Category Archives: Palestine

Should the US bomb Syria?

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By Stephen Gowans

There is no compelling evidence that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against the rebel forces which seek its overthrow. But even if chemical weapons have been used, a military intervention by the United States, its NATO allies, or its regional proxies, would fail the test of humanitarian intervention. First, it would exacerbate, not reduce, the suffering of Syrians. Second, it would be undertaken for concealed reasons of economic and geostrategic gain, not to protect Syrians from chemical weapons, not for the promotion of multi-party representative democracy, and not to encourage tolerance of dissent, as the promoters of intervention would have us believe.

Moreover, a successful US-led intervention would eliminate a pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist, anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist state committed to secularism, non-sectarianism, and public ownership of the commanding heights of its economy, and would, install, in its place, a US-client regime that would adopt a pro-US foreign policy, abandon the Palestinians, capitulate to Israel, and cater to Western investors and corporations. “Syria,” remarked president Bashar al-Assad, not without substance, “is an independent state working for the interests of its people, rather than making the Syrian people work for the interests of the West.” [1] This orientation would be completely reversed if a US intervention succeeded.

Three reasons the chemical weapons case against the Syrian government is weak at best

1. Britain and Israel claim to have evidence that the Syrian army used chemical agents against armed rebels. The British evidence is based on tissue samples taken from armed rebels who claim to have been gassed by loyalist forces. To concretely make the case that the Syrian army used chemical weapons:

• The tissue samples would have to test positive for chemical agents.
• There could be no possibility the samples were tampered with.
• A direct link between the contaminated tissue and an attack by Syrian forces would need to be established.

Concerning the first point, we have nothing to rely on but the word of British authorities. Should we believe them? Britain has been implicated in attempts to concoct pretexts for military intervention with phony evidence before (see the bogus WMD claims used to justify the war on Iraq and the genocide fear-mongering pressed into service to justify NATO’s 1999 air war on Yugoslavia.)

What’s more, Britain is hardly a neutral party to the conflict in Syria, and therefore has an interest in manufacturing justifications for more open and direct meddling. That’s not to say that the tissue sample didn’t test positive, only that it would be foolhardy to suppose that a country that “sexed up” evidence to justify a war on Iraq can be trusted.

Secondly, “the samples collected by Britain may have been tainted by rebels who want to draw the West into the conflict on their side” [2], a point made by US officials.

Third, “the detection of chemical agents doesn’t necessarily mean they were used in an attack by the Syrian” army. [3] Rebels, for example, may have been accidentally exposed to chemical agents they, themselves, had in their possession.

The key point is that evidence of tissue contamination (if indeed such evidence exists) is not evidence that the Syrian army used chemical agents, since there are multiple possible ways in which the tissue could have become contaminated.

2. Once US president Barack Obama declared that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government was a red line that would trigger a more muscular US intervention, the Syrian calculus turned decidedly against their use. Using chemical agents against rebels would play directly into Washington’s hands, giving the bellicose superpower a pretext to intervene militarily in an open and direct fashion. This would be a disadvantage that would grossly outweigh any advantage that accrued from the weapons’ use. On the other hand, once Obama announced his red line, it made a ton of sense for the rebels to falsely claim they were gassed.

3. While an investigation by the United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has found evidence that the rebels used sarin gas, no evidence has been found that the Syrian government has done the same. Commission member Carla Del Ponte reported that, “We collected some witness testimony that made it appear that some chemical weapons were used, in particular, nerve gas. What appeared to our investigation was that was used by the opponents, by the rebels. We have no, no indication at all that the government, the authorities of the Syrian government, had used chemical weapons.” (Emphasis added.) [4]

An intervention would create harm

To reduce suffering, a military intervention would need to reduce harm to a greater degree than the military intervention itself would produce. Judging by previous US-led interventions undertaken for professedly humanitarian reasons, a military intervention in Syria would likely involve air strikes on Syrian military, government and even civilian facilities, with attendant civilian casualties, disruption of essential services, and massive displacement of non-combatants. According to The New York Times’ Elisabeth Bummiler, senior Pentagon officials have warned that “military intervention would be a daunting and protracted operation, requiring at least weeks of exclusively American airstrikes, with the potential for killing vast numbers of civilians.” (Emphasis added.) [5]

To be sure, an open and direct military intervention would be ardently welcomed by Syrian rebels, and their co-sectarian arms suppliers, the Turks, Saudis and Qataris. But it would kill many and make life even more miserable and uncertain for Syrians, especially those living in areas under loyalist control.

Far better to reach a political solution. But one of the reasons the Syrian civil war carries on is because the United States refuses to back a political resolution that would fall short of achieving its chief Syria foreign policy goal, namely, the ouster of Assad and his replacement by a pliant, pro-US government. A genuinely humanitarian intervention would set as its goal an end to hostilities, not the absorption of Syria into the US-Israeli camp.

Intervention would not be based on humanitarian concern

There is no reason to believe that the United States has any genuine interest in protecting Syrians from chemical weapons attacks. Washington dismissed out of hand evidence presented by the United Nations that the rebels used sarin gas, which is hardly what a government would do were it genuinely keen on protecting all Syrians from chemical attack, no matter which side of the conflict they’re on.

Significantly, US regime change policy in Syria antedates Syria’s civil war. The outbreak of the “Arab Spring” in Syria, and Damascus’s response to it, didn’t start the ball rolling on US efforts to force Assad from power. US regime change policy, linked to Damascus’s refusal to become a “peace-partner” with Israel, its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, and its refusal to fully open its economy to US capital, existed long before the Syrian government cracked down on opposition forces. In fact, one element of US foreign policy was to encourage opposition to the Assad government, [6] that is, to foment the kind of civil unrest that eventually morphed into a full blown civil war.

Multi-party representative democracy, a tolerant attitude to dissent, and eschewal of chemical weapons, have not been relevant components of US foreign policy decision making. Indeed, Washington has shown itself willing to overlook the absence of multi-party representative democracy, to ignore an intolerant attitude to dissent, and to turn a blind eye to the deployment of chemical weapons, where US corporate interests are promoted, either directly, or indirectly through the strengthening of United States’ geostrategic position. For example, Washington and its NATO allies have adopted a tolerant attitude to the violent suppression (aided by Saudi tanks) of a Shiite rebellion in Bahrain against an absolutist Sunni monarchy, while at the same time casually dismissing the UN’s concrete suspicions that the Syrian rebels used sarin gas. Significantly, Bahrain, a paragon of free-markets and free-enterprise, is home to the US Fifth Fleet; Saudi Arabia is a source of generous profits for US oil majors and New York investment banks; and the Syrian rebels are instruments through which US foreign policy goals of regime change in Damascus are to be achieved. If US foreign policy was indeed driven by democracy-promotion, human rights objectives, and non-proliferation goals, its attitude toward Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Jordan and the possibility of sarin gas use by Syrian rebels, would be very different.

Conclusion

There are sound strategic reasons for the Syrian army to leave chemical weapons in storage. Deploying them would play into Washington’s hands by providing the United States with a pretext to escalate its intervention in the Syrian civil war. On the other hand, any force that would benefit from a more muscular US intervention on the rebels’ behalf has an interest in manufacturing evidence of the use of chemical agents by Syrian forces. This would include the rebels themselves and those of the United States’ allies that would like Washington to refashion Syria in their political or sectarian interests.

Much as intervention by the United States is sold as a humanitarian exercise, it fails the humanitarian test on two levels. First, it would create substantial harm. US military officials have warned that direct military intervention—which would take the form of US air strikes—would create massive civilian casualties. Second, US foreign policy is based on commercial, financial, and geostrategic goals, not the promotion of multi-party representative democracy, tolerance of dissent, and anti-proliferation. This is clear from a simple examination of the countries Washington supports: those with a congenial attitude to US free enterprise and a willingness to submit to US domination, regardless of their practices in connection with multiparty representative democracy, civil liberties and weapons of mass destruction.

For all these reasons the United States should not bomb Syria, and nor should it provide military, diplomatic, or any other kind of assistance to the Syrian rebels. Of course, what it should do and what it will do are very different matters, but all the same we should be clear that the chemical weapons case against Syria is a fraud, as is the idea that direct US military intervention in the Syrian conflict would have either a humanitarian basis or humanitarian outcome.

1. Bashar al-Assad May 19, 2013 interview with Clarin newspaper and Telam news agency.

2. Adam Entous, Joshua Mitnick and Stephen Fidler, “Syria used chemical arms, Israel says”, The Wall Street Journal, April 23, 2013.

3. Ibid.

4. Alex Lantier, “UN says US-backed opposition, not Syrian regime, used poison gas”, World Socialist Web Site, May 7, 2013

5. Elisabeth Bummiler, “Military points to risks of Syrian intervention”, The New York Times, March 11, 2012.

6. Craig Whitlock, “U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition groups, cables released by Wikileaks show”, The Washington Post, April 17, 2011.

