Viva Palestina: the Syrian connection

After hackers managed to obtain access to the e-mails of some high-ranking officials at the Syrian Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Ha’aretz got hold of some of the mails and posted them together with relevant background information. One of the articles focuses on the correspondence between “Viva Palestina” organizer George Galloway, a notorious former British MP, and Assad’s media adviser Bouthaina Shaaban.

Ha’aretz correctly notes that Galloway is “identified with the extreme left in Britain” and is well known for his “close contacts with dictators and extremist elements in the Arab world.”

Given Galloway’s history, it is hardly surprising that in August 2010, he contacted Assad’s media adviser to ask her for Syria’s support in organizing an “aid” convoy to Gaza.  Indeed, it turns out that the Syrian regime provided “outstanding assistance” to Galloway’s “Viva Palestina” campaigns “on previous occasions” and Galloway showed his appreciation by praising Syria as “the last castle of Arab dignity.”

Assad’s media adviser responded warmly to Galloway’s request, assuring him that she was “happy to put my time and energy to help with this most important cause of the Twenty Firtst [sic] Century.” Pathetically, she added: “I hope you are following my writings in Counter Punch.”

Of course, Counter Punch is viciously hostile to Israel, but the fact that a supposedly left-wing and progressive newsletter would happily feature contributions from the spokeswoman of Syria’s president is still a great illustration of the depths to which the assorted Israel-haters are ready to stoop.

Equally revealing is the cozy tone of the e-mail exchange between the Syrian dictator’s media adviser and the supposedly pro-Palestinian human rights activist George Galloway: he signs one of his e-mails with “Yours fraternally,” and she responds to “Dear George” and signs off with “As ever, Bouthaina.”

In the meantime, Bouthaina Shaaban may have realized that not everyone in Syria seems to agree with her notion of what constitutes the “most important cause of the Twenty Firtst [sic] Century.”

However, Shaaban herself certainly spared no effort to tout her “most important cause.” As a regular columnist for Asharq Alawsat, she excelled in writing long-winded articles that, irrespective of her ostensible subject, eventually ended up demonizing Israel and frequently also the US and the West in general.

In Januar 2011, she wrote on “Nations and Their Image in the Media,” where she claimed that “the Arabs’ image is being manufactured by their enemies, while Israel’s image has remained that of ‘an oasis of democracy’, although it launches wars and practices genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people.” She lamented at length that the Palestinian plight – and its cause: Zionist evil – wasn’t getting enough media attention, and concluded with a call to mend this dire situation:

The Palestinian people have shown legendary steadfastness for over 63 years in front of the most brutal aggressive power in the history of humanity. They sacrifice their life and future for their country. Don’t they deserve from all of us that we tell the real story of their struggle for freedom and justice to all the free people of the world?

A month later, she commented on the protests in Egypt and other Arab countries under the title “The voice of the masses.” Unsurprisingly, Shaaban wanted her readers to believe that the protests were “a cry for the dignity of Arab citizens, a dignity humiliated by seeing their people besieged in Gaza and seeing six million Palestinians imprisoned in large prisons inside their occupied country, occupied since 1948 and in refugee camps and being killed on a daily basis amidst total Arab impotence.”

And of course, when Robert Fisk gave Shaaban a chance for a sympathetic hearing in The Independent in late October 2011, she seized the opportunity to claim that “we found weapons that were Israeli. I told our people they should show these weapons to the media.”

There is perhaps no better illustration for the gruesomely Orwellian quality of Shaaban’s pronouncements than the fact that UNICEF has recently stated:

“Nearly 11 months of violence in Syria have led to the deaths and injuries of hundreds of children. There are reports of children being arbitrarily arrested, tortured and sexually abused while in detention.”

Will any of the “Viva Palestina” activists recoil now and reflect on their cynical practice to accept hatred of Israel as the lowest common denominator?

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

One response to “Viva Palestina: the Syrian connection

  1. Brilliant!
    But… “Will any of the “Viva Palestina” activists recoil now and reflect on their cynical practice to accept hatred of Israel as the lowest common denominator?” No, in fact, they will dig in their heels even harder.

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