By Ghassan Karam
It can be argued that dictatorship is not that different than outright occupation by a foreign military. Actually it has been suggested by many commentators that occupation is the ultimate dictatorship. What is important for us in this column is the similarity between the two forms of rule. Both deprive the people of their personal rights, both are non democratic, both are not elected, both maintain control through armed forces and both violate the most fundamental principles of human rights as expressed by the Human Declaration of Human Rights. It is rather obvious that both occupation and dictatorship are two different forms that accomplish the same end: rule against the consent of the governed. Whenever such rule is present then it is an invitation to rebellion and revolution. The above describes very well at least two political entities in the Arab world; Syria and The West Bank, the former is occupied by the Assad family and the latter by Israel. Both of these forms of government are cruel, discriminatory and exploitative.
The Palestinians have resisted occupation and have tried a number of policies over the past 44 years but they have not succeeded in attaining their objective yet. They are possibly the last remaining colony in the whole world unless one considers China a colonizer of Tibet and the Russians as colonizers of Chechnya. The valiant Palestinians have not however committed themselves to the principle of non violence through organized and wide spread civil disobedience. I, and many others, have often argued that the Palestinians have no choice but to adopt the Gandhian method of civil resistance. That is the only way to “disarm” the cruel Israeli machine of occupation and deliver the Palestinian people to the “promised land”, the land of self determination, sovereignty and democracy.
It must be also very clear that the same methodology suggested to the occupied Palestinians on the West Bank is also the one that promises to be very effective in delivering Syria out of the clutches of the Assad regime and into the phase of representative democracy and self respect. The current Syrian regime has resisted the legitimate demands of its populace by constantly denying the facts on the grounds. The whole administration has acted over the past ten months exactly as one would have expected dictators to act. Deny, obfuscate and pretend that the unelected rulers, those that impose themselves by the power of hired thugs otherwise known as “security forces” are the only ones that know what is good for the country.
This irrational logic is so wanting that it does not deserve to be addressed except to say that if pretenders were so sure that they have the good of the people at heart then why fear an open and free election? Why insist on a system that depends on random fear and on expropriating everything of value to the integrity of the individual. Obviously dictators, all throughout history, have dreaded the moment that the oppressed find the strength to stand up and claim their stolen rights. Dictators have always lived in fear of the moment when the regular citizens will shout that the emperor has no cloths, that the regime is bankrupt and illegitimate.
The Syrian uprising that started nine months ago is all of the above and then some. The Syrian people have demonstrated great courage in standing up to the might of the dictatorship thugs and have offered the greatest of sacrifices without any hesitation. The Syrian people have given all of us, the world over, a lesson in sacrifice and commitment. They have faced the organized “shabiha” hoodlums and their supporting tanks with smiles on their bare breasts, bravery and heroism. They have already offered over 400 martyrs, many of whom are children and women and they have managed to keep up the pressure on the killers and criminals in power. They have simply set an example of audacity and boldness that has rarely been seen, if ever.
Yet the regime continues with its lies and distortions. It fabricates stories about undisciplined armed gangs that are in the employ of foreign powers when arguably it is the present regime that has often served the Israeli occupation of the Golan best. An excellent example of the cluelessness of Bashar Assad, the head of the ruling pyramid, was demonstrated in his disastrous interview with ABC where he claimed that he has never ordered any killings and that he is not in charge of the armed forces in Syria. Isn’t this a perfect fit for what is a psychopath?
The current monstrous regime in Syria is intent on showing that the uprising is essentially driven by petty religious rivalries and revengeful acts. That is why the present Syrian dictatorship will stop at nothing that will help it provoke a violent uprising. The courageous Syrians will commit a fatal error if they fall for this trap that is being set up for them. They should spare no effort to show both the depraved Syrian regime and the world that they are above sectarian hatreds, petty politics and random violence. What better way to show that they are cut from a different cloth than the present killers and exploiters of the Syrian people than to adopt wide scale acts of civil disobedience and non violence. Let the authorities arrest, if they dare hundreds of thousands and maybe millions of citizens, let the few thugs run the schools, the factories and the shops. Civil disobedience has worked wonders in India, South Africa, the Czech Republic, the Ukraine and has even partially succeeded in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and even Lebanon among other places. Syria is obviously in need of a revolution and there is nothing better than what Henry David Thoreau called “peaceable revolution” in his essay about Civil disobedience. A peaceful and non violent Syrian revolution is the best option for the Syrian uprising. I am certain that it will succeed and once it does then it would have set up another example of the efficacy and attractiveness of “civil disobedience” for the whole world in general and for the West Bank in particular. When the people ask for freedom, respect and integrity then no dictatorship can possibly deny them their intrinsic rights.
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