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Hisham Bustani: The Deleted Memory

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    The Deleted Memory: Inventing Palestine and Discovering Lebanon By: Hisham Bustani* - Saturday, September 10, 2005 (The original
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 15 11:40 AM
      The Deleted Memory: Inventing "Palestine" and Discovering "Lebanon"
      By: Hisham Bustani* - <hbustani2 @ yahoo.com>
      Saturday, September 10, 2005

      (The original Arabic Version was published in Al-Adab Magazine, Issue
      6/7 2005, pages 107-109)

      Arabic: http://www.mokarabat.com/s675.htm

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      I was provoked by the proceedings of the "Seminar on the Future of the
      Syrian-Lebanese Relations" published in the last issue of Al-Adab(1)!
      And since all the participants are "Syrians" (Hussien Al-Oudat,
      Michelle Kilo, Omar Ameralay and Yasin Haj-Salih), and intellectuals;
      I was surprised by the amount of misinformation presented, and basing
      political analysis on it, as if taking an opposing position against a
      certain Arab regime (in this case: the Syrian regime), requires
      adopting automatically the Arab saying: "My Enemy's enemy is my
      friend" in an ultimate context.

      And above all that, this "enemy's enemy" becomes a descendent from
      outer space and detached from history, with no past, no mechanisms of
      movement, and outside the applications of the laws of development and
      evolution. It becomes necessary for the "Syrian" to take an "innocence
      sentence" from his "Syrianism" so as not to "Go Out"(2): not out of
      "Lebanon" the country (that happened already), but out of the
      "Lebanese comprehension" or the "comprehension of Lebanon", which is a
      reflection of the "comprehension of Syria", the "comprehension of
      Palestine" and the "comprehension of Jordan", i.e. the fake
      comprehension of post-colonial state as a "national project", detached
      from history, geography and even interest. Thus, these "projects" will
      not be a continuity of each other, but rather "coexisting",
      "side-by-side" issues; "neighboring countries", just like "Israel".

      It is the comprehension and the "project" of the post-colonial state
      which has become the slogan of this era and its program, and is the
      basic prelude for "reshaping the region" as Collin Powell has declared
      before the invasion of Iraq: The disintegration of the "Nation
      comprehension" into the comprehension of the canton and sect; the
      disintegration of the region into margins and the margins into
      annexes; and reattaching all that on the only allowed center: "Israel".

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      The Film: Memento(3). Unusually starts at the end of the story, and
      ends at the start of it, because the main issue (as in all things in
      this world) is there at the beginning. The main character in the film
      has a strange illness: his memory does not hold anything for more than
      a few minutes, and then all the events and people disappear forever.
      So, he registers important things on pieces of paper, and photographs
      every individual he meets with a Polaroid camera, writing on its back
      side his impressions on that person, which will become a final
      judgment. As for ultimate facts: he tattoos them on his body.

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      Let us start, from the beginning.

      The "two neighboring countries"(4) are not "countries" in the first
      place! And so is the case for the other "two neighboring countries"(5)
      that lie south of the above mentioned "neighboring countries". Does
      anyone of you remember something called "Syria"?? Or have our
      post-colonial state-oriented minds stopped comprehending nothing from
      this word except the post-colonial country that holds the same name??

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      Flash Back 1: The Sykes-Picot Agreement, 1916

      It is accordingly understood between the French and British governments:

      That France and Great Britain are prepared to recognize and protect an
      independent Arab states or a confederation of Arab states (a) and (b)
      marked on the annexed map, under the suzerainty of an Arab chief. That
      in area (a) France, and in area (b) Great Britain, shall have priority
      of right of enterprise and local loans. That in area (a) France, and
      in area (b) Great Britain, shall alone supply advisers or foreign
      functionaries at the request of the Arab state or confederation of
      Arab states.

      That in the blue area France, and in the red area great Britain, shall
      be allowed to establish such direct or indirect administration or
      control as they desire and as they may think fit to arrange with the
      Arab state or confederation of Arab states.

