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The King-Crane Commission Report, August 28, 1919



  • I. The Value of the Petitions as an Estimate of Public Opinion in Syria
  • II. Definite Programs Revealed in the Petitions
  • The story of the tour
  • I. The Value of the Petitions as an Estimate of Public Opinion in Syria:

    The 1863 petitions received by the American Commission in Syria and the summary tables prepared from them cannot of course be regarded as a mathematically accurate analysis of the real desires of the peoples of Syria. There are at least five unavoidable difficulties that have qualified their accuracy.

    1. The number of the petitions from the different sections of Syria is not proportional to their respective populations, e. g., O. E T. A. [Note: These initials stand for "Occupied Enemy Territory Administration," but are commonly used as a word, "Oeta," as "British Oeta," "French Oeta," or "Arab Oeta."] South, with thirteen cities at which delegations were received is represented by only 260 petitions, while 1,157 petitions were received from O. E T. A. East, in which but eight cities were visited. As the Commission progressed northward the petitions became more numerous, due to the increased time afforded for knowledge of the Commission's coming, for the preparation of petitions, for the activities of propaganda agents, and for the natural crystallization of public opinion.

    2. The number of petitions from the different religious organizations is not proportional to the numerical strength of the religious faiths. This Is especially true of the verbal requests made by delegations. In O. E. T. A. South, for instance, on account of the number of sects of the Christian faith, 53 delegations of Christians were received, and only eighteen delegations of Moslems, whereas the Moslem population is fully eight times as large as that of the Christian. This disparity does not, however, hold for the total number of petitions, verbal and written, as it was corrected in part by the large number of petitions from Moslem villages presented to the Commission at Aleppo and other northeastern points.

    3. A number of petitions show clearly the influence of organized propaganda. This is sometimes evidenced in the petitions themselves by numerous similarities of phrasing, by many identical wordings, and by a few instances in which printed forms, obviously intended as models for written documents, have been signed and given to the Commission.

    In addition to the internal evidence, there were also many external indications of systematic efforts to influence the character of the petitions. The same Arab agent was observed in four cities of Palestine, assisting in the preparation of petitions. Similar activities on the part of French sympathizers were observed In Beirut.

    4. In addition to this general propaganda, which was entirely legitimate as well as natural and inevitable, it is certain that a small number of petitions were fraudulently secured. In two cases the signatures were in the same handwriting. Three instances of "repeater" signatures were discovered. In addition, the seals of new organizations, purporting to be Trade Unions of Beirut, were discovered to have been ordered by the same propaganda agent a few days before the arrival of the Commission. All possible precautions were taken to insure authenticity of petitions and signatures, but in view of the character of the Commission's survey and the limited facilities for close checking, the genuineness of all cannot be guaranteed.

    5 The value of the individual petitions varies also with the number of signatures, although mere numbers cannot be taken as the only criterion. For example, some petitions signed by only a small Municipal Council may represent a larger public opinion than a petition signed by a thousand villagers. The number of signatures is 91,079;* 26,324 for the Petitions of O. E. T. A. South, 26,884 for the Petitions of O. E. T. A West, and 37,871 for the Petitions of O. E. T. A. East. This represents a general average of 49 signatures for each petition. The number of signatures varies widely from this average, but the totals for the different programs are fairly well equalized.

    Yet despite these five qualifications, it is believed that the petitions as summarized present a fairly accurate analysis of present political opinion in Syria. The great majority of irregularities offset one another. The preponderance of Christian petitions in Palestine is balanced by the flood of Moslem appeals at Aleppo. The activities of French sympathizers in Tripoli probably did not influence the character of the petitions presented much more than the contrary efforts of the Independent Program representatives in Amman.

    The petitions are certainly representative. As the classified list of delegations received by the Commission clearly indicates, the petitions came front a wide range of political, economic, social, and religious classes and organizations. It was generally known throughout Syria that the American Commission would receive in confidence any documents that any individual or group should care to present. In the few cities in which the military authorities sought to exert control, directly or indirectly, over the delegations, without exception the opposition parties found opportunities to present their ideas to the Commission, if not always orally, at least in writing.

    *NOTE: These figures indicate the magnitude of the popular interest in the Commission's work and the vast amount of material it had to handle. The reader should again be reminded that "O. E. T. A. South" was British, or Palestine, "O. E. T. A. West" was French, or Syrian; "O. E. T. A. East" was Arab, and "O. E. T. A. North" was French.

    II. Definite Programs Revealed in the Petitions:

    Before considering the special requests contained in the petitions, it is advisable to present the six distinct political programs that were clearly revealed in the petitions, and that in some instances were developed during the investigation of the Commission. Of the 1,863 petitions for Syria, 1,364 are exact copies of some of these programs and many others have close resemblances. They are:

    l. The Independence Program. The first petitions received by the Commission, those at Jaffa on June 11, except in the case of the Zionist statements, do not give evidence of any agreed and elaborated policy for the future of Syria. The petitions varied greatly in content and wording. There were, however, four of the twenty petitions at Jaffa that contained what may be termed an Independence Program with three "planks" in its platform:

    (a) The Political Unity of Syria, including Cilicia on the north, the Syrian Desert on the east, and Palestine, extending as far as Rafa on the south

    (b) Absolute Independence for Syria;

    (c) Opposition to a Zionist State and Jewish Immigration.

