Nationalism in Syria
Merriam webster’s definition of nationalism is, “loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups”. In less words, essentially nationalism is a sense of pride and in some cases superiority for ones country, with an inclination to care more for ones country than the affairs of others.
Nationalism is an interesting concept in Syria, for there is less of a nationalistic attitude towards the country itself, but rather for ones region or tribe in Syria. After Syria’s independence, there was less of a focus on patriotism for the nation state but felt strong pride for the areas in which they grew up in. This notion is not as strong today as it has been in the past, but there is still some lingering regional patriotism.
The cause of the disjointed nationalism roots from the early 20th century, when France took what is now modern day Syria from the Ottoman Empire. The land was given to France by the League of Nations as a “mandate”, with the intention for its eventual independence. France essentially took the land that was awarded to them and “rearranged the geographical blocks” that made up their newly gained territory. Many Syrian nationalists hope for the reuniting of the arab-speaking lands of the Eastern Mediterranean. These extremists believe that the people from the original land, before it was rearranged, are one nationality, and should be considered as so. The founder of SSNP, or the Syrian Social Nationalist Party stated in the mid 20th century that, “[Syria] has distinct natural boundaries and extends from the Taurus range in the northwest and the Zagros mountains in the northeast to the Suez canal and the Red Sea in the south and includes the Sinai peninsula and the gulf of Aqaba, and from the Syrian sea in the west, including the island of Cyprus, to the arch of the Arabian desert and the Persian gulf in the east.”
Other people find nationalism only for the modern day boundaries of Syria, and many people still devote their sense of pride to the region in which they came from. This does not promote a country with shared patriotism, but absolutely has the potential for contempt between regions and peoples.
Anti-Semitism in Syria
One instance of inequality among people, due to the divisions of land by Europeans, is anti-semitism in Syria. Even though Antun Saadeh, founder of SSNP, believed in accepting the people who were from the original borders and lands that were divided, he had a strong sense of anti-semitism. This inequality may come from his already extremist attitudes, which could have also been adopted into his Christian practice and beliefs. Jews were not to be accepted among those that were considered one nationality. Saadeh proclaimed of the matter, “But there is one large settlement which can not in any respect be reconciled to the principle of Syrian nationalism, and that is the Jewish settlement. It is a dangerous settlement which can never be assimilated because it consists of a people that, although it has mixed with many other peoples, has remained a heterogeneous mixture, not a nation, with strange stagnant beliefs and aims of its own, essentially incompatible with Syrian rights and sovereignty ideals. It is the duty of the Syrian Social Nationalists to repulse the immigration of this people with all their might.” Religious conflict and inequality like this was not absent nor prominent, but only emphasizes how the country at this time was still divided, and not yet unified.
Issues with Nationalism
Fareed Zakira, author of “The Post-American World” classifies nationalism as a potentially devastating feature of the world. As other countries progress economically, and race for a chance of superiority, along comes a sense of nationalism that can be debilitating. Zakira explains how this nationalism is going to stop these rising countries from getting anything done within their region and internationally, for they are too focused on asserting themselves as powerful, “The fact that new powers are more strongly asserting their interests is the reality of the post-American world. It also raises the political conundrum of how to achieve international objectives in a world of many actors, state and non state. This can be an issue, for the smaller countries without economic prosperity may be left behind or overlooked as the race to be the best continues. Syria, for example, is in the middle of a country wide crisis, as groups such as ISIS invade and destroy their land, and the need to escape to safer regions expands, the need for superior countries to intervene is a necessity. This is prevalent in the U.S. currently, for many states are objecting to let in refugees from Syria for the risk that some of the refugees may be dangerous or cause risk to the U.S., thus creating more problems for the U.S. The Syrian refugees need a place to prosper and find safety, and while the concerns of safety for U.S. citizens is important, there is a sense that some areas of our country rather focus on our communities, rather than reaching out and making sure another country and its citizens find safe grounds. It is also important to realize that some of the dangerous people the U.S. fears, could already be residing here–Syria is not the only country that contains dangerous extremists.
Zakaria, Fareed. The Post-American World. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. Print.