate the sacrifices of our real members for their own good just because they had registered their names in our party’s registry and without having to give the least sacrifice for that honor.
-You are right comrade Hardan. You are right… Let me finish with those people that were here before you. After that get me this comrade Traboulsi with you so that I can learn from him how exactly he wants to have our comrades votes and to reach parliament by climbing on their backs.
I saluted him and went out to tell Traboulsi that Saadeh will see us in a while. I started talking with other comrades about other issues.
During this time comrade Jubran Jrayj entered. He was coming from northern Lebanon and wanted to talk to Saadeh about election matters in his part of the country. I presented comrade Traboulsi to him as someone who wanted to attain the Catholic seat in the south... Comrade Jrayj talked to Traboulsi about the party’s strength in Marjaayun, Rashayya al Fikhar, Ibl al Saqi, Meymas, Hasbayya, al Nabatiyyeh, Juwayya, Tyre, Qana, and other places. He also related an anecdotal story that happened in Rashayya al Fikhar during his visit there on a party mission. He related how the SSNP members kept ringing the church bell day or night, when one party member was assaulted by Communists. He said that this was something that they had agreed upon so that they can come together in a very short time and defend themselves by attacking the enemies. He also related that the bell started to ring when the He and the party chapter directors were having their meeting. He was astonished at how the comrades asked his forgiveness to leave and went to another room in the house where they had their weapons and how they got them and left the house to go to aid a comrade in need. He stated that he tried to use his party stature and talked in a high pitched voice to make the directors return to the meeting…
Traboulsi listened carefully to what comrade Jubran was talking about. Apparently this made him even more wanting in terms of his candidacy and thus he was more anxious to see Saadeh…
A little while later Saadeh asked to see us both. I introduced comrade Traboulsi to Saadeh. After we sat down Saadeh asked Traboulsi what year he became a member of the party. Traboulsi answered that he became a member in the late 1930’s. He also said that he has come to salute Saadeh and to tell him that he is going to announce his candidacy for the Catholic seat from south Lebanon and that he hopes that Saadeh will accept his candidacy and tell SSNP members in the south to vote for him.
Saadeh then asked him if he had had any responsible position within the party and if he was still aware of his oath and had not stirred away from his responsibilities as an SSNP member during all these years he was a member. Traboulsi was confused and didn’t know how to answer. Finally he garnered some courage and said:
“I am an SSNP member. I remained honest to my ideology and believed in it without taking any responsibilities within the ranks…because the colonial powers were persecuting the SSNP. I didn’t think that going to jail would be of any benefit.”
-Can’t you see that if SSNP members keep their convictions to themselves without becoming active in the ranks and within the populace the party will become frozen and will not grow and will disintegrate instead of growing and going foreword to achieve its goals? If every SSNP member kept for himself and didn’t work towards the betterment of the party would there be an SSNP today? Would that unifying force between the SSNP members remained in order for them to face the difficulties of the times through their sacrifices? No my comrade. You were not ready for that. No SSNP member who had taken the auth of allegiance could remain in such a frozen position. Especially during tiring times…
Traboulsi shook his head in shame. However he collected his courage and said:
-Dear Sir, I am really ashamed of the inactive position I took. I assure you that I will do all my obligations from now on. I will do my best to restore my integrity within the party.
-Very well then. I will wait for news about your activities. I hope that they will be good and fulfilling.
-I will start my activities by announcing my candidacy in the south. I hope that you will take a decision regarding my candidacy.
-SSNP members vote for those who they know very well, they vote for those that they trust. They vote for those that continue to struggle for them. They, our comrades, know nothing about your party struggle. They have not heard your name before…
-They will vote for me if you told them to do that.
-Many SSNP members were persecuted, jailed, tortured, and endured all that. Some of them are in these conditions even today. You have to know my dear comrade and it must never leave your mind, that I don’t sell our comrades sacrifices and pains for all the treasures of the world. Go and study our ideology first… Be a righteous SSNP member. Sacrifice yourself and know the meaning of sacrifice. At that time the party can study the issue of your candidacy in a future election even if you were a poor man and had no buildings, companies or money.
-I will be a very good SSNP member. I will never abandon my ideology. Please allow me to announce my candidacy. Please do so.
-You are losing my time and your time. Know that in this party we have taken upon ourselves to do something very dangerous. The party has rules by which it regulates its representatives. Nobody can work against these rules.
Traboulsi was speechless. He knew that he couldn’t make Saadeh change his mind.
Several minutes later we stood up and asked to leave. We went out together.
Rashayya al Fikhar,
August 15, 1947,
“I Am Stubborn About Justice and I am Hard Against Mistakes and Wrongs.”
I went to the party headquarters at Maarad Street in Beirut to meet the director of internal affairs. I could not find him there. I sat down and waited.
During my wait comrade Maaluli told me:
-The party has set up a camp in Duhur al Shuwayr. Why don’t you go and spend some time there.
I liked the idea and went to Duhur al Shuwayr after meeting with the director of internal affairs. I asked around and found the camp.
I introduced myself to the camp director, comrade Ibrahim Yammut, who at the same time was vice director of the party’s treasury. He welcomed me.
Next morning comrade Yammut told me that the camping members also took shifts in guarding the house where Saadeh’s was staying. It must be said here that the arrest warrant against Saadeh was still in force. Yammut told me to go and take my shift as of 11:00 A.M. and for two hours.
At the exact time I went to the house that was on the road to Irzal north of Duhur al Shuwayr. This was the house that the party had collected money to build for Saadeh and his family when he returned from his exile in Argentina.
I took over from the comrade who was there before me. He gave me a rifle and instructed me on what to do.
While the comrade was still explaining director of the northern Matn area, comrade Farid al Sabbagh came accompanied by someone who seemed to be a very important person. He entered the house.
I asked the comrade who was guarding before me about who this person might be. He answered that it was Ra’eef Abi al Lamah, a friend of Saadeh who had been visiting him for some time now and who was trying to mediate between him and the Lebanese Government regarding the arrest warrant.
The comrade went and I took over the guarding responsibility. I was very happy to be entrusted with this job.
Some time later and without my intention I started hearing some of the conversation that was going on with Abi al Lamah. I heard him say to Saadeh:
-You are very stubborn Saadeh. Nobody can change you once you have made up your mind regarding something. Why don’t you agree with me to go down to Beirut and show at the Directorate of General Security so that a semblance of an interrogation can be done and we will be done with this problem?
Saadeh’s voice was very high when he answered back. I heard him say:
-What you say is right. I am stubborn, hard and very insisting in my opinion…But I am also stubborn about justice and hard on mistakes and wrongs. That is why I insist on my position… I don’t accept to go to the Directorate of General Security so that you can interrogate me because this corrupt government committed a grave mistake by publishing an arrest warrant on my behalf on the day after my return from my exile because of the speech I gave on my return. What was it that I said that was so against the Lebanese structure? I said and I repeat that the Lebanese structure is that of its people. If it is not subordinate to the will of the people then to what is it subordinated? Or is it that the stars of this government think that Lebanon belongs to them and that the will of the country is their will? That they are the lords of the people and the structure of the country. And that the people have no say on the country and its structure. Tell me where this government was during the French Mandate? Where was it when I was jailed and persecuted? Where were they when I and the party stood against the mandate and the mandatory power and struggled to gain our independence and to bring the people together so that it, the people, and only the people, would have its independent country and structure and not the division called for by sectarianism, tribalism, beyks and effendis and clergymen. The truth be said it was they, the members of this government who had to come to the airport and to greet me the day I returned from exile instead of showing this animosity towards me, which shows that they are against me and the party and thus against the will of thousands of SSNP members. If this government wants to make thing better it has to first retreat from its stance and cancel the arrest warrant against me without the need for me to come down to be interrogated. There is no other solution to this problem… However, if the government wants to remain on its present course and use force against me, I am ready to sacrifice my life for that. He said this while clapping with two fingers of his right hand. I heard the clap. After that the conversation was so low that I couldn’t hear anything.
They talked for another hour or so. I was trying to hear something but couldn’t. All I heard was what I wrote above.
A little while later comrade Jubran Jrayj came by. He asked me about who Saadeh was meeting with. He also asked if it was a private meeting. I said I don’t know exactly but I can presume that it is private. A little while later I saw Saadeh coming out with Ra’eef Abi al Lamah to bid him good by. He saw me and asked me if I was going to be guarding late. I said that I will be done in half an hour. He answered back asking me to come inside and have lunch with him once I am done.
Comrade Jubran went after him inside the house while I continued my duty until somebody came from the camp to take my place. I gave him the rifle and went inside the house.
Food was brought on the table. It was Kubbeh Bil Siniyyeh, salad and some raw Kubbeh and bread.
Saadeh sat on the head of the table. Jubran sat to his right. He was facing me. We took some food in our plates. Saadeh asked for some oil for his raw Kubbeh. I asked him:
-Do you prefer olive oil than butter on your Kubbeh?
-Of course. Olive oil is much better and beneficial to the body.
He then started to speak about the benefits of olive oil on the stomach, the intestines, and blood vessels. I told him jokingly:
-Sir, if you continue to speak as such about the benefits of olive oil to those who visit you the prices of olive oil will increase and thus comrade Jubran will sustain a big loss.
They both smiled. Jubran at the time used to buy olive oil from al Kura and sell it in Beirut. He said to me:
-On the contrary. If olive oil prices goes up my profit goes up too. I just bought a huge quantity of it.
We continued eating and talking. It was Jubran who asked Saadeh what Abi al Lamah wanted:
-Ra’eef is a very old friend. He wants to establish a truce between me and the Lebanese government and be done with the arrest warrant against me. However, he wants me to be interrogated—albeit without much ado —by General Security. I completely refused his offer and told him that the government has to recall its stupid decision if it wanted to solve the problem.
We finished eating and went to the salon where we listened to Saadeh for a long time without being able to quench our thirst from his vast knowledge…
* * *
WHEN WE HOPED THAT SAADEH WAS WRONG
We are at the beginning of May, 1948.
A few days later Great Britain will finish its mandate over Palestine…It will go away with its government, administration, army and other structures. It had already announced a date for that: At midnight of May 15, 1948.
At the time Palestinians, Syrians and all Arab peoples thought that once the British go away on May 15, 1948, Palestine will be open in front of the “Arabs.” And that it will be only hours before the Arab armies cordon Palestine from four sides (by land and by sea) and that the Israeli semi military organizations and the Hagana and Shtern bandits will not be able to hold against this onslaught. This way Palestine will be liberated from Jewish settlers and will return to its original owners…This way the Zionist danger would be crushed…
Things were perplexing in the Arab world. Radio stations and newspapers were doing everything to prepare the people for the expected day and the victory that was anxiously anticipated…
•“150 thousand Arab Soldiers Are on Their Way to Palestine.”
•“May 15 Is Our Appointment With Victory.”
•“May 15 Is Your Day, O Palestine.”
•“On May 15 the Arab Armies Will Stop Only at Tel Aviv.”
•“Tomorrow the Arab Armies will Invade Palestine and Throw the Jews into the Sea.”
These were some of the headlines of Arabic newspapers. Hope and optimism were at their highest. The hopes of the big victory cradled all hearts and minds.
As for us, SSNP members in Marjaayun who were near the border to Palestine, we were euphoric with courage. We sang anthems and recited stanzas by SSNP comrade and poet Ajjaj al Mehtar:
Palestine is for us and with us to do pilgrimage there
O what will happen to those homeless who invaded it?
We will be on its borders on every mile watching
With our slicing swards we will defend her
We have the Arab kings from all over
We were raised to defend our neighbors
We have the Arab armies on the watch
God is great and the past will be changed
About six months earlier, Saadeh, more precisely on November 2, 1947, had published a historical letter to SSNP members and “the Syrian Nation” on the occasion “of how the Lebanese Government tried so that an SSNP army could not be formed to go to Palestine where the Jews had lots of intentions.”
In this letter Saadeh Said:
“The personal and defeatist politics that made the Palestine Issue reach this point is the same as that of the Issues of Cilicia and Iskandarun that resulted in catastrophes.”
Not a month after this letter was published, on December 1, 1948; he published another statement on the occasion of the United Nation’s decision to divide Palestine between Jews and Arabs. At the time he proclaimed:
“The private and reactionary politics had hugely succeeded!!! The catastrophe to the south had already happened. November 30th is a day of mourning to SSNP members and a lesson to the Syrian nation.”
In his two letters Saadeh analyzed the immature tactics of Arabic governments toward the Palestinian issue.
I was still the director of SSNP’s Marjaayun chapter. I can now confess that after I read both of Saadeh’s letters I said to myself:
-No. I will not allow myself under any circumstances…that the Palestine issue will end in a catastrophe. Saadeh must be very pessimistic to speak about catastrophe at this early stage. However, if he wants to show that the Arab governments have gone bankrupt in front of their people, let him use another method besides talking this way about Palestine. It is impossible that the Palestine issue will end in such a catastrophe.
I decided to distribute Saadeh’s letters in a very narrow way... I have to confess that doing that created much pain in my soul.
He is our leader and the person who leads us. How can he do such a mistake? He doesn’t have the right to be pessimistic.
I wished from the bottom of my heart that he was wrong. He alone amongst the leaders of the Arab nation, its parties, presidents, kings, the proclamations of the Arab League, the preparedness of the Arab armies, and its peoples hope and readiness, was pessimistic and was proclaiming the death of Palestine and saying:
-The Palestine issue is a catastrophe.
-No. This is not so. Our dear, sacred and beautiful Palestine is not going to be lost. The Syrians and the Arabs are going to everything until it is liberated and returned to its lawful people.
-Perhaps Saadeh hastened in his writings. He wrote what he wrote at a time when he was angry. He wrote it at a time when his vision was not so clear. He will definitely review and change his mind.
-However, is it possible that with an issue so dear and grave to our people Saadeh would be writing such pessimistic prophecies?
These questions were torturing me almost to the end of 1947 and during almost the first half of 1948. The nearer we got to May 15, 1948 the more doubtful and nerve wracked I became.
I wasn’t alone in this situation. I could see the same sentiments in the eyes of our high-ranking party officers and chapter directors. They too had done as I did and didn’t allow for Saadeh’s writings to have a wider distribution amongst the SSNP members and the people at large.
