Is fascism infiltrating our rallies?
By Oriana P.
The massive and ongoing Palestinian solidarity rallies around the world we are seeing these days must surely be an activist’s wet dream: coming together on one single issue, unity, global solidarity, making connections, speeches, art, music, but most of all outrage.
This outrage is well deserved and justified given the fact that Israel has been colonizing a country and its people for over 66 years. This means that the majority of the people alive today have been living with this reality: somewhere in this world colonization is still alive and kicking. And it’s not the “softer” kind of colonialism either, it’s not the Enlightened colonialism, it’s not Orientalism with its scholarly texts. No, it is the smack-in-your-face-brutal-genocide-militarized-oppression kind.
Israel doesn’t want to share. It never had the intention of sharing and it never will. Israel wants to annihilate and terrorize and destroy. In the 21st century Israel unapologetically shows us the true face of imperialism and colonialism and in doing so it refuses to let us forget our own shameful colonial past. A past we, the Western people in our Western countries, so desperately want to deny but of which the remnants are still in place in our societies and reflected in our power structures, our privileges and our rituals and festivals.
So we rally and we rally hard and we rally together with our Arab and Muslim brothers and sisters. In his article “How standing up for Palestine is Decolonizing Europe” Dyab Abou Jahjah gives an excellent explanation for the magnitude of global outrage we are currently experiencing:
“Palestine, more than any other issue, constitutes the ideal cause for this new urban majority to rally around. Palestine is an anti-colonial struggle, an anti-racist struggle, an anti-apartheid struggle. It is a fight against all the anti-thesis of the new urban community in Europe. That’s why when these communities mobilize for Palestine they are actually at the same time mobilizing for their own citizenship and equal rights in the face of racism and islamophobia and colonial reflexes. Israel is a product of European colonialism and its methods are the same methods colonialism used in Algeria, Indonesia, Congo, South Africa, etc… When the new Europeans manifest their support for Palestine against Zionism, they also break with the colonial heritage of Europe and they write the first letters in a decolonization act that is yet to be implemented in Europe itself”
The issue of Palestine seems to bring us together. It seems to give us a glimpse into the future of a newfound unity, indeed of a new world. A world we will have to create if we want to rise up from the current dire economic situation. But more than that we rise up against blatant injustice and gruesome atrocities. We unequivocally and instinctively side with the underdog. Simply because it is the right thing to do.
Where then was the solidarity for the Syrian people who have been living in the same conditions Gaza is experiencing now but for the past three years and continuously? Might it have something to do with who the oppressor is as Odai Al Zoubi wrote on his Facebook profile?:
"Many leftist and liberal westerns find it easier to sympathize with Gaza than with Syria. For them, the importance of the victim comes from the criminal. If you are Palestinian, and you are killed by Assad, it is fine. If you are killed by Israel, this is outrageous. This kind of hypocrisy must stop. Assad, Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, and all the Israeli leaders are war criminals. We, Arabs and Muslims, might start to respect those who pretend to sympathise with us, when we know they don't discriminate between the victims. As long as those hippies only condemn Israel and the states, and refuse to condemn Iran, Russia, Assad and Saddam Hussein, they will stay in the same position as their opponent, the conservatives who only condemn Iran, Russia, Assad and Saddam, and ignore the crimes of Israel. I don't find any difference between these two racist attitudes in the West. For us, things are simple: All victims are victims. All criminals are criminals. In all the cases the story is the same: distribution of power and money, and oppressing the poor and the more vulnerable creatures. Our sympathy is with those who are oppressed, regardless of who oppress them."
This reasoning is merited given the fact that Assad has killed close to 3.000 Palestinians in Yarmouk and other refugee camps.
Possibly what we need to do most in the case of the Syrian revolution is listen to people who participated in it and those who are facing the abhorrent violence against it.
