There's hope for Israel if Assad goes

By Michael Weiss, September 1, 2011
Protesters use their shoes to hit a poster of Assad during rally in front of the Syrian embassy in Ankara

Protesters use their shoes to hit a poster of Assad during rally in front of the Syrian embassy in Ankara

Tel Aviv's response to the Syrian uprising has vacillated between quiet non-support and nervous semi-support, a posture best captured by what one Israeli cabinet official told the Washington Post in late March: "We know Assad. We knew his father. Of course, we'd love to have a democratic Syria as our neighbour. But do I think that's going to happen? No."

One can be slightly more optimistic about Syria's alternatives to Assad, however. The campaign to topple the dictatorship has been waged mostly by young men hitherto averse to politics but sickened by a regime built on lies and minority rule.

What price anti-Zionist "resistance" now? The Syrians make better Middle East analysts than the Guardian staff, which is why it's been Iranian and Hizbollah and Russian and Chinese flags being burnt on the ground.

As for the politics of the opposition, all published platforms have been remarkably consistent in affirming the country's ethnic and religious mosaic and calling for a democracy with freedom of expression and religion enshrined in a new constitution.

The Muslim Brotherhood does not like to be so "committal", but it has not got the force or the numbers to overrule the will of the majority, a fact starkly borne out at the Syria Conference for Change that was held in Antalya, Turkey, last June.

Indeed, it was the movers of this conference that last weekend pushed through a prospective list for a Syrian National Transitional Council to be chaired by Dr Burhan Ghalioun, a professor of sociology at the Sorbonne. In 2007, Dr Ghalioun told Al Jazeera that the two biggest problems besetting the Arab world were dictatorship and clerical control of the media. In his own words: "The slogan 'Islam is the solution' - in my opinion, 90 per cent of Arab public opinion believes nothing else."

This sounds truly promising. And it is quite an improvement on a totalitarian dynast who hosts Khaled Meshaal, finances Hamas and Hizbollah, stores Hizbollah's weapons, maintains close ties with Iran, and dispatches his own people to become minesweepers in the Golan Heights.

Michael Weiss is a spokesman for
Just Journalism

Last updated: 11:34am, September 1 2011