Syria supports terrorism against Israel

Syria’s relationship with Hezbollah and with Hamas goes well beyond a merely political one, and in fact includes financial and military support, which is later used against Israel. How can we make peace with a nation that says it wants peace, but at the same time supports terrorist organizations?

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Syrian counter-arguments to above objection


Choices that nations make under an active state of war are totally different than choices made under peace.

Yes, Syria supports Hezbollah and Hamas in different forms. Although the Golan front has been quiet for 35 years, Syria and Israel remain in a state of war and this state will continue as long as Israel is in violation of UNSC resolutions by choosing to retain Syria’s occupied Golan Heights 42 years after it decided to capture that piece of land by force.

Syria’s current form of support of Hamas and Hezbollah is a strategic and tactical choice made solely under a state of war between Israel and its Arab neighbors. This support can change its form under a peace treaty guaranteeing the security of Syria and Israel. If Israel manages to settle its conflict with Lebanon, it is believed that Syria would help Hezbollah as it gradually disarms itself and turns into a regular Lebanese political party that represents the interests and aspirations of Lebanon’s largest community (the Shi'a).

Regardless of how Syria modifies its support of Hamas after she signs a fair and just peace treaty with Israel, Hamas will probably remain the most popular Palestinian organization as long as Israel is unable to decide to end its conflict with the Palestinians based on UN resolutions calling for a comprehensive solution to the Middle East conflicts based on the land for peace formula in which Israel withdraws to the pre 1967 borders.
Syria’s support of Hamas and Hezbollah is not making those organizations more popular; it is instead a recognition of the popularity of those organizations in their respective countries and in the Arab world in general.

Syria is not the only Arab country to support Hamas. For example, Hamas gets virtually all its weapons by smuggling them from Egypt. It is widely assumed that Egyptian security officers know and even oversee the smuggling operations to Gaza.

Only Israel can weaken the military power of Hamas and Hezbollah, and it can only do it by demonstrating its genuine will to accept the most widely recognized formula for peace in the Middle East: land for peace. The 2006 Lebanon war and the 2008 attack on Gaza demonstrated that Israel’s use of massive military force is not going to lead to the desired objectives. Asking Syria to close the Hamas office in Damascus will not help Israel get rid of Palestinian resistance (Hamas) either. But it will lead to dangerous friction between Syria and half a million Palestinian refugees residing in Syria. One would hope that this is not one of Israel's objectives.

The Israelis do not have to fear Syria’s support for paramilitary resistance to Israel’s occupation under a peace treaty. Although rational behavior has not been an attribute of governments in the Middle East or even around the globe, it is beyond obvious that supporting resistance to occupation after peace with Israel would be clearly counter-productive for Syria.

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Syrian “support” of Hamas and Hezbollah translates to positive and constructive influence on these two non-state actors. For example, if one compares the position of Khaled Meshal before he settled in Damascus to his recent positions, it is quite clear how much more moderate he has become. “When the occupation comes to an end, the resistance will end, as simple as that,” Mashaal said in an interview in Damascus on “The Charlie Rose Show,” broadcast yesterday. “If Israel would go to the 1967 borders,” he said, “that will be the end of the Palestinian resistance.”

Similarly, there were numerous stories in the press that Syria convinced Hezbollah to NOT retaliate for the killing of its senior officer Imad Mughnyieh who is widely believed to have been assassinated by Israel. Furthermore, it is worth pointing out Hezbollah did not operate outside the Israeli occupied parts of South Lebanon.


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Labelling every opposition to occupation as terrorism is not an Israeli monopoly. It has been practiced by colonialists in the bygone era, it is practiced by governments facing secessionist movements worldwide, and it is a defensive, self assuring mechanism aiming at de-legitimizing both legitimate and no-so legitimate forms of resistance.

Psychologically, it aims also to pre-empt any efforts to establish fruitful dialog that requires recognition of the evils of occupation or of denying the rights of ethnic groups in case of secessionist movements. The label “terrorist” has been so abused by Israel and the USA, that it does not mean much anymore, and a sincere dialogue on peace should not use it.

The Arab response to Israeli occupation evolved a long time ago. Hizbullah does not assassinate Israeli officers while they travel abroad and Hamas has stopped sending young men on suicide missions into Israel. Despite frequent Israeli provocations, both Hezbollah and Hamas showed enough restraint by not retaliating against Israeli citizens, civilian or even military. Many believe that Syria played a role in modifying the behavior of these two organizations.

If I were an Israeli, I would pause to reflect on these points. History has shown that you need to talk to popular movements resisting your occupation if you are genuine about peace.

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2 Responses to “Syria supports terrorism against Israel”

  1. 2
    Richard Daniels, Council Member, KCLSU wrote:

    To reply to counter-argument #1: whilst I agree entirely that the situation would be different with a peace treaty, the land for peace offer has been on the table for decades for any government willing to negotiate a peace agreement. Neither Hafez, nor Bashar Assad have seen fit to genuinely pursue this avenue, and so it seems disingenuous to blame Israel for holding on to the Golan, whilst simultaneously criticising it for not following the land for peace doctrine. It would seem that you imply that unilateral withdrawal from the Golan is a precursor to peace – this cannot be the case, surely?

  2. 1
    Elie Elhadj, www.daringopinion.com, Banker wrote:

    Under current regional conditions, Syria’s relationship with Hezbollah (HA) serves two purposes. The first is to use HA as an instrument to pressure Israel. The second is to rely on HA to be a barrier against the infiltration of Saudi political influence and Wahhabi extremism into Syria. With the Hariri clan in Lebanon, Saudia has a serious presence in Lebanon. Such presence poses a nasty threat to Syria’s way of life, societal harmony, and the welfare of Syria’s many religious and sectarian minorities (around a third of the population)–the ruling Alawites, Druzes, Ismailis, and Christian denominations.

    It follows that even if Syria concludes a peace treaty in the future with Israel, Syria’s interest in a credible HA in Lebanon will not cease. A powerful HA will keep Wahhabi influence in Lebanon at bay and protect Syria from religious extremism. To expect that Syria would abandon HA under current regional conditions is rather naive.


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