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Syria and the Palestinians: 'Almost no other Arab state has as much Palestinian blood on its hands'

Hamas’s prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, greets supporters after Friday Prayer, where he spoke out against President Bashar al-Assad.

By Michael Karadjis

March 7, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The declaration by Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of Hamas, that his movement was backing the popular uprising in Syria against the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad was widely reported, as was the significance of his statement to worshipers at Cairo's Al Azhar mosque. Hamas, while ruling the Gaza Strip, had its exile leadership based in Syria; now Haniyeh was perhaps betting on a new strategic relationship with post-Mubarak Egypt. Haniyeh saluted “the heroic Syrian people, who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform”.

In fact, Haniyeh’s very strong statements in support of the Syrian people were not the only statements from Hamas. Another senior Hamas official in Gaza, Mahmud Zahar, said Hamas was not taking sides in the Syrian conflict. “We cannot take one side, with half a million Palestinians living in complete freedom in Syria having to (face the consequences) of this position … We do not seek to get involved in internal or regional Arab conflicts. Our fundamental struggle is directed against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.” He did “advise” the Syrian regime “to give more freedom to the Syrian people, in order to strengthen Syria so that it would be able to free the occupied Golan territory and support the resistance (against Israel)”.

Given the presence of so many Palestinians in Syria, he has a point. Palestinians have their own problems, to say the least; the last thing they need is to be on the “wrong” side in Syria when one or the other side wins, and have to face the consequences.

And while Hamas’ obvious sympathies are, as Haniyeh made clear, with the Syrian people who are fighting for freedom, the consequences of being on the “wrong” side in the event of Assad retaining power could well be dire, given the simple fact that no other Arab state except Jordan has as much Palestinian blood on its hands as has the Syrian regime under the 42-year Assad dynasty.

Being on the “wrong” side in the event of the victory of the Syrian uprising could also be nasty, depending on who exactly wins; there are certainly those among the externally based Syrian National Congress (SNC), especially those closest to the reactionary Saudi Arabian and Qatar monarchies, who could be equally vicious.

That should be the starting point for any supporter of the Palestinian people: recognition that their first priority is to their struggle and the defence of their people, not to gaining nods of approval from Western leftists and some of their more peculiar views.

Hamas and WSWS

Least of all would Palestinian freedom fighters be concerned about a most peculiar sect writing that Hamas’s decision to finally denounce the 12 months of daily slaughter of the Syrian people in the streets by the reactionary Assad clique “points ultimately toward a complete break with Iran and Syria and rapprochement the US imperialism”.

This assertion by the “World Socialist Web Site” (WSWS) was essentially a rehash of what had been thrown about in the bourgeois media, indeed, from the more no-nothing sections of it. While this web-based sect would be of little consequence to the Palestinians, it is worthwhile to look at their argument as part of a discussion of how leftists relate to national liberation movements such as Hamas – whatever its errors and limitations – compared to how we ought to relate to a consolidated capitalist state, even one with some “anti-imperialist” heritage (in the case of Assad, as will be shown below, an entirely fictitious one).

The implication in the WSWS statement that it is the Syrian regime, rather than the national liberation movement Hamas, that has a more fundamental conflict with US imperialism flies in the face of decades of reality, as anyone with the slightest knowledge of recent Middle East politics is aware, so without other evidence, there is simply no reason for Hamas’s shift to “point to” anything of the sort.

Perhaps Hamas actually prefers the at least slightly open Egyptian border since the fall of Mubarak to the tightly-closed-as-ever-for-40-years Syrian-Israeli border. Hamas had been based in Damascus not out of love for Assad, but due to having few alternatives. As long as Mubarak ruled Egypt, that country was an active collaborator with the Zionist occupation of Palestine, especially the criminal siege of Gaza. Hamas had been based in Jordan until King Hussein kicked it out in the late 1990s.

The deal was, “we [Syria] give you offices, but you make sure to never use Syrian territory for any operations against Israel, even symbolic”. The Syrian border with Israel on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights was the second quietest border for 40 years, after that of Egypt, enforced by the “anti-imperialist” Assad. If the regime was never going to move even symbolically on its own occupied territory, it sure as hell was not going to allow Palestinians to.

After Mubarak

But with the fall of Mubarak things have changed. Certainly, the Egyptian generals are not exactly enthusiastic supporters of the Palestinian struggle, but under the influence of the revolution, their public posturing has shifted since Mubarak; certainly over the last year a number of events on the Egypt-Israel borders have shifted the number one most sealed border from Egypt to Syria.

Why Hamas would not want to take advantage of that – especially given the proximity of Egypt to Gaza – would be a mystery. Clearly, by making his announcement at Friday prayers in Egypt, Haniyeh manoevured to push forward the positive momentum in Egypt. The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is now the strongest party in Egypt, and that Hamas was originally the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, is hardly insignificant either; and the brotherhood is, of course, for better or worse, a prominent part of the Syrian opposition based among the Sunni majority there.

The WSWS thought that Hamas’ shift away from Assad’s dictatorship indicated a move away from Hamas’s more militant stand on Palestinian issues to a more compromising stand, again reflecting bad bourgeois media. Yet one has to think: why would a national liberation movement moving away from support for a reactionary capitalist dictatorship indicate a softer, more compromising line towards imperialism and Zionism? Unless one had massive illusions in the nature of that regime. How would it be that a capitalist regime would be more “militant” than the national liberation movement of the very people being oppressed by Israel?

