Why I will not Support the Al-Quds Day: OPINION by Quraysha Ismail Sooliman – “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” Malcolm X

Having attended the Amec Parliamentary Portfolio Seminar for 2 days in which the issues in the Middle East were covered extensively and with significant transparency, I have decided not to support Al-Quds day which is an Iranian initiated and driven project. This is not a decision based on furthering or entrenching sectarian divides but is a decision that requires taking a principled stand against injustice.

That’s because justice is never negotiable, you either fight FOR it or you oppose it. We cannot be fence- sitters. Nor can we be pro this or that, we have to be pro-justice, because loyalties to people, regimes, ideologies and acquaintances are easily bought and traded. Since the Iranian revolution, for more than 30yrs the Iranians have made vocal statements against Israel but have not done much more.
Iran claims to be a defender of Islam and Muslims, but has chosen to openly support a vicious dictator and together with Hezbollah has sent its soldiers to Syria to participate in the brutal massacre of civilians; to date more than 120,000 Sunni Muslims have been killed by Asad and this has been achieved with the aid of the two foreign forces.

I fully acknowledge the supply of weapons to extremist forces (and not the Free Syrian Army) by the Arab regimes that are determined to protect their own illegitimacy by doing everything possible to prevent the rise of the Free Syrian Army because an Islamist Sunni government in Syria will lead to the downfall of these regimes soon thereafter. But, in the case of Syria, my position is that weapons given to an unarmed population fighting against a brutal dictator is welcome.

Also, the Arab regimes and their fighters are NOT slaughtering civilians and I have never heard them claim to be the defenders of the Muslims and Palestinians against the US and Israel with the same kind of rhetoric employed by Iran. If one supports the oppressed Palestinians, then by logic one must defend against the injustice perpetrated by Assad against the oppressed Syrians as well. Since Assad signed a ceasefire with Israel more than 30 yrs. ago, Syria has never violated the ceasefire.

Basically, the Syrian regime has been a “good neighbour” to Israel even when Israel bombs Syrian territory and civilians every now and then. Furthermore, what happened in Bahrain and what the Sunni regimes did is wrong and despicable; we cannot support any injustice, anywhere. In Bahrain, Iran said a Sunni minority cannot rule a Shia majority, yet in Syria, Iran supports a 15% Allawite minority to suppress an 85% Sunni majority. Are the lives of the Syrian people a tit for tat for the Bahraini uprising? That is even more despicable.

Furthermore, the Palestinians, specifically Hamas has distanced itself from Iran and Hezbollah because of their participation in and support for the brutal Assad regime. This decision was not taken lightly and Khaled Mishal stated that the finger of one child in Syria is dearer to the Palestinians than any dollars the Iranians wish to offer Hamas. Furthermore, if Iran was so sincere in supporting the Palestinians, when Hamas refused to participate in Iran’s PR stunt in Tehran, why did Iran persist in all efforts to weaken Hamas and try and overthrow Hamas leaders in Lebanon?

About two months ago, Sheikh Rai’d Salaah; the most eminent Palestinian leader in Jerusalem told Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to create a new Al Quds day on a different day so that the Sunni world could follow that, clearly indicating that the Palestinians have distanced themselves from Assad and Iran. One cannot claim support for one injustice (the Palestinian conflict) whilst perpetuating and supporting another injustice, through reinforcements to a brutal dictator to murder innocents (Syrian conflict).

I thus distance myself from all Iranian activities and celebrations that claim to be defending injustice in Palestine whilst perpetuating injustice in Syria. While Iran claims to be crying for Palestine, the Palestinians are crying for the Syrians and they themselves have distanced themselves from the Iranians and Hezbollah and certainly from Al-Quds day. In balancing justice against awareness, for any cause, I choose justice.

Quraysha is an Assistant Lecturer: Dept of Political Science at a University in South Africa

Reply Part 1
I can remember days in South Africa, under Apartheid, when it was hard to find a lot of support for Palestinians. Many who are big names today went ahead with their lives, jobs and studies whilst there was a struggle. Many of them were not on the streets when voices were stifled and prison cells were cramped. Today some of these people sit with comfortable lives, having achieved much of what they have set out to achieve. Now they are busy giving lectures, professionally and otherwise, and people are mesmerised. Many of those who listen do not have an idea of these peoples’ track records. They however know who they are.

