Who are our friends?

Once upon a time, in our naïveté, we progressive Arab patriots devoted to freedom, liberation, democracy and justice, thought we knew who our foreign friends were.

Our friends supported the Palestinian cause, so we assumed they also support justice and freedom everywhere – in Syria, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain and elsewhere.

We assumed that, like us, our friends believed that human rights are universal and indivisible, unconditionally belonging to everyone and everywhere, from Palestine to Morocco and from the United States to China.

We took it for granted that our friends share the characteristics that give human beings their humanity: compassion, empathy and solidarity.

So, we didn’t doubt for one moment that our friends would stand shoulder to shoulder with the Syrians who are being butchered by the Bashar Assad regime and, during the Libyan revolution, the innocent civilians whom Muammar Gaddafi promised to bathe in blood, house by house, room by room and alley by alley.

We assumed that our friends are generally educated and well informed. After all, people who believe that freedom, justice and dignity are the inalienable rights of all human beings tend to be of the sophisticated kind.

So, we took it as a given that our friends would not only rightly condemn Israel’s and the West’s hypocritical threats against Iran’s non-existent “nuclear weapons programme”, but that, when looking at other aspects of Iranian policy, they would also acknowledge Iran for what it is – a theocratic sectarian state – and condemn it when it acts in pursuit of religious-sectarian goals at the expense of the inalienable rights of others, as it is doing in Syria right now.

Likewise with our friends’ attitude towards the Lebanese Shi’i party-militia, Hezbollah, and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

In 2006 Hezbollah stood its ground against the Israeli invaders, and for that it deservedly earned every right-thinking person’s applause and admiration.

But what Hezbollah is doing in Syria now is a world away from resistance to Israel or the liberation of Israeli-occupied Lebanese or Syrian territory – the Shebaa farms and Golan Heights respectively. It is in fact acting as Iran’s proxy and in pursuit of Tehran’s regional policy, which is propelled by the basest of motives: promoting the Shi’i sect of Islam. If you doubt this, then spare a few moments to consider these words of Nasrallah, spoken in Arabic – admittedly, they are from 25 years ago but we don’t believe a leopard can change its spots. Among other things, the Hezbollah leader said:

Our plan, to which we, as faithful believers, have no alternative, is to establish an Islamic state under the rule of Islam…

Lebanon should not be an Islamic republic on its own, but rather, part of the Greater Islamic Republic, governed by the Master of Time [the Mahdi], and his rightful deputy, the Jurisprudent Ruler, Imam Khomeini.

It would seem that we made too many assumptions and too many generalizations about our friends.

Of course, many of our friends are principled, intelligent, educated and discerning people with sharp critical minds.

But some of our friends are motivated by considerations that are at variance with the principles that we hold most dearly and the causes to which we have dedicated ourselves. Others may be well meaning but ill-informed, while others still suffer from myopia, mindset or are afflicted by chronic dogma that has fossilized their brains.

It is said that one can tell who one’s friends are in time of trouble.

For us, that time began with the first sparks of the Arab Spring and the struggles of our people – in Libya, Syria, Tunisia and Egypt – with the convulsions and dormant forces unleashed by the Arab Spring.

Suddenly, a large subset of our “friends” – fake leftists and fake anti-imperialists who are neither leftist nor anti-imperialist, and others too – were exposed before us, their ignorance of Arab societies and politics, their ulterior motives and their personal agendas laid bare in broad daylight. For them, it would seem, condemnation of mass murder, rape and destruction is contingent on the identity of the perpetrator.

It’s a problem we’ve discussed before, notably in our article “Cynicism and black propaganda: the left’s reaction to the Libyan and Syrian uprisings”. It’s a problem that’s still with us and seems likely to stay with us for the foreseeable future.

What this means is that we have to be doubly careful with the people we associate with.

It is no longer good enough to associate ourselves with people simply because they profess support for our causes. We must understand what their motives are, otherwise we’ll wake up one day only to realize that our friends are in fact our worse enemies.

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