Part I can be read here.
Part II can be read here.
The Tropes of Anti-Anti Imperialism, Part 3: Palestine and the War on Syria
If there is one media phrase of the past decade that most succinctly encapsulates the perils of the atomization of history, it is “Arab Spring.” With its synonyms of newness and awakening, one is compelled, by a single brief phrase, to assume that Arab history was once dead until finally in 2011 it was born again. Let me assume, perhaps generously, that the blogger “Cautiously Pessimistic” considers themselves too savvy for this phrase and, like many other exhausted media consumers, they dismiss it as a journalistic cliché. I would still insist that the same logic that assigns seasonal patterns to Arab struggle undergirds the logic of “Cautiously Pessimistic” and the anti-anti imperialist tropes on which they build.
How else am I to understand the sheer exasperation at the fact that, as crowds of refugees flee West Asia to escape harrowing cycles of war, I refer to the precedent of Palestine? “Cautiously Pessimistic” asks: “…why on earth would you bother examining what Syrians have to say about the contemporary situation in Syria when you can just recycle analyses of Palestine, a different country with different forces at play?” Thus, nothing short of dumbfounded, this person cannot help but wonder: What the hell does Palestine have to do with a contemporary war in Syria? Either that, or those who bring up Palestine and US imperialism’s long-stated objective to liquidate its regional supporters–individuals, non-state organizations, as well as states–can expect to be treated as narrowly ideological, hopelessly binary-minded Manicheans willing against all moral decency to “support” (what that word is supposed to mean concretely is up for debate, but that’s a different subject) any old entity claiming hostility towards Israel. (“Cautiously Pessmistic” puts it thusly: “…Syria and other Arab nations are reduced to objects, mere backdrops for the struggle between the Palestinian goodies and the Israeli baddies. ”)
That there is even a question of what Palestine has to teach us about Syria speaks to the victory of the amnesia that allows a phrase as preposterous as “Arab Spring” to flourish. But before I address the enduring relevance of the situation in Palestine, allow me to make a couple preliminary points.
Identity and Authority
The Palestine-related text “Cautiously Pessmistic” deems off-topic, which I encourage everyone to read, was published by Soula Avramidis as she observed the United States’ behavior in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. To Avaramidis, the US appeared to be deliberately destroying Iraqi national institutions across the Arab world. For her, the question of how to explain these actions morphed into a question of who could possibly explain them. Trusting her own historical memory, her remembrances of the struggles of the past, Avramidis turned back to the political education she received about the plight of the Arab world through the collective struggle and studies of the Palestinian Revolution and, more specifically, Al Hadaf (translated: “The Target”), official publication of one of that revolution’s largest parties, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Avramidis’s professed reasons for consulting the authority of Al Hadaf are profoundly important and mirror my own. But first I’ll get “Cautiously Pessimistic’s” superficial objection out of the way: is this source contemporary and Syrian enough to qualify as important or insightful when it comes to the war on Syria?
The fact that this question is even posed, and that the substance of Avramidis’s argument is thereby ignored, reflects a very specific recurring anti-anti imperialist trope in debates about Syria (and earlier about Libya). The underlying presumption is that the pathway to higher wisdom on Syria–the route leading to illuminations of the problem and providing answers about what must be done–rests on the authenticity of one’s sources. At its core, this is an identitarian argument, the problems of which should by now be broadly familiar across the left. When weighing diverse opinions against each other, which opinions should non-Syrians conclude matter? Which “voice” among Syrians is authentic and true?
Should the economic class of a given source be taken into consideration? How about whether the source resides in Syria or among the diaspora? How does a non-Syrian regard divergent interpretations of contemporary Syria from army soldiers versus refugees versus students living abroad–assuming at the same time that Syrians belonging to each of those categories live complex lives and cannot be reduced to those categories? Perhaps most importantly, how do we affirm or deny competing political commitments among Syrians without first acknowledging our own commitments? If that question had any easy answer, there would not be competing political commitments among even Syrians themselves in the first place. Presumably, the Muslim Brotherhood cadres that launched armed warfare against the Syrian state years before 2011 should remind us that Syrian identity, however it may be defined, does not guarantee shared political vision.
