On the Issue of Palestinian Support for the Assad Regime

Palestinian public opinion in regards to the Syrian Revolution (or as some call it, the Syrian Civil War) is divided at best. There are those who are supporters of the revolution, those who oppose it, and those who are simply undecided. What I will try to argue is as follows: A) The Syrian regime is no true friend of the Palestinian people, B) Palestinians have a moral obligation to support the Syrian people in their quest for freedom, perhaps more than others, and C) The idea that this revolution is exclusively an act of foreign imperialism or proxy war is nothing but a myth.

 First of all, the Assad family is no friend of Palestine. Before Hafez even became president of Syria, he was a commander of the Syrian Air Force. In 1966, when Salah Jadid took over leadership in Syria in a military coup, he was appointed a Defense Minister, effectively becoming the country’s second in command. In 1970, in the wake of Black September, Syria sided with the Palestinians, sending in armored divisions into Jordan. This marks the first occasion of Assad betraying the Palestinians. As commander of the Air Force, he refused to provide the air cover necessary for the Syrian aid to reach the Palestinians. Because of this, the Syrian forces were re-routed and the Palestinians suffered the consequences of losing. Assad used this particular defeat to discredit Jadid and take over via military coup.

 That particular instant is not the first occasion and is certainly not the last. In 1976, at the height of the Lebanese Civil War, the Syrian army aided the Phalangist militia in besieging the Palestinian Tel Al-Zaatar refugee camp in Lebanon. After the Syrians and their Lebanese allies shelled the camp, 3000 Palestinians died.  The Syrian army was instrumental in the siege of Palestinian refugee camps by the Amal movement, which left several thousand Palestinians dead. The Syrian role in the Lebanese Civil War would lead to many more Palestinian deaths. It should be telling of the nature of the Assad Regime; psychopathic killers with no friends.

 Not to mention, Syria has been a perfect “enemy” to Israel for decades. Since 1973, the Syrian army has fired an illustrious zero bullets into Israel. Even with their territory occupied, they remained quiet even when Israeli planes went as far as flying over Assad’s palace in 2006. This illusion that the Syrian regime is the only regime fighting Israel is simply that, an illusion. There is no question that Assad is not by any means a friend of the Palestinian people.

 Additionally, what is happening in Syria is a crime against humanity. Thousands are dying, the country is destroyed beyond repair, and millions are refugees. Which is why it is enraging to find Palestinians who support Assad. As a people, we Palestinians know exactly what it is like to be killed in the thousands, lose our country, and have to live our lives as refugees. A Palestinian who can’t see the parallels between what Israel did to Palestinians and what Assad is doing to his own people is simply blind.

 If we as a people can be comfortable with the idea that Assad can get away with the murder of his people, then our 65 years under occupation have taught us nothing. Palestinians should be at the forefront of support for any people who are facing killing, forced to leave their country, and being repressed in the most brutal ways possible. The hypocrisy of a Palestinian who spends hours talking about the injustice in Israeli jails while simultaneously supporting a regime that has kept tens of thousands in much worse imprisonment conditions is astounding. How can we be taken seriously as advocates of freedom when we only advocate it when it suits our own purposes? How can anyone talk about Israel killing Palestinians while accepting and condoning the killing of Syrians? The answer is simple. Those two positions simply cannot coexist without hypocrisy.

 Some cite Assad’s support for Hamas as reason enough to support him. I will not even begin to talk about how genuine that support really is. Instead, I want to raise the question of whether that support is worth 70,000 dead Syrians (at least). Is it not selfish and entirely wrong for Palestinians to equate support for their resistance with the destruction of Syria? It really says something about us as a people if we genuinely thought it to be the case. As a Palestinian, I would rather lose support for the resistance than watch fellow Arabs be slaughtered in the thousands.

 Then there are those who are not pro Assad but oppose the Free Syrian Army. Some argue that it is a proxy of the United States. But in reality, how much help is the US giving the FSA? I have yet to see weapons on that scale being used by the FSA. That point aside, can we look at our own resistance for a second? Did the PLO not receive aid from a number of sources?  The PLO found itself taking aid wherever it could find it. If the Syrian Revolution is a proxy war by the United States against Syria, then I could just as easily label our own struggle as a proxy war by the Soviet Union against an American ally (in the 70s, 80s). I can understand the aversion to foreign involvement, but to go as far as expecting the FSA to be picky about the aid it receives (as little as it is) is ridiculous. Just as Hamas would love aid from any source possible, be it Qatar or Iran, the FSA should be allowed to receive aid from whomever as well. And besides, what’s the difference between Hezbollah being armed by Iran and the FSA being armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar? That argument simply does not add up.

