Friday, April 22, 2011

The Sectarian Card

It is sad to see that very few people make any attempt to view events in Syria away from divisive trends. And it is increasingly unfortunate that the “revolutionists” and their media supporters have proven to be much more sectarian and divisive than the regime. I have not heard president Assad or any official from the government even once mention the different sects in Syria or try to use it for political exploitation, whereas the “revolutionists” and media “analysts” (I’m using the term analyst very loosely here) have not missed a single opportunity to raise the sectarian issue and use all means and efforts to create and highlight divisions in Syrian society. Such attempts have become so vulgar that even President Bashar al Assad’s reform measures are described in such a repugnantly divisive way as to undermine them altogether and continue to incite Syrians to anger and violence.

When President Assad passed a bill granting undocumented people in Hassakeh Syrian citizenship, it was described as a way to take the Kurds out of the equation, implying that it’s a mere sinister plot by Assad to divide the Syrian opposition. This is both inaccurate and dangerous. It is inaccurate because the fact is that granting undocumented residents of Hassakeh was something that various groups had been discussing with the regime and encouraging Assad to adopt as an important measure to ensure equality among all Syrians. President Assad heeded those calls and did what should be recognized as the right thing. However, continued efforts to undermine and undercut such reforms were being made and thus certain sides felt it would be important to continue to incite Kurds, as well as other Syrians, making them believe that all this is just to shut them up.

When President Assad met with various representatives of different sectors in Syrian society, “analysts” continued to interpret such steps as mere attempts to appease this side or placate that side, only in order to sabotage this great “revolution”. Certain sectarian and ethnic terms continued to be emphasized in order to make sure that divisions in Syrian society are highlighted and strengthened. President Assad’s seriousness about reforms continued to be questioned, with many doubting that he would really put an end to the state of emergency in Syria, which was allegedly a key demand by the protesters. Once the state of emergency was lifted, again it was dismissed as “too little too late” by certain sides that have an interest in sustaining the current chaos and instability. Why exactly it is “too late” remains a mystery. Somehow a month ago it was a key demand but in one month it magically became too late. Yet again a key reform measure was dismissed and the divisions in Syrian society continued to be stressed as a means of continued incitement. The vulgar Robert Fisk, who is a Hariri paid propagandist, insists that the regime in Syria is a “Alawi” regime and therefore a “Shiite” regime, stocking the flames of Sunni-Shiite sectarianism.

All this has made it clear that there is indeed a conspiracy and a sinister plot against Syria, aimed at dividing it and weakening it so that the last state in the Arab world resisting US-”Israeli” hegemony is brought down and resistance against occupation is weakened.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Shallowness of the Angry Arab

In his usual shallow and sarcastic way, As'ad Abu Khalil, on his blog "Then Angry Arab," posted the following comment:

So Bashshar Al-Asad in his last speech said that Syria needs a new law governing demonstrations because there is no law dealing with demonstrations. He then said that when his reforms are implemented, there would no reason for demonstrations at all. I kid you not. So I say: why formulate a new law for demonstrations then? Huh?

This is typical of Abu Khalil's silly and irresponsible responses to events seriously affecting the nation. Of course, Abu Khalil does not wish to objectively and comprehensively analyze the important speech given by President Bashar al Assad on Saturday, as this would require actual analytical thinking of an important event, something that does not interest the Angry Arab. Instead, he has a score to settle and a grudge to satisfy with the Syrian regime, which leads him to limit his response to the most recent events in Syria to mere sarcastic nonsense and peddling of US/"Israeli"/Saudi propaganda. The actual full quote of the portion addressing the right to demonstrate from Assad's speech is the following:

"أن القانون الأخير الذي اقترح ضمن حزمة القوانين التي اقترحتها اللجنة هو قانون السماح بالتظاهر لأن الدستور السوري يسمح بالتظاهر ولكن لا يوجد لدينا قانون لكي ينظم عملية التظاهر.. وهذا الإجراء عملياً.. هو تحد لأن الشرطة لم تهيأ في سورية لمثل هذه المواضيع فلابد من تهيئة جهاز الشرطة بشكل أساسي ودعمه بالعناصر والمعدات وربما بالهيكلية.. إعادة النظر بالهيكلية لكي تتماشى مع الإصلاحات الجديدة فمن مهام الشرطة أن تقوم بحماية المتظاهرين وبنفس الوقت حماية الأشخاص الآخرين والاملاك الخاصة والعامة من أي محاولة للتخريب أو للعبث بأمن المواطنين. "

