This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The Sanctimony of Syrian Condemnation

"[ISIL destroyed the Arch of Triumph in Palmyra] to avenge the light that disrupted their ignorance and darkness ... But it remains in the souls and minds of all Syrians and will remain."
Statement, Syrian presidency

"This new destruction shows how terrified by history and culture the extremists are, because understanding the past undermines and delegitimizes the pretexts they use to justify these crimes and exposes them as expressions of pure hatred and ignorance."
Irina Bokova, Director General, UNESCO
A picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows visitors walking near the famous Arch of Triumph in the ancient oasis city of Palmyra in Syria (AFP photo)
Another war crime. As war crimes go, it is a devastating archaeological loss, yet another for which 'pure' Islamists are responsible, whether the destruction takes place in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, or in Timbuktu, or in Palmyra. These are the losses of historical treasures that can never be retrieved. On the other hand, in ancient times others casually destroyed earlier treasures to make use of their materials for less divine purposes, as in Egypt where nothing is left of the ancient city that the first monotheist, Akhenaten  built to Aton.

UNESCO's head must, of course, speak with profound regret of the destruction of such an ancient treasure, making the world poorer for its loss. Documentation by Israeli archaeologists of the deliberate destruction of ancient Judaic artefacts by the Muslim waqf, responsible for the management of the Temple Mount under an agreement between Israel and Jordan has carried no condemnation from UNESCO.

And nor is it UNESCO's position to declare itself horrified by the Syrian regime's wholesale destruction of its own historical sites by bombing those areas of its capital and other of its largest cities housing Syrian Sunnis whom the administration of President Bashar al-Assad holds to be supportive of the Sunni rebels attempting to dislodge him from power.

It is rather rