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False Analogy: Israel Defenders Should Stop Making Syria Comparisons

Israel's supporters have responded to criticism of the Gaza intervention by asking why similar anger isn't directed at the toll in Syria. It's a bogus comparison, for many reasons.

Palestinian relatives of victims after Israeli air strikes hit a refugee camp in Gaza
Palestinian relatives of victims after Israeli air strikes hit a refugee camp in Gaza
Pascal Boniface*


PARIS — Those who try desperately to justify the bombing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza counter those who protest the bombing by admonishing them for their silence about events in Syria, which have caused the death of far more innocent victims. The underlying idea is that if Israel is criticized more for fewer dead then anti-Semitism must be lurking somewhere. Otherwise, why criticize Israel?

One might think that the ready-made argument advanced over and over came straight from the communication departments of the Israeli government. But that’s not important: Let’s take the argument on its own terms.

First of all: It’s wrong.

Most of those protesting the Israeli bombings have also protested Bashar al-Assad’s repression from the start.

There are of course people who believe that opposition to Assad is led from abroad, and consider (wrongly) the Syrian regime to be a fortress of opposition to the West within the Arab world.

Wrong again.

Israel and the United States have always accommodated Assad’s regime, which over and above some verbal protest has never bothered Israel. In any case, the majority of those who make the case for a Palestinian state condemn the Syrian dictator’s actions — even if they do not all support military intervention to topple him.

Exemplary democracy

The logic that one should stay quiet about a massacre because others are happening elsewhere is also surprising. On the contrary, one might even see a certain cynicism on the part of those who use the Syrian death tolls to try and silence protest about the deaths in Gaza.

Many articles and books have been published, conferences and demonstrations organized, to protest the massacres in Syria — and they’ve often involved the participation of those currently protesting the bombing of Gaza.

There is also a considerable difference between Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Syria never proclaimed itself the only democracy in the Middle East, nor did it claim to be in the vanguard in the promotion of Western values. The Syrian army was never presented as "the world’s most moral army." Assad is a dictator with blood on his hands, and who represses his own people ferociously. He has never been presented by Western media as a "man of peace" fighting terrorism.

It is curious that Israel, which presents itself or is presented by its advocates as an "exemplary democracy," should be compared to the Syrian regime. Israel is certainly a democracy — but it is also a country occupying a people that is not its own and whom it represses by meting out daily humiliation and slaughtering civilians during periods of crisis. You can’t call yourself a democratic regime and not be held accountable for your actions by that measure.

The other difference is that criticism of Assad is not met by accusations of anti-Arab racism, nor appeals to support the Syrian army or attempts to silence by any means those who criticize the Syrian regime.

Those who demonstrate for a halt to the bombing of Gaza’s civilian population are not possessed of selective indignation — unlike those who’d rather it was not discussed.

*Pascal Boniface is the director of Paris-based Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques (IRIS)

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How Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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