Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

The many ideologies of Greater Syria!

In Ecclesiastes it is written that there is nothing new under the sun. This certainly seems to apply to ideology in the Middle East. Ed Husain writes at National Review Online (reposted at RealClearWorld) that the Al-Qaeda jihadis in Syria are now promoting the concept of Bilad al-Sham literally the country of the North (al-Sham is also another term for Damascus) or Greater Syria. Bilad al-Sham consists of all the countries of the Levant and the interior behind them: Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. Husain writes that Syria could wind up as Al-Qaeda's first Sunni Arab base in the Middle East if they are successful. 

It was first promoted as an ideology by King Abdullah I of Transjordan who dreamed of creating a Greater Syria under his control and so began by conquering the West Bank during the 1948 war and adding it to the East Bank to form the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. This was after he made a pact with the Israeli government through Golda Meir, who traveled to Amman in disguise to meet with him. Journalist Sandra Mackey wrote in Passion and Politics that there was a joke in Amman that Abdullah's one-eyed cat would yawn every time he mentioned Greater Syria or Bilad al-Sham (maybe the cat like the Hashemite monarchs was bilingual).  He never got any further than that and the concept went out of favor with his grandson King Hussein, who did not want to alarm his Western patrons or Israel.

Next the concept was reborn under the Ba'athists in Damascus led by Hafiz al-Assad, the father of the present besieged dictator. His contribution to the creation of Greater Syria was to lose the Golan to Israel when he was head of the Syrian Air Force in June 1967.  Greater Syria was probably just a way of legitimizing his non-Orthodox Muslim Alawite regime to the Sunni majority in Syria as was all his talk of liberating the Golan, as he was unwilling to make any gestures to reassure the Israeli public so that an Israeli government could safely return it to him. Both Rabin and Barak were ready to return the Golan but Assad gave neither of them enough hint of an ankle to keep them from searching for real action with the Palestinians.

Now it is the concept of Al-Qaeda. My own conspiracy theory is that it was really invented by the Zionists so that every time a regime becomes enamored with the concept and goes to war with Israel in its pursuit the Zionists get another piece of Greater Syria. Soon there will be a Zionist Greater Syria!

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