Suddenly, amongst that nerve wrecking and disturbing atmosphere and in the midst of the big preparations for the war, I received an Urgent letter from party headquarters. It instructed me to quickly come to Beirut and meet with the party’s defense director.
-I am sure that Saadeh had come to his senses and asked the defense director to take actions and prepare the SSNP to participate in the war and the liberation of Palestine. This is the only explanation to this letter…
It was May 11th…Just 4 days shy of the date set for the Arab and Syrian armies to invade Palestine.
The party’s Defense Director, comrade Adib Qaddura, had a pharmacy. I went there to see him.
I was right. He instructed me to:
1.To go back to Marjaayun and do a quick tour to party groups in the region.
2.To create a roster of party members who want to volunteer for the war within a party brigade and under its banner.
3.To get that roster quickly to headquarters and specifically to the Defense Director, and wait for new instructions.
I returned to Marjaayun the same day. I was euphoric. I toured all the party groups walking; Dibbin, Blaat, Ibl al Saqi, Rashayya al Fikhar, al Mari, al Firdays, Ain Jarfa, Hasbayya, Meymas, Khalwat al Kfeyr, Shuwayya, etc… It took me three days to complete my tour. I didn’t feel any tiredness because I was so happy. The comrades gave me more confidence when one after the other agreed to volunteer. I had two lists. The first had 150 names of comrades—some of them had been soldiers before-- who could be ready as soon as the orders came in. The second list had 130 names and consisted of those who could come down in about a week.
On May 15 I was at Jdeydet Marjaayun at the home of comrade Asaad Rahhal. I was to return to Beirut the next morning.
I didn’t sleep that night. So did Rahhal and some other comrades who were in the house.
We were waiting for the midnight attack that was announced and promised. We were waiting for that victorious attack that would liberate Palestine…
The Lebanese army was supposed to attack from the army barracks at Marjaayun and al Khiyam towards al Mutelleh and al Howleh in the northern sector, while the damascene army was going to attack al Howleh and Tabarayya from the east, the Julan Heights, and thus defeat the Jews in by surrounding them from both sides.
The hours were moving slowly. We went to the southern part of the village to be nearer to the action. We wanted to see the bombs explode in al Mutelleh, a Jewish village about 5 kilometers away. We wanted to see how the Jews would react to such an unexpected attack and how were they going to retreat defeated and unorganized against this courageous attack…
The time came and our hearts started pounding. 10 minutes passed. 15 minutes passed. Half an hour past. One hour, two hours passed… Not even one bullet was heard from the Lebanese side toward al Mutelleh whose lights were in front of us as normal as ever. We didn’t hear any artillery fire from the Syrian Julan. Not even one bomb fell on al Howleh that was so close to our position.
We went back with more questions than when we got there. Our tongues were speechless. We didn’t sleep that night…
At six in the morning I and comrade Rahhal started toward Beirut. I had the 2 lists when I reached the party headquarters. We wanted to meet comrade Qaddura. Instead we met with comrade Salim al Khuri, his second in command.
I gave him both lists and I told him that the comrades were anxious and eager. We were surprised when he didn’t return our enthusiasm. On the contrary, we were met with his sobering eyes as if they wanted to tell us to hold down a minute.
I was quick to ask him:
-What’s the matter comrade Khuri? Is there some sort of retreat by the party regarding the war?
No…The party didn’t and will not retreat from its stance. However, the retread happened and will happen again, since we have leaders who announce that they are going to fight when they are not serious about that. Moreover, they try to even force the party from retreating from its announced motives of liberating Palestine.
I exploded. I started shouting in anger against the party’s stance. I said:
Nobody can stop the party from fighting. The boarders with Palestine are open. So please you and the director of defense come with us and lead us to the border. We at Marjaayun are ready to cross the border in the name of the party. If you are not ready to do that, at least give us the weapons and we will do the rest by attacking the Kibbutz’s and Jewish farms and settlements.
I don’t remember that before that day I had ever raised my voice against a higher ranking party member. Comrade Khuri apparently understood my situation and told me in respectful manner:
-I don’t hold a grudge against you my dear comrade, since I know you very well and now how disciplined you are. Go now and meet with Saadeh. He will explain the situation and the party’s stance and the reasons for that to you. If you want discuss these issues with him so that your doubts are shattered.
-Yes we are going to meet Saadeh and discuss the matter with him.
As I answered him I took the two lists that I had put on the desk in front of him. I went out with Rahhal to go to Saadeh’s home in Ras Beirut.
We sat for about half an hour in the salon at Saadeh’s Ras Beirut home. We were angry and sorry at the same time. He came out with a very sad face. He had the “111” sign on his forehead (this was the sign of anger that was represented by three vertical lines on his forehead. If he stressed on it more it would make a sign similar to the Lebanese Cedar tree). I immediately understood that the vice director of defense had called him what had happened with us at the party headquarters.
We stood and saluted him. He saluted us and sat in front of his desk. He started talking by uttering some harsh words to me:
-What’s the matter Mr. Chapter director? I was told that you raised your voice in front of those outranking you at the headquarters.
He was looking angrily at me. However, his anger didn’t show any signs of hatred, which accompanies anger most of the time. I felt like I was in front of my father. I felt like a brother in front of his older brother. I felt like somebody who is about to be affectionately warned about a mistake he made.
His words emptied the anger from within me. I felt miserable and ashamed from the way he looked at me. I was perplexed and couldn’t answer. Finally I got my courage and said:
-For three days now I toured walking on all party cells and groups in Marjaayun and the peaks of Mt. Harmon. I didn’t have time to shave as you can see Sir. Now I am ashamed to return and tell our people that we are not participating in the war. Why didn’t Headquarters send a word to me regarding this so that I could have stopped registering volunteers? Why is the party taking this stance regarding Palestine? This is something that I and many party members couldn’t understand. I was surprised when the vice director of defense told me that we aren’t going to participate in the battle. I momentarily and unintentionally exploded in front of him. Yes, I put him in a corner and went out. I will be found a criminal in front of SSNP members in my own area.
-I will talk about that and about the party’s stance in a moment. However, before that, I want you to know that under no circumstances you have the right to raise your voice in front of those who outrank you in the party. That is against the rules of our organization. What would you do if somebody bellow your rank spoke like that to you? Do you accept such behavior in your chapter?
-Sir, I know that I want to say for the record that I have done nothing like this throughout my party membership.
-I know how disciplined you are and I am also aware that you will struggle to the end for our party and its causes. However, I can’t accept what happened and pretend that it didn’t happen. This time I will ask you to write an apology letter to the person you insulted at headquarters
-But sir, he knows me very well. I think he understood me and knows that my intentions were pure.
-Don’t be the judge of other people’s feelings. The issue is not a personal one with the outranking member in question. It is something that goes to the core of our organization. I want our party members to be highly disciplined and each of them to be an example to the others.
-Sir, I will write the apology letter.
-Write it and leave it at headquarters before returning to Marjaayun. Give it directly to the vise director.
Then he continued:
-Now let us return to the party’s stance that you say you and other SSNP members didn’t understand. This means that you also didn’t understand me when I proclaimed that “the southern catastrophe has already happened.” Not only you didn’t understand me, but you went even further in not distributing my two letters to part members and the population because you thought that I was very pessimistic and that I was perhaps exaggerating. However, let me tell you that the opposite was true. All events show that the Arab governments were not serious in their effort to liberate Palestine. Al this hoopla from the newspapers and radio stations about the big preparation and the huge armies advancing from all sides towards Palestine was nothing but a big lie to agitate the people. The Jews had planned in a very systematic, disciplined and scientific manner. We have a saying that “a letter can be read from its headline. These reactionary Arab governments with their personal politics are not at par to fight the Jews regardless that the latter are fewer in number. These Arab governments are not governments that can plan a war, let alone to seriously administer one... Do the people really feel that it is in a war? Or that the war is in one valley and they are in another? Tell me, did you see if our country is in a state of war? When there is a war being announced the people must feel it and support it. Did you feel anything in this regard in Marjaayun, so near to the battlefront? Did you see the Lebanese army attacking Palestine at the midnight appointment? Or was it that the soldiers remained in their barracks?
-We waited further than midnight—said comrade Rahhal—we waited for the magnificent attack to start. We saw nothing.
-And nothing will you see. Even if you had waited for a week or two after the agreed upon hour and even if you saw some shaggy troops movements, they would only be the acts of a drama being played along the border and nothing else.
-Sir, regardless of this you were too quick to announce that the Palestinian Issue will end in a catastrophe and that we will lose Palestine.
-That is emotional talk only. Reality will come to prove it. When I announced what I announced I didn’t do that out of pessimism but out of calculated and analytical thinking. I know that wars can’t be won with emotions alone. Nor can they be fought with old and reactionary politics. I don’t even hide from you my doubt that some of the Arab leaders were conspiring with the Jews. Thus, they hid their heads in the soil [like ostriches do] so that their retreat would not be considered a shame and working with the enemy itself.
-But Sir if this was the stance of the Arab governments why doesn’t our party form brigades of its volunteer members and send them to Palestine to fight and resurrect the nation’s pride?
-The party tried to do that. It also took upon itself the formation of its own platoons to fight under its banner, the Zawbaah [the Hurricane, or the Twister]. However we got the answer from those responsible for the war effort that there is going to be no arms delivered to the SSNP. This was the reason that we were cut from our aim to go south and fight. How can we fight without weapons?
-And why can’t the party fight with its own weapons. Sir, it was you who taught us not to be afraid of death for the sake of life…
-It is true that I taught you not to be afraid of death when it is the road to life. That is right…However, I didn’t teach you to die for the sake of death itself. I can’t advocate a path that would lead to our members’ death and demise and I can’t tell them to go and fight without weapons or with outdated weapons. That would mean that I am telling them to go and commit suicide. Let those who announced that they will start-- and who have the means to-- a war to start it. We will be solid in our stance and will not be moved by empty drum beats and trumpets. We will follow the events and watch carefully. Then we will decide what we will do.
-It is being said Sir that you are adopting this stance to show your opposition to Arab leaders and governments and to show that they are bankrupt. However, you can’t take such a stance toward an issue as important and as central such as the Palestinian Issue.
-Who says that except you and the likes of you who are only emotional in their thinking and are quickly taken by superfluous appearances? Those who don’t analyze my words and don’t understand them can never understand the core of the issue.
-I am not the only one who thinks that way. There are central committee members of the party who are whispering such things.
Saadeh was red with anger at my last answer. Once again the 111 sign appeared on his forehead and he said in a high voice:
-Whoever is not content with my leadership be it a central committee member or
not let him go home and rest. I am not going to say things that will make this or that party executive happy. I say what I say for history and for the record. Wars are not fought with emotions. Whoever fights in a war must be ready for it and must have made preparations for it from men to equipment to arm and military leadership. I don’t see that in the Arab governments because they are unable and not serious for such a task. These governments are not even ready to take real responsibility…
Saadeh stopped and continued to look angrily at our eyes. We were unable to talk to him any more. A few moments later we started to understand that he was right and. We were now more confused than before.
Saadeh then continued:
-I reiterate to you comrades what I said in my letter dated November 2, 1947: “The personal and defeatist politics that made the Palestine Issue reach this point is the same as that of the Issues of Cilicia and Iskandarun that resulted in catastrophes. Return to your areas and wait for new instructions. Have complete faith in your leadership. Have faith in your ideology whose victory will be the only complete victory by which the nation will be saved from its catastrophes.”
At that moment and while we were listening to him, it was if a new light started shining in our path. The truth that Saadeh pronounces was now simple and understandable. We now came to the understanding that he was right all the time…
We stood and saluted him and went out. We walked a little thinking about his words and still wishing that the Palestinian issue would not turn into a tragedy. After some time I told my friend:
-I hope that Saadeh is wrong.
-But he is the leader. We don’t want him to be wrong. May be we want him to be wrong only this time so that we don’t lose Palestine…
Days passed by very heavy and very slow until it became clear to us and to all that Saadeh was the only one who was right and we all were wrong…
* * * * *
ISSUES OF NATIONAL POLITICS:A REPLY TO PATRIARCH ARIDAH
By: Antoine Saadeh
On the 6th of this month, the Maronite Patriarch delivered a speech where he spoke about Lebanese politics and its issues and analyzed them in a manner that is characteristic and traditional of the Patriarchate. His speech, then, was important and dangerous at the same time. This speech can’t be ignored as others emanating from the Patriarchate. It demands to be answered and clarified in accordance to modern political thought, especially since the Patriarch talks precisely about the Syrian Social National Party (SSNP), which in turn puts on us the burden of answering it in exact terms.
We were waiting that the patriarch’s speech would deliver issues and directions that would add political dimensions to the speech itself. However, what followed was not germane to it. Neither was it expressive of the speech’s content. What followed were political maneuvers, which aimed at using the Patriarch and his influence.
Before we start analyzing the patriarch’s speech something has to be said about the political aspect of his character, which are construed from his stances vis-à-vis different issues. For one, the patriarch had a positive stance on the issue of unity between Lebanon and Damascus. It seemed that he was very close to the national awakening. His stance regarding the monopoly of tobacco growing and manufacturing in Lebanon was a strong one. However, It was belated and not a successful stance.
If Patriarch Aridah had several blessed stances, he also had his share of not so blessed ones. Such was the case of his stance regarding the Jewish infiltration into Lebanon, an issue that caused Bishop Mubarak to exclaim:
“We elected you as a patriarch of the Maronites and not the Jews.”
We don’t mention Bishop Mubarak’s words so as to glorify him. It must be noted that the bishop too followed his master and became a bishop for the Jews.
From his past activities we see that Patriarch Aridah personally has no specific and calculated stance. He does not follow a certain political line. His political activities are dictated by events and by those who are close to him. Most of his stances are thus superficial. They are built on only shallow understanding of the events. In this regard the patriarch’s stance on the 6th of this month was no exception. Here is the dissection of his speech.
