Friday, 3 July 2015

Ogres and Orientalism: An Interview with Yassin al-Hajj Saleh

"Who among the Western leftists knows anything about the war in refugee camps? About the siege of Tripoli? Tal Al-Zaatar? Palestinian detainees in Assad’s prisons? And I needn’t add, what do they know about Syria in the first place? About its society, economy, or politics? Or about the Syrian detainees and the massacres the regime committed against Syrians? About the emergence of a ‘white’ segment of the population that discriminates against most Syrians and kills them in colonial-style punitive campaigns? Or about the colonial structure of the Assad state and its fostering of a ‘superior civilisation’ culture like that of the “white” settlers against the colonised peoples? About the sectarian divide-and-conquer policy also modelled on the colonial methods? Nobody.
I have read Noam Chomsky for years and translated a book of his after my release from prison. I also helped translate a book about him. Not once have I seen in all his abundant work anything in reference to the Syrian people’s feelings about the Assads’ colonialism. He may have mentioned in passing something about the brutality and tyranny of the Assad regime, but that was it. All his views revolved around the United States and Israel. He doesn’t see us. He sees the Palestinians to some extent. Three years ago a few Syrian and Lebanese friends met with him in Beirut. The man knows very little and didn’t seem compelled to listen to his mostly young interlocutors. And it looked like he was irritated with them after the meeting because, instead of them listening to his views, they expressed theirs. I am talking here about a man with indisputable courage and morals, but the traditional Western left is incomparably less courageous and ethical than that in the region.
To further understand this situation we should also remember that the Assad regime benefits from two types of ideologists: The ‘anti-imperialist resistance’ ideologists with previous ties to the Soviet Union (like Egypt after Abdul Nasser) and their relations with Iran and Hezbollah and with North Korea and Chavez, and the ‘modernization’ ideologists (like Saudi Arabia and the like) similar to the modernity of Iran before the Islamic revolution.
The regime’s also gained from Western journalists like Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn and Seymour Hersh. All of them have visited Damascus for a few days at a time, staying in five-star hotels and meeting with Bashar and some of his trusted cabinet members and intelligence officers, engaging in classified conversations about Blair and Cameron, or Clinton, Bush, and Obama. They also accompanied Assad army tanks which were carrying out punitive measures against ‘black’ Syrians like Fisk did in summer 2012, when he was the only embedded journalist in Darya near Damascus. Or they’ve fabricated eyewitness accounts of themselves like Patrick Cockburn who falsified a report a few months ago. That man calls for a coalition between the US and Assad, between Syria’s first world and the Western first world. But to him, we - the leftist opposition to the regime - are not just invisible, we don’t even exist.
During the second, still ongoing, Assad war on Syria, other killers turned up to aid the regime two years ago. The solution to that is to stop the killers and punish them, and for those who are ‘neutral’ to spare no effort in preventing the continuous killing, including helping those subjected to the killing to more effectively stand up to the killers. So if the people are being bombed with barrels from air space that only the Assad regime has access to, is it too much to ask for anti-aircraft weapons? Doesn’t preventing the people from defending themselves contribute to complicating matters further? And if the regime is getting mercenaries from Iran, Lebanon, and Afghanistan to support it, why aren’t these mercenaries considered terrorists just like ISIS and the Nusra Front? Isn’t this another contribution to complicate matters? Is it really so difficult to understand such things? Is it so complicated?
Fair-minded people who study the American administration’s policy will discover that the outcome of it has been a continuation of the Syrian conflict with no regard to justice or human life, and that the U.S. has given priority to its geopolitical interests over the rights and the blood of the Syrian people.
We are now witnessing a rise in discrimination in most Western countries against Syrian refugees. Europe is inventing new ways to monitor the Mediterranean Sea and to win the war on refugees, no matter how hard it tries to disguise this as a war on intercontinental human trafficking mafias.
In this context, the left that is supportive of the Syrians’ struggle stands in the world’s defense, for a fairer world. And that is an honor to the left and the West."

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