Sarah Irving

I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic

As’ad Abukhalil on Leila Khaled and Syria

Several people have, in recent days, sent me this post from As’ad Abukhalil’s Angry Arab News Service. One of Abukhalil’s informants in Turkey was at an event in Istanbul entitled ‘What is happening in Syria’, at which Leila Khaled was one of the panelists. At the event, Abukhalil’s reporter describes how:

Laila Khaled insisted on that the events in Syria cannot be named as “revolution” but, with all their respect to the Syrian people legitimate demands, the armed groups are fighting for a different agenda. Khaled, said that the Syria was under a joint attack of Gulf monarchies and Turkey, and their real aim is in accordance with US regional policy for to secure Israel state. The icon of the liberation movement of the Palestine said that their stand is not for supporting Bashar Al Assad but peoples of Syria who have been supporting the Palestinian in their struggle against the Zionists. She also directly attacks the Turkish foreign policy in the region by saying “Those who are hosting the US bases cannot stand with the struggle of Palestinians.” After her speech many questions were asked and one of them is about Yarmouk Refugee camp. She said FSA with Al Qaeda and gangs attacked the camp, loot the houses of Palestininans and the offices of the Palestinian political groups. “The raids were forcing them to retreat from the camp, and when we demanded Syrian government to stop the raids, they did. But we also called FSA to retreat from the camp but they break their promises. And killed Palestinians who want to return their home”.

As’ad Abu Khalil’s comment on this is that:

I believe that Leila Khaled has compromised herself in recent years with ties to the Hariri family. Furthermore, the present-day PFLP has been compromised: its branch in Syria works closely with the Syrian regime while its branch in the West Bank works closely with the PA collaborationist regime. The organization should have been dissolved long time ago, if you ask me.

The event, and Khaled’s comments at it, have also been reported by the Istanbul-based Dicle News Agency, and there’s a secondary report by Patrick Strickland on Bikya Masr which quotes both Abukhalil and Dicle. I haven’t done a search in the Arabic press. Abukhalil also has a brief follow-up post on the Khaled family anf the Hariris here.

For obvious reasons I have a particular interest in Leila Khaled’s comments on major events. Having written a biography of her – and worked closely with her in doing so – doesn’t, of course, mean I always agree with her. This is one of those occasions. I do agree with her on the fact that ‘the Syrian people’ have ‘legitimate demands’, although I differ from her in that I believe that the removal of the current regime is key to meeting those demands. Having lived in Yarmouk camp for some time, I expect that Khaled has plenty of people there with whom she’s in regular contact. Those people I know with friends and family in Yarmouk, however, have rather different versions of the tragic events there for the remaining Palestinian refugees and other civilians, especially as regards the ‘protective’ role of the regime’s forces.

I also believe that the mixture of forces fighting the Syrian regime include some extremely worrying elements; there’s a good MERIP article on some of the dynamics here. Of course there are many amongst them who are genuinely fighting for a better future for the people of Syria, and I support them with all my heart. But I don’t think it’s now questioned that there are also some deeply worrying elements – whether bankrolled by America, Saudi, Qatar or international jihadi organisations, or a mixture of these – involved in Syria. If, as I hope, the Syrian opposition wins out in the end, I am horribly afraid that there will then be a bloody power struggle over which currents dominate and that it will make the present contested situation in Egypt look like a picnic.

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