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Palestinians protest against Israel’s role in the attack against Syria

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March 17, 2013

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM,(SANA) – The Palestinian Popular Committee for Defending Syria in occupied Palestine has organized an event in protest against the role of the Israeli entity in the attack against Syria and in supporting the terrorism which targets its resistant Arab people backed by the US and financed by the Gulf states.

The participants in the event, which took place at Kalandia Crossing to the south of Ramallah city in the West Bank, expressed solidarity with the Syrian people and army in the face of the Zionist-Imperialistic conspiracies.

They asserted that Syria will get out of the crisis stronger thanks to the unity of its people, the bravery of its army and the wisdom of its leadership.

They raised the Syrian and Palestinian flags, and they chanted slogans expressing the unity of the Arab struggle in the face of the Israeli occupation.

The Israeli soldiers tried to quell the participants as they fired tear gas and stun grenades at them injuring seven.

Palestinian Watan News Website quoted Coordinator of the Committee Sabrin Dyab as saying that what is taking place in Syria is an organized attack which aims at undermining the axis of resistance.

She affirmed that the terrorist groups backed by foreign parties are the ones who commit the crimes in Syria.

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Hanukkah – The Maccabee Intifada

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The following article below was published as a Facebook Note and is being republished here with the author’s approval: 

By Benjamin Dictor
December 8, 2012

Rethinking Hanukkah

judeaThe modern retelling of the story of Hanukkah is similar to that of most Jewish holidays.  The storyboard adopts the exhausted themes of victim/victor and the relentless and indiscriminate persecution of the Jews. The story is fairly one-dimensional:

“King Antiochus IV sought to obliterate the practice of Judaism in the Kingdom of Judea.  After a military invasion, Judea was occupied until the Maccabees rose up and defeated the occupying force, restoring Judaism to the Kingdom.”

As materialists we must question this myopic focus on the suppression of religion as the primary point of conflict.

Today, the story is told in an attempt to further the founder’s myth in support of a Jewish Theocratic State while the underlying story of the struggle for national self-determination is often glossed over and forgotten.

Hanukkah is not simply about the struggle of the Jews, but rather, it is the story of the struggle for national self-determination of the people of Judea  —- as well as their uprising and resistance against occupation and imperialism.

In short, Hanukkah is the celebration of the Intifada of the Maccabees.

Hellenism and the Gusanos of Judea 

Like many of the devastating military conflicts presently unfolding in the world, the Maccabean Intifada began as a civil conflict that was ultimately exploited by foreign powers in furtherance of their imperialist objectives. Just as we have seen in recent years, these foreign invaders were welcomed by many gusano Judeans who requested the military support of imperialist powers to help them maintain their opportunist grasp on power in the kingdom.

The roots of the Maccabean Intifada began as a conflict between Jews that had begun to reform their traditions as a result of the Hellenistic influence (cultural imperialism) in the region and those Jews who sought to maintain their national and religious identity.

In approximately 200 BCE, the Kingdom of Judea came under the control of the Hellenist Seleucid Empire (Syria).   Judea was still a somewhat independent kingdom and its people were allowed to maintain their customs and religion.

During that period, Hellenism was used much like the West uses its own cultural imperialism today in support of its foreign conquests.  The people of Judea were not blind to this and saw that the imposition of Hellenist customs, values and religion were a direct attempt to undermine the political independence of Judea.

Some historians have focused on the wealth disparity between rural peasants in Judea and those Jews who lived in Jerusalem.  The rural Jews favored continued independence and self-determination while the bourgeois Jews of the city of Jerusalem were easily Hellenized and adopted the cultural identity of their would-be occupiers.  (See, Tcherikover, Victor Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, New York: Atheneum, 1975).  This tension led to periodic uprisings and ongoing hostility between those Jews who sought to maintain independence and those who favored Hellenism.

Prior to Syrian military invasion, Judea enjoyed considerable independence. However, the High Priest of Jerusalem, like most administrators or governors of colonized territories, served at the pleasure of the Seleucid King.

In the years leading up to the Maccabean Intifada, Jews in favor of self-determination made several attempts to oust these hand-picked High Priests and restore partisans to the leadership of Judea.  The Seleucid military invasion of Judea was, in fact, precipitated by these ongoing conflicts over the position of High Priest of Jerusalem.

It was the Jewish Hellenistic High Priest Menelaus who ultimately requested that Seleucid King Antiochas IV send troops into Judea to quash the pro-independence resistance. Just as we have seen in Libya and Syria, it was the collaborators in Judea — Jews themselves — that demanded an invasion of their homeland to suppress their countrymen insisting on self-determination.

With the welcome mat laid out by the collaborators in Jerusalem, Antiochus IV sent Apollonius with an occupying army to Judea to put down the resistance and restore the collaborator Menelaus to the position of High Priest.

The Maccabean Intifada

Around 168 BCE, after the occupation of Judea had begun, Antiochus began to slowly strip Judea of its independence — politically and religiously. The occupying Syrian army built fortresses and amassed a military presence in Judea. Antiochus issued edicts restricting religious practices and limiting civil rights of the Judean people.  The resistance against the occupation came in the form of an army of Jews known as the Maccabees (“Hammers”) — essentially the Hamas of their time.  The Maccabees fought the occupying Syrian army for seven years, relying heavily on guerilla tactics to defeat the overwhelming force of the Syrian army.

A series of military defeats and domestics disputes in Syria ultimately led to the victory of the Maccabees, the retreat of the imperialist Syrian occupiers, and the restoration of the independence of the Kingdom of Judea.

A New Hanukkah 

This year, I propose that we celebrate Hanukkah as a holiday that commemorates the true story of resistance against occupation and imperialism.  Rather than allowing it to be used to promote the ongoing occupation of Palestine, let us tell the story of Hanukkah to remind ourselves of our obligation, as Jews, to fight for all oppressed people of the world.

Our Jewish values implore us to recognize that imperialism must be opposed in all its forms.  In that spirit, I submit that, this year, we light the menorah in commemoration of those who struggle against oppression and imperialism:

1st Candle –  For The People of Palestine for their continued resistance against occupation.

2nd Candle –  For The People of Cuba for over half a century of resistance against imperialism, attempted invasions and an illegal blockade.

3rd Candle –  For The People of Syria who have been invaded by a massive foreign military force supported by the imperialist west, but continue to struggle against it.

4th Candle — For The People of Vietnam who, like the Maccabees, successfully fought off a massive military with guerilla tactics.

5th Candle –  For The People of Libya, particularly Bani Walid, who continue to resist occupation and invasion.

6th Candle – For The People of Venezuela who have successfully thwarted attempts by imperialists to overthrow their democratically elected government.

7th Candle – For The People of Bahrain who have continued to oppose Saudi and U.S. imperialism.

8th Candle —  For all Oppressed People of the World.

Sukant Chandan: Gaza’s impact to Syrian conflict, Imperialist propaganda of chemical weapons

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FULL INTERVIEW: This is why they killed Syrian-Palestinian actor Mohamad Rafea

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Mohamad Rafea was the first Palestinian artist to be martyred in Syria. This interview with journalists Lizzie Phelan and Mostafa Afzalzadeh is an example of how despite the numerous threats Mohamad had received because of his vocal opposition to the illegal covert foreign intervention and insurgency in Syria, he refused to be silenced primarily about the importance of the country remaining united in the face of the western and Gulf state conspiracy to divide and destroy it. This interview was originally shot for a documentary by the journalists that can be watched in English, French and soon Spanish here http://www.manufacturing-dissent.com/ but has been released in full in the wake of his murder.

On Friday November 2nd 2012, Mohamad was kidnapped by extremists. On Sunday November 4th 2012, his father received a phone call from his murderers, informing him that they had dumped his body in an orchard. His body bore clear signs of torture and mutilation.

Despite attempts by western and pro-opposition media to portray Mohamad as a Syrian government thug, Mohamad was a much loved and widely known figure for his humility and dedication to humanity. His murder sent shockwaves throughout Syria. His father has called him a “martyr for Syria’s unity”.

A tribute to Mohamad by Lizzie Phelan can be read here in English http://tinyurl.com/asn8eag and here in Arabic http://tinyurl.com/akwcr8x

Dudley Do-Right Gets the Wrong Man

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By Stephen Gowans
September 10, 2012

Dudley Do-Right was a well-intentioned, but dull-witted Canadian Mountie, who in the late 1960s battled his arch-nemesis Snidely Whiplash on the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. The Mounties are said to always get their man, but Canada, home of the crime-stopping icon, has recently come up with the wrong man.

