Friday, May 13, 2011

I can no longer remain silent about Syria

I cannot remain silent about Syria

May 12, 2011

I have been working privately and informally in support of the Syrian freedom cause for about two weeks now, but after watching this haunting YouTube video, I feel morally compelled to speak out publicly in support of the Syrian freedom uprising.

The video is located here, and I urge everyone to watch it – Jew, Christian, Muslim, atheist, it really doesn’t matter.
 This video is very graphic and disturbing as the father shows the brutalized body of his murdered son throughout the presentation. I transcribed the video’s English translation for those who don’t want to watch this video.

I found this video while searching the wonderful blog of Ammar Abdulhamid, a brave Syrian dissident now based in the United States.
 This blog is well worth reading for all Middle East specialists, and all believers in the cause of freedom for the Arab and Islamic world.

I found the blog of Ammar Abdulhamid because my Iraqi Sunni democratic friend, the blogger Mohammed Fadhil of, referred me to him.

So why do I feel compelled to speak up publicly? Well, I was up late last night watching and transcribing this video. I have seen a lot of gruesome videos documenting political oppression, particularly from Iran. However, this video marks a new low even by the cruel standards of the barbaric Assad regime. The video shows a bereaved father, Mohammad Bashar Shaar, who is telling the story of how the Syrian security forces murdered his beloved son Moatez Bellah Shaar, in cold blood. After Friday prayers on April 22, 2011 the father and son joined a peaceful demonstration against the Assad regime outside the mosque. The regime thugs shot his son Moatez twice and then refused to send an ambulance to help him until he died. In addition, when the father tried to obtain medical care for his gravely injured son, the regime thugs severely beat him with batons, leaving him also injured with marks on his leg, back, head, and arms. In addition this bereaved father said that two of his minor sons, age 14 and 16, are now in custody, undoubtedly enduring the unspeakable torture for which the Assad regime is infamous.

A regime which simply murders its own people who are peacefully seeking nothing more than basic dignity and freedom has no right to exist. The absence of moral clarity prevents too many Americans and others from defining this act in clear terms as an act of evil. I would paraphrase the words of former President Bush in describing Saddam’s genocide against his own people. He said that if this is not evil, then that word has no meaning. I would also say that if brutally shooting an unarmed, peaceful young man for seeking freedom and then denying him medical care until he dies is not evil, then that word has no meaning.

I would also say that I am morally obligated as a human being and a Jew to speak up for my fellow human beings who are being murdered. If I were to remain silent, then I would be standing by as my fellow human beings were murdered in cold simply because they want to end nearly 50 years of totalitarian rule in their country. The Torah says that we should not stand idly by the blood of our brothers. I am extending the definition of brotherhood beyond simply Israel and the Jews who clearly are my blood brothers and co-religionists to include my Arab and Muslim brothers and sisters in Iran, Syria, and elsewhere who are risking their lives every day and facing prison and torture for the sake of freedom.

I must also admit here that I am completely inspired by the incredible courage of these young men in Syria who are lying down in front of tanks as depicted on April 13, 2011, in this

This video also comes from the web site of of Ammar Abdulhamid. I would also recommend the web site of Farid Ghadry of the Reform Party of Syria at I wish to publicly thank Mr. Ghadry for his repeated expressions of solidarity with Israel and the Jews as his courage in supporting the Jews has inspired me as well.

So what is to be done? Well, first of all, Obama needs to call for regime change in Syria instead of continuing to depict Assad as a reformer. I think that outcome is very unlikely because he also supported Iran’s regime in 2009 as they slaughtered people in the streets for peacefully demonstrating against an illegal regime which stole an election and tortured, raped, and murdered them. Unfortunately, I think that Obama’s silence on Iran and its partner in crime Syria can be explained at least in part by the fact that both these regimes have made virulent anti-Israel and anti-Semitic ideologies their central calling card.

Given this reality, I hope that more Senators and members of Congress of both parties will join in the bipartisan resolution proposed by Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Joe Lieberman which condemns the Assad regime more forthrightly than Obama ever will.

In an ideal world, Obama would expel the Syrian ambassador from Washington for two simple reasons. First, this regime has lost all moral legitimacy by slaughtering its own people who are protesting peacefully. Second, the presence of the Syrian embassy on U.S. soil poses a grave danger to the safety and even lives of Syrian dissidents living in the United States.

