- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 6 Mar 1946, p. 271-283
- Kassarji, Lee G., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The speaker's export company and its contacts and agents in all parts of the world, including the Middle East, heart of the Arab lands. The speaker's conviction that Canada, with all her vast resources, will become great if she will increase her trade with foreign lands. The need by exporters for more co-operation by Canadian manufacturers, by Great Britain, and by powers in Ottawa, in order to make Canada a greater nation. How the speaker sees Canada in great peril from sinister forces from within and from without which are threatening the integrity of Canadian life. Two phases to the problem under discussion: The Pan-Arab Movement, and The Implications of the Sterling Bloc for Canada. The discussion proceeds under the following headings: What Is The Pan-Arab Movement?; Why Western Interest in Arab Lands?; The Sterling Bloc. Topics addressed in this discussion include the following. The political ideology that is the Pan-Arab Movement, conceived in all the Arabic-speaking lands populated by approximately 75 million Moslems and stretching across 3,000 miles of territory. Repercussions of this political ideology upon Canada, the British Commonwealth, and the entire world. The Pan-Arab Movement as one of the major influences disturbing world unity, a movement basically negativistic, a hatred of all that is Western, with the object of making themselves self-sufficient in every way, particularly economically. What this implies: the conviction by the Arabs that the only motive of the British, of the French, and of the Americans everywhere is exploitation. Origins of the Pan-Arab Movement. The first official conference of Arab leaders on March 17, 1945 in Cairo. Consequences of the Pan-Arab Movement in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. The aim of the Pan-Arab Movement to unite all the Arab peoples. Repercussions for France and Britain. The speaker's description of Damascus and Beirut. Freedom as it is thought of in the Pan-Arab world. Why the British, the French, the Americans, and the Russians are so intensely interested in the Middle East. The Suez Canal as the life-line of Britain. Interest in oil. The route of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorous which are Russian gateways to the Mediterranean. The vast plains of the Middle East as excellent aerodromes for airplanes in an age bound to increase its air traffic. The relevancy of the Sterling Bloc. Why it is called the Sterling Bloc. How this issue affects even the Canadian housewife. Canada's national welfare resting firmly upon her foreign trade. Consequences of Britain not allowing the Dominion of Canada into the Sterling Bloc on the same basis of equality that this Dominion entered into the War. Conclusions with regard to doing business with the Arabs and appreciating their position and status in international trade; modifying the Sterling Bloc if Canada's trade is to expand, thinking of world security at large.
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- 6 Mar 1946
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- Full Text
THE PAN-ARAB MOVEMENT AND THE STERLING BLOC
AN ADDRESS BY MR. LEE G. KASSARJI, B.A.
Chairman: The President, Mr. Eric F. Thompson
Wednesday, March 6, 1946
MR. THOMPSON: In these unsettled days, there are many international situations that are of World Wide interest and not least among them is the Arab question. Today, we have as our speaker one who is very familiar with the Arab problems. Born in Turkey of Armenian parents, he received his early education at Roberts College, Istanbul, Turkey. He next attended the American University in Cairo, Egypt, and, from there he went to the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, from which he graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Religion.
He recently came to Canada from Cairo where he had been located for the past five years, during part of which time he was a member of the Canadian Government Trade Commissioner's Staff in Cairo, which office has jurisdiction over Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, and Malta.
An author, an actor and a linguist, he devotes a great deal of his time to cultural advancement. In the business world, Mr. Kassarji is the General Manager of the AllNations Trading Limited, Toronto, Canada. Gentlemen, I have pleasure in introducing to you Mr. Lee Kassarji, B.A " who will address us on the subject: "The PanArab Movement and the Sterling Bloc".
MR. LEE G. KASSARJI: You have kindly invited me to speak to you this afternoon on a very delicate problem. Allow me, at the outset, to express to you my heartfelt gratitude for the privilege of which I shall try to make myself worthy to the best of my ability. The question inevitably arises in any public speaker's mind as to what is expected of him. Even in love there is some expectation . . . However, I firmly believe that you want me to tell you the Truth as I have seen and studied it for twenty-five years in the countries of the Middle East, in Europe, in Asia, and in Africa, because Truth, in the long run, will lead us to Light, to Life, and to International Peace and Security.
