Robin Yassin-Kassab

Daniel Lazare

with 7 comments

grosz2Throughout April, Leila and I spoke about Syria and our book Burning Country in the United States and Canada. Some audiences were large , some were small. A couple contained a preponderance of anarchists, a couple included people from the State Department. Some were academic, some were grassroots. One was entirely Syrian. Audience questions stretched from those informed by various conspiracy theories to those grounded in humanity, intelligence, and information.

We heard some strange things, but were only once confronted by a highly aggressive, profoundly ignorant and prejudiced white man. This was during our talk at Columbia University, New York. This character was the first to put up his hand after our presentations. He’d been glaring, particularly at Leila, throughout the talks.

He was almost spitting with anger. How could Leila describe Iran as a prime generator of sectarianism, he wanted to know, when everyone knew it was Saudi Arabia? He himself knew for sure that Syria’s 2011 protest movement was entirely made up of Sunnis, and that they were calling for the blood of the Alawis and Christians from the first day. He knew that all the Christians and Alawis and Druze had demonstrated for Assad. He named a French commentator as evidence for this (Fabrice someone?), and expressed admiration for Patrick Cockburn, who I’d criticised in my talk.

And so he encapsulated some of the worst characteristics of this pro-fascist ‘left’ that has run so badly aground. The lack of detail, and useless binarism, of the Iran/Saudi comment; the orientalism and Islamophobia of the rest; the anger born of a sense of entitlement to narrate other people’s struggles; and the reliance on French and Irish commentators rather than on Syrian revolutionary voices. Neither Leila nor I claim to be Syrian revolutionary voices, but we have interviewed many Syrian revolutionaries, including many from Christian and Alawi backgrounds, who were part of the protest movement from the start. In my answer I mentioned them, and also towns like Yabroud, with a very high proportion of ‘religious minorities’, which liberated themselves from Assad’s forces and set up free local councils and Free Army militias instead. The angry man tutted and spat through my answer. At least two Syrian Christians were in the room, rolling their eyes as he spat.

Leila was disturbed by him. I told her not to dwell on it. The man was so emotionally overwrought he probably had mental problems, like so many in this city. But afterwards we learnt that the angry man is a Stalinist ‘intellectual’, that he writes for the ugly magazine Jacobin, and that his name is Daniel Lazare.

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

May 7, 2016 at 2:23 pm

Posted in leftism

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7 Responses

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  1. Lazare is truly demented. Like many in this milieu, it is a Jekyll-Hyde phenomenon. He can be quite lucid when it comes to the origins of the American constitution but on Syria, the fangs come out.


    May 7, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    • Oh yes!-how foolish of the man to think that a Saudi dictatorship that has promoted extremist sectarian Wahhabi doctrines throughout the world, and actively funded those ‘moderate’ rebels along with Qatar and Turkey and with full support of Western governments, could have anything to do with the war in Syria. Of course it’s all Iran’s fault!


      May 8, 2016 at 11:42 pm

      • Questions and criticisms of the Saudi, Qatari and Turkish roles are legitimate (though not in your sneering terms). But Lazare didn’t pose those questions, he merely ranted in a sectarian and ignorant way. Yes, I would stick to the position that in Syria, Iran’s tens of thousands of occupation troops and tens of thousands more transnational but Iran-organised Shia jihadist militiamen are more of a driver of sectarianism than occasional Saudi aid to the Free Army and Jaish al-Islam.

        Robin Yassin-Kassab

        May 9, 2016 at 7:12 pm

  2. thanks for your visit to Montreal. i understand the critique of this bizarre DL, but “ugly Jacobin magazine”? is it because what they have published about Syria is rubbish? the reason I ask is because articles on a few other topics seem ok to me. but i’d like to be aware of drifts.

    mary ellen davis

    May 9, 2016 at 3:35 am

    • Yes, Mary, I consider them ugly because of their Syria coverage

      Robin Yassin-Kassab

      May 9, 2016 at 7:09 pm

  3. Your tour was brilliant. Thanks for the stop in Toronto and for all your work refusing to let the syrian revolution be silenced.


    May 11, 2016 at 12:17 am

  4. Let me second that, please feel welcome in Toronto anytime.

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