In his speech the patriarch goes on to solve problems that had already become irrelevant due to the passage of time. His stance regarding the issue of government in Lebanon is like his stance regarding the tobacco monopoly, since it is built on the same theory; to look into catastrophes after they happen and to see mistakes after they take place, without giving any importance to the real issues and without understanding their real motives. His stance would seem a most successful one at first glance. However, what happens is that he mixes right with wrong. He makes the people happy. The people try it and are sad. The same thing repeats itself and the people are repeatedly happy and sad…
It is obvious that same reasons would lead to same results. Thus the opposite of cure is created and the peoples’ yearning is dead. It seems that religious peoples’ dealing with political issues today is like their dealings with physical and psychological illnesses in the Middle-Ages, when the clergy had this omnipotent power over ignorant people. And as research in medicine showed that the clergy couldn’t take the place of doctors, so did also research in the fields of politics and sociology. Thus a bishop or a patriarch is not equipped to handle issues that belong to the political or social scientist. Thus, if a clergyman involves himself in the cure of political, social, or economic issues, he creates bigger problem for scientists in those fields who try to come up with a solution for an important issue.
From our own experience we have concluded that Patriarch Aridah is but a clergyman. He might be very righteous, peace loving, and devoted to Christ; however, he is not and could not be an expert in the political, social, or economic realms, even if he has the help of some of his close friends who advise him on such issues.
What remains is the traditions and importance surrounding the Patriarchal Seat, which comes to us from old centuries, the Stone Age, before the advent of iron, the machine, the Industrial and Agricultural Revolutions and the era of specializations…
We have to confess that during ancient times the Patriarchal Seat was consumed with the religious aspects of its heard. During those times the heard was a religious entity in itself. There was religious unity, which manifested itself in the political unity of the heard. Therefore, if one wanted to know the stance of a people regarding an issue all he had to do was ask the religious leader of that people. There were no personal opinions during these times. The power of the religious leader was complete and absolute.
In those times it was acceptable to refer to the religious leader as the political leader of the people as well. It was thus that the Patriarchal Seat gained importance and momentum that unfortunately continues to our days. What is more dangerous is the fact that this assumed importance is meddling in our political and national affairs, which are issues of utmost importance and dangerous to meddle with in an unprofessional way.
It is true that the Pontifical Seat had in many past instances defended the religious rights of the people and found the ways for continuing its existence. It did great things in its role as the protector of the people. It is because of this role that the Seat keeps its importance and power up to our times. Much did change from the old times. However, people are very slow in understanding social and political change. The people still remains a religious entity and works as such even though there is no reason for it to continue as such. This continuation was the reason why the Patriarchal Seat involved itself in the Syrian issues after the World War I (WWI). Its interference in this was the beginning of the creation of the issue of Modern Lebanon, which brought the Lebanese people to its current stage of ignorance. This created the atmosphere for clergymen to interfere in and have influence over the people and the solutions of its national and political future.
These are the issues that make Patriarch Aridah’s speech a dangerous one. It is simple, confused, general, and doesn’t grasp important issues except those concerning the SSNP and the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP). However, as general as the speech is, at some points it negates some principles that can’t be neglected as shall we see.
2-The Confused Success
After thanking the delegations that came to visit him in his Winter Headquarters, His Beatitude starts his speech by declaring his sorrow vis-à-vis the events that surrounded the governmental decree to dissolve the Lebanese Youth Organizations.
Let us start by saying that the dissolution of the organization had saddened many, and His Beatitude was not the first among them.
The Patriarch also expresses his sorrow “for what was said as criticism regarding the parliamentary elections.” He then absolves himself from “these elections” by declaring that he left the issue “to its masters,” that is “the people and the government.” The reason why the Patriarch didn’t interfere in these elections was because he considers all to be his beloved children. Therefore, he can’t be with one group and against the other, since he is for all and he has to “put all under his protection.”
While the patriarch declares in his speech that he leaves a very important issue such as the elections to its masters, i.e. “the people and the government,” and states that he is obliged to have all under his protection, he suddenly declares that he finds no fault about spiritual leaders interfering in “temporal issues.” He then supports his stance vis-à-vis the temporal power, with this very courageous and dangerous statement:
“The people, regardless of its divisions, ask us and expects from us to take care of not only its spiritual needs, but its temporal issues too. We protect the people and do our best for its good. The same people who gave the government the right to deal with its temporal issues, also wants us to look after the same needs as well, etc…”
If there is a kernel of truth in this declaration, that the people had asked the patriarch to take care of its temporal needs as well, how can he explain his saying that he left the elections issues “to its masters” and yet the people wanted him to take care of this same issues?
We want to believe that the patriarch had no say or “interference” in the elections. However, we have to look for the reasons that led him not to interfere, when he considers that the people, “regardless of its divisions,” had asked him “to take care of its temporal needs and protect its rights.” Did the patriarch then disregard the people’s request, or was it that he didn’t expect what really took place and led to the “much regrettable” “criticism regarding the parliamentary elections?” Or is the reason the SSNP’s ideology and reformist principle of the separation of Church and State, so that religious leaders would deal with the peoples spiritual needs while the temporal leaders take care of the government and the state, without colliding with the clergy in their temporal dealings?
Yes. How does the patriarch on the one hand say that he left the temporal issue of the elections to its masters and on the other hand say:
“The reality of the situation is that the Lebanese people regard the Maronite Patriarchate and its leader as their father and absolute representative. The people expect from the patriarch to preserve its rights. And if the patriarch doesn’t accomplish this the people blame him, since he has always been their refuge in all matters.”
If His Beatitude acknowledges that he has been negligent of the trust that the people put in him, then he must also accept the fact that his interference in the peoples’ temporal needs was misplaced. If His Beatitude also acknowledges that he didn’t expect the sorrowful results that emerged, and, furthermore, also acknowledges that he is not so knowledgeable in political, social, and economic issues, then this acknowledgement would be interpreted by the Lebanese people as a disappointment regarding the Patriarchal seat and its holder. If His Beatitude doesn’t acknowledge either this or that, then the best way for him is to acknowledge the SSNP’s stance, so that the spiritual matters would not collide with the temporal issues and vice-versa.
If His Beatitude thinks that he can still bring in some sort of acceptance vis-à-vis these two diametrically opposed stances by saying that:
“We want to have all sides under our protection”
We would then answer by saying how ignorant is the patriarch’s in his thinking that he can bring these two opposite ideas into a harmonious unison.
3-The Lebanese People and the Patriarchal Seat
The reality is that we were very easy on His Beatitude regarding some temporal issues because of the fact that he acknowledged the situation as “Status Quo.”
His Beatitude says:
“The people, regardless of its divisions, ask us and expects from us to take care of not only its spiritual needs, but its temporal issues too. We protect the people…”
However, in another place he states:
“The reality of the situation is that the Lebanese people regard the Maronite Patriarchate and its leader as their father and absolute representative. The people expect from the patriarch to preserve its rights. Etc…”
We don’t think that when His Beatitude said “The Lebanese people, regardless of its divisions, expects from us,” that individuals from here and there were inciting the patriarch to interfere in some of the administrative issues for the benefit of these individuals, under the disguise of the general welfare.
We also don’t think that His Beatitude considered these individuals “The Lebanese People,” since under no circumstance can the few be considered the whole “people regardless of their divisions.” This can be so only if logic and reality are left aside and His Beatitude wants us to believe that he was in the realm of theology when he made those declarations.
We want to assure His Beatitude that thousands of SSNP members in the Lebanese Republic do not adhere to him neither as a whole nor as individuals and do not accept that he represent their temporal issues. We also want to stress that we doubt it greatly that non-Maronite religious congregations in the Republic of Lebanon look at His Beatitude as a “father and absolute representative to care their general and private needs.”
If by “the Lebanese People especially” His Beatitude means the Maronites only then it becomes clear he creates a dichotomy by stating “The people, regardless of its divisions.” Furthermore, we also want to assure His Beatitude that Purely Lebanese SSNP members as well as many educated Maronites who have not yet had the time to enter the SSNP, would not consider themselves as inclusive of the patriarch’s definition of “The People.”
4-Spiritual Authority and Temporal Authority
We believe that His Beatitude addresses the SSNP when he says:
“Some objected to our course by saying that we, the spiritual leader, are interfering in temporal issues.”
Wee thank His Beatitude that he pays attention to our objection to the extent that he answered us. Now we have to answer him and make clear what needs to be clarified in this regard.
Let us first present the reader with His Beatitude’s answer:
“Even though spiritual issues intend to salvage souls through faith and Godly intervention, they have a lot to do with the body. Human beings are neither simple soul like angels, nor are they independent bodies. They are a mixture of the two. The body, which is the lower of these two parts, has to abide by the soul, which is the purest part of the body. The body is but a machine that is used by the soul to do its spiritual things through the body. And since Christian religion is based on the love of God and people close to you, it becomes imperative that the religious leader must help the people in all aspects of life, spiritual or temporal, which are important for their spiritual and temporal existence.”
His Beatitude’s answer is divided into two parts. There is first the part that is purely theological in nature and then there is a part whereby theologians see temporal issues. The first part is that which is devoted to the soul and the body. The second part is what a spiritual leader must do regarding temporal issues.
We don’t want to enter here into purely theological discourse; since we consider the spirit as God given while the body is of earth and the two are independent of each other…We want to hypothetically accept the theological discourse about the connectivity of the soul to the body. We will then analyze this theological discourse in the stage when the mixture of soul and body is established and the human being, whose bodily existence is but a machine for his spirit to act through, exists.
If the human being is born with the upper and lower parts, the soul and the body, he becomes complete only through the mixture of the two parts. Here we have to disregard all the teachings and research in the fields of psychology and psychoanalysis. In other words we can’t differentiate between what is psychological and what is physiological. We thus answer His Beatitude with his own theological premises and say: Since the great spiritual issues are directed by the relationship of the soul to the body, then each human being has a soul that takes care of his/her body.
And since the goal of the spiritual realm is “the recovery of souls through faith and Godly intervention,” then, by the same token, however strong the soul’s effect on the body, it must not come out of its spiritual form to enter the bodily form. Therefore, the education of the soul through faith and Godly intervention is a spiritual matter that has nothing to do with the body. This spiritual action must not interfere in the bodily functions. If it does so it is then devoid of spirituality. Therefore, the task of the spiritual leader is to teach the human being his/her spiritual needs so that he can then take care of his bodily needs “through faith and the rules of God.” Thus, if the human being is thought about his spiritual needs through the clergy, that human being can then independently pursue his/her temporal needs, without any ties to his spiritual leader. This is so because temporal needs are based on complex and sophisticated temporal culture, which is built on scientific and artistic knowledge that is different from the realm of “faith and Godly rules.” The spiritual leader then can teach the human being how to recover his soul and not be condemned to hell. However, that same spiritual leader can’t teach the human being in finance, economics, statistics, medicine, chemistry, geometry and other sciences that come through research and innovation and not through the dogmatic premises of faith and divine intervention.
We say that the duty of the spiritual leader must not transcend the realm of the spirit so that he is not obliged to teach in the matters of the body and thus become of the body and not of the spirit. This means that if and when a spiritual leader transcends into the temporal realm his teachings will be useless because they will be measured on how much he is knowledgeable in the temporal sciences and not based on his faith.
As to what concerns the theological relationship of the soul to the body, especially with regards to the interpretation that since the body is under the jurisdiction of the soul, therefore, it, the body, must comply to the temporal powers of the spiritual leader, is a deduction that, if happens, would lead people to wandering in the dark. This could mean not only that the body is under the jurisdiction of the soul, but also could also mean that all bodies are governed by one soul [that of the spiritual leader], which will in essence paralyze all the activities of the other souls and negate the concept of the soul being given by God. If the soul is responsible in its subjugation to “faith and Godly rules,” however, it is not responsible to let its temporal bodily functions be under the jurisdiction of a single soul, that of its spiritual leader.
Even the soul is not responsible to be governed by the spiritual leader whose mere function is to adhere to issues of “faith and Godly rules.” Therefore, the body is totally free from such distractions.
As to Patriarch Aridah’s saying that:
“And since Christian religion is based on the love of God and people close to you, it becomes imperative that the religious leader must help the people in all aspects of life, spiritual or temporal, which are important for their spiritual and temporal existence.”
It can be said that this can happen only within the realms of “faith and Godly rules,” and not in issues pertaining to the administrative and political aspects of government and its power to deal with temporal issues.
Therefore, the insistence on having a say in temporal issues is something based solely on the church traditions and has nothing to do with temporal needs of life.
5-The Spiritual Temporal Politics
I don’t object that His Beatitude be involved in issues that are good or bad for the patriarchate. Issues pertaining to the patriarchate are things that His Beatitude must look after with care and prudence. However, it is strongly objectionable that the religious leader must interfere in temporal issues by virtue of his religious leadership.
We want to underline here that a great danger exists if a spiritual leader interferes in temporal issues. This could lead to a power struggle between the spiritual leader and temporal leaders vis-à-vis temporal issues. And since the people has not only one but many spiritual leaders that are imbued in religious and sectarian fanaticism, which His Beatitude already acknowledges in his speech that this fanaticism exists in most of the Lebanese people, and since the interpretation [of the religious leader being the temporal leader as well] will definitely transform temporal groups into religious entities, this means that the people will remain divided among religious-sectarian lines and will never reach the stage of national awareness, which is the only indicator of its political and economic unity.
After creating this power vacuum by asserting that a religious leader has the right to interfere in a people’s temporal issues, His Beatitude starts dealing with the temporal issues of the people. He assumes that there are eight issues some of which are essential, such as the issue of independence and economy, and others that are secondary, such as general security and the judiciary.
And since His Beatitude starts to deal with the issue of independence, we saw it fitting to deal with that issue first.
Speaking of independence His Beatitude says: “One of the most important matters that a people wants is “independence.” Thus, His Beatitude considers independence as on of the most important matters and not the most important one that people need. This means that His Beatitude doesn’t suppose independence an integral national or popular condition. We thus see that His Beatitude deals with the integral issue of independence as a secondary matter.
His Beatitude continues by saying that Lebanon had enjoyed a “semi independent” position, and that it [Lebanon] is now “granted full independence under the auspices of the League of Nations and through the benevolence of the beloved France. Here, His Beatitude reads independence as a “given one” through a “giver” whose credentials are derived through international agreements because of political situations. He tries to represent this independence as a substitute to integral independence that is built on the will of the people. His Beatitude doesn’t see that this “given” independence is wrong and can’t substitute for the real independence. He doesn’t acknowledge that a “given” independence can’t be considered as a real independence, since what is “given” can be taken and can lead to struggle if the “giver” changes its mind.