I think this point is rather obvious and easy, especially since endless rounds of debate about the specter of “identity politics” overtook leftist internet fora long ago. But there’s something additional worth pointing out about the type of leftist who invokes source authenticity. By deferring to this or that authoritative “voice,” with the implication that identity forms the basis of said authority, the anti-anti imperialist sneakily abrogates responsibility for their own political choices.
Take, for example, the anti-government protest slogans from Iran that “Cautiously Pessimistic” cites: “Let go of Palestine”, “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I give my life only for Iran” and “Leave Syria, think about us.” As per “Cautiously Pessimistic,” if I object to the political content of those slogans, I am engaged in providing a “stern imperial purity lecture” to “Iranians.” Judging by this metric, what might we assume about “Cautiously Pessimistic” if we were to learn that these slogans do not even come close to representing majority opinion in Iran? Recent poll results, particularly those referencing “Hezbollah of Lebanon” certainly seem to confirm as much.
By citing these slogans, “Cautiously Pessimistic” has not echoed “authentic” Iranian opinion; rather, they have made a political choice to amplify these particular slogans. It should go without saying that I’d choose to do otherwise. I find nothing encouraging or justice-oriented about the political currents in Iran that blame solidarity efforts with the occupied people of Palestine for Iran’s woes. Rather, I believe support for Palestine registers as a highly reliable indicator for a broader agenda towards liberation and justice.
Arab Palestine, Matrix of Woes
With that basic set of point out of the way, I’ll return to the question I asked above: why did Avramidis refer to the example of Al Hadaf when analyzing the US war on Iraq? It is when addressing this question that I can acknowledge that while identity and experience, those things academics have taken to calling “subjectivities,” do not provide a sufficient basis for authority, they are nonetheless necessary. For Avramidis saw Iraq, a society destroyed by US imperialism, and recalled the experience of Palestine, a society ruined by British colonialism and, later on, by US imperialism.
Avramidis understood in 2005 that Al Hadaf presented a general theory of US imperialism in the Arab world. It was a theory borne out of particular conditions (destruction and ruin), modes of experience (traversing refugee camps), and–this is what really sets the source material apart–collective practice embodied in a national liberation movement. In other words, Palestinian and Arab revolutionaries were indeed in a unique position to understand how US imperialism functioned in their region as they looked around and saw rubble and tents. But their insights are special in part because they did much more than that: they launched a region-wide struggle across the Sykes-Picot borders, which threatened the US-led system of the region and bore the fruit of social revolution. These acknowledgements alone should be enough to dismiss any notion of “imperial purity,” as we find when returning to this analysis the flow of knowledge from refugee camps into the imperial core, only to arrive in the halls of academia years later!
Consideration of this precedent ought to be extensive. The so-called “refugee crisis” of today is tied as much to imperialism now as the Palestinian Nakba of 1948 was tied to British colonialism: both Zionist and Wahhabi militias have gotten their mobilizing resources and firing power from larger imperial powers. It also helps to remember that refugees now confront the same problems Palestinians did before in the early days of the UNRWA, infantilized in bourgeois media as passive victims. Palestinians took the world by surprise when they eventually asserted themselves as a refugee-based national movement.
I want to be very clear on this point. Just as Western colonial powers were fomenting war in West Asia for a century before the 2011 eruptions, neither Arab revolution nor Arab revolutionary analyses is starting from scratch. Just about every State Department lackey and Beltway journalist who says “Arab Spring” beckons you to forget about history. Any promotion of an atomized view of regional history depends on exactly the premise that the knowledge produced by those struggles teaches us nothing and amount to nothing—2011 becomes Year Zero. Instead of interpreting the continuities on which solidarity is based, the anti-anti imperialist atomists points to endless ruptures. I propose that if people instead turn back to history, they find not only over 100 years of Arab resistance to colonialism and imperialism—dating back before the Nakba, before Peel and Balfour, before even Sykes-Picot—but also entire bodies of theory and thought on which to build.
