Pacifism on the streets
The case of Syria and Israel
In Syria there have been found dozens of bodies of dead civilians, murdered and thrown into waterways with their hands tied behind their backs. It's been calculated that more than 100,000 civilians have been murdered (not to mention the innumerable displaced - men, women and children - forced to take refuge, at the risk of their own lives, in Turkey, Libya, etc). It's been calculated that, on average, every day the Assad regime kills 200 civilians. I ask myself: where have gone our so-called pacifists, always ready to demonstrate violently against Israel for episodes infinitely less grave? Why aren't they marching on the streets, burning Syrian flags, etc? It raises a suspicion: isn't it the case that our 'pacifists' are simply anti-Israeli, and Israel being by definition a Jewish state, simply anti-semitic?
Dear Mr Cohen,
I've often had the impression that many pacifists are wolves in sheep's clothing. Bertrand Russell, president of CND, followed a profound conviction, but when marching down the streets of London against nuclear weapons he found himself against many people who condemned American weapons much more than they were condemning Soviet weapons. More or less the same happened at the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s, when there were large demonstrations against the instillation of American weapons in some NATO countries. Many of these demonstrators evidently considered Cruise and Pershing missiles from America more dangerous than SS20s from the USSR.
In the case of Syria I believe pacifists are understandably uncertain and confused. It is said that the victims, from the outset of the insurrection, amount now to 100,000 (60,000 according to the UN negotiator Lakhdar Brahimi), but nobody is able to say from these figures the exact amount who are Syrian military, resistance fighters or civilians. The photographic and cinematographic evidence isn't verifiable or precise, and much is unclear. Foreign journalists present in Damascus and Aleppo are few and can move around only with great difficulty. The resistance seem to consist of a galaxy of groups and groupsicles of diverse extraction with a strong component from Al-Qaeda. When the leader recognised by the West, sheikh Ahmad Moaz Al Khatib, proposed to start a dialogue with the Damascus government, his own words were immediately repudiated by radical elements in the movement. In addition, recent events in Egypt in the past weeks have taught everyone a lesson in prudence. It's not easy in this circumstances to stage demonstrations of 'pacifism'.
In the case of Isreal, it is somewhat different. There is certainly an considerable section of European public opinion that supports the Palestinians against the Israeli government, most of all when the problem in discussion is the settlements in the occupied territories. But these criticisms aren't fundamentally different from those which many Isrealis have directed in the last few years towards the government of Benjamin Netanyahu.
'Risponde: Sergio Romano', Corriere della Sera, February 7, 2013. Translated by Patrick West, 9/2/13