In this essay, I will outline the main moral and intellectual considerations informing the resistance or anti-imperialist camp’s (known as mumanaists in Arabic) prioritization of confronting imperialism over other forms of domination.
The Violence in Syria is Misrepresented
Although supporters of the Syrian opposition often accuse this camp of being ready to countenance any type of violence, no matter how heinous, in the interests of the resistance priority, this accusation ignores the fact that the seeming consensus on the nature and scope of the violence in Syria is a purely manufactured one. Mumanaists do not view the current violence engulfing Syria as a dictatorial regime’s one-sided brutal suppression of peaceful protesters, as is commonly misrepresented in mainstream media, but rather, as a civil war by proxy that the Syrian army was dragged into as it sought to stamp out a US-NATO-GCC-backed armed insurrection.
As acknowledged by the BBC in its recent self-study on its coverage of the “Arab Spring”, “journalism is not an exercise in simply relaying raw and untreated facts to the audience…This cannot be done without some sort of framework – if you will, a “narrative” – and therefore the construction of such a narrative by journalists should not be treated as if it were a sin in itself.”
Writing on Syria in the Sunday Times, Peter McKay contends that “It’s not simply uprisings by ground-down peasants against tyrants who repress them. It’s about a transfer of power to rival clans and/or religious groups. About a continuation of the old US-Russia Cold War stand-off.” In a similar vein, the BBC’s world news editor, Jon Williams, has recently admitted in a blog post on Syria that “stories are never black and white - often shades of grey.”
But such admissions are the exception rather than the norm in a psych-ops campaign that is stage-managed by US-NATO-GCC information warlords to bring about a military victory for proxy forces. At the helm of this campaign are politically embedded journalists, political activists and human rights representatives who work in concert to ensure that all coverage of the Syrian crisis remains confined within a carefully guarded body of self-referential “evidence.”
The effectiveness of this information warfare in enlisting public opinion in support of military intervention is substantiated by the aforementioned BBC report: “No doubt these reports…helped stimulate empathy for the [Libyan] rebel cause among the British public, and thereby to facilitate, if not actually bring about the NATO intervention – as similar reports had done in northern Iraq as long ago as 1991.”
Imperialism Cannot Be Equated with Authoritarianism
The second premise guiding the resistance camp’s position on Syria is that imperialism cannot be equated either morally or politically with authoritarianism, let alone demoted to a secondary rank. By contrast, the liberal democratic impulse driving the “Arab Spring” has led some to declare the obsolescence of anti-imperialism as a unifying force in the region. Al-Jazeera commentator Lamis Andoni epitomizes this view with her assertion that “The old ‘wisdom’ of past revolutionaries that liberation from foreign domination precedes the struggle for democracy has fallen.” In the new Arab Spring vernacular, revolutionary struggle is no longer synonymous with resisting US-NATO interventions and Israeli aggression, but has come to mean confronting internal repression even when that confrontation benefits the Empire and its colonial outpost, Israel.
Furthermore, this new liberal political discourse and the preeminent status accorded to securing internal freedoms has served to effectively remove Palestine from the forefront of Arab concerns. In effect, Palestine has been relegated to just another Arab nation which is responsible for freeing itself from its own domestic, i.e. intra-Palestinian, authoritarian rulers, over and above its Israeli oppressors. The mumanaists’ response to this logic is multi-pronged.
“What happened in Palestine since 1947 has never happened before, in terms of the combination of the elements: brutality and racism of the occupier, the injustice of granting one peoples land to others, duration of this injustice, complicity and apathy of the civilized world as well as Palestinian people's will to resist all that against all odds.”
In the mumanaists’ conceptual hierarchy of oppression, imperialism and authoritarianism are situated in two entirely different levels of domination. This rank-ordering is not based on an ideological abstraction that is divorced from political reality or on the rhetorical value of anti-imperialist sentiment, but on immediate, practical concerns. Imperialism is not evil because it is practiced by the West, but because it harms people’s lives and interests. Empire kills; it kills vast amounts of people, whether it occupies countries directly or intervenes militarily, economically or politically, it is responsible for innumerable deaths, destruction and impoverishment of all those in its wake.
Furthermore, resistance intellectuals and activists maintain that there can be no progress or democracy in the Arab world so long as a colonial implant like Israel continues to exist in our midst, perpetually threatening our security. Viewed from this lens, liberating Palestine is the prerequisite for the democratization of the region.
“[it is] not just the blood of a man, the fate of a woman, the crushed bones of a child, or a piece of bread stolen from the mouth of a poor or hungry person. It is the issue of a people, a nation, a fate, holy places, history, and the future.”
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