Is Israel using Assad, or is he using Israel?

Does this remind you of Egypt? So what position should Israel take, if it must take any?

Arab Israelis protest Syrian Assad 390 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)
Arab Israelis protest Syrian Assad 390
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)
Regarding Israel’s opinion of the coming civil war in Syria, there is no black and white. Views are mixed. Views are either formed from an empathetic humanitarian ethos, or from an austere military-strategic ethos. The former view seeks to rid the world of any threat of genocide, no matter the details. The latter view poses the question: if the Assad regime falls, does it mean the Islamification of Syria? Would the new regime be a hit or a miss for Iran?
One policy analyst, Khaled Abu Toameh, raised the issue of Islamification in a recent article. “What started as a secular Facebook revolution against the Assad regime is now beginning to look more like a jihad [holy war] led by Muslim fundamentalists,” he wrote. “The Muslim Brotherhood is clearly seeking to hijack the anti-Assad protests, in both the political and military fields.”
Does this remind you of Egypt? So what position should Israel take, if it must take any? Well, in an April 23, 2011, article, former deputy defense minister Efraim Sneh told The Washington Post, “We prefer the devil we know.... Although the Islamist forces are not the majority in the opposition, they are better organized and politically competent. And if we fantasize today that one day we’ll be able to take the secular regime in Syria outside the Iranian orbit, it may be more difficult, if not impossible, if the regime is an Islamist one.”
Islamist or not, Yitzhak Laor penned an editorial for another Israeli daily on June 12, suggesting that when the Assad regime falls, the new regime, beleaguered by civil war, will amplify the demand for the Golan Heights. Still, much of the free world, Israel included, is having a hard time digesting the grizzly butchering in Syria. (At least 10,000 are dead so far).
Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz recently criticized Russia for continuing to arm the Assad regime. He told Israeli radio, “This slaughter is being carried out not far from Israel’s borders. For understandable reasons, Israel cannot be directly involved. But I think that the West, led by the United States, has an interest in guarding the threshold [so] genocide does not take place.”
In a recent article on the blog Electronic Intifada, entitled, “Pointing to Syria to divert attention from Israel’s crimes,” Jamil Sbitan, an American- Palestinian blogger, argued that Zionists are pointing fingers at the genocide in Syria in order to divert attention from their own practice of ethnic cleansing.
What does he mean? Perhaps it is in reference to the fact that Israeli newspapers bear photographs of the carnage in Syria. The blogger from Electronic Intifada writes: “In addition to pink-washing [using Israel’s relative support of gay rights to sugarcoat the country’s apartheid nature] and green-washing [perpetuating the perception that Israel has environmentally-friendly policies to do the same], Zionist advocates are now using a different method: Assad-washing.”
The one time that Israel was directly threatened by the situation in Syria was last April. Naksa Day 2011 occurred only three months after the crackdowns began on the Syrian uprisings. When Palestinian rioters approached the border between Israel and Syria (the Golan Heights, which belong to Israel, and were captured during the 1967 war; and Quneitra, the portion of Syria on which the Golan Heights gazes on from above), hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israel border police and IDF armored cars, the Jewish forces were commanded to open live fire.
Had Israel solely intended to act in demonization of such cold-blooded murderers as Bashar Assad, (as the blogger from Electronic Intifada suggests) they would not have reacted so forcefully against the demonstrators.
Israel’s strict policy towards the Palestinians is built on security. Israel’s security barrier, referred to almost academically as the “apartheid wall,” is not to sniff out the Arab blood and make life impossible, but to protect the liberal standards of the new Jewish state – still sans a constitution – from extreme Islamism; more akin to the Berlin Wall than the country where Akfrikaans is spoken.
A point in case is presented in a new documentary entitled, Israel/Palestine – The Invisible Men, from JourneyMan Pictures, written and produced by Yariv Mozer, that apparently depicts the lives of two homosexual Muslims from the West Bank who must seek refuge in Israel – where it is illegal for them to be – from homophobic abuses by their family and government.
When Israel dismissed April’s “flytilla” protest, pointing to human rights abuses in Syria and Iran, it must have hatched the myth that Israel was using Assad to hide its own atrocities. Pro- Palestinian activists aboard April’s “flytilla” demonstration were greeted at Ben-Gurion Airport with letters stamped and signed by Jerusalem begging activists to focus their humanitarian concern on the “Syrian regime’s daily savagery against its own people, which has claimed thousands of lives... [and] the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown on dissent and support of terrorism throughout the world... [and]... the Hamas rule in Gaza, where terror organizations commit a double war crime by firing rockets at civilians and hiding behind civilians...”
For the enemy of the state, it would be easy to make the argument that Israel, as perpetrators of war crimes and ethnic cleansing are just conducting a campy campaign to hide the horrors of their own government. But even Noam Sheizaf from the left-wing +972 magazine told a correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, “Palestinians understand they will not see a sovereign state from the peace process, and they are trying to bring their issue back to the basic denial of human rights.... If I were a newsroom editor I would focus on Syria and Afghanistan as well...”
One thing you can be certain of: Noam Sheizaf is not Assad-washing.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Israel.