His Beatitude also assumes that the treaty that gave Lebanon its independence, and which is still a matter of acceptance or denial by the League of Nations, is a complete and total independence. He makes his assumption real by stating that Lebanon is really independent, so that his listeners or readers would also assume that Lebanon has really became completely independent, that is it possesses all the pertinent conditions of “complete independence.” This is far from the truth, since the country is still under mandatory power until the treaty is acknowledged [by the League of nations].And just assuming that all this did take place, there is still the fact that the has still to undergo a three year trial period, which, if anything, doesn’t qualify it to have “complete independence” as His Beatitude assumes. This shows that His Beatitude is not professional enough in his utterances.
And since His Beatitude doesn’t deal with the issue of independence as a real expert in the field of politics and sociology would do, he continues his erroneous explanations and speaks about secondary issues such as government that has nothing to do with independence to supplement his explanation. He says:
“Those who assumed (he means, were given) the power in the name of the Lebanese people have to do their best in their mission. They have to do everything and to sacrifice in order to keep [independence]. They have to prove to the people that they are worthy to rule and they are worthy of the confidence that the people put in them.”
His Beatitude refers to “those who assumed the country’s resources” as the government. However, what does the government has to do with the country’s resources…
In an independent country the government does not “assume the resources of the country,” but rather it is chosen from the real owners of these resources, that is the people. Moreover, they have to work within a political line that is acceptable by those who chose them to do that job. This is what democratic, parliamentarian systems are all about. This choosing happens through the parliament. Those who have to work and sacrifice for independence are the people and not the government, which is merely chosen by the people or the nation for the purposes of taking care of the country and its resources.
As to His Beatitude’s words regarding “those who assumed the resources of the country in the name of the Lebanese people,” let us say that that is far from reality, since the resources of the country are still under the rule of the mandatory power, which has the last word vis-à-vis those resources. It is really a great responsibility that someone like His Beatitude would say that Lebanon has achieved “complete independence” and that there are those “who assumed the country’s resources in the name of the Lebanese people.”
His Beatitude after erroneously replacing the issue of independence with that of the rulers extends his words to them in a manner unfitting to the modern notion of government. Rather, he speaks about rulers of antiquity such as King Dabshalim. He most definitely speaks in a language that reminds us of the philosopher Bidba, who put his words of advice in the mouths of animals in his writings. One of Bidba’s writings goes as such: “Rulers are maligned with their love of tyranny, etc…” or “How many are the kings who lost their thrones because they cared less of their own people” or “Whoever rules the people must be above them in his character, etc…” What His Beatitude is trying to do is to show us modern government in the form of ancient rulers who thought that they were above the people and that their power was given to them by God. However, His Beatitude later gives us another picture about rulers in the section “the distribution of jobs and advantages,” where he says: “The rulers are privy to the benefits of the people for a certain income.” He thus leaves his listeners or readers to be engulfed in uncertainty regarding what government and ruler is all about. He does this while at the same time he advocates a notion that is diametrically opposed to the principles of constitutional rights and state: That the government is the ruler who is above the people.
His Beatitude returns back to the issue of independence and he once again privatizes the “assumed Lebanese Independence” and saddens that:
“A group of Lebanese and some [political] parties that are under the influence of foreigners, such as the SSNP and the Communist Party, are against Lebanese independence.”
These are all the negative aspects that the founding fathers of Lebanon’s independence are facing. On the other hand the positive aspects that work hard to keep this assumed independence can be summed up by:
“Those Lebanese organizations, which were formed by the government’s knowledge, under its permit, and utilizing its blessing, in order to defend the Lebanese independence, [These organizations] have not shown any bad attitudes in their effort toward that end.”
As to what concerns His Beatitude’s saying that “A group of Lebanese and some [political] parties that are under the influence of foreigners, such as the SSNP and the Communist Party,” let us note that it is nothing but traveling away from the truth. We think they are the consequence of people with bad influence [on His Beatitude] who mixed up night with day and acted as if light is darkness for them. Thus, it seems that His Beatitude, because of the huge number of those whispering in his ears listened to Father Louise Khalil and was deaf to what Father Bulos Mis’ad told him. His Beatitude thus preferred to listen to those around him who instigated the lie that the SSNP works for foreign entities, while the reality is that since its inception the party negates and fights foreign intervention in the matter of deciding our own future. It is the party that works hard to find the real and single basis for real and complete independence, which is rested on the unity of the nation and its aspirations. He [His Beatitude] thus put the SSNP beside the Communist Party, which is founded and works because of foreign assistance. His Beatitude should know well that the history of the SSNP and the real principles behind its foundation, shows, if anything, that it is the only party in the country that set forth the principle of the unity of the nation and worked hard in order to identify the principles for the attainment and defense of real and complete independence.
It is also imperative to mention here that during all the conversations and interrogations that were done with the SSNP because of the instigation of some people who are sold to foreign interests the known and unknown interrogators found nothing regarding these dangerous accusation, which, His Beatitude now uses for the benefit of a foreign state: “This is the state of Italy, one of the most successful states of the world,” which His Beatitude brings as an example through “the beloved France, the generous state.”
As to the issue that His Beatitude puts the SSNP within the anti-independence sector, this is based on his skewed knowledge of the reality of the SSNP.
As for his statement that “Lebanese organizations” are positive elements and pro independence, and that “these organizations didn’t work against that noble goal,” Our answer to that is this: If the sectarian and religious divisions are the foundations of independence, then these “Lebanese organizations” would be as such because of their workings vis-à-vis the events of November 1936 and the events at Bint Jbeyl and other places. These events show, if anything, how misguided is His Beatitude when he says that “these organizations didn’t work against that noble goal,”
In reality, these Lebanese organizations should have been mentioned in His Beatitude’s speech as elements that work to divide the nation and make it impossible for the nation to achieve total independence. These would then have to be added to the other factors such as the incorporation of religion with the state and the interference of religious leaders in the national issues pertaining to politics and the judiciary.
As to what concerns His Beatitude’s thanking the government for its struggle against the SSNP, then his positive attitude to the state would be apropos if the issue was related to the benefits of the Patriarchate. However, if the circumstance was regarding the nation and its independence, then the whole issue of thankfulness was misplaced, because it was meant to topple the party that is based on the right national ideology and wanted the nation to rid itself from religious and sectarian strife and divisions, which, in our opinion, is the basis for real independence.
6-Economics, Administration, Judiciary
His Beatitude then leaves the political arena with his readers and listeners still wondering between independence and government. He then precedes to the second issue at hand, the economy.
Whatever His Beatitude says in this regard contain no professional ideas. He stays in the realm of generalities and things that the regular population is used to hear in any regular society or a club. His words are nothing new. They have been repeated for a long time in political and non-political speeches until it has become common parlance, Such as:
“As to giving people more resources happens by encouraging agriculture and increasing national projects.”
He also says:
“Improving agriculture can take place by improving water distribution and not letting a source as important as water to wastefully empty into the sea.”
He adds too:
“This can happen by opening agricultural school. Etc…”
All what His Beatitude talks in this regard contains no solution for a single economic problem. Improving agriculture, for example, has a direct correlation with a government's economic and national policies. His Beatitude doesn’t show that he feels that there is such a correlation. On the other hand, opening agriculture schools has to do with state budgets, tax collection and expenditures. So it is obvious that His Beatitude speaks only of simple and beautiful things but leaves aside the more mundane and professional procedures regarding real economic issues and the manner by which they must be solved.
His Beatitude then speaks about the issue of general security, which is also an administrative matter. He points out that one of the first obligations of a government is to protect the peoples’ physical existence and riches from internal or external aggression “by giving a decisive blow to criminals and wrongdoers.”
Here, His Beatitude attributes things to the SSNP, which would have been better if left to scoundrels. We understand that His Beatitude wants to protect the traditions of the church and the Maronite Patriarchal Seat by having a say on temporal power. This in itself is against the SSNP and its ideology. His Beatitude wants to keep the status quo, which he had a great deal in its proliferation. However, he also wants to negate all other ideologies that run against this policy.
It would have been better if His Beatitude underlined this policy of his in the first place. It would have been better if he said that he is trying to protect the traditions of the church and the Pontifical Seat to the detriment of the SSNP and its national aspirations that is based on the unity of the people. It would have been better if he did not exercise his spiritual power to force a religious standpoint on political situations. If he had done that it would have been more befitting of him and his seat than by accusing the SSNP of something that the party is innocent of.
His Beatitude doesn’t dwell long on general security. He immediately shifts his attention to the judiciary and speaks about the court-system and how some law-suits remain unresolved for thirty to forty years. He points out that the government must, in this case, take an example from the Catholic Church, where law-suits are decided in a maximum of two year period.
It is not hard for us to understand where His Beatitude comes from when he speaks about the judiciary system with all its corruptness and indolence. However, as the popular saying goes, one must not throw stones at someone else’s house when his house is made of glass. His Beatitude knows that even religious courts under his jurisdiction don’t really function the way he wants us to believe.
His Beatitude then makes a detour and once again speaks about administrative issues under the rubric of “the distribution of jobs within governmental institutions.” Here too His Beatitude talks only in general terms and asks the government, who are the product of the old political school-- which the patriarch doesn’t seem to wish to change, and which he prefers over the SSNP and uses it to struggle against the SSNP—“to be fair in their distribution of the governmental jobs regardless of political or factional differences.” In other words, he asks the rulers to be fair and not to adhere to their personal or factional consciousness. What His Beatitude doesn’t understand is the fact that this can be achieved only if we adhere to the teachings and the ideology of the SSNP.
When His Beatitude Says:
“Because of the religious and factional fanaticism that exists in almost all of the people, Lebanon would not rest until each of the religious sects is given its fair share of governmental jobs, under a comprehensive and detailed program.”
How can satisfying religious and sectarian fanaticism bring about a good administration and benefit the people?
Under the rubric of “distribution of governmental jobs” His Beatitude interferes in the state’s tax collecting ability and stresses that this collection must be done in such a way that it will take into consideration the situation of the poor and those who barely make for the food necessary for their families. This is good but is not enough to advocate a real change in this regard.
7-Civic and Political Rights
After his discourse in the realms of administration as well as monetary, political, and economic policies His Beatitude shifts gears to speak about “freedom.” Here he takes into consideration civic and political rights, as well as economic openness.
His Beatitude resurrects himself from the realm of state to the skies of absolute thought to declare:
Freedom is a natural right for the human being.”
After some talk about this absolute right [of freedom] where His Beatitude takes the individual as his basis, he returns to the realm of society and economics to state:
“Every person must see the fruits of his/her own toil and benefit from it. He has the right possess what he was able to get through himself, his parents, and his relatives. The government must abolish all kinds of slavery and at the same time protect the personal belongings of each person.”
We don’t know what exactly His Beatitude means by the term “personal belongings.” Is civic feudalism part of it? Are the villages of the Emirs, Sheikhs, Beys part of it? Moreover, is religious feudal owning such as the huge and almost borderless Awqaf part of it?
The theory of the individual as a basis is important in society. Social Order or Social Contract is but a plural contract that has been in circulation for centuries. We don’t want to delve into a solely social or philosophical diatribe. We will only take those issues that His Beatitude spoke about in his speech regarding “freedom” and which have a strong relation to modern critical thought and the status quo, especially when relates to the national issue for which we work.
We start with His Beatitude’s following statement:
“The human being is free to believe what he wants or whom he wants. However, he can’t oblige others to believe in what or whom he believes in. Moreover, he can’t distribute decadent principles that hurt others.”
We want to take the first part of the above quote that deals with the right of belief and not obliging others to do the same.
It is precisely with the intent of this declaration the His Beatitude negates himself when he advocates a struggle against the SSNP. This is so especially since the principles and the ideology of the party were distributed through acceptance and not through coercion. Coercion happens when one fights those with other beliefs and obliges others to assume his or other’s beliefs. This is what happened with Galileo when he declared that he believed the Earth was a round sphere that journeyed around the sun and not the opposite as it was believed at the time. This belief, which was later accepted as the truth was, at the time, contrary to the belief that said that it was the Sun that rotated around Earth. It also negated the biblical story of the Jewish prophet Esau who obliged the sun from turning around Earth so that the Israelites could win a victory. It was because of this biblical belief that everybody had to assume that the Sun rotated around the Earth.
The issue is not as simple as it seems. In its current form it relates to the political order in which we live. Therefore, we have to take it out from its simplicity and try to use it within the context of the society we are part of. This would men the civic rights of the individual in the society. Since this individual is a working member of the society he lives in. In a democratic system such as the one that we are told we live in this part of the world, there is this sacred rule that an individual can believe in what he wants and he can tell and persuade his friends to believe in the same. Moreover, he has the right to speak out about his beliefs and to meet with others and discuss those beliefs. He even has the right to think about what kind of government suits him best and to dispense their ideas among others. This will allow the people to be exposed to different ideas regarding an issue. The people will then choose which suits them best and bring those people to government whom they think are the best to implement their beliefs. If those who are elected try to change this democratic process for their own ends will become tyrants. Is this what His Beatitude wants us to advocate when he says:
“But it (the government) is free to struggle against political ideologies…and anything else that it sees as endangering the people.”
This is a very dangerous statement. Because it advocates that the rulers have free hand to fight against those political systems that it despises. Pay special attention to the segment:
“…and anything else that it sees as endangering the people.”
From where would a normal government, which was elected just to comply with the system and to deal with normal issues, find the righteous wisdom through which it would know which political ideologies to fight and which to struggle against? From where does this higher authority come from which would supply a government with a vision to see what is good and what is bad for the people? After all, this government was not even elected by the people in order for it to muster absolute power. If you ask the government what it does, will it answer you with His Beatitude’s big words, such as how can I saw in this a danger to the people and I saw in that a benefit for it? After deciding on such a dangerous course and such a dangerous role for the government how does His Beatitude imagine that he would criticize the government for its actions, since it acted as it saw fit?
It might be that a people would give such absolute power to a government to do what it sees fit regarding problems. However, such a government can act as such only if it has the absolute confidence of the people that elected it in the first place. Absolute power can only exist when there is such absolute confidence. But to give absolute power to a government that was elected with no popular confidence would only take us back to slavery and the dark Ages.
Does His Beatitude want to punish SSNP members, who are extremely confident that what they are doing is for the betterment and advancement of all the Lebanese, for their ideology and for their right to think the way they think?
