“Israel may find itself ‘confronting an even more determined, uncontrollable and fanatical enemy than the Assad regime has ever proved to be.'” Indeed.
“Rebels with an anti-Semitic cause,” by Kapil Komireddi for Haaretz, September 21 (thanks to Lachlan):
What will happen in Syria? The answer to that question holds immense significance for Israel. Yet, preoccupied with Iran’s nuclear program, Israel is neglecting the more immediate threat to its security that’s crystalizing on the other side of the Golan Heights. What began as a limited but genuine people’s uprising against a kleptocratic dictatorship has now been overtaken by a Saudi-backed project to destabilize Syria.
Bashar Assad, like his father Hafez, was never a friend of Israel’s – but nor was his worldview shaped exclusively by antagonism toward the Jewish State. The foreign fighters seeking his ouster, on the other hand, receive sustenance from a medieval theocracy that, in the words of John R. Bradley a preeminent Middle East expert who predicted the Egyptian revolution as early as 2009 “spews out a kind of anti-Semitic hatred not known since the Nazis.”
The results of Saudi Arabia’s tireless efforts were on display in Al-Midan, a suburb in southern Damascus where I recently interviewed rebel fighters. Mateen, a fighter who claimed to have traveled from Afghanistan, shared his ideas for Syria’s future after ridding it of the Assad dynasty.
“We have to build a society of respect and brotherhood in accordance with the Prophet’s commandments,” he told me in Urdu. “We will treat non-Muslims kindly, but we have a big fight against the Jews ahead of us. We will take that up, God willing.” This manifesto for the future was identical – almost word for word – to what Yahya Mujahid, a senior leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based outfit charged with carrying out the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, told me in Lahore in 2009: that the LeT would take up the “fight” with the Jews after “liberating” Kashmir from Indian rule. One was a Kashmiri, the other a Pashtun; neither had met a Jew in his life. But both were united by a deep hatred, completely alien to their richly syncretic native cultures, exported by a distant Wahhabi monarchy that has suffused countless young minds in Islamic seminaries across South Asia with a fervor for jihad against non-Muslims.
This evangelical effort is now being replicated on an even more ambitious scale in Syria. The result is that a once-pluralistic society has descended into sectarian chaos. In the province of Homs alone, rebel fighters have driven some 80,000 Christians out of their homes. The opposition fighters have even carried out beheadings, a phenomenon unknown to Syrians. Young Shi’ite and Christian women, who mix freely with men in Damascus, told me they had to cover their faces and assume fake Sunni identities when traveling through rebel-held areas.
The man currently being groomed by Saudi Arabia as a possible replacement for Assad is Manaf Tlass, a high-ranking official in the Syrian army and a once-close friend of Assad’s, who fled Syria in July with the help of French intelligence. Tlass has now adopted the vocabulary of the “moderate,” but his family history should be of concern to Israelis. Tlass’ father, Mustafa, a former Sunni defense minister who wielded tremendous clout under Hafez Assad, is something of a scholar. I came across one of his best-sellers, “The Matzah of Zion,” in Damascus this summer. Complete with a lurid cover depicting ravenous Jews draining the blood of a Christian priest into a large bowl, the book attempts to revive the blood libel….
We have been here before – most glaringly in the 1980s, when the prospect of humiliating the Soviet Union in Afghanistan trumped every concern about arming the Taliban. Israel must now ensure that its best allies in the West don’t end up creating a launching pad for the most implacably anti-Israeli Islamists who have congregated in Syria. Otherwise, as John R. Bradley recently warned in Britain’s Jewish Chronicle, Israel may find itself “confronting an even more determined, uncontrollable and fanatical enemy than the Assad regime has ever proved to be.”
I tried to tell you.