The Middle East
Once at school, a teacher asked a friend of mine to go to the board and draw the map of Lebanon. My friend drew the map of Lebanon, but afterwards he wrote Welcome. When the teacher asked why the “Welcome” written beneath the map, my friend answered: “Because Lebanon has always been welcome matt for empires penetrating Lebanon to expand their territories in the past.”
In his book 1984, George Orwell divided the future world into three empires. The Middle East and North Africa are the nations that were temporarily fallen under one empire then “liberated” to fall under another.
The Middle East, usually referred to as “Syria Magna” or “Natural Syria” is composed of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, and most lately, even though not part of the Middle East historically and academically, Iran. Some added Egypt and Sudan, but they are traditionally referred to as the North African Arab Nations.
Ever since the Mongols invaded Greater Syria and Iraq in the Middle Ages, the nations were to experience a return to the age of empires. The Turkish Ottoman Empire invaded the area, and the Middle East was the last front to be taken away from the Ottoman Empire (during WWI) and was replaced for a short period as Greater Syria. In the 19th Century, European Imperialist powers took interest in the weakened Ottoman Empire, and tagged the Empire as the sick man. The Middle East in Specific was divided between the French and the British, under the Sykes – Pico Deal. The French and the British used the alibi of protecting the minorities in the Middle East, and that is why their presence was needed.
The French won Lebanon (carved out of Syria), Syria, and Palestine. The British won Egypt, (then part of Egypt), Jordan (after carving it out of Syria), Iraq (after binding three provinces into one). The British eventually won Palestine since they claimed that they protected the Jews. A lot of literature was written on the clash between the French and the British regarding that issue, specially the British wanted to form a minority that would assist them in reigning the location, specially the most important imperial factor for the British was dominating the Suez Canal from both flanks. The Ottomans already used Palestine to attempt and invade Egypt in order to cut of supplies from the Far East by controlling the Suez Canal, and the British argument that the need to protect both flanks is of high importance. Lord Balfour already pushed for such an argument. The British were accompanied with a colonial racist movement called the Zionists who transformed the Jews from a sect to a race and claimed birth rights on Palestine.
Eventually, Lebanon and Syria will gain independence during World War II as a pressure from the British to kick out the French from the Area. The British withdrew from Palestine to facilitate for the imported Jews, who were organized under the Yishuv in defensive manner, to grab hold of the nation. Jordan will gain its independence afterwards through different deals, and Iraq will witness a series of insurrections.
Ever since that era, the region witnessed instability, foreign interventions, and wars.
Brief Summary on the Marxists in the Region
Most of the Marxists during the 1930s adopted Arab Nationalism in solidarity with the Palestinians as they were being kicked out by the Zionists under the blessing of the British. Palestine would become the most controversial topic in the world, as the Zionists did the greatest promotions for their “cause”. Eventually, with more atrocities making its way to the media, and academics such as Edward Said, Sami Hadawi, and Walid Khalidi making their academic publications, the global left paid attention to the situation. This was facilitated at the immense exodus of the Palestinans (Christians and Muslims) exiled and also played a massive role in promoting what happened.
Post World War II and with the agreement on a new world system, the United States spearheaded the global economy in the face of Stalinist Soviet Union. The US’s primary client was Israel, since the Zionist lobby had its influence on the Executive level in the United States, while the US administration was confident that Israel would be loyal almost 100% to them since they needed the funding and weaponry.
Currently, almost all the nations in the Middle East are mentioned in the news, and all provide disturbing news to the United States’ foreign policy. Egypt is facing a radical wave of the Muslim Brotherhood to oust US puppet President Moubarak. Syria caused tensions with its relationship with Iran, as well as having influence in Lebanon after they withdrew in 2005. Iraq, probably is the most disastrous situation whereby the Proletariat are involved in a civil war bloodshed due to the brutal invasion of the United States and its allies.