Thus, I refer to the PLO Charter of 1968 because it reminds me of the character of the revolution—anti-colonial and Pan-Arab, necessarily including the Syrian people as an invaluable component of higher struggle and destination—that imperial powers sought to bury. I refer to the DFLP’s rebuke to “false regionalisms” because it reminds me that the US’s and King Hussein’s counterrevolution in Jordan depended on national schisms, the colonial myth that Palestinians and Jordanians are separate peoples. (Perhaps, if King Hussein’s own atomizing ideology had been defeated, the US would not even have a Jordanian base from which to attack Syria today.) I refer to the PFLP’s critique to the US political economy of war because there certainly aren’t any blue-check Twitter wonks orbiting the Atlantic Council, not Charles Lister and sure as hell not Michael Weiss, providing clues as to why the US seems to bomb Syrian (and now Russian) Army forces every time the media declares the beginning of the end of the Syrian war.
I would think that US-based revolutionaries’ theories of the present about their own society might keep something from the high points of struggles past–from Reconstruction, perhaps, or from the Black liberation movement of the 1960s and 70s. Then again, given the atomized state of US society itself, it should come as no surprise that, often times, only an atomized view of history is permissible. Hell, many people living in North America probably have a much poorer understanding of their own society than the majority of the rest of world at this point. As more and more fascists go on killing rampages, how many revolutionaries in the US are turning back to the thinkers who struggled against US white supremacy in order to find clues about the present? Who is looking now to Leonard Peltier? Or back in time to Malcolm X and George Jackson? People in the US certainly should. One can admire not only tremendous sacrifices from revolutionaries past—one can also uncover warnings from them. This discovery mission might very well turn a liberal radical, to be prepared for Charlottesville goose-steps rather than merely shocked by them.
It is the same elsewhere. In predicting the fate of the Arab world in 1974, the PFLP implored that “an attempt [was] being made to reverse half a century of Arab colonialism and to install a new order in the Mideast which requires for its implementation… the sanctification of regionalism in the Arab world.” In place of the Pan-Arab vision of a single socialist state, we would get what we see now: “a right-wing alliance under the aegis of the U.S. whose ideology is inspired by a religious fundamentalism based on upper class populist perspectives…” The right-wing militias that the US armed and trained and sent to Syria show the deeds of which that alliance is capable. It additionally comes as no surprise that those who seek to downplay, disguise, or outright hide this right-wing alliance—US support for Saudi Arabia, the CIA and Pentagon weapons programs, the sectarian propaganda campaigns, etc.—do the same about a tradition of struggle that provides still a possible alternative.
It is not, however, a tradition that sanctifies any differences between Palestinians and Syrians. Past Arab liberation struggles have tended to view the region as a whole because the US did the same. From the perspective of US planners, the region itself is a prize for geopolitical reasons. As former US diplomat Eric Edelman recently stated about North Africa and West Asia at a testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee: “U.S. policymakers have considered access to the region’s energy resources vital for U.S. allies in Europe, and ultimately for the United States itself… Moreover, the region’s strategic location—linking Europe and Asia—made it particularly important from a geopolitical point of view.” Here again is the unique problem of US rule: its intended as well as actual power extends across the world. To paraphrase Mao, revolt in a colonizer country carries a different meaning in a colonized country. For peoples of West Asia to oppose the “enemy at home” à la Karl Liebknecht very much entails opposing an enemy, in the form of US military and economic power, that has invaded their home for purposes of domination and exploitation, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean.
