As the killings continue, renewed focus is being directed to Syria and Palestine due to President Obama’s recent visit to Israel and the West Bank, Secretary of State Kerry’s visit to Iraq, the resignation of Moab al-Khatib as head of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the latter’s occupation of Syria’s seat at the Arab League.
In a volatile part of the world, the stability of Syria and other influential countries, such as Egypt, is important. Whilst Syria’s friendship with Iran and support for Hamas of the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah of Lebanon were unacceptable to the West, it lived with the Assad regimes of father and son because they were stable internally, their policies were predictable, they neither offered nor posed any military threat to Israel and a different leadership could have been worse. But events have overtaken this thinking. The Arab Spring seized the consciousness of the Syrian people who rose up in rebellion, were mowed down by the regime’s bullets, and have now resorted to armed struggle.
Many people over the world see the situation in Syria from a far different perspective.
The dominant interest of the West in the Middle East has been to maintain the flow of oil, even though both Presidents Bush and Obama expressed concern about the lack of democracy across the region. However, to maintain the supply of oil it has been necessary to ensure internal and external stability over the region, all the more necessary because of the earlier, progressive and modernizing influences of Syria, Egypt, Libya and Iraq after the overthrow of backward, feudal regimes which led to the inevitable contradictions with the West during the Cold War.
The West sustained its hegemony by allowing Israel to have nuclear weapons, aiding its huge and sophisticated army, established military bases in several Arab kingdoms and remained silent to the worst forms of authoritarianism and oppression in individual countries like Saudi Arabia.
The suddenness and intensity of the Arab Spring caught everyone by surprise. Shocked by the unexpected fury of the mass revolt in Tunisia, the West stayed away. Satisfied with the ‘moderate’ complexion of the rebel leadership in Libya, the West intervened militarily. However, it remained effectively silent on the turmoil in Egypt, not being able to predict its outcome and fearing the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, and called for the Mubarak’s resignation only when his fall became clearly inevitable. The West has therefore reacted on a case by case basis as events develop. What has become clear, however, is that since the installation of ‘moderate’ Islamic leaderships in the ‘liberated’ countries, particularly the hitherto demonized Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which continue to limit their people’s rights, show no resistance to Israel’s colonial project in Palestine, the West appears to be now comfortable with the successor regimes.
The case of Syria is different. Along with Iran, Syria provides vital moral support to the Palestinian people. The West claims that they also give military assistance to Hamas and Hezbollah, which they deem to be ‘terrorist’ organizations. These groups have been in armed confrontation with Israel. It is no doubt presumed by the West that if the Syrian link is broken aid to these organizations will be choked off and ‘threats’ to Israel, the mightiest power in the Middle East and one of the mightiest in the world, will cease. However, any weakening of Syria’s friendship of the Palestinian people will sacrifice their struggle to Israel’s gluttony for Palestinian land.
It should be clear to all that no serious attempt will ever be made by either the United States or the European Union to resist Israel’s further encroachment on Palestinian lands or to pressure Israel to seek peace. Their ludicrous posture is that Palestinians, whose lands have been colonized, must now prostrate themselves and sue for peace while their remaining lands are being gobbled up. It should also be clear to all that with Al Fatah’s failing diplomatic efforts, it is only the continued mass but peaceful resistance of the Palestinian people and their allies that will be the key to Palestinian freedom.
The Syria people deserve their freedom from the Assad family dictatorship, however progressive their role in the past may have been. But it must be a freedom which liberates the Syrian people without constraining the liberation of the Palestinian people.
The political and military leadership inside Syria is clearly resisting the imposition of the SNC which has been demonstrated by the recent resignation of Moab al-Khatib. Once it continues to demonstrate an independent position, a new Syrian administration may well be able to shake off any Western influence over its policies in relation Palestinian freedom. This will certainly ensure that an obstruction is not placed in the way for the full internationalization of the Palestinian struggle, which would be the next and final phase of its quest for freedom from Israel’s violent colonial programme being implemented under apartheid-like conditions.