My Company is in the export business and we have hundreds of contacts and scores of agents in all the countries of the worldincluding the Middle East which is the heart of Arab lands. Our sole purpose is to sell these countries all kinds of goods manufactured in Canada by Canadian labour and capital. And it is my firm conviction that, with all her vast natural resources, Canada' will become great if she will increase her trade with foreign lands. Our purpose as exporters is to foster and boost Canadian trade, but what we want is more cooperation by Canadian manufacturers, by Great Britain, and finally by powers that be in Ottawa, in order to make Canada a greater nation.
Canada is in peril! Sinister forces both from within and from without are threatening the integrity of Canadian life everywhere. Not this Dominion alone or the United States, but the entire world is in peril. Mankind today is dazed-swimming hysterically in a whirlpool of problems, and we may perhaps kid ourselves that we can be saved by clinging to a straw, or, as the Oriental adage goes, by clinging to a snake in the sea. Well; what are some of these problems!
First and foremost is a mad clandestine race for atomic poweras if that were the salvation of the world. Then, economic security! Monetary stabilization based on the Brettonwoods Agreement! 'Labour and Management! Transition from wartime industries to peace-time production! Domination over and rigid control of occupied territories! The bolstering up of The United Nations Organization! Riot and mutiny in Britishoccupied territories! In the face of all these, one wonders if we, the human race, will ever survive or whether we shall miserably destroy ourselves within a few decades.
Gentlemen, I am sure you will now think I am an awful pessimist. I am when it comes to economic and international affairs. But believe me when I say that I am an incorrigible optimist when it comes to my dealings with the fairer sex . . .
As you have already deduced from my topic, there are two phases to the problem we shall now discuss together: (1) First, The Pan-Arab Movement, and (2) Second, The Implications of the Sterling Bloc for Canada. So, let us proceed, if you will, step by step.
What Is The Pan-Arab Movement!
First, then, what is the Pan-Arab Movement? The Pan-Arab Movement is a political ideology conceived in all the Arabic-speaking lands populated by approximately 75 million Moslems and stretching across 3,000 miles of territory from the Gibraltar through Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, The Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Trans-Jordania, Palestine, Iraq, Saudi-Arabia, Iran (Persia), and even as far as India.
This political ideology does not have political, economic, and social repercussions only upon this Dominion and the British Commonwealth, but upon the entire world. It is one of the major influences disturbing world unity. The movement is basically negativistic-a hatred of all that is Western-with the object of making themselves self-sufficient in every way-particularly from an economic standpoint. As you will realize, this implies the expulsion from Arab lands of all foreign powers and their influences which, according to the Arabs, are selfish, undesirable, and destructive. This is why you have been hearing lately of riot and mutiny in the Levant, in Egypt, in Palestine, and in India.
Well, now, what does all this imply? Only one thing. The Arabs are actually convinced that the only motive of the British, of the French, and of the Americans everywhere is exploitation. Whether this conviction be justified or not is, another problem which is not within my scope. As independent thinkers, you can answer the question yourselves . . .
Our second problem is: Well, what is the origin of the Pan-Arab Movement? Who gave it birth and who nursed it? The origin of the Pan-Arab Movement goes as far back as the origin of the human species. The Arabs, like the Jews, belong to the Semetic Race. The infiltration of Western Powers into the Arab lands gradually gave birth to this Movement. As the Arabs became more educated-as they had once educated the Western World in science, in mathematics, in finance, in religion, and in art-as their eyes were opened wide to the economic resources of their lands, they immediately realized that they were being exploited. Their intellectual and political leaders paved the way to revolt by saturating the mind of the public with discontent. All this period from the 15th century onwards marks only the pre-natal or the preliminary period of the Movement. Then. you will naturally ask: "When was its true birthday?" Historically, March 17, 1945.
On that day a Conference began 4,500 miles from where I am speaking now-the city of Cairo of the Ptolemies of Egypt. This was the first official conference of Arab leaders.
I feel sure you would be interested to have a picture of the scene. The Conference began, as usual, with a big banquet. A crowd of curious onlookers assembled in Soliman Pasha Street. They watched eagerly as large limousines drove up depositing white-robed individuals who walked with stately tread into the Conference Hall. A few of them wore wide red satin belts, red shoes turned upward at the toes, and plenty of ribbons and medals.
With them were their Vezirs--that is, their military and political advisers. Each secret service man carried a large Turkish sword, ready to use it if danger: threatened his minister. Inside the colourful banquet hall, even the waiters were attired in white robes, but they wore the fez-not the turban. The fez is a mark of lower social rank-the turban, higher. This Conference was called by the former Prime Minister of Egypt, namely, Mustafa El-Nahas Pasha, and he presided during the negotiations. If you will remember, he was the man who recently issued a Manifesto against the British in Egypt.
