From Russia With Arrogance

The obstinate use of the term 'emancipation' to describe the reality of repression has convinced many people in post-Soviet Russia and its cultural diaspora that the Syrian regime and its educated leader are the ultimate hopes of the Syrian people.

Sometimes, in order to understand the underlying motives of a superpower on a certain topic, it is worthwhile to examine the points of view on that same issue of members of its cultural diaspora in different parts of the world. Because if it is found that the power's conceptions have survived over many years, far from the mother country, this could be evidence of just how deeply-rooted these concepts are in the superpower's way of thinking.

Why, in fact, is the world not helping Syrian President Bashar Assad to suppress the revolt against him, an Israeli-Russian blog asked recently. After all, he is an educated man, a doctor who specialized in London. Isn't it clear to the world that the Syrians could not get a better leader?

These musings, which received support from those who responded, provide a glance into the background of Russia's uncompromising policy of backing the murderous regime in Damascus. Beyond immediate geopolitical interests and the long-standing commitment to Syria that goes back to the days of the Cold War, the Russian regime and large numbers of citizens of that country, just like the previous Soviet regime, genuinely believe that a regime like that of Bashar Assad's is the best that one could hope for in the Arab "East" in general, and in Syria in particular.

The Orientalist arrogance that believes the "East" needs, for its own good - because of the "inferiority" and the "wildness" that are an integral part of it - the guidance of a strong and tough governmental body, was not and is not unique to the former Soviet Union and its main heir. This kind of thinking was typical of Western colonialism and, to this day, it characterizes considerable circles in the Western world.

However, in the Soviet-Russian case, there were unique conceptual conditions that make it difficult to challenge this way of thinking to this day. For example, the adherence to Orientalist arrogance with regard to the Middle East and the Third World came together with the deepest conviction that the Soviet Union was the most important anticolonialist force in the world. In view of that, in the spirit of the contrast between enlightened rhetoric and dark practices that characterized the Soviet empire, the approach of Orientalist repression (like the nurturing of educated cadres to strengthen the Alawite regime in Syria ) was presented as support for the hoped-for national emancipation of the Syrian people.

Thus, as a result of the obstinate use over many years of the term "emancipation" to describe the reality of repression, many people in post-Soviet Russia and its cultural diaspora around the world are still convinced that the regime in Syria, and in particular its educated leader, are the ultimate hopes of the Syrian people.

Moreover, in the case of Russia, the conception that the masses of the people need a strong and tough regime is not limited to its attitude toward Syria; it fits in well with the manner that members of the Russian administration customarily perceive as being appropriate for the Russian people themselves. These circles and their rather numerous supporters are of the opinion that the Putin regime is exactly what the average Russian citizen, who desperately needs guidance, would like to have.

The bad news is that during the past 20 years, a huge helping of understanding of this kind about what is "good for the people" has been imported from the post-Soviet region to Israel. The musings about the Western world, which doesn't understand that Assad is good for the Syrians, crop up in the Russian-Israeli discourse. So too do musings about what is conceived of as "an exaggerated amount" of freedom of opinion and tolerance in Israeli society.

It is superfluous to point out that in greater Israel, with its ethnocentric and national religious trends that are constantly growing stronger, there are certainly expressions of revulsion at the homemade system of democracy. However, no matter how difficult it is to admit this, there is no doubt that the trend to erode democratic values that has clearly taken place in Israel during the past few decades derives its strength to a large extent from concepts imported from the former Soviet Union. Concepts such as those of identification with the Syrian ruler.