Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Let's be clear: They're not anti-imperialists

[Originally posted at NOW Lebanon]

Lebanese demonstrators on March 8, 2005, holding signs "thanking" Syria's Assad for occupying their country for 29 years (AP)

Twitter is abuzz today with recommendations of an intellectual “demolition” of what the author dubs “Assad’s useful idiots.” In a deeply-researched 4,000 word juggernaut, the Global Mail Middle East correspondent Jess Hill comprehensively details the manner in which Assad apologists from The Guardian’s Seumas Milne to the journalist John Pilger to the author Tariq Ali to British MP George Galloway are “willfully twisting the narrative on Syria to score points against the ‘imperialist West’” and thereby “excusing and providing intellectual cover for the Assad regime.”

It’s an excellent job, and one I thoroughly endorse, save for one slight but significant objection. Throughout the piece, Hill unironically labels these stooges “anti-imperialists” and even “leftists.” In a particularly regrettable lapse, she describes Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar as “the leftist Hezbollah-friendly newspaper.” Such misnomers sully the good names of these political traditions, which can and must be rescued from the villains who masquerade under them. Put simply, Assad, Hezbollah and their cheerleaders are not anti-imperialists but rival imperialists, whose contempt for liberalism places them not on the left, but the very-far-right.

An extreme example is Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, who calls herself both an “anti-imperialist” and a “Greater Syria nationalist” (an ideology, incidentally, that drew heavily on the fascism of 1930s Europe). Her ravings can often be found on Al-Akhbar, where she infamously once wrote that supporting Assad’s “struggle” against the opposition was the “litmus [test] of [...] commitment to the Palestinian cause.”

And where these “leftists” aren’t openly advocating ethno-nationalist expansionism, they’re making excuses for violent and totalitarian theocracy. As Michael Weiss drily noted to me after Max Blumenthal’s resignation from Al-Akhbar, “He was fine with writing for [it] when it was just pro-Hezbollah…”

It’s high time we started calling spades spades. An Islamist cannot also be a leftist, nor can a supporter of (say) the Syrian occupation of Lebanon be an anti-imperialist. Genuine leftists and anti-imperialists deserve better than being lumped in with such sinister company.

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