Ottawa has severed diplomatic relations with Iran, a country it decries as “the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today,” and it has done so as part of the Harper government’s re-orienting Canada’s foreign policy to more vigorously back Israel. But it is Israel—which daily clamours for an attack on Iran and threatens to undertake one itself—that is the greatest current threat to world peace and international security.

Canada has withdrawn its diplomats from Tehran and ordered Iran’s out of Canada. Ottawa says it has suspended diplomatic relations because Iran is:

 Providing military assistance to the Syrian government;
 Refuses to comply with UN resolutions pertaining to its nuclear program;
 Routinely threatens the existence of Israel;
 Engages in racist anti-Semitic rhetoric and incitement to genocide;
 Is among the world’s worst violators of human rights;
 Shelters and materially supports terrorist groups.

Given rampant speculation in Canada about the real reasons Ottawa has suddenly broken off relations with Iran, it’s clear that Ottawa’s purported reasons have been dismissed as empty rhetoric.

And so they should be.

If Ottawa were genuinely concerned about the world’s worst violators of human rights giving military assistance to tyrannical regimes to put down peaceful uprisings, it would have shut its embassy in Saudi Arabia long ago. Human Rights Watch describes rights violations in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy that refuses to tolerate meaningful democratic reforms, as “pervasive.” And when Bahrainis rose up in peaceful protest against their country’s despotic rulers last year, Saudi troops and tanks spilled into the country to help Bahrain’s absolute monarchy violently suppress the uprising. Canadian diplomats remain on station in both countries.

The United States refuses to comply with innumerable UN resolutions to lift its illegal blockade on Cuba, and yet Ottawa continues to maintain diplomatic relations with Washington. UN resolutions in connection with the Palestinians are regularly ignored by Israel, but all the same Canadian diplomats are not withdrawn from Tel Aviv.

Indeed, Israel offers multiple reasons for Ottawa to close its embassy in that country and boot Israeli diplomats out of Canada. Human Rights Watch describes conditions in territories occupied by Israel as a “human rights crisis.” Within Israel proper, Arabs are treated as second-class citizens, subordinate to the favoured children, the Jews.

Israel’s record of furnishing military aid to repressive, retrograde regimes is long and shameful. After the Carter administration suspended military aid to the Chilean regime of Augusto Pinochet in 1977, Israel stepped in to become the dictator’s major arms supplier. Israel ran guns to Iran soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, to fan the flames of war between Iran and Iraq, and before that was a major supporter of the Shah’s dictatorial, human rights charnel house. [1] In the 1970s, it entered into a secret military alliance with South Africa’s racist apartheid regime, offering to sell it nuclear weapons.

As for the Canadian government’s professed opposition to nuclear weapons proliferation, Tel Aviv’s nuclear program should be ringing alarm bells in Ottawa. Israel is estimated to have some 200 nuclear weapons. It refuses to hear any discussion about giving them up, won’t join the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and bars international inspectors from entering the country.

By contrast, the Iranians have no nuclear weapons—and as US military and intelligence officials continue to affirm—there is no evidence they’re working to acquire them (see hereherehereherehere, and here.) More than that, there is evidence of absence. “Certain things are not being done,” a former US intelligence official told the Washington Post, that would have to be done were the Iranians working to weaponize their civilian nuclear energy program.

And unlike Israel, Iran is a member of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Its nuclear facilities are regularly scrutinized by international inspectors. And while it is true that Tehran refuses to comply with some UN resolutions related to its civilian nuclear program, it does so because the resolutions would uniquely deny its right to process uranium—a right the non-proliferation treaty guarantees.

And as for supporting terrorists, in the early 1980s Tel Aviv groomed Christian Phalangist right-wing militias to act as Israel’s proconsul in Lebanon. When a bomb killed the Phalanges’ leader Bashir Jumayal, who had been recently elected president, the militias went on a rampage, terrorizing Palestinians and Shiite Lebanese in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. As the Phalanges rampaged through the camps, killing men, women and children, the Israeli army threw up a cordon around the camps, firing flares into the night sky to provide illumination to help the terrorists do their grisly work. [2]

Far worse is the reality that the Israeli state was founded on terrorism. For one thing, Zionists used terrorism to try to drive the British out of mandate Palestine, bombing the King David hotel, headquarters of the British mandate authority, in 1946. But that was small potatoes compared to what was to come. Exhausted, and no longer willing to administer Palestine, the British transferred responsibility to the UN in 1947. Over the objections of the majority Arab inhabitants, the UN developed a partition plan which would allocate 56 percent of mandate Palestine to a Jewish state. Jews made up only one-third of the population. The Arabs, two-thirds of the population, would receive only 42 percent (Jerusalem, the remaining two percent, would become an international city.) The Jewish state would have a rough demographic balance of 500,000 Jews and 400,000 Arabs (the Arab state 800,000 Arabs and 100,000 Jews.) Recognizing that a democratic Jewish state could not long exist without a preponderance of Jews, Zionists terrorized Arab villages to depopulate them, sending hundreds of thousands of Arab Palestinians fleeing for safety. They were later barred from returning. Zionists claim the Arabs fled only to get out of the way of advancing armies from neighbouring Arab states. But the terror, formalized as Plan Dalet, was well underway before the Arab armies intervened. In end, the Zionists seized 80 percent of Palestinian territory, and were only prevented from seizing all of it by the intervention of Egypt and Jordan. [3]

What’s more, Canada might consider its own support for terrorists. Some Canadian military officers who had participated in last year’s NATO air war against the government of Libya referred to NATO jets bombing Gadhafi’s troops as “al-Qaeda’s air force,” a recognition that Islamist terrorists made up part of the opposition that NATO, with Canada’s participation, intervened on behalf of.

As for the Canadian government’s claim that Iran “routinely threatens the existence of Israel,” this is pure wind. Tehran is certainly hostile to Zionism—the idea that European Jewish settlers, through a program of ethnic cleansing, have a legitimate right to found a state on someone else’s land. And there can be little doubt that Iran is ready to do all it can to facilitate the demise of the Zionist regime. But the notion that Iran has the intention—even the capability—to bring about the physical destruction of Israel is absurd in the extreme. Iran is severely outclassed militarily by Israel, and its possession of a handful of nuclear weapons—if it were ever to acquire them—would be no match for Israel’s hundreds, or the formidable military might of Israel’s sponsor, the United States. The idea that Iran threatens Israel is a silly fiction cooked up by Israeli warmongers to justify an attack on Iran to prevent the latter from ever acquiring even the potential to develop nuclear weapons in order to preserve Tel Aviv’s monopoly of nuclear terror in the Middle East. Canadian politicians simply ape the line that Israel is threatened, a canard Zionists have used since 1948 to justify their aggressions. On the contrary, it is Israel—a super-power-sponsored nuclear weapons state—which threatens Iran, to say nothing of Syria and Lebanon.

So why has Ottawa really suspended diplomatic relations with Tehran? Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi says Canada’s government is “neo-conservative”, “extremist”, and “boundlessly defending international Zionism.” These are apt descriptions. Canada has practically outsourced its Middle East foreign policy to Israel, letting it be known that it will unquestioningly prop up Israeli interests. Extremist? Since Ottawa’s outsourcing of Middle East foreign policy to Israel yokes Canada to a bellicose regime with an atrocious human rights record, how could it be otherwise?

But Salehi’s description, no matter how apt, does not explain why Ottawa has severed ties with Iran now.

Former Canadian ambassador to Iran John Mundy raises the possibility that Ottawa is pulling its diplomats out of the country in anticipation of a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran. Since Canada has offered unqualified support to Israel, Canadian diplomats would be in danger if Israel followed through on its threats. Britain recalled its diplomats when, last November, protesters stormed the British Embassy in Tehran. Canada may be seeking to avoid a similar occurrence. Ottawa may have no specific knowledge of an impending Israeli strike, but may be playing it safe all the same. Or it might be participating in an Israeli-sponsored ruse to ratchet up psychological pressure on Tehran, withdrawing its diplomats to falsely signal an imminent Israeli strike.

Whatever the case, it’s clear that Canada has adopted the extremist position of supporting a rogue regime in Tel Aviv that, to quote Ottawa’s misplaced description of Iran, is “the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today.”

Perhaps the Mounties always do get their man, but Canada’s extremist, pro-Zionist government, is more apt to nab the victim.

1. Patrick Seale. Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East. University of California Press. 1988.
2. Seale.
3. Ilan Pappe. The Ethnic Cleasning of Palestine. One World. 2006.

