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April 17, 2014

Syrian Rebel Leader Speaks of Peace With Israel

kamal al-Labwani.jpg

Since the outbreak of the "Arab Spring", examples of influential regional figures offering a balanced and flexible perspective of the Israeli-Arab conflict have emerged. These more moderate voices in the region contrast with an opposing trend among Western academics, particularly in humanities disciplines, who rigidly adhere to a Marxist-derived ideological fantasy that is detached from both historical reality and the existing situation in the Middle East.

An example of a more flexible, balanced approach was revealed on March 19, 2014 by MEMRI, the non-partisan organization that translates Arabic, Farsi, Urdu-Pashtu and Dari media. MEMRI posted a video of Syrian rebel leader Kamal Al-Labwani on Syrian Orient TV. Labwani was asked by a skeptical interviewer about his views on Israel. The following is a portion of the exchange:

I am opposed to the dogmatic mentality that classifies all Shiites, all Jews, and so on as our eternal enemies. Since the Battle of Khaybar and until the establishment of Israel, we lived together with the Jews, and there was no war. The problem began with the entity that they established as a result of WWII. This problem can be resolved another way, not like that. The proof is that the Arab countries made peace with [Israel]. We would not be the first. We would be the last.

But Israel has genuine fears about its security. If we realize that and allow Israel to feel secure in its Sunni surroundings – after all, it is Arab Sunni land that Israel has taken – and if we make Israel feel more welcome, it may yet give up its hostile mentality which is the cause for the destruction.…

Interviewer: Is it really in the interest of Israel to see the Syrian people live in prosperity and democracy? Israel thinks about the long term. It must know that after a period of reconstruction, the Syrian people will return to its principal cause.

Kamal Al-Labwani: You insist on thinking that Israel's raison d'etre is to kill the Arabs.

Interviewer: Israel has expansionist goals.

Kamal Al-Labwani: Not true. The people of Israel fled persecution in the Nazi Holocaust, and they want to live in peace.

Interviewer: But this peace at our expense. You talk with such sympathy to Israel… Israel occupied land that does not belong to it.

Kamal Al-Labwani: That's true. But so did Germany. We too massacred one another. We too massacred one another. When we conquered Homs, we drove its people out. What the Lebanese are doing…

Interviewer: Does one crime justify another?

Kamal Al-Labwani: Such is life, such is history. This is a people that fled persecution and the Holocaust, and came to this region. They were exploited by colonialism, which prevented them from going anywhere else. We have not dealt with the issue rationally. Let me tell you, it is in our interest today to engage in a peace process. Instead of letting the displaced Palestinians continue to suffer…

Interviewer: Even if the [Jewish] people were displaced and suffered, they found their peace and quiet by conquering the land of other people…

Kamal Al-Labwani: True, but the Arabs had also come and conquered this land. Such is history. People never stay put. The Armenians came, the Circassians, came, the Turks left, and the Ottoman Turks came, and now the Safavids are coming… " The land belongs to Allah, and He gives it to whoever He wills of his servants." Nobody has a historical right to a piece of land. Historical right is a Nazi, racist, French, German concept, which has caused problems all over the world.

"He gives the land to whomever He will of His servants." After 40 years, the statute of limitation applies to all these crimes. A person who was born in Israel and whose parents came and did all those things – are you going to hold him responsible for what his forefathers did? Long ago, the Sunnis and Shiites had a dispute, and eventually Hussein was killed. Am I supposed to pay the price today? Does that make any sense?

If only the academics who signed the ASA boycott petition or the numerous anti-Israel agitators dispersed throughout academia were able to overcome their ideological fantasies and deal with the history and contemporary reality of the conflict as honestly as this Syrian leader has.

Posted by SS at April 17, 2014 11:01 AM


If the majority of the Arab people felt the way of Kamal Al Labwani there would be peace in the middle east between Jew and Arab. The Jews have NO intention of expanding as they would take in more Arabs in Israel which would not allow Israel to be democratic.

Posted by: Murray Rubin at April 24, 2014 03:38 PM

Kemal al-Labwani seems to have a grasp of what Zionism is actually about: the establishment of a Jewish State on the ancestral land of the Jewish people. Notice he immediately contradicted the claim that Israel is "expansionist". That is because he understands Zionism as a NATIONALIST movement.

The Arabs routinely portray Zionism as an imperialist and/or colonialist movement. It is not.

Notice also that he does not recognize a "historical right" to the land. He merely accepts reality. Israel exists. It is not expansionist. The Arabs can accommodate it and move on to solve other problems.

Sadly, this man is a "Rebel". The ruling mentality throughout the Arab League regarding Jews and Israel is precisely the opposite.

Posted by: TINSC at April 25, 2014 07:48 AM

We are so thankful to hear Kemal al-Labwan's several words free of hatred, we overlook his many other statements repeating myths and lies of Israel "stealing" land. At least it's a start.

Posted by: Dr. Doug Finestone at April 27, 2014 09:04 PM

The best point he made was that the Arabs conquered the land too. Blaming the Jews is the worst form of the pot calling the kettle "black."

Posted by: Gary Katz at May 3, 2014 02:13 AM

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