Indeed, one of the statements continually heard both in the capitalist mass media and among leftists with some level of illusions in Assad was that the West may want a “more pliant” regime in Damascus; while often acknowledging the real limitations and vacillations of Assad, many leftists suggested that giving sanctuary to the exile leadership of Hamas was an example of how the Assad regime was not completely pliant, still had a little bit of anti-imperialist backbone.

Thus Assad was measured based on partial support to Hamas (and Hezbollah in Lebanon). Logically, then, if Assad had kicked out Hamas, one could say this may indicate Assad moving towards accommodation with imperialism. But how does it follow that when Hamas quits Syria of its own accord that this indicates Hamas has gone pliant? There is a lack of logic in such statements.

In any case, let’s look at some facts regarding what WSWS says. The article asserted:

This aptly called ‘seismic’ shift has already expressed itself in the most recent position of the group’s leadership toward reconciliation with Fatah in the West Bank and its willingness to abandon armed struggle against Israel and ultimately endorse a two-state solution.

The mind boggles. The movement of Hamas towards reconciliation with Fatah is already several years old, starting a very long time before Hamas’s recent break with Damascus. And from the point of view of the Palestinian people, this move towards reconciliation is long overdue on both sides and very much in their interests.

Second, Hamas has been engaged almost entirely in political struggle for at least seven-eight years. Nearly all suicide attacks ended in 2003, then definitely in 2005 after a final spate. There have been occasional armed operations with other Palestinian groups against Israeli armed forces since then, but overwhelmingly it has not been an armed but political struggle.

For just as long, Hamas has pushed the hudna, or ceasefire, concept, whereby if Israel ends its occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem and allows a fully independent Palestinian state there, Hamas will definitively end all armed struggle, while refusing to give up the ultimate goal of liberating all of Palestine; achieved after that via political struggle. Hamas is completely right on this, and this has been decade-long policy.

Capitalist dictatorship

For an allegedly Trotskyist grouplet, WSWS displays remarkable illusions in a capitalist dictatorship:

Hamas’s presence in Syria dates back to 1999, when the Jordanian monarchy expelled it in a bid to strengthen the position of its rival, the Fatah leadership in the PLO in the so-called peace process. Syria, which had historically opposed any settlement between Palestinian groups and Israel on the basis of a two-state solution, provided the group with logistical and financial support.

Let us be very clear: Syria under the Assad dynasty has never opposed a two-state solution and never claimed to. When Assad senior seized power in 1970 from the left-wing Baath Party that had ruled in the 1960s, the new regime immediately recognised UN Resolution 242, as did Egypt and Jordan. This called for Israel’s withdrawal from the recently occupied territories but only regarded Palestinians to be a refugee problem. There was nothing about Palestinian self-determination. Resolution 242 was rejected by more “rejectionist” Arab states (e.g., the Iraqi Baathists, Libya, Algeria, South Yemen) and by the PLO, including by Yassir Arafat’s Al Fatah faction. Fatah was sometimes called the “right wing of the PLO”, but as a national liberation movement was always fundamentally to the left of the treacherous Assad clique (the current Fatah leadership is, of course, a different issue, in a different context).

Moreover, Assad did more than just support a compromising resolution; unlike most reactionary Arab regimes far from the conflict, Assad – like King Hussein of Jordan – was willing to put words into action by actively slaughtering Palestinians. In 1976, the Syrian army invaded Lebanon, where the Palestinians had been allied to a Muslim and leftist coalition fighting for equal rights against the reactionary Phalange Party, which aimed to maintain the sectarian dominance of the Christian minority, which had been foisted onto Lebanon by retreating French colonialism in 1943.

The Syrian army took the side of the Phalange and participated in their siege of the Palestinian-Muslim-leftist coalition in Tel-al-Zaatar Palestinian refugee camp, a monstrous siege leaving 2000-3000 Palestinians dead or wounded.

Assad’s aim in all this was to do what Egypt’s Sadat had just done. Sadat had betrayed the Palestinians by signing the Camp David “peace” accords with Israel in order to get back the Israeli-occupied Sinai. Assad aimed to show the US and Israel how useful his regime could be to try to get Israel to likewise return the occupied Golan Heights. But having returned the Sinai and pacified its southern border, Israel felt no need to return any more land.

What’s more, for Assad’s efforts, Israel formally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, an act of outright international piracy. With this slap in the face, Assad was unwillingly forced into the “rejectionist” camp.

Ever enthusiastic about Assad’s imaginary “rejectionism”, the WSWS continues: “It had done the same (as it did with Hamas in 1999) with other tendencies in the PLO’s ‘rejectionist’ camp in 1988, the year Yasser Arafat recognized the state of Israel.”

The mind explodes. In 1983, Syria and Libya encouraged a rebellion within Fatah among its cadres in Lebanon when Arafat was exploring various diplomatic manoevures. Yes, these were “rejectionist” cadres of Fatah, who felt Arafat’s diplomacy was too compromising, unlike the pro-242 Assad regime hypocritically sponsoring them. Assad’s real objectives were to weaken and take over the independent PLO, in order to better try to do a deal with Israel over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights; he only used the rejectionist rebellion for his own opposite purposes. And whatever compromises Arafat was making, they did not include recognising Resolution 242.

