Thursday, December 20, 2007

Preamble to the Syrian Constitution and the goal of "Arab unity"

When I was looking up various Arab and Islamic country constitutions yesterday, I was struck by the lengthy preamble to Syria's constitution, much longer than the others and with more than a small amount of built-in hate. It was written in 1973. Here it is:
The Arab nation managed to perform a great role in building human civilization when it was a unified nation. When the ties of its national cohesion weakened, its civilizing role receded and the waves of colonial conquest shattered the Arab nation's unity, occupied its territory, and plundered its resources. Our Arab nation has withstood these challenges and rejected the reality of division, exploitation, and backwardness out of its faith in its ability to surmount this reality and return to the arena of history in order to play, together with the other liberated nations, its distinctive role in the construction of civilization and progress. With the close of the first half of this century, the Arab people's struggle has been expanding and assuming greater importance in various countries to achieve liberation from direct colonialism.
The Arab masses did not regard independence as their goal and the end of their sacrifices, but as a means to consolidate their struggle, and as an advanced phase in their continuing battle against the forces of imperialism, Zionism, and exploitation under the leadership of their patriotic and progressive forces in order to achieve the Arab nation's goals of unity, freedom, and socialism.

In the Syrian Arab region, the masses of our people continued their struggle after independence. Through their progressive march they were able to achieve their big victory by setting off the revolution of 8 March 1963 under the leadership of the Socialist Arab Baath Party, which has made authority an instrument to serve the struggle for the construction of the United Socialist Arab society.

The Socialist Arab Baath Party is the first movement in the Arab homeland which gives Arab unity its sound revolutionary meaning, connects the nationalist with the socialist struggle, and represents the Arab nation's will and aspirations for a future that will bind the Arab nation with its glorious past and will enable it to carry out its role in achieving victory for the cause of freedom of all the peoples.

Through the party's militant struggle, the 16 Nov 1970 corrective movement responded to our people's demands and aspirations. This corrective movement was an important qualitative development and a faithful reflection of the party's spirit, principles, and objectives. It created the appropriate atmosphere for the fulfillment of a number of significant projects in the interest of our large masses, primarily the emergence of the state of the Confederation of Arab Republics in response to the call for unity, which figures prominently in the Arab conscience, which was buttressed by the joint Arab struggle against imperialism and Zionism, regionalist disputes, and separatist movements, and which was confirmed by the contemporary Arab revolution against domination and exploitation.

Under the aegis of the corrective movement, an important stop was taken on the road leading to the consolidation of national unity for our popular masses. Under the leadership of the socialist Arab Baath Party, a national and progressive front with developed conceptions emerged in such a manner as to meet our people's needs and interests and proceed toward unifying the instrument of the Arab revolution in a unified political organization.

The completion of this Constitution crowns our people's struggle on the road of the principle of popular democracy, is a clear guide for the people's march toward the future and a regulator of the movement of the state and its various institutions, and is a source of its legislation.

The Constitution is based on the following major principles:

1) The comprehensive Arab revolution is an existing and continuing necessity to achieve the Arab nation's aspirations for unity, freedom, and socialism. The revolution in the Syrian Arab region is part of the comprehensive Arab revolution. Its policy in all areas stems from the general strategy of the Arab revolution.

2) Under the reality of division, all the achievements by any Arab country will fail to fully achieve their scope and will remain subject to distortion and setback unless these achievements are buttressed and preserved by Arab unity. Likewise, any danger to which any Arab country may be exposed on the part of imperialism and Zionism is at the same time a danger threatening the whole Arab nation.

3) The march toward the establishment of a socialist order besides being a necessity stemming from the Arab society's needs, is also a fundamental necessity for mobilizing the potentialities of the Arab masses in their battle with Zionism and imperialism.

4) Freedom is a sacred right and popular democracy is the ideal formulation which insures for the citizen the exercise of his freedom which makes him a dignified human being capable of giving and building, defending the homeland in which he lives, and making sacrifices for the sake of the nation to which he belongs. The homeland's freedom can only be preserved by its free citizens. The citizen's freedom can be completed only by his economic and social liberation.

5) The Arab revolution movement is a fundamental part of the world liberation movement. Our Arab people's struggle forms a part of the struggle of the peoples for their freedom, independence, and progress.

This constitution serves as a guide for action to our people's masses so that they will continue the battle for liberation and construction guided by its principles and provisions in order to strengthen the positions of our people's struggle and to drive their march toward the aspired future.
It is fascinating how well the 1968 Palestinian National Charter meshes with the Syrian constitution - how the goal is not an independent state but rather using an independent state to create a pan-Arab nation. All the talk about "independence" as a goal is meant for Western sympathetic ears, because in reality they regard themselves as part of the Arab nation and their ultimate goal is to become integrated with other Arab states. Here's the relevant part of the Charter:
Article 12. The Palestinian Arab people believe in Arab unity. To fulfill their role in the achievement of that objective, they must, at the present stage in their national struggle, retain their Palestinian identity and all that it involves, work for increased awareness of it and oppose all measures liable to weaken or dissolve it.

Article 13. Arab unity and the liberation of Palestine are complementary objectives; each leads to the achievement of the other. Arab unity will lead to the liberation of Palestine and the liberation of Palestine will lead to Arab unity.. To work for one is to work for both.

Article 14. The destiny of the Arab nation, indeed the continued existence of the Arabs, depends on the fate of the Palestinian cause. This interrelationship is the point of departure of the Arab endeavor to liberate Palestine. The Palestinian people are the vanguard of the movement to achieve this sacred national objective.

Article 15. The liberation of Palestine is a national obligation for the Arabs. It is their duty to repel the Zionist and imperialist invasion of the greater Arab homeland and to liquidate the Zionist presence in Palestine. The full responsibility for this belongs to the peoples and governments of the Arab nation and to the Palestinian people first and foremost. For this reason, the task of the Arab nation is to enlist all the military, human, moral and material resources at its command to play an effective part, along with the Palestinian people, in the liberation of Palestine. Moreover, it is the task of the Arab nation, particularly at the present stage of the Palestinian armed revolution, to offer the Palestinian people all possible aid, material and manpower support, and to place at their disposal all the means and opportunities that will enable them to continue to perform their role as the vanguard of their armed revolution until the liberation of their homeland is achieved.

See how it specifically says that "Palestinian identity" must only be retained "at the present stage" but is pointedly not meant to be permanent. It is a tactic.

Similarly, the idea that Palestinian Arabs must remain stateless and without rights in the Arab world is enshrined in the Charter, because anything else would "weaken or dissolve" the "Palestinian identity." It would naturally be subsumed as Arab identity alone and therefore would be worthless in "liberating Palestine."

Many of the other constitutions also speak specifically of their ultimate goal of "Arab unity" but they are generally not as specific as these two documents as to what exactly that means.

The very existence of a non-Arab state - let alone a Jewish state - in the area is regarded as a mortal threat to this mythical Arab unity and as such every seemingly peaceful move towards Israel is regarded as a tactic on the way to their ultimate victory.