The Revolutionary Marxist Parties have been present almost since the early 20th Century. They were extensively organized in activism via the Unions, except in Iraq, they got their chance to gain temporarily power. With Stalin dominating the Soviet Union, the Marxist Parties became pawns for Moscow’s Foreign Policy. Khaled Bikdash, General Secretary of the Syrian Communist Party, eliminated any revolutionary communist in the era, and even several comrades died “strangely” in Russia due to ill “strange” diseases.
Arab Nationalist leaders would crack down on the Communists of the region. Nasser would purge most of the Communists in the 1960s in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. Israel’s Zionism would remain strong till the current day without allowing any Marxist movements to grow strong. Jordan, another US satellite, would also keep the Marxists weak since its Monarch received best support from the United States administration. The Communist parties Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) would split to PFLP and PFLP-General Command (a Stalinist Faction), and would end up weak due to Fatah’s hegemony in the Palestinian Liberation Organization coalition. All this crisis would make the Communist Parties corrupted from the inside, and too weak to lead the Proletariat wherever they are active. Worse, the Soviet Union looked the other way when the Arab Nationalist leaders were purging the Communists.
The Left and the Middle East (Present Day)
Currently, most of the left takes special interest with the Middle East. There are different reasons for such an event happening:
1) The gravity of the situation: Probably the daily onslaught of the Palestinians by the Israelis was on the top of the list. Palestinians on daily basis have been slaughtered since 1924 till present day. Some would express solidarity to Israel as Zionist media would convince its audience that they are a persecuted “civilized” minority surrounded by barbarians, and suicide bombers would justify their arguments. What Zionists do not argue, that these bombers are a reaction to their brutality when they are left with nothing to live for. Iraq, is currently the on the top of the list just as on daily basis over 40 people are being massacred. Lebanon usually hits the top ranks whenever there is an Israeli aggression on it, this was the case in 1982, 1996, and specially 2006 (due internet and media revolution). The brutality of the deaths of the Proletariat in these areas wins interest. It also should, specially most of the Arab and International capitalist regimes are silent about the on-going massacres.
2) The Transformation of the Middle East into Anti-Imperialism: Israel is often tagged as “Proxy US Imperialism” by a lot of leftists. Eventually, Israel does represent the interest of the United States in the region. The latest July War revealed global support to the militant Hezbollah as opposing Zionist Israel. With Hezbollah making it clear they are not facing a Jewish army, rather a Zionist Army (confirmed with Chomsky’s visit to Hassan Nasrallah), Nasrallah was viewed by several international movements as a national liberation movement. The Marxists in Lebanon have been fully supportive of Hezbollah as an alternate means to resist Israel. Sadly, they abandoned their class struggle perspective and adopted a nationalistic paradigm; they failed to lead the Proletariat. Iraq is viewed as the latest victim of the United States, since they invaded Iraq and dismantled all forms of security forms in Iraq while triggering chains of sectarian wars. Syria is seen as a defiant nation to US imperialism, specially with its alliance to Hugo Chavez and support to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine.
3) Lack of detailed research on the situation: I am not arguing that the Middle East should not be a priority. Currently, the United States, with the help of military Israel, and politically via Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, have been involved extensively with attempts to reshape the Middle East which would suit its foreign policy aspects. While Lebanon was under bombardment from Israel, I can still clrearly remember Rice laughing: "This is for a better Middle East" while my entire house was shaking. A lot of literature has been written on the Middle East, and our fellow comrades abroad have been exposed extensively via the media (even though most of the time the general media has been biased). The problem with the literature and academic publications, most of them tend to be distorted. For example, few people mention how Syria’s own regime is a one party rule system and how Syria sought two deals with the US to attain hegemony over Lebanon (1976 & 1990). Even fewer mention how Syria won Lebanon in 1990 in return they will support the United States in their Desert Rose operation on Iraq. Iraq’s background is not mentioned and how Iraq previously was a three separate provinces. Worse, the issue of Palestine has been taken to a new reactionary level. Some leftists totally support the Palestinians, since they are the underdogs who lost their homes in 1948, but disregard the clash struggle perspective in the region. Lebanon’s opposition, spearheaded by Hezbollah and a retired Christian General, gained international support in the latest demonstrations. What few people do not mention is their corrupted history (excluding Hezbollah since recently they participated in the government but got an interesting record during the War) and analyzing how the Status Quo arrived to this level. Having said this, most of the publications on the Middle East would become monotonous.