Israel was well aware of this, and despite the “rejectionist” position of the Fatah rebels, openly expressed its support for Syria taking control of the PLO.

The more rejectionist parties in the PLO – e.g., the Popular front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) – had many of the same criticisms of Arafat that the Fatah rebels had, but rejected this Syrian bid to take over the PLO and attempted to mend the feud.

In any case, Assad soon abandoned the initial principled Fatah rejectionists (who had been discredited due to Syrian interference on their side) and took hold of a grotesque Palestinian splinter group which had originally been a split from the PFLP, called the PFLP-General Command (PFLP-GC), led by Ahmed Jibril who was willing to be a puppet.

Syria and Israel attack refugees

In late 1983, Syrian troops in Lebanon and their PFLP-GC stooges launched a monstrous attack on Palestinian refugee camps in Tripoli in northern Lebanon, while the Israeli navy joined in the same siege and bombardment from the sea. While the alleged “compromiser” Arafat was there with his people defending them against this murderous double siege, the “rejectionist” PFLP-GC and Syria were bombing Palestinian refugees in direct coordination with Israel.

Libya split with the “rejectionists” and reoriented towards an alliance with Fatah. In 1985, Assad launched the Lebanese Shiite sectarian militia Amal against the Palestinian refugee camps throughout Lebanon, in the famous year-long “war of the camps” in which thousands of Palestinians were killed by Assad’s goon squads. Anyone visiting these camps decades later can see thousands of bullet holes from Amal’s criminal siege. Libya sent military aid to Fatah to defend the camps. Hezbollah, the pro-Iranian splinter from Amal, vigorously condemned its Amal co-religionists over these attacks.

In 1988, the entire PLO, including Fatah, the PFLP and the DFLP, and all the smaller principled “rejectionist parties” reunited in Algiers. Only groups entirely under Assad’s control, like the PFLP-GC, stayed out. Later that year, Arafat declared the state of Palestine, and declared that the PLO was ready to negotiate on the basis of the original UN partition in 1947 (which only gave Palestine 45% of the land, but at least that was a lot more than the 22% being offered as a Palestinian state in the occupied territories in the most generous of offers, and even this is actively rejected by Israel and the US). Perhaps this is what the WSWS means by Arafat “recognised Israel”, but that year has no relation to what the WSWS says also happened, which apparently refers to the events of the previous five years described above.

In 1990, Assad’s Syria and Saudi Arabia jointly sponsored a new religiously sectarian – but less-so – constitution in Lebanon; the two countries effectively controlled the new state apparatus. This brought together many of the sectarian players from both sides, including Amal and the Phalange. Those standing outside were sidelined. For its opposition and continued resistance to Israeli occupation, Hezbollah was singled out for punishment – Assad’s troops massacred 21 Hezbollah cadres. The Lebanon deal was followed by Syria sending its army to fight on the US side during its attack on Iraq in 1991.

Assad and Israel

For its efforts, Assad still got nothing from Israel on the Golan Heights. As a result, today Syria is still “anti-Israel” because Israel still occupies its land. But no other government in Syria, no matter who comes to power, would agree to give up the Golan. Indeed, the fact that Assad has kept the border quiet for so long means that Israel has largely remained nervously quiet about the Syrian uprising, and in some cases leaders have clearly expressed their preference for Assad remaining in power. Israel has good reason to believe that any replacement of Assad may be less accommodating and be likely to have less control over the border.

The WSWS hopefully notes that today “Syria is throwing its support behind the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), which has some following within the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria, to offset the loss of Hamas”.

Is the Assad dynasty throwing its support behind PFLP-GC now? Not 30 years ago? Throwing support behind its own stooge? Note, WSWS claims that the PFLP-GC has “some following” in the camps. Even that much? Maybe among some camp guards in the camps inside Syria, from which no struggle has ever been allowed to be waged. One wonders how much support the PFLP-GC has in the Tripoli camps they were bombing in tandem with Israel back in the 1980s?

The WSWS article, however, appears to make one valid observation:

Another significant aspect of Haniya’s tour was his cordial meeting with Bahrain’s King Hamad in which Haniya tacitly endorsed the brutal crackdown against the ongoing uprising by the predominantly Shia population against his Sunni monarchical regime, asserting that “Bahrain is a red line that cannot be compromised because it is an Arab Islamic State.”

If true, this would be appalling. Hamas is a bourgeois nationalist group and thus has its contradictions. Recognising it as a genuine national liberation movement does not change this. However, I would rather see the whole context of this alleged quote rather than rely on WSWS spin, considering the level of accuracy of the rest of the article.

In any case, solidarity with the Palestinian people does not require them to fall in with whatever grotesque schema sections of the Western left may have thought up. The unfolding Syrian drama is extremely complex, and while the people are right to revolt against a tyrant, the outcome is utterly unclear, with rising armed struggle raising the possibility of the largely non-sectarian movement degenerating into a sectarian blood-letting, alongside the intervention of the Saudi Arabian and Qatar tyrants in support of imposing a particular type of regime as Assad falls.

The Palestinians are well within their rights to keep out of it, but whatever the outcome, including possible imperialist intervention, there is little point in denying the tyrannical nature of the Assad regime, and the fact that its actions – slaughtering peaceful protesters in huge numbers – is what has led to the situation as is.