      That in the brown area there shall be established an international
      administration, the form of which is to be decided upon after
      consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the
      other allies, and the representatives of the sheriff of Mecca.

      It shall be agreed that the French government will at no time enter
      into any negotiations for the cession of their rights and will not
      cede such rights in the blue area to any third power, except the Arab
      state or confederation of Arab states, without the previous agreement
      of his majesty's government, who, on their part, will give a similar
      undertaking to the French government regarding the red area. (6)

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      The Blue Area??

      God how far away is the year 1916! We are all the offspring of a new
      millennium! Maybe the builder Abu-Sleiman, grandfather of Nazih Abu
      Afash(7), will remind us that he never said once on his trips to
      villages in "Lebanon" that he was "going to Lebanon", but he always
      said that he is "going south"(8). Maybe my grandfather Subhi
      Abdel-Kader Al-Bustani will remind us that when he escaped from
      Damascus to Amman in 1916 (to evade enrollment in the Ottoman Army)
      through the ports of Beirut and Haifa, not a single person had stopped
      him and asked: "where the hell are you going", and not a single border
      policeperson asked him for passport and visa.

      There is a large family the resides in the Horan Plains(9): Al-Zo'bi
      family. They were divided by the Sykes-Picot line into two parts. One
      part became south of the line, now "Jordanians"; and the other part
      north of the line, now "Syrians". One family.

      Had anyone of you visited Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo? When the mosque
      was a university in the past, there were rooms for the Arab students
      divided on a "regional" basis. I asked the tour guide: "I wonder where
      the Jordanian students used to study?". "There, in that room to the
      left of the mosque yard." He replied. "And the Palestinians?" I asked
      again, "In that same room" came the reply, "and the Syrians and the
      Lebanese?" I went on in my curiosity, "In that same room" he went on,
      "It is the room of the Shwaam"(10)

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      Flash Back 2: From the King-Crane Commission Report, August 28, 1919

      1. The largest percentage for any one request is that of 1,500
      petitions (80.4 per cent) for United Syria, including Cilicia, the
      Syrian Desert, and Palestine. The boundaries of this area are usually
      defined as "The Taurus Mountains on the north- the Euphrates and
      Khabur Rivers, and the line extending east of Abu Kamal to the east of
      Al Juf on the east; Rafa and the line running from Al Juf to the south
      of Aqaba on the south, and the Mediterranean Sea on the West." In
      addition to being the first plank of the Damascus program, a United
      Syria received strong support from many Christians in all the O. E. T.
      As., as the number of petitions indicates.

      2. In opposition to Syrian Unity, six of the nineteen pro-Zionist
      petitions ask for a separate Palestine, and presumably it is implied
      in the others(11).

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      The Film: Diary of a People (12). In it appears Moh'md Azzeh
      Darwazeh(13) reminding us that the first decision of the first Arab
      conference against the Balfour Declaration(14) and the division
      agreements was that Palestine is a part of Syria, and that the
      conference demands the independence of Syria as a whole and as one unit.

      Nowadays, nobody remembers. Nobody wants to remember. Generations has
      grown over the Zionist idea that designates "Palestine" as a "unique
      territory" that is distinguished from the land that surrounds it, and
      that there is no continuity between "Palestine" and the regions around
      it. Let's think: In whose favor is the separation of southern Syria
      from its Homeland and declaring it a trans-history/trans-geography entity?

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      Flash Back 3: From the Resolutions of the Palestine Arab Conference,
      10 February 1919

      We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria as it has never been
      separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national,
      religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds.

      In view of the above we desire that one district Southern Syria or
      Palestine should not be separated from the Independent Arab Syrian
      Government and to be free from all foreign influence and protection(15).

