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King Crane Commission and the Paris Peace Conference 1919

Emir Faysal at Quneitra.jpg

Emir Faysal leaving Kuneitria, June 25, 1919, World War I Photo Album, Archives and Special, Jafet Library, AUB

In 1918, the British General Edmund Allenby and Faysal I, son of Sharif Husayn of Mecca, moved into Palestine along with the British and Arab Forces: the Ottoman army capitulated, and this opened the way for the British and French occupation of Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. Both the San Remo Conference held in Italy in 1920, and  the Sykes-Picot Agreement divided the region between Britain and France: the Allies gave Britain a mandate over Palestine, while France was given a mandate over Greater Syria, which implementation was overseen by General Gouraud.



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Damascus Delegation meeting the King Crane Commission, 1919, World War I Photo Album, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

Early in January 1919, when life on campus seemed to get back to normal, President  Bliss was called upon to serve as an Advisor to the Peace Conference to be held in Paris early that year. Dr. Bliss left Beirut on a sixteen-hour notice, with the responsibility of representing Greater Syria in the talks held by the Allies. President Bliss spent a few weeks in Paris, and tried to make a strong case for granting the people of the Near East the right to rule themselves, and if need be, to choose the mandatory power over them, rather than be subjected to a mandate not in accordance with their wishes: it was in great part due to Dr. Bliss' recommendation that the King-Crane commission was formed.



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Pre-conference meeting between the Allies in the Clock Hall of the French Foreign Ministry, January 18, 1919

" My plea before this body on behalf of the people of Syria is this: that an Inter-Allied or a Neutral Commission, or a Mixed Commission, be sent to Syria at once—in order to give an opportunity to the people of Syria—includ­ing the Lebanon—to express in a perfectly untrammeled way their political wishes and aspirations as to what form of government they desire and as to what Power, if any, should be their Mandatory Protecting Power. Both the State or States and the Mandatory Power should be under the control of the League of Nations. Unless in this state or states there should be an absolute separation between religion and the state, most serious results must inevitably arise. The Government on the one hand, religion on the other, can best pursue their majestic tasks apart [...]."

Penrose, Stephen B., That they may have life: the Story of the American University of Beirut, 1866-1941, Beirut: American University, 1970, p: 328-331.