Translate: The next law among the package of laws recommended by the committee is the law permitting demonstrations because the Syrian constition allows demonstrations but we do not have a law that organizes the process of demonstrating, which is a practical procedure. It is a challenge because the police in Syria is not equipped for such matters. The police service must therefore be essentially prepared and supported with personnel, equipment and perhaps structure. [There must be] a review of the structure such that it compliments the new reforms, for it is the duty of the police to protect the demonstrators and at the same time protect other persons and private and public property from any attempt at destruction or undermining the security of the citizens.

President Assad then goes on to say:

طبعاً عندما تصدر هذه الحزمة لا يعود هناك حجة لتنظيم التظاهرات في سورية والمطلوب مباشرة من قبل الأجهزة المعنية وخاصة وزارة الداخلية أن تطبق القوانين بحزم كامل ولا يوجد أي تساهل مع أي عملية تخريب.

Translate: Of course after this package [of laws] is issued there will no longer be an excuse for the organization of the demonstrations in Syria and what is directly required is for the relevant agencies, especially the Ministry of Interior, to apply the laws fully and firmly without there being any leniency toward acts of destruction.

A proper reading of the above is that President Assad is tying these new laws to the situation on the ground today. He explains the need to have a proper system that can organize demonstrations, so that demonstrations in the way they are taking place today would no longer be needed. Thus, the second part should be understood as saying that once we pass these new laws, there will no longer be an excuse to organize demonstrations in the manner they are being organized during these latest events. And in that way we can properly separate between demands for reform and acts of destruction. However, because there currently is no law or system organizing the process of demonstrations, people are forced to go out on their own and demonstrate without obtaining permits and without being able to rely on proper agencies to protect and secure the demonstrations. Once a new procedure for demonstrating is introduced, there will no longer be a justification for hasty, chaotic demonstrations where it becomes difficult to differentiate between genuine, peaceful protesters, and those seeking solely to cause trouble and engage in destructive behavior.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Comment on Sham (Syrian Arab Republic)

The following is a comment I made on Prof. Joshua Landis' Syria Comment blog, in response to an inquiry by another participant regarding my posting of articles and reports from state media in Sham:

Dear OTW:

You should know very well that I am very critical of the regime in Syria and of its oppressive and repressive methods since the arrival of the Baath to power in 1963 (even though oppression in Syria did not begin with the Baath but continued after their ascension to power). I also believe that its propaganda is quite crude, bombastic, and just plain dumb, so I do not really subscribe to it in general. And this whole charade of people chanting “bel rou7 bel dam” or “allah, souriya, bashar w bass” is to me a display of reactionary rhetoric, backwards thinking, and ignorance. Moreover, I have repeated numerously that ultimately the regime should be held accountable for what transpires in Syria, as the situation is not forever sustainable and its failure to implement real and serious reforms is going to lead to consequences that the regime is responsible for.

My criticism of the regime, however, does not blind me to what is being cooked up for Syria. I do not operate from the springboard of hatred and spite such that I would rather destroy the country than see the regime survive another day. I have made clear on several occasions that I want what is best for Syria, not what is worst for the regime. What is taking place today in Syria is not a revolution by any stretch of the imagination. Although it started out with some protests here and there, most of these protests were very small and limited to specific areas and groups. There was never a clear presence on the street by the masses in rejection of their government, as was the case in Egypt. In addition, I found many of the protests to be repulsive and not representative of the Syria I’d like to see, specifically those calling for the end of mixed-sex schools and chanting slogans against Shiites, Iran, and Hizballah, which to me has nothing to do with demands for freedom and reform, but is rather an expression of the most vulgar form of sectarianism.

