Rebels With an Anti-Semitic Cause
What will happen in Syria? The answer to that question holds immense significance for Israel. Yet, preoccupied with Iran’s nuclear program, Israel is neglecting the more immediate threat to its security that’s crystalizing on the other side of the Golan Heights. What began as a limited but genuine people’s uprising against a kleptocratic dictatorship has now been overtaken by a Saudi-backed project to destabilize Syria.
Bashar Assad, like his father Hafez, was never a friend of Israel’s - but nor was his worldview shaped exclusively by antagonism toward the Jewish State. The foreign fighters seeking his ouster, on the other hand, receive sustenance from a medieval theocracy that, in the words of John R. Bradley a preeminent Middle East expert who predicted the Egyptian revolution as early as 2009 “spews out a kind of anti-Semitic hatred not known since the Nazis.”
The results of Saudi Arabia’s tireless efforts were on display in Al-Midan, a suburb in southern Damascus where I recently interviewed rebel fighters. Mateen, a fighter who claimed to have traveled from Afghanistan, shared his ideas for Syria’s future after ridding it of the Assad dynasty.
“We have to build a society of respect and brotherhood in accordance with the Prophet’s commandments,” he told me in Urdu. “We will treat non-Muslims kindly, but we have a big fight against the Jews ahead of us. We will take that up, God willing.” This manifesto for the future was identical - almost word for word - to what Yahya Mujahid, a senior leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based outfit charged with carrying out the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, told me in Lahore in 2009: that the LeT would take up the “fight” with the Jews after “liberating” Kashmir from Indian rule. One was a Kashmiri, the other a Pashtun; neither had met a Jew in his life. But both were united by a deep hatred, completely alien to their richly syncretic native cultures, exported by a distant Wahhabi monarchy that has suffused countless young minds in Islamic seminaries across South Asia with a fervor for jihad against non-Muslims.