An important progress was achieved with respect to studying the Syrian society, its constituents, and the factors that affected it throughout the year that has elapsed since the revolution started. On the other hand, the issue of the conflict with Israel remains a taboo and a prejudice.
There is a growing conviction among Syrian writers and researchers indicating that theirs is not an exceptional society, that it does suffer from the “scourge” of sectarianism, and that it constitutes a part of the demographic make-up of the Arab Levant where religious groups play tangible political and social parts (however, with no exclusivity). Many important notes are listed within the columns and the research papers concerning the relationship between political authority and the sects in Syria. These notes are prone to become an essential element in understanding the Syrian society in bracing for re-building the national and the civil relations in the country following the upcoming change.
On the other hand, most of the writers are shying away from tackling the conflict with Israel from the angle of it being a pretext and an excuse used by the tyrannical authorities in order to eternalize their stay in power. Every discussion of this topic between supporters and opponents usually ends with a campaign of mutual accusations as to which side - the opposition or the regime - is receiving an Israeli support. Each side would then provide proofs to its point of view by mentioning statements of this Israeli official or that.
However, the issue is more complicated than that. What “businessman” Rami Makhlouf said about the connection between Israel’s security and Syria is not important. And the opinion of the Muslim Brothers’ Head, Riad al-Shakfeh, concerning the persistence of Bashar al-Assad’s rule thanks to the Israeli support is also not important. The important matter is that the problem of the Israeli occupation of a part of the Syrian lands is real. The statement of the opposition National Council’s head concerning the need to work in order to end the occupation by all possible means constitutes a preliminary position aimed at seizing the card of the nationalism claims from the regime, its spokespersons, and its allies.
It is needless to say that this position is insufficient. At this time when the Syrians are being killed by the regime’s military machine, it is perhaps impossible to ask the opposition to make an effort concerning issues such as the Golan Heights and the upcoming peace process. However, one of the Syrian revolution’s specificities is that it has been launched against a tyrannical regime at a time when a foreign occupier is in control of a part of the nation. Since the French revolution, there have been many examples of how the external sides played major parts in forming revolutions and directing their courses. Revolutions that are faced with this kind of challenges with not enough preparations end up being sour ones.
Understandably, any discussion of the Israeli occupation will be a sensitive one. However, the revolution is expected to approach this issue from a different angle than the opportunistic, exploitative manner that the Baath rule had used to deal with the Palestinian cause and subsequently, the occupation of the Golan.
If one has to predict, one might think that the upcoming regime will work on restoring the Golan Heights. This will constitute one of the Syrian revolution’s missions since this revolution has worked on uncovering the atmosphere of lies and pretension that the decaying regime had perpetrated for more than forty years in the country. The Golan and the related negotiations as well as the efforts aimed at ridding the Golan from the occupation must constitute samples of the political, diplomatic and military practices that will consolidate the legitimacy of the post-Al-Assad regime.
Even if the current circumstances of the Syrian revolution are quite complicated, and even if they do not allow for discussing issues that will increase the difficulties and the fogginess, those who are bracing for the upcoming phase must face the reality of the Israeli occupation and must look for the adequate tools to modify this reality.
In conclusion, the level of legitimacy that will be obtained by the revolutionary regime will define the margins within which this regime will be able to move in order to end the occupation. This will however not halt the expected and usual flow of the chronic altercations and disputes.
The writer is a prominent columnist. The article was published in the London-based al-Hayat on March 20, 2012