Does His Beatitude want to give a government that was elected for a definite term the right to monopolize thinking and ideology in the state? Does he want to forbid members of the state from generating wonderful and brilliant ideas that such a government is not a match for in the first place? Does His Beatitude want the government to be able to shut down the creative thinking of the people? What would be the destiny of such a state that forbids its citizens from coming up with good ideas? Did His Beatitude think about these questions when he declared what he declared in his speech?
As to what regards his saying that “…a human being can’t distribute decadent principles that hurt others,” is something that takes us out of the realm of the political system and into the open world. Thus, in a state there are no “others” accepts by their right and personal conditions. As to what concerns civic and political rights there is only the people, the totality of which constitutes the nation, and a government’s task is to look after its prosperity, security, and well being, before the security of the “other” individuals.
We consider this discussion as enough regarding the subject. We don’t need to delve into the philosophy of jurisprudence and its historical development. I would dare to say, however, that we were almost going to delve into that because of the irresponsible words of His Beatitude.
By exiting from the portal of civic and political rights His Beatitude leads us into the realm of society and marriage. For this diatribe he chooses the title “harlotry.”
In his expose His Beatitude constructs the longing of the society to religion when he says:
“Marriage is a divine condition whose aim is to bring males and females together to protect the continuity of the human race.”
After this His Beatitude makes the following absolute declaration:
“Census data show us that there are almost equal percentages of males and females, even though it is also accepted that males outnumber females by about ten percent. This leads us to the conclusion that each male can only have one female companion and vice-versa.”
He says this by totally ignoring what he said about males being ten percent more then their counterparts.
It becomes very easy to speak about issues if we start with absolutes and generalities. Moreover, finding solutions— i.e. superficial ones—become much easier. However, this solution finding process turns upside down when we leave the realm of generalities and step once again on the solid ground of the status quo.
If we totally accept the census results His Beatitude provides and we don’t take into consideration the statistical differences between different countries and states and take 110 men for 100 women and marry them we will still end up with ten men who will not have a sole mate. How can this simple arithmetical question be solved then?
Even though in our age and time the issue of marriage is not regarded as an issue of males vs. females, but rather a more complex problem that contain many psychological, economic, and social issues, we still want to argue about numbers only. Statistical surveys completed after the war show that there is a big gap between male and female percentages. Thus the simple mathematical theory that there is a man for each woman and a woman for each man can’t be accepted as such. This definitely leads to a disturbance within the divine condition and divine intervention and thus creates fissures within the normal state of human affairs.
It would have been wiser for His Beatitude to not enter the realm of statistics and thus to encourage marriage over whoredom.
If His Beatitude only spoke about the physical and material damages that prostitution entails and he supplemented that with the benefits that a married life and a family brings, he would have said the best and the most logical in this regard. He would not have opened the wormhole of personal issues and the bigger and more complex issue of marriage that we encounter in our country. We dare even say that we are creating more problems because of our dogmatic social traditions, frozen political activism, and desperate economic condition which lead to secondary issues like immigration, deprivation of social freedoms, as well as archaic marriage rules like dowries.
We agree with His Beatitude that prostitution and any other form of harlotry id bad and damaging for society. However, we don’t agree with the cure that he is prescribing for it... Doing away with and cleansing from whoredom can’t be achieved by just forbidding it. It can happen if we take a closer look at our social traditions and amending them and our economic woes and by educating the people with the right social and especially nation education so that members of society will work toward bettering and elevating their social status and virtues. These are only some aspects of personal education that enriches the real national education and which the SSNP did bring to the light through its ideology.
In the eighth part of his speech His Beatitude speaks about showing special attention to education. He titles this section “National Education.” Once again he starts with an absolute basis when he says:
“A child is born devoid of any knowledge about anything.”
He borrows from St. Erma the Syrian his thanks to God that he was born a Christian in a Christian house and from Christian parents. He uses this example to stress the importance of education and its positive results. His Beatitude’s saying that whoever was born and raised in a Christian family remains a Christian and whoever was born and raised in a Muslim family remains a Muslim leads us to the words of the Syrian eternal poet
Each of our children is raised with what his father teaches him
Thus the son of Persian parents is raised on being a charlatan
His Beatitude wants national education to be divided among the different religions. He also says that the government can’t open or encourage the opening of non-religious public schools. This means that His Beatitude is against secular schools and secular education. Thus, His Beatitude advocates that the government must leave the issue of education to the clergy and religious, sectarian institutions, rather than the national ones that are built on the notions of secularism. This is another way of making certain that we will never become a one and united nation and our faith will always be in the hands of the foreigner who knows well how to play on our religious and other divisions.
His Beatitude then makes the praises of religious education and laughs and pities those who speak against educational scholarships. He then closes the issue of education by this marvelous religious picture:
The Christians will accept a more fair distribution of educational scholarships if they are treated justly in other matters and are not thrown out when it comes to other government jobs. If they shut up while others make commotion, it doesn’t mean that they are accepting the situation. Moreover, the commotion that others make is not the result of them being neglected, it rather shown their greed and an appetite that knows no shame.”
Patriarch Aridah concludes his speech by summarizing the demands he mentioned earlier, such as those duties of the government that he aspires for but not “other duties.” He does this not for an important reason but “only not to abuse the patience of his listeners.” He also worries that his advice will go unnoticed as before and asks those in the government to heed to his words “if they want to succeed and benefit the people.”
You see that by dissecting your speech we have demonstrated how spiritual matters have registered an all time low because of the audacity of the clergy. This happened because the clergy are interfering in domains that are not of their area of expertise while they are neglecting the real domain of their specialty, which is the spirit.
We have also made it clear, Your Eminence, that you preferred those political parties that were born under your patronage and are ready to accept religious authority in everything concerning the domain of the state. Those parties miss no opportunities to make it clear that they are under your patronage. So it would be better for us to ask you to establish the reel value of such political organizations.
In your speech you attacked two political parties. One of them, the SSNP, has been free since its inception and doesn’t bow to anybody or anything because its mission is that of force and victory. This was not your first “sacred” attempt or campaign against the SSNP, which under your tutelage has seen all forms and colors of persecution for its case toward a united people and state. The second party you attack, the Communist Party, is, since its formation, a slave to foreigners, since its mission is one of weakness and surrender.
It seems that after your speech this second, slave party announced that it abides by your authority. This is so because that party has no confidence in itself. If you want to have poisonous snakes under your robe add the communists to your side. However, be aware that these snakes bite and poison their masters suddenly and without advance notice.
However, the free party will keep on struggling to achieve justice until it is victorious. When our free party wins such a victory be assured that all those working for reform will be in safe hands and they will have no reason to be sad anymore.
* * * * *
SAADEH’S SPEECH AT BOURJ AL BARAJNEH
O SSNP Members!
In his speech on how he was recruited to the SSNP comrade al Hayik made me and you realize something that neither I nor you could ever forget. This something is what I announced in my letter dated November 2, 1947, where I said that “…the declarations of the United Nations [UN hereafter] can’t decide the faith of the Syrian nation, and they [these declarations] are null and void, since they only bring injustice and animosity to the Syrian nation and its right to exist.”
History continues since that day. In this continuum of history lots of events took place that changed things on this natural landmass we call Syria. In the southwestern corner of it a new state, the Jewish state, came into being. Even though this new state possesses a de facto existence, and even though I was the first to decry its existence, I still abide by what I said on November 2, 1947, because my words are tied to the will of a whole nation.
We announced that the UN declarations are null and void not only from the point of view of international law, but also from the point of view of the principal of self determination for nations.
Today to our south a new entity is forming. I was cognizant of it and I announced that it will be instituted before even itself announcing that institution. I thought so because I knew that Syrian droop will help this entity take form. However, as I announced the creation of that entity, today I stand here to question its right to exist…
I question the legality of the existence of this entity not by illusion, but through what the SSNP is preparing in terms of ideology and strength. Thus, by winning we will show that Syria is a strong military power and can implement justice by its own force.
This new state was formed to our south because of the emotional fissures in our society. It was created because of the struggle between our Syrian governments and our internal divisions. The Zionist entity exists not because of Jewish superiority—that some Jewish leaders assume-- but rather because of our internal foes. We know better that this entity was not the product of their funny superiority.
The Jewish state was not created because of Jewish skillfulness. Neither was it the product of an intelligent thinking. The Jews don’t posses such a creative mind. It was created merely because of the internal fissures within the Syrian nation and society, which degraded its power and will and made it powerless against western dangers and greed.
This new state is standing today as a defiant power. One of its leaders stands tall to proclaim that they are getting ready militarily to occupy more of the lands between the Euphrates and the Nile. We at the SSNP knew that Jewish greed toward our lands had no bounds. We cautioned those who held the power regarding this greed. We were but a new, fledgling political party. We told those who held the political power. We were sure that they will not take our warning seriously. However, we kept on cautioning them so that they wouldn’t say that we didn’t. The leadership we cautioned was not ready to lead the nation and its people. It didn’t represent the will of the people. It doesn’t represent that will even today. It represents only its decadent and personal interests. It was because of them that the Jews were victorious…
The Jews in the south won over the Jews in our midst. They didn’t win over the Syrian nation. They won’t win at all (hurrahs from those present).
We know the extent of the legality of this artificial new state. It is a long and bloody struggle that demands every drop of our energy. This is so because behind this artificial state stands the appetites of big western states, which supplies this new entity with money and weapons so that it can confirm its existence.
The issue, therefore, is not only with this new and artificial state. It is with it and those that back it. It is a long and hard struggle. We know very well that it is so. We go forward with that knowledge, because we are sure that the final victory is ours. When the old reactionary forces started their battle against this new state their headquarters in Haifa asked what our stance would be regarding the struggle. Our answer was that we don’t trust the leaders who are marching the Syrian army to battle, since we know that those armies would be destroyed since their leaders are unable to achieve anything.
The reality of the Palestinian Issue lies in the ideology of a live people and its national will and aspirations that achieve victory.
We know very well that our front lines are divided and unworthy of victory. Our forces who march into the battlefield with neither single cause nor a united stance will be destroyed. Therefore, our answer to the Haifa headquarters was that we will continue with our principal effort: to strengthen our posterior so that it will do its part when it becomes the frontal forces in this struggle and after our current frontal forces are done with.
The social awakening is advancing today through ranks that are worthy of victory. That is so because we have the will of a living nation and not a nation of sects or midgets who are unworthy of taking responsibility for the future of national destiny.
We continue today with our plan. The Jewish state graduates military officers and the Syrian National Social State that I announced in 1939 too graduates military officers! So when this new and strange state starts moving forward to occupy our ancestral lands, our armies will move forward too to clean our ancestral lands from the filthy invaders and to pass these cleansed lands to our offspring!
This is not our last answer to the Jews. The last answer will be given on the battlefront, when the national leadership announces its war!
* * * * *
FROM A SPEECH THAT SAADEH DELIVERED TO SSNP MEMBER STUDENTS
AT THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF BIERUT ON MAY 16, 1949
The Student Bureau of the SSNP arranged for this meeting as the last in a series for this year. The students will then prepare and sit for their yearly exams after which they will depart to the areas that they came from. They will not return to their respective areas for rest, but rather to continue their foundational work for the party in those areas that they live in.
Students were the concrete foundation upon which the Social National Movement was built.
It was the students who founded this movement and they carried it on until it became the wide-spread, popular movement that it is. This is the movement where different psychologies come to be amalgamated into a single Social, National Movement. It has a single aim and a single focused will in life. It is a movement that drives and motivates a whole united front, which has decided to have a single destiny in success or in failure. No matter what the outcome, this united front is always one and inseparable. It is in this decision of unity that the secret of the victories of the movement has been manifested until today. It is also this secret of unity that will motivate the movement for future victories as well. Students were and still are a main foundation and element in the path that the SSNP has chosen for itself. Students were the new spirits that were not yet tainted by the poisons of the reactionary movements and dogmatic cultures, which aim only to inhibit the free will of the human being and prescribe a reactionary, backward movement to the masses.
These backward and reactionary segments in our society destroyed those of us who tried to go forward. They didn’t concentrate on only one aspect of human life. Rather, they wanted the people to remain in the past. In this regard they fought and destroyed all those who tried to motivate the people forward ore toward the future. These reactionary forces don’t intend to move even a step forward. It will use all its power to push the people to the past. If a new segment of the population will not awaken with a new forward trajectory, there will be no hope for any change.
Students are this new segment because they are the force that will destroy the shackles of the past. Students are the element that has the capability to create new solutions to the issues of the past. It is for this reason that the SSNP always thinks that students represent a spring board for new awakenings in the Social, National Movement.
Many of those in the SSNP had come from the ranks of students where they received their training. They continue to work for the cause today. It is this core whose social and national values ripened within the SSNP. It is this core that is today at the forefront of the struggle with the reactionary forces of the past.
What students did was that they created a vital and free force out of the social, national movement. This was achieved by free and organized minds, which demanded a new life instead of a reactionary past.
Each and every one of you knows how important he/she is in this new social, national movement. This is so because students demand true knowledge. Students demand exactness. They want to possess the right personal psychological structure that would make them respectable and a force that knows how to think and do the right thing. This is something beautiful in itself. . Those who look today and see the distance that the social, national movement has traveled a good distance and in the process achieved things that might have been considered impossible. These people also see that the national, social movement has transported the nation from the generalities and frustrations into the issues of the modern age. They will see that you have made the nation see clearly the issues and goals set before them. They would see that you have brought them closer to the right foundations upon which a strong society and a sovereign state are anchored. They would finally see that all those forces that fought the national, social movement just immersed the people in the past and delayed by decades and even centuries the nation’s and its people’s progress.
The national, social movement has achieved an important internal goal. It awakened the people regarding their nationality and created a unifying force through that awakening, thus moving the people toward the noble goals of the building of a great nation. This new fabric of will and ideas is a very important element, which can never be discarded in the process of nation building and in the awakening of the people so that they can now uplift itself from the damned situation they are in into the glorious stage of moving forward in all aspects of life. In the absence of this unifying fabric, any attempt of achievement is futile. Without it there is no chance for victory.
The issue of Palestine, or the Palestinian issue, is in itself a manifestation of what I said above. The Syrian nation did march toward Palestine without unity in its will, goals, and planning. What happened was that suddenly there were several wills, several goals, and several plans. In such a chaotic situation there couldn’t have been any other destiny than the shameful one which we were destined to.
