Syria: a dilemma for the Palestinian dilemma and obsessions for others – by Eyad Abu Shakra
Over the past months, there have been several writings about the positions, popular and political ones, of Palestinians vis-a-vis the crisis in Syria.
It is undoubted that some transformations in the official Palestinian position regarding Syria have taken place against the backdrop of the bloodshed and the suffering in Syria, but the general mood remains nevertheless perplexed and ambiguous.
Some Palestinian writers are still unsure where to stand. In principle they are entitled to write what they want, direct or subtle, whether based on their personal interests or their own political perspectives, but the messages that these writers convey tell of increasing unease and perplexity in the Palestinian general public. Sometimes these messages also promote illusions, which the time has come to deal with.
Among the illusions that some Palestinians desire to cherish is that the Assads’ regime, during the father’s and son’s eras, is extremely keen to liberate Palestine. For them, the regime neither moves nor maneuvers except to bring closer Palestine’s liberation, but in reality and away from empty rhetoric, the opposite is true.
The Syrian regime, like other Arab regimes, has worked to open its own “shop” inside the Palestinian resistance movement in order to prevent the emergence of any independent Palestinian decision. The regime has played a significant part in weakening the Palestinian resistance, encouraged factional infighting within the Palestinian national movement, and may have expedited the killing of a not so small number of Palestinian leaderships.
The Syrian regime’s leading figures, even before they officially took office, let down the Palestinian resistance in Jordan in September 1970, then after the events in Jordan, they were active in breaking the backbone of the Palestinian resistance in Lebanon. In a unique case of “telepathy” they fully executed between 1976 and 1982 the policies one would have expected to be Israeli policies, and that amid peaceful silence on the Golan Heights front since 1973.
Damascus did what it could to insure that the Oslo Accords are workable, and thus provoke further divisions among Palestinians, under the “rejectionist”.
Damascus continued to play host to radical Palestinian organizations which are far too strange to its claimed secular ideology, such as Hamas, while sister groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood Group are banned and fought against inside Syria.
When one objectively examines the relationship of Damascus to that of the Palestinian cause, one can see manipulation. The Palestinian cause has long been manipulated by the Syrian regime, and was exploited against Palestinian interests, namely the liberation of Palestine.
After the regime’s expropriation of the Palestinian independent decision, Palestinian organizations in name only, such as As-Sa’iqa and “The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command”, promoted solely Syria’s policies. This is what happened and continue to happen in Lebanon.
The worst of all manipulations, the shelling of al-Yarmouk refugee camp (in Damascus) notwithstanding, was the regime’s pushing Palestinian youth a few months ago, to cross the Golan truce lines – for the first violation of the truce since 1973 – in an attempt to divert the attention away from the current popular uprising. As expected, the youth were shot dead by Israelis, in a cheap and tragic propaganda attempt designed by the regime to serve its continued exploitation of the Palestinian issue.
Another illusion worth mentioning, and has been costly to the Palestinians, is that the Palestinian issue is the ONLY Arab national issue. While it will stay a central issue in the Arab conscience, a yardstick of legitimacy of the Arab political order, as well as being part of the Arab human struggle for freedom and dignity, the Palestinian issue it is not the only issue.
It is not possible to separate the rights of Palestinians from those of their brethren in other Arab countries where they live.
In fact, this means that the suppressed Palestinians, long plagued by Israeli occupation, must sympathize with the plight of their Iraqi and Syrian brothers who were oppressed under fascists regimes; and with their Lebanese brothers who are forced to live under the domination of a sectarian project inspired and controlled from the outside under the “resistance” and “liberation” slogans.
Saddam Hussein did not invade Kuwait en route to liberate Palestine, and Hafiz al-Assad and his son did not prepare the Syrian army to fight Israel, but rather to maintain the regime through shelling Syria’s cities and villages as it has been doing for the past 17 months.
In short, our Palestinian brothers must be convinced that a free and dignified Arab future based on human can only be built by free human being who rebels against oppressive regimes hell-bent on taming him.
Here we reach a point where we need to be frank and honest our folks in the Syrian revolution.
The Palestinians’ dilemma with regard to supporting the revolution is part of a much wider and deeper dilemma. It is in the interests of the Syrian revolution, and in order to speed up its success, it needs to insure that it remains honest to its mottos, and underline to all that it has no hidden agendas.
Yesterday I watched a TV interview with one of the most prominent figures in the Muslim Brotherhood, in which he said in a mild diplomatic manner “Syria is an Arab and a Muslim country”, pointing out the two truths that Islam is Syria’s major religion whose people are Arabs by majority.
This talk, amid all of the doubters’ reasons to not support the revolution, works against it and is certainly quite mi placed. Such an attitude requires a serious review.
Without attempting to compare Syria to old Western democracies, I believe the Brotherhood’s mature leadership needs to realize its tasks in the current political struggle.
The percentage of non-Muslims and non-Arabs in Syria is much higher than the percentage of non-Christians and non-British in Britain as well as non-Christians and non-French in France, and yet the Muslims in these two Western countries enjoy full and equal rights in an open civil society. Hereby, I recall that the Queen of Britain is also the head of the Anglican church, and France is a Catholic state from which the Crusades originated but it has become a complete secular state. In France, as in Britain, Jewish and Muslim politicians occupy ministerial posts in the government.
One last word, I hope that when the Syrians celebrate their upcoming civil regime, they hail their sports heroes hailing from the country’s different sects the same way the British celebrated the black Muslim athlete Mohammed Farah, winning gold in the Olympics last Saturday.