Being pro-Palestine and pro-Assad doesn't add up

Being pro-Palestine and pro-Assad doesn't add up
Comment: From Israel to Syria, all tyranny is worthy of outrage, writes Sam Hamad.
7 min read
29 May, 2018
Some pro-Palestine supporters apply a different set of rules to Assad's regime [Anadolu]
Though Palestinians and Syrians have often demonstrated reciprocal acts of solidarity for each other, there are those who are determined to keep them apart, or exploit the oppression of one to justify the oppression of the other.

Following the recent Gaza border massacre, the Israeli government immediately said that most of the 62 people killed 'belonged to the Hamas terror group'. This narrative was compounded even further by a Hamas official claiming that at least 50 of those murdered were indeed members.   

Of course, this was seized upon by the Israeli government and its supporters around the world.   

The main aim of Israeli propaganda was - via the tropes of terrorists and human shields - to turn what was a clear-cut massacre of peaceful protestors into Israel defending itself against 'terrorists'. To transform the apartheid state into the victim of a Hamas plot.  

The goal is to obfuscate to the point that reasonable doubt regarding Israel's criminality can be constructed and exploited to justify its brutal actions.

The fact Hamas is a large organisation that has many members in Gaza - most of whom are not members of its armed wing - or that, regardless of membership of any organisation, those murdered were unarmed, was subordinated to these trigger words and phrases like 'terror group' or simply just the name 'Hamas'.  

Netanyahu claimed, during one of his much-applauded speeches to US Congress, that it's impossible for Israel to ever negotiate with Hamas because Hamas is the 'Palestinian al-Qaeda', and that Israel is defending the world from Islamic terror. Israel claims that the problem isn't its occupation, annexation and brutal besiegement of Palestinian territories, but the 'Talibinisation of Gaza' under Hamas.  

The Arab spring was supposed to be about resisting tyranny wholesale in the region, not about picking and choosing

Similarly, Bashar al-Assad is claiming that all his opponents are al-Qaeda or IS, and that the problem isn't his tyrannical order, and his genocidal defence of order against a popular uprising, but rather the machinations of 'Wahhabism' and foreign (usually US, Zionist and Saudi) interference in Syria.

The goal of both Assad and Netanyahu is the same - to justify perpetual brutality and injustice contra the alleged savagery of their opponents, and their own righteousness in the name of 'anti-terrorism' and 'security'.

Given the woeful phenomenon among western pro-Palestine activists of support for Assad, their will to reproduce on behalf of Assad the same arguments that Israel uses to justify its oppression of Palestinians is not a surprise. 

Analogies have been made between the western, Palestine solidarity movement, and the movement against apartheid in South Africa, but one key difference is that no component of the anti-apartheid movement was calling for an end to apartheid in South Africa while endorsing it elsewhere. To do so would've hugely undermined the cause.

This is precisely the destructive dynamic of many pro-Palestine activists.

Take, as one of the most egregious examples, 
Max Blumenthal, an alt-left pro-Palestine activist who has taken it upon himself to become a vanguard of those who seek to deny, justify and obfuscate Assad's brutality.  

Following the recent Douma chemical massacre carried out by Assad, Blumenthal reacted with rhetoric that outdoes even the typical vicious bile of the Israeli army.

falsely claiming that 'no concrete evidence of a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government in Douma has been produced', he then raves about alleged US-funded 'Salafi-jihadi militants… including the local affiliates of al-Qaeda and IS' and their nefarious dedication 'to stimulating support for a western-led war of regime change against Syrian President Bashar Assad'.  

Take for example Jeremy Corbyn's differing reactions to atrocities committed by Assad and Israel against Arabs

In other words, much like Israeli propagandists who claim that the massacre was orchestrated by Hamas to victimise poor old Israel, Blumenthal takes an instance of Assad gassing to death women and children and, through deceit and cognitive dissonance, claims that it's Assad who is the true victim of a 'false flag' perpetrated by 'Salafi-jihadis'.

While Blumenthal balked at Israel's propaganda campaign trying to justify the mass murder of Palestinians by claiming they were Hamas, he does the very same, justifying not just individual massacres but the entirety of Assad, Iran and Russia's war effort by slandering the rebels and free Syrians as 'al-Qaeda'.  

Much like some propagandists for Israel claimed that Iran was behind the Gaza border protests, Blumenthal claims that Israel in cahoots with 'al-Qaeda' in Syria - he even uses the antisemitic and Islamophobic portmanteau 'Wahhasbarists' (combining the word 'Wahhabism' with 'Hasbara', the name for Israel's official international propaganda) to describe those who oppose Assad and challenge his and his fellow pro-Assad trolls' views on Syria. 

Many will be aware of the term 'Pallywood', used to squalidly claim that instances of Israeli brutality are staged or exaggerated by Palestinians, as some Israeli propagandists argued for the Gaza border massacre.

Blumenthal uses the same 
argument against Syrian 'insurgents' and even the White Helmets, claiming that every time Assad 'liberates' (an odd way to describe ethnic cleansing, mass murder and terror) areas of Syria from the rebels, these groups 'allege a chemical attack' to garner support for regime change.  

Blumenthal even on behalf of Assad utilises in an almost identical fashion the Islamophobic 'Talibinasation' argument used by Israeli propagandists to deflect from Israel's crimes.

A few days ago, The Guardian published an 
article on how the women of rebel-held Idlib were organising civil services for refugees despite facing brutal attacks and encirclement from Assad and Russia.

Well, Blumenthal and his ilk couldn't have that.

He immediately took to Twitter where he, citing an article from the Nation on Jabhat al-Nusra (which of course only controls part of the province and has been involved in a war with moderate rebels and faced popular protest from anti-Assad Syrians), claiming that in 'rebel-held Idlib music has been banned, history textbooks have been removed … students and Christians have fled'.  

This is indistinguishable from the 'Talibanisation of Gaza' argument and its tyrannical, deceitful Islamophobic logic.

The point is to dehumanise Syrians by attaching them to terrorism and extremism in precisely the same way that Israel does to Palestinians.  

But if only these things were confined to the ravings of internet trolls like Blumenthal.  

Blumenthal takes an instance of Assad gassing to death women and children and, through deceit and cognitive dissonance, claims that it's Assad who is the true victim

Unfortunately, the rot goes right to the top. Take the leader of the opposition in the UK, and potential next prime minister, Jeremy Corbyn's differing reactions to atrocities committed by Assad and Israel against Arabs.  

Following the Gaza border massacre, Corbyn, a lifelong supporter of the Palestinian cause, rightfully called the murder an 'outrage' and called for 'action' from the international community against Israel and for 'those responsible to be held to account'.  

In contrast, following Douma, Corbyn refused to say that Assad was even responsible for the attack, claiming that perhaps a rebel group was responsible, while obviously opposing any meaningful action.  

The Arab spring was supposed to be about resisting tyranny wholesale in the region, not about picking and choosing which tyranny is worthy of outrage and which is worthy of silence or support.  

The one thing that would truly terrify the cartels of tyranny in the region, whether Israeli, Baathist or other, would be if the oppressed were to find commonality not just in their oppression, but in their resistance to it - regardless of ethnicity or creed.  

Those who exploit the cause of Palestine to support genocidal butchers like Assad are the perfect enemies of the Israeli government, and vice versa.  This is a dynamic understood by many of those who face the repression.  

The only people to profit from exploiting the oppression of one people to justify the oppression of another, are the oppressors.  

Sam Hamad is an independent Scottish-Egyptian activist and writer

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.