In the last few years, the news that has been reaching us about the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad has periodically veered all the way from the abominable to the absurd, arousing feelings of horror and complete shock, and sometimes even hysterical laughter deriving from sheer disbelief. So it is with some of the latest news coming out of the country, informing us that the official news agency SANA is launching a number of new foreign-language services, including ones in Farsi and Hebrew.
Over the past years, we have become accustomed to the standard comment by the Syrian regime—“We will respond at the appropriate time”—whenever faced with Israeli attacks on its territory. So, do we now have at last, with this new SANA Hebrew service, that long-awaited, elusive response? The Syrian regime says it is launching this service, and its other foreign-language counterparts, in order to “confront the media war that has been launched against Syria.” Most media outlets from the Arab world have dismissed news of these foreign-language services, contending they will have absolutely nothing to offer from a journalistic point of view—considering the low-quality of the flagship Arab-language service, its apparent obsession with Assad, and its continual announcements of “victories” by the Syrian army against “terrorists.”
So, yes, these services will be totally worthless, even considering their raison d’être—they will offer nothing newsworthy, or any analysis, to sway those against the regime, or even those on the fence, not to mention those who regard this regime as an enemy. Why, then, does whoever it was that came up with this idea think it a necessary step to take at this particular point in time?
Officially, Syria remains in a state of war with Israel, so, naturally, Israeli citizens will now all be falling over each other to access SANA and get their daily fix of accurate news reports on the country, ones which will now no doubt sway public opinion in Israel regarding this longtime enemy.
SANA says it is nonetheless determined to launch the service in order to bring the “truth” of its point of view to “our people” in the occupied Golan Heights, Israeli Arabs living in Israel, and Israeli public opinion in general.
Well, regarding the latter, public opinion in the Jewish state has not been at all tardy in its response to this announcement. One look at the Jerusalem Post or any other Israeli publications with an Arabic-language arm will give you a pretty accurate idea of this response—and most of it is not necessarily about Syria per se, but more specifically about Assad and his regime. Yes, there is a very large slice of Israeli public opinion that is supportive of Assad remaining in power. It includes some of the country’s most prominent politicians, who have said this quite explicitly, whether in public or private. Here is but a sample of what they have been saying about Syria: “I prefer to support Assad than the Syrian revolutionaries. He may be a tyrant, but things have been more stable with him around;” “Syria is all that stands between Israel and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria;” “Israel stands hand-in-hand with Assad.”
The new foreign-language service comes as part of Assad’s delusional contention that he and his regime are part of the international War on Terror—and the need to publicize and spread this view as widely as possible. This has become a boring, hackneyed political lie, one which has been completely exposed, especially in regard to another lie expounded by the “steadfast” regime in Damascus: that the main cause for which it fights is the Palestinian cause, and that its main enemy is the Zionist enemy.
This lie was completely punctured when prominent Syrian businessman and Assad aide Rami Makhlouf said, at the very beginning of protests against the regime back in 2011, that Israel’s stability was directly tied to Syria’s, and that there would not be one without the other.
Throughout the events of the last few years, the regime has repeated lies like this again and again: Either me or the storm, “Après moi, le deluge”—and that is exactly what we have right now.