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      We drown in details and in pseudo-national flags. "Lebanon will again
      be re-built"??(16). Do you really think so when "the General" Michelle
      Awn, the self-acclaimed "liberator of Lebanon" lands in Beirut coming
      from the country which has previously occupied his country to brag
      that "the liberation" was achieved in the US Congress by the "Syria
      Accountability Act"(17) and in the UN Security Council by the
      Resolution 1559(18), and that Rafiq Al-Hariri's murder(19) did nothing
      but "accelerate" this "liberation"(20)?!! Here he is: Awn pointing out
      to the main beneficiaries of the Hariri murder, and possibly the
      perpetrators, as we see Al-Hariri's body becomes a "ride" for
      disagreeing born-again allies: Fascists and sectarians with socialists
      and democrats and capitalists, all together with allies of Israel and
      Allies of the US and allies of France! (Allies? Subordinates is the
      correct word). Nothing connects and gathers this bizarre group except
      their hostility to memory: The memory of the war(21), the memory of
      their past and current alliances(22), the memory of the blood that's
      still warm on the blades of knives and axes, and the memory of a
      Homeland…not a post-colonial state.

      The numbers continue to increase on "Al-Mustaqbal" screen(23),
      intensifying the amnesia. Each day will distance you further, and the
      main character will forget: forget how the leader of the "Progressive
      Socialist Party" will seek the pardon of Sameer Ja'ja the Godfather
      and Military Leader of the sectarian/fascist Lebanese Forces
      Militia(24), and to build an alliance with his party; forget how the
      owners of "Al-Mustaqbal" Channel are also building a coalition with
      the same fascism; forget who stood in front of the US Congress to
      testify against his people(25); forget "Al-Kheyam" prison(26) and the
      screams of torment that used to keep the residents of the surrounding
      villages awake all night; forget "Qana"(27); forget "Sabra" and
      "Chatilla" Massacres(28); forget the Patriarch's pilgrimage to
      Washington DC(29); forget the "Syrian" construction workers who were
      thrown to their death from atop buildings constructed with their
      sweat(30). We'll level down-town Beirut to the ground, and over the
      ruins will rise a new Parisian memory(31).

      Hussien Al-Oudat forgot all that, and the alliance of Capitalism with
      Fascism became "an original democratic protest movement"(32). Michelle
      Kilo forgot all that stating that "the speech of the Lebanese
      opposition assured that it is not within the American context", and
      that the "USA is not behind the Palestinian and Lebanese
      democracies"!! (What democracies?? The democracies of occupation and

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      The "Syrian" Hussein Al-Oudat describes what's happening as "the
      return of Lebanon to Lebanon"(33), while the "Syrian" Michelle Kilo
      becomes more pessimistic following the pro-resistance
      demonstration(34) after he concluded that the Syrian army will
      withdraw "but Syria will not"!!! So that's the issue: You don't like
      the withdrawal of the ruling class and their "security" tools, but
      instead you want comprehensive popular/social/economical
      disengagement. The withdrawal of Syria from Syria and the return of
      Lebanon to an invented memory.

      In similar days, but a century ago, the Arab "national state" was
      being developed, not by the factors of politics, feelings and speech,
      but materialistically: The formation of an Arab national market. The
      families of Damascus merchants were expanding outside the Damascus
      center to settle in the peripheries, opening new trade horizons and
      forming objectively one of the most important factors of the
      evolvement of the nation state. Until this minute, you'll find the
      grandsons of these merchants in the cities of Beirut (Lebanon); Nablus
      (Palestine); Irbid, Jerash, Ajloun, Mafraq, Zarqa, Amman, Sult, Kerak
      and as south as Ma'an (Jordan). The latter town is even divided into
      two neighborhoods: The Shami neighborhood (i.e. Syrian) and the Hijazi
      neighborhood (the northern region of the Arab Peninsula). Thus the
      commercial network between the Arabs of Syria and the Arabs of Hijaz
      to the South and the Arabs of Iraq to the East was becoming more
      integrated and an Arab national market was vividly forming. The
      Syrians revolted against the Ottomans to realize the National State
      which was never born: In came the French and British mandates and
      their expressions of progress: Division, subordination, and robbery.