Let us not forget then that the dream of Arab reunification and independence after the age of French and British colonialism preceded the Nakba in Palestine. As the Nakba occurred, thousands of Arabs from across West Asia and North Africa–Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, you name it–mobilized as volunteers for the defense of Palestine, under the belief that no section of the Arab world could be free so long as the West maintained a military base at its Mediterranean edge in the former of a settler-colony. As the effects of Nakba became clear, Syrian intellectual Constantine Zureiq determined that the Zionist movement presented an unprecedented disaster to Arab peoples. Self-sacrificing Arab youth, he determined, must be mobilized. One of his students, a famous Palestinian doctor and revolutionary named George Habash, decreed in his memoirs that Israel’s existence in Palestine was “the matrix of all [Arab peoples’] woes.”
As part of its process of radicalization, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) declared in 1968 that “Arab unity and the liberation of Palestine are two complementary objectives.” The PLO went further: “The destiny of the Arab nation, and indeed Arab existence itself, depend upon the destiny of the Palestine cause. From this interdependence springs the Arab nation’s pursuit of, and striving for, the liberation of Palestine,” concluding that “the liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national (qawmi) duty” aimed at repelling imperialist aggression in the Arab homeland. This rhetoric became living reality. Some of the PFLP’s most famous martyrs were not Palestinian even: Basil al-Kubaisi was Iraqi and Mohammed Boudia was Algerian. When Iraqi and Syrian volunteers for Palestine continued to pour into the ranks of the PFLP in Lebanon in the 1980s, the PFLP did not hand them Marxist pamphlets as they did other international volunteers. Rather, all Arabs received pamphlets on Arab history. Thus, treasures such as Al Hadaf are not simply Palestinian sources. These insights remain the product of collected and collective Arab thought.
Palestine as Analogy
Despite the confusions of “Cautiously Pessimistic,” I am hardly the first or only one to invoke Palestine in relation to the ongoing war in Syria. Indeed, there are even competing suggestions for how knowledge of Palestine might be applied to the Syrian situation. Within the Palestine solidarity movement, competing lists of Palestinian opinion have been proffered as a kind of standardized evidence. A large part of this method of argument–a battle over authenticity, essentially–is the lack of a strong Palestinian national movement for guidance and accountability. This separation is partly attributable to the many forms of normalization made official in the Oslo Accords. It is a separation maintained by US legal warfare.
In the context of arguments about Syria, petitions have been proffered containing Syrian names in effect calling for a complete US invasion of Syria. (I don’t want misleadingly to claim neutrality: I find the lists proffered with names of people living in Palestine and Syria taking a stand against the US war of aggression to be more compelling.) The Syrian intellectual Yassin al-Haj Saleh, who must by now be the New York Times’ favorite Marxist, succinctly puts the Palestine analogy anti-anti imperialists see in Syria in the following terms: “We are the Palestinians, and the regime is Israeli; the Palestinians are Syrians, and Israel is Assadist.” The formula is meant to evoke the image of a terrorized, unarmed people cruelly victimized by an unrelenting military state. In the case of Saleh, this line of thought logically extends from his long-held analytical premises, in which a major defeat to Zionist settler-colonialism has ultimately posed less of a threat to Arab peoples than local regimes. As written by Suzanne Elizabeth Kassab in Contemporary Arab Thought:
“For [Saleh], the events that followed [the 1967 Naksa], such as the repression in Syria between 1979 and 1982, and the wars waged by Saddam Hussein, were much bigger disasters for Arab peoples than the Six Day War of 1967.”
At least the priorities are made clear. One one level, this reasoning threatens to erase a precious red line in the history of the cause regarding the State of Israel–namely, that Israel is not a legitimate state, that it is rather “the Zionist Entity,” an alien colonial presence in the region that threatens Arab peoples with physical and cultural extermination, to the ends than an entire people native to the land may be violently removed and replaced with European settlers. This difference between Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic, which is for all of its faults and limitations the product of a bloody independence struggle from French colonialism, manifests under current conditions every time Israel bombs Syria.
