Laying Groundwork for Life After Syria's Assad

As Regime Teeters, Jews Mull Outreach to Rebel Fighters

Future Leaders?: With Syrian rebels close to tipping the balance against strongman Bashar al-Assad, Jews are starting to think about their next steps.
getty images
Future Leaders?: With Syrian rebels close to tipping the balance against strongman Bashar al-Assad, Jews are starting to think about their next steps.

By Nathan Guttman

Published January 01, 2013, issue of January 04, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Israel is also concerned about the growing influence of foreign jihadist groups that have infiltrated Syria as the civil war there has progressed. A December 21 paper prepared by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a hawkish Israeli think tank close to Netanyahu that focuses on security issues, warns that after Assad’s fall, “a potential military-terrorist threat to Israel will likely emerge in the transition period, which will be marked by governmental instability and a lack of central control over at least some of the fighting forces.”

Syrian opposition activist Radwan Ziadeh argued that such concerns should not deter the community from getting involved. “It is better to invest in the future than to hang on to the old regime,” said Ziadeh, director of the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Washington. In his meetings with members of the Jewish community, Ziadeh talks about the role he sees for American Jews in helping the Syrian cause. “Now is the time for the Jewish community and for Israel to push the Obama administration to take action,” said Ziadeh, who supports American military intervention aimed at helping the opposition—a position rejected by mainstream Syrian government opponents.

Despite American Jewish concerns and Israel’s relative comfort with the Assad regime as the devil it knows, some Jewish groups are, in fact, reaching out to Syrian opposition, based on a joint humanitarian cause.

The American Jewish Committee, which has hosted several events with Syrian dissidents, is active in bringing to light abuses carried out by the regime. “The options for Jewish groups as Jewish groups are relatively limited,” said Felice Gaer, director of the AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights. “They cannot reach a peace agreement and will not solve the Syrian problem. But they can call for humane principles in the conduct of the government and those rebelling against it.”

Gaer, who is also a commissioner on the United Nations Committee Against Torture, said that the Jewish community has a role to play in telling the world about “how brutal and vicious this conflict is and how brutal the government is in its use of torture.”

But intervention by Jewish activists can, at times, be used against those it aims to help. When Bernard-Henri Levy, a Jewish French philosopher, called for international intervention to help oust Assad, members of left-wing Syrian opposition groups criticized his efforts and pointed to his support of Israel as an incriminating factor.

“Jews will always be used by one side or another” in the conflict, Gaer argues in response. But the circumstances in Syria are so harsh and clear, she said, that there is no room for concern about Jewish support de-legitimizing the opposition. “If we speak to this issue we will not hurt the effort,” she said. “Turning an eye away from what’s going on, that is what can be seen as not legitimate.”

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @nathanguttman


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.