Palestinian leadership backs Assad

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 |  Aviel Schneider

It is by now no secret that well over 100,000 people have died in the Syrian civil war. And yet, that has not been enough reason to stop the "long-suffering" Palestinian leadership from backing Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. In fact, both Hamas and Fatah, the faction of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, have openly sided with the "butcher of Damascus."

According to Kuwait newspaper Al-Anba-e, top Hamas leaders Imad al-Alami and Mahmoud al-Zahar are fully on Assad's side. Khaled Mashaal, the international face of Hamas, has been somewhat more diplomatic, calling for a political solution in Syria.

Although Hamas is a Sunni Muslim movement, it is financially and ideologically supported by the Shiite Muslims in Iran. The Assad regime is an ally of Iran, and therefore also aligned itself with Hamas, allowing the group to make it headquarters in Damascus for decades leading up to the current civil war.

In Ramallah, most Fatah politicians are either keeping mum or speaking of a "political solution." At the same time, not a word is heard regarding Assad's war crimes against his own people. Not one has openly criticized the brutal Assad regime, as most seem to be waiting to see if the dictator survives or is defeated by the rebels before publicly choosing a side.

Abbas appears to not want to risk any political damage by broaching the subject, while his spokeswoman, Palestinian Christian politician Hanan Ashrawi recently insisted that American intervention in Syria and Iran only benefited Israel.

It was indeed curious that this Christian voice seemed to have little care for the Christians in Syria, such as the Aramaic-speaking residents of the Christian village of Maalula, which was recently captured and brutally attacked by rebel forces aligned with Al Qaeda.

There is little doubt that if Israel treated Palestinian Christians as Christians in Syria are now being treated, Ashrawi would be loudly calling for Western military action against the Jewish state, rather than speaking of political solutions.

Among average Palestinians, a different tune is heard. Many are ashamed that their politicians are providing Assad with cover. Everywhere that we talked to Palestinian Arabs - from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to Hebron - all openly cursed Assad. And the reason was two-fold. Palestinians dislike Assad because he is a "butcher," but also because he belongs to the Alawite religious group, and is therefore not considered a true Muslim.

Most, in viewing the situation in Syria, have also admitted that Israel, does not deal in a brutal manner with the Palestinian Arabs. In fact, those living close to the "Green Line" separating Israel proper from the so-called "occupied territories" hope and pray to continue living under Israeli rule.

"You have true democracy and respect for human rights. Arabs are not merciful like the Jews," said my gardener, Ali Mansur. "We live in fear, we have no freedom like you. If only we could choose, believe me, most would opt to live under Israeli rule."

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