It is only natural that, seeing the opportunities in post-Mubarak Egypt, the Palestinians would want to identify with the Syrian people engaged in a struggle with many parallels to their own, and to break with a regime that not only kills its people, but whose entire history has meant the shedding of massive quantities of Palestinian blood.

Comments

Excellent Read

Thankyou Mike for your contributions on this crucial topic. Far too much of the left has painted themselves into a corner on this issue and cannot come out against Assad. What's really at stake here is not a western war with Iran (which the West has been talking about ever since Iraq was invaded) but the repression and failure of the uprising in Syria, which would have drastic consequences for the inspiring upsurge in struggle happening throughout the MENA region and the world today.

Great article

Thank you Michael for clarifying this important issue.

The Assad regime has attacked Palestinian refugees in the past, particularly in the 1980s in Lebanon during Syria's prolonged involvement in the latter country. Both Hafez the elder Assad and Bashar the current leader have made their accommodations with US imperialism, and Bashar in particular has opened up the country to privatisations, though guided by the Ba'athist state. While Assad has correctly criticised the hypocrisy of the Arab League and the intrigues by the imperialist powers, let us not forget the lethal intrigues and manoeuvres of the Syrian regime.

WSWS rapprochement

WSWS needs a rapprochement with reality. They are constantly writing stuff like "the ISO (US) supports the Democrats, Obama and Trumka!" so I can't say I'm terribly surprised they can't even figure out Hamas, Syria, etc.

I would love to see them up against the IDF and see if they do better than Hamas. This is where limiting ourselves to abstract theory and formal politics comes up short.

OK, Assad is bad, what about NATO/GCC?

Not mentioning that in Syria the condition of Palestine refuges is better than in many other Arab states (more rights).

If Hamas is going to change the allies from Syria to Saudis, then wsws is right - and Saudi royals are much more reactionary then Syrian regime, they are allies of NATO and even of Zionists!

So, of course, it is up to Palestinians whom they are in bed with. But to pretend that Assad foes - tools of NATO/GCC - are better than his regime is NOT helping.

By the way, Binh used the propaganda name of Israel occupation army. The right name of it is IOF! So, it seems that not only wsws need to improve their view on reality.

PS I have NOTHING to do with wsws and do NOT agree with their stupid calls for "Jewish workers" - i.e. Zionist settlers - to unite with Palestinians, the victims of Zionist colonialism.

PPS Now, Patric is SO sure that NATO/Zionists are NOT going to attack Iran, and his ONLY proof is that they are threatening it for years. Well, they did the same with Iraq, with Libya and so on. REAL threat is NATO/Zionist/GCC war/terror/ sabotage against their foes in the ME, and it is not vanish just because Patric is saying so.

What about NATO/GCC?

"OK, Assad is bad, what about NATO/GCC?"

Very bad, as the article stated.

"Not mentioning that in Syria the condition of Palestine refuges is better than in many other Arab states (more rights)."

Lucky they don't get bombed and besieged by the Syrian regime, like their cousins in Lebanon have for decades.

"If Hamas is going to change the allies from Syria to Saudis, then wsws is right - and Saudi royals are much more reactionary then Syrian regime"

It is not a question of who is bad and who is worse, it is a question of what is best at a particuar time for the Palestinian struggle. Supporting the Syrian people who are being slaughtered is not th same as supporting a Saudi takeover of Syria. The outcome in Syria depends on many factors, as I outlined in my article. Hamas has and always ahs had relations with all Arab states, just as Fatah has/had. Manoevuring is necessary given the Palestinians position. Naturally they see an opening in Egypt as the situation ismore fluid than under Mubarak. That ahs nothing to do with becoming a pawn of the Saudis.

"they (the Saudis) are allies of NATO and even of Zionists!"

They are allies of NATO alright, and very very reactionary in their own right too. Actually I think the Saudi/Qatari bloc is much more interested in pushing a reactionary regime change on Syria than NATO or US themselves are. They are more reacting to events. But as for allies of the Zionists, I'd say Israel appears to have the exact opposite positon on the Syria question to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

"So, of course, it is up to Palestinians whom they are in bed with. But to pretend that Assad foes - tools of NATO/GCC - are better than his regime is NOT helping."

Yes. Did someone do that?

Hamas of course has to think

Hamas of course has to think about its survival, and it can find new allies in the Sunni Salafists that are coming to power on the wings of the Arab Spring, aided and abetted by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. This will not end well, as so much of the violence and bloodshed in recent years across the Islamic world has been instigated by the Wahhabists against Shiites, not Israel or US Imperialism.

In all this, Arabs of minority sects are going to get driven into exile across the region. Christians in particular are going to suffer just as they did in Iraq if Syria falls. Secularism in the region will be effectively wiped out. The only solution is a negotiated one, not a strident call to support one side or the other in a bloody confrontation.

The bigger problem is not the Left that is upholding anti-interventionist and anti-imperial principles, but the Left that has been swayed by the media war on Syria, without thinking about the long term implications of their folly.

This is why the anti-war Libertarians have emerged as far more principled than the Liberal-Left that forgets all the lessons of history and gets their emotions manipulated to support another Imperial advance.

Egypt Lower House calls Israel No. 1 Enemy

In discussion recently, when Hamas declared support for the Syrian people's uprising from an Egyptian mosque, indicating not only a correct identification with people in struggle rather than fake "anti-imperialist" tyrant, but also a strategic shift towards post-revolutionary Egypt, some commentators in bourgeois-tabloids and those like-minded in left media declared this indicated Hamas was shifting towards accommodation with imperialism, with Israel, with intending to betray itself etc.

