Syrian Social Nationalist Party in Lebanon

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Syrian Social Nationalist Party

الحزب السوري القومي الاجتماعي
General SecretaryAli Qanso
FounderAntun Saadeh
HeadquartersBeirut, Lebanon
IdeologySyrian nationalism[1]
Political positionCentre-left to Left-wing
Third position
National affiliationMarch 8 Alliance
International affiliationNone
Syrian counterpartSyrian Social Nationalist Party
Colours               Black, red and white
Parliament of Lebanon
3 / 128
Cabinet of Lebanon
0 / 30
Party flag
Flag of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.svg

The Syrian Social Nationalist Party in Lebanon (SSNP) (Arabic: الحزب السوري القومي الاجتماعي‎, Al-Ḥizb Al-Sūrī Al-Qawmī Al-'Ijtimā'ī, often referred to in French as Parti populaire syrien or Parti social nationaliste syrien), is a secular nationalist political party operating in Lebanon, a branch of pan-Syrian Social Nationalist Party. It advocates subsuming Lebanon into a Greater Syrian nation state spanning the Fertile Crescent.[2]

Founded in Beirut in 1932 as a national liberation organization hostile to French colonialism, the party played a significant role in Lebanese politics and was involved in attempted coup d'etats in 1949 and 1961 following which it was thoroughly repressed. It was active in the resistance against the Israeli invasion of Lebanon from 1982 to 2000 while continuously supporting the Syrian presence in Lebanon.

Flags of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party in Beirut on May 9 during the 2008 conflict in Lebanon

Foundation and early years[edit]

The SSNP was founded in Lebanon by Antun Saadeh, a Syrian nationalist philosopher from the town of Dhour el Shweir. He had emigrated to Brazil in 1919 and was involved in both Arabic-language journalism and Syrian nationalist activity. He returned to Lebanon in 1930 where he was a journalist and German teacher in the American University of Beirut.[3]:43

In November 1932, he secretly established the first nucleus of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which operated underground for the first three years of its existence.[3] In 1933, it started publishing a monthly journal called Al-Majalla which was distributed in the American University of Beirut. The articles written in that journal and the speeches given by Saadeh consolidated the ideological basis of the party, and contributed to its popularity.[3]:43

Its open hostility to colonialism led to six months in prison for creating a clandestine party in 1936.[3] He was also accused in the trial of having been in contact with the fascist movements of Germany and Italy, but the charge was dropped as a letter was addressed from Germany denying any relationships.[3] It is during his months in prison that Saadeh laid down the final ideological foundations of the party in The Genesis of Nations.

Saadeh emigrated again to Brazil in 1938 and afterwards to Argentina, only to return to Lebanon in 1947 following the country's independence from the French in 1943. By that time, the SSNP had grown exponentially and had clashed on many occasions with its primary ideological rival, the Kataeb Party, which was committed to the notion of Lebanon in its French borders.

Film in Arabic about Saadeh's return to Lebanon in 1947

The SSNP rejected this state of Lebanon on the basis that the borders outlining the newly created states were fictitious, resulting from colonialism, and do not reflect any historical and social realities. The party claimed that Greater Syria as defined by Saadeh represents the national ideal encompassing the historical people of Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent, bound together by a clearly defined geography and a common historical, social and cultural development path.[4][third-party source needed] Furthermore, and with the start of the Arab–Israeli conflict in 1948, Saadeh radicalized the party's Anti-Zionist stance by declaring that "Our struggle with the enemy is not a struggle for borders but for existence".

