The Syrian civil war, we have been told, began as part of the Arab Spring and really took hold when Syrian government forces allegedly opened fire on protesters across the country in early 2011. This pattern of indiscriminate violent behavior against civilians has been a talking point in the western media’s regime-change narrative. The media often goes so far as to claim that the government led by Bashar al-Assad has lost all legitimacy.
What then, should we make of Israel’s decision to open fire on protesters in the Gaza Strip this past week, killing over 60 protesters and wounding 2,700 more in the process? According to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Israel is not an aggressor at all but a country that has shown considerable “restraint” in its use of force. Despite the claim that most of the dead were Hamas members, the fact that 2,700 people were injured suggests Israel deployed lethal force upon thousands of protesters — not exactly what comes to mind when one thinks of the word “restraint.” Even purposely shooting one unarmed protester seems to contradict everything we are supposed to believe about human rights and democracy.
By that logic, Assad has also used considerable restraint. For some time, Assad’s forces have been battling groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Jaish al-Islam, just to name a few of the Sunni-inspired jihadists currently wreaking havoc across the country. These aren’t some ragtag bunches of rebels dreamily vying for Armageddon — they have received billions upon billions of dollars of weapons and training from the United States and an endless supply of fighters from some of the most powerful nations in the entire region.
Israel, on the other hand, has been documented shooting down unarmed protesters including women, children, journalists, and first responders; all the reasons we are told we should despise Assad. What could be more cowardly than shooting down people who are protesting their right to have basic human rights, who don’t have any significant armed forces of their own?
For those who want to paint the people of Gaza as the real terrorists in this dilemma, consider that these people have been living in what is widely regarded as an open-air prison for years. According to an expert hydrologist, 97 percent of Gaza’s drinking water has been contaminated by sewage and salt. For most of last year, residents in Gaza were receiving three to four hours of electricity per day, the flow of which is controlled by Israel. On a bad day, some estimates suggest Gazans have received as little as two hours of electricity per day despite the intense heat in Gaza.
In 2015, the U.N. predicted Gaza would become uninhabitable by 2020. The U.N. has acknowledged that the main reason for this impending doom is the blockade Israel has imposed on Gaza with Egypt, as well as Israel’s devastating military operations, which have crippled Gaza’s economy and infrastructure.
Call me an “Assad apologist” if you like, but what I am actually suggesting here is that if we were to apply the Israeli model to Assad, there would be no basis to even begin criticizing Assad for something American taxpayers support just across the ditch from Syria; and further, that what Israel is doing by humanitarian standards is actually arguably worse than anything Assad could ever hope to achieve. This is not to say that Assad is not, as the Intercept‘s Mehdi Hasan wants us to remember, a “war criminal” — but, then, this is the real hypocrisy at play here: If Assad is a vile war criminal, so is the Israeli government.