Yes Iran does have national interests that inform everything that they do as a country. Imam Khomeini however had taken positions on this matter in the 1960s when he was a lecturer in Madressa Fayziyeh in Qum, Iraq and France. The record is there. I do not believe in clerics being more competent than people who have not specialised in fiqh, tafsir or usul. He has stood for justice and that is why I value his views. You can be a cleric or a rocket scientist with all the book knowledge, if you do not care about the 99% that I would not bother about you. I believe that the state should be neutral regarding the belief or non-belief of citizens. So Iran as a state is also not my concern. I support the right of Iran as an Islamic Republic but I reserve the right to struggle for freedom of belief and non-belief as kufr and irtidaad has nothing to do with the belief structure of individuals or groups. However, for over 30 years this was the one event that mobilised Muslims and oppressed all over the world. The zionists and their allies feared the fact that this event at least keeps the flame burning. Iran has inspired the Palestinians to resist. It expelled the Zionist diplomats and gave the Palestinians the embassy. The dictatorships and monarchies in the areas have been prepared to sell out Palestine a long time ago. Look at what they have done to sell out to John Kerry in the latest round of talks. Unless the USA and the EU are committed to justice then there will be no peace. It is impossible to have justice given the facts on the ground. A single state of its citizens is the only way forward. Imam Khomeini shamed them, in his lifetime and his death. That does not mean that I support every political decision of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iran is taking a position on Syria that is based on its strategic interests. That is what everyone does. Every country does that. South Africa, the USA and other country does that. So Iran is not an exception. The question is where does the balance lie?

Bashar al-Assad did not become a dictator in 2011. This was a dictatorship for 40 years. In fact all these Middle eastern countries, created by colonial masters Britain and France, had dictatorships and men with funny things on their heads since 1916 as rewards for their collaboration against the Turks during World War 1 and before. The al_Assad family were brutal not because they were Allawites. The beneficiaries of the regime were the Sunni elite. Many of the Free Syrian Army generals and officers are Sunnis who have served for decades in oppressing their own people. Bashar al-Assad’s uncle is a leader of the Free Syria movement. He personally oversaw the butchering of the Ikhwan people in Hama in the 1980s that saw between 20 000 and 30 000 people die. The Arab world clapped their hands because all of them were afraid, and still are afraid of the Ikhwan. See the support for the coup against Morsi. Arab governments they co-opted the Ikhwan when Nasser was in Egypt, cultivated the Ikhwan in their universities and professional sectors and then when the Ikhwan became a threat they shunted them on a grand scale. In many cases the Ikhwan shared the limited world view of the monarchs and dictators.

Yes Syria has been a good neighbour not because they liked the zionist regime. The reality is that Syria could not risk taking on Israel by itself. It has the best weapons in the region and by the way is the only nuclear power. In our own struggle we did not expect Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique or Lesotho to wage full-scale war on South Africa. In fact many political activists, exiles and guerrillas were arrested on their way to South Africa, and from, as they passed through these countries. People spent years in jail in Francistown, Gaberone, Maputo, Bulawayo because these countries were afraid of the reprisal bombings by Apartheid South Africa. Israel does exactly the same. It costs the frontline states in southern Africa thousands of lives and billions of dollars as South Africa bludgeoned them into line. When we built up the sanctions movement against apartheid South Africa we did not expect these countries to support the movement. Their economies were tied in with the Southern Africa Customs union. Many of their citizens were working in South African mines, farms and private homes as maids and gardeners. 
We were aware of their constraints but we appreciated that at least they supported and gave safe passage to our refugees and exiles. That is what Syria is in regard to Palestine.

At least under the brutal al-Assad dictatorship Palestinian citizens had more rights than in any other Arab country. In Lebanon Palestinians have been barred from working in certain jobs. That tells you how toxic the situation has been for sixty plus years since 1948.

If you have not heard of Arab regimes slaughtering their civilians then let me suggest that these monarchs and dictatorships have never claimed to be benevolent. They are so efficient that they have been incorporated in the rendition programmes by more “civilised” countries. Torture and murder had been subcontracted to them. These monarchies and dictatorships survive only on the basis of fear.