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How leftist “anti-zionists” are allied with Israel against Syria

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By Mimi Al Laham (aka “Syrian Girl”) and Lizzie Phelan
July 19, 2012

The Myth

There has been a ridiculous notion amongst numerous left groups and those opposed to the Syrian government, that the Israeli regime does not want to see Assad fall. As self-professed “anti-zionists”, many in these groups are content to delude themselves into believing that both their enemies are on the same side. In the case of several socialist groups, they believe that this forcing of the Syrian crisis into their blanket “anti-authoritarian” narrative (regardless of the state in which they are applying that narrative to) enables them to maintain a façade of anti-imperialism.

London based socialist newspaper The Socialist Review writes: “Israel, although hostile to Syria, could depend on the Baathist regime to keep the frontier quiet. Thus criticism of Bashar is more muted in Tel Aviv.”

And Simon Assaf of the Socialist Worker writes:

The notion that ordinary Syrians struggling to change their country are the pawns of a ‘Western plot’ is absurd…In fact the Arab League is attempting to throw the regime a lifeline.

This view is also pervasive amongst the Islamic opposition to the Syrian government. Rafiq A. Tschannen of the The Muslims Times writes:

Israel believes that it would be safer under Assad regime than the new government whose credentials are unknown or the new Islamic extremist regime that would open a new war front with the Jewish state.

Israeli state media has actively fuelled this manipulation, as it has been beneficial to the Israeli state to both discredit the Syrian government in the eyes of Syrians and Arabs amongst whom cooperation with Israel has historically been a red line. Therefore the goal of these reports has been to create the false perception that Israel is uninvolved in the insurgency against the Syrian government. Similarly to how the NATO powers were keen to portray the Libyan insurgency as a “home-grown revolution”.

In this early 2011 Haaretz article entitled ‘Israel’s favourite dictator’, great lengths are taken to paint the Syrian president as a weak stooge of the Israeli state. The article regurgitates common Syrian criticisms and sources of frustration about the Syrian government’s failure to take back the Golan Heights. It even goes as far as to chastise Assad for not attacking Israel. The irony that an Israeli paper would be critical of a president’s failure to attack Israel is apparently lost on many. All the more incredible that these anti-zionist groups have chosen to believe the spin of Israeli state media.

The Turkish based Syrian opposition, the Syrian National Council (SNC), also jumped on this bandwagon. The now deposed leader of the SNC, Burghan Ghallion told Israeli paper Ynetnews “We are convinced that the Syrian regime’s strongest ally is Israel”.

Debunking the Myth

However the following facts expose all of the above as merely a part of the psychological warfare machinery directed from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the NATO countries, which is an essential part of the overall aggression against Syria, and that such leftists have willingly become a part of:

Israel’s most important ally, the US, has been amongst its other allies repeatedly calling for regime change in Syria

Israel’s strongest ally the United States has been pushing for regime change in Syria since before the first signs of insurrection began. Most famously in 2007, General Wesley Clarke, who served as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander between 1997 and 2000 said he had received a memo from the US Secretary of Defense’s Office which read that the Syrian Government would be one of the seven governments the US would destroy in the subsequent five years.

The Guardian’s recent headline “Saudi Arabia plans to fund Syria rebel army” is in the typical style of the liberal media based in the NATO countries a malignant manipulation. The text of that article is specifically about plans by the US’ and by extension Israel’s most important regional allies, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to pay the salaries of insurgents. But buried further down the very same article also reports that such support began months before. A less misleading headline therefore would replace “plans to fund” with “increases support for”, however a truthful headline would suggest external control over Syria’s insurgency has existed since its onset.

Indeed both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have a long history of hostility to the Syrian Ba’ath Party and Syrian foreign policy, a fact which is reflected in both of their leading medias (Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya respectively) severely distorted coverage of events in Syria from the outset.

But to highlight this context would give too much weight to the Syrian government’s consistent analysis that the crisis within its borders is externally created. A fact which leftist groups also fall over themselves trying to downplay or dismiss with the result of boosting the opposing narrative which imperialism has made dominant through its media machinery.

Why did that same Guardian article, and western leftists who claim that Assad is good for Israel fail to mention that for example in early April, the US openly pledged to double its assistance to the insurgents to the tune of an additional $12 million, under the cover of “humanitarian aid”? Or the recent US admission that it is actively arming the insurgency using Qatar as a proxy? Or that in February, solid Israeli ally British Foreign Minister William Hague pledged more equipment to the insurgents, insisting there was “no limit on what resources” Britain would provide?

It shouldn’t have to be explained to anti-Zionists that US and Israeli foreign policy is one and the same.

Axis of Resistance

Syria is a member of the Axis of Resistance, which is the only effective military resistance to Israel left. It is made up of Syria, Iran and the resistance inside Lebanon with Hizbullah at the helm. Far from being a ‘safe’ option for Israel, as Al Akhbar writer Amal Saad-Ghorayeb sets out in her three part critique of the third-way position that has seized much of the western left, Syria has consistently put itself on the frontline, risking its own survival, and has been involved in every Arab-Israeli conflict since they took power. Syria has been the strongest supporter of the Lebanese resistance movements against Israeli occupation; Hizbullah has repeatedly unequivocally attributed its ability to effectively win the 2006 war against Israeli invasion of Lebanon to its support from Syria and Iran.

A year since the beginning of the insurrection in Syria, the ridiculous notion that Israel was not pursuing regime change in Syria began to crumble. Israeli Intelligence Minister, Dan Meridor was quoted on Israeli radio, pointing out what was obvious all along: Regime change in Syria would break the Iran-Syria mutual defence pact thereby isolating Iran and cutting the supply of arms to Hezbollah. Finally, Israel’s greatest adversary, Syria, would be crippled.

This was not reported in Israeli mass media, which ensured that the lid was kept on the obvious, clearly in the knowledge that it would make the position of the insurgent’s self-professed anti-zionist cheerleaders in the west and Arab world more untenable. Yet those cheerleaders who maintain that Assad is good for Israel have been unable to reconcile then why Israel relentlessly beats the war drums against one of Syria’s most important allies, Iran.

Aside from wanting to get rid of Assad to secure military hegemony of the region, Israel also has an economic interest in scarpering the Syria, Iran, Iraq oil pipeline which would rival both Israel’s BTC pipeline and the eternally fledgling plans for Europe’s Nabucco pipeline.

Pro-Israel Opposition

With increasing momentum, the already tenuous facade of being pro-Assad in the Israeli media began to crumble and increasingly, voices within the Syrian opposition have been crossing the red line of sounding friendly towards Israel.

MK Yitzhak Herzog, who has previously held ministerial posts in Israeli parliament, said that Syrian opposition leaders have told him they want peace with Israel after Syrian President Bashar al Assad falls.

Indeed, SNC member Bassma Kodmani attended the 2012 Bilderberg conference where regime change in Syria was on the agenda. Kodmani has previously called for friendly relations between Syria and Israel on a French talk show, going as far as to say: ‘We need Israel in the region’.

Another SNC member, Ammar Abdulhamid declared his support for friendly relations between Israel and Syria in an interview with Israeli news paper Ynetnews.

Earlier this year a telephone conversation between the SNC’s Radwan Ziyade and Mouhammad Abdallah emerged where they begged Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack for more support.

Outside the SNC the children of former leadership figures now in opposition have joined the pro-Israel rat race. Ribal al-Assad, the son of Bashar Assad’s uncle and exiled former vice-president Rifaat al-Asaad welcomed the possibility of Syria making peace with Israel. And son of former Syrian prime minister Nofal Al-Dawalibi, said in an interview on Israeli radio that the Syrian people want peace with Israel. Dawalibi formed the “Free Syrian Transitional National Government”, another external opposition group rivaling the SNC for power in a situation where the Syrian government falls. This sectarian infighting and disunity, that is a mirror of post-Gaddafi Libya, is now threatening to plague the Syria.

Lower down the opposition hierarchy, pro-Israel voices are still to be found.

Syrian Danny Abdul-Dayem, the almost one-hit-wonder unofficial spokesman for the FSA, appeared on CNN begging Israel to Attack Syria.

And in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2, Sheikh Abdullah Tamimi, an exiled Imam from the Syrian city of Homs, said that the Syrian Opposition does not have any enmity towards Israel. Tamimi proceeded to request monetary and military support for Sunnis in Syria and Lebanon.

Anti-Assad Zionists and Israeli Leaders

Socialists chosen to be blind to the fact that prominent Zionists have been backing the Syrian insurgency since its inception.

US Senator John Mccain and Joe Lieberman, both well known to be close friends of the zionist entity, met with the SNC and Syrian insurgents on the Turkish border, then called for the US to arm them. In fact Joe Lieberman has been calling for war against Syria since 2011.

Another well known zionist Bernard Henri-Levy, who spear-headed the destruction of Libya by NATO aerial bombardment, has also called for an attack on Syria.