 At first I thought Assad had no support amongst Palestinians. Then I met his supporters and was genuinely shocked. You would have thought that the Palestinian people, as well versed as they are in the oppression of regimes, would be quick to solidarity with those experiencing a similar injustice as their own. The hypocrisy of this support Assad found within the ranks of Palestinians is astounding, and no Palestinian should be unnerved by it. We, as a people, always question how Arabs could have allowed the destruction of Palestine in 1948. We cannot fathom how people simply did not react. Yet now, we witness the destruction of Syria and some of us have the nerve to condone it. Whatever the percentage of Palestinians who support Assad is, it’s too high. And every single one of us should be held accountable for its existence, for if any Palestinian continues to condone this regime, they are unworthy of Palestine.

Tariq Al-Falluji

Tariq Al-Faluji is another Palestinian who found himself robbed of a homeland. He is a college student who was raised to stand up for what’s right, whether it is in Palestine, Syria, Bahrain, or anywhere in the Arab World. Tariq tweets here and blogs here.

Comments

  1. As a Lebanese who was full of rage watching the emergency Arab League summit during the 2006 war against Israel, I could say that Palestinians might be suffering from frustration. I was deeply frustrated by how Mubarak was joking around and the Saudi king was smiling and laughing and I had to watch my country burn simultaneously, even though Saudi Arabia could’ve stopped the war in one day. I’m not saying Assad did much but at least he transported weapons.

    And the same might apply to Palestinians. Qatar and KSA sure as hell have the financial capability to assist Hamas. They’ve had this capability for decades and did nothing since the last war in 60s-70s. Yet, as soon as an uprising starts in Syria, cash flows into the FSA like it’s Christmas? (or Eid, in this case)

    Again, both Assad and these states didn’t do much for Palestine. But Palestinians do need a sliver of hope whenever they can get it, and Assad does tend to be more outspoken when it comes to Israel, even if no bullet has been fired towards Israel since 1973. I guess their support for him will decrease when they realize he’ll never do crap for them.

  2. This essay seems to be dodging issues, obviously, for example,
    “Some cite Assad’s support for Hamas as reason enough to support him. I will not even begin to talk about how genuine that support really is. Instead, I want to raise the question of whether that support is worth 70,000 dead Syrians (at least).”
    So your answer to “Assad supports Hamas” is “Yeah, but Assad had thousands of Syrians killed in the war”, which is basically like saying “I don’t want to talk about Hamas, let’s talk about casualties.” Is that not dodging? Why mention Hamas at all then? Why not “talk about how genuine that support really is”?

    Whether you are Palestinian or not, you are a human being and we ought to desire justice. Reality is: in Syria we have a proxy war going on and ask yourself which side you support: FSA (supported by KSA/Qatar/NATO) or Syria (supported by Russia/Iran, encouraged by Hezbollah). And ask WHY these groups would want this or that side to win. If Assad falls, what kind of state will exist and would it really be better for Syria? Besides those who actually admire the Saudi government model–Does anyone really believe that “freedom” as it were would be better for the Syrian people? Are they truly looking for this so-called freedom via KSA weapons? (http://bbc.in/Q8EYJs)

    The “Arab spring” ended for Syria long ago–the protests are over because reforms took place. The war is proxy war that very few Syrians want to see fought and in fact has led more to support Assad as a protector of foreign intervention. Check out the actual FSA fighters–are people aware of how many of those rebels are not Syrians?

    As for Palestine, do they want to see the “Syria” of the future sign a KSA/NATO-brokered “peace” treaty with the Zionist entity? Do you want another KSA? Ask Khamenei, ask Nasrallah…or perhaps their support for Palestine is also not “genuine”….

  3. Question says:

    Can this logic be used for Palestinians who supported Saddam? That even though he supported the resistance and treated Palestinians in Iraq very well compared to Palestinians in Lebanon and Syria, he was still responsible for a lot of Kurdish and Shia suffering? Sorry if my question seems obvious but I’m still learning the politics and I see a significant amount of Palestinians speak highly of him. Thanks!

  4. What is happening in Syria is a terrible tragedy! Any person whether he is Israeli, Palestinian or whatever must condemn the Assad regime and its proxies. As a humanist, I do believe that we must reach a true peace agreement with our Palestinian neighbours. This of course means an end to the Israeli occupation so that both nations can live side by side in dignity and respect. We need to have a true dialogue similar the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa so that a process of healing can commence between the two sides. I have discussed this at length in my blog dedicated to the finding of a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

  5. Zéphora says:

    It is ignorance, lies, manipulation that keeps the slave and prisoner a man When I read this reflection Tariq, I understand why the Palestinians have not yet obtained their independence and not able to drive the Enemy from home. The reason may be because they serve policy, so make it harder to dominate. To understand, we must read the story of Korah!