      Now, after a century of defeats and frustrations, we started talking
      about the withdrawal of Syria from Syria and the return of Lebanon to
      Lebanon; and Omar Ameralay compares Syria with the French Colonialism
      and says that Hezbollah is the "representative of the Syrian

      Where is your Marxism, you who call yourselves "Leftist Democrats"??
      The Democratic Left Movement in Lebanon declares: "We are going ahead
      with the battle of extracting the independent national Lebanese
      decision, and we will succeed as the Palestinian National Leadership
      headed by Yaser Arafat have succeeded before us in refusing the saying
      'Palestine is the south of Syria' and the went on in their battle to
      retrieve Palestine"!!!!(35) Talk about Marxist analysis and invented
      entities and histories!!

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      Flash Back 4: "Palestine" in the Arab Popular Comprehension before its

      *We, the undersigned, members of the General Syrian Congress assembled
      in Damascus on the 2nd of July 1919 and composed of delegates from the
      three zones, namely the southern, eastern and western, and furnished
      with credentials duly authorising us to represent the Moslem,
      Christian and Jewish inhabitants of our respective districts, have
      resolved to submit the following as defining the aspirations of the
      people who have chosen us to place them before the American Section of
      the Inter-Allied Commission


      7. We reject the claims of the Zionists for the establishment of a
      Jewish commonwealth in that part of southern Syria which is known as
      Palestine, and we are opposed to Jewish immigration into any part of
      the country. We do not acknowledge that they have a title, and we
      regard their claims as a grave menace to our national, political and
      economic life. Our Jewish fellow-citizens shall continue to enjoy the
      rights and to bear the responsibilities which are ours in common.

      8. We desire that there should he no dismemberment of Syria, and no
      separation of Palestine or the coastal regions in the west or the
      Lebanon from the mother country; and we ask that the unity of the
      country be maintained under any circumstances(36).

      **The People of Northern and Costal Syria regard Southern Syria
      (Palestine) a piece continuous with Syria(37).

      ***And what is more astonishing is that poor unlucky Palestine has
      become a toy in the hands of politicians doing with it what they want.
      They did not stop at their declarations of giving Palestine to the
      Jews, but they started suggesting things that will lead to the
      detachment of the Arab People in Palestine from Syria and making it
      [Palestine] a separate political unit, and we don't know what is this
      "separate unity" under the supervision of the British. With these
      suggestions they'll: a) Give Palestine to the Jews, b) fragmented it
      and detached it from Syria and with this detachment the [Arab
      population] will decrease and the Jews will increase and they'll have
      a majority in everything(38).

      ****In our earlier letters we demanded no separation of Palestine from
      Syria, and we protested what is intended of transferring Palestine
      into a homeland for the Jews. And when the American committee [the
      King Crane Commission] visited this country it was assured that all
      the people of Syria from the South to the North unanimously reject the
      Zionist movement (…) and we demand no separation of Palestine from
      Syria under any circumstances(39).

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      Because we forget, and because the film wants to remind us that the
      "beginning" is the base, and that we are not creatures floating in
      outer-space; that we are not without a history; that we are not the
      "children of today"; we must tattoo all of the above on our bodies,
      maybe someday we'll remember that we did not arrive to this world on
      the back of a flying saucer, and we were not created in a test-tube in
      some galactic black hole.

      Who, then, is roaming "outside history"?? Who then is struggling to
      erase his memory to be a "born-again", all "clean" from the sins of
      geography … and history?? Are we that stupid??

      *Writer and activist. Member of the Follow-up Committee of the
      Resistant Arab People's Alliance. Member of the Anti-Normalization
      Committee of the Union of Professional Associations and the Higher
      Executive Committee for the Protection of Homeland and the
      Confrontation of Normalization in Jordan. A Leftist militant, active
      against Imperialism and Globalization.

      Foot Notes:

      1."Seminar on the Future of the Syrian-Lebanese Relations",
      participants: Hussien Al-Oudat, Michelle Kilo, Omar Ameralay,
      moderated by: Yasin Haj-Salih, Al-Adab: Issue 3/4/5 2005, pages 25-31.