I don’t want to suggest that this proposed equivalence between settler-colonial Israel and one Arab man “Assad” (that is, when “Assad,” the one man stand-in for the Syrian state, is not actually said to have been worse for Palestinians) is simply a spontaneous, organic product emanating from various sections of the Palestine solidarity movement. Solidarity efforts with Palestine underwent major changes after the leadership of the national movement surrendered to US imperialism and Zionism in 1993. In the mid-2000s, awareness of Israel’s crimes against Palestinians nonetheless became more popularized. On its own, this popularization was a good thing; it did, however, come with some major challenges.
Rather than look to the history of the national movement for language about and descriptions of the Palestinian issue, many activists informed themselves by consulting corporate and state media networks with “independent” branding: Channel 4 News, Al Jazeera, Democracy Now!, and more recently, The Intercept. Each of these media sites covered aspects of Israeli onslaughts upon the trapped people of Gaza, gaining trust of a new generation of activists prone towards skepticism towards the news branches of Comcast and Viacom, NBC and Fox. Less understood is that these information sources are deeply embedded within the larger political economy of imperialist media, funded by corporate advertisers, the Qatari monarchy (a major weapons and training provider to contras in Syria), US billionaire “foundations,” and the billionaire Pierre Omidyar (regime change funder in Ukraine and Zimbabwe at the very least), respectively. These sites are just a few examples, to which one could add a host of Qatari-, Saudi-, and Turkish-funded media operations sympathetic to the armed contras in Syria.
Each of these media sites also tend to portray the Syrian war as a matter of a powerful state attempting to eliminate relatively powerless bands of armed rebels–or, before that, unarmed peaceful protesters. In this universe, the Syrian Arab Republic must be condemned for launching its own “War on Terror” in the manner of the US and Israel. The armed rebel groups in Syria can be viewed as the “Hamas” of Syria, a shibboleth used only to justify war crimes. In all of these analogies, a depressing irony has emerged. Right at the moment bourgeois media finally began to record at least some of Israel’s brutalities for mass audiences, that very coverage became a weapon with which mass media propagandized against another US-Zionist target.
The Israel-Assad analogy necessarily sidesteps the problem of inequality between nations. To quote an old slogan: “Countries want independence, nations want liberation, people want revolution.” The questions of independence and liberation are tied intimately to that of revolution. While Hamas’s professed principles and vision for Palestinian society is not leftist in the slightest, their actions against Israel serve the ends of justice. As refugees in their own land, Hamas fighters’ armed rebellion not only amounts to self-defense from the racist aggression manifested in Israel’s very existence, but also plays a role in the liberation of the Palestinian people as a whole from colonialism. It is anti-colonial violence strengthening the global fight against imperialism and the racism required by imperialism, the kind theorized by Fanon and eventually, in typically belated fashion, enshrined as a right in international law.
In Syria, where French colonialism was defeated and where there has remained by contrast with other Arab countries relative independence from the US, there wages not only the battle against recolonization, but also a battle over the political future of the country. Every time Ahrar al-Sham, or Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, or Jaysh al-Islam attack civilian centers, they do so with the intent to change Syrian society. We ought to consider those proposed changes should we decide to analogize the Syrian armed forces’ response to Israel or the US: have these groups earned the right to decrease the legal status of Syrian women? Have they earned the right to eradicate ‘Alawis from Syrian lands? The analogy becomes all the more disturbing when we consider that the US and its allies have provided these groups with the materials means to attempt those changes. The mortars fired by Jaysh al-Islam into Damascus bring physical destruction; they are also backed by political programs and ideas. Anti-anti imperialism reaches something of an apotheosis whenever people compare the Syrian Army in Ghouta, an enclave invaded by US-backed contras, to the US-backed Contra State of Israel!
Palestine as Center of Common Struggle
The Israel-Assad analogy also replaces region-wide struggle against a region-wide order with atomistic struggles against “internal” regimes, ensuring the expanded military hegemony of the US and Israel, as the Syrian war has demonstrated. Furthermore, the analogy implies that effective anti-Zionist solidarity with Palestine in the United States can possibly be carried out without an effective antiwar movement against the US’s broader policies in the region.