The Syrian nation came face to face with a problem that is small in magnitude, but it faced it with unity of goals, and civilized behavior. However, this kind of unity will not lead the Syrian nation to a victory. Whoever thinks that the nation can accomplish a victory without adhering to the National Social Movement is mislead. We can’t achieve any victory without unity in ideology, goals, plans and existence.
They ask us what we did for Palestine. Our answer is that Palestine is part of a bigger problem and that we can’t work for it unless we tackle the whole problem. This can happen only through national awakening and a unifying ideology. Without these we will fail in whatever we do. That is why the National Social Movement regards the issue of Palestine as apart and parcel of an all encompassing national social movement. Not only was the Movement’s way the only way to risqué Palestine, since Palestine was regarded as apart and parcel of an all encompassing national social movement, but it also aimed to rescue other huge and rich lands so as to make Syrian state a rich and a broad landmass, which is necessary for the existence and security of the Syrian nation… The danger is also from the North. It is from Alexandretta and Cilicia and what lies beyond these areas from Communism in Kurdistan and other problems on the whole length of the northern border. We acknowledge that the northern danger is commensurate to that of Palestine. Therefore we say that the danger to the Syrian nation is not only in Palestine but in other areas as well where we encounter political and economic problems to deal with. If for a moment we don’t think of all these as eminent dangers to our security then we will expose ourselves to a multitude of problems. While we pay attention to only one” Palestine.
The nation has but one cause. If we try to acknowledge and solve a part of the cause we will not be standing on strong foundations and our plan will not be the right one to rescue the nation.
We can’t preoccupy ourselves with one of the dangers and leave the others to their destiny. Our national awakening demands that we become cognizant of our faith and destiny and to take care of all our causes. Any dormant danger might become a fiery one tomorrow. We struggle for a whole cause and not only one. Only by struggling for all our causes do we operate in the right way.
Even if our efforts seem to be very slow to some people, we say that being slow is better than being quick in such detrimental cases. We need a strong foundation in order to accomplish the goals of our nation. This strong foundation is the strong army that we need. We won’t be able to win even one battle if we don’t possess a psychologically, practically, and numerically strong army.
The Jews—regardless of being fewer in number—used this slow but yet strong and quick method in their national struggle. They didn’t come to Palestine en mass to occupy it. They first created a Zionist Movement, which in time became a unified and strong cause with its set goals and modes operandi. When the time came for action, they accomplished their goals quickly and efficiently. At the same time the Syrian forces were not unified and the goals of the Syrian nation were many and self-contradicting. It was for these reasons that our forces were defeated against the strong and disciplined Zionist army. If we hope to be able to stop the Zionists and to expel them from where they came, we must adhere to the tenets of the National Social Movement that is capable of building the self and the will. Each and every SSNP member knows this and struggles to reach the point of strength and unity. Our members have no doubts in their minds. They are not carried away by empty slogans. They are united with an unshakable will and plan, which can enable victory to this great Syrian nation…
We know that the speed in rescuing our nation is through this great developmental movement, which can only be built on strong foundations, regardless of how much time the setting of this foundation takes. Therefore, if we are spending a lot of time in digging to reach the rocks on which we intend to lay the foundation, we are not toiling for nothing. We are not losing time in this project. Actually, we are gaining time.
Others are building on the surface. They bring together huge numbers of people with different psychologies and think that they accomplished a great deal by organizing popular events attended by vast numbers of people. They think they will reach victory soon. However, as soon as these “armies” reach the first line of confrontation with the enemy their will is destroyed and their morale is extinguished. They start operating haphazardly and their mass is destroyed against the organized power of the enemy. They become nothing. These big armies disappear against an army that is much fewer in numbers.
A disciplined and organized force is more powerful than vast numbers of people that are not joined together with the unity of their will and psychology. We are in the process of instituting this unified and aggressive army. If one day we lead this army to Palestine, we will not lead it to retake holy lands. We will not lead them for the sake of the Bible, the Kur’an, or any other book of wisdom. We will not attack so that one faith wins over another faith. We will attack because we are wary that we are fighting for the victory of a nation and a people.
In short this is our road and our credence. We go to war not only as a spiritual entity, but a social entity as well. Victory has no feudal lord or a capitalist entrepreneur. Victory is to regain a land where we can’t live as slaves. We walk toward victory for the sake of a free people, under whose banner a nation unites as one person.
It is only with such a faith that we can wipe the shame that has befallen us in the past. Therefore, we march to rescue Palestine, Alexandretta, Cilicia, Cyprus, and the Sinai. We ride on this road and once we reach the point from where our social attack starts, those who were hasty in the past will see how nations are built and victories are taken.
You students are the carriers of this new consciousness. You are the critical footing in the foundation of the National social Movement. It is this building that will posses the strength and will lead to glory and perpetuity. Work with these statements in mind. It is the strength of this movement that enabled it to struggle against all internal and external elements that wanted the nation to be split into factions in order to usurp the land and its people.
You are instituting a great task within the national social movement. This task of making this movement into a popular one has to continue so that it reaches all places where the Syrian nation lives. It is this movement that will rescue the nation from being fractured. It is this movement that will give the people a unified and victorious ideology. Therefore, at the end of this scholastic year you must re-evaluate all these issues, so that when you return to your areas you will awaken those around you and make them work for the sake of the national social movement. You will destroy the image of thievery and banditries that western powers are trying to paint us with, even though our struggle is against them, since they try to enforce their will upon us. We are waiting for this strong, organized and disciplined army that will bring glory to the Syrian nation.
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SAADEH’S SPEECH OF MARCH 1(1938)
As soon as the SSNP became a living entity and was in the process of growing its fledgling existence, when it was exposed to natural experiments and emotional trials as is common to all living organisms at the beginning of their lives. These experiments and trials are necessary if one wants to know the particular talents of this new life form and its characteristics. This is also important to know how strong the organism is. Does it posses the power to continue on or is going to be disintegrated at the first instance? Moreover, is it emotionally healthy or maligned and could not accomplish anything? Is its ideology the right one that expounds the needs of the nation or is it wrong and serves only personal ambitions?
After all these stagnating experiments whose echoes are heard in our ears and will ring in the ears of our future generations the question is will this entity pass a valuable consideration in nation building to our grandchildren?
At this initial stage we must stop for a moment and take a cursory look at our past, present and future and establish our rightful place vis-à-vis our goals and surroundings.
The experiments and the experiences that the SSNP underwent at its fledgling stage were strong and dangerous trials, which all organizations similar to ours had endured before us. That the SSNP came out healthy and strong from these trials is a lucid indication of its invincible power against forces that try to kill the nation for their own existence.
No nation has withstood such tumultuous experiments as our blessed nation. Syria was just yet trying to express itself during Roman hegemony, when the Arabic expansion came and enforced a change of its language. The Mongol invasions came next. They robbed the country and destroyed Damascus. Then it was time for the oppressive Turkic invasions. These trials, which include the Crusades and the ensuing religious wars as one of its important elements, cut short the civilizing mission of the Syrian nation and made it an appendage to consecutive occupations. What transpired next was an era of social and economic chaos and degradation. Civilization stopped in this beautiful country, where invading forces from north to south and from the west met. The country was thrown into an era of historical turbulence. Intelligence receded as wars became dominant. Syrian civilizing energies were exhausted. Syria’s philosophical attributes and civilizing arts, which had fascinated the Mediterranean shores and had given legends to the Greeks were now lost. The nation went into the abyss of darkness for long centuries.
These tiring times in the history of the nation showed that our early civilizing genius was covered by the toil of wars and the sediments of destruction. The nation was reduced to a primordial social status. Its national identity and foremost interests were lost. The social degradation led to a decline in the economy, which continues until today.
The national dilapidation was complete. It almost choked the character of the nation under its utter immensity. Only few venues, such as religious institutions, feudal leadership, and the tribal system remained. Then the Ottoman administration came to give the coup de grace to this remaining attributes. The Syrian nation saw that its future lies in the conflicting policies of the western powers and the Ottoman administration. However, the light of a national awakening was still very dim. The issue was left to archaic institutions of feudalism and religion to lead this fledgling movement. The individuals who based their liberation philosophies on these institutions were mistaken. Politics was misconstrued by religion and Social systems by politics. Nobody was even thinking about the economic sector.
The initial feeling of Syrian awakening can be summarized as follows: “The nation must come out from under Turkish, Ottoman yoke whatever the price for that would be. “ There was no clear vision of what the national life of the Syrian nation would be. Therefore, political, social, economic, and religious issues got mixed up. All wanted to get rid of Turkish dominion. All were ready for a new movement of national liberation. And since Turkey had control over several Arabic territories including Syria, this national liberation movement became a common denominator for all Arabs under Turkish rule. The great powers were very happy about this. It fed the movement especially through religious institutions. Thus came forth what became known as the Arab Cause. People from Egypt all the way to Syria worked within it. Religion was the major motivating force. Arabs thought that they were the carriers of the prophet’s family line. They thought that this in itself was the nexus of their strength and the way to engage in the Cause and to make it happen. Some of these were secretly allying themselves with foreign, i.e. western powers so that they could get the blessing of these powers. Some went as far as having these states as their protectors after their liberation from the Ottomans.
In the Arabic and Turkish literature what we find regarding the Arab Cause are those that are written by Syrian intellectuals together with some other Arabs from other regions with the general topic of how to get rid of Turkish dominion. This liberation was just an expression meaning freedom, which was echoed in all Arabic lands. However, since the Syrian literature on liberation was weak due to the political, religious, national, and popular divisions, thus the Arab Cause had different interpretations to different people. There were those who thought of the Arab Cause as a reactionary movement for the reestablishment of an Arabic empire and the recreation of the era of Harun al Rashid with all its social, political, and economic problems. Moreover, there were those for whom the Arab cause meant a return to the issues of the Caliphate and the Imamate. There were those who looked at this cause as if it was a blood relationship and one that represented a “continuity of progenitor.” And then there were those who looked at the cause as a pan-national movement that would demolish local nationalities for the sake of a super Arabic nationality all over the Arab world. Finally, there were those who considered the cause as a matter of alliance and thus totally immersed in politics.
From what we presented above, it seems that the liberation movement that formed in Syria and other Arabic lands became—under the influence of the religious factor—some sort of a chaos of political theories. The language used to identify this movement is the best proof of this chaotic situation. This was apparent in the negative amalgamation of religion, politics, society, economics, and jurisprudence into the essence of the liberation movement and in the presentation of the cause as such. Today, those who speak about the “Arab Cause” and what to present it as a national one speak about different Arabic “states” and then combine them together to speak about a one and unique Arab nationalism. They thus mix local nationalisms, which are de facto occurrences and have nothing to do with supra nationalism, religious, linguistic, and racial affiliation.
The national liberation movement remained in a chaotic situation until the SSNP came into being based on a new and scientific theory. It insisted on the formation of a “united Arab Front” comprised of all the states of the Arab world, which benefits politically and economically from such an endeavor. The SSNP gave precise meanings and definitions to what were chaotic manifestations. It established a clear distinction between the national and the political aspects of the movement. There was now a new definition to the old, elastic meaning of the “Arab Cause.” The formation of the United Arab Front was the SSNP’s invitation to the Arab world to leave aside all marginal and local interests and to coalesce on common interests. Thus, no Arab state would enforce its definition for the Arab Cause on other Arab states. The formation of this front could become reality upon the meeting of the representatives of the different Arab states in a conference, which will unify the cause and defy those who use the cause for their own, narrow interests.
The “Arab Cause” was not the only confusing element in our nation. There were religious and political elements of confusion. This had happened before the inauguration of the SSNP. As soon as it was formed, however, the SSNP was confronted with yet another element of confusion that emerged, namely the “Lebanese Cause.”
The origins of this cause dates back to the bloody confrontations known as the “Sixties Movement.” These were the battles that were waged between the Christians and the Druzes, which ended with the interference of the big powers that had an interest in the fragmentation of the Ottoman Empire and in order to extent its influence over these territories. It resulted in the creation of a special political system for Mount Lebanon, which provided security to its Christian majority. This new system obliged the Lebanese to forget about defending their rights and to trust others in the administration of their own affairs. The Lebanese became lazy because of a system that remained din place for over half a century. Moreover, it strengthened the position of relying on others. Many Lebanese saw in this system the best way in leading their social and political life. The Christian sect, which was the utmost beneficiary of this system, wanted the continuation of the status quo and christened it as the “Lebanese Cause.”
In this atmosphere of keeping the status quo as is, and with the backing of western politics, Greater Lebanon was born. Then it was time to announce the creation of the Republic of Lebanon, which found its reson d’etre in the communal tribulations of the events of the 1860’s. The Lebanese were used to servitude to other powers who had managed to bring forth such an entity.
The intellectual and spiritual confusion that is apparent in the “Arab Cause,” and the “Lebanese Cause,” helped in partitioning Syria’s and making the creation of its own national “cause” by the SSNP a very difficult one.
Those whose minds and souls has been tainted think that the cause of a nation can be won from outside the nation.
Those who see a solution within the framework of an “Islamic Movement” that would lead to the formation of an Arab League don’t understand that covering up this religious movement under the disguise of such an Arab League that would hide its real motives from the Christians of this nation would lead to a problem, since even if the Christians swallow the idea of an Arab League, deep inside they would feel betrayed and would try to implement a project that negates the Arab League theory.
On the other hand, those who see the cause as that of a land for the Christian farmer [fallah] and call it “Lebanese Independence” when in reality what they foresee is a religious cause, which they try to hide from the Muslim population, are also ignorant of the psychology of the people of this land, since however Muslims say that they are cognizant of “Lebanese Independence” and the isolation of Lebanon, they too will work to negate this covertly religious theory. This analysis shows that such routes by either of the sects are but foolish attempts…
It was under the influence of this foolishness that political companies were created in order to usurp the different sects under the notion of “nationalism.” These companies worked for a long time under the disguise of nationalism, without giving much ado to the peoples’ beliefs. They thus veered away from the path of creating the right educational-political milieu that would have generated the national will of the Syrian nation. Moreover, they destroyed the potential of the Syrian nation and gave impetus to companies that would dominate the national scene and oppose any advancement of the real national cause.
This is the condemned political situation that I faced on my return to the fatherland. This was the political atmosphere that the SSNP had to cleanse in accordance with its principles and goals. This condemned Syrian political reality gave rise to such utterances such as:
We are a weak nation and we don’t have ambitions to something big like independence. Our country has been a travel route to occupiers. It is a bridge between East and West and will remain that way. What can 4 million Syrians do?