I would also hope that Israel could find the courage to at the very least announce that it is ceasing all negotiations with Assad. I believe Israel has no business negotiating with a mass murderer who not only brutalizes his own people and the Lebanese nation but also has waged war on Israel and the Jews for as long as he has been in power. Syria is no more a peace partner than its friends Hamas and Hezbollah or the PLO / PA for that matter.

In an ideal world, the Israelis would declare their support of Syrian freedom and democracy. Such a declaration would open up a whole new range of relationships between Israelis and Syrian democrats in the event that Assad falls from power. However, realistically, the Israelis have not even spoken up for Iranian democracy even though the Iranian regime is openly committed to the destruction of Israel and the Jews. For this reason I think Israel is unlikely to support Syrian democracy.

I would encourage Arab democrats living in both the West and the Middle East to speak up and issue statements of solidarity in support of the Syrian democracy movement. Lebanese who have been directly brutalized by the Assad occupation of their country have spoken up in this statement for Syrian freedom. I think that Arabs throughout the Arab world who are fighting for freedom should join hands with the Syrian freedom struggle – because a free Syria would empower regional Arab democrats to gain freedom, whereas a surviving Assad regime would undermine the emerging freedom movements throughout the Middle East. The fate of the emerging freedom movement in the Arab world will be heavily influenced by the outcome of Syria’s freedom revolution.

My friend Mohammed Fadhil said that the Syrian economy is heavily dependent on tourism from the Persian Gulf Arab countries. I would encourage Arab democrats in these regions to organize a tourism boycott of the Assad regime. This step would not only form ties of solidarity between Arab democrats in Syria and those in the Persian Gulf Arab states but also hit Assad and his thugs directly in the pocket book.

In addition, Iranian democrats outside Iran should also declare their solidarity with the Syrian democratic uprising. The Iranian and Syrian regimes are tied together like two sides of an umbilical cord. The Iranian and Syrians regimes are united by a common ideology based on hatred of Israel and the Jews to a large extent and Israel and the West to a lesser extent. The Iranian regime is so panicked by the thought of the collapse of the Syrian regime that it is sending aid to the Syrian regime to help it stay in power. In response, Iranian democrats outside Iran should join hands directly with the Syrians in their struggle against tyranny. A free Syria would give enormous encouragement to Iranian democrats inside Iran who are being brazenly tortured, raped, imprisoned, and murdered with the world’s knowledge and approval. Iranian democrats inside Iran are massively isolated by the feeling that they have been abandoned by the West, and thus direct communication and statements of solidarity between Iranian and Syrian democrats would raise the spirits of beleaguered Iranian democrats inside Iran.

Syrian democrats and their supporters outside Syria should also be collecting evidence to indict the Syrian regime for crimes against humanity based upon its actions in recent weeks. The regime’s indiscriminate shelling of whole cities such as Homs and Da’ara, the intentional murder of unarmed protestors, , denial of medical care to injured protestors, the illegal arrests, the sieges and deprivations of food and water to civilian populations are all crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, the UN would not likely indict Syria for crimes against humanity because the International Criminal Court is generally too busy harassing Israel and the Jews for non-existent “crimes” to care about real crimes against humanity such as the ones currently happening inside Syria. But Syrian democrats and their supporters should propose this indictment anyway as an expression of moral solidarity with the Syrian people who are being imprisoned, beaten, and killed even as we speak. In addition, once Syria liberates itself from Assad’s tyranny, then a future Syrian democracy can put Assad and his cronies on trial for their crimes against the Syrian people. The Syrians can take the Iraqi Tribunal which tried Saddam and his cronies as a model in a free Iraq as a model for a Syrian tribunal to try and punish Assad and his cronies.

Last but not least, the U.S. and Europe should also impose meaningful travel and trade sanctions on all leading members of the Assad regime, starting with Bashar Al Assad and his closest associates. Murderers like Assad are unlikely to be deterred by sanctions, but still this measure is another expression of moral solidarity with the Syrian people.

I welcome frank and helpful comments and criticisms of this article from Syrians and other supporters of Syrian democracy, regardless of background. I hope that this article can at least let Syrians know they are not totally alone in their struggle for freedom. Syrians may not have the support of the Obama administration, but at least they can count on the support and solidarity of a few Americans like me.

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