Druse express anger at Assad for exploiting Palestinians

Majdal Shams locals encourage border breach, but several say Assad trying to divert attention locally, globally from deadly Syrian crackdown.

druse majdal shams_311 (photo credit: Oren Kessler)
druse majdal shams_311
(photo credit: Oren Kessler)
Hundreds of Majdal Shams residents gathered on Sunday in the Golan Heights village to take in the cross-border cat-and-mouse game between Palestinian-Syrian protesters and IDF troops.
Gawkers gathered on their balconies, on neighbors’ rooftops and in half-finished multi-story homes to watch the confrontation unfold at the famed Shouting Hill on the Syrian border.
RELATED:40 wounded in ‘Naksa Day’ clashes near Jerusalem31 protesters, 4 police killed in northwest Syria clashesGallery: Naksa Day protests erupt along country borders
Like sideline cheerleaders, they yelled words of encouragement across the border fence, occasionally muttering “Allah Akbar” when a wave of marchers charged the barbed-wire fence. Young children waved Syrian and Palestinian flags.
In Majdal Shams, the vaunted “Arab Street” is difficult to gauge. One person says black, another says white, each with compelling conviction and each swearing his is the majority opinion.
“Everyone here supports what happened today,” said Tahrir Fakhereddin, a 30-year-old television cameraman and a member of one of the village’s most prominent families. “Maybe some people are sad to see bloodshed, but everyone supports the border breach.”
“Nobody here supports this – at least not the majority,” said another resident, requesting anonymity. “If they’re trying to get back into Palestine, what are they doing here? This is Syria.”
The Druse of Majdal Shams don’t often speak with a single voice, but when threatened they instinctively close ranks. At one point on Sunday evening, several onlookers (some said they were goaded by the Syrian protesters) hurled stones from a rooftop at soldiers arrayed at the fence.
The troops responded with tear gas, which wafted toward the assembled spectators above, including a Druse religious sheikh. Cries rang out – “the sheikh!” – and residents from across the village streamed out of their homes to Shouting Hill.
A tense standoff ensued, with riot police emerging seemingly out of nowhere to urge restraint. Calm seemed to be restored, at least temporarily.
Off the record, many residents said they believe the Syrian regime was behind the border protest, as it had been last month on “Nakba Day.” It’s no secret that one can’t get anywhere near the border fence without Syrian army permission.
Several locals said Syrian President Bashar Assad was cynically exploiting the Palestinian cause to divert attention locally and globally from his deadly crackdown on a now 11-week-old uprising.
When the conversation turns to the Syrian leader, Fakhereddin again became evasive. “I’m against Assad,” he said, before qualifying himself. “I’m not against Assad, but against the destruction he’s causing. He’s killing people who are trying to achieve their rights.”
On one point, Fakhereddin is crystal clear. “I’m against Assad using Palestinians. If he sent them to do this I’m completely against it. I’m in favor of their rights, but I’m against using them as jokers in a card game.”