Spartacist Canada No. 177
Young Spartacus pages
SYC Exposes Pro-Imperialist Shill at Syria Meeting
Every winter, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, which appeals to capitalist governments, corporations and university administrations to act on behalf of the Palestinians through trade and other sanctions against Israel, releases the schedule for its annual Israeli Apartheid Week. This time around, when Toronto organizers announced that their first forum would be “Who’s Afraid of Syria’s Popular Revolution” featuring one Razan Ghazzawi, recent recipient of a “human rights” award from an NGO, the Spartacus Youth Club smelt a rat.
Our comrades researched Ghazzawi and hit the meeting to intervene in the discussion and distribute Marxist literature. On site attendees snapped up our article “Imperialists’ Hands Off Syria!” (Workers Vanguard No. 1009, 28 September 2012), which lays out our proletarian-internationalist perspective of opposition to both sides in the bloody Syrian civil war—a war that is now rapidly heading in the direction of a wider regional conflagration. Accompanying articles advocated defense of the Palestinians and a socialist federation of the Near East.
Sure enough, Ghazzawi’s March 3 spiel revealed her to be just what we thought. Complete with PowerPoint slides and tear-jerking video interludes worthy of a World Vision telethon, Ghazzawi praised the Syrian opposition without breathing a word about the support it receives from the U.S. and other imperialist states. Her interlocutor, University of Toronto professor Jens Hanssen, preemptively smeared any audience members who would criticize the Syrian opposition on anti-imperialist grounds. Invoking the torture machine of Bashar al-Assad, Hanssen hazarded to claim that any such critics would echo former Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff, infamous for his apologies for torture in the U.S. “war on terror.” Apparently unknown to the professor, imperialist ideologue Ignatieff had months earlier taken the same side as him in the civil war (see “West May Regret Lack of Support for Syrian Rebels,” Financial Times, 11 December 2012).
During the raucous discussion that followed Ghazzawi and Hanssen, SYC and Trotskyist League spokesman H. Adil intervened to clear up a few things about imperialism, revolution and the bonafides of Israeli Apartheid Week’s guest of honour. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of his remarks.
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“The fact is that the Syrian population is being crushed by two equally reactionary forces. The first one is the murderous Ba’ath regime of Bashar al-Assad, and the second one is the so-called ‘revolution’ which is in fact an imperialist-backed opposition that is filled with Islamists and former members of the Assad regime. The fact is that both sides have carried out indiscriminate massacres against people who are of different religious and ethnic groups. And it’s suicidal for any leftist activist to give any support to this opposition, because if it did take power, its victims would be women, Kurds, Christians, workers, leftists and gays. That’s who’ll be the targets of this ‘Free Syrian Army’ taking power. [The chair interrupts.]
“Some other people here have raised the point as well that the Free Syrian Army has committed mass atrocities. But the only revolutionary perspective for this is the defeat of both sides in the civil war. So we are for the defeat of both sides, but we will take a side in defense of Syria in the event of imperialist intervention. It’s been pointed out that some of the Syrian rebels have called for imperialist intervention, just like the Libyan rebels did two years ago. They consciously became willing tools of the NATO bombing of Libya.
“Imperialist aid can also be seen in the person of today’s speaker, unfortunately. Razan Ghazzawi is a staff member of the Syrian Centre of Media and Information, which is linked through various NGOs to German imperialism and to the Ford Foundation, which should send chills up anybody’s spine because the Ford Foundation is widely known as an agency of U.S. covert foreign policy and a way to channel CIA funds since the Cold War. [Sustained interruptions from the chair follow. Audience members heckle for and against comrade Adil. An event organizer pleads for everyone to respect Ghazzawi.]
“Her boss, who she also mentioned, Mazen Darwish, helped to establish ‘Committees for the Defence of Democratic Freedom and Human Rights,’ connected to the National Endowment for Democracy, which, like many Latin American activists will know, is a front for U.S. imperialism.
“I want to point out that since Israeli Apartheid Week was founded, we in the Trotskyist League have always defended it against attacks by Zionists and right-wingers, but we pointed out the pro-imperialist logic of boycott, divestment and sanctions. [An organizer interrupts.] The BDS campaign looks to imperialist countries like Canada and the U.S. to be better to oppressed people like the Palestinians. The logic of BDS is pro-imperialist, and you can see that in the person of the people they decide to bring to speak here. [Loud heckles back and forth from audience members and organizers.]
