April 24, 2017 Special Dispatch No. 6892

Opponents Of Syrian Regime Lash Out At Fatah Official For Congratulating Assad On Syrian Independence Day

April 24, 2017
Saudi Arabia, Syria, Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 6892

On the occasion of Syria's Independence Day, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad received messages of congratulation from several world leaders, most notably UN Secretary-General António Guterres.[1]According to Syria's official news agency SANA, Guterres's cable did not mention the Syrian crisis but only called upon the Syrian regime to "help build a stronger UN and to enhance joint efforts to ensure peace, development, and human rights for all."[2] Among the well-wishers was also 'Abbas Zaki, member of Fatah's Central Committee and Revolutionary Council, who congratulated Assad in a letter on behalf of his movement. In the letter he expressed his support of the Syrian people and its struggle against the "organizations of terror and takfir" and against "the great conspiracy that aims to destroy Syria."

'Abbas Zaki is a known supporter of the Syrian regime. He sided with the regime almost from the beginning of the Syria crisis, and has visited Damascus on several occasions on behalf of PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas, inter alia as part of efforts to resolve the situation in the Palestinian refugee camp of Al-Yarmouk in Syria.[3]

Al-Zaki's letter to Assad sparked harsh condemnations from Syrian oppositionists and other opponents of the Syrian regime, who called it an act of betrayal.

Below are excerpts from the letter and from some of the critical reactions to it.


'Abbas Zaki To Bashar Al-Assad: We Stand With You In Your Struggle Against The Terror Organizations And Their Supporters

As stated, on April 19, 2017 Fatah Central Committee and Revolutionary Council member 'Abbas Zaki sent a letter to "the honorable brother Dr. Bashar Al-Assad" congratulating him on the occasion of Syria's Independence Day. He wrote: "On my own behalf and on behalf of my fellow members in Fatah's Central Committee and Revolutionary Council, I am honored to convey my congratulations and best wishes to you and to the Syrian people... The Syrian people, who set the standard for heroism and sacrifice and fought French imperialism for decades until it withdrew... is capable of defeating the organizations of terror and takfir and all those who support and help them.

"We emphasize that our Palestinian people stands fast with our brothers the Syrian people in their struggle against the great conspiracy that aims to destroy Syria, divide it and scatter its people. We are certain and convinced that Syria will defeat the armed gangs thanks to the capabilities of its great people and its courageous army, and security will once again prevail [in the country]..."[4]


Zaki letter to Assad
The letter of congratulations


Syrian Oppositionists: This Is A Betrayal Of Syrian And Palestinian Blood

Syrian oppositionists harshly condemned Zaki for sending the letter, saying that he had betrayed both the Syrian people and the Palestinians in the Al-Yarmouk refugee camp, who suffered from the policy of siege and starvation employed by the Syrian regime as part of its struggle against opposition forces in the area, a policy that Zaki did not publically oppose.[5] A report on the Syrian opposition site said that the letter was "an act of betrayal against Syrian and Palestinian blood," and that Fatah was "ignoring the crimes committed by Al-Assad and his forces against the Syrian people and the Palestinian refugees in Syria."[6] Syrian oppositionist Bassam Ja'ara tweeted: "It's only natural that the cheap mercenary 'Abbas Zaki, who sold the blood of the Palestinians in the Al-Yarmouk [refugee] camp, should attack our [Syrian] people..."[7]

Syrian oppositionist Subhi Hadidi accused 'Abbas Zaki of "worshipping the war criminal Al-Assad in his own name and in the name of his fellow members in the Central Committee and Revolutionary Council of what is left of the remnants of Fatah."[8]


Saudi Columnist: The Palestinian Leaders, Who Support Oppression, Have Become A Burden On The Palestinian Cause

Following the reports about Zaki's letter, senior Saudi columnist Daoud Al-Shiryan wrote a sharp article in the London daily Al-Hayat in which he compared the Palestinian leadership's current support of Assad to the PLO's support of Saddam Hussein's occupation of Kuwait in 1990. He wrote that the Palestinian leaders lack understanding of politics and of the reality in the region, and adopt unprincipled positions that increase the Palestinians' political isolation.

Al-Shiryan wrote: "To claim that the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine [PLO] understands politics is to do an injustice to politics and politicians. The PLO was founded in Kuwait in 1965 [sic]. For decades and to this very day, the motto of the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry was 'We support all the Palestinian positions.' [But] 25 years after [the founding of the PLO], its head, Yasser Arafat, renounced Kuwait's role and supported Iraq's occupation of Kuwait. [And] last week the PLO resumed its wicked ways. It ignored the massacre perpetrated by the Syrian regime against the Syrian people and congratulated Bashar Al-Assad on the occasion of Evacuation Day.[9] Ignoring the fact that the Syrian people had embraced the Palestinian people and given them rights, [the PLO] lavished honor upon Assad. It could have taken this opportunity to express a moral stance vis-a-vis the Syrian people, but sadly it did not do so.

"The Palestinian Authority initially supported the Syrian revolution, but today we discover that this was not a principled and moral support of the Syrian people and its just revolution, but rather a temporary [effort to] pander to [Saudi Arabia], which opposes the slogans of the so-called resistance that the Syrian regime and its allies have been trading in for decades. But over time, [the PLO's true] nature overpowered the traits it had [temporarily] assumed.

"It seems that [several factors] – [namely] the Palestinians' struggle to gain the support of certain Arab regimes, the absence of a [clear] Palestinian perception regarding negotiations [with Israel] on the permanent settlement, and the attempts of some Arab countries that support the revolution of the Syrian people [i.e., Saudi Arabia] to intervene in this Palestinian organization – created the confusion that gave birth to this message of congratulations. Habits acquired in childhood are not easily discarded, [as the saying goes]. [The PLO's] support for Al-Assad today is no different from its support for Saddam Hussein in 1990. Both cases reflect a complete absence of principles.

"Syria no doubt has the greatest influence on the Palestinian issue... [but] the situation in the region does not require this diplomatic courtship [of Al-Assad], which is ill-timed and could intensify the political siege on the Palestinians.

"What is certain is that the Palestinian leaders have once again become a burden upon the Palestinian cause. Having forsaken the slogans of struggle and failed in their policy, they keep repeating [the act of] supporting oppressors." [10]

Daoud Al-Shiryan's article




[1] Assad also received congratulations from leaders of Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq, North Korea, India and Cuba. Al-Watan (Syria), April 18, 2017.

[2] SANA (Syria), April 23, 2017.

[3] On the crisis in Al-Yarmouk, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1069, Syria Regime's Tactic Against Opponents: 'Surrender Or Starve', February 13, 2014.

[4], April 20, 2017.

[5] On the policy of "surrender or starve" employed by Assad against his opponents, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1069, Syria Regime's Tactic Against Opponents: 'Surrender Or Starve', February 13, 2014.

[6], April 21, 2017.

[7], April 20, 2017.

[8], April 20, 2017.

[9] Syria's Independence Day is also called "Evacuation Day" since it marks the final evacuation of the French forces from Syria on April 17, 1946.

[10] Al-Hayat (London), April 23, 2017.

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