Listen to these Palestinians, now yet again refugees in another land. First the Zionist armies exiled them from their villages in Palestine in 1948, now the armies of Bashar exile them from Syria, which had became a temporary home. This video is 8:31 of a deeply troubling, deeply painful take on the everyday reality of Palestinians made refugees yet again.
Palestinian refugees from Syria reveal the exploiters of the Palestinian cause.
Many other reasons could be given for this lack of support. It might be because the terms “imperialism” and “colonialism” don’t apply here and it is “merely” a dictator killing his own people. Or it could be because there is discussion around the term ”genocide”, as if “massacre” doesn’t justify outrage.
Or maybe because it is viewed as a sectarian war rather than a genuine revolution that has been brutally oppressed. Although this argument might actually have some kind of truth in it, after all there are extremist groups fighting on the ground, it becomes null and void when this argument is used to claim that the people are “just caught in the crossfire”. With this argument we absolve ourselves from any responsibility and give ourselves permission to look away. Moreover, this argument is a downright lie because the people are not “caught in the crossfire”. The people are the target. They are the target from both the regime as well as from the extremist groups with the regime doing by far the most damage with its deliberate and persistent bombing of civilian areas, its starvation campaigns and its air strikes.
We have to steer away from the false narrative “Assad versus ISIS” . It’s a narrative that plays in the hands of and has been promoted by the regime because it distracts from the revolution, it distracts from what the people want. It prevents us from acknowledging the Syrian people and their cries for support. The real narrative should be “Assad plus ISIS versus the Syrian people” and this connection, “Assad/ISIS” , in all actuality, begs for its own article.
To add insult to injury pictures of the victims in Syria are circulating on the internet, posing as pictures of the victims of Gaza. First, the struggle of the Syrian people is ignored and then their suffering is used to illustrate the suffering of others. In this process both the Syrian people as well as the Palestinians have been insulted. In most cases this is probably due to ignorance and an honest mistake but the question remains why these pictures all of a sudden do get recognition whereas before they didn’t.
What’s more disturbing is the fact that Syrian fascist flags are carried in Palestinian solidarity rallies. Code Pink recently came out with a picture from one such rally. The picture carried their name in pretty pink letters and claimed it was from the Los Angeles rally from July 20th. “The largest Palestine solidarity protest in L.A history” it boasted, featuring several Palestinian flags and one flag from the SSNP, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.
This political party was founded by Antun Khalil Saʿada in Lebanon in 1932 and it reflected his fascist sympathies in many ways, such as his cult-of-personality style leadership, the way the party was organized and its emphasis on blood lines and mystical nationalism. The party used the European fascists and Nazis as a template for its rituals and symbolism from the Hitler-like salute, to setting their anthem to “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles”, to the use of a Swastika-like symbol, the “Red Hurricane”, on its flag.
In the thirties many fascist and Nazi sympathizers flocked to the SSNP but these days it can also count on the support of many European extreme rightwing groups who express their interest in forums on the web.
“Vanguard”- Ideology:National Syndicalism + Russian/Slavic Nationalism: “I found these fine comrades on the internet today, and was pleasantly surprised to see a group that held the vast majority of my ideals. I would likely place them as the contemporary political party that I most agree with. For those of you who don't know, they are one of Syria's more prominent parties, and while still banned, are increasingly tolerated by the regime. Personally, I developed an interest in the SSNP when I read that they professed to "A distinct breed of National Syndicalism." They also have an incredibly classy flag, representing the tempest of the people purging colonialism and decadence from Greater Syria.” (April 2012)
“TotalitarianSocialist” - Ideology:Volkstaat Agrarian NS. Pan-Aryanism: “I like the SSNP, great group. Syrians are also some of the lighter Arabs. I support the Assad regime but his dictatorship is far to soft, it is not nearly as brutal or authoritarian as the regime of Husseins or that of Fascist regimes.” (April 2012)
Please note: Assad has killed nearly 200,000 people, at least 11,000 of which were brutally tortured to death in his prisons. He has used and is still using chemical weapons against civilians and millions of his people had to flee their country and are now overflowing the neighboring countries. In addition he does his best every day to reduce his country to rubble by bombing it relentlessly. Apparently that approach is too soft for the fascists.