On 4 July 1949, a year after the declaration of the establishment of the state of Israel and the Nakba, and a response to a series of aggressions perpetrated by the Kataeb-backed central government, the SSNP attempted its first revolution. Following a violent crackdown by government forces, Saadeh traveled to Damascus to meet with Husni al-Za'im in an attempt to obtain his support, although he was handed over to Lebanese authorities, and executed on July the 8, 1949.[5]

From confrontation to accommodation: The 1950–1960 years[edit]

Following the execution of Saadeh and the arrest of its high-ranking leaders, the party remained underground until it started resurfacing with the events that transpired during the 1950–1960 period. With the outbreak of the Cold War and the rise of Marxist and communist influences supported by the USSR, the SSNP found itself facing a new ideological adversary, especially that most left-wing movements in the Middle-East rallied around Gamal Abd El Nasser and Arab nationalism.[6] An ideological clash ensued, as Nasser and most left-wing organizations in the Arab world advocated Arab nationalism, the SSNP retained its commitment to Syrian nationalism.[citation needed]

The party objected to the declaration of The United Arab Republic between Egypt and Syria, and during the Lebanon crisis of 1958, party members sided with the government and then-president Camille Chamoun, fighting against the Arab nationalist rebels in northern Lebanon and in Mount Lebanon.[7][citation needed] The party was subsequently legalized.

Second Coup d'Etat and repression: 1961–1975[edit]

In 1961, and under the semi-authoritarian rule of General Fouad Chehab, the party launched an abortive coup attempt in Lebanon, resulting in renewed proscription and the imprisonment of many of its leaders.[8]

The Lebanese Civil War: 1975–1990[edit]

Syrian Social Nationalist Party
Participant in Lebanese civil war (1975–1990)
Group(s)Lebanese National Movement (LNM), Lebanese National Resistance Front (LNRF)
LeadersInaam Raad, Abdallah Saadeh, Isaam Al Mahayri
HeadquartersHamra Street (Beirut), Amioun, (North Lebanon) Dhour El Choueir (Mount Lebanon)
Size10,000 fighters[citation needed]
AlliesLebanese National Resistance Front, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Lebanese Communist Party, Communist Action Organization in Lebanon, Lebanese National Movement, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Progressive Socialist Party, Syrian Army, Hezbollah, Amal Movement, Al-Murabitoun
Opponent(s)Lebanese Forces, Tigers Militia, Kataeb Party, Guardians of the Cedars, Zgharta Liberation Army (ZLA), Israel Defense Forces, South Lebanon Army, Islamic Unification Movement, Future Movement

With the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975, the SSNP militias fought alongside the nationalist and leftist forces allied in the Lebanese National Movement (LNM), against the Phalangists and their right-wing allies of the Lebanese Front. The SSNP conceived the Lebanese Civil War as the inevitable result of the divisions of the Syrian nation into small states such as Lebanon for the benefit of feudal leaders that would further fragment the nation into sectarian parcels and shun away from a liberation war against Israel, which the SSNP considered vital for the liberation-and-reclamation of Palestine, later to be known in SSNP dialect as "the occupied south of Greater Syria". The SSNP found its natural allies to be the Palestinian guerrillas, mainly Fatah and the PFLP as well as its former bitter enemies: the left-wing Arab nationalist movements, the Syrian Ba'ath Party, and the communists.[citation needed]

After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and subsequent rout of the leftist forces, a number of the leftist organizations regrouped to engage in resistance to the Israeli occupation. Along with the Lebanese Communist Party, the Communist Action Organization, and some smaller leftist groups, the SSNP played a prominent role in this. One of the best-known sparks of the resistance was the killing of two Israeli soldiers in the Wimpy Cafe on west Beirut's central Rue Hamra by party member Khalid Alwan. The party continues to commemorate this date. The FBI blames them for the assassination of Bachir Gemayel in 1982,[9] the then-newly elected Lebanese President backed by the invading Israelis besieging Beirut.[citation needed]

In 1983, the party joined the Lebanese National Salvation Front established to oppose the abortive May 17 accord with Israel signed by Gemayel's brother and successor Amine Gemayel.[citation needed] Some party members were willing to sacrifice their lives through suicide attacks in resistance against Israel, the first being in 1985.[10] A party member Sana'a Mehaidli, who committed a suicide attack at the age of 16 against an Israeli checkpoint in Lebanon, is considered "the progenitor of all female martyrs for the Palestinian cause".[10] Diego Gambetta says that they can't be considered a terrorist organization because they only act against military targets, and that they should be considered a guerrilla organization.[10]