The ridiculous assumption was that relations with the Syrian regime, which has never lifted a finger against Israel or imperialism, might be a way to judge a liberation movement which has been in the thick of struggle against both for decades.

Strange logic, I thought.

And so it is not surprising (to me, anyway) that Israel is yet again massacring Palestinians in Hamas-controlled Gaza, indicating how little Israel thinks Hamas is selling out to it etc. But furthermore, this news below indicates the real meaning of hamas' shift and the strategic nature of dclaring its break with Assad from Egypt: the entire lower house of post-Mubarak Egypt has declared Israel its number 1 enemy which it will "never" reconcile with, called for the expulsion of the Zionist ambassador and for the end of gas sales to Israel. This is the motion Hamas is trying to relate to.

Incidentally, read the article below on Egypt together with Turkish leader Erdogan's comment that Israel is committing "state terror" in Gaza (http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/turkey-s-erdogan-israel-mu...), read the ugly comments by the Zionist readership against Erdogan, and we get an idea why Israel has tended to stick with Assad throughout this.

Israel is Egypts no 1 enemy MPs declare

http://presstv.com/detail/231376.html

People's Assembly Speaker Saad al-Katatni addresses the parliament in Cairo on January 23, 2012.

Tue Mar 13, 2012 12:51AM

The lower house of the Egyptian parliament has unanimously approved a text declaring that Israel is the number one enemy of Egypt and calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and a halt to gas exports to Israel.

On Monday, Egyptian MPs voted by a show of hands on the text of a report, which was compiled by the Arab Affairs Committee of the People's Assembly (lower house of parliament).

"Revolutionary Egypt will never be a friend, partner or ally of the Zionist entity, which we consider to be the number one enemy of Egypt and the Arab nation," the report declared, adding, "It will deal with that entity as an enemy, and the Egyptian government is hereby called upon to review all its relations and accords with that enemy."

In 1979, Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, but was compelled to agree to supply gas to Israel as one of the main economic conditions of the US-sponsored peace deal.

According to the results of an opinion poll conducted by Synovate for Press TV and published on October 3, 2011, an overwhelming majority of Egyptians oppose the terms of the country's gas deal with Israel.

In the poll, seventy-three percent of the respondents said they were opposed to gas exports to Israel. Only 9 percent said they approved of Egypt supplying gas to Israel, and 12 percent had no opinion.

The issue of supplying gas to Israel has always been a contentious topic for Egyptians, who view Israel as an enemy and oppose engaging in any form of business with it.

According to a $2.5 billion export deal with Tel Aviv, signed in 2005, Israel receives around 40 percent of its gas supply from Egypt at an extremely low price

Hamas to "retaliate with utmost power" if Israel attacks Iran

Hamas denies it intends to stay out of Israeli war with Iran

Speaking to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, Mahmoud Zahar says retaliation ‘with utmost power is the position of Hamas with regard to a Zionist war on Iran.’

• Published 18:05 07.03.12
• Latest update 18:05 07.03.12

A top Hamas official rejected Wednesday reports that the militant group would stay out of an armed conflict between Israel and Iran, saying that if indeed such a war erupts Hamas will retaliate with “utmost power.”
Senior Hamas member Mahmoud Zahar (2nd R) standing with two Coptic Christian priests at Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo February 24, 2012.
Photo by: Reuters
On Tuesday, a report by the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper quoted two Gaza officials as saying that the group did not belong to any regional alliance and would not involve itself in a possible conflict over Iran’s contentious nuclear program.
The report cited Hamas official Salah Bardawil as well as a second unnamed leading figure in the group’s Gaza leadership.
Speaking to the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars on Wednesday, top Hamas figure Mahmoud Zahar refuted a similar report apparently broadcast by BBC’s Persian website, saying: "Retaliation with utmost power is the position of Hamas with regard to a Zionist war on Iran.”
Zahar added that he doubted that Israel would choose to strike Iran, saying, however, that not only would Hamas react to such a conflict, it would also target "whoever helping them.”
Referring to the possibility of an armed conflict between Israel and Iran, Hezbollah deputy Sheikh Naim Qassem said late last month that an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program would set the Middle East ablaze.
"America knows that if there is a war on Iran, this means that the whole region will be set alight, with no limit to the fires," told Reuters.
"Gone are the days when Israel decides to strike, and the people are silent," he said.
"Israel could start a war ... but it does not know the scale of the consequences and it is incapable of controlling them."
The Hezbollah deputy said he believed Israel would try to drag a reluctant United States into confrontation with Tehran because it could not inflict sufficient losses on Iran alone.
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/hamas-denies-it-intends-to...

dangerously simplistic

Mike may be asborbed in his dual with the WSWS, but one silly thing here is his linking the current Syrian government with the Syrian state over the past four decades. The Hama massacre (1982), where thousands in the Muslim Brotherhood were slaughtered, was carried out under the current President's late father and then army general Rifaat Al Assad. Rifaat left Syria almost 20 years ago, after an attempted coup, is now part of the current Syrian Opposition, and a mortal enemy of the current President. He is linked to the Saudis, who are helping arm the FSA against the secular government. The FSA are practicising appalling brutality, including terrorist acts against civilians which they then blame on the government. Bashar Al Assad remains popular precisely because he is seen as a reformer by most Syrians, a protector of plurality in Syria and against sectarianism. Using Hamas as some sort of authority does not address this at all. They have their own intersts. It is simplistic and dangerous (with NATO-US-GCC on the verge of invasion) to simply attack the current regime with the claim that it "not only kills its people, but whose entire history has meant the shedding of massive quantities of Palestinian blood". This just parallels the imperial war propaganda, the real and current danger to Syria's integrity.

