Immediate Responses to Israel’s Attack

qassioun burningIsrael’s attack on Assad’s military bases on Mount Qassioun above Damascus have provoked mixed feelings amongst Syrians. On the one hand, Syrians have been well aware for over two years that Assad’s army is designed not to confront Zionism but to slaughter the Syrian people. For a year and a half Mount Qassioun has been the launching pad for for artillery and missile attacks on civilian areas of Damascus and its suburbs. On the other hand, hatred and mistrust of Israel rightly runs very deep indeed among the people, far deeper than among the regime which, despite all its rhetoric, has not once (since 1973) responded to Israeli violations of Syrian sovereignty. Syrians know that Israel’s attack is an attempt to exploit the revolutionary situation for Israel’s own ends, that it is part of Israel’s confrontation with Iran – something Syrians want no part of, however much they may hate Iran’s criminal support of the genocidal Assad regime – and that it offers grist to Assad’s propaganda mill.

Here are some immediate responses to Israel’s attack. The Syrian National Coalition released this statement, including this line: “The Coalition holds the Assad regime fully responsible for weakening the Syrian Army by exhausting its forces in a losing battle against the Syrian people.” Many Arabic language Youtube videos show various Free Army and Salafist militias condemning both Israel and Assad’s regime.

I wrote this on Facebook:

Assad responds to the Israeli attack by escalating his sectarian massacres on the coast and his bombardment of Syrian cities, including the Palestinian refugee camp at Yarmouk. Infantile so-called ‘anti-imperialists’ everywhere cheer on Assad’s ‘heroic resistance’.

By ‘sectarian massacres on the coast’ I was referring specifically to the ongoing slaughter of Sunnis in al-Bayda and other areas of Banyas, causing thousands to flee the area.

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Embedded Fisk

In this piece, first published at Open Democracy, Yassin al-Haj Saleh and Rime Allaf, two of Syria’s brightest intellectuals, discuss Robert Fisk’s moral and professional collapse.

The international media has not always been kind to Syria’s revolutionary people. For months on end, many of the latter turned themselves into instant citizen-journalists to document their uprising and the violent repression of the Syrian regime, loading clips and photos taken from their mobile-phones to various social networks; still, the established media, insinuating that only it could really be trusted, covered these events with an ever-present disclaimer that these images could not be independently verified. Since the Damascus regime was refusing to allow more than a trickle of foreign media personnel into the country, chaperoned by the infamous minders, what the Syrians themselves were reporting was deemed unreliable.

Nevertheless, an increasing number of brave journalists dared to sneak into Syria at great personal risk, reporting the same events which activists had attempted to spread to the world. For the most part, experienced journalists were perfectly capable of distinguishing between straight propaganda from a regime fighting for its survival and real information from a variety of other sources. Overwhelmingly, ensuing reports about Syria gave a voice to “the other side” or at least quoted opposing points of view, if only for balance. In some cases, journalists found no room to cater for the regime’s claims, especially when reporting from civilian areas under relentless attack by Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

It was from the wretched Homs district of Baba Amr, under siege and shelling for an entire month, that the late Marie Colvin, amongst others, testified on the eve of her death under the regime’s shells about the “sickening situation” and the “merciless disregard for the civilians who simply cannot escape.” Like her, most of those who managed to get into Syria have testified about the regime’s repression of a popular uprising, even after the latter evolved to include an armed rebellion.

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The Other Pole

Rime Allaf has an unmissable piece in the Guardian. As a counterpoint to the sectarian war scenario we’re hearing so much about, Rime offers the other pole.

From 1946, spoiled by the US-sponsored coup of 1949 which first brought military rule to the region, Syria witnessed a shortlived parliamentary democracy, a vibrant civil society and a brief period of a free press, and it elected leaders whose names remain embedded in the national memory as examples of the Syria it can be, and it should be. While perhaps initially elitist in nature, unlike the current varied spectrum of opposition groups and revolutionary committees, it is a logical inspiration for the future.

The whole article is well worth reading. There are good observations on how the supposed fractiousness of the ‘opposition’ is not necessarily a bad thing, and important commentary on the future ramifications of Iranian miscalculations.

One major issue may change in the post-Assad era: relations with Iran and Hezbollah. The strategic alliance with Iran since the Islamic revolution flourished under Bashar al-Assad’s reign, especially following the invasion of Iraq, but Iranian support in repressing the current protests won’t easily be forgotten. Likewise, the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s support for the Syrian regime has incensed many, especially after his praise for every other Arab uprising; only last year, it would have been unimaginable to see Hezbollah’s flag burned in Syria, as it has been recently.