More recently voices within the Israeli government have been more vocal and demanding in their desire to see the Syrian government’s replacement with a more friendly puppet regime.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, upon receiving the ‘Medal of Freedom’ from US President Barack Obama, said that the world had to get rid of Assad. That he was receiving such a medal requires its own article dedicated to psychoanalyzing such an event, but that he could also claim, while being part of a system that is responsible for some of the gravest abuses to humankind in history, that from a “human” point of view Assad must go, should really get so-called anti-Zionists thinking.

Other members of the Israeli government, such as Israeli Vice Prime Minister, Shaul Mofaz, urged world powers to mount a Libya style regime change in Syria.

And Israeli defense minister Ehud Barack called for the ‘world to act’ to remove Assad while Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon accused the “world” of wrong doing for failing to act against the Syrian government and then offered Israel “assistance” for Syrian ‘refugees’.

Finally, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon accused the ‘world’ of wrong doing for failing to act against the Syrian government. Then offered Israel offered ‘assistance’ for Syrian ‘refugees’. Thinly euphemism for arming insurgents on the border.

Conclusion

In spite of the overt desire of the US government for regime change in Syria, which they have made clear time and time again, Israel has obvious economic and military interests Israel has for pursuing regime change in Syria, most notably the the break up of the Axis of Resistance and the destruction of plans for rival oil pipelines. Despite numerous public statements by Syrian opposition members that they are pro-israel and the multitude of Israeli government officials calling for the fall of the Syrian government as well as zionist lobbyists and key zionist figures like Bernard Henri-Levy backing the insurgency, so called ‘anti-zionist’ Socialists and Islamic groups persist in their claim that Israel has no stake in regime change in Syria and that the insurgency inside Syria is from the grass roots. Though all information contrary to this delusion is in clear sight, it seems that the socialist and Islamic groups are willingly blind.

This position becomes increasingly untenable however, most recently in light of the murder of Syria’s Deputy Defence Minister Asef Shawkat, which along with the simultaneous murder of Defence Minister Raoud Dajiha and Assistant to the Vice President Hassan Turkomani, which the Syrian government laid the responsibility for squarely at the doors of Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as new information has come to light as revealed by Al Akhbar editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin.

In an article published today, Amin writes of Shawkat, that in spite of the incessant attempts by the US, Israel et al to demonise him, he in fact,

played a major role in resisting Israeli occupation in and around Palestine. Right to the end, he took practical charge of meeting the needs of the resistance forces in Palestine and Lebanon, and of their members and cadres in Syria. He oversaw everything from their accommodation and transportation, to their training camps and provisions, and arranging for cadres from inside Palestine to come to the country secretly for training.

For the resistance in Lebanon, Shawkat was a true partner, providing whatever assistance was needed without needing orders or approval from the leadership. He was a central player in the June 2006 war. He spent the entire time in the central operations room that was set up in line with a directive by Assad to supply the resistance with whatever weapons it wanted, notably missiles, from Syrian army stocks. Shawkat and other officers and men of the Syrian army – including Muhammad Suleiman who was assassinated by the Mossad on the Syrian coast in 2008 – spent weeks coordinating the supply operation which helped the resistance achieve the successes that led to the defeat of Israel.

Despite the accusations levelled against Asef Shawkat regarding security, political or other matters, for Imad Mughniyeh, the assassinated military leader of Hezbollah, he was just another comrade, a modest man who would bow when shaking hands with Hassan Nasrallah, and liked to hear the news from Palestine last thing at night.

However anti-zionist one proclaims to be, there are few in this world that can claim to have done as much as the above for the Palestinian Resistance to the zionist entity. But having proven to wilfully ignore all of the facts and history of Syria’s long history of resistance to Israel, it is a great tragedy that those who cling on to the argument dealt with in this essay, would only perhaps be able to let go of it should Syria fall and then the reality of Palestine’s total military abandonment would be all to devastatingly clear to see.

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Fighting the Bigger Oppressor First

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By Amal Saad-Ghorayeb
July 12, 2012

A Syrian detainee, who was arrested over participation in the protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, is seen in a prison vehicle at Damascus police leadership building to sign his release papers 11 July 2012. (Photo: Reuters – Khaled al- Hariri)

In March 2011, a commentator for al-Jazeera wrote: “Events in Egypt and Tunisia have revealed that Arab unity against internal repression is stronger than that against foreign threat.” While this may have been an over-generalization at the time, events in Syria have borne out this assumption. This is due to the deep polarization between Arabs who place primacy on opposition to the Syria regime’s authoritarianism and Arabs who view such opposition as secondary to Assad’s struggle against imperialism and Zionism.

In this essay, I will outline the main moral and intellectual considerations informing the resistance or anti-imperialist camp’s (known as mumanaistsin Arabic) prioritization of confronting imperialism over other forms of domination.

The Violence in Syria is Misrepresented

Although supporters of the Syrian opposition often accuse this camp of being ready to countenance any type of violence, no matter how heinous, in the interests of the resistance priority, this accusation ignores the fact that the seeming consensus on the nature and scope of the violence in Syria is a purely manufactured one. Mumanaists do not view the current violence engulfing Syria as a dictatorial regime’s one-sided brutal suppression of peaceful protesters, as is commonly misrepresented in mainstream media, but rather, as a civil war by proxy that the Syrian army was dragged into as it sought to stamp out a US-NATO-GCC-backed armed insurrection.

While supporters of the Syrian uprising contend that this perception of the conflict is designed to reduce the cognitive dissonance produced by the regime’s brutality, few mumanaists harbor the illusion that the regime is not repressive. What they do believe, however, is that the extent of this repression has been grossly distorted by mainstream media. To bolster their argument, they point to a growing number of mainstream media reports which have admitted to the existence a singular master-narrative that is widely used to frame the conflict.

As acknowledged by the BBC in its recent self-study on its coverage of the “Arab Spring”, “journalism is not an exercise in simply relaying raw and untreated facts to the audience…This cannot be done without some sort of framework – if you will, a “narrative” – and therefore the construction of such a narrative by journalists should not be treated as if it were a sin in itself.”

Writing on Syria in the Sunday Times, Peter McKay contends that “It’s not simply uprisings by ground-down peasants against tyrants who repress them. It’s about a transfer of power to rival clans and/or religious groups. About a continuation of the old US-Russia Cold War stand-off.” In a similar vein, the BBC’s world news editor, Jon Williams, has recently admitted in a blog post on Syria that “stories are never black and white – often shades of grey.”

But such admissions are the exception rather than the norm in a psych-ops campaign that is stage-managed by US-NATO-GCC information warlords to bring about a military victory for proxy forces. At the helm of this campaign are politically embedded journalists, political activists and human rights representatives who work in concert to ensure that all coverage of the Syrian crisis remains confined within a carefully guarded body of self-referential “evidence.”

The effectiveness of this information warfare in enlisting public opinion in support of military intervention is substantiated by the aforementioned BBC report: “No doubt these reports…helped stimulate empathy for the [Libyan] rebel cause among the British public, and thereby to facilitate, if not actually bring about the NATO intervention – as similar reports had done in northern Iraq as long ago as 1991.”

Imperialism Cannot Be Equated with Authoritarianism

The second premise guiding the resistance camp’s position on Syria is that imperialism cannot be equated either morally or politically with authoritarianism, let alone demoted to a secondary rank. By contrast, the liberal democratic impulse driving the “Arab Spring” has led some to declare the obsolescence of anti-imperialism as a unifying force in the region. Al-Jazeera commentator Lamis Andoni epitomizes this view with her assertion that “The old ‘wisdom’ of past revolutionaries that liberation from foreign domination precedes the struggle for democracy has fallen.” In the new Arab Spring vernacular, revolutionary struggle is no longer synonymous with resisting US-NATO interventions and Israeli aggression, but has come to mean confronting internal repression even when that confrontation benefits the Empire and its colonial outpost, Israel.

Furthermore, this new liberal political discourse and the preeminent status accorded to securing internal freedoms has served to effectively remove Palestine from the forefront of Arab concerns. In effect, Palestine has been relegated to just another Arab nation which is responsible for freeing itself from its own domestic, i.e. intra-Palestinian, authoritarian rulers, over and above its Israeli oppressors. The mumanaists’ response to this logic is multi-pronged.

As a matter of principle, neither Palestine nor questions of national self-determination in general are viewed as fashions; justice doesn’t go out of style for truly conscientized and committed intellectuals and activists for whom Palestine remains the cornerstone of Arab political identity. What is more, the resistance camp sees this new trend of reducing Palestine to a national cause that belongs exclusively to the Palestinians as a very dangerous development that requires Arabs to unlearn generations of political socialization in order to expunge Palestine from their political consciousness.

