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Ray Hanania
Ray Hanania
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Syrian Regime Has to Go


When pro-democracy protestors started their campaign in Syria this past summer, many Arabs were conflicted about the confrontations and protests.

I was one of them. After all, Syria has always spoken out forcefully to defend the rights of Palestinians and the rights of its Christian minority. Although Christians still exist in other Arab countries, they are protected and defended more aggressively in Syria than in any other country where the number of religious extremists continue to grow, such as in Jordan and in Egypt.

So when the protests started, it was difficult to accept them — until Syria began using violence. Syria is a dictatorship, but so is every other Arab country. Although Israel is not a dictatorship, when it comes to non-Jews, it comes close to being a dictatorship both in its discriminatory policies towards non-Jews in Israel and oppression of non-Jews in the occupied territories.

But the fight with Israel is clearly defined over the need for Palestinian rights, democracy and Palestinian statehood.

The fight in Syria is different. Over the years, Syria has overplayed its hand. The country did as much damage to Lebanon as the Israelis did in the 1980s. Syria has always viewed Lebanon the same way Iraq viewed Kuwait, as a piece of their land that was taken away from them by the Allies after World War I.

Maybe that's why Syria has always gone the extra mile in protecting the Christians within its borders — to strengthen its argument that Lebanon should be "returned" to Syria as a part of its country. Who really knows?

Yet, a dark side plagues Syria. The Mukhabarat (secret police) operate without restrictions. People just disappear in Syria. If you criticize the Syrian government, you might easily be jailed. If you criticize Hamas, which has been given safe haven in Syria for years, you could end up in jail, too.

Pushed by the Arab Spring, Syrians began protesting the tyranny in Syria, which is ruled by a dictator, Bashar al-Assad. He's the son of a dictator, Hafez al-Assad. Between the father and the son, Syria has been ruled with an iron fist since 1963.

The first sign of the dichotomy among American Arabs came in June when the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee was accused of censoring Syrian pianist Malke Jandali, who reportedly was to play a song supportive of the pro-democracy protestors.

I wasn't involved in the decision, but extremists quickly grabbed the controversy to attack moderates in the Arab community, falsely accusing me and others of supporting the Syrian dictator.

Truth rarely matters as much as emotion in American Arab activism.

I've been a member of ADC, which battles anti-Arab bigotry, since it was founded in 1980.

I served for one year, between 2010 and 2011, as an ADC national board member. I didn't like the way the Jandali issue was being handled, and I recognized that ADC was coming under the influence of the fanatics.

Although the fanatics were happy to use the ADC controversy to attack me, implying they supported Jandali and opposed the Syrian dictatorship, the truth is that their focus had nothing to do with Syrian pro-democracy protests.

Turns out they support Syria's dictatorship. Why? Because Syria has served as the Emirate for Hamas, a religious terrorist organization bent on destroying both Israel and the secular Palestinian leadership.

Since then, more and more American Arab fanatics have come to the defense of the Syrian dictatorship. It's troubling that these loudmouthed extremists, who scream about the injustices of Israel's government against Palestinian civilians, turn around in the blink of the eye and support Syria's oppression against its citizens.

The fanatics close their eyes to Syrian abuses because Syria is pivotal in the political battle against Israel. I say "political battle" because the Syrian military is so pathetically incompetent and corrupt that they couldn't fight their way out of a paper bag. They can't fight another military, but they can fight unarmed civilians.

In protecting Hamas, Syria also maintains close ties with the little megalomaniac in Tehran, Iran's "President," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, another vicious tyrant who exploits Palestinian suffering for his interests while oppressing Iranian civilians.

Since the protests in Syria began on Jan. 26, 2011, the Syrian government has been accused of massacring more than 3,000 civilian protestors. Activists in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and even in western nations have been targeted, some even kidnapped by the Syrian government.

While the fanatics are willing to play a game of hypocrisy and close their eyes to the Syrian oppression, I cannot. Too many innocent people have been killed. Syria remains a dictatorship. Not even the Palestinian cause is enough to justify keeping those eyes closed.

Palestinian rights are based on a principle of justice and the Rule of Law, not on the oppression and empty rhetoric of dictators like those in Damascus. Syria is an oppressive regime. Whether it is or isn't worse than Israel is irrelevant.

If Bashar al-Assad really cared about democracy and Palestinian rights, he would step down from power and embrace Syrian democracy and freedom first. But the day that happens will probably come only when he resigns or is forced out of office.

We've watched Egypt's velvet-hammer dictator, Husni Mubarak, fall, and we've seen the murder of Libya's tyrant, Moammar Gaddafi — all in the breeze of the Arab Spring. Clearly, Bashar al-Assad's days are numbered.

To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit



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