All this pomp and solemnity was on March 17, 1945. Then came April 25, 1945. On that day was held the famous San Francisco Conference where Moslem nations were also represented. There they were imbued, as always, with a spirit, an attitude, a movement which we have come to call "Pan-Arabism" or the "Pan-Arab Movement".
I am sure you, as free-thinking Canadians, will naturally say: "Well, if the Arabs want to get together and form a sort of Federation--what harm done?". And you will continue: "After all, Canada did the same thing when she joined together her provinces into the Dominion of Canada. Did she not? Even the American colonies formed themselves into the United States of America at the end of the eighteenth century. And now the Moslem nations around the Mediterranean Sea are moving in the same direction--the direction of unity and federation. What harm done?"
Well, I agree with you entirely. No harm done whatsoever. The only harm done, you will agree with me, is to those Western Powers who--so the Arabs declare--are exploiting the natural resources of those Eastern countries. The human soul abhors domination and exploitation! Let us be impartial and ask ourselves for a moment: How did we feel when the Nazis and Fascists tried to subdue us and destroy us? We felt so bitter that we went to the extent of sacrificing the flower of our nation.
I trust I am not being misunderstood. I am neither an Arab nor a Jew, neither a Canadian nor an American, neither a Frenchman nor a Chinese. I am an Armenian and I was taken out of Armenia when only three months old. So you can well imagine how Armenian I am. My country-beautiful Armenia-which has a cold and healthy climate similar to your wonderland, is situated between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. and it is one of the sixteen republics of the United Soviet Socialist Republic. But soon you will see for yourselves how many bitter things I will have to say against Russia for her unwise clashes with other powers-surely, always in the interest of world security and peace.
So, you see, I am bound--by virtue of my impartiality--to tell you nothing but the truth-of course, as I see it. If you consult your Bible, you will find that Noah's Ark landed on Mount Ararat which is the beautiful snowcapped peak of the two high mountains in my original homeland.
So far, I have merely given you an inkling into the origin of Pan-Arabism and its birthplace in Egypt. Now let us divert our attention for a few moments, if you will, to the Levant States, namely, Syria and Lebanon, and to the Holy Land, namely, Palestine, which are still under French and British Mandate, respectively. Well, what are the consequences of the Pan-Arab Movement in these three small countries?
The two little countries of Syria and Lebanon are situated in the Middle East-at the extreme East end of the Mediterranean Sea-just North of Palestine and South of Turkey. Last May mobs roamed the streets of their two capital cities, namely, Damascus and Beirut. Hundreds were wounded and killed in the fight between the French and the natives. (Mind you, these disturbances followed shortly after the Arab Conference held in Cairo on March 17, 1945).
In the Levant States the Senegalese troops were given the order to fire and kill. My heart breaks as I now think of those dark days in May last, because I have lived in these countries for seven years, and I would like to tell you something of what lay and still lies behind such clashes that threaten allied unity. You will remember that only a few weeks ago a new delegation from Syria and Lebanon went to Paris to discuss the withdrawal of French Troops from the Levant.
Why all this discontent? Let us see, the secrets hidden behind the curtains.
Syria and Lebanon were taken from the Ottoman Turks in 1918. Turkey had them joined with Germany--as she almost did in this last War--who was also then on the losing side of the first World War, and these Levant states had long demanded independence from the harsh Ottoman rule. Syria and Lebanon were made mandated territories under the French in' 1920, with the definite promise by the League of Nations that they should receive independence when they became of age--ready to rule themselves. Since 1938 they have made many attempts to receive this independence, but they did not get it because of many reasons. One reason was that the world was in a night mess and France did not feel herself sufficiently secure to give up any of her possessions. During the dark days of World War II then no action could be taken. But when France was liberated, and when General de Gaulle took over the government of his country, then the people in these little countries of Syria and Lebanon began to ask: "What now? What about us? Do we get our freedom too?"
Last May France proposed again to hold her privileged status, and it was then that the 'trouble really flared up and mutiny threatened peace and integrity. Consequently, consultations among authorities in Washington and London on this vexed question resulted in the British march into Svria and Lebanon.