Since its existence SSNP has been the subject of many controversies attracting many members as well as many enemies. The relationship with the Ba’ath party went from troublesome to rivalry to bitter enemies but this all changed when Hafez Al-Assad, the father of the current dictator Bashar Al-Assad, came to power. Not only was the Ba’ath party’s ideology transformed into an ideal match with the SSNP but the parties also enjoy several close family ties resulting in the SSNP militia receiving money and arms from the Syrian regime. This support has lifted the SSNP out of relative obscurity and since the 1980’s the SSNP has been stronger than ever.
So what is the flag of this fascist party doing in a Palestinian solidarity rally? To be fair Code Pink has since taken down the picture but that might have had more to do with the fact that the picture in question had first been posted online on July 12th and therefore it couldn’t have been of the July 20th rally. Even so, the fact remains a Syrian fascist flag with close ties to the Syrian genocidal regime appeared in a pro-Palestinian rally.
This incident is reminiscent of an earlier incident at the Pride parade in NY where members of the LGBTQ community held signs featuring the St George ribbon, which is the symbol of the movement that supports the famous ultraconservative fascist homophobe Alexander Dugin, Putin’s main adviser. As it turned out, this contingency had been organized by the World Workers Party, a reactionary Stalinist organization linked with the pro-Russian Borotba party from Ukraine. Incidentally, this party has been denounced by several Ukrainian leftwing and anarchist organizations in an official statement.
These incidents are hardly isolated or coincidental. It is a well know fact that many of the organizations of pro-Palestinian rallies such as Code Pink, ANSWER coalition, Stop The War coalition and others also organized the dubious “Hands Off Syria” rallies with their “No US Intervention” message. A message that obviously plays into the hands of the Assad regime and which is also carried by the European extreme right groups who are in support of and in alliance with both Putin and Assad. Several representatives of these groups have been on “fact-finding” missions, read: support visits, to Syria, which were sponsored by the Assad regime. After the end of the Cold War the extreme-right needed a new enemy and a new image. The new enemy became the US and its imperialism. Although this criticism is justified it is also one-sided, since other imperialist giants such as Russia are completely ignored. The new image then consists of a shameless pandering to the Left by taking over its slogans, its anti-capitalist rhetoric, parts of its ideology and declaring their ideology is neither Left nor Right. The latter are the so called Third Positionist groups or Third Way, who may look progressive and new but are still at their core fascist and certainly allies of extreme right wing groups.
“Vanguard”- Ideology: National Syndicalism + Russian/Slavic Nationalism: “It is upsetting that you are so eager to denounce our third-positionist comrades, as we are not nearly large enough to begin picking and choosing amongst our international power-base.” (April 2012)
This pandering-to-the-Left strategy seems to be working when we look at the lack of support for the Syrian Revolution, the excuses made for the Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad and the downright adulation for Putin, who’s ruling a country that has all the characteristics of fascism. “Leftists’ have eagerly embraced this US anti-imperialism discourse and in the process gained some questionable allies. In October 2010, Pippa Bartolotti, leader of the Wales Green Party, took a trip with George Galloway, the Respect MP, to Syria as part of the Viva Palestina convoy. While in Lattakia Pippa proudly posed with a SSNP flag flashing her Viva Palestina badge. As far as George Galloway goes, he is linked to and gets paid by the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV station, which gets its funds primarily from Syria and Iran.
“So whenever Galloway speaks about Syria, just remember: money talks.” ~ Not George Sabras
The occurrence of fascist symbols at rallies that are considered leftwing is not a coincidence and it is problematic. But it is even more problematic when big parts of the “Left” choose to side with oppressors instead of the oppressed. No amount of rallies in support of the Palestinian cause can ever redeem that, no matter how noble and needed. Only complete support for the Syrian people and their revolution will do.