Some supporters of the Syrian opposition have argued that the insistence on maintaining the primacy of the Palestinian cause over the concern with authoritarianism, and the concomitant precedence given to Israeli violence over the Assad regime’s repression, is tantamount to claiming that Syrian blood is cheaper than Palestinian blood. But this charge misunderstands the extent of Israel’s iniquity by locating it solely in Zionist aggression, human rights violations or in the circumstances of the occupation. The resistance camp conceives of Israel as the greatest injustice because of its very existence and the unprecedented nature of its oppression, which renders it not merely a human rights cause, but humanity’s cause.

As detailed by the Never Before Campaign for Palestine: “What happened in Palestine since 1947 has never happened before, in terms of the combination of the elements: brutality and racism of the occupier, the injustice of granting one peoples land to others, duration of this injustice, complicity and apathy of the civilized world as well as Palestinian people’s will to resist all that against all odds.”

Even on the level of violence alone, Israel’s violence by far exceeds any domestic repression in so far as it is systematic and genocidal violence that is deeply embedded in its military ethos and strategic culture. Indeed, the celebration of violence is part of its collective consciousness as illustrated by a number of recent examples on social media where many Israelis celebrated the killing of Palestinian children. More importantly formumanaists, any parallels drawn with Israel are Zionist-enabling in so far as comparing Israel’s violence with that practiced by repressive Arab regimes, legitimizes Israel’s existence as just another authoritarian regime in the region.

Not only are such comparisons with Israel morally and ideologically indefensible, but the very equivalence between imperialism and authoritarianism is an intellectually flawed one that is rooted in a liberal-leftist tradition that conceives of all deployments of power as being equally coercive and oppressive, irrespective of the global hierarchy of power.

In the mumanaists’ conceptual hierarchy of oppression, imperialism and authoritarianism are situated in two entirely different levels of domination. This rank-ordering is not based on an ideological abstraction that is divorced from political reality or on the rhetorical value of anti-imperialist sentiment, but on immediate, practical concerns. Imperialism is not evil because it is practiced by the West, but because it harms people’s lives and interests. Empire kills; it kills vast amounts of people, whether it occupies countries directly or intervenes militarily, economically or politically, it is responsible for innumerable deaths, destruction and impoverishment of all those in its wake.

Thus, viewed from a purely utilitarian perspective, or according to a basic cost-benefit calculus, there is no comparison between the type of violence autocratic regimes exercise when they repress dissent and the death and devastation wreaked by Empire. This moral logic would still hold even if we were to set aside the Assad regime’s anti-imperialist and resistance credentials and assume it was neutral on Palestine; when faced with a choice between the Assad regime’s repression on the one hand and the threat of NATO invasion, coupled with the externally-instigated sectarian civil war and terrorism on the other, anti-imperialists and the majority of Syrians alike will choose the former, especially when they don’t have the luxury of rejecting both.

Resisting Regimes Safeguard Collective Rights and Freedom

If anti-imperialists place far greater political and moral value on resisting the Empire than on unseating autocratic regimes, then surely that is even more so the case when those regimes themselves resist imperialism. As in the case of Syria, anti-imperialist leaders are identified with a set of rights and a concept of freedom that is considered far more conducive to democracy, justice and dignity than the western liberal discourse of “human rights” which is informed by the “negative freedom” from authority.

While not rejecting liberal freedoms outright, anti-imperialists view liberal freedoms that stress the individual’s right to be free from government interference and coercion as being secondary to positive and liberationist conceptions of freedom which affirm human agency and self-determination. As critiqued by political theorist, Anthony Bogues, “when freedom morphs only into rights, then the very question of freedom itself is delinked from other forms of domination other than political authority.” Indeed, it could be argued that the universalization of the Euro-American-centric human rights doctrine that has come to dominate the Arab Spring freedom discourses, serves to obscure imperialism and foreign domination.

The great anti-colonialist thinker, Franz Fanon, anticipated this intellectual colonization by liberal rights discourses when he wrote: “History teaches us clearly that the battle against colonialism does not run straight away along the lines of nationalism. For a very long time the native devotes his energies to ending certain definite abuses: forced labour, corporal punishment, inequality of salaries, limitation of political rights, etc. This fight for democracy against the oppression of mankind will slowly leave the confusion of neo-liberal universalism to emerge, sometimes laboriously, as a claim to nationhood. It so happens that the unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps.”

Clearly cognizant of their deviation from the anti-imperialist struggle, Arab Spring intellectuals attempt to reconcile this disconnect between liberal freedoms and liberationist freedom by arguing that liberation from western hegemony and Israeli occupation can only be achieved once freedom from internal tyranny is won. Andoni contends that “combating internal injustice – whether practiced by Fatah or Hamas – is a prerequisite for the struggle to end Israeli occupation and not something to be endured for the sake of that struggle.”

But this logic operates in a geo-political intellectual void which elides any kind of world systems analysis’ recognition of the hegemony exercised by core nations over peripheral ones. In a world order characterized by an uneven division of labour, the notion of achieving any kind of comprehensive and far-reaching internal change without a commensurate change in the global balance of power, is futile.

If there cannot be genuine revolutionary change from within, given prevailing power disparities on the international level, then the expectation that domestic change will inevitably balance out global power asymmetries is nothing short of liberal self-delusion. It is precisely this reasoning which undergirds mumanaists’ claim that liberation from foreign domination is a prerequisite to genuine democratic change.

Furthermore, resistance intellectuals and activists maintain that there can be no progress or democracy in the Arab world so long as a colonial implant like Israel continues to exist in our midst, perpetually threatening our security. Viewed from this lens, liberating Palestine is the prerequisite for the democratization of the region.

As such, mumanaists prioritize a collectivist notion of rights that emphasizes people’s rights as opposed to human rights. In this collectivist understanding of the term, freedom is conceived as liberation from foreign domination and oppression and the pursuit of self-determination. In effect, to be free is not to be left alone, unencumbered by external constraints and hindrances, but to struggle for justice. Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah provides the clearest definition of what this freedom entails: “[it is] not just the blood of a man, the fate of a woman, the crushed bones of a child, or a piece of bread stolen from the mouth of a poor or hungry person. It is the issue of a people, a nation, a fate, holy places, history, and the future.”

In other words, the ultimate purpose of freedom for Arab mumanaists is not merely the protection of various civil and political rights of the individual, but the trans-historical collective right of the umma in its past, present and future manifestations. In this dispensation, freedom and democracy are not reduced to procedural aspects like elections and political reforms as they are in western liberal thought, but more substantially, the ability of peoples enjoying popular sovereignty to shape their own political identity, control their national resources and participate in determining their national destiny.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb is a Lebanese academic and political analyst. She is author of the book, “Hizbullah: Politics and Religion”, and blogger at ASG’s Counter-Hegemony Unit.

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Supporting Resistance, Not Regime

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By Amal Saad-Ghorayeb
July 5, 2012

A handout picture released by the Syrian opposition’s Shaam News Network on 4 July 2012 shows Syrian rebels allegedly taking over an outpost belonging to government forces in Idlib on July 3. (Photo: AFP – SHAAM NEWS NETWORK)

Though far outnumbered by supporters of the Syrian uprising on the one hand, and Third Wayers who reject both the opposition and the regime on the other, a significant minority of Arab leftists, nationalists and even Islamists have sided with the Assad regime’s struggle against the imperialist-Zionist-GCC onslaught being waged against Syria.

I will articulate the position of this “resistance camp,” which is closely identified with Hezbollah’s position on Syria, and explain the rationale behind its controversial and unpopular position. It is important to clarify here that this position is not synonymous with those who support the Assad regime per se or with those who support it for reasons unrelated to anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist considerations; as its name suggests, it is a position which is defined primarily by the prioritization accorded to the liberation of Palestine and, more generally, the liberation of the region from imperialism, and Assad’s value to both of these objectives.

This position is underpinned by a resistance logic or rationality – a way of thinking which, to borrow Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah’s words “views events in the region through the [lens of] the Israeli issue…how it evaluates threats and dangers, how it acts and what it considers opportunities.” In the case of Syria, this resistance rationality “takes a step back from the details and looks at the bigger picture,” to quote Nasrallah again. And the bigger picture is one that prominently features the US and Israel as they relate to the struggle for Syria’s political identity and foreign allegiances.

Assad’s ouster serves US-Israeli interests

While some have argued that Israel and the US would prefer that Assad remains in power, as it is easier to deal with the “devil you know than the devil you don’t,” their active political and military support for elements in the Syrian opposition – support which predates the establishment of the SNC and FSA by several years as revealed by leaked US embassy cables published by Wikileaks – in addition to their official rhetoric, has proven the reverse.

Indeed, the ideal case scenario for both imperialists and Zionists is one involving an eviscerated, submissive and hence, manageable Assad. But given that the regime has refused to capitulate to US-Israeli longstanding demands to relinquish its support for resistance movements and divorce itself from Iran, its overthrow is viewed as the next best scenario.