Naturally, Britain was and is still placed in a very difficult position because she herself has a similar mandatory power over another Middle East country-Palestine, and although then the British intervened to prevent further inhumanity of man to man, Britain was not able to support too heavily the claim of Syrians and the Lebanese for independence, unless she made similar concessions herself to her own colonies, but, on the other hand, she did not wish to incur the enmity of her old ally--France.
Now, do you see clearly the workings of the Pan-Arab Movement in these Levant States? The Pan-Arab Movement aims to unite all the Arab peoples. They are against the French and the British in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, The Sudan, Iraq because--so the Arabs declare--they are being oppressed for selfish ends, of course, as always with great tact and diplomacy. In fact, it was agreed among the Arab nations on March 17, 1945 that each should run to the rescue of the other if and when attacked by any foreign power. Hence, the common revolt, riot, and mutiny simultaneously now in many of the Arab lands!
So the natives of Syria, and Lebanon say: "We have no time for slavery. Democracy is independence. Independence was promised to us long ago, and now that we are of age, there is no reason why we Syrians and the Lebanese should be kept in bondage by the mandatory powers. Why should our revolt for freedom be crushed? Is there no justice in the world and is might still the only right?" Gentleman, this is the plea of the prisoner at the bar.
Now, let me tell you something about these delightful little countries--which are always the centre of world attention. Let me tell you something about Damascus the capital city of Syria. Damascus is the quaint Oriental city where St. Paul was proceeding when he was struck by a vision converted him to the cause of the Nazarene.
Damascus is built on the side of a hill. It is a city of trees, fruits, flowers, running brooks-a city of churches, but no, not Christian churches with tall spires, but domed mosques with stream-lined minarets, for Damascus is and has for generations been a Mohamedan city. When in Damascus. I used to love to wander in the market place. The good old farmers came there every Tuesday to sell their poultry, their cows, their milk, and their sheep--also a Turkish cheese which would have pleased many of us here at our table. I never saw any; pork change hands in these markets, because pork is unholy food to the Moeslems, just as it is to the Jews.
Beirut, on the other hand; the capital of Lebanon, is a small cosmopolitan city. It is a miniature Paris, with a population of half a million--about half the size -of Montreal. You will understand how cosmopolitan it is when I tell you that there are 35 different nationalities represented there: the Lebanese, mostly Christians; the Syrians, mostly Moslems; the Greeks; Armenians; Russians; French; English; and now plenty of Americans. It is a dainty little artistic city with her night clubs, theatres, and concert halls.
I simply love the city of Beirut because I went to school there, and because it is a centre of enlightenment and of culture. My university was called The American University of Beirut, and it is there, at the knees of my patient teachers, where I learned English, a language I love to cultivate. But the American University of Beirut is not the only centre of education. There is the French University where students study medicine and law and arts. Many of them take political science and economics and law. These subjects are considered very important by the Lebanese because they want to learn how to govern themselves wisely and scientifically.
Believe me, I never met such cultured, intelligent, refined and deepthinking young men and women as in this beautiful city of Beirut. As the cradle of all Western civilization, these people meet the future in the light of their past culture. Religion--Christianity, Judaism, Mohamedanism--all sprang from the Middle East. Add to these music, art, drama, law, trade, and commerce. The Lebanese and the Svrians are descendants of the ancient Phoenicians-the first people in Man's history who began commerce overseas. These people are eager to live well in the present by making use of the knowledge which science offers them today.
But here I must make one point absolutely clear. They do not think of freedom as licentiousness or doing as one pleases--as many of our Western "moderns" do. My friends, this is not freedom. They think of freedom as the ability acquired to think and choose the right. They believe that the right and the good are the greatest powers of the mind. They want to govern themselves and do it well. I look back on my years in Beirut as among the happiest of my life, and I wish you too could meet some of the deeply spiritual people whom I knew there.
Well, so much theh in praise of the land where I lived seven years of my life. How much more shall I praise this blessed land of Canada where I may live to the end of my days . . .?
Why Western Interest In Aran Lands?
And now we come to the fourth problem in PanArabism. Why are the British, the French, the Americans, and the Russians so intensely interested in the Middle East? Because of various reasons on which we shall comment very briefly.
First, the Suez Canal is the life-line of Britain. Then, Egypt feeds British textile mills with the famous longstapled Egyptian cotton. All Western Powers, as well as Russia, are interested in oil. I ask you, Gentlemen: May Russia be seizing the opportunity to take advantage of the situation prevailing now in the Middle East because her own oil wells at Baku are almost depleted?