From such utterances that we used to hear before the formation of the SSNP it becomes clear how the will of the people was crushed under the political companies. Both parties—those aligned with the “Arab Cause” and those insisting on the “Lebanese Cause-- use such utterances to protect themselves and to ignore their nation’s will to survive. Some attach themselves to the Arab League theory, while others hold on to Lebanese isolationism and foreign, Christian intervention. Both parties are wrong.
These are the political conditions that were the direct result of cruel historical events. These were the consecutive political and economic conditions that created a state of unwillingness unbeknown and unmatched in its magnitude. There was no more trust left in the political and economic potential of the nation. There remained only the prospect of servitude to a group of mercenaries that advocated complete surrender to foreign will. The general feeling within the nation was one of fear and cowardliness, which were used by those who had become agents to foreigners for their own ends.
This was the biggest setback that the nation had endured. It was so strong that there was almost no flicker of hope for a righteous national awakening to aid the national cause. This despair begot moral corruption that devoured the very fabric of the nation.
These were the conditions that I found myself surrounded in when I vowed to rescue the nation by forming the SSNP and by working hard to find the few remaining healthy elements in our society and to organize them into a political party.
It was obvious that the movement to get rid of Turkish dominion, which later became known as the “Arab Cause,” was not the national cause, but the premiere political cause that took shape from national ambitions. The national cause is not confined to being liberated from a foreign power. Its real indicative is the realization of the character and needs of the nation, and thus creating the unifying principles of its everlasting existence. And since Syria had a single society living in a single state with a unique social and economic life, my first issue was to pinpoint the real cause of this society, which was my society, and to get rid of all confusing religious and political manifestations that had shrouded its real ideology and character for a long period of time. It was my intention to then propose a single Syrian cause that would unify the people around it. I wanted the nation to know its interests and rights and to nurture them. I was able to produce a complete cause for the Syrian nation through the principles that I announced and called upon the people to follow it. It was on these principles that the SSNP was formed.
The formation of the SSNP was a blow to the existing intellectual and spiritual status quo. The nation was finally on the right path for its cause, its demands, and its destiny. This national movement was not just a reaction to foreign intervention. Neither was it a movement of Christians or Muslims. It was the movement of a whole nation that had pinpointed its interests and continuity and wanted to work toward these goals. This is the agenda of the SSNP.
It was with this reality that I wanted to cure the existing intellectual-political atmosphere, which was confused between the “Arab Cause” and the “Lebanese Cause” and the internal divisions that these two movements had created. It was with this truth that I conquered the darkness and the despair that ailed our people.
What a difference the nation showed before and after this proclamation! In this new reality we see our own reality, our existence, our interests, our hopes, our character, and our will. With this reality we understand our inner force and capabilities. On this truth we plan and work for the success of our nation. The light generated by this truth now shows us our path and our goals.
With this truth we were able to understand that the united and continuous will can only result if there is a unity of continuous interest. We also understood that political issues will not become ideological ones no matter how much intellectuals try to infuse ideological input into them. The Lebanese Cause is an issue that is linked to the situation of some religious groups. It can never achieve the status of an ideological cause because it is a passing issue one that was created during an era of religious polarization. On the other hand, the travails of those who try to represent the Arab Cause as an ideological one is also a futile endeavor, since here too the issue is marginal, even though it is assumed by several Arab states. The will generated by its adoption is neither fixed nor continuous, because it is not the result of a united society which is cognizant of its united interests. Therefore, the cooperation for the liberation of Arab states is not a national priority, because it comes to an end with liberation after which each society goes its own and continuous way. How can one not see this eye pocking difference? Within Syrian society the issue is between its farmers, artisans, merchants, artists and literary figures and their utmost demands, while within other Arab societies the differences are between those who Shepard camels, cows, and those who occupy themselves with seasonal conquest and their utmost demands. The same can be said about the internal divisions and differences of Egyptian society.
The participation of Arab states in the cause of freedom and liberation doesn’t imply a national unity. It implies only a political directive that continues as long as there is need to it. If political liberation is achieved, each component will return to its old and different way of life. We don’t want to be called myopic regarding the difference between political and national, or more precisely supra-national agendas.
We have our own way of life in this fatherland. This is our fatherland and our culture. We have our own interests that we don’t confuse with those of others. We have our will that accepts no other to replace it.
Those who say about us that we have created a goal from what they consider a means are very right. However this statement strengthens rather than weakens us. This shows that we place the interest of our nation, its right for sovereignty, freedom, and independence as our utmost goal, while they try to achieve all these as a means to satisfy other projects. They want to subordinate Syrian interests to those of other nations and states. They dream of creating a new empire based upon these interests. We, however, say that the interests of our people are our goals. We awaken for the sake of our interests and our right to live as a sovereign nation. We also say to other nations that they too can awaken and work on this same road if they want to. If they agree we encourage them to form a united front that would treat each movement equally so that they don’t weaken our character.
By founding our national cause in the principles of the SSNP we were very careful that these principles be expressive of our interests and will. It was this carefulness that rescued us from our desperation. It was through these principles that we started on the road of serious work within our party. We are now very serious in our approach to put the whole issue of the Syrian nation on the path of success.
This new reality that the SSNP brought about made it clear that salvation doesn’t lie in unknowingly hating the foreigner. It rather lies in understanding the principle of national life and the utmost interests of the nation…
Your principle, O my SSNP comrades, is not a political plan that can be adopted or neglected according to the whim of some. It is the principle of your cause and represents your character. It is the principle of your awakening. Only through its success could you regain your honor and your dignity. It is not a plan or a means. It is the foundation upon which our nation and our state will be built. It is the blueprint to all our future plans!
The national movement took over the issue of confidence building and institutional awareness, “which our nation excelled in and led humanity starting with the first civilizations and up to the formation of modern civilization that resulted from the engagement of Greco-Syrian cooperation.” This brings me to my second statement about the principle of the SSNP, which states that: “The Syrian Cause is a unique cause and is independent from any other cause.” It is manifested solely by the will of the Syrian nation in accordance to its interests and not by the will of other nation or nations in accordance to the interest of other nation or nations. This principle instituted in us the confidence to act alone and to depend on ourselves in realizing our demands. It is from this principle that we accomplished a strong faith that Syria can survive under any circumstances. There is a big difference between knowing the will that is the result of our own convictions and rights, and putting the implementation of these rights and responsibilities on others, such as the “Lebanese independence” or the “Arab Cause,” where they are lost.
After the institution of the national cause, which is the source of the clarity of ideas and the unison of ideology, and after halting religious and political confusion from interfering in the national cause, we went ahead with finding the practical means for achieving the national cause. The situation was not conducive for such endeavors. The atmosphere was diluted with ethical and leadership problems, which I referred to above. However, I formed a unique base where I could maneuver. This was represented in finding the new and clean cadres and teaching them the new principles by which the nations cause could be understood. It also involved the creation of a new political party, which was to be insulated from the existing religious and political corruption mentioned earlier. I went ahead in the formation of a new and healthy organization that would possess a clean and clear mind to take over the issues pertaining to our national cause. I was able to first recruit three people from Shuwayr, two of whom were students at the American University. One of these students sent me a letter explaining that he had found some students who posses the needed qualifications. He also wrote to me that one of these students is from eastern Jordan, while the other—a friend of the Jordanian—is Lebanese. He asked me to expedite a meeting. He brought his friends to me. After discussing the issues with all three I found that the one who really grasped my thoughts was George Abd al Masih who was majoring in economics. The other two were distant from the national movement since they were corrupted by the political atmosphere of the times. The Jordanian was majoring in political science, while his Lebanese friend was studying literature. After much discussion and debate the Jordanian and his friend agreed—albeit artificially to me—to take my invitation to form a party. I also pretended that I believed them even though I had many doubts regarding their integrity. After this I started my own search and found some students, who were studying German in my classes and several others from the department of education at the university who were—except one—of a caliber that I trusted. I went ahead with the issue and tried my first experiment of forming a party with all of them. A while later it was apparent that the Jordanian and his Lebanese friend were maneuvering, since the Jordanian was still influenced by the corrupt politics of the day, while the Lebanese recited a poem he wrote in Damascus, where he excited sectarian strife. I was sure of the integrity of my other students. I met with them and told them that I intended to expel the Jordanian and his Lebanese friend from the party. And since our party had not yet developed its bylaws, I met all of them—including the two masquerading as my confidants—and told them that I am going to postpone my party establishment for a while until I am certain that all of them are up to par with my beliefs and would walk the walk with me. I told them that our work had ended and that everybody was free to do what he wanted. A week or two later I called the other students and secretly established the SSNP with them. All of them were examples of purity and integrity of character. It was at this instance that I considered the SSNP finally formed and established.
I wanted to tell this story about the formation of this great party and the remarkable national awakening and ethical standards that it generated within our society. Of the four people who met me—the person who owned this national idealism—two thought that it was only a means to achieve personal political status. They were ready to usurp the decency of their comrades, thinking integrity of character was only a literary phenomenon. You see how far I went in choosing the people with whom I wanted to start this national awakening. If I had left those corrupt people in, the party would have been born still or would have been aborted. Therefore, I said and still say that the purification of the SSNP from corrupt people was and still is a principle that I followed since the start. It has to continue unabated so that the party to carry the heavy burden of National awakening on its shoulders.
After one and a half year of this slow yet principled action our party comprises no more than thirty members. Even though they are small in number, the cadres of the party have achieved a lot. Its radio programming has increased steadily. The party still recruits and initiates its members in a secret fashion. Willfulness increased and hope is boundless. In a few months we had one thousand members. 1933 recruitment saw a big surge. In 1934 I had formulated the bylaws and created some institutions. The chapters were formed. Members were appointed to preside over these institutions, the headquarters and the chapters. The SSNP had grown from its secret modus operendi into becoming large popular movement and a social, economic, and political revolution in itself.
From the middle of 1935 to the end of that year the party developed in leaps and bounds. It was impossible to keep this intellectual, social, and political movement a secret anymore. Little by little the party started to make its presence felt on the political arena. People started to speak about it in their homes and family gatherings. However, the existence of the SSNP and the curiosity it created within the intelligence community and the national security establishment was not enough to bring the reality of this party to the forefront. They had to find—or rather create—a traitor. And since the party had now an open existence with its headquarters and chapters, it wasn’t hard to find a several people to slip within the party. However, only one of these spies was able to utilize the complicated party apparatus and to reveal the places where party papers and high ranking membership roasters were kept. This information was supplied to the national security administration, which produced its orders on the spot and apprehended us on the 16th of November, 1935.
This detention was the first experience whereby the strength of ethics and integrity collided with the status quo. Several of our high ranking cadres were victims of astonishment. They were confused when I visited them at the national security center at twelve noon on that day. Only one of them acted as if he didn’t know me. However, the president of the central Committee, Naameh Tabit came forward and took my hand and said “don’t worry. All is well.” The only thing I told them when I met them was that I confessed to the existence of the SSNP and that each and every one of them had to do the same and to state his title and position within the party and to let me do the rest.
It was from this point that the spiritual revolution started against the forces of fear and suppression. “I had formed a national party in secrecy not remain as such, but to come to light in all its force and to show the world that the nation that they thought to be dead was awakening and renewing itself.” This was what I told the foreign [French] prosecutor when he asked me why the party was a secret one.
Do you think that this was the answer that the people anticipated? Weren’t there a lot of people who said “let’s see how Saadeh is going to break himself free of his creation?”
The reality is that that the SSNP was the only party that was formed in Syria after the promulgation of the laws of dissolving all political parties and the utilization of martial law. I thought that many of those who entered the party did so because it was operating in secrecy and that that aspect was the real strength of the party. They were afraid that the party and their names might be revealed. This was so important that the central committee in one of its meetings insisted on keeping my and their names secret. However, when I insisted that I don’t accept that and want the party to operate in the open they agreed with me. Many members came to me with the suggestion to destroy the membership cards and I refused. I told them that “…when we enter the SSNP we enter a new life that we don’t want to abandon.” Those who said that “…there was no need for such membership cards, since membership is in our hearts and souls and our word is the most important aspect of our acceptance,” knew that I hate such cowardice and that a person should not hide from his responsibilities. However, I didn’t hate those who told me to get rid of the membership cards; because I knew that prior to the national awakening their souls was lost and afraid. I preferred patience and educating them in this regard.
My stance with the prosecutor was encouraging for my comrades. However, after one night I jail they once again succumbed to despair. They started blaming me and to point out the mistakes I had made. They thought that if I had listened to them the party would not have enlarged, its existence would not have been revealed, and they would not have been imprisoned. When I became really angry from such remarks I took a pillow and sat alone. The president of the central committee felt his and the others’ mistake came to me and apologized for the weakness they had shown. Days later we heard that the people had heard the news and they were agitated. Our confidence grew inside the jail. I have to state that the weakness of my comrades was short lived. Overall they and their families showed strength during and after this experience.
By entering prison and being released by the court the spirit of the SSNP gained a victory over the ancient political traditions.
After the trial was over and I was sentenced to of six months imprisonment, I started working on my book” The Formation of nations” and finished it in three months, while I followed the news about the SSNP and the political situation of the country.
It is not an exaggeration to state that the formation of the SSNP created a strong intellectual current and a revolution of thoughts—that had no president in the last several centuries—within the body of the nation. It was to be expected that the old political lanterns—which had remained the only ones albeit their obsolescence—would darken against this new and shining beacon of national awakening. However, the leaders of these flickering lanterns had every reason to envy the SSNP, since all eyes were now diverting away from them and focusing on us. They started a political campaign to get rid of the [French] mandate and to exchange it with an accord. However, when they got aware of the danger that was approaching them when the French army got involved they published a statement asking the people to go back to its daily life and to let them deal with the political situation. However, the students were not ready to listen to such calls. Some of them were SSNP members. They shouted against the calm and advocated a continuation of the demands until they were met. The students staged a show of force in Damascus and closed back those institutions that had opened their doors until the French sat back to negotiate and an accord was signed.
In reality, the signing of the accord was nothing less than a face-saving agreement, which had the weariness of the existence of the SSNP as its main reason. It was because of this that the accord didn’t include the principle national conditions put forth. It contained only some offerings that didn’t consider the real will of the nation. It was more of an agreement that was signed solely for giving credence to the so-called and unorganized “National Block,” whose national goals were at best unclear and whose politics was based on opportunism.