Reply re Dangerously Simplistic

Actually my article was much less concerned about duelling the wsws, or even weighing in on the current Syria issue, as with defending Hamas’ entirely sensible decision against some highly simplistic analysis. Let me make clear my main contention here: that no matter what differences of degree may exist between various bourgeois Arab regimes over secularism/Islamism, relative distance from imperialism, degrees of internal repression or of neo-liberalism, ALL these differences pale to virtually nothingness in comparison to the difference between ALL these rotten regimes, without exception, and ALL wings of the Palestinian liberation movement, even the most decrepid PA wing of Fatah (though the article concerned Hamas, far healthier, with all its faults, than the PA clique).

This is because no mater the politics of the leadership of a liberation movement, by its nature it is a far more “fluid” thing than an entrenched repressive capitalist state with its own class interests far clearer.

Therefore, when Tim rightly says that “using Hamas as some sort of authority” is not valid because “they have their own interests”, while I agree entirely (and I was not doing that: note that bothy Hamas, and Assad-praising Hezbollah, supported the NATO attack on Libya, in Hezbollah's case up to the lynching of Gaddafi), this simply reverses my entire point, that “using relations with the Assad dynasty, or any other rotten Arab regime, as a sort of test-case on how to judge Hamas, or for that matter Fatah or anyone in the PLO,” is completely invalid. That is what I was arguing against: the fact that Hamas quit Syria, where it has always been highly constrained by the viciously anti-Palestinian dictatorship, to set up in Egypt *after the overthrow of the viciously anti-Palestinian Mubarak dictatorship*, where they now have more freedom of movement and where, in the current fluid situation in Egypt with masses of people still in motion, they can encourage this motion, is entirely logical for Hamas, and it is absurd to claim that this represents Hamas becoming a local pimp for the Saudi tyranny.

That said, I both agree and disagree with Tim’s concrete points about the Syria issue per se. Tim is certainly right about Rifaat al Assad, a leading member of Hafez-el-Assad’s regime heavily responsible for some of its most terrible moments is now part of the SNC and a Saudi collaborator. This parallels similar moves by leading figures in the Gaddafi regime who jumped ship to join the NTC, and who were in some ways among the worst of the Gaddafi regime (the Interior minister responsible for repression, in particular the scandal with the Bulgarian nurses, who were finally released only on the orders of Saif Gaddafi, and one of the economy ministers responsible for privatisation). So this tells us something about the Saudi- and Qatari-backed SNC. But my article clearly attacked the SNC, the Saudi and Qatari regimes and their intervention, any possible imperialist intervention, and degeneration into sectarian blood-letting.

But does Rifaat’s defection mean there is no connection between the current Assad regime and the regime of his father? Tim thinks it is silly to connect the two regimes. However, when a father passes on the reins to his son in dynastic succession, most people regard this as a continuation of the same regime. Did anything else change? Not that I’m aware of. While I haven’t kept up with which particular King Hussein in line of succession is currently on the Jordanian throne, due to lack of interest, I have no hesitation in seeing the current representative of the Hashemite dynasty as being part of the same regime that massacred 10,000 Palestinians in 1970 in “Black September” (hence the “almost” in my title: Jordan has the most Palestinian blood on its hands).

Tim says the FSA are practicing appalling brutality and then blaming it on the government. My information tells me that both the regime and the FSA are practicing appalling brutality, sometimes blaming each other. The overwhelming majority of killed civilians have been killed by the regime, though FSA terror has stepped up in recent months. The fact that the Syrian people, for at least 8 months, continually marched in the streets peacefully and were continually met with bullets in their chests by Assad’s thugs is not something that can be avoided as we protest any possible imperialist intervention. While there was the occasional violent incident, overwhelmingly this was a peaceful, well-organised, non-sectarian movement in cities throughout Syria. Compare this to Libya, where the peaceful protests, largely only in certain parts of the country, lasted about a week, maximum 2 weeks, before they turned to armed struggle, with NATO in 2 weeks later. There’s not really the remotest comparison.

Naturally, after months and months of slaughter, people begin to take up arms. Some is for elementary self-defense. I have no problem with this. The problem is, as Tim rightly emphasises, the political climate within which this takes place, and the leadership and its politics. The turn to arms in the last few months, in this context, has in effect been a negative development, regardless of the aims of many of them. Aside from the more terrible bombings that have been attributed to the FSA (which they deny), even smaller scale killings and violence in the context of the sectarian divisions within Syria can easily lead to inter-sectarian blood-letting, with fearful Syrian minorities (Alawi, Druze, Christians etc) sticking with the regime out of fear of Saudi-backed Sunni extremists; on the other side, the blood-letting will likewise strengthen the hand of such extremists; while the intensification of two-sided slaughter can increase both the propaganda for imperialist intervention as well as the means of them doing so (via arming sections of the SNC/FSA most pro-imperialist, or otherwise most reactionary in order to intensify the chaos).

