Syrian Visiting in Israel: ‘We Saw That Israelis Are Not Monsters’

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A Syrian wounded in fighting within Syria is carried into Rambam Hospital in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, March 20, 2013.Credit: Reuters

A Syrian citizen – a senior official in the humanitarian aid network for the Syrian rebels – is currently visiting Israel. This week, the man, whose identity is being kept secret, spoke to students and faculty at the Truman Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He told the audience about the civil war in Syria, which entered its fifth year last week, from his personal point of view.

He was a senior official in the medical service in Syria when the civil war broke out. When he and his friends realized that the Assad regime regularly arrested, tortured and executed the wounded who arrived at the hospitals, they started establishing a secret network of homes where they could hide and treat the rebels. Two years ago the network was exposed and its members were arrested.

He was lucky. He happened to be overseas at the time, and was saved. “That is how I transformed from an activist to a refugee,” he said.

Since then, he has been aiding the rebels in receiving humanitarian supplies from outside Syria.

He claims that the Assad regime used chemical weapons no less than 26 times before the international community intervened. “It was especially vicious, since they sprayed the chemical weapons on days without wind and then disconnected the flow of water to the neighborhoods under attack – that is how they reached 100 percent killed,” he said.

As part of his work, he came into contact with an Israeli organization that provides humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. “I asked why, why do they want to help us? In Syria they think that all Israelis want to kill us, that Israel wants to kick us out of our homes and take our land. But then we saw that it was our government that threw us out and who is killing us is our government, and then we saw the Israelis are human beings and not monsters and there is a diverse society here like in every country in the world,” he said.

Among the Syrian rebels there are those who are grateful to Israel Defense Forces soldiers who help the wounded who reach the border fence on the Golan Heights, he added.

Israel and the world must distinguish between the various Jihadist organizations operating in Syria. While the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is an organization from outside Syria most of whose fighters are not from Syria, Nusra Front, also known as Jabhat al-Nusra, is a Syrian organization. The extremism is the fault of the international community, which refused to help the more moderate rebels, the Syrian visitor said.

“If you are moderate you will not receive any weapons, since the Americans are afraid it will reach the wrong hands. So you go to Al-Qaida,” he said. “We thought the fact that they are massacring us would help to awaken the world, but we learned the hard way that it won’t happen.”

Today the way the Americans can help is by declaring no-fly zones or providing people with the means to defend themselves, he added.

There is no possibility today of reaching an agreement with the Assad regime, he says. “It is impossible to accept this president, who is responsible for 200,000 deaths. I don’t think that everyone connected to the regime should be tried, but the president cannot remain.”

As to Syria’s political future, he says he thinks Syria will not break up into smaller units, and global Jihadist organizations will not find a place in the new Syria. “There will always be extremists, but as organizations they don’t have a future in Syria. Traditionally the Syrians are not fanatics. It will take time, but things will change in Syria, there will be no room for them.”

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