Former Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee at the Knesset, Tzachi Hanegbi, acknowledges that the Syrian crisis represents a great opportunity for furthering Israel’s interests: “Events in Syria will have a more decisive impact than those in any other Arab country,” in that “the ouster of the Syrian president would significantly improve Israel’s strategic situation.” The collapse of the Assad regime would strike “a major blow to the radical axis” said Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak. In so doing, it would drastically alter “the entire balance of forces in the region” as elaborated by former Mossad chief, Efraim Halevi.

Halevi continues: “Iranian-sponsored terrorism would be visibly contained; Hezbollah would lose its vital Syrian conduit to Iran… Hamas fighters in Gaza would have to contemplate a future without Iranian weaponry and training; and the Iranian people might once again rise up against the regime…” In a similar vein, Washington envisages Assad’s downfall as “the biggest strategic setback for Iran in 25 years” and the most efficient means for cutting off Iran’s lifeline to Hezbollah, according to General James Mattis, commander of US forces in the Middle East.

Such strategic benefits for the US and Israel outweigh any risks and uncertainties surrounding Syria’s future, and specifically, the role of Islamists in shaping it. Echoing Nasrallah’s assertion that “There is a consensus in Israel that any alternative in Syria is better than Bashar al-Assad’s regime,” Halevi declares “the way things are at present, any replacement of Assad is better.”

This assessment is also shared by a number of Israeli officials including Israeli president, Shimon Peres who described Assad on Israeli Channel 2, as “the worst there can be” of all alternatives, as well as by Barak in his CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour.

As contended by Hanegbi, fears of Sunni Islamists wreaking havoc on Israel’s doorstep were completely unfounded as it was “more likely that Assad’s successors will first seek to sideline the devoted supporters of the hated duo, Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad.” Like Hanegbi, Halevy also envisages a post-Assad Syria that is dominated by a “moderate” and Empire-friendly Sunni Islamist force who “won’t come to power in order to launch an effort against Israel.”

Such predictions do not appear far-fetched when one considers former head of the SNC Burhan Ghalioun’s assurances to his foreign sponsors that one of the first orders of business for a post-Assad government would be “breaking the exceptional relationship” between Syria and Iran and Hezbollah. Israeli and US assessments are further substantiated by the very public and well-documented “semi-official” contacts between various members of the SNC and Israel.

Even if the Syrian opposition figures collaborating with Israel belong almost exclusively to the foreign-funded, externally-based opposition, the fact remains that the uprising as a whole enjoys the support of the same array of forces who backed Israel and urged it to finish off Hezbollah in 2006 and Hamas in winter 2008/2009. It is for this reason that the US- Israeli-NATO-GCC- backed Syrian insurrection is viewed by the resistance camp as an extension of both of these wars against resistance movements, and an attempt to “reintroduce” the “New Middle East” project “through other gates” such as Syria, to cite Nasrallah.

In effect, to support Assad’s overthrow is to align oneself, whether by accident or design, on the same side of the trench as oppressive and reactionary powers. Given that justice is almost always situated in diametric opposition to wherever imperialism and Zionism stand on a given issue – considering that both forces are the clearest embodiments of injustice – such an alignment can never be dismissed as an undesirable coincidence or as strategically benign.

While an infrequent occurrence, one can conceivably share a political interest with the US or Israel without allowing either power to benefit from the convergence itself. One such example is the overthrow of Iran’s longtime enemy, Saddam Hussein, by the US, which clearly benefited the Islamic Republic. But despite the shared interest in his removal, the strategic objectives of the US in Iraq did not require Iran’s shared interest in Saddam’s ouster for their fulfillment. In fact, many in Washington lamented the extent to which Iran was empowered by Saddam’s overthrow, even before control of Iraq fell into Iran’s hands after the US withdrew the bulk of its troops.

By contrast, if resistance forces were to share the Empire’s interest in toppling Assad, they would directly play into its hands as his overthrow is conceived as a means for divorcing Syria from the resistance axis and for weakening Iran and resistance movements. In this connection, the resistance camp’s abandonment of the lynch-pin of the resistance front would only expedite US-Israeli strategic designs on the region and undercut the resistance project in Lebanon, Palestine and beyond.

Moreover, considering that the US-Israeli scheme requires a weakened Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Palestine axis for the fulfillment of its strategic objectives, the resistance camp’s forsaking of the Assad regime would be tantamount to political suicide on its part and hence, a de facto handover of the Levant to the Empire on a silver platter.

The Uprising is Not a Revolution

From the resistance camp’s perspective, it is precisely this US-NATO-Israel-GCC line-up supporting the uprising which renders it far less a popular revolution than an insurrection that is bankrolled by petrodollars and piloted by the Empire.

Although there is an acknowledgement that part of the opposition is a legitimate, homegrown movement which views its revolution as having been “hijacked” by these foreign powers and their Syrian proxies, the logic of resistance dictates that any cause hijacked by Zionism, US imperialism and Arab “moderation” effectively stops being a just cause and becomes somebody else’s reactionary and imperialist agenda.

Furthermore, having the leader of the world order on one’s side surely means that the “revolution” will be only used to perpetuate that world order – in other words, it will only serve as a counter-revolution to thwart any genuine attempts to redress the vast political and economic imbalances which characterize the prevailing global status-quo.

As such, leftists who support the Syrian opposition cannot, by any Marxist definition, consider themselves part of a Gramscian counter-hegemonic “war of position” when they are aligned with the same position as the hegemonic powers.

This would remain the case even if we were to assume hypothetically that the opposition enjoys as much popular support as the regime does and was led by the working class. As underlined by David Fennell in his illuminating essay on counter-revolution in Libya, “Marxism understands that a thing is determined by the totality of the forces acting in it.” Fennell goes on to quote Lenin’s definition of totality as one which takes account “of all the forces, groups, parties, classes and masses operating in a given country’.”

In other words, when formulating a political position, an analysis of the working class’ situation alone does not suffice, but must involve all social contradictions, with special emphasis on social contradictions which occur on the world system’s level.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb is a Lebanese academic and political analyst. She is author of the book, “Hizbullah: Politics and Religion”, and blogger at ASG’s Counter-Hegemony Unit.

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Assad Foreign Policy (II): Strategies of Confrontation

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By Amal Saad-Ghorayeb
June 27, 2012

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), shows President Bashar al-Assad addressing his new cabinet during a swear-in ceremony on 26 June 2012. (Photo: AFP – HO – SANA)

Third-Wayers repeatedly discredit the mumanaist (political and/or military resistance) credentials of the Assad regime on account of a number of regional policies which include: its intervention on behalf of right-wing Christian militias in Lebanon in 1976; its war against Palestinian groups in Lebanon in the 1980s; its decision to join the Gulf War coalition against Saddam Hussein in 1991; its reluctance to engage Israel militarily; and its participation in so-called peace negotiations with Israel since 1991.

Indeed, the first two of these policies in particular represent the darker side of the Assad regime’s foreign policy history. Hafez al-Assad’s strategic motives at the time have been explained by academics as relating to his intent to reign in the Palestinians, and later Hezbollah, in order to avert a wider regional war with Israel, and to co-opt the Maronite Right lest it “draw Israel into the fighting on its behalf and… throw the Christians into the hands of Israel and balkanize Lebanon,” according to Anoushiravan Ehteshami and Raymond Hinnebusch.

In a recently declassified Pentagon document, the Assistant-Secretary of Defense explains the reasoning behind Assad’s 1976 intervention:

“Asad is loath to see emerge on his western flank a radical leftist- and Palestinian dominated Lebanon, almost certainly unamenable to his direction. Furthermore, a radical Lebanon could drag Asad into a war with Israel at a time, place, and in circumstances not of his own choosing. Moreover, a radicalized Lebanon would be a military liability as a confrontation state with Israel. Lebanon may never be able to field a credible military force against Israel and certainly could not do so for Lebanese-Israeli border, a mission for which they are clearly inadequate, or to present Israel with a virtually undefended corridor through which the IDF could outflank his forces on the Golan Heights.”

While difficult to justify this intervention either morally or ideologically, given its Realist motives, serving Israeli interests was clearly not one of them as the above document reveals. Furthermore, it is nothing short of politically naive reductionism to dismiss all of Syria’s foreign policy record as being consistent with these policies or as being governed exclusively by crude realpolitik. Even as it sought to restrain Palestinian forces in Lebanon, Syria confronted the Israeli invasion in 1982 and a year later, succeeded in torpedoing the infamous, US-backed, May 17 Agreement that Israel sought to impose on Lebanon, and which would otherwise have turned it into an Israeli satellite state.