Post–civil war electoral performance[edit]

The SSNP participated in the general elections following the civil war winning the following seats:

In the 2018 Lebanese General Elections the SSNP fielded a total of 7 candidates participating in lists with various Lebanese March 8th alliance parties including: Hezbollah, Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement.[11]

2008 conflict[edit]

During the 2008 conflict in Lebanon, at least 14 people were killed in the town of Halba, in the Akkar region of north Lebanon, as about 100 pro-Future Movement gunmen attacked an office of the SSNP.[12] 10 of the dead were SSNP members, three were government loyalists and one was an Australian citizen of Lebanese descent on vacation in Lebanon, who was trying to get information at the SSNP offices about evacuating from the city.[13][14][15] The Australian father of four, Fadi Sheikh, reportedly had his hands and feet cut off.[16]


The Ideology of the SSNP is a mixture of pan-Syrian nationalism, secularism and economic corporatism.

Prominent politicians[edit]

Legislative Elections[edit]

House of Representatives
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1992 ???? (#2) ???
6 / 128
Increase 6
1996 ???? (#3) ???
5 / 128
 Clerk declined 1
2000 ???? (#4) ???
4 / 128
 Clerk declined 1
2005 ???? (#10) ???
2 / 128
 Clerk declined 2
2009 ???? (#8) ???
2 / 128
2018 23,881 (#10) 1.36%
3 / 128
Increase 1

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Antun Saadeh, The Genesis of Nations, (Dar al-Fikr, Beirut)
  2. ^ Irwin, p. 24; "Our Syria has distinct natural boundaries…" (accessed 30 June 2006).
  3. ^ a b c d e Nordbruch Goetz (2009). Nazism in Syria and Lebanon: The Ambivalence of the German Option, 1933–1945. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-203-88856-8. (...) during his speech of 1 June 1935 (...) Antun Saadeh declared (...) "(...) The Syrian Social Nationalist Party is neither a Hitlerite nor a Fascist one, but a pure social nationalist one. It is not based on useless imitation, but is the result of an authentic invention. (...)"
  4. ^ A. Saadeh. The Genesis of Nations. Translated and Reprinted. Dar Al-Fikr. Beirut, 2004
  5. ^ Adel beshara (2010). Outright Assassination: The Trial and Execution of Antun Sa'adeh, 1949. Ithaca Press. ISBN 978-0-86372-348-3.
  6. ^ Seale, p. 50
  7. ^ Article on pro-SSNP website on the party's role in the 1958 civil war accessed 19 January 2006.
  8. ^ U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States Volume 17, Near East, 1961–1963, (Washington, DC: GPO 1993), 383-384.
  9. ^ Neil A. Lewis (18 May 1988). "U.S. Links Men in Bomb Case To Lebanon Terrorist Group". The New York Times.
  10. ^ a b c Diego Gambetta (2006). Oxford University Press (ed.). Making Sense of Suicide Missions (illustrated ed.). pp. 262, 288 for suicide attacks, 87, 344 for Sana Mehaidli, 80 for guerrilla. ISBN 0-19-929797-5.
  11. ^ "2018 Lebanese general election", Wikipedia, 21 February 2019, retrieved 23 February 2019
  12. ^ "Aussie's death sparks Lebanon alert". The Sydney Morning Herald. 12 May 2008.
  13. ^ Jackson, Andra (12 May 2008). "Melbourne man killed in Lebanon 'was on holiday'". The Age. Melbourne.
  14. ^ "Australian killed in Lebanon: DFAT". The Hawkesbury Gazette. Archived from the original on 2 August 2008. Retrieved 12 May 2008.
  15. ^ "Day 5: Lebanese dare to hope worst is over". Daily Star (Lebanon). Retrieved 16 May 2008.
  16. ^ Chulov, Martin; Davis, Michael (13 May 2008). "Australian Fahdi Sheikh's body mutilated by Beirut mob". The Australian.