In a March 19, 2014 interview with the Syrian Orient News TV channel, opposition activist Dr. Kamal Al-Labwani said that Israel was a “vulnerable country... surrounded by an ocean of Arab enmity” and that “it is in our interest today to engage in a peace process.”
Following are excerpts:
Kamal Al-Labwani: Israel is a state that was established under certain historical circumstances, as a result of World War II. It wants to survive. It is a vulnerable country, with a security problem that puts its very existence in jeopardy. It is surrounded by an ocean of Arab enmity. It fears for its future, so it has become a militarized state. It dreams of peace and stability.
Interviewer: Was the Al-Assad regime really hostile toward Israel?
Kamal Al-Labwani: No, the Al-Assad regime was Israel's means for oppressing the Syrian people. This was based on people's belief that if Syria's dictatorship was lifted, the Syrian people would storm Jerusalem with swords. Today, after forty years of failure and repeated defeats, we say to Israel: Okay, we are willing to give up the military option against you, and to normalize our relations, in exchange for the Golan Heights. It's not like I was quoted in the press.
I am talking about U.N. Resolution 242, which is supported by the Arab League, or with the Jewish people living there.
The Syrian people is saying: We are just like the Palestinians, the Jordanians, or the Egyptians. We have relinquished the option of war, just like all the peoples that made peace with Israel. We say that we give up the option of war, and the only thing we want from Israel is for it to stop covering for the Assad regime, and end the ban on weapons supply to the opposition. Israel can do that. A couple of words with the U.S., and the revolution will continue. This is from the political aspect.
From the cultural and moral prospective, we must establish a different cultural system, one that is based not on enmity, but on cooperation and on seeking common ground – not only with the other nationalities, but also with the sectarian elements in the region. We must undergo a change in mentality.
Today, it is our huge Syrian Arab army that is attacking us. Hizbullah is attacking us, while Israel treats the wounded. The equation has changed today. Who is our friend, and who is our foe? The things that have happened have completely changed the notions.
Who is our enemy? Is our enemy the Lebanese who is fighting us, or the Israeli who live in Jerusalem? I'm just asking. Our Iraqi "brother" who has come to slaughter us in Yabroud – is he our friend or foe? Is he really a brother to us? There are many new questions. Dogmatic thinking is pointless.
We believe that the Shiites are coming to massacre us, although the Iranian people is against that. There cannot be stability and peace in the region if we maintain this dogmatic and hostile mentality. We have to realize that both sides of the [Syrian] conflict adhere to the same exclusionary and hostile mentality. Unless we change people's notions and form historic reconciliations, none of us will be able to survive – not us, nor the Alawites, the Shiites, the Kurds, or the Turks
We destroyed a despotic regime, but we have not established a better one. There is a crime and corruption in the liberated areas, and the Syrian National Coalition is worse than the Syrian parliament. We must acknowledge that there is something wrong with our mentality.
I am opposed to the dogmatic mentality that classifies all Shiites, all Jews, and so on as our eternal enemies. Since the Battle of Khaybar and until the establishment of Israel, we lived together with the Jews, and there was no war. The problem began with the entity that they established as a result of WWII. This problem can be resolved another way, not like that. The proof is that the Arab countries made peace with [Israel]. We would not be the first. We would be the last.
But Israel has genuine fears about its security. If we realize that and allow Israel to feel secure in its Sunni surroundings – after all, it is Arab Sunni land that Israel has taken – and if we make Israel feel more welcome, it may yet give up its hostile mentality which is the cause for the destruction.
Interviewer: Is it really in the interest of Israel to see the Syrian people live in prosperity and democracy? Israel thinks about the long term. It must know that after a period of reconstruction, the Syrian people will return to its principal cause.
Kamal Al-Labwani: You insist on thinking that Israel's raison d'etre is to kill the Arabs.
Interviewer: Israel has expansionist goals.
Kamal Al-Labwani: Not true. The people of Israel fled persecution in the Nazi Holocaust, and they want to live in peace.
Interviewer: But this peace at our expense. You talk with such sympathy to Israel… Israel occupied land that does not belong to it.
Kamal Al-Labwani: That's true. But so did Germany. We too massacred one another. We too massacred one another. When we conquered Homs, we drove its people out. What the Lebanese are doing…
Interviewer: Does one crime justify another?
Kamal Al-Labwani: Such is life, such is history. This is a people that fled persecution and the Holocaust, and came to this region. They were exploited by colonialism, which prevented them from going anywhere else. We have not dealt with the issue rationally. Let me tell you, it is in our interest today to engage in a peace process. Instead of letting the displaced Palestinians continue to suffer…
Interviewer: Even if the [Jewish] people were displaced and suffered, they found their peace and quiet by conquering the land of other people…
Kamal Al-Labwani: True, but the Arabs had also come and conquered this land. Such is history. People never stay put. The Armenians came, the Circassians, came, the Turks left, and the Ottoman Turks came, and now the Safavids are coming… " The land belongs to Allah, and He gives it to whoever He wills of his servants." Nobody has a historical right to a piece of land. Historical right is a Nazi, racist, French, German concept, which has caused problems all over the world.
"He gives the land to whomever He will of His servants." After 40 years, the statute of limitation applies to all these crimes. A person who was born in Israel and whose parents came and did all those things – are you going to hold him responsible for what his forefathers did? Long ago, the Sunnis and Shiites had a dispute, and eventually Hussein was killed. Am I supposed to pay the price today? Does that make any sense?