Max Blumenthal and the Night of the Long Knives

This is about much, much more than any individual's past misdeeds, misjudgments and "friendships." It is about the survival of Syria as a nation, the survival of the Resistance bloc in the region, the survival of millennia old "minority communities" all throughout the greater Bilad al-Sham, and yes (whether many of them choose to face reality and accept this fact or not) the survival of the regional Palestine liberation movement.


We all, even the best of us, partake in schadenfreude from time to time. Sometimes we just like, or need, to know that we're not the only ones on this godforsaken planet who are dealing with some particular kind of adversity. That we're not the only ones out there, in a rubber dinghy in the middle of a turbulent ocean without a life jacket. Sometimes we like seeing horrible, vile individuals get their comeuppance in some way, shape or form. God knows that it happens so infrequently in this day and age, truly horrific people getting their just desserts that is, that when it does happen it really should be a cause for celebration. And there are other times when misguided, egotistical, but perhaps generally well-intentioned people attack the wrong target in a particularly vile and vicious manner, and then, down the road, kind of get hoisted by their own petard.


Hey, speaking of Max Blumenthal...


Okay, perhaps this isn't one of those moments when schadenfreude is called for or appropriate, but those of us with memories longer than that of a fruit fly can't help but at least crack a wry smile at everything that has happened over the past couple of weeks.


But I digress. Let's take a trip back in time to the lazy, hazy days of 2011 and 2012 when the thoughts of idealistic, long-bearded, no moustache-having young men from all over the "ummah" had turned to "revolution," particularly in Syria. Well, back then ole' Max was writing pieces for Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese media outlet whose take on the conflict in Syria was somewhat more nuanced than the "evil, baby-killing dictator" vs. "the people" narrative that had taken root all across the western media since early 2011.


But apparently this didn't sit well with Max, nor with his friends in the "Palestinian solidarity" "activist community." So he chose to dissociate himself from Al-Akhbar in the most public and drama queen-like fashion imaginable. His last piece/post for Al-Akhbar consisted entirely of the following message: "This is my last post for Al Akhbar English. I explain why here." Anyone who bothered to follow the link to Max's blog, would have encountered the following self-righteous, self-centered, emotive diatribe:


I was forced to conclude that unless I was prepared to spend endless stores of energy jousting with Assad apologists, I was merely providing them cover by keeping my name and reputation associated with Al Akhbar. More importantly, I decided that if I kept quiet any longer, I would be betraying my principles and those of the people who have encouraged and inspired me over the years. There is simply no excuse for me to remain involved for another day with such a morally compromised outlet. And so, instead of preparing to throw up in my own mouth each time I click on one of the pro-regime op-eds appearing with regularity on Al Akhbar English’s home page, I am washing my hands of the whole operation.


In the end, Assad will be remembered as an authoritarian tyrant whose regime represented little more than the interests of a rich neoliberal business class and a fascistic security apparatus. Those who have thrown their intellectual weight behind his campaign of brutality have cast the sincerity of their commitment to popular struggle and anti-imperial resistance into serious doubt. By denying the Syrian people the right to revolution while supporting the Palestinian struggle, they are no less hypocritical than the Zionists who cynically celebrate the Syrian uprising while seeking to crush any iteration of Palestinian resistance. In my opinion, the right to resist tyranny is indivisible and universal. It can be denied to no one.


Besides exploiting the Palestinian cause, the Assad apologists have eagerly played the Al Qaeda card to stoke fears of an Islamic takeover of Syria... in a transparent bid for sympathy from the outside world, Assad insists that the Syrian armed opposition is controlled almost entirely by Al Qaeda-like jihadists who have come from abroad to place the country under Islamic control. In his address to the Syrian People’s Assembly on June 3, the dictator tried to hammer the theme home by using the term “terrorists” or “terrorism” a whopping 43 times. That is a full ten times more than George W. Bush during his speech to Congress in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.


In the words of Slavoj Žižek: "i tako dalje, i tako dalje, i tako dalje." Sharmine Narwani's response to Max's "Master Thespian"-like exit from Al-Akhbar is well worth reading. I think the passage of time has only reinforced the validity of what the "Assad apologists" at Al-Akhbar were saying, whereas Blumenthal's "pro-rev" vituperations now only hold water within the circles of power in the West, within the communiques of various Trotskyist and anarchist organizations and grouplets, and within the leadership and rank and file membership of various prominent Muslim Brotherhood front groups.


