Robin Yassin-Kassab

Palestinian Assadists

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There’s nothing more ridiculous than a Palestinian Assadist. For western Assadists, the Arab world is a blank on which to project ideological fantasies. But the Palestinians are part of this world. So what makes some repeat inhuman and absurd Assadist propaganda?

One Revolution, by Abosherkoshamalhawa

How has the Assad regime under father and son won such loyalty? Is it because in 1967 Hafez al-Assad, then defence minister, ordered the Syrian army to retreat from the Golan before any Israeli soldiers had turned up? So the Golan was handed to Israel, which then annexed it. Or is it because in 1973 Hafez al-Assad, now in absolute control, lost another war (not surprising given his endless purges and rabid sectarianization of the army) but spun the defeat as a historic victory and proof of his nationalist genius? Perhaps it’s because early in the Lebanese civil war, the Assad regime, which had loudly proclaimed its support for the Palestinian/Muslim/leftist alliance, intervened, but on the side of the pro-Israel Maronite Falangists to defeat the Palestinian/Muslim/Leftist alliance? Or could it be because throughout the 1980s the Assad regime slaughtered tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians in camps in Lebanon, most notably at Tel Za’atar? Perhaps it’s because the regime under Bashar utterly destroyed Yarmouk camp, until then Syria’s most important centre of Palestinian culture. Or because the regime tortured and starved so many Palestinians to death during the Syrian Revolution. Or maybe Assadist Palestinians love the regime because its reign has seen all of Syria parceled out to foreign powers – Russia, Iran, the United States, Turkey, the Turkish-Kurdish PKK, as well as the part it had already handed to Israel. Perhaps they believe the destruction of Syria’s cities, the murder of a million Syrians, and the expulsion of millions more, will in the end hasten the liberation of Palestine.

I should say that very many, probably most, Palestinians sympathise with the revolutionary Syrian people and not with the regime (and its allies) killing them. The more working class and more religious the Palestinian, the more this is the case (in my experience). And among liberal middle class activists there are many decent people who have shown solidarity with Syrians. Here’s a great statement by some of them from 2016. But some of the signatories were ostracised by other Palestinians for signing. Amongst the West Bank middle classes, including not a few faux-intellectuals, there’s plenty of Assadism. There’s also, for God’s sake, the statue of Saddam Hussein at Bir Zeit.

Why is it that this kind of Palestinian, the very kind who in previous decades we might have considered as being at the forefront of radical politics in the Arab world, has become enmeshed in such backward and inhumane modes of thought? It might be because the Palestinians haven’t experienced the revolutionary wave of the Arab Spring. This isn’t really their fault. They are stuck with the old nationalist narratives because they are stuck with a foreign occupation. Whereas their neighbours have moved on to postcolonial struggles. The foreign occupations have gone (or had gone, before Assad brought them back), so the struggle now is against those gangsters who seized control of the weakened countries the colonialists left behind.

The Palestinians, through no fault of their own, are stuck in a previous age, and some therefore have got stuck in old, already-disproved stories. But those stuck should unstick themselves, for their own sakes. Because the ‘strong men’ of the Arab states have done nothing to help Palestinians. How many more decades of failure will it take to understand that these strong men are only strong against the suffering Arabs in the countries they’re looting? Saddam Hussein broke some bricks in Tel Aviv. Hooray. He also broke Iraq, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and created the conditions for American invasion and Iranian dominance.

The strong men that make their countries weak will never help. The Arab peoples – who genuinely support Palestinian rights – might, if only they’re liberated to do what they can, by word and deed, by organisation. Like Tal al-Mallouhi, a Syrian teenager who blogged in support of Palestine. A young girl encouraging her society to do what it could to help Palestinians. The regime threw her in prison in 2009. Syrian prisons are a thousand times worse than Israeli prisons. She’s still there. A hundred times I must have heard a Palestinian bitterly complaining that the Arabs don’t do enough for their cause, and I’ve usually agreed. But the problem here is with the regimes which lock up girls who blog for Palestine, not with the girls themselves.

How do you expect your Arab brothers and sisters to support your cause when you support the tyrants and foreign imperialists who are killing them? Most Arabs, especially Syrians, do support the Palestinian cause, despite these faux-intellectual monsters. Of course, not only Palestinians are guilty. There are those who want democracy in Syria but love the memory of Saddam in Iraq. There are those who want freedom for Bahrain but not for Syria. There are those who want voting rights, but not for the poor who might vote for Islamists. Solidarity between peoples is what will give us strength. Only when we all want freedom for everybody without exception will we will achieve it. So long as we accept the subjugation of any people or any individual, we will all be subjugated.


Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 5, 2023 at 8:30 am

Posted in Palestine, Syria

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