To see how that would work practically, I can return to a criticism I received from “Cautiously Pessimistic.” To quote myself: “The fact, for example, that left-wing Palestinian organizations were able to hold open strategy conferences in Damascus before the outbreak of war, is not in the slightest way insignificant, for either U.S. imperialists or for anti-imperialists…” And here is the rejoinder to my words: “…is it significant or insignificant that left-wing pro-Palestinian organisations are able to operate openly and hold meetings in the US itself?”
To be clear, I would oppose on principle the CIA pumping right-wing militias with guns to turn city quarters into charnel houses and Captagon factories, even if those militias didn’t hunt leftists. But I must point out what is omitted from this reply to me. The organization in question is not just any leftist Palestinian party. It is the largest, most organized leftist Palestinian faction, the PFLP. The PFLP cannot openly hold meetings in the US because the State Department lists it as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.” My critic clearly has as little interest in Palestine as they do in defeating US imperialism, so they likely have never had to confront the effects of the FTO list, which we can simply regard as a stateside manifestation of the repression the US strengthens through its alliances in the Arab world. As I put it in Viewpoint, we are talking about “a region where such organizations are outlawed and forced underground to hide perpetually and flee from the surveillance of absolutist monarchs and unrelenting Israeli occupiers.”
The FTO ban is enforced, too. In fact, you need not even break the unjust laws to encounter FTO-related repression. Look no further for proof than the Antiwar 23, international solidarity activists raided by the FBI before they were delivered subpoenas in September of 2010. The FBI left behind files containing the operation plans for the raids at one of the targeted houses. The contents revealed concern over “material support” specifically for organizations opposed to US imperialism. The first was the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist-Leninist organization militarily targeted by the US’s Plan Colombia. (Since I am interested in “making connections,” I will use the mention of Colombia to point out that the National Police forces, or Junglas, that the US trained in Colombia are now being deployed by private contractors to fight as mercenaries for the United Arab Emirates in Yemen.) The second was the PFLP. “Have you ever heard of a group called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, also known as the PFLP?” was one of the questions agents were prompted to ask.
There are several functions to the laws banning the PFLP. One pertains to Palestine specifically. As Charlotte Kates argues, “When the FTO lists were initially created — the first creating financial, the second criminal, penalties for ‘material support’ of the banned organizations — the parties associated with the Palestinian left, most notably the PFLP, were named, no doubt related to those groups’ criticism of the Oslo process and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.” Another function pertains to solidarity organizing with Palestine: “The criminalization of material support to these groups has reshaped Palestinian organizing in the US, segregating those in exile here from their counterparts in Palestine and elsewhere in the Arab world by creating barriers to common political affiliation and support. With the potential for prosecution looming over politically active Palestinians, a new climate of fear has strongly suppressed organizing.”
For its role in reshaping Palestine organizing, the law effectively does to the Palestine solidarity movement what the US did to the Palestinian national movement. This is to say, it severs “radical” activists from the “moderates,” the easier to isolate and target the former. The fault line between the two—“radical” and “moderate”—can in large part be defined by their distinct attitudes towards the issue of US imperialism. There are several practical factors at play here, all of which have serious implications for how US activists approach the Syrian war.
First, meaningful solidarity with Palestine requires, probably even more than activists targeting Israel itself, meaningful pressure against the US government backed by one simple demand: cut off all aid to Israel. This pressure cannot coalesce without strong coalitions built on local forms of power, nationally coordinated, throughout the US. At the risk of being accused once more of “imperial narcissism,” its existence depends much more on a concrete analysis of conditions in the US than conditions overseas.
