Gaza in the Syrian Revolution: The Syrian-Palestinian Nexus

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Wednesday 15 November 2023

 

By Mohamad Alashmar

In the tapestry of the Arab generations and the dynamic landscape of the Arab Spring, one thread has woven a resilient narrative of struggle – the Palestinian cause. Stretching across intergenerational and transnational significance, this cause resonates deeply within the grassroots communities and societies of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the diaspora, and beyond. This article looks at the intrinsic connection between the Palestinian cause and the broader regional pursuit of freedom and justice. Mainly, it delves into the historical intertwining of the Palestinian struggle with the ongoing Syrian quest for freedom. Through an exploration of shared resistance, revolutions, and solidarity against colonial powers and Western Imperialism, this article aims to uncover the enduring bonds that unite Syrians and Palestinians in their collective journey toward liberation.


Syrians consistently emphasize the inseparable bond between their identity and the Palestinian cause, deviating from the narrative propagated by the Assad regime, Hezbollah, Iran, and the so-called Resistance Axis, which claims a central role in fighting Israel in the region. Many Syrian intellectuals stress that the history of the Palestinian cause in Syria, intricately linked with resistance, is fundamental to the fabric of Syrian society. It is woven into the legacy of Syrian leaders who fiercely opposed French and British colonialism and condemned the ethnic cleansing perpetrated against Palestinians since the early 20th century.

In the early 1930s, Damascus emerged as the epicentre and headquarters of the Central Committee for National Resistance in Palestine, serving as the official political and organizational body for the Arab revolution in Palestine. Syrian leaders, such as Fawzi al-Qawuqji, Saeed al-Aas, and Mohammed al-Ashmar, played pivotal roles under its umbrella, orchestrating mobilizations of resources and support. Their tasks ranged from providing military, logistical, and financial support to the revolution to apprehending collaborators with foreign forces and gangs in Syria and Palestine. This participation transcended Islamic or Levantine leadership, exemplified by the “Shami Damascus Detachment,” led by Fawzi al-Qawuqji and Mohammed al-Ashmar. This detachment fought alongside the Druze Detachment and the Iraqi Detachment in Northern Palestine, particularly in Nablus and Tulkarm, collaborating with Palestinian groups and Arab coalitions. Noteworthy figures like journalist Munir al-Rayyes, a prominent historian of Arab revolutions, and Wiam Wahhab, the leader of the “Druze Mount Arab Battalion,” also contributed to the cause, participating in the battles of 1948.

As the Syrian revolution against the Assad regime unfolded in 2011, the Palestinian cause, especially Gaza, consistently echoed in Syrian protests, slogans, and banners from the very beginning. Syrian protests, well-documented in the revolution’s archives, reveal a deep awareness of and connection to the Palestinian issue. This connection is evident throughout Syria’s geography, from the countryside of Damascus and Daraa in the south to Aleppo, Raqqa, and Hassakeh in the north, including Homs and its countryside. The Syrians consistently affirm the unity of Palestinian and Syrian struggles against occupation and oppression, asserting that their bloodshed, displacement, siege, and the destruction of their homes do not distract them from sharing the pains and hopes of Palestinians.

During the Israeli aggression on Gaza in 2012 and 2014, Gaza featured prominently in Syrian protests across various regions, such as the countryside of Damascus (like Qaboun), the countryside of Homs (al-Waer), Aleppo (Hanano), and northern Syria in Hassakeh (Amuda). The momentum of these protests and solidarity became even more pronounced during the Israeli aggression on Gaza in 2014, especially with the increased narrative from the Assad regime about Hamas’s betrayal and denying the regime favour and the regime centrality in the Resistance Axis and fighting Israel, where hundreds demonstrated in Aleppo and the besieged Duma in solidarity with Gaza in 2014 during the Israeli aggression, expression their solidarity, unity amid siege and blockade, shared pain and struggle for freedom. Simultaneously, over the decade of the Syrian conflict, Gazans consistently protested and expressed their condemnation of the blockade and massacres suffered by Syrians, especially during the sieges of Baba Amr in Homs, Duma in the Damascus countryside, and the Russian and Syrian regime massacres in Aleppo and northern Syria.

Throughout this war in Gaza, as protests in Sweida continued almost daily in its squares, demonstrators have expressed solidarity with Gaza’s victims, alongside their solidarity with northern Syrian areas facing the fierce campaign by Assad forces and Russia in Idlib and its countryside. Similar protests supporting Gaza occurred in the afflicted areas of Idlib and its countryside, as well as Daraa in the south and Raqqa in northern Syria.

The most significant aspect of these protests in Sweida, Daraa, Idlib, and northern Syria is that they have become the central platform where Syrians express their opinions, irrespective of their affiliations, trends, or regions. These protests serve as a unifying platform on crucial issues, expressing their stance against the Assad regime, the Palestinian cause, and their demands for political change. One of the most resonant slogans among Syrians remains “Syrian and Palestinian blood is one,” emphasizing the unity of Palestinian and Syrian struggles against oppression. Syrians also affirm that “those who betrayed Syria will not defend Gaza” and “Bashar to Netanyahu: Avenge me from Hamas because I am busy slaughtering Syrian people,” reflecting Syrians’ solidarity, awareness, and the debunking of Assad’s claims about supporting Palestinian resistance while criticizing and accusing Hamas of betrayal.

From a political perspective, this solidarity can be understood as part of the Syrians’ comprehensive struggle against repression and tyranny, linking it to their Arab extension and as part of the transgenerational and transnational Arab-Israeli conflict. Syrians emphasize the need for political change, and a shift towards a state that upholds justice and respects human rights, and therefore, their support for the Palestinian cause is viewed as an integral part of the Syrian revolution, standing against injustice and discrimination at various levels.

On the regime’s side, in the rebellious areas, particularly in Sweida and Daraa, the Syrian regime has increased attempts to infiltrate the ranks of protesters under the pretext of expressing solidarity with Gaza. These attempts aim to divert anti-regime demonstrations by creating pro-regime rallies in response. Despite these efforts, some protests have emerged under the banner of solidarity with Gaza. However, with the intensification of aggression and atrocities in Gaza, the regime halted all protests, fearing their evolution into anti-regime demonstrations amidst the brutal campaign in Idlib and refugee camps in northern Syria.

 

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