  6. Zéphora says:

    Maybe that Tarik is simply a Jewish Zionist who is disgusted to see that more and more Palestinians have come to his senses. And now, they support more Syrian President.

  7. The writer is correct when describing Syria’s history in relation to the struggle for Palestine although he has a few details wrong. Following his refusal to support Syrian intervention in support of the Palestinians in Jordan in Black September, it was President Nurredin al-Atassi who Hafez al-Assad overthrew to seize power. He also shut down the Syrian sponsored militia, al-Saika (which was funding the DFLP, and threw hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists in Syrian prisons.

    In 1976, it was not Amal, a Shia organzation that al-Assad assisted in massacring the residents of Tal al-Zaatar in East Beirut but the Christian Falange. In 1983, he had “his” Palestinian militia under Abu Musa, attack the Palestinian refugee camps of Bedawi and Nahr al-Bahrad outside of Tripoli because they were followers of Fatah. Those attacks caused so many casualties, all of whom were brought to the hospital in Tripoli, that it was almost impossible to walk on the floor of the hospital without slipping on the blood and I can say that because I was there.

    That all being said and recognizing that Bashar’s regime has been no less a dictatorship than that of his father, to portray the horrible conflict now taking place in Syria as being between the forces of good vs. evil is, tragically naive. While it may have been that way at the beginning when peaceful non-violent protests were met with violence from the regime, the non-violent movement was quickly pushed to the margins by armed fighters coming in from Lebanon , Iraq, and elsewhere, paid by the Saudis and Qatar, to overthrow the regime irrespective of the cost in lives or the future of Syria as a way to address the loss of Sunni control (after three centuries!) over Iraq in the wake of the US overthrow of Saddam.

    We need to face the fact that any regime, whatever its base or system of government, will respond with disproportionate violence to an armed insurrection and that is what the bank rollers and foreign fighters were counting on. So, for example, they came into Aleppo, which had yet to see any armed resistance on the part of the people of that city, and they started attacking the government forces, knowing and counting on the government forces striking back and killing innocent civilians. And this has been the story of that war for the past year. Where are those million plus refugees from the fighting coming from? Aleppo and other cities in which anti-regime fighters launched attacks against government forces without consulting the people from whose neighborhoods they did so, and then they fled, leaving the civilians to bear the brunt of the government response.

    Israelis are publicly saying that they want both sides to continue fighting so they will kill each other and make less trouble for Israel, but what those who support justice need to be demanding is an end to the fighting without pre-conditions and a meeting of all Syrian parties to the conflict to find a way to rebuild the country and schedule internationally monitored elections with Assad remaining in office until the elections are over. Those who demand that Assad must go first are simply endorsing more killing whether they mean to do so or not.

  8. Very well said! I always hate hearing how the assad regime not “negotiating” with israel gives them the right to be hailed as the palestinian friend for life!! I can promise you that the syrian government is more friends with Israel that it has ever been to Palestine!!
    And it pains and hurts me, when I have always been so vocal of all injustices throughout the arab world, in particular Palestine, that they then support a tyrant who treats us the way they have been treated for 65 yrs! What is the point of making israelis compare your suffering to the holocoust? If you cannot see our very same suffering. Thank you for writing this article Tariq – and may both our countries, and all the world, find the peace and freedom they deserve!

  9. As I agree with the writer in some points, but I still feel that his article severely lacks an understanding of the other side of the conflict- the FSA and its opponents. Do you think that the flock of hundreds of Arabic and Moslem Jihadists is the solution to an independent Syria, based on what we see of behading and destroying of christians and shiates and non-practising moslems ? Why those jihadists never aided the Palestinian resistance and now they appear in thousands? what is the role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in aiding the Palestinians, where now they are providing millions of tons of weapons to those Jihadists, why not sending anything to PLO?!!! Yes Assad was not always a good friend of Palestine ? but the other side have a specific demands and major ally of the USA? Also, why Israel is bombing Assad? and All the west want him out? does that tell you a bit about his stance about colonialism?!!!!

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  1. […] On the Issue of Palestinian Support for the Assad Regime […]

  2. […] collaborated with western imperialist governments on many occasions. It is the same regime that refused to assist the Palestinians and progressive Jordanian groups in overthrowing the conservative Hashemite […]

  3. […] + On the Issue of Palestinian Support for the Assad Regime: http://beyondcompromise.com/2013/04/28/on-the-issue-of-palestinian-support-for-the-assad-regime/ […]

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