By Sergio Pérez
While Syrians continue to lose their lives, or struggle to survive, under atrocious conditions, subjected to indiscriminate shelling and airstrikes, displaced, besieged, starved, and tortured in every conceivable way, a heated exchange of indictments has taken place among left-wingers in the stormy arena of the social media.
At the centre are some prominent, mostly Western figures of the pro-Palestinian activism, who are charged with denialism and/or accused of displaying a deafening silence on the Syrian uprising and the brutal repression that it has been facing at the hands of Assad regime—a regime, we shouldn’t forget, that is responsible for over 95% of civilian deaths and accused by the UN of crimes against humanity amount to “extermination” which “far outnumber those of ISIS militants and other jihadist groups”.The arguments that these figures have used seem to reveal, oddly enough, striking similarities to those that Zionists make in defense of Israel.
To be precise, we must distinguish two principal trends in the so-called denialist Left: the hawkish and the dovish.
Hawkish and Dovish
Detached from reality, hawkish Zionists will deny any evil inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians. When acknowledged, the evil will be justified as a collateral damage or a necessary step in the name of security and counterterrorism. Their denialism will frequently lead them to claims of forgery and fake (“Pallywood”) even in the face of insurmountable evidence to the contrary.
Detached from reality, the Geo-Stalinist anti-Imperialist Left will deny any evil inflicted by Assad and his allies on the Syrian people. When acknowledged, the evil will be justified as a collateral damage or a necessary step in the name of security and counterterrorism. Their denialism will frequently lead them to claims of fabrication (“White Helmets’ soap opera, just to force NATO to intervene”), all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
Partially detached from reality, dovish Zionism will acknowledge many evils inflicted by Israel on the Palestinian people, but they will all be rationalized in the name of the lesser evil, that is, the preservation of the Zionist regime and its allegedly more progressive cause (a modern, secular, supportive of minorities regime). Moreover, dovish Zionism adopts the discourse of the “moral equivalence”, that is, the idea that both Palestinian and Israelis commit crimes and must therefore resolve their differences through “diplomacy” (as if both sides are equal). But most of the time, dovish Zionists remain silent.
Partially detached from reality, dovish left denialists will acknowledge many evils inflicted by Assad and his allies on the Syrian people, but they all will be rationalized in the name of the lesser evil, that is, the preservation of the Assad regime and its allegedly more progressive cause (a modern, secular, supportive of minorities regime). Moreover, dovish denialist Left adopts the discourse of the “moral equivalence”, that is, that both pro-regime and anti-regime sides have committed crimes and all they need to do is to engage in “diplomacy”, their imbalance in power and legitimacy notwithstanding. But most of the time, dovish denialist Left remains silent.
At the end of the day, hawkish and dovish Zionists share a number of common denominators:
– Denialism, detachment from reality, false objectivity. – No matter the amount of evidences, all Zionists, hawkish and dovish alike, will distort the reality on the ground by diminishing, to a greater or lesser extent, the responsibility of Israel and its policies in the origin and perpetuation of the “conflict”.
– Exclusion of Palestinian voices. – In a paragon of Orientalism, hawkish and dovish Zionists will converge to keep out of focus the voices and stories of Palestinians, who in spite of being the overwhelming majority of the victims, are not seen as entitled agents of a narrative which is always narrated by others.
– Maintenance of the statu quo by act or omission. – By totally or partially exonerating Israel, the maintenance becomes indeed an act of deepening and consolidation of the oppression and grim realities Palestinians are living under.
Similarly, at the end of the day hawkish and dovish denialist leftists share a number of common denominators:
– Denialism, detachment from reality, false objectivity. – No matter the amount of evidences, all denialist leftists, hawkish and dovish alike, will distort the reality on the ground by diminishing, to a greater or lesser extent, the responsibility of the Assad regime and its policies in the origin and perpetuation of the bloodbath.
– Exclusion of Syrian voices. – In a paragon of Orientalism, hawkish and dovish denialist leftists will converge to keep out of focus the voices and stories of Syrians, who in spite of being the victims, are not seen as entitled agents of a narrative which is always narrated by others, preferentially from the West.
– Maintenance of the statu quo by act or omission. – By totally or partially exonerating the Assad regime, the maintenance becomes indeed an act of deepening and consolidation of the savagery and bloody realities Syrians are living under.
These telling similitudes between the Leftist denialism on Syria and the Zionist denialism in Palestine should not come as a total surprise. The denialist Left’s ideological and moral mirroring of highly reactionary movements as Zionism, or even totalitarian ones as Stalinism, must be understood in the light of an extreme recusal of popular voices when they do not confirm the guidelines of the perfect anti-imperialist’s playbook. There are many signs to suspect that, far from being driven by a genuine concern for human rights and welfare of the masses, much of the denialist leftists’ selective solidarity with Palestinians seems indeed to flow from the very same source that irrigates its categorical opposition to the uprising in Syria; namely, an unshakeable loyalty to geopolitics and high decision-making.
Thus, as long as a popular uprising does not compromise the geopolitical balance, it will be rewarded with approval, perhaps with enthusiastic advocacy. However, when a popular uprising does contradict the script or cannot be used as a spearhead against geopolitical foes, the whole spectrum of infuriated denialist leftists will make common cause against it, maybe to remind us, once again, that ordinary people are and should always be mere pawns on the chessboard of History.
This is nothing new to the Left. Virtually throughout its entire existence, and especially since the rise of the Soviet Union, it has been a movement dramatically split by a radical, profound schism. As a result, two irreconcilable, ferociously antagonistic sides have emerged: on one side, those who pledge allegiance to geopolitical calculations and axes of power; on the other, those who join their voices to the clamor of the masses longing for freedom.
Nearly half a century ago, a radical and fiercely independent Marxist thinker, Hal Draper, wrote a piece which lucidly illustrates the huge gap between these two moral and political standpoints:
“The first need is very simple: we need maximum manifestations of solidarity and support for the Czechoslovak people, against their foreign oppressors (…) We [in the Left] have a special duty to make our protest heard; and also, there is a special meaning for those who fail to do so. World protest is just getting underway, after the shock, and silence on this international crime is just as significant as silence on the American crime in Vietnam”.
— Hal Draper, “The Russian Invasion of Czechoslovakia” (August, 1968).
As for the actual case of Syria, and judging by numbers, it seems the denialist Left has gained the upper hand over the Left.
But immolating ordinary Syrians on the altar of Geopolitics is, and always be, an evil who will meet fierce opposition. Firstly by the Syrians themselves, who will hardly forget all the contempt and treachery displayed by those who like to be called anti-Imperialists.
They, Syrians, cannot be blamed for that.
— Sergio Pérez is Editor-in-Chief of Bósforo Libros, a publishing house mainly focusing on the Question of Palestine.