Hamas is in a difficult situation. They are repeating the mistake that Yasser Arafat made when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. He supported the invasion and annexation of Kuwait. Historically it is correct because Kuwait is a British colonial creation. The King not only lacks philosophical legitimacy it is a colonial puppet show. Yasser Arafat was never forgiven. The mistake that Hamas makes is that it takes sides in conflicts in the Arab world. As a liberation movement you are always being pulled from one direction to the next. Everyone wants to use you especially if your struggle has huge symbolic value. But as the leadership of the movement you have to walk a tightrope. You have to keep your distance from the internal politics of host countries. It is an unwritten rule in liberation struggles. In Syria there are 500 000 Palestinian refugees. Those refugees have the same social rights as Syrian nationals. That cannot be said for any other Arab country. Hamas got carried away with the Arab Spring and their emotions got the better of them. They thought that they were on the cusp of victory and the Middle East and North Africa would be a world where women wear hijab and niqab, religious police enforce prayer and closure of shops during waqts etc. They forgot that Prophets came to establish justice. That means being uncomfortable with empire and its neo-liberal and post-Washington Consensus. That kind of thinking is absent from their programme.

Look where the Ikhwan in Egypt is today. The Ikhwan and Palestinans have never been as unwelcome in the broader Middle East than at any time today. In Egypt Cairo airport is no longer a place to arrive if you are a Palestinian. Egypt has overthrown Morsi, the Ikhwan leadership is either in prison or on the run, the tunnels are being bombed by Egyptian pilots, Rafah is closed, Morsi is being charged with collaborating with Hamas in the days of the overthrow of Mubarak. It is like being charged by the post-Apartheid regime for breaking into prisons and freeing activists during the final days and hours of the Apartheid regime. You broke the law then and are being charged two years later. George Orwell could not have made this up. It is too hard to have imagined. The Arab dictators and monarchs never cared for Palestinians. Yes Hafez al-Assad and his son used the Palestinians as a tool. But when you are a refugee and exile you look where you bread is buttered more and hope that you do not slip up too often and in issues where you do not have an exit plan.

With due respect to Sheikh Raed Salah, he follows in the footsteps of Yusuf al-Qardawi. One day “We are all Hezbollah” and the next day we must rise up to fight Hezbollah, the shias, the kuffaar. Many of the Ikhwan hate the Shia more than they hate their zionist occupiers. It has been like that for as long as I know. That is why Morsi made the speech that he did and Shias died in Cairo recently. Morsi closed the Syrian embassy as is his right. But he keeps open the Israeli embassy. He does not talk to the Syrian regime but Perez asddresses him as a dear friend. Many of the Ikhwan and associated clergy studied the same rubbish about Shias that you have at the Darul ulooms, Riyadh, Medina and other Gulf state universities. Yet when you look at it the facts of history does not support the bigotry of al-Qardawi and Raed salah. Many without a history of struggle are uncritical of Salah. I support him in his struggle against the zionist occupier. But I will be critical his political programme as I am of that of Morsi, Iran and anyone else. I am even critical of my own judgements because in life we do make stupid choices and utterances.
He asks Turkey to start a Sunni Qods day as if Erdogan is the Mahdi. Guess what Turkey is as strategic about israel as Iran and Syria. Turkey has a bigger and more advanced defence force than both Iran and Syria. Why does Turkey keep that border silent? In fact Turkish bases are used by Israel to attack Syria.

And Amec is a neutral facilitator? Let me remind you that the people in Amec knew that Bashar al-Assad is a dictator. Before the Arab Spring they sang his praises and were frequent visitors. Many of the Ikhwan and Hamas were not only frequent visitors. They were hosted. Now they are spitting in the aknee and the soup.

Moreover our own country (South Africa) is a disaster. The Palestinians gave us diplomatic, economic and military assistance during our darkest days. Many of those at the Amec meeting would not even know. Yet as Layla Khaled said on her visit South Africa should not sit on the fence as you point out in your article. She called for South Africa to take a stand. The reality is that South Africa has regional sub-imperial ambitions. It would like to represent Africa as a permanent representative on the UN Security Council as ideas are floated to reform the council. So South Africa has to behave responsibly. It has to earn its pariah status. That however is its strategic interest.

I could argue this case for a whole day because unfortunately my sister you are so wrong in your analysis. If I were you I would withdraw these statements because they are naive to say the least.

Reply Part II

May I just add that the uprising in Syria was and remains legitimate and just. The al-Assad government thought that their resistance credentials would immunise them from the demands for change. They over-reacted and treated a political problem as a security problem. This is what dictators do. Two years later we have the mess that we are witnessing. Some may accuse Iran of doing the same with the Green Movement. I support the right of the Green Movement to organise freely and even their demand for a Reublic and not an Islamic Republic. That is, as long as the Green Movement accept that it is for the people of Iran to decide whether it is an Islamic Republic or a Republic. These are political questions and have nothing to do with how many rakaats I pray or don’t pray for any waqt.

