Israel's favorite Arab dictator of all is Assad

Israel's favorite Arab dictator of all is Assad
Both Assad senior and Assad junior advocated resistance against Israel. This slogan was hollow, serving the regime merely as an insurance policy against any demand for freedom and democracy.
Salman Masalha

President Assad

is the favorite

As strange as it sounds, everyone in Israel loves Arab dictators. When I say everyone I mean both Jews and Arabs. The favorite dictator of all is president Assad. As Assad junior inherited the oppressive regime in Syria, so did both Jews and Arabs transfer their affection for the dictator from Damascus from Assad senior to his son.

Following the intifada in the Arab states, Bashar al-Assad maintained in an interview to the Wall Street Journal that the situation in Syria is different, adding that Syria is not like Egypt. He also emphasized that Syria was not susceptible to sliding into a similar situation, because it was in the "resistance" front and belongs to the anti-American, anti-Israeli axis.

Well, Assad is right. The situation in Syria is indeed different. The Syrian regime is more like Saddam's defunct regime. The Ba'ath Party that ruled Iraq and the one still ruling Syria both held aloft flags of pan-Arab national ideology. But slogans are one thing and reality is another. All the ideological sweet talk was only talk. For the Ba'ath Party, both in Iraq and in Syria, constituted a political platform to perpetuate tribal, ethnic oppression.

Indeed, the situation in Egypt is completely different. If we put aside the Coptic minority, then Egyptian society is homogenous religiously and not tribal at all. The demoted Egyptian president, Mubarak, never had a tribal-ethnic crutch to lean on. The Egyptian army is also different and not at all like the Syrian or Iraqi armies.

For example, when the United States invaded Iraq, the Iraqi army splintered into its tribal and ethnic fragments. The soldiers took off their uniforms and each joined his tribe and ethnic community. Saddam too adhered to those tribal codes. He did not flee Iraq but went to hide in the well-protected areas of his tribesmen. This is what happens in these societies. In the land of the cedars, as soon as the civil war broke out, the Lebanese army dissolved into its ethnic components and disappeared.

True, Syria is not Egypt. Syria is also different in terms of the price in blood inflicted by the tyrannical Syrian regime. The Syrian tribal government is based on the force exercised by the security branches ruled by the tribesmen and their interested allies.

Inherently, a tribal regime of this kind will always be seen as a foreign reign. This kind of reign can be called tribal imperialism, which rules by operating brutal terror and oppression. This is underscored when a minority tribe rules, like in Syria. Thus every undermining of the government is seen as a challenge to the tribal hegemony and a danger to the ruling tribe's survival. Such a regime by its very nature is totally immersed in a bloodbath.

Both Assad senior and Assad junior advocated resistance against Israel. This slogan was hollow, serving the regime merely as an insurance policy against any demand for freedom and democracy. The Syrian "resistance" government has not uttered a peep on the Golan front since 1973. Instead, the "resistance" regime was and still is ready to fight Israel to the last Lebanese, and if that doesn't do the trick - then to the last Palestinian.

As voices in Israel have recently spoken out in favor of Hamas' continued rule in Gaza, so many Israelis are worried these days over the Syrian regime's welfare. Astonishingly, not only Jews are praying secretly for the Damascus regime's survival, but many in the Arab parties as well. These parties' leaders have been dumbstruck, their voices have been muted and no outcry has been raised against the Syrian regime's massacre of civilians.

All the hypocrites, Jews and Arabs alike, have united. It seems Assad has wall-to-wall support here, as though he were king of Israel.
Published: Op-Ed, Haaretz, 29 March 2011

Read article in other languages
Hebrew | Arabic | Greek

On the same topic: Elaph, 26 March 2011

Whose imagination?

"Compared to the 'Jewish-democratic' imagination that has been developing for some years, the Arabs, especially their representatives in the Knesset, are notable for their lack of imagination."

Salman Masalha

Whose imagination?

For several months we have been witness to various and sundry Knesset bills that have turned Israeli legislation into a circus. First some religious conversion bill or another, then a bill regulating admission to "Jews-only" communities; next, a bill against foreign boycotts of the settlements, and a loyalty law whose purpose is to deny citizenship. And all this, with an air of arrogance.

Which brings to mind the saying that the Arabs are gifted with a vivid imagination, intended not as a compliment to their literary skills but rather just the opposite.

The truth is that there is no greater slander than the one ascribing to Arabs a well-developed imagination. Compared to the "Jewish-democratic" imagination that has been developing for some years, the Arabs, especially their representatives in the Knesset, are notable for their lack of imagination. Again and again, they fall prisoner to the same, old, all-purpose slogans, incapable of extricating themselves.

The passage of the amendment to the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, as well as assorted conversion and housing bills, constitute a golden opportunity for a reevaluation of the Arab imagination.

When the yearning hearts of cabinet ministers and Knesset members turn democracy into a circus, these moments of grace should be turned to use. And since we are talking about circuses, I would like to enter the ring and try to be a thrilling, surprising acrobat, in the spirit of when in Rome .... You say we have a vivid Oriental imagination? Terrific. I'll give you that vivid imagination to the nth degree. Below are a few legislative initiatives to lay on the desk of the parliamentary circus of the "Jewish-democratic" state:

The first bill to be submitted to the Knesset shall state: "Any elected official who has been tried and convicted of breach of trust, abuse of office, giving or receiving bribes or of any offense involving moral turpitude shall be stripped of citizenship" Is this not a law we can all support? I'd like to see all those corrupting and corrupted individuals squirm - all those abusers of their office and sieg heilers. I'd like to see, for example, how cabinet members with the name, say, Yishai, would react. And how MKs with the name swindler and Asmodeus would respond.

The second bill shall be framed as follows: "The granting of Israeli citizenship to any individual, without discrimination on the basis of creed, race or sex, shall be conditional on fluency in the Hebrew language." That, too, is surely a worthy proposal, is it not? I'd like to see the close-ups of the "Jewish-democratic" stammerers, old and new. I'd like to see how all kinds of spokesmen would react, whether some Lieberman or another Doberman.

Here's another revolutionary draft law: "Receiving citizenship on the basis of the Law of Return shall apply solely to Jews whose Jewishness is recognized in accordance with Jewish religious law" - in other words, someone whose mother was Jewish or who converted to Judaism in accordance with halakha, and who has no other religion. Converts will receive citizenship only if they have accepted the "burden of mitzvot" and maintain a religiously observant lifestyle. All this, so that no one would be tempted to think that Judaism is child's play, not to mention a matter for begging and baksheesh. As Ahad Ha'am said, "More than Israel kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath kept Israel."

And if Israel's "Jewish" Knesset rejects these proposals and continues with its conversion games in order to grant citizenship to "goyim," then so much the better. That would be an opportunity to offer the Palestinian refugees, for instance those in Lebanon, the option of undergoing a more lax conversion and to apply to "make aliyah" to the land of their forefathers. They would be welcomed back with a generous absorption benefits package and the state would see to it that they be sent on an official campaign of "Judaizing the Galilee." In so doing, they would finally realize the right of return to their historic homeland. They will settle and renew the destroyed Palestinian villages, both as Palestinians and as "Jews of Middle Eastern descent."

"For with wise counsel shall you make more" (Proverbs 24:6 ). So here are a few proposals from the vivid Arab imagination. And redemption shall come to Palestine, and to Israel.

Published: OP-Ed-Haaretz, March 9, 2011

For Hebrew, press here