Under the Assads, Syria Developed a Soft-Spot for Nazism

In almost every bookstore in Syria, writes Asser Khattab, one can find an abridged Arabic translation of Mein Kampf. And having spent much of his life in Aleppo and Damascus, Khattab has numerous anecdotes from both his own experiences and those of friends of coming across Nazi memorabilia in shops, or meeting people with the first name Hitler, or encountering expressions of sympathy for the Nazis. He observes:

The first time I remember seeing a swastika was at the all-boys Presbyterian school I attended for twelve years in Aleppo. Al-saleeb al-ma’qouf, the hooked cross, [a literal translation of the German term], was one of many symbols that boys would mindlessly carve into their desks, scribble on the walls of the bathroom, or sketch in textbooks. Most of them, I would learn, didn’t even know what the symbol meant. Those who did, didn’t know much.

In 1939, Hitler and his minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, launched the Radio Berlin Arabic-language program. The program broadcast across the Middle East and North Africa and told Arab listeners that everything they had heard about Hitler hating Arabs and assigning them a low “racial status” was wrong. It even broadcast Quran recitations, in what seemed to have been an attempt to steal listeners from the BBC’s Arabic-language radio service.

We were never taught this. And yet at some point, I began hearing a startling number of Syrians quoting Hitler and discussing his views and political career. Some would mutter the common, and not altogether accurate, claims that Germany “rose from the ashes” of World War I and from the confines of the Treaty of Versailles and that the lives of German citizens greatly improved under Hitler before World War II began in September 1939. . . . Those around me who sported some vague admiration for Hitler almost always supported the Assads, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, or Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Read more at Newlines

More about: Anti-Semitism, Bashar al-Assad, Hafez al-Assad, Nazism, Syria

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy