Fairly regularly I used to enjoy reading Palestinian activist Ramzy Baroud at the Palestine Chronicle. But I stopped reading after awhile because the perspectives seemed to me to be one-sided, monotonous, and predictable. I read him now at Al-Arabiya English where the perspectives are, to my opinion, more varied. In this piece, Baroud confronts the fact that on the left there are limits to solidarity with Palestinians.
Writing about the death and destruction in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, Baroud observes, “While on the left (not the establishment left of course) Palestine has brought many likeminded people together, Egypt has fragmented that unity, and Syria has crushed and pulverized it to bits. Those who cried over the victims of Israeli wars on Gaza, did not seem very concerned about Palestinians starving to death in the Yarmouk refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus. Some squarely blamed the Syrian government for the siege that killed hundreds, while others blamed the rebels. Some writers even went further, blaming the residents of the camp. Somehow, the refugees were implicated in their own misery and needed to be collectively punished for showing sympathy to the Syrian opposition.
About Syria more generally, Baroud throws in a negative, critical light things about the left-left activist crowd that has always bothered me about the way they approach the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Baroud writes, “It also has turned out that some of those who pose as human rights activists are rarely compelled by ethical priorities, but rather dogmatic ideology that is so rigid it has no space for a sensible argument based on a serious investigation of facts… How is one to navigate the Syrian intellectual realm when both narratives are riddled with half-truths or outright lies, where each discourse is predicated on the complete dismissal of the other? How is one to navigate this territory when many intellectuals who also masquerade as ‘human rights activists’ turn out to be narrow-minded ideologues devoid of any humanism?”
What then is one to do about Syria? “[H]ow do you navigate an impossible story? The answer: You side with the victim, no matter her colour, sect or creed. You remain committed to the truth, no matter how elusive. You drop every presupposition, abandon ideology, permanently discard dogma, and approach Syria with abundance of humanity and humility.” Yes, one must side with the victim. It’s a deep moral position steeped in sympathy that Baroud wants to stake out here. The last words to Baroud’s this thoughtful piece are to insist that “Syria belongs to its people. You either stand on their side, or the side of the oppressor.” But, I’m not sure what this means in practice. A moral statement, it’s not political. All that’s “left” is a slogan in the lurch.