In every uprising in the Arab Spring, except Tunisia and Yemen, where the Ikhwan was leading the struggle the essentially made a mess. Although both Tunisia and Yemen are not far from tipping over. The Ikhwan seems almost immune to taking advice anyone. What is worse is that they had actually struck a bargain with empire, this is not a slanderous claim, that they would be like Turkey and therefore could be trusted. Look at how empire handled these uprisings. Muslim activists who had been on the run from, especially after 9/11 but ever since 1979, were now frequent visitors in high places. They wanted to do what the ANC is doing in South Africa. Serve the 1% as long as they can have a seat at the table. The AKP in Turkey is doing the same. Their model is based on being loyal house slaves in the big house of the master. These neo-liberal Muslim activists have not left the plantation Malcolm X would likely have said. You cannot be free unless you work for a post-capitalist order. The system is on the ropes and these Muslims want to have a slice of the action. Take away the crack-cocaine of public subsidies for private sector losses and you have the nightmare that capitalism represents. No they talk about wudhu and sujud when justice is the issue.

In every case when the Ikhwan and its comrades have “won” in the Arab Spring they could have followed in the footsteps of the Prophet at the fall of Mecca but they wanted to decapitate their enemies. Empire aided and abetted them knowing that disaster would follow. The flames have not been extinguished and are likely to burn for years. They followed the dictates of empire and burnt down the house. The stupidity is astounding. They are having an argument with the Prophet over a chasm of more than 1400 years.

Your assertion about the weapons being supplied to a fighting and oppressed people is correct. Could we ask why the Saudis, Qataris, Jordanians, Kuwaitis, Egyptians and Turks not supply the Palestinians for more than sixty years? These are people with the most advanced weapons that are rotting in their warehouses. Why would they waste money like that? It is an insurance policy with empire. They buy a sufficient amount from every big sup[lier to ensure that they can call for help when needed. But they have forgotten something that has the resonance of “Workers of the world unite” That slogan is “Ashha’ab yureed isqaat an-nidhaam”. In the last Israeli operation it is Iranian help that spared the dignity of the Palestinians. Their leadership drank the KoolAid and got delirious. Hamas makes Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat look like freedom fighters in suits. They have the opportunity to organise the Arab Israeli citizens, the prisoners, the people under occupation, the diaspora and the global solidarity movement into a popular struggle for a single state of its citizens but no they are like Lucas Mangope with their Bantustan in Gaza. Instead of using Gaza as a “liberated zone” for the organisation of the broad popular movement, they find it necessary to walk around with guns to hold on to their liberated Islamic Republic of Gaza. One does not hear that they plan to participate in the Oslo elections processes in order to grind it to a halt and limit the room for Mahmoud Abbas to sell out. If this were the case they would have a platform that would include everyone who wants a single state of its citizens. But like the Ikhwan in Egypt this type of thinking seems remote. This is in no way disparaging of the people or their leadership. But it is critical of the choices of the leadership. In Egypt today the hatred of Palestinians would make Nasser stir in his grave.

As for the dilemmas of Hamas leadership and the Palestinian refugees one needs to look at Yarmouk refugee camp for the past few days. The Free Syrian Army sympathisers have expelled everyone who does not agree with them. Refugees have joined the Syrian Army to fight these salafis. Where is the voice of hamas and Fatah on this life and death issue for the refugees in Syria? It is not the dictatorship that is targeting Palestinian refugees but these narrow-minded Saudi sponsored elements who also happen to be reugees. They are the types whose women will walk behind them in niqabs tagging the children along. I say this not because I have an issue with a woman who wants to wear hijab or niqab, or walk behind her husband or tag along with the children whilst carrying the groceries. I have a problem with the sultan of the family walking ahead as if he is the man. So where does the Amec meeting reflect this complexity and messiness?

As for Raed Salah he recently received the King Faizel prize from Saudi Arabia for services to Islam. Yes, again I will acknowledge that he leads a resistance to zionist encroachment in northern Israel. How does a freedom fighter accept a prize from a brutal, sectarian, decrepit, murderous dictatorship like Saudi? This is making common cause with Bandar Bush and Turki al-Faisal. These are the people who created the Taliban and al-Qaeeda monster for which we have to ritually apologise on a daily basis. They brought to life the Khawarij from our fossiled history.

I will not continue this post any further, but it is astounding that someone who teaches at a university in political science cannot recognise these basic facts from history today. Please think li qawmin yatafakkaroon

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