Bernard-Henri Lévy, well known for his devotion to humanitarian military interventions, organized a conference to “stop the massacre” in Syria, “SOS Syrie,” in Paris on the fourth of July. There is no doubt that BHL is eager to replicate his Libyan success in Syria. Given the clear Russian opposition to any military intervention in Syria, however, his goal, at this stage in the game, is to manufacture the Western public’s support for a UN Security Council referral of the Syrian leadership to the International Criminal Court and for yet more economic sanctions against the country.
The call for the conference, issued through BHL’s journal La Règle du Jeu, was joined by France-Syrie Démocratie and “Change in Syria for Democracy,” the latter being a group that had emerged from the Syrian opposition conference held in Antalya, Turkey on 31 May-2 June 2011. On the “Change in Syria” Web site, posters for SOS Syrie are prominently displayed.
On the French side, SOS Syrie featured such participants as Bernard Kouchner, André Glucksman, Axel Poniatowski (a member of the Union for a Popular Movement and the president of the foreign affairs commission of the French National Assembly), and Frédéric Encel, “who cut his teeth in the Betar youth organization of Likud.” As if that is not enough, former Knesset member Alex Goldfarb was also included.
What Syrians would want to join hands with the who’s who of French Zionism and imperialism? Most of the prominent Syrian invitees named in the conference advertisements are the leaders of the aforementioned organizations that backed BHL’s call. According to As-Safir‘s Paris correspondent Mohammad Ballout, among the invitees were many of the Executive Council of “Change in Syria”: Amr Al-Azm, Ahed al-Hendi, Abdel Ilah Milhem (a leader of the Anza tribe), Ammar al-Qurabi (chairman of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria), Sondos Sulaiman (of Al Hadatha Party). Lama Atassi, the president of France-Syrie Démocratie as well as a participant in the Antalya conference, took credit for linking up the Antalya opposition with BHL in an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur.
What happened at the conference itself, where “the obscure faces of the Antalya opposition and of the Muslim Brotherhood” were seen among about 200 like-minded friends of BHL who filled the very much bobo Saint-Germain-des-Prés cinema?
According to La Règle du Jeu itself, Goldfarb, of all people, acted as “spokesman, in Paris, of Change in Syria for Democracy.”
There was also Ashraf al-Moqdad, a member of the “National Salvation Front in Syria” led by Abdul Halim Khaddam. Moqdad, says As-Safir, bragged that, once “democracy” comes to Syria, “Hezbollah, ‘Iranian agents,’ and Palestinians” will be made to “pay the price.” The As-Safir reporter says Moqdad went on to threaten him as well.
Radwan Badini and Muhammad Karkouti, both members of the “Change in Syria” Executive Council, also spoke, as did Atassi. A post-conference report in BHL’s journal claims that Qurabi was there, too, but time ran out and he couldn’t give his speech. (It curiously has nothing to say about the rest of the initial invitees.)
Perhaps the most intriguing participant in SOS Syrie was Mulham al-Droubi, who is in charge of international relations of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood as well as a member of the “Change in Syria” Executive Council. As the Muslim Brotherhood came out in favor of “normalization” with Israel without an end to the Israeli occupation and backed the monarchy in Bahrain and the rest of the Gulf Arab states, the United States and the European Union have made their support for the Muslim Brotherhood public, to the delight of the Brothers. Droubi’s presence there is yet another sign of the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
Unlike in the case of Libya, though, the path of the Syrian exiles who team up with BHL and his ilk may be a lonely one. As-Safir reports that Farouk Mardam-Bey, Burhan Ghalioun, and Subhi Hadidi issued a joint statement against BHL and his collaborators, telling them to “spare the Syrian people the solidarity that they don’t want.” Haytham Manna, spokesman for the Arab Commission for Human Rights, is quoted by As-Safir as condemning SOS Syrie thus: “It’s a conspiracy against young people, who have upheld not only the cause of freedom but also that of the liberation of Palestine, waving the flags of Palestine and Syria at the same time.” The conference itself couldn’t get going without first escorting out one Arab man and one Arab woman who stood up and denounced it, and outside the cinema there was a loud protest of pro-government Syrians heckling the conference-goers, calling them “fascists, Zionists, terrorists.”
The currents of the Syrian opposition represented at SOS Syrie — and others like them (see, for instance, the transcript of a Syrian opposition conference “Envisioning Syria’s Political Future — Obstacles and Options,” especially “National Initiative for Change” Communications Director Ausama Monajed’s demand for an ICC referral and more economic sanctions) — won’t be a threat to Syria and its legitimate homegrown opposition . . . if leftists in the West and Turkey see to it that there will be no further Western or Turkish intervention in the country. However, SOS Racisme President Dominique Sopo spoke at the conference, and Martine Aubry, Bertrand Delanoë, François Hollande, and so on sent messages of support to it. Such are among the ominous signs that the center left in the West is ready to step onto yet another slippery slope.
Yoshie Furuhashi is editor of MRZine.