Guest contribution by Eman Sahloul
As the Syrian revolution scrapes the end of its eighteenth month in protest, the loyalty war rages on outside its borders amongst government figures, activists, and “activists”. As someone very much in tune with news, rumors, and international relations—better described as the who’s-covering-who’s-butt affair—I have become particularly interested by one certain contention: Palestine, Syria, and Hassan Nasrallah.
This conflict of interest, as some may call it, has been addressed by several from a strictly political and historical standpoint. I can reiterate for maybe the eleventh time the arguments I and others have made.
I could point out once again that the Assad regime took part in peace talks with Israel in 2008, clearly contradicting its big-shot statements that Israel doesn’t exist.
I could go at length about the utter nonchalance the Assad regime displayed after Israel captured, or rather strolled into, the Golan Heights in 1967, despite how much the regime parades its resistance title.
I can refresh everyone’s seeming mental abeyance on the 1976 Tal Al-Zaatar massacre in Lebanon, where the murder of over 3,000 Palestinians was carried out by yours truly, the Syrian Army.
And I can again counter the sadly informed pretense that Israel supports the Syrian opposition, which any receptive person would understand is exactly what an illegal apartheid system would do if its existence is threatened.
But somehow looking at basic history is never enough. Somehow the same exact arguments are made and the same exact counters are returned, with no indication of anything actually registering. Others find vain profanity to be their strongest “evidence” against Syrian opposition. So I challenge everyone to regard the Syrian revolution from a standpoint many are not always comfortable with, a standpoint that most claim to be contrived, disillusioning and/or lacking the warrant of any case to sensible usefulness. I challenge you to look at this situation from purely a humanitarian perspective. Difficult, I know.
The controversy over Hassan Nasrallah’s adamant stance on the Syrian revolution is possibly the most aggravating and illogical I’ve ever had the misfortune of diving into; but it’s also the most frequent argument amongst activists these days, making it an opportune topic for me to tackle, in a strictly non-political context, of course.
I’d like to first make clear to anyone who just muttered some unspeakable words under their breath that I’m not questioning the initiatives Nasrallah has taken to oust Israel. It was his infamous “Ma fe shay bi Homs” (There’s nothing happening in Homs) speech that first truly severed any positive inclination the Syrian people had towards the man. It aired in February, in the midst of the first full-on shelling attacks on my home city, Homs, where my entire family lives and where several of my family members were killed. Still, I was expected to continue praising this so-called freedom fighter. The Syrian population is still expected to remain silent in the face of a man who time and time again appears on the news to reaffirm his support of the Assad regime. The general public, both Palestinian and non-Palestinian, is still expected to defend the allegations made when the truth of the situation is plastered on every television and laptop screen around the world.
How does an anti-Zionism drive completely blind some of his followers from his blatant approval of a dictator who is committing the same exact crimes to a different people?
What’s the difference between the murder of over 1,300 Palestinians during Operation Cast Lead and the murder of 108 Syrians in the Houla massacre or the 200 Syrians slaughtered in Tremseh, Hama or the 70 Syrians slaughtered as they were waiting for bread in Aleppo? What’s the difference between the 5,604 Palestinians imprisoned and the 212,000 Syrians imprisoned for absolutely no reason at all? What’s the difference between the year long siege on Deraa and Homs and the 5-year siege on Gaza? What’s the difference between the thousands of Palestinians’ right to return and my father’s, a refugee of 32 years, right to return? What’s the difference between the homes being demolished by bombs in Syria and homes being obliterated by bulldozers in Palestine? In all cases, people are left dead, injured, widowed, orphaned, tortured, starved, and homeless. The sole difference between the situation in Palestine and in Syria, with regards to human conditions (no politics, remember) is that in Palestine an illegal occupier is accountable while in Syria, the people’s own regime is responsible. There is no other difference.
Don’t mistake these comparisons as an attempt to draw empathy from one struggle to another. The numbers aren’t used to undermine the weight of lives and dreams taken in each country, but to simply point out that indeed lives and dreams were taken in both countries.
If Nasrallah, or anyone really, can’t comprehend the magnitude of these parallels and continues to deny the rights of the Syrian people then his is no better than the Zionist who denies the Palestinian people those same rights. His support of the Assad regime is in complete parallel with the accusations he makes of Israel. His stance directly contributes to the 25,000+ lives taken in Syria, which includes Syrian citizens, Palestinian refugees, international journalists and Libyan doctors.
I’m not suggesting, as some might think, that anyone drop the Palestinian cause because one of its most hardcore supporters is a hypocrite. But I do suggest that everyone open their hearts to the reality of the situation and the hypocritical injustice Nasrallah’s stance provides. I believe it’s a duty upon all of us, including Palestinians, to condemn Nasrallah for the stance he’s taken on Syria. The fight for freedom in one country shouldn’t deny the freedom of a people in another country. The Palestinian and Syrian people share a unique oppression of both the mind and the body, and it is through this bond that I expect both peoples to stand as one. Let your humanity consider the situation, not your nationalism or your pride.
Eman Sahloul is a Syrian American student studying Biochemistry and Global Studies.