Guest post by DaveM
So Viva Palestina, in their quest to break the, er, siege of Gaza, have arrived in Syria where VP trustee Kevin Ovenden addressed the welcoming party while standing underneath flags of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.
Once you take a closer look at the SSNP it becomes very clear that no self-respecting socialist or humanitarian would go anywhere near them, let alone let themselves be photographed standing under their emblems.
Even if we ignore their suspiciously familiar imagery of lightning bolts and eagles (compare and contrast) or their flags, there is no mistaking:
–Their antisemitic ideology (from the SSNP’s exhibition at the Damascus College of Fine Art: “Our struggle with the Jew [collective noun] is a struggle of existence not a struggle of borders,” i.e., it’s an existential struggle, not a geographical one).
–Their imperialist goals for the Middle East and Cyprus.
–Their attacks on journalists, not just English but also Lebanese.
According to the account Harqous gave Future News, the [SSNP] assailants called him “a Jew” as they beat his head and neck with his own mobile phone. Harqous said he had blood dripping from face as attackers surrounded him, yet no pedestrians on the street dared to intervene until a fellow journalist from the opposition daily as-Safir arrived and took him to the hospital.
–Recruiting a 17-year-old girl as a suicide bomber.
But when you believe that solidarity with the Palestinians requires commitment to the elimination of Israel, “you can’t be too choosy” about whom you support. And I guess Palestine is no different than Iraq.
So if you’re a trustee of a group which claims to be leftwing and to support Palestinians, albeit while standing underneath SSNP flags, it may help to know where the SSNP stand on Palestinian solidarity and their history with Palestinian groups.
And yes indeed, they’ve been involved with the PLO. It was during the Lebanon War, specifically the War of the Camps.
So what was the nature of these dealings? Standing together in solidarity facing down the Zionist Menace? One for all and all for one?
Well, not quite.
In 1985 the Lebanese Shia militia Amal were joined by the Lebanese Army 6th Brigade (also Shia) and the SSNP in a war against the PLO in the Palestinian refugee camps.
Voice over: “These wars coincided with the War of the Camps which was led by the Amal militias. The defeat of the Murabitoon Movement which was allied with Arafat led to the fall of all the areas surrounding the Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut into the hands of Amal, who were backed by Syria.
“The 6th Brigade which had split from the Lebanese army during the 6th Feb 1984 Intafada had joined with Amal and contributed in besieging the refugee camps, while the leftwing parties refused to participate in this. The Palestinians considered that they were involved in a regional war, not a local one.”
Georges Hawii, Lebanese Communist Party: “In Amal party circles the subject was brought up that ‘we [Amal] are able to settle (terminate) the existence of Palestini…. the existence of Arafat in the camps.’ And thus began the War of the Camps. And this was an undertaking from the Amal movement to finish off the battle within four days. Except the Palestinians defended themselves.”
“We didn’t enter this war, and one of the reasons for the fissure in the relationship between us and our brothers in Damascus [i.e. the Syrian leadership] was our position. And when I was leaving the meeting in the Sheraton I spoke to Issam el- Muhayri who was the president of the SSNP at that time. I said to him, ‘Comrade Issam, You’re a nationalist party, a party in which you all believe in the Palestinian cause. You fight against Israel. So how is it possible for you to fight against the Palestinians?’
“He said to me, ‘Comrade Georges, you haven’t learned and you never will. I like you so I’ll be frank. This nation [Umma] is a ship, and it has one captain, Hafiz Al Assad. So we hand over this steering of ship to this captain [Assad]. We do what he tells us to and nothing else matters”.
“I understood the message and knew the repercussions. But I assure you that I have no regrets in not taking part in that battle fighting against the Palestinians.”
Bissam Abu Sharif, PLO: “Syria’s strategy was Lebanon on one side and Palestine on the other. Either in its fists or under its armpits in order to face the political future in the region. Syria considered our [PLO’s] departure from Beirut would weaken the PLO leadership and thus the time had come to turn the PLO into [something] subservient to Syria’s strategy, plan or position. And if that required splitting the PLO then so be it. And split Fatah and forming an alternative and split all the organizations.
“So from ’84 to ’85 a new War of the Camps began. A war of elimination and extermination, in Shatila and Bourj el Barajneh.
The shelling did not stop. Night and day. Shatila was leveled to the ground, completely wiped out. And lots of people were martyred. Who did this?
“Whatever the difference in names of the guns, it’s the same ammunition [comparing this to the 1982 massacre of Sabra and Shatila]. It was a battle to eliminate the existence of the PLO in Lebanon for good so that Lebanon would become completely connected to Syrian policy without any PLO influence at all in Lebanese policy”.
Jubin M. Goodarzi wrote in “Syria and Iran” (p. 152) that by the the summer of 1985, “the ceasefire could not have come sooner for the Palestinians, since they had almost run out of ammunition and had suffered enormously. More than 600 refugees were killed and 2500 wounded during the blockade.”
Oh dear. Participating in a war against Palestinians? Against Palestinian self-determination? Blockading Palestinian refugee camps? Sieges? No leftwinger with any sense of self-worth would go near a group such as that, let alone get photographed standing underneath their flags.
So much for Palestinian solidarity.
Now that Ovenden and Viva Palestina are happy to be photographed with extreme rightwing groups that fought and killed Palestinians in Lebanon, what’s to stop them from standing under the flags of the Falangist militia that committed the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres?
They’ve already crossed that line with the SSNP. There’s no point being coy now. It’s too late to claim the moral high ground.
DaveM spent a year in Syria learning Arabic.