“The only way forward, really, for the Syrian masses, is workers revolution, socialist revolution, and we seek to build parties that will overthrow the capitalist regimes of the region, whether they’re led by dictators, monarchs or Zionists. For the establishment of a socialist federation of the Near East!”
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In her reply to our comrade, Ghazzawi cynically claimed he had tied her to the wrong organization. In fact, the Dutch NGO Hivos cites Ghazzawi on its website, hivos.org, as a member of both the group that comrade Adil mentioned and the similarly named Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. Ghazzawi has posted the latter’s statement listing her among its “staff and administrators” on her own website (razanghazzawi.org). Hivos claims both groups as its “partners” under the direction of Mazen Darwish, the man Ghazzawi has blogged about as her “beautiful boss.”
Elsewhere, Hivos lists among its “major donors and strategic alliances” the European Commission—executive arm of the European Union, the consortium of capitalist states under the hegemony of German and French imperialism. Other Hivos donors and allies include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the capitalist government of the Netherlands and British imperialism’s Department for International Development, which is currently headed by Tory cabinet minister Justine Greening. Further, Hivos cites the notorious Ford Foundation as a “main partner” as detailed in the Hivos Annual Report 2011, also available at hivos.org.
The website of Front Line Defenders, the Irish NGO and Hivos partner that honoured Ghazzawi with its “human rights” award, lists some of its donors to be the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ford Foundation and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Dublin. A lesson for Israeli Apartheid Week: a perspective premised on pressuring the imperialist powers leads in some very bad directions.
Chickens Come Home to Roost for BDS Campaign
The Syrian civil war has caused political turmoil in the Palestinian nationalist milieus. The Sunni fundamentalists of Hamas have abandoned their former patron Assad and now actively support the opposition. At the same time, the pro-Assad Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command, long headquartered in Damascus, suffered defections when it clashed violently with the opposition last December. Thus it came as little surprise that by the time our comrade intervened, the Toronto meeting of a hundred or so people had already erupted into chaos, with BDS stalwarts speaking adamantly both for and against Ghazzawi.
Questions from some audience members about the oppositionists’ refusal to negotiate with the regime, as well as their well-documented ransacking of churches and bombings of urban areas, were disrupted and then censored by Hanssen and Ghazzawi. Outrageously, organizers expelled well-known union activist and former Canadian Arab Federation vice-president Ali Mallah from the meeting. Mallah was engaged in an exchange with Ghazzawi from the floor after heavily interrupted remarks he had made to the effect that the opposition, however “revolutionary” to begin with, was no longer peaceful nor Syrian enough to warrant support. Mallah also highlighted that U.S. secretary of state John Kerry had just announced $60 million of aid to the opposition.
Supporters of the Spartacus Youth Club and others in the audience loudly denounced the two-bit dictatorial measures of the organizers, shouting “let them speak!” and “leave the censorship to the Zionists!” After losing control of the meeting more than once the organizers shut it down.
Fake Marxists Bringing up the Rear
Support to the “Syrian revolution” can also be found among outfits like the International Socialists (I.S.). Thus in a February 1 web posting they claim that “The only solution is to continue the social and economic demands and methods of the revolution, through mass strikes and protests, while people outside Syria stop their own governments from hijacking the revolution.” The “social and economic demands” of much of the opposition are captured in the slogan raised prominently by the Sunni fundamentalists: “the Alawi in the coffin, and the Christian to Beirut.” Whatever warnings the I.S. may issue against Western intervention, they nonetheless contribute on their own minuscule terms to the efforts of their own ruling class and its allies to further divide and subjugate the Near East.
Together with Socialist Action, the Communist Party of Canada and Basics Community News Service, which is connected to the International League of Peoples Struggles of exiled Filipino Maoist Jose Maria Sison, the York University I.S. also endorsed Israeli Apartheid Week 2013. Thus they have their own explaining to do about Ghazzawi. As for the misnamed Communist Party of Canada, it reserves the shamefaced distinction of having also published alibis for Assad.
The task of exposing the pro-imperialist shill Razan Ghazzawi on the basis of an independent, working-class program therefore fell predictably to the genuine Marxists of the SYC and the Trotskyist League. Lacking such a perspective, BDS activists find themselves buffeted from one side of the barricades to the other. For the Spartacus Youth Club, however, struggles to defend the Palestinians, to free the Syrian peoples from communalist bloodletting and to overthrow the entire imperialist system all converge in the internationalist program for workers revolution and the unified Marxist worldview that guides it.