What we then witnessed was the steady descension of these protests into acts of violence and destruction combined with the most crude forms of vulgar propaganda, aimed not merely at opposing government repression, but rather at inciting people to violence by appealing to their base emotions, using hate-mongering and sectarian incitement. The videos, pictures, and stories that were being spread were intended to create a reaction stemming from pure hatred, which is always a dangerous reaction that is most likely to lead to chaos and division, rather than one based on rational thought. Videos of unknown and unverified “killings” and “massacres” allegedly by the regime against unarmed protesters were being spread in conjunction with filthy sectarian terms, such as “the Nusairi regime”, “Alawi regime,” “minority rule,” etc. which can lead to nothing but increased divisiveness in society.

What’s more is that most media organizations, both western and Arab, were peddling this propaganda and participating in attempting to incite Syrians through sectarian agitation. We kept reading time and again articles reminding everyone that Syria was a country of a “sunni majority” “ruled by a Alawite minority.” Over and over terms of “Alawite”, “Sunni”, “minority”, “majority”, “Shiite”, “Iran”, “Hizballah”, etc. were drilled into our heads in an apparent attempt to ensure that these divisive terms are imprinted in the minds of Syrians, so that all actions they take would be based on them and not on a feeling of true national consciousness. This was combined with the fact that the presence of armed groups spreading terror and chaos became increasingly evident, calling into question this entire movement from its core.

All this made it clear to me that there was a sinister agenda at play here, which was completely detached from the rightful demands of the majority of Syrians for genuine reforms. It was clear that there is a plan in place to take Syria from a state of stability to a state of chaos and confusion, as such a state is likely to do nothing but further weaken and disable a country. I saw that these foreign media outlets were active participants in this agenda in the way they reported the news and in their providing of platforms for reactionary individuals to spread their vulgar ideas, as was the case with Al-Jazeera and the debased Yousef al-Qardawi.

Therefore, I found it most critical that first and foremost we put a stop to the spreading of this destructive propaganda which can lead nowhere but to the descent of the country into violence and chaos. The only websites and news outlets that were carrying reports and articles rebutting these pieces of propaganda were unfortunately what people regard as “regime” or “pro-regime” sources. I found many of these reports and articles to be much more credible and believable than the hateful propaganda being spread by the so-called “revolutionists” with the aid of the so-called “free” international media, which has proven time and again to be anything but “free.” Hence, I chose to post them and distribute them. This in no way means that I subscribe to all regime propaganda, much of which I find to be distasteful and downright stupid (such as the hours and hours of phone calls supporting “Bashar” we are subjected to).

I have been very clear that my aim is not to overthrow the regime just for the sake of overthrowing it, regardless of what replaces it. I do not believe in satisfying grudges and settling scores as a basis of bringing about changes for the benefit of the country. I have particular disdain for uncontroled chaos and violence and destructive behavior. Moreover, I know for a fact that many Syrians on the ground have struggled and sacrificed, in a constructive manner, for the sake of improving their country, and they have been witnessing some of the fruits of their struggle, only to witness some destructive elements attempt to throw it all in the dumpster for the sake of narrow interests and service of foreign agendas. Finally, I am quite confident that President Bashar al-Assad is indeed serious about bringing about changes and implementing serious reforms that are going to change the political landscape in Syria, and to put a stake in the heart of this move toward reform for the sake of chaos and destruction, seems to me to be utterly counterproductive.

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's NOT the Joulan, Stupid!

It is getting quite tiring to see all the talk from Shami (Syrian Arab Republic) circles about "peace with Israel" and the return of the Joulan, whether fully or partially, or whether with sovereignty but without possession, as if now the only problem a Shami has with the Jewish entity is the Joulan. Once it is returned, this problem will be solved. This of course is a nonsensical position and is a result of the divisions the west was able to create and enforce in our nation, such that now Lebanon has its own problems, as does Sham, as does Palestine, as does Iraq, etc. And no two issues should be mixed or conflated because each entity should be looking after its own interests as an "independent", "sovereign" state.

The fact is that the Syrian nation has a single national cause and a single interest in life, such that any and all threats to any part of the nation are a threat to the nation as a whole. And any occupation of any part of its homeland is an occupation that affects the homeland in its entirety. To fragment and divide our cause is what gives the Jewish occupation the biggest service of all, as it causes us to lose sight of the nature of the struggle and renders us paralyzed before the enemy's assault on the nation. Unfortunately, however, Syrians continue to fall victim to the deception and trickery of "Israel" by going along with its continuous aim to divide our will and make us too fragmented and dispersed to mount an effective campaign against its usurpation of our land and its violation of our national rights.