Syria’s Participation in the Gulf War

Even Hafez al-Assad’s decision to partake in the US-led “Operation Desert Storm” coalition against Saddam in 1991 cannot be reduced to such considerations, unless one regards political survival, national security and state sovereignty as power-politics. Doubtless, one of Assad’s motives for joining the coalition was to secure US acceptance of the Taif Accord which legitimized Syria’s mandate over Lebanon. However, this was by no means the sole incentive for participating in the offensive against Iraq as Third-Wayers and oppositionists would have us believe. Assad’s unpopular decision must be viewed against the backdrop of the “1989 Revolutions” in formerly Communist Eastern European countries which presaged the dismemberment of Syria’s superpower patron, the Soviet Union, only months after the Gulf war. In the context of a uni-polar world order, Assad’s rationale for ganging up against a regional rival who was hardly a beacon of resistance to imperialism at the time, was to prevent a similar fate from befalling Syria. After losing the support of the Soviet Union, Assad was forced into a detente of sorts with the sole remaining superpower. As expounded by Ehteshami and Hinnebusch:

“Assad certainly feared that the Iraq invasion could unleash a wider war which Israel could exploit to attack Syria, and joining the coalition was a kind of insurance against that….The destruction of Iraq showed what Assad had spared Syria. Syrians grudgingly gave him credit for shrewdly pre-empting plots to make Syria the next victim of the “New World Order.”

Syria’s Participation in the “Peace Process”

This type of strategic logic was also displayed in Assad’s refusal to drag Syria into another costly war with Israel and his subsequent decision to partake in the peace process, both of which are cited by Third-Way intellectuals as instances of the regime’s alleged complicity with imperialism and Zionism. Third-Wayers peremptorily denounce the Assad leadership for ensuring the Golan Heights remain Israel’s “quietest front” as detracting from its resistance or mumanaa status, and as an example of its “cowardly” regional policies.

What they fail to take note of, however, is how suicidal any offensive action on Syria’s part would be not only for the regime but for the nation-state as a whole. As many historians have pointed out, Syria lacks “a credible offensive capability” in that it would not be able to hold any territory it might succeed in recapturing against an Israeli counter-attack. This is even more so the case considering that Syria lost territory in the 1967 war and failed to retrieve it in 1973 despite the participation of other Arab states.

Hafez al-Assad’s original strategy upon assuming power was to strike a strategic alliance with Egypt in order to retake the Golan. But although he believed in the necessity of the military option, Assad also conceived of the 1973 War and the recapture of the Golan as a prelude to negotiations which would lead to an “honorable” settlement that would include the Palestinian territories. The negotiations track was therefore always viewed as an unavoidable, albeit distasteful, need dictated by the strategic balance of power. This dualistic approach to the confrontation with Israel characterized much of Syria’s history.

However, by the late 1980s Syria was forced to scale back its military ambitions on account of Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms and the Soviet Union’s changing priorities which led to a consequent reduction in military and economic aid to Syria. Such a scale back entailed a shift from pursuing a military balance with Israel to a strategic standoff where Israel could still launch offensive action against Syria but only at a high price. Concomitant with this revised military doctrine was a new political strategy described by Ehteshami and Hinnebusch as “negative power” – or what Washington dubs, a “spoiler” role – the obstruction of a peace agreement which either damages its own interests or Arab and Palestinian rights. This strategy was further demonstrated by Assad’s participation in the peace process after the Gulf War, which also coincided with the downfall of the Soviet Union in late 1991. Deprived of its Soviet backer, and in the context of a new world order, the regime could no longer afford to incur the wrath of the sole remaining superpower.

Rather than view such a change in strategy as a diminution in ideology, Ehteshami and Hinnebusch refer to it as “tactical rejectionism” characterized by “consistent goals and tactical flexibility.”

As Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah himself observed in his Quds day speech in 2009, the policy options before mumanaists did not fit into a neat dichotomy: “either war [value rationality] or if not able to fight, we succumb [instrumental rationality]”. When the requirements for military confrontationalism could not be satisfied, rejectionism served as its ideologically consistent and strategically advantageous, political substitute, and this substitute was to “not succumb” as Syria has done. Thus, for Nasrallah, although “It is true it [Syria] did not fight and close a front but still, it did not surrender.”

This characterization is not confined to Assad’s allies like Hezbollah, but extends to his enemies as well. Aside from Henry Kissinger’s famous maxim, “No war without Egypt no peace without Syria”, Dennis Ross, Bill Clinton’s former special Middle East coordinator, laments “Peace was only acceptable on Assad’s terms”.

Israeli professor, Moshe Ma’oz explains some of the frustrations from the Israeli side:

“One of the obstacles to peace in the 1990s was Assad’s refusal to hold direct talks with Israel. So was his refusal to offer guarantees to Israel over water, security and peace. By security and peace, Israel doesn’t just mean guarantees of peace on its border with Syria. It means a distancing between Iran and Syria, which would also mean a distancing between Syria and Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Yet Assad’s steadfast refusal to divorce himself from his allies, prompted Israel to break off the Wye Plantation talks in 1996 after Syria refused to condemn Hamas’ attacks on Israeli buses, as observed by Israeli specialist, Henry Siegman.

This consistency was further evinced in the Geneva talks of March 2000, which was widely described as a failure on account of Syria’s refusal to relinquish its demand for a “sliver” of shoreline along the Sea of Galilee, as related by The Economist at the time.

True to form, Hafez al-Assad was a “100 percenter” as Ma’oz correctly identifies him, despite all this cost him in military and economic pressures. As Ma’oz points out, had he struck a peace deal with Israel, a large part of Syria’s budget which had previously earmarked for military purposes would have been diverted to social and economic development. Yet Assad was clearly willing to pay this price, as his allies knew well, which is why Hezbollah and Iran have always tolerated and understood Syria’s participation in the peace process, even though they don’t recognize the legitimacy of such talks.

On the report of one source close to Hezbollah, Bashar al-Assad once confided to the resistance movement that his father had in fact “feared” that the Israelis would accept a withdrawal to the June 4 lines and sought to find other pretexts for scuppering the talks after Wye Plantation. He did indeed want a comprehensive peace agreement, but not at any price.

Bashar al-Assad’s resistance credentials

Another pervasive tendency among Third-Wayers, is to conflate Bashar al-Assad’s regional policies with his father’s, despite the fact they are considerably more “radical”, as acknowledged by his American and Israeli foes. This distinction owes itself not only to differences in Bashar’s foreign policy style, but also to international and regional developments such as the Bush doctrine, along with its regime change and preemptive war policies, and the perceived success and efficacy of the resistance option, which was best illustrated by Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from South Lebanon in 2000 at the hands of Hezbollah’s resistance.

Were it not for the Bashar al-Assad regime’smumanaism, it is highly unlikely Hezbollah would be staunchly defending it and losing Arab popular support in the process. For Hezbollah, the Assad regime was not merely an active bystander who defended its allies, but a party to the resistance struggle as “it did not only stand by the resistance, but it backed the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine”. The resistance movement even maintains that it owed its victory in 2000, at least in part, to “Syrian backing”. While the nature of this backing is not specified, Nasrallah’s claim that he did “not want to go into details” about this support, “so as not to embarrass the Syrian leadership,” insinuates that it is military.

Hezbollah and Iran are not alone in viewing the Assad regime as a bastion of political resistance. Israeli professor, Eyal Zisser notes that “Bashar’s foreign policy troubles started as early as the winter of 2000, following the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising (the al-Aqsa Intifada) and the renewal of Hezbollah’s activities, with Syria’s blessing, against Israel’s northern border.”

Viewed from Washington’s perspective, Bashar’s regional policies were far more threatening than his father’s. Dennis Ross griped that “In 1990-1991, Hafez al-Assad’s actions during the Persian Gulf War demonstrated that he grasped the realities of power very differently than his son understands them today,” hypothesizing that “At the time of the 2002 war in Iraq, Hafez would have looked for a deal with the Bush administration…”

As outlined in part I of this article, it is on account of the central pillars of Bashar’s foreign policy – support for Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the resistance in Iraq, in addition to its alignment with Iran – that Washington has pursued an increasingly aggressive campaign against his regime.

In effect, although Syria hasn’t directly engaged Israel since 1973, it has been engaging it indirectly through its active backing of resistance groups which have been resisting Israel militarily for the past few decades. What is more, the fact that it has been paying a high price for its military assistance and political support for resistance movements means it did indeed make the required sacrifices of any mumanaist actor and hence can hardly be branded as “cowardly” or insufficiently resistance-oriented.The international war against the regime today is the price Syria has had to pay for the Assad regime’s refusal to capitulate to imperialist and Zionist dictates.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb is a Lebanese academic and political analyst. She is author of the book, “Hizbullah: Politics and Religion”, and blogger at ASG’s Counter-Hegemony Unit.

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