Then, there is the vital route of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorous which are Russian gateways to the Mediterranean. So, you realize what a strategic position those countries occupy in the Middle East. Add to these, if you wish, the fact that the vast plains of the Middle East serve excellent aerodromes for airplanes in an age bound to increase its air traffic continuously. These, in brief, then, are the reasons why the Middle East and the Arab lands become the target and the axis upon which rests and revolves the fate of international peace and security: interest and life-line of Western Powers.
The Sterling Bloc
Now, we come to the second major section of our topic--The Sterling Bloc. Those of you who are. in the import-export business will readily grasp the relevancy of the subject. What I have to say in this connection touches very intimately every child, every man, and every woman in Canada, the Veterans who have just returned home after doing a magnificent job on the battlefield, and those of us to whom is given the heavenly gift of seeing ourselves as others see us and thus shaping the destiny of a promising nation.
Let us not think for one moment that this subject should be of interest only to business men. No! It is of vital concern to the Canadian house-wife too. We realize, of course, that if Canada is to buy her needs from other countries-such as, dates, nuts, olive oil, glassware, chinaware, textiles, raw materials, perfumes, hides, and skinsshe has to pay for them either by barter or in actual cash. But can she pay if she cannot sell to these markets, and thus receive payment for her own exports?
Just what do we mean? We shall soon know . . . But first let us penetrate deeper into the Sterling Bloc. Why is it called the Sterling Bloc at all?
The, Canadian currency is in dollars--and so is that of the United States, our neighbour country. But the currency of Britain is not in dollars. It is in sterling pounds and in shillings. During this War certain conditions caused Britain to think and plan for her own economy and livelihood. She entered into an agreement with certain countries. These countries are: The British West Indies, The Honduras, Egypt, Palestine, Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Greece, Italy, Ethiopia, Cyprus, Malta, and India.
What has this to do with Canada? Friends, let us never forget that the national welfare of a people rests firmly upon her foreign trade. The Honourable James Mackinnon, Minister of Trade and Commerce, said: "The connection between economic well-being and Canada's export trade is very close. Every aspect of Canadian national life rests upon foreign trade".
Well, what shall we do about it? We must think right if we wish to live right. We do not advocate any drastic measures, such as, civil disobedience or upheavals. God forbid! We already have enough lawlessness in this land.
During the War, in my capacity as official-in-charge for some term of the office of the Canadian Government Trade Commissioner for the Middle East. Cairo, I watched very carefully the sacrifices you went through and the spirit of co-operation you showed as a Dominion of Britain.
Britain must realize one thing. The Sterling Bloc is bound to jeopardize her own welfare where this Dominion is concerned. How? Why? We are afraid unless the British are prepared to let Canada into the Sterling Bloc on the same basis of equality that this Dominion entered into the War, Canada's economy will of necessity drift closer and closer to that of the United States whose commercial partner she now is.
Now, what is our conclusion? Threefold. (1) First, if we are to do business with the Arabs, we ought to appreciate their position and their status in international trade. (2) Second, The Sterling Bloc must be modified, if Canadian trade is to expand. (3) Third, we mustmerely for selfish reasons, for the sake of our own security-we must think of world security at large. After all, did we not fight this war to eradicate the racial superiority of the Germans--of the so-called the superior Aryan race?
Well, what is the key to peace, then? I can see only one solution for peace, and that is the closest co-operation unselfishly of all nations and races-great and small. Economic democracy is the only solution, because this means the welfare of the people, and nobody can deny that the basic interests of all major powers today is or should be nothing but this welfare of the common people, if we honestly want peace and security.
But, on the other hand, this is impossible, so long as individual citizens are themselves abnormal and lack peace and integrity of mind and character. How can we expect emotionally disturbed and frustrated personalities to lead any nation into peace and security? How can we expect national leaders who themselves are not mentally integrated to integrate peoples, nations, and races into a single social unit of Universal Brotherhood? I say, this is utterly impossible. A peaceful world is a Kingdom of Heaven, but we must all first be taught to seek the Kingdom of Heaven in our own souls and minds!
This is my last word to you. I have tried to present the picture to you as impartially as humanly possible. I know the task laid upon my shoulders was great--perhaps heavier than I could bear. But you are the judges of world affairs--yes, you, the peoples of this wonderland of Canada. The entire world looks up to you.
What is your decision? What action must you take?