Tim is therefore right that the situation has become highly dangerous for Syria as a whole, and we should be clear that any move for imperialist intervention would be catastrophic. In my view, now that the SNC/FSA has moved into this strategy over the last few months, even if it may have been the fault initially of Assad’s repression, there can now be no military solution. A “military solution” (ie, armed popular uprising against the regime) would only be possible if the vast majority of the masses were clearly on one side and the regime was, in a very narrow sense, on the other. That is clearly not the situation. An imperialist intervention, always unjustified in my view, would be even more unjustified and more catastrophic in the conditions of inter-ethnic blood-letting and deep divisions among the population. Therefore there can be no progressive policy other than a negotiated settlement and a reduction of armed conflict.

Does that mean we give up our critique of Assad? No. Of course, in the context of the threat of imperialist intervention, we do not splash “Down with Assad” or “Bring down Assad” across the front page of our newspapers or our leaflets. An argumentative article, like mine in Links, is not of that nature, unless we are worried that imperialist leaders are reading Links to get political ammunition. Rather, we need to understand what we are dealing with. The regime has been largely responsible, via its policy of months of massacre, for the current situation. And when Tim writes that Assad remains popular and is seen as a reformer by “most Syrians”, I feel he would need to produce the evidence for that. One phone poll of around 100 people that showed 55% support for Assad is not good enough to make that statement, no matter how much it has been around the Internet. But Assad does maintain important support in some sectors, and this is a further reason to oppose imperialist intervention and the current appalling and appallingly hypocritical, imperialist propaganda, which, if you believed it, would not only make Assad worse than Genghiz Khan, but even worse, even more repressive and terroristic to his people than US-backed Israel and Saudi Arabia!! A long stretch.

End of the day regarding my article: however much we oppose imperialist intervention, and however much imperialists ultimately decide to intervene more directly, let’s not use bullshit reasons like that Assad is under attack due to his “support” for the Palestinians.

I’ll end by quoting a former PLO diplomat, Jafar M Ramini, saying what I believe to be the widely held opinion among Palestinians of Arab leaders:

“Nobody in their right mind would ever stand up in defence of any of the Arab leaders. In fact, if there was a good ship ‘Arabia’ I would shove them all, without exception, on board and personally conspire to scuttle the damn ship.”

Well said. Although he emphasised “any” of the Arab leaders, he made a *partial* exception of Gaddafi:

“In the Summit Conference in Sirte 2010 those same Arab leaders stood up side by side in condemnation of Israel. The honorable exception was Col. Qaddafi who not only stood in condemnation of Israel but insisted that if we are to liberate Palestine we need more than words. Our resources, he said, especially our Arab oil, which belongs to all the Arabs, should be deployed to achieve our ultimate goal, which is the liberation of Palestine. We all know what happened to Col. Qaddafi. He simply had to go.”

He went on to express great unease about what was happening in Syria and the mortal threats it involved. But in doing so, he said nothing, even partially, in defense of the record of the Assad dynasty.

I thought your article was a

I thought your article was a good summary of the bloody history of Syria, and I agree with your main contention: the revolution against this despotic regime which has often collaborated with imperialism (gulf war 1) and zionism (red line agreement in Lebanon) is eminently supportable.

I think you should be careful when making too big a distinction between Fateh and a capitalist regime. Fateh's politics are anything but fluid, and I think we're seeing Hamas falling into the same trap before our eyes. Splits may emerge in a period of crisis, but that happens in stable capitalist regimes too.

Fateh has degenerated to the level of a Vichy government. Hamas is not there yet, but the signs are bad. Neither represent a mass national liberation movement.

Egypt just annulled Mubaraks natural gas giveaway to Israel

More on the context of Hams' shift

Egypt just annulled Mubaraks natural gas giveaway. Will Sadat’s Camp David and the Zionist Embassy be next?
Franklin Lamb
Beirut

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1205/S00007/egypt-just-annulled-mubarak...

The Egyptian people are demanding the return of their sovereignty. According to recent opinion surveys they believe it was partially ceded to Israel by the two post-Nasser dictators, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, at the behest of American administrations, from Nixon to Obama.
The removal of three humiliating shackles for Egyptians, the gas give-away scheme, the 1979 Camp David Accords and the US forced recognition of Israel, constitute a strategic national security objective for most of Egypt’s 82 million citizens. According to the results of an opinion poll, conducted for Press TV and published on October 3, 2011, 73 percent of the Egyptian respondents opposed the terms of the agreement. Today the figure is estimated at 90%.
For the past eight years, the 2004 gas deal has been widely unpopular, and one of the charges in the current indictment against Mubarak is that the deposed President sold Egypt’s gas as part of a sweetheart deal involving kickbacks to family members, associates and Israeli officials. Mohamed Shoeib, the chairman of state-owned Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company, told AFP last week that the gas deal was "annulled with the Israeli East Mediterranean Gas Co (EMG), because the company failed to respect conditions stipulated in the contract."

Once Mubarak was toppled and his 14 secret police agencies began to lose some of their omnipresence, the gas line to Israel was severed 14 times in 12 months by a series of explosions that cut off 40%, of Israel’s supply which was used to generate electricity.

