Here is another impassioned piece from NOW Lebanon reporter and Syrian revolution enthusiast, Michael Weiss. Weiss is one of the many commentators in some way apologizing for the prominence of Jihadist organisations among Syria’s rebels.
The argument is the following. The real responsibility for why Jihadists such as Jabhat al-Nusra are ever-growing in popularity in Syria lies in the West’s apathy. What else are the rebels to do? Where else can they get weapons? It’s really not Syrians’ own fault that they come to fight for the same banner that brought down the Twin Towers and killed thousands of American soldiers in Iraq– it’s the West’s fault for not preventing these innocent souls from joining the dark side. (Given this point of view, it’s no surprise that much outrage ensued when it was reported that US intelligence officers want the FSA to confront Al-Nusra before receiving military aid).
But this argument is horrible. It’s clearly true that Jihadism is now the primary obstacle for the Syrian revolution in its pursuit of Western aid and subsequent success. But it’s not the West not giving weapons that has lead to Jihadism; it’s the Jihadism that is stopping the West from providing weapons. It’s not the West’s fault that the Syrian rebels have been unable to a) form a unified command or provisional government, or b) stay away from fundamentalist murderers such as Al Qaeda, who are not only evil but an absolute PR nightmare. Right now the Syrian rebels’ are not just fighting Assad; they are also actively antagonizing the one superpower that could deliver them an easy victory.
Which brings me to Ben Gurion. The Zionist project was not without its inner strife. Rivaling the social-democratic Haganah (and its elite unit Palmach) were the right-wing outfits of Lehi and Irgun (the latter led by Menachem Begin). Their conflict ultimately resulted in what is known as the Altalena Affair of 1948. After Ben Gurion declared statehood in 1948, he integrated both Haganah and the right-wing militias into Israel’s national army, the IDF. However, while Israel was under an arms-embargo during the War of Independence, Begin’s Irgun sought to continue smuggling arms for operations of its own units (particularly in Jerusalem). The conflict came to ahead when Ben Gurion ordered the IDF to destroy the loaded Irgun arms ship the Altalena, in which operation more than a 30 Irgun fighters were killed. (This was a costly operation at the time; Israel relied heavily on Irgun operations in Jerusalem, and indeed ended up losing the Old City in a traumatic battle).
To be sure, the Altalena is exceedingly small peanuts compared to any possible situation faced by the FSA. But the point remains this. As FSA leader Salam Idriss must realize, the Syrian rebellion’s fatal weakness from the start was its flirtation with Islamic radicalism. Every time the Syrian rebels drop a hint that Syria’s post-Assad future might be Jihadist chaos, their victory moves that much further towards the horizon, just as it moves Obama into the arms of Putin. So as a true leader for his people Idriss must follow in Ben Gurion’s footsteps, and clearly indicate that there should be a single genuine Syrian revolutionary force, and that it’s unwavering aim is a democratic and liberal Free Syria.