This politics of the “Block” is most apparent in their campaign against the SSNP without even having read or studied its principles and political goals. It would have been better for them to have contacted us and to understand how competent we are in solving the national and the political issues facing the nation and thus to have coalesced with us in these matters. They were so blinded by their envy of the SSNP that their prestige didn’t allow them to take the road to reconciliation. Such political institutions don’t have any capital to give to the people. Neither did they posses qualifications that are at par in solving such issues. Instead of opening the doors to us and let us fight the battle together—even though they know hat this battle can only be won through our participation and our principles—They preferred to neglect that and in the process to neglect us and what we did in this regard and the revolution that we started. They were satisfied with the negotiations they had in 1936 and played their cards with the same—more precisely with less—demands than what they had presented in 1928.
After all this, and after the fact that they attacked us without any rigid reason, I decided to cooperate with them regardless of them and for the sake of the national interest. I gave my instructions in this regard from my prison. It was according to my prerogative that my second in command and a high ranking SSNP member—this delegation became known as the Delegation of Salah Labki and Ma’mun Ilyas—went to Damascus and presented the ‘Block” with the SSNP’s economic memoranda for the delegation that was on its way to Paris. Our delegation stressed that it had some issues and notes regarding the Paris accord vis-à-vis the national Ideology. It also left the door open to visit Damascus in the future. I was informed that our Memorandum was given to the delegation minutes before it took the train from Riyak. Then in 25 February 1936 I sent new directions to my comrades asking them to prepare a second memorandum regarding the SSNP’s stance vis-à-vis the issues being negotiated in Paris. I was astonished when I read in the newspapers that Salah Labki—my second in command and whom I had appointed to deal with this issue—Had prepared a memorandum in the name of the SSNP and which represented the party’s stance and had delivered it as his personal memorandum to the League of nations, which later became known as “Mr. Salah Labki’s Memorandum.” I criticized this memorandum from my prison on March 8, 1936 as such: “The party should not be positioned to represent only Lebanon and the Lebanese will. It must always represent the hopes of the whole Syrian nation.” At the time I didn’t want to criticize the personal character of [Labki’s] memorandum even though I had wanted it to be an official one and representing the SSNP.
Dear SSNP Members,
It was your party that paved the way toward national awakening, which obliged France to develop a new plan toward Syria. However, those who have made themselves leaders upon the people didn’t know how to benefit from the situation that we created. They just used the situation to sign an accord where they didn’t intend to include the principle conditions. They just signed it for their own political ends. When we asked them why did they retreat from essential demands they answered back that “the French refused to negotiate outside the parameters that they had decided upon.”
It must also be stated also that the party [SSNP] did not utilize its popular base while I was imprisoned. Moreover, the party did nothing to show its real strength. Contrary to what I had instructed from prison that I want the party and its people in a tour of force the day I get out of prison, the Party’s central administration decided not to let SSNP members to come down when I was being released from prison. It created an agenda of meetings and groups that extended over a month. This led to the weakening of the will of our members, when in reality it could have been used for the opposite reason.
As soon as I was done with this agenda of tedious meetings, we were consumed by the issues pertaining to the reporters who were defaming the party. Then some party members and I were re-incarcerated. And since I had gotten my lesson in working through a second in command the first time I was imprisoned, I asked for the formation of a temporary council by appointing members Naameh Tabit, Ma’mun Ilyas, Fawzi Bardawil, and Yusuf Bhamduni to it under the leadership of Salah Labki. However, this high council met unofficially on the seashore and three fifths of its number admitted that the council couldn’t work. They then decided to hand comrade Ma’mun Ilyas the task of overseeing the party.
That was a very bad spiritual stance. I had put my confidence in them. Their stance reflected itself upon the membership. A new feeling of giving away under pressure started to grow within the party. I was very sorry for this. However, I continued to believe in our members’ strength and ideological correctness. After this chaotic situation couple of our high ranking officers went underground. Moreover, the prosecution imprisoned Salah Labki. We met in prison where he apologized for his past mistakes and acknowledged that he wants to return to the party after being released. I accepted giving him a second chance. I formed a second high council and assigned him as its president. However, this high council’s operation was not organized either. There was bickering between Labki and other council members regarding the party’s political plan. Moreover, the chapters were left unattended until our Tripoli [Tarablus] chapter decided unilaterally to take part in the disturbances that occurred. Some council members showed unclear tendencies of personal glorification.
I came out of my second incarceration after spending some four months under persecution. After I assured the president of the republic that the party will now work toward national unity, especially since the “Block” had practically closed all doors leading to that unity. The first thing I did was to visit the different chapters to see how the membership was doing. My first visit was to Laziqiyya where I started working on what I had come for. News came that something was going to be announced regarding the Alexandretta [Iskandarun] region. I immediately wrote an article that was published in the “al Sharq” newspaper where I attacked the Turks for their attempts to attack the northern sector. I also prepared a memorandum, which I sent to the League of Nations, which articulated the problems that would surface in the Middle East if this region is taken out from Syrian sovereignty. At a time when no politician was saying anything regarding the Alexandretta issue, I stated that thousands of SSNP members are ready to defend the region under question.
Then I visited the Shouf area where a strong struggle had ensued between the party members and the feudal lords. Our comrades in the Shouf had had a very bright stance against armed people from outside the area who were coming in to create an ugly situation. After that I had a great visit to Bikfayya, where I saw the real strength of the party and its members. In Bikfayya the party had shown its importance. It had not come there to make war or to do battle. They had gone through a dangerous period, where soldiers had beaten members in Bikfayya, Shuwayr, and Khinshara. However, our members had remained calm for the sake of the people.
The Bikfayya incident is one of the experiments that the SSNP had to endure in its nationalistic struggle. It is a strong link in the chain of its history, since it showed how disciplined the party is even against such a shock, which many parties encounter during their developmental stage. It was imperative that we have this shock; so that it would become clear to us how strong we are in absorbing it and continue our way to victory. If a party can’t sustain a shock such as the one we had in Bikfayya, that party is not destined to lead. I congratulate those SSNP members who were in Bikfayya on that day, and who were able to withstand the aggression with patience. What they did is now part of our history and struggle. Those who withstood in Bikfayya are going to be mentioned on the day that the national awakening becomes victorious. Their stance is what brings us together and pushes us forward.
A new wave of arrests started after the Bikfayya incident. This happened at a time when the party had lost a lot of its energy because of previous imprisonments and the caution that a lot of the leading cadres had assumed because of that dangerous situation. This proved yet once again that even within the ranks of the SSNP the notions of fear and subservience still existed. It also demonstrated that we can’t go ahead with our struggle until the last of these notions are uprooted from our being. These new dreadful arrests were the most dangerous. Those who were weak in their faith thought that the time had come, since many of the enemies of the SSNP—specially the sectarian parties that were formed to wage a war against the SSNP—started prophesizing that the death of the SSNP was near.
This time we stopped all negotiations that we usually did through party members who were still outside. In a short period of time the government understood that the national unity that we strived for was an integral condition of the political unity, which many in high governmental positions said that they had no problem with it. I made it clear to the Lebanese government that our goal was not the destruction the Lebanese entity, but the building of the Syria. The government was also tired of this boring bickering. That was why it ordered our release. This is how I was able to bring the party into this peaceful situation, which allowed us to renew our energies and to continue with our developmental work.
However, our leaving the Lebanese entity must not be misunderstood. We still are one nation even if we live in one or are divided into several countries. Whoever attacks a part of us is attacking us all.
The Lebanese elections were upon as soon as we were out of prison. The atmosphere of the elections was very rigid. Personal ambitions rose above all other considerations. Some of the lead personas thought that they could use the SSNP for their own gains. The SSNP, however, was not in a situation to be a real part of these sectarian elections—that were marred by vote buying and other irregularities—because of the several setbacks it had encountered in the last two years. Therefore, I preferred to have the interest of the party above all rest. This conviction was based on the fact that we regarded both the governing and opposition parties as the same. Our isolation from the elections was one of the biggest political victories for us.
There are people who are used to having traditional parties work for their own benefits. They thought that they could use the SSNP in the same way they use other parties. They were disappointed, because we say that the individual can be used for national reasons and not the opposite.
During a short period of time the SSNP started to regain its vigor and integrity. It was thus able to focus on the issue of Palestine. We quickly prepared a memorandum and sent it to the League of Nations as an answer to the workings of the Royal British Delegation in this regard. This memorandum was a defense for our national rights in the southern sector of our nation. It contained the principles ideas of our defensive position.
After the Lebanese elections we were involved in the partial elections in Laziqiyya. Our front won the elections in Talkalakh-al Husn. After this I had time to go back to work on the most important issues since the formation of the national cause; the establishment of the [party] institutions that were capable of moving the national cause forward. I reorganized the institutions that were working before the detection of our clandestine party. I also added new institutions such as consultation committees, executive councils, the Political Bureau, and the Political Department. I did this so that all the able cadres in the party would be able to work through one of those institutions in a formal and disciplined way. There were also a number of other institutions such as our radio and educational programs. O course all these new institutions had to undergo a developmental period after which they would produce important and real results for thee national cause.
The development of institutions and reorganizing the bylaws of the party was the most important work I did after initiating the national cause. Institutions are important because they keep the direction and unify people to work, and work is important in order for a political cause to continue. It was in this manner that we were able to get rid of the chaotic conditions within the party. Without our strong and disciplined institutions we wouldn’t be able to devote the energy of thousands o Syrians for the cause.
A lot of people know nothing about what we do. They also are not familiar with the importance of institutional work. They say: “What did the SSNP do and what does it do now?” or “…What does Saadeh do and what is his problem?” This was how people used ask when we were a clandestine party. Today, everybody knows that the SSNP did establish a Syrian awakening and its national development. As to what concerns Saadeh, let it be known that he doesn’t leave any aspect of national interest unattended.
All those who went bankrupt in their national politics had only one venue remaining for them to attain some semblance of their political integrity. That was the “Arab Cause.” As for us, we were able to uproot the thinking that we are orientalists and that our destiny was not going to be different from other oriental peoples. We are the source of the Mediterranean Civilization, which we made into a Syrian sea. Our ships sail free in its waters and bring our culture, civilization, discoveries and creations to its northern, western, and southern shores.
If the SSNP did defeat numerous hardships that were put on its path, it was because it proved that it is worthy of remaining an enduring force with its institutions. It is because of this endurance that you now feel that you posses a strong national entity and that you have renewed your faith in your nation’s ability to develop and prosper. It is because of this endurance that you now feel that this national cause would fight for its interests and rights and sublime goals.
If the SSNP today feels that it is stronger than any other time that is because it has returned to its real roots and principles by ousting the spies who were planted to destroy it and make it into something it was not.
Most of those who were expelled from the SSNP were opportunists whose personal agendas were above the national cause. Their remaining within the ranks would’ve endangered the party’s cause. There are some who think that the expulsion of these traitors was wrong, or premature. They say “look how Hitler or others were patient regarding those whom they felt that were traitors to their causes.” They mean that we should be patient with traitors until we achieve victory. I say to those that the reasons I have are different from the reasons others have. I was really lenient with opportunists. However, when I saw that they were endangering the party I expelled them. I ask you to destroy treason whenever you see it. We won’t reach our goals if we do not get rid of treason. A society that adopts treason and allows it to live is definitely a society that has signed the warrant for its death. I know very well what I am saying. It is with the same care that I formed the party and its institutions that I keep being vigilant so that they are able to produce the results that they were formed for.
Now that we have endured the first shocks and put our institutions on solid foundations, we see our path clearly. We look around with complete faith toward victory. Whatever takes place now on the political arena is but a sham. In Lebanon, those in power and those in opposition score or try to score at each other. There is no benefit for the people in this scoring match. The same is true in Damascus. We say that the nation is not interested in bringing down this government or bringing another government to power. The people need to change the rotting, classical politicians and their decaying ways. The old political school must be destroyed and to be replaced with a new national political school so that change and reform becomes possible. What I say about Lebanon and Damascus I say also about Palestine. The old politicians there couldn’t find any active defense against the Jewish danger, because their ways are old, personal and only divide the people.
At this point I have to say that the Jewish danger is but one of two dangers that are of utmost importance. The other is the Turkish danger. It was these two dangers that brought the people to the SSNP, because I have been talking at length about them for the past two years. The Turkish danger became a dagger inserted into the Syrian nation after it usurped the Alexandretta region from under Syrian sovereignty. As to the Jewish danger it also became a reality after the demise of the 1936 revolution and the interference of non-Syrian elements in our southern issues.
The Jewish danger is not limited to Palestine. It transcends it to Lebanon, Al Sham [Syria] and Iraq. It is a danger to all the Syrian people. No, the Jews will not be content by occupying only Palestine, since the latter is not enough to accept the millions of Jews who had been exposed to the wrath of their host countries because of their national aspirations. Today Jews are saying: “Praise be to God that we are able to practice winter exercises on the land of Israel,” which means skiing on snow in Lebanon. Does the Lebanese—who are neck deep in their so called nationalism—really understand the dangers that threaten the Lebanese people?
When I say that we are looking to the future with complete faith in our victory I mean that the nation is going to be on our side, because the SSNP represents its interests, its will, and its strength and also because the SSNP is serious in treating the peoples’ principal and vital issues at a time when the classical politicians are trying to obscure those issues with their witchery. We know that the youth in Lebanon, Palestine and,
Al Sham will soon know that the political parties formed to fight the SSNP and to halt the social and economic reform that we seek are but a tool of war against the nation and its people. The youth will further see that the real goals of these parties is to return to reactionary methods. We believe in the youth that had awakened on the shining light of nationalism, which was sent to it through the SSNP.
The people will see that debts are not paid by adjourning issues between debtor and borrower and that agriculture can’t become a profitable business by opening waterways. Neither would industry develop just by canceling import tariffs. Nor would commerce prosper by tweaking commercial laws. The youth will understand that solving all these issues for the benefit of the nation will happen only if the SSNP completes its purpose.
Our national awakening is a reality now. We work with the belief that it will reach fruition and accomplish the reform that the nation needs.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Remembering Antoine (Antoun) Saadeh: Translations from original Arabic Sources
Posted by Garabet Moumdjian at 11:28 AM
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