In the recent parliamentary elections and now during the presidential campaign, Egyptians have been debating relations with Israel publicly for the first time. Previously Mubarak was Israel’s protector and like some other Arab leaders still clinging to power, ignored his people’s demands for actively supporting for the liberation of Palestine.

In late January 2011, an Alexandria University student briefed this observer and a small group of Americans and Europeans sitting on benches opposite the wonderful ancient city’s majestic Great Library. He explained, recalling the demands of the Tahrir Square protests on January 25, 2011, “Our slogans at Tahrir Square were bread, freedom, dignity, and social justice. That was almost exactly one year ago. God willing, we will soon achieve the demands of our historic revolution which include canceling Camp David and withdrawing recognition of the Zionist regime still occupying Palestine. Egypt must again lead the Arab Nation’s sacred obligation to liberate Jerusalem and all of Palestine from the river to the sea.”
A stunning hijabed female student continued the dialogue, giving us her opinion: “The USA bought some of our leaders with billions in generous cash from your people but without any real benefit to ours. Camp David was essentially a private agreement by Sadat and then Mubarak. Our people had no say and were never asked whether we agreed. If we protested, we were jailed or worse. Now, the Egyptian people are gaining power despite a likely military coup by the SCAF military junta before the scheduled June elections.”

Israeli officials, in tandem with the US Zionist lobby are claiming that the abrogation of the gas agreement constitutes an “existential threat”. According to a researcher at the US Congressional Research Service in the Madison Building on Capitol Hill whose job includes keeping track of Israeli claims, it’s the 29th “existential threat” the Zionist colony has identified in its 64 year history. These perceived existential threats range from the internationally recognized Right of Return for Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homes during and since the 1948 Nakba, to various Palestinian groups, more than two dozen UN Resolutions including, 194 and 242, Hezbollah naturally, international solidarity movement projects, a Jewish academic or two, Iran for sure, the rise of internet blogs, and potentially virtually every Christian, Arab and Muslim on the planet, not to mention the claimed rise of global anti-Zionism which the US Zionist lobby has recently decreed was always just another form of virulent anti-Semitism.

Despite all these perceived “existential threats” including recently the so-called “Road Map”, Israeli leaders continue to eschew any substantive negotiations which could mean Arabs and Jews sharing Palestine as part of one democratic, secular state on the basis of one person one vote, minus any ‘chosen people’ lunacy.

Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s finance minister warned that Egypt’s questioning its relations with Israel was “a dangerous precedent that threatens the peace agreements between Israel and Egypt.”

Ampal, the Israeli company which buys the gas, said that it considers the termination of the contract "unlawful and in bad faith", and demanded its full restoration. Ampal, is planning to use international arbitration to attempt redress and is sending a corporate delegation to Washington to meet with AIPAC and administration officials to ask them to get the Egyptian action nullified and to force Egypt to keep selling its natural gas at below market prices. One congressional staffer joked in an email that Israeli companies get way better constituent services out of Congress than American companies, or even the voters who elect its members.

Israeli political analyst Israel Hayom wrote last weekend:” The painful conclusion from the collapse of the gas agreement with Egypt is that we are regressing to the days before the peace agreement with Egypt and the horizon does not look rosy at all. Camp David is in mortal danger. The painful conclusion is, once again, that we have no genuine friends in the region. Certainly not for the long term.”
The ADL’s Abe Foxman lamented, “Israel gave Egypt a great deal in exchange for the Camp David peace agreement, much more than we should have. Among other things, a free trade zone, in which we veritably pushed for the establishment of sewing workshops and an Egyptian textile industry so that they would be able to easily export cheap cotton and other goods to the United States as well as to Israel. We made the Egyptians a respectable people in the eyes of the American public. And this is how we are repaid what they owe us?”
Never idle for long, AIPAC began circulating a draft resolution this week to its key Congressional operatives aimed at having the US Congress condemn the cancellation of the gas giveaway and demanding its immediate renewal under threat of the US terminating aid to Egypt. The lobby has also begun to squeeze the Obama administration, threating a cut off of Jewish donors if nothing is done to convince Egypt “to get real” in the words of ultra-Zionist Howard Berman, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The political reality is that American diplomats, AIPAC, and Israeli officials, sometimes difficult to distinguish from one another, have been bracing for a breach in Egyptian-Israeli relations since last spring’s demonstration in Tahrir Square. They rightly fear that Camp David and the Israeli embassy in Cairo will be next on the chopping block as the Egyptian people stand up.

Regarding the expected closing of the Israeli embassy, according to the daily Yedioth Ahronoth: “What we have at the moment is a swift deterioration in relations: Israelis can no longer set foot in Egypt, and the Egyptian consulate in Tel Aviv does not have a mandate to issue entry visas. Anyone who insists on going to Egypt from Israel even with a foreign passport can expect to get into trouble. His name could join the list of “spies” and “Mossad agents…They don’t want us. It’s that simple and it is very dangerous now for Israelis to be in Egypt.”
According to Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev, “There is also no one who will rent a building to the Israeli embassy in Cairo, for the small embassy staff headed by Ambassador Yaakov Amitai. Due to security considerations, we have cut drastically their work week. The staff lands every Monday afternoon and leaves early Thursday. Every time an address is found for the embassy (at an exorbitant price), the local security officials shoot down the deal. As far as the Egyptians are concerned, the Israeli diplomats can stay in Jerusalem until their next president is elected and then we will see what happens.”

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