Every inch of Syrian territory (including every inch of occupied Palestine) belongs to the Syrian nation (as a whole, in all its generations, and not as a group of individuals) and only the Syrians have the right to control and possess it. Therefore, the issue is not that the Joulan is occupied Shami territory that must be returned to the Shami entity in exchange for "peace" with the usurping entity. Rather, the issue is that the Jewish entity in its very nature is a threat to all of Syria and is a violation of Syrian national rights, and as such its very existence should be combated as no nation can reasonably accept a racist, cancerous entity within its body.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Obama's Basic Message: Recognize "Israel" and do as we tell you, and we won't kill you

The ecstasy with which President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo has been received by many circles in the Arab World is truly befuddling. Nothing in the speech was a cause for celebration or even reassurance. The entire speech sounded more like a scolding of our position toward the usurping entity and the United States for the crimes they have committed against our people. He stood in Cairo and told the Arab World that the United States' relationship with "Israel" is "unbreakable," that Jewish suffering is more important than the suffering of your people, that you must recognize the "legitimate right" of "Israel" to exist as a Jewish state, and that you must stop opposing US imperial agendas. And if you do all that , o Arab World, then perhaps we will not kill you. This was the essence of the speech and this was its central, deeply offensive, message.

President Obama took a few minutes to lecture us about Jewish suffering in Europe and about the holocaust, as if this issue has anything to do with us. He implied that because the Jews were killed and oppressed in Europe, that we must then allow them to take our land and kill our people. Not one mention was made of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land, and the deep psychological trauma this has caused to an entire people. Not one mention was made of the brutal, gruesome massacres committed by Jewish Zionist gangs against innocent civilians during their terror campaign to found a racist, exclusive state for Jews only. Therefore, the clear implication of his words is that while we will continue to recognize and mourn Jewish suffering throughout the ages, and demand that you do the same, we will not ever mention your suffering and will deny that any wrong was done unto you. In other words, we believe that the lives of Jews are more valuable and precious than the lives of Palestinians.

Then Obama tied the suffering of Jews in Europe to the requirement that we recognize the "legitimate right" of "Israel" to exist as a Jewish state. He said it is "deeply wrong" to call for the destruction of "Israel," and implied that such language was comparable to a crime of genocide. It is of course quite outlandish to claim that the demand to dismantle what is a racist, cancerous, illegal entity that has brought about nothing but pain and suffering to an entire people is akin to committing genocide against innocent populations. Moreover, Obama failed to denounce genocidal language used by the other side, when that language is actually followed by actions on the ground. It is of no concern to him that an "Israeli" minister would threaten the Palestinians of Gaza with a "holocaust" or that the war minister would promise that Lebanon would be burned from north to south. Both actions and threats of destruction of other countries by "Israel" are not considered "deeply wrong" by Obama, while he is so greatly offended by the notion that someone would demand the dismantlement of an inherently racist system.

He then went on to specifically identify "Israeli" "victimization" at the hands of Palestinians. He denounced Palestinian armed resistance and blasted Palestinians telling them that it is "not courageous to fire missiles at innocent children or to blow up elderly women on buses." Such a vile statement reeks of utter hypocrisy and callousness. It has not been five months since "Israel" brutally and mercilessly massacred over 1400 civilians in Gaza, and yet Obama finds it appropriate to lecture Palestinians on the proper means of struggle. He has the nerve to demand that Palestinians renounce violence and abandon violent resistance, while "Israel" is allowed to continue using savage violence against an innocent population whose only crime was living on a land desired by others.

