The Battle of Qusayr: End of 'Resistance Glory' and 'Brotherly Bonds'

By Elie Chalala

Leaving the city of Qusayr in ruins, Hezbollah and the Assadist army revived memories of the debris of other battered cities: the destruction of Guernica, for instance, in the 1937 Spanish Civil War as well as the destruction of the Vietnamese city Huế in 1968—the Siege of Huế was one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. This is one of the many insightful reflections Syrian author Subhi Hadidi wrote in his regular column in Al Quds Al Arabi on June 6, 2013.

In his article, which roughly translates into "The Qusayr Battle: End of Glory after Hezbollah Unmasked," Hadidi makes a comparison that would infuriate some of Assad’s supporters, which include some "leftists" and pan-Arabists. Hadidi compares Assad's atrocities against his own people to the Israeli aggression against the Syrians four decades ago in the 1973 war.  He daringly suggests that Israel has had more mercy than the Syrian regime, particularly on the city of Quneitra in the Golan Heights. Hadidi is not alone in this comparison; other writers, too, have claimed that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is more "humane" than Assad‘s terrors.

Hadidi compares the two cities of Quneitra and Qusayr to prove his point.  While Israel destroyed Quneitra in 1974 before it withdrew, the army did not destroy the city over the heads of its population as the Assadist army and Hezbollah forces did in Qusayr. There are "rejectionists" who object to such comparisons because they are not "patriotic" or "nationalistic" since Israel is an "enemy" of the Arab nation.  But old rivalries aside, Hadidi argues we cannot ignore the facts.  He claims this is a simple comparison between "destruction and destruction," a comparison between the practices of Israeli aggression and the brutality of the Syrian regime. Hadidi rationally lets the level of "morality" be the true judge. The Syrian regime has used the most lethal of weapons, including "poisoned gas, chemical weapons" to inflict the maximum harm upon the "enemy," civilian and military alike, to use its own terminology.

Imagine if you "happen[ed] to be one of the 40,000 inhabitants of Qusayr, [who are] mostly elderly men, women, and children, besieged for three months, and suffered horrors unacceptable by any conscientious person, you would approach 'nationalism' [differently].”  How much nationalism "would still be left" in Qusayr, who sheltered members of Hezbollah's community in the summer of 2006, and now are repaid by Hezbollah fighters violating these same homes and families.

Drawing on recent history again, Hadidi recalls what happened during and after the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, when the people of Qusayr opened their homes more than once to the people of Dahiyya, a Shiite community from Beirut. What must the people of Qusayr think when they see Hezbollah supporters distributing sweets in celebration of "occupying Qusayr?"  Hadidi asked if the Israeli aggression against the Dahiyya caused more damage than the aggression against Qusayr. The answer he got was no. The pain inflicted on Qusayr exceeds the damage to Dahiyya, but still, with a sweet taste in their mouth, Hezbollah celebrates.

Sadly, there are those who continue to be caught in the past, overlooking the violence and war of today. The wounds of the war between the regime and the people will linger; patriotic and nationalistic rallying cries will not heal them. At the end of the day the identity of the enemy is largely defined by the destruction it inflicts upon the community and not by its sectarian or ethnic background. Patriotic considerations cannot wash away the sins of the oppressors.

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