New York Post

SUNDAY, APRIL 18, 1948

Partition: An Old Custom

When Syria Was Divided it Took Only a
Small French Force: What of Palestine?


Syria and Palestine are neighboring countries, both on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean; Syria occupies the northern half of that coast and Palestine the southern half. Since the partition of Palestine is so much in the focus of attention, it is useful to recall that the original Syria was also partitioned and that only a short time ago.

From 1920 to 1944 Syria was a French mandate, just as Palestine was a British mandate. The French divided Syria into Lebanon, on the coast, and present-day Syria, but ruled over both parts under one mandate.

On Nov. 26-27, 1941, the Free French declared their intention to make Lebanon and Syria independent republics. Syria strongly objected to the separation of Lebanon, but in vain.

An agreement signed Dec. 27, 1943, transferred, as of Jan. 1, 1944, all powers hitherto exercised by France to the Syrian and Lebanese Governments. Both republics elected parliaments, which in turn elected presidents of their respective states. In 1945 both countries became members of the United Nations.

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The division of Syria into Syria and Lebanon follows a religious line. Lebanon “was made a separate republic under the mandate because of its predominant Christian population” (“Lebanon,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th. ed.). The population of Syria is Mohammedan, whereas the population of Lebanon consists mainly of Christian Arabs (Maronites and others) with a large Moslem minority.

Before the division, the Christian Arabs were in the minority. In 1946, the population of Lebanon was estimated at 1,160,000 on an area of about 3,600 square miles, and that of Syria at 3,006,000 on a much larger area. The territory of Lebanon is a strip along the Mediterranean about 120 miles in length, varying in width from 30 to 35 miles. Its population comprises 600,000 Christians (Maronites, Greek Orthodox Catholics, etc.) which is the dominant group, and Moslems of various sects-Sunnites, Shiites, and Druges-numbering between 500,000 and 525,000 people.

The division of Syria into the Syrian and Lebanese republics set a pattern very similar to that, recommended for Palestine. In Palestine there are about 800,000 Jews, most of them concentrated in the area designated for the Jewish State.

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The Arab argument against the division of Palestine into Arab and Jewish States is negated here by the fact of a similar division of Syria. Because the Christians are the minority in Syria they must not be dominated by a Moslem majority and consequently they are given their own country. But when it comes to Palestine, the Arabs of Lebanon, as well as of the Syrian Republic, argue that a majority race or a majority religion must dominate a minority religion.

Democratic principle requires the subordination of the minority in a nation to the majority in that nation, but not the subordination of a smaller nation to a larger one. In partitioned Palestine, Arabs are the majority in their part, and Jews the majority in theirs.

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In accordance with the democratic principle of equal rights of small and large nations, the members of the United Nations each have one vote, regardless of the fact that one nation may be ten or fifty times as numerous as another.

The Arab argument against the division of Palestine falls before the democratic principle of equality of small and large nations. It is utterly impotent in view of the prior division of Syria along religious lines.

The remarkable fact is that the most vociferous opponents of the division of Palestine in the United Nations is the Lebanese delegate, matched only by the Moslem delegate of Pakistan, a state which came into existence as the result of partition of India in 1947; partition which was undertaken against the initial opposition of the Brahmatic majority of India in order to give the Moslems of that country an opportunity to fashion their own destiny.