PALESTINIANS AND THE SYRIAN REVOLUTION
Lessons from the Fight against Fascism
by Talal Alyan, +972 Magazine
The lapse of support for the Syrian revolution amongst some segments of the Arab left will in retrospect be regarded as another failure to stray from party vanguards. Palestinians have once again found themselves being used as props for political causes they neither endorse nor hold any sympathy for. The latest instance being the pro-Assad camp that has worked tirelessly to link the Palestinian issue with the Assad regime.
Shadow of the Hitler-Stalin Pact
It is worth examining the story of Najati Sidqi, the prominent Palestinian Communist, who was very much mentored in the Soviet tradition. At the age of 22, Sidqi traveled to the Soviet Union for purposes of training and education. He then returned to Palestine to become one of the leaders of the Palestinian Communist Party. A brief glance at the efforts of Arab Communist movements against fascism shows a halt after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed. Of course, fascism hadn’t suddenly become less grim; it only took the signal from Party headquarters in Moscow to mute huge portions of Arab Communists on the subject. Najati Sidqi had traveled through Germany in 1936, and when it become clear that party loyalty required staying away from the subject of fascism, he would have no part of it. Sidqi broke away from other Arab Communists at the time and continued to vehemently criticize fascism and the Soviet-German pact. His unwillingness to follow a prescribed party agenda illustrates the Palestinian legacy of putting morality before loyalty to political parties, one we would do well to maintain.
That isn’t to say the majority of Palestinians have sided with Bashar Assad—the contrary is true. Just as important as standing by the Syrian people is the need to loudly proclaim the the pro-Assad voices which try to merge the Palestinian cause with that of a tyrant do not speak for us, and that the misrepresentation they cause is as much of an affront to our people as anything Israel is doing. It is worth noting how offensive it is when the Assad camp uses the suffering of one people, Palestinians in this instance, to justify the oppression of another—something Assad-loyalists seem to unwittingly share with Israel.
How we think of the Syrian opposition
Moreover, the claim that the Syrian opposition has been imported from abroad stands in direct contrast with facts on the ground. The argument against it has been constructed both from those who have recently been to Syria, and those who have done any serious examination of the subject. But let us presuppose that there are significant elements within the Syrian armed resistance that have been funded by foreign powers. Would that detail dictate that we abandon the popular uprising altogether? The Palestinian Authority is partially funded by the West and their security forces trained by the West. Thus, the rebuttal goes, the Palestinian Authority is not representative of all Palestinian resistance and aspiration. And that is exactly the point. Even if segments of Syrian opposition are armed or funded by foreign powers, it by no means indicates that these hypothetical segments represent the entire Syrian uprising. And even if they did, who are we to tell the Syrians what means they can use to fight a despot and his foreign funded army?
The point that seems to be lost is that even if we assume that the argument that it is in Palestinian’s interest for Assad to maintain power were true, we would not ask that of our Syrian brothers and sisters. In retrospect, it is undeniable that Najati Sidqi’s position was brave and morally sound. He was kicked out of the Communist Party in the early 1940s for his decision to stand against fascism, isolated for insisting that the suffering of people cannot be secondary. The Syrian revolution will be remembered similarly, and those who opted to put their perceived ideological commitments before the will of a people will once again have to ready their erasers when they sit down to remember their positions during this era of revolt.
The Syrian people are our allies—it is they who have welcomed us and resisted with us. They have adopted our struggle as their own. It is true that Syria is an essential part in the fight for Palestine, that much Assad-apologists have gotten right. But it is not the Assad dynasty, which has done very little vis-a-vis the occupied Golan Heights in recent years, that we need to stand with us. It is the Syrian people. I fear if we continue observing their struggle with ambivalence, they will not forgive us. And rightly so.
This article first appeared April 6 on +972 Magazine, the joint Israeli-Palestinian anti-occupation journal.
Talal Alyan is a Palestinian freelance writer currently living in Syracuse, New York.
Photo of man painting Palestinian and Syrian flags on the separation wall at the West Bank village of Nilin, July 2012, by Hudaifa Srour via The Palestine You Don't Know. Slogan in background reads "Nilin still going strong!"
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Reprinted by World War 4 Report, April 7, 2013
Reprinting permissible with attribution