Syrian flag 311.
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Since the pro-democracy protests in Syria began on January 26, 2011, the Syrian
government has been accused of massacring more than 3,000 civilians. Activists
in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and even in Western nations have been targeted, some
even kidnapped by the Syrian government.
While the fanatics are willing
to close their eyes to this oppression, I cannot. Too many innocent people have
been killed. Not even the Palestinian cause is enough to justify looking the
other way. The Palestinian cause should not be advanced through supporting
When pro-democracy protesters started their campaign in
Syria, many Arabs, myself among them, felt conflicted at first. After all, Syria
has always spoken out forcefully in defense of the rights of Palestinians, and
of its Christian minority.
Although Christian communities still exist in
other Arab countries, they are protected and defended more aggressively in Syria
than in places such as Jordan and Egypt, where Islamic extremism continues to
ON THE other hand, Syria is plagued by a dark side. The mukhabarat
(secret police) operate without restrictions. People just disappear in Syria. If
you criticize the Syrian government, you might easily be jailed. If you
criticize Hamas, which has been given safe haven in Syria for years, you could
end up in jail, too.
Also, over the years, Syria has overplayed its hand
in the region. It has done as much damage to Lebanon as the Israelis did in the
Syria has always viewed Lebanon the same way Saddam Hussein’s Iraq
viewed Kuwait – as a piece of their land that was taken away by the Allies after
World War I.
Maybe that’s why Syria has always gone the extra mile to
protect Christians in their country – to strengthen its argument that Lebanon
should be “returned” to Syria.
One of the first signs of the dichotomy
among American Arabs came in June when the American Arab Anti-Discrimination
Committee (ADC) was accused of censoring Syrian pianist Malke Jandali, who
reportedly was to play a song supportive of the pro-democracy
I’ve been a member of ADC, which battles anti-Arab bigotry,
since it was founded in 1980.
In 2010-11 I served as an ADC national
board member. I didn’t like the way the Jandali issue was handled and I
recognized that ADC was coming under the influence of the fanatics.
wasn’t involved in the decision, but extremists were quick to use the
controversy to attack moderates in the Arab community, accusing me and others of
supporting the Assad regime.
Truth rarely matters as much as emotion in
American Arab activism.
Although the fanatics were happy to use the ADC
controversy to attack me, implying they supported Jandali and opposed the Syrian
dictatorship, the truth is their focus had nothing to do with Syrian
pro-democracy protests. As it turns out, it is they who support Syria’s
Why? Because Syria has served as the headquarters of Hamas,
a religious terrorist organization bent on destroying both Israel and the
secular Palestinian leadership.
Since then, more and more American Arab
fanatics have come to the defense of the Syrian dictatorship. It’s troubling
that these loudmouthed extremists, who scream about the injustices committed by
Israel’s government against Palestinian civilians – and those injustices are
serious and ongoing - can turn around in a blink of the eye and support Syrian
They close their eyes to Syrian abuses because in their eyes,
Syria is pivotal in the political battle against Israel. I say political battle
because the Syrian military is so pathetically incompetent and corrupt it
couldn’t fight its way out of a paper bag. Against other militaries, that
Against unarmed civilians, it really shines.
Hamas, Syria also maintains close ties with the little megalomaniac in Tehran,
Iran’s “president” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, another vicious tyrant who exploits
Palestinian suffering for his own interests while oppressing his own
Palestinian rights are based on the principles of justice and the
rule of law, not on the oppression and empty rhetoric of dictators like the one
in Damascus. Syria is an oppressive regime. Whether it is or isn’t a worse evil
than Israel is irrelevant.
If Bashar Assad really cared about Palestinian
democracy and Palestinian rights, he would step down and embrace Syrian
democracy and freedom first.
Watching Egypt’s velvet-hammer dictator
Hosni Mubarak fall, and the murder of Libya’s tyrant Muammar Gaddafi, all in the
wake of the Arab Spring, clearly Bashar Assad’s days are numbered.The
writer is an award winning Palestinian American columnist.