Second, we have seen on display since the recent imperialist onslaughts beginning in 2011 an increase in US wars (the expansion of US arms programs in Syria into bombing campaigns, followed by direct military occupation being one prominent example), concomitant with a marked decrease in antiwar activity, owed in no small part to state repression. To the case of the Antiwar 23, we might add the Jacksonville 5, a group of antiwar activists who, when protesting the US bombing of the Syrian government, were infiltrated by a pro-Trump provocateur working in league with the police, badly beaten, and brought up on trumped up charges of incitement to riot. That any strengthening of US powers also strengthens US domestic social control has been obvious since 2001 and the inauguration of the “War on Terror.” This principle holds no less true when wars are fought somewhat differently, as in Syria. Something we should really be worried about in view of domestic repression is how these dimming prospects for antiwar come at a time when Trump is expanding his threats, to countries as geographically disparate as Venezuela and Korea.
Third, any articulation of a positive program around these interlinked issues requires coherence. We cannot call for the end of US arms shipments to Israel on Friday and then cheerlead or look the other way (functionally the same thing) when US arms shipments flow into Syria on Saturday. The simple demand for the US to end arm shipments to Israel provides a basis for an extended demand that it end such shipments to neighboring Syria—although at this point, the demand must be deeper and insist on a full withdrawal of US forces. These are the inescapable conclusions that lead me to propose a deliberate, planned merger between Black and Palestinian liberation movements and what is left of the antiwar movement. Not in a vaguely analogous way, but in a direct material way, their business is undeniably each other’s.
Fourth and finally, if Israel succeeds in Syria, what does that mean for Palestine? On the flip side, if Israel succeeds in liquidating Palestinian resistance, what would that portend for Syria? Once again, in the Syrian war, Israeli oppression is no mere metaphor. Israel maintains an active role. In February, anti-Assad Elizabeth Tsurkov of the ominously-named Israeli think tank “The Forum for Regional Thinking,” and who in my estimation whitewashes the full extent of Israel’s role, nonetheless published an article offering more details about the ways in which Israel is increasing its involvement in Syria. She names specific anti-government militias Israel is supporting in Syria “in the form of weapons, ammunition and money to purchase weapons on the black market”: Liwaa’ Fursan al-Jolan and Firqat Ahrar Nawa. What Tsurkov conveniently leaves out of the article is something that even made it to The New York Times: in October of 2015, Israeli minister Naftali Bennett promised to “introduce a plan…involving ‘several hundreds of millions of shekels’ to create jobs, housing, schools and transportation in the sprawling, green Golan Heights.” It is a plan for settlement expansion into Syria. Naftali called the Syrian war a “rare opportunity” when bragging that Israeli officials hoped to see “10,000 new residents” living in occupied Golan “in five years.”
Another major detail Tsurkov leaves out is the stated hope of Israeli officials to create a proxy force in the occupied Golan in the manner of the “South Lebanon Army” in Lebanon. The SLA makes for a frightening precedent. If Israel succeeds in establishing a Syrian SLA, there will continue to be fierce repression–torture, imprisonment, assassination–of all Golan-based Syrians resisting Zionist occupation. Anti-Zionist coordination between occupied Golan, Sheba’a Farms (in Lebanon), and Northeast Palestine will be strictly monitored and forbidden.
In Syria, the US will coordinate intelligence from their respective zones of occupation (the Golan, East and North Syria); if their war tactics escalate, US jets will make use of Zionist-ruled airspace, and vice versa. In Palestine, the US recently installed a new “permanent” military base. Presumably, this base will serve several purposes: as a base direct military attacks on Lebanon and Syria in the event of a bigger regional war; as an intelligence-gathering center between US and Israeli officials about Palestinian resistance; as a practice location for the close-quarter terrain of small villages, where “informal” networks and methods of resistance tend to emerge; and as “security measure” for any confrontations arising when the US establishes its new embassy in Al Quds, a move designed to hasten the ethnic cleansing of the city’s east side.
Put simply, the cause will not be won without stopping the US’s broader regional agenda. In the true anti-imperialist sense, Palestine is more than an analogy. It is a site of direct confrontation between the colonizer and the colonized in a region-wide war.