    This program became the dominant note in the petitions presented in O. E. T. A. South. At Jerusalem eight of the twenty-three petitions received contained the Independence Program with practically identical wording. At Haifa and Nazareth, two of the last cities visited in the district, it constituted 35 and 10 respectively of the 60 and 18 petitions presented. Of the 260 petitions from O. E. T. A. South, 83, or 32 per cent, were simply the Independence Program, while many others closely resembled it. One printed form of this program was received by the Commission as a petition at Jenin, June 22, and doubtless other printed copies had been models for many of the petitions received in the last cities visited.

    2. The "Damascus" Program: The original Independence Program was expanded on July 2 by the General Syrian Congress' meeting at Damascus into what came to be known as the Damascus Program. This program contained the three points of the Independence Program modified by asking "assistance" for the Syrian State from America, or, as second choice, from Great Britain, and expanded by adding:

    (a) A rejection of Art. 22 of the League Covenant;

    (b) A rejection of all French claims to Syria

    (c) A protest against secret treaties and private agreements (by inference the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration);

    (d) Opposition to independence for Greater Lebanon;

    (e) Request for a democratic, non-centralized government under Emir Feisal; and

    (f) A request for the independence and economic freedom of Mesopotamia.

    Three petitions with the Damascus program in full had been received by the Commission prior to its adoption by the Syrian Congress. After that date 1,047 of the 1,473 petitions received during that period contained this program. Of that number 964 were on printed blanks, of which there were seven distinct "forms" with the program printed in full.

    3. The Lebanon Programs: There are three distinct types of Lebanese programs that appear in the petitions:

    (a) The French Independent Greater Lebanon. This program asks for complete independence and separation from Syria for the Greater Lebanon, including the Valley of Bekaa and in some instances Tripoli. France is asked for as the mandatory Power. 139 of the 146 petitions received in O. E. T. A. West contain this program, with practically identical wording. Of these twenty are on three varieties of printed forms.

    (b) The Independent Lebanon Program. Another distinct program asks for the same points with the exception of a French Mandate. 33 of the 36 petitions with the wording of this program are on two varieties of printed forms. In eight instances requests for a mandate are added in writing.

    (c) The Autonomous Lebanon Program. This program asks for a greater Lebanon as an autonomous province within a United Syrian State. No mandate is mentioned. 49 petitions are copies of this program, three of them on a printed form.

    4. The Zionist Program: Eleven petitions with varying wording favor the Zionist Program of a Jewish State and extensive Jewish immigration. These are all from Jewish delegations. Eight other petitions express approval of the Zionist colonies in Palestine without endorsement of the complete program. :Four of these latter are statements by Arab peasants that they are on good terms with the Jewish colonies.

    F-Protests and Criticisms

    Another distinct classification is that of protests and criticisms. Criticisms against nations have been divided into: (a) General statements criticising national claims, character or policies, without making specific references, b) specific criticisms, usually of alleged mismanagement or corruption in the local military administration (c) protests against the interference of the local military authorities with free access to the American commission.

    1. Three general anti-British statements were presented.

    2. The general anti-French statements were much more numerous, 1,129 (60.5 per cent) due largely to the fact that such a protest is included in the Damascus program. There were also 24 specific criticisms of French administration in O. E. T. A. West, and 11 protests against deportation, armed guards, threats, and intimidation said to have been used by the French administrative authorities in O. E. T. A, West, to prevent individuals with anti-French views from appearing before the commission.

    3. General criticism of the Arab government appeared in 35 petitions, always from Christian sources, and expressing fear as to the fate of the Christians under an independent Arab rule. In addition the administration of O. E. T. A. East is criticized in four petitions.

    4. The Damascus program protest against applying Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations to Syria is included in 1,033 (55.3 per cent) petitions. This article states that "certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a state of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized, subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a mandatary, until such time as they are able to stand alone." This protest is in line with the Damascus program plea for complete independence and the fear already referred to that a mandate might impair the full freedom of Syria. It is interesting to note that this protest did not appear until after the 22nd Article had been published in a statement given by the Commissioners to all the newspapers in Damascus.

    5. One more protest is a part of 988 (52 per cent) petitions, a protest against secret treaties, treaties dividing Syria without the consent of the Syrians, and private agreements. The Sykes-Picot agreement and the Balfour declaration are not mentioned, but it is usually understood that they are referred to. This protest is included in the Damascus program and also received support from other elements

    These statements-chiefly tabular- prepared by the secretary, of the results of the inquiry into Syrian opinion, need to be supplemented by a historical account prepared by the General Adviser Dr. Lybyer. This account will help to put concretely the entire situation, and to give the atmosphere of our inquiry, and so complete the basic data as presented in the field.


    The whole area visited by the commission during the 42 days from June 10 to July 21 is Occupied Enemy Territory under the supreme authority of General Allenby. The administration is conducted under the Turkish laws, with small local modifications, in many cases continuing in office part or all of the officials left behind by the Turks. A system of military governors and officers assigned to special duties, such as financial and medical advice, liaison work, etc., parallels the civil administration. The whole area is in four portions, known respectively as O. E. T. A. (Occupied Enemy Territory Administration) South, West, East and North, and administered under the guidance respectively of English, French, Arab, and French officers. The order of description followed below is by these areas, and is nearly coincident with the itinerary of the commission, the only exception being that much of O. E. T. A. East was visited before O. E. T. A West. Fifteen days were spent in the South, ten in the West fifteen in the East, and two in the North.

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