      2."Syria Go Out" was one of the main slogans chanted at the
      demonstrations in Lebanon against the Syrian presence in Lebanon.

      3.Memento, Directed by: Christopher Nolan, Starring: Guy Pearce,
      Carrie-Anne Moss, and Jo Pantoliano.

      4.Syria and Lebanon.

      5.Jordan and Palestine.

      6. http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/sykes.htm, for the map of
      the areas check:

      7.A Syrian poet, his grandfather was a builder and built many houses
      in lots of villages in what is called now "Lebanon".

      8.Nazeeh Abu-Afash, the Second September 11: Diaries of Disgrace,
      Al-Adab: Issue 3/4/5 2005, page 10.

      9.Plains that extend in the area north of "Jordan" and "Palestine" and
      south of "Syria".

      10.Shaam is an Arab word that describes historic Syria which was
      divided by the British and the French Colonialists into four
      "countries": Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon. Arabs refer to
      their peers who come from the historic Syria region in a collective
      term: Shwaam.


      12.Diaries of a People, Directed by: Qais Al-Zubaidi, Produced by PLO.

      13.Moh'md Azzeh Darwazeh, (1887-1984), a renowned Arab militant
      against the British Colonialism and later the Zionist project in
      Palestine. When I did research on him for this article, I found out
      that he is a descendent of the "Freihat" clan which resides east of
      the Jordan river, giving further evidence that "seperationists" have a
      false argument.

      14. For the full text of the Balfour Declaration:

      15.Kayyali, Palestine - A Modern History, pp. 60-3. in:

      16. A well-known Lebanese song which was played extensively on the
      return of Michelle Awn to Lebanon from his exile in France.

      17. The text of the Act (dated May 1, 2003) can be seen on

      18. Text for Resolution 1559 can be found at

      19. A former Lebanese Prime Minister whose assassination on February
      14, 2005 led to the reactions we see in Lebanon these days.

      20.Check http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/05/08/news/beirut.php

      21. The Lebanese Civil War (1975 to 1990): a sectarian war where
      today's allies were yesterday's enemies and fought against each other
      what they called "wars of deletion" to completely delete the "other's"
      entire population, and where "killing on the ID card" (checking
      religion on the ID and killing the person if from "another" sect) was
      a regular act.

      22. Many (almost all) of those who formed the alliance to eject the
      Syrian forces and security presence in Lebanon were allies to Syria
      and were beneficiaries from the Syrian presence! Also alliances were
      made with the Zionists by some sects against their own compatriots to
      get political, logistical and military support to annihilate them!!

      23.Al-Mustaqbal TV station which is owned by Rafiq Al-Hiriri, the
      assassinated ex-PM of Lebanon. Since his death, the TV station
      continuously show a "day counter" on the top left corner of the screen
      to illustrate how many days have passed since the assassination has
      been done without any knowledge of the perpetrators. This openly
      contradicts with the policy adopted by the same Al-Hariri current and
      its allies who directly blamed Syria for the killing.

      24.The Lebanese Forces is a Christian Maronite sectarian military
      organization that fought viciously during the civil war, made
      alliances with "Israel", and was involved in the massacres of the
      Palestinian refugee camps. It's Leader, Sameer Ja'ja, was sentenced
      for life imprisonment for his role in many murders committed during
      the civil war. He was released last month on a special pardon after
      spending 11 years of his sentence due to the efforts of the
      "Syria-Out" coalition and the pressures they made following the Syrian
      withdrawal. The Lebanese Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party
      fought a "deletion war" against each other during the civil war!!

      25.In September 2003, Michelle Awn testified against Syria in front of
      a US Congressional Committee paving the way for the "Syria
      Accountability Act".