4) Having said all this (again), the easiest topic to talk about is the Middle East. Yet, no alternatives are being provided, and worse, we suffer problems of “Western Confidence” that their perspective is better than the ones living here. The full scenario has to be understood. For example, few people bother to know that Palestine in 1919 was made of 91% of non-Jews while all three monotheistic religions were living in Harmony prior to the full arrival of Zionism. Some compare the Pro-Middle Eastern perspective to Anti-Vietnam wars. This is not the case. There are more dynamic actors (state and non-state level) involved. It is not important to simply denounce the Zionist Aggression on the Lebanese or Palestinians, rather the importance is emancipating the Proletariat over there to denounce their own leaders and form a unified front. Others compare the demonstrations in Lebanon as the movement of the poor, without focusing on the rich corrupt leaders or how the Sectarian system in Lebanon functions.
5) The 9/11 syndrome: Ever since Bush opened his never ending “War on Terror”, the Middle East was more on the spot light than it used to be. Ariel Sharon compared the Palestinians ( without doing any difference to the civilians) to the Terrorists that Bush was fighting. The Marxists and the Leftists fell in the error of supporting in defecto any movement or rogue nation against the United States, unless if they were al-Qa’eda. The biased Media has deformed all forms of facts. Despite my opposition to Hezbollah’s reactionary movement, the Media didn’t mention how Hezbollah were celebrating in the streets when al-Zarqawi was killed. Leftists support al-Assad, but they are unaware that negotiations are taking place to bring Syria as a deterrent force in return they restore the Golan Heights. Worse, even the United States do not want to get rid of the Syrian Baathis, since the alternative are the Muslim Brotherhoods. There is a difference in performing solidarity campaigns with the Proletariat and reactionary movements/institutions. Since the United States is facing a lot of opposition and defeats in the Middle East, the leftists’ sympathies have been won in several occasions blindly.
6) All Movements/politicians in the area got their dark history. Investigations and proper research would lead to the objective analysis. The first problem is the leftists’ organized movements coming to Lebanon and imposing their perspectives on the activists with their own points of views without fully understanding the situation. A lot of others, such as the opportunists, abuse the Middle East crisis for their own political agenda. Furthermore, communication breakdown between the interactive comrades over here and outside are at their minimum in a lot of occasions. I had three encounters with three separate socialist/Marxist organizations that go arrogantly shoving how their methods are correct and we have no choice but to be part of such organizations. (I will exclude the http://www.marxist.com/ since they have been the most understanding of the situation till now). Galloway for example probably expressed our frustrations on Sky News during the July War as we were living in a Media Blackout, but again Galloway never mentioned Saddam’s errors when he expressed respect to him in face of US aggression while a lot other comrades raised the banner: “No War! No Dictatorship!” Those who raise banners to “No To War on Iran” or “Hands off Iran” should also raise the banner “Freedom to its people” next to the others.
We have the capitalists’ tools to communicate, it is prime time for a unified front. It is not the United States who is the enemy, rather it is the system that shoved the US administration into such a status quo which should be dealt with. The transnational corporations are part of the situation, and other nations are still involved in imperial practices while our comrades out there should be active in raising awareness. Furthermore, every single area and topic through out the world should not be undermined or forgotten as everything is inter-connected.
Finally, I will say my favourite sentence which we rose in 2002: "There is No War But Class War!"