Saturday, June 28, 2008

Refugees in Syria and Settlers in Palestine

In the aftermath of the US war on Iraq, large numbers of Iraqi civilians were forced to flee the country, most of whom were taken in as refugees in Syria and Jordan. Syria suddenly saw its population increase by at least 1.5 million people as it opened its doors to Iraqis attempting to escape from the dangerous and miserable conditions in their country resulting from America's devastation and occupation of Iraq. Recently, the US State Department coordinator for Iraqi refugees expressed his appreciation of Syria's role by stating: “We salute Syria, the government and its people for its generosity in welcoming” Iraqis who fled the US-led 2003 war. Mr. Foley went on to "recognise the considerable burdens that are shouldered here by the Syrian government and its people... (and) are appreciative of the co-operation that we have on this issue."

Syria in fact has been a haven for refugees throughout its recent history, as people fleeing various wars, massacres, and campaigns of ethnic cleansing have found a haven in Syria, where they were welcomed and treated equally to all Syrians. The list of refugees includes Armenians, Kurds, Palestinians, Lebanese, and today Iraqis. This issue was a subject of debate on Syria Comment, a blog discussing matters related to the Syrian Arab Republic organized by University of Oklahoma Professor Joshua Landis. Within the discussion, one of the comments was offered by an "Israeli" participant, who argued that just as Syria has welcomed "Arab" refugees, Israel has previously welcomed "Jewish" refugees and granted them full citizenship. This claim distorts the whole issue of refugees and misrepresents and mischaracterizes both Syria's welcoming of refugees and the nature of the Jewish state of "Israel."

First, Syria did not only welcome "Arab" refugees as the "Israeli" participant claims, without going further into the definition of what constitutes an "Arab." Large numbers of Armenians and Kurds, as well as some Circassians have all found refuge in Syria. Syria has opened its doors to all peoples suffering from various unfortunate circumstances, regardless of race, nationality, or religion. Second, Syria is not a state founded on exclusionary principles and was not established pursuant to the ethnic cleansing of an indigenous people and its replacement with a foreign group. A Syrian, in this regard, is defined merely as a citizen of the Syrian state and is not required to trace his/her roots back to a particular ethnic/racial group.

This is contrary to the very basis under which "Israel" was created and the reasons why Jews were taken in by the colonial entity. "Israel" defines itself as a "Jewish state" and as "THE state of all Jews." As such, "Israel" has a policy of increasing the number of Jews within the territory it occupies and decreasing the number of non-Jews. It is in fact leading a demographic war, so to speak, so that it may change reality on the ground and create the right environment for the continuation of its existence as a purely Jewish state. The vast majority of Jews who came into Palestine to be part of the new Jewish state were not in fact refugees, but where rather immigrants of choice led by their ideological beliefs in realizing the divine promise of the land of "Israel." In addition, it is now widely accepted and known that various attacks against Jewish targets within the Arab world were organized and carried out by Jewish groups in order to entice Jews of those states to move to Palestine.

Furthermore, the Jews who came into Palestine came not as refugees willing to share the land with its indigenous inhabitants. Rather, they came as settler colonialists intending to remove the natural people of the land and occupy their place. It was part of a concerted campaign to create a state exclusively for Jews on land inhabited by another population. As such, it is utterly ridiculous to compare the refugee situation in Syria to the settlement of Jews in occupied Palestine. The former is a generous humanitarian deed carried out by a people genuinely concerned about the plight of others, while the latter is a campaign based on a racist, exclusive ideology aimed at creating an ethnically pure state.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nour,

How does Cyprus qualify as part of the Syrian homeland?

Nour said...

Both historically and geographically Cyprus has always been an extension of Syria. The land itself on the island is of the same composition, geologically and topographically, as that of the Syrian coast. In addition, the island was inhabited by Syrians and today's Cypriots are descendants of Syrian Canaanites who inhabited the island thousands of years back. Zeno of Citium, the founder of the Stoic philosophy, was a Canaanite from Cyprus, although he is referred to as a Greek by many sources today. However, a sepulchral epigram written about him reads:

"And if thy native country was phoenicia,
What need to slight thee, came not Cadmus thence?
Who gave to Greece her books and art of writing?"

Under Hellenistic rule, the Cypriots began to speak Greek, just as we began to speak Arabic after the Arab conquests. However, the people of Cyprus never changed their character and temperment, as they continue to be Syrians by nature. Many Cypriots today actually recognize that they have a stronger connection to the Syrian coast than they do to Greece.

Furthermore, Cyprus has always been an important strategic point for the Syrian nation. It has historically provided a first line of defense against external threats and also constituted an important trade communications post with the western world. It played an important part in the naval strength of the Umayyad Caliphate.

Anonymous said...

Generally you are right. However I want to make one comment. All the people who immigrated to Syria are Syrians whether they were living in Iraq, Palestine, Southern Turkey (Kurds and Armenians)or Lebanon. These refugees can be considered as citizens displaced within their own country. The government of Syrian Arab Republic deserves a credit for rising above the interests of the republic to the interests of the nation.

Nour said...

Anonymous,

You're right about most of the refugees being Syrian and it was the duty of the Syrian Arab Republic to open its doors for them as they are in fact moving within the same homeland. But as you said, from the viewpoing of the SAR state, it rose above narrow particular interests and met its national duty and obligation.

One exception I would point to, however, is the Armenians. The Armenians in Syria today are assuredly Syrian, as they have been there for multiple generations and have melted into Syrian society. However, when Syria initially welcomed Armenians escaping the genocide committed by the Turks, those Armenians were not yet Syrian.

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playwrighter said...

"...it is now widely accepted and known that various attacks against Jewish targets within the Arab world were organized and carried out by Jewish groups in order to entice Jews of those states to move to Palestine..."

You poor deluded little fuck...