      26. A prison set-up by the Zionists and was run by the client South
      Lebanon Army led by Antwan Lahd during the Zionist occupation of South
      Lebanon. The prison is well-known for the unbelievable torture that
      used to occur in it, the screams of those being tortured deprived the
      inhibitors of surrounding villages from sleep. The prison is kept
      until now as a witness to Zionist brutality and can be visited. Many
      of the South Lebanon Army members including its leader fled to
      "Israel" after the liberation o South Lebanon. These days, discussions
      are "growing" towards giving a "pardon" to Antwan Lahd and his boys to
      return to Lebanon!!!

      27. In 1996, Zionist bombarded Lebanese civilians taking shelter in a
      UN premises south of Lebanon. Read the Robert Fisk account at:

      28.Sabra and Chatilla Massacres: In September 1982, and during the
      Zionist occupation of Lebanon, the Lebanese Forces Militia under
      coordination with the Israeli Army went in the two refugee camps named
      above and killed around 3000 of the inhabitants. Ariel Sharon (then
      the Israeli Defense Minister) was involved in the operation and his
      role was documented even in the report issued by the investigation
      committee of the Israeli Knesset which is known as the Kahana report.

      29. Patriarch Sfier's visit to Washington and meeting with Bush on
      March 16, 2005. The Patriarch plays a key role in Lebanese Politics.
      Check http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/03/20050316-6.html

      30. During the "Syria Out" demonstrations, a number of Syrian
      construction workers were killed in ugly ways like throwing them from
      high construction sites. This was one of the most extreme expressions
      of the "Syria-out" movement and reflects the embedded fascist content
      of some of its constituents. Oddly enough, the news of the tragic
      deaths of these workers was never mentioned in the main stream media,
      or any other media!

      31. In the period following the end of the civil war, down-town Beirut
      which was heavily damaged by the war and was the witness of its
      savageness and brutality, was acquired by Solidaire, a construction
      company whose largest shareholder is Rafiq Al-Hariri, which erased all
      the buildings and instead build a "new" down-town that looks like a
      part of Paris. Down-town Beirut is now known as "the Solidaire".

      32."Seminar on the Future of the Syrian-Lebanese Relations", mentioned
      above, page 25.

      33. ibid, page 25.

      34.On March 9, 2005, and following 3 weeks of anti-Syria
      demonstrations, Hezbollah and other factions organized a massive
      demonstration. An estimated 1 million attended and it was seen as a
      support for the Lebanese resistance and a refusal to US, French and
      Zionist interferences in Lebanon.

      35. From a statement of the Lebanese Democratic Left Movement,
      As-Safir Newspaper, Feb. 5, 2005. Quoted in: Samah Idriss, "So That
      What Lies Ahead Will Not Be More Disastrous", Al-Adab: 3/4/5 2005,
      page 37 (in Arabic).

      36.From the resolutions of the General Syrian Congress, Damascus, 2
      July 1919, http://www.aqsa.org.uk/chapterContents.aspx?id=46 quoted
      from George Antonius, The Arab Awakening, pp. 440-2.

      37.From the resolutions of the Second Conference of Arabs in Palestine
      which was held in Damascus February 1920, quoted in: Issa Al-Sifri,
      Arab Palestine Between Mandate and Zionism, page 34, mentioned in
      "Al-Nakba" Documents, the Palestinian General Commission for
      Information website (in Arabic) http://nakba.sis.gov.ps/index.html

      38.From the Memorandum of the Islamic Christian Association in Yaffa
      to General Watson on the Zionist intention in Palestine, 1919.
      Mentioned in "Al-Nakba" Documents, the Palestinian General Commission
      for Information website (in Arabic) http://nakba.sis.gov.ps/index.html

      39. From the Memorandum of the Islamic Christian Association to the
      British Military Governor in Jerusalem to express the refusal of the
      "Jewish Homeland" and separating Palestine from Syria, 20 August 1919.
      Taken from: George Antonius, The Arab Awakening, who quoted it from:
      Shawn Lesly, Mark Sykes: Life and Letters. Mentioned in "Al-Nakba"
      Documents, the Palestinian General Commission for Information website
      (in Arabic) http://nakba.sis.gov.ps/index.html



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