No better proof of that exists than Blumenthal himself who has recently written two pieces for AlterNet that fully exposes the network of "Syrian activists" pushing for No-Fly Zones in Syria and regime change in Damascus for the proxies and shills that they are, along with their "White Helmets" boots on the ground. And my but how "the Syrian people," i.e. those very "activists" that he used to be on such great terms with, have now turned against him with a viciousness and ferocity that rivals anything that he himself dished out to the "Assad apologists" not that long ago.


Mind you, nothing that he has written in either of those pieces is brand new information, heretofore unknown to those who have closely followed the conflict and its various players and influence peddlers. Writer/researcher/activist Vanessa Beeley, to give just one (albeit very important) example, has truly done yeoman's work on this front.


But what is important about these pieces are that they have been a big help in mainstreaming the dissident narrative on Syria. AlterNet is a huge bullhorn and has a lot of clout with just about every segment of the Left. And what is equally important about these pieces is that they have exposed the pro-"revolution" crowd for the vile, vicious jackals that they are and always have been.


The reactions from Max's former "comrades" turned enemies overnight ranges from the venom of Hussam Ayloush (Executive Director of the Los Angeles branch of CAIR), to the "anger" and "hurt feelings" of 2nd generation Muslim Brotherhood "activist" (and Washington "Peace" Center board member) Ramah Kudaimi to the rampant identitarianism of Riad Alarian to... well, the actual list is a mile long, but you can have a look for yourself.


Asad AbuKhalil said it best:


It has been insane. Ever since Max Blumenthal wrote this article, the propaganda outlets of Syrian exile opposition and rebels (largely through Qatari regime media and others) launched a vicious campaign against Max Blumenthal, Ali Abunimah, Rania Khalek, Asa Winstanley, and Ben Norton among others. I am not sure how Electronic Intifada was entered into the mix. Ironically, when Max Blumenthal left Al-Akhbar English over disagreements over Syria, the same pro-Syrian "revolution" crowds hailed him as the most heroic and bravest journalist since John Reed. And as soon as the same Max wrote this article, he is now being  accused--by the same people who had hailed him before--of love for Bashshar and being a Shabbih, and even suggested that he was paid by Russian government for his writings. I have had disagreements with Max in the past, but this vicious and sinister campaign is a hallmark of the tactics and methods of the anti-democratic "democratic" Syrian "rebel" media and its amen corners in the US. Ali Abunimah and Electronic Intifada have been consistently and bravely covering Israeli crimes and murders and occupation for years, and yet the Syrian "revolution" supporters decided to go all out against one of the few outlets here in the US which dares to expose Israeli crimes. But this shows that supporters of the Syrian "revolution" clearly wants one point of view only. Just one point of view.


While Max's past behavior was nothing short of contemptible, schadenfreude, in this case, is absolutely not what's called for. However "conspiratorial" it may sound (and I recognize that that's a word, and a concept, that has gained a great deal of currency in "Arab Spring" circles in recent years) the people lined up against him right now are the "ethnically/religiously authentic" "activist" foot soldiers of the State Department, the Weekly Standard, the New Republic, the Washington Post editorial board, the NY Times editorial board, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Bernard-Henri Lévy, George Soros, etc. etc. etc. Blumenthal, whatever side he happens to be on at any given moment, familial connections and self-importance aside, is nothing but a cog in the wheel. This is about much, much more than any individual's past misdeeds, misjudgments and "friendships." It is about the survival of Syria as a nation, the survival of the Resistance bloc in the region, the survival of millennia old "minority communities" all throughout the greater Bilad al-Sham, and yes (whether many of them choose to face reality and accept this fact or not) the survival of the regional Palestine liberation movement. That is what the Syrian Arab Army, the National Defense Force, Hezbollah, the SSNP, the Russian and Iranian armed forces and all allied parties are fighting for, on the ground, in Syria. And that is also precisely what those of us who stand in solidarity with them are fighting for, in whatever way we can, far away from the frontlines.

Navid Nasr

Navid Nasr is an independent writer, journalist and analyst based out of Maryland. If you value his work, consider becoming a supporter via his Patreon page.

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