But Obama did not forget the Palestinians. He gave them token recognition when he said that they have "suffered in their pursuit of a homeland." Apparently, the Palestinians have been pursuing a homeland and it is this pursuit that has caused them great suffering. It is such a general and broad statement that you would think the Palestinians have been suffering from some mysterious phenomenon, or maybe natural disasters, while traversing the globe searching for a homeland. This is of course a completely warped view of the Palestinian struggle and anything but "truth-telling" as Obama likes to brag he does. The Palestinians were never "in pursuit" of a homeland. They have a homeland, and it was stolen from them by Jewish zionists aided by western colonial powers. They were forcefully evicted from their land through massacres, ethnic cleansing, and terror campaigns, and were turned into refugees on their own land as well as in other countries. But President Obama conveniently skips over all the crimes committed against the Palestinians and reduces the cause of their suffering to some unfortunate circumstances.

Obama then proceeded to find an ostensible solution to the Palestinian struggle. His solution was that each side had to recognize the "legitimate aspirations" of the other. In other words, we are required to recognize the "legitimate aspirations" of "Israel" to build and maintain a state exclusively for Jews on land we live in. What a difference a political career makes. Here, I would like to quote from Obama's book "Dreams From My Father," where he was reciting a speech he gave in college at an event in support of the struggle of the African National Congress against Apartheid rule in South Africa. His words were:

"It's happening an ocean away. But it's a struggle that touches each and every one of us. Whether we know it or not. Whether we want it or not. A struggle that demands we choose sides. Not between black and white. Not between rich and poor. No--it's a harder choice than that. It's a choice between dignity and servitude. Between fairness and injustice. Between commitment and indifference. A choice between right and wrong..."

If those words were used by President Obama in his position on the Palestinian struggle, then I would have accepted and believed his claimed commitment to "truth-telling." Unfortunately, however, as President of the United States, it is politically too risky for Mr. Obama to utter such truly expressive words in support of the Palestinians' legitimate struggle against opprression.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Egypt: From "Mother of the World" to Joke of the World

With every further action that the Egyptian regime takes against Hizballah it digs itself a deeper hole. It is becoming ever more clear that Egypt is a puppet of the west and a collaborator against Palestinians and the Palestinian cause. According to Egyptian calculations, Hizballah aiding besieged Palestinians in Egypt is a violation of Egyptian sovereignty and a threat to Egyptian security, but "Israel" attacking the Sinai side of the Rafah border and forbidding Egypt from increasing its security presence in the Sinai does not in any way affect Egyptian sovereignty or security.

What has become clear is that Egypt is actively participating in the war against our people in Palestine. Egypt has become a lackey and a tool of "Israel" to be used against our people in the Jewish state's continuing attempt to subjugate us for the purpose of expanding their racist entity. After all, it is the foreign minister of this very state who threatened to "break the legs" of any Palestinian who dared cross the Rafah border crossing. No amount of empty rhetoric or baseless propaganda will now change this image of Egypt.

The regime's attempt to accuse Hizballah of engaging in "Shiitization" is laughable to say the least, and only adds to the utter patheticness of this collaborative dictatorship. To think that a few Hizballah operatives aiding Palestinians from the Gaza-Sinai border are going to carry out mass conversions of millions of Egyptians is of unsurpassed ridiculousness and is merely a smokescreen to attempt to distract people from the true nature of the Egyptian regime and the role it is playing today as puppet and collaborator.

Egypt has for sometime now been actively working to prevent any and all supplies from entering Gaza in order to aid "Israel" in its siege of the Palestinian civilians living in the Strip. Egypt has done its part in closing and sealing the border and in attempting to destroy all smuggling tunnels going from Sinai to Gaza. What it has been having a hard time with, however, is controlling the Bedouins of the Sinai, who have been admirably and courageously aiding the Palestinian resistance in anyway they can.

These Bedouins of course are not of Egyptian origin and have no loyalty to the Egyptian state. Rather, they feel that the Palestinian cause is their cause because they are of the same people. Egyptian security forces have been doing all they can to go after these Bedouins of the Sinai but have been reluctant to confront them as they don't want to create any unnecessary problems for themselves.

The Arab World in general, and the Syrian nation in particular, now see Egypt as nothing more than a tool in the hands of foreign occupiers. Egypt has been at the forefront of the war against the Resistance and has done all it can to deny our people their right to resist foreign aggression and occupation.

Moreover, the Egyptian regime has done nothing to improve the situation of its people, while it continues to beg foreign powers for economic assistance in order to sustain its disastrous hold on power. Mubarak has unleashed a security force of a million and a half in order to control 80 million Egyptians, most of whom are living in poverty. The state's infrastructure has been completely neglected and utter corruption is pervasive all across the government, such that the people's wealth is being stolen by a destructive regime. It is for this reason that Egypt has been trying to serve the US and "Israel" loyally, hoping to continue to obtain economic aid which it deems wholly necessary for the continued survival of the regime. And of course the US has no problem with a corrupt, totalitarian regime so long as it serves the US's interests in a slave-like manner.

In a previous time, Egypt was referred to by many in the Arab World as "mother of the world," an endearing term they used to describe what they saw as a large, rich, powerful country with tremendous potential. I have always disagreed with this characterization of Egypt, but nevertheless Egypt definitely had its admirers. Today, however, Egypt has relegated itself to "joke of the world" as it has reinforced its role as slave and puppet to western colonial powers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Not a Mirage" (ليس سراباً)

I recently watched the entire 32-episode Syrian series called "Not a Mirage," or ليس سراباً in Arabic (pronounced laysa saraban). The series tackles several important and controversial issues present in our society, the most important of which is sectarianism and religious fundamentalism, but also includes such prominent topics as women's rights, civil society (or absence thereof), honor killings, and love relationships. The story revolves around a divorced single "Christian" mother, Hanan, who happens to fall in love with a divorced "Muslim" father of two, Jalal, and the ensuing relationship that arises out of this love. But the prevalent social attitudes prevent the couple from making their relationship public, and create a host of obstacles and problems that keep them from leading normal lives together. Their obligation to keep the relationship secret, due to the social ills from which our people suffer, is a clear recipe for disaster.

The series does a good job of addressing controversial topics and breaking taboos in a courageous and thought-provoking manner. Our society's attitude toward women is expressed and demonstrated by the roles to which most members of our society believe women should be confined. A prime example is the attitude of Hanan's father toward her being a divorced woman, which he views with utter disgust and disdain, even though Hanan's ex-husband was a corrupt figure who regularly abused his wife physically and psychologically. The position of the father was that many things happen between a man and a woman that should remain inside their home. That his daughter was being beaten, and that her dignity and honor were being stepped on, is of no concern to him, as it is more important that his daughter resort to her natural role of the obedient wife. This is a mentality that is quite pervasive in our society, as women are viewed, to a large extent, as servants of their husbands who are required and expected to obey their husbands and remain under their control, irrespective of how they are treated.

The series also ponders the proper role of religion; whether it is to be a pure spiritual and moral guide being completely separate from matters involving the state and the political system, or whether it should govern all aspects of our lives, including political and judicial national matters. Michel, the owner and publisher of a controversial magazine prints an article in his publication criticizing the role that religious institutions have played in involving themselves in issues that are outside the natural role of religion, calling for the inception of a secular system. His article becomes the target of ire and revulsion from members of all religious sects in our nation, as they all view it as an attack on religion, rather than a mere criticism of the contribution of religious institutions to sectarianism, religious fundamentalism, and the absence of the civil society.

This leads to another article printed by Michel's magazine that addresses the absence of the civil society, as our laws, especially those dealing with family and personal status, are governed by religious jurisprudence and institutions. As such, citizens are not treated as members of a single nation with equal rights and duties, but are rather subjected to different rules and procedures depending upon their confessional background. This article again draws intense anger from members of society, as they see it as a blasphemous call for secularism. The feeling is such that, Jalal's son, who becomes indoctrinated as a fundamentalist Islamist, regards Michel as a "sectarian Christian" who is introducing a "corrupt, western" idea of secularism in order to advance a sectarian agenda.

It is highly important that such matters begin to be discussed and addressed in our society, as we suffer from many ailments that need to be treated and cured if we are to experience a renaissance and come out of the coma in which we continue to be stuck. When young men are shown cheering and encouraging a fellow citizen for murdering his sister for "honorable" reasons, attention is brought to a sick mentality that drives many of our people. It is a step in the right direction that will hopefully open the door to further self-examinations and self-critiques that can help make us a better, more advanced, more dynamic society.