June 16, 2000 No.

...And Now, A Dynastic Republic; Palestinian Intellectuals Mock the Passing of the Presidency in Syria

Columnist Fuad Abu Hijla, writes in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida[1]:

"Bashar Al-Assad inherits his father's regime in Syria. Nothing is new, and the Arab world is well."

"Arabism is fortunate: most Arab leaders beget sons who are capable of carrying their flags for ever after. Arabism is fortunate that republics turn into dynastic republics by constitutional resolutions accepted by special parliamentary committees within half an hour, and the people take to the streets in huge demonstrations to demand that the [ruling] family continue to rule the country and the slaves."

"Bashar was neither the first nor [will he be] the last to ascend to his father's throne. States are merely trademarks registered in the names of their leaders and their sons. They are wide ranches for the entourage that surrounds the leader and shouts 'the soul and the blood we will give for thee, X.' These cries end with some parched throats and many gifts at the expense of …the poor in these 'special' democracies."

"I do not oppose the appointment of Bashar as President of Syria ...through elections. Nor am I opposed to the transfer of command over the army and security apparatuses, as well as the authority to punish ministers, to the son of any Arab leader. I am not at all disturbed that the son of one of the Arab leaders [i.e. Libya's Kadhafi] takes command of the national soccer team, and I am not at all disturbed when the son of an Arab leader possesses more than half of his country's holding companies and trade agencies... This is the rule by which the Arabs abide. This is an Arab democracy that is unique in character. Most of all, this is human nature."

"All that I care about is that the editor of my paper allows me to publish this article and make sure from now on that his son, Mansour, is appointed chief editor. He should also know that I began training my son, Ayman, to write this column. More importantly, the readers should know that they must train their sons to read the columns that will be written by our sons."

"The merchant should teach his son the [same] trade, and the lover should put a red rose in his son's hand so he will give it to the woman he loves, who in her turn will bequeath love from her mother. The prisoner must tighten the shackles to his son's ankles and the spy must teach his son how to send encrypted messages."

"We should all teach our sons how to live reasonable and even good lives with half the freedom, half the democracy, and half the honor, in halves of homelands."

In an article entitled "...And Now, A Dynastic Republic,"[2] Palestinian author and intellectual Hasan Khadhr writes:

"Hafez Al-Assad died after thirty years of autocratic and totalitarian rule. Al-Assad is no exception to the club of Arab leaders of the second half of the twentieth century. They ruled, and still rule, the same way he did. However, Al-Assad is different by being the first [among leaders of Arab republics] to come up with the idea of forming a ruling dynasty..."

"The first thing I want to discuss is the way the Syrians changed their constitution to allow the heir to ascend to the throne. Amending the constitution requires a lengthy legal process and a referendum. Shortening this period to only half an hour testifies to the scandal of Arab political regimes regarding respect for the constitution on the one hand, and the fragility of the idea of constitution in Arab political culture on the other."

"The second thing is that Hafez Al-Assad and the rest of the Arab presidents of the second half of the twentieth century used military coups against kings to take the government. This was the case in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, and Yemen. This is why the idea of a republic is regarded as a radical alternative to monarchy in modern Arab thought. In the 60's, all the monarchies in the Arab world seemed to be gone with the wind. Today, however, the monarchical idea [has gained] unprecedented momentum..."

"We know that Arab history... is a history of dynasties. Is what happened during the last half a century – all the republics and revolutions – merely a deviation from the rule, and [have] the Arabs regained their consciousness early enough to rectify this deviation? Is a republic good enough to rule the Arabs? Do constitutions and democracies suit the Arabs, or is the Arab mind, perhaps, in a completely different place?"

"Is our history stronger than all the imported ideas and has it defeated us once again through the same people who had claimed they were trying to liberate us from that history?..."

"I admit that we are in a real mess. I also admit that the political culture of the Arabs is schizophrenic. These admissions have little importance at the end of the day. The past is the past and it will be repeated in other places in the Arab world."

"My last question is: Will Arab intellectuals identify with their regimes from now on? The Arab intellectuals used to explain that they support the regime because it is progressive. How will they explain their support for a dynastic republic?"

Columnist Hani Habib, an official in the PA Ministry of Information, writes under the title "The Syrian Constitution: the Assad Family Rebels against Jean Jacqu Rousseau:"[3]

"...The quick amendment of the Syrian constitution was done in such a way that it would fit …Al-Assad Jr., surprised observers, and even led some of them to mock the way the constitution that governs the relations between the ruler and the subjects was turned into a dummy by the rulers."

"The truth is that there is no place for mockery. The constitution that is the highest stage of the 'social contract' according to Jean Jacque Rousseau differs from a constitution that is perceived as a 'gift' awarded to the subjects by the ruler..."

"Therefore, there should be no surprise that the ruler is making changes in his gift. We have heard numerous times in the Syrian media that one of the greatest achievements of President Al-Assad was the constitution he had awarded his people. Nobody claims that this constitution is the outcome of 'a contract of mutual understanding' between the ruler and the subjects. On the contrary, it is a gift, an achievement, an award, and an expression of generosity on the part of the ruler towards his beloved people."

"...I do not think there is any use in discussing the details of the transfer of the presidency from a constitutional perspective, because no real constitution exists there... In conclusion, all that remains to be said is that the 'Syrian constitution' is in fact the constitution of all the Arabs from the [Atlantic] ocean to the [Persian] Gulf."

[1] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), June 13, 2000.

[2] Al-Ayyam (PA), June 13, 2000.

[3] Al-Ayyam (PA), June 14, 2000.