Kamal Labwani is a dissident and leading member of the Syrian opposition. Due to his political activism, he spent 11 years in Syrian prisons accused of "weakening national morale" and “spreading false information about the government." He was released in 2011.
To protect the innocent and to defeat the Assad dictatorship, Syrians should work with Israel to create a safe haven.
In the past three years, we Syrians have learned a lot about who our friends are and who our enemies are. Russia and Iran provide the backing critical for Bashar Assad to remain in power. Hezbollah filled the ranks of the Syrian army. Islamist radicals were brought in from other parts of the region attempting to take Syria away from the Syrian people who had risen to protest.
The United Nations and its allies try to support us by allowing diplomacy under the Geneva convention. But the Geneva process has effectively collapsed and we must again realize that much more must be done to stop the Assad dictatorship from continuing to slaughter its people. While we received humanitarian aid from America and Europe, more could have been done to weaken Assad.
Once, Israel was blamed for everything. But Israel is not our enemy anymore. We see how Israel opened its doors to our injured. We see how Syrian children are treated in Assad’s prisons and how they are treated in Israeli hospitals. Israel gave food while Assad starved his own people.
Syria has only one enemy now: the Assad regime backed by Iran and Hezbollah. I meet with Syrian dissidents and military leaders daily and have seen how, after decades of brainwashing, their mentality has begun to change.
It is naive to believe that diplomacy can stop a regime that dismembers children in cold blood and uses chemical weapons against innocent civilians. We must first realize that Assad will not leave unless pushed away. Israel, which has felt the brunt of Assad’s recklessness through his support for terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, would be a natural ally.
We see how Syrian children are treated in Assad’s prisons and how they are treated in Israeli hospitals.
I recently proposed a controversial idea: asking Israel to help our opposition get rid of the most brutal dictator alive today. I said that this is our joint challenge and one that is much more important than the Golan Heights. Golan in the future can remain a garden of peace for all. I believe that Israel is able to be a partner, not an enemy. After meeting with dozens of rebels in the majority of Syrian provinces, I believe that many would support such a plan.
As Western powers allow us a process of diplomacy based on international law, radical groups have seized the opportunity to fill the void left by Assad’s brutality and the chaos that has followed. While it is true that proxy powers brought jihadis to fight their proxy wars I can tell you that the moderates who had started the revolution still exist and are still fighting. But they are desperate for support.
The Syrian people had to rise up because we were left alone: our children killed and wives raped in front of our very eyes. We had no choice but to defend ourselves. Nothing can bring back those gassed to death in Ghota or starved to death in Homs. But for the sake of tomorrow we must break the impasse; it will not be a conference in Geneva with Assad’s regime that does this.
The immediate step needed for the 4 million people displaced in Syria is the establishment of a protected free zone, in which Assad will have no reach and where the process of reconstruction can begin. Our allies in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and, yes, Israel, should act upon this resolution. We plead once again for help.
Obviously the Syrian problem is too complex for us to handle alone and, once again, we plead for help before even more civilians die. But we offer something else in a return, a paradigm shift that comes from people who have been awakened.
Let us join forces and change this Middle East. Yes, we can, together, to end a nightmare and begin to build a different chapter in our region. And we must start before all hopes are crushed by a killing machine that is destined to continue its work. We must act before it’s too late.