Following are excerpts from an interview with former Israeli Knesset member Azmi Bishara, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on April 15, 2011:
Azmi Bishara: Syria has not witnessed sectarian strife. I cannot recall any sectarian strife in Syria in recent years. So why are people being told that the alternative is sectarian strife? Who is calling for sectarian strife?
The people are demanding reforms. How come the people's demand for reforms is met with such a cruel attack? Even demands for reform within the establishment or from Syria's friends are met with a cruel response. How can we believe that you want reform, if you accuse those demanding reforms of being collaborators?
Let's assume that there is, indeed, a foreign conspiracy. All the people who stood by Syria when it really faced foreign conspiracies are now demanding democratic reforms. Let's assume that there is a foreign conspiracy. Does that mean people are not entitled to their rights?! What does this have to do with foreign conspiracies? Even if I prove that there is a foreign conspiracy – does that mean people are not entitled to their rights?! The Syrian people is struggling for its civil rights…
Interviewer: They say that the conspirators will exploit these events, or that the conspirators are behind these events…
Azmi Bishara: Is that something appropriate to say about a people?! The state of human rights is outstanding, and the only problem is a foreign conspiracy? Everything is fine – there is no corruption, no arbitrary arrest, no bribery, and there is complete freedom of the press? Is it conceivable that there is nothing but foreign conspiracies and sectarian strife?!
The first question is: Who told [the security forces] to do this? The young man jumping up and down on another person's back – who taught him to act this way?
Interviewer: This is one of the questions… Sometimes, the security forces denounce such conduct.
Azmi Bishara: The security forces themselves taught him.
Interviewer: Who is giving the orders? Is this a personal initiative by these people?
Azmi Bishara: In all major countries, people are held accountable for such things. The first sign of reform is when people are made accountable for such a thing, and when [the regime] declares that such a thing is unacceptable, and takes measures…
By this, I don't mean just taking measures against individuals. It is not just that someone told them to act this way. People are educated and guided how to deal with the citizens. Do citizens have rights when they are arrested, or not? What about when they are arrested at a demonstration? Why are they tied up in such a way and thrown to the ground? Why are they beaten like beasts? Why are people talked to as if they were little children? They are people.
The regime is not the teacher of the people, and should not be correcting their manners. The regime should be at the service of the people.