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The false analogy of Syria and Palestine

By       Message Jonathan Cook       (Page 2 of 2 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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Exacerbating this problem is the exploitation by other states of the Syrian state's current relative weakness. Those states, chiefly Saudi Arabia, are feeding the conflict and trying to distort its nature. They are further damaging the fragile sense of Syrian-ness. On the other side, Iran and Hizbullah in Lebanon are playing their part in interfering in favor of the Syrian government, propping it up with military support.

These last factors point to a more realistic way of interpreting events in Syria. Syria is caught in a power game, with the US and Saudi Arabia trying to keep Iran and its ally Syria weak on one side, and Iran desperately trying to keep its few remaining allies, among them Syria, as strong as possible in its battle against efforts by Israel and the west to undermine its sovereign integrity. Ignoring this as the main framework for understanding what is happening in Syria inevitably leads to erroneous analysis and faulty solutions.

What is needed now in Syria to lessen the bloodshed is reduced negative western intervention in Syria and much greater western positive engagement with Iran (certainly much more positive than the measly deal struck at the weekend). Syria's best hope of a solution is through the west coming to a respectful accommodation with Iran.

A last point about the Palestine and Syria comparison. In so far as there may be some similarity in their respective situations, I certainly do not favor western military intervention on behalf of the Palestinians. This is not related to what is allowable in international law, which, as I noted earlier, treats these two situations differently; I am talking only about what I personally believe makes most sense.

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I have never argued for the US and Europe to start arming Palestinian militants in the hope that the Palestinians can end the occupation by slaughtering settlers and soldiers. The level of military support the Palestinians would need to challenge or defeat Israel militarily would result in only one outcome: a sustained bloodbath that would lead to large numbers of dead both among Palestinians and Israelis. Something less than massive military support for the Palestinians would lead to a bloodbath chiefly on the Palestinian side. I favor neither outcome.

More useful and ethical would be a drastic reduction in, or better still an end to, military support to Israel from the US and economic support from the EU, or at least tying continuing support to genuine concessions from Israel to the Palestinians. Making Israel more militarily vulnerable to its neighbors, for example, would be an effective way to get it to the negotiating table and force it to make meaningful compromises.

So, in short, I and most other supporters of the Palestinians wish nothing less for the Syrians than we do for the Palestinians.

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A final, related point about the revolutionary fervor of many of the supporters of greater western intervention in Syria. People who have monikers like the "Unrepentant Marxist" doubtless believe in a global workers' revolution, but they are deeply misguided if they believe it will or can start in Syria.

The real hypocrisy lies with these armchair revolutionaries. Eager to foment a revolution, they want to build it on the bodies of Syrians, a people who have little hope of liberating themselves in a world where their tiny state is no more than a pawn being shuffled around a board controlled by other, much stronger states. If the revolutionaries really want to effect change, they would be wiser -- and far more ethical -- concentrating on the revolution needed first in their back yards.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)
 

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