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Syrian exiles have mixed feelings about Israel

15 7 0

On Ahmad’s first day at the German language school in Berlin, the teacher asked students to introduce themselves. “It was then that I realised that the guy sitting next to me was an Israeli,” he recalls. “Honestly, I was taken aback. I did not know what to do. When he tried to initiate a conversation, my gut reaction was to cut him dead.”

Ahmad was a journalist covering the ongoing war in his hometown of Deraa in southern Syria, where the uprising against Bashar Al-Assad began in 2011. He arrived in Berlin recently, coming from Doha to receive treatment after he lost an arm in a Russian air strike while covering battles between the Syrian government and opposition forces. Russia is a staunch ally of Syria’s Assad and has been fighting his troops. Its military involvement in the Syrian war since 2015 has tipped the scales in Assad’s favour.

Ever since that initial encounter, Ahmad has avoided any form of communication with his Israeli classmate, although he admitted the guy was friendly and amicable. “We have been raised to believe that Israel is the ultimate evil. It is not easy to let go of something that had been hammered into your mind for years.” He explained that his Baathist indoctrination continues to affect him even eight years after the start of the revolution.

Israel occupied the Golan Heights, a plateau in south-west Syria, during the 1967 Six-Day War, and annexed the territory unilaterally in 1981. That move was never recognised internationally until the Trump Administration did so in March this year.

READ: America’s ‘deep state’ and Israel won’t allow Trump’s troop withdrawal from Syria

Since it came to power in 1963, the Baath Party has invoked the state of being at war with Israel as grounds for suppressing dissent. Ahmad finds it difficult to explain his deep-seated animosity towards Israel and Israelis, not least because he lost his arm in a Russian air strike. He is at a loss as he attempts an explanation: “Deep down, I know that my problem lies with Russia and Iran. But Israel also occupies part of Syria. I don’t know, this war has mixed everything up.” Asked if his reaction would be the same if his classmate was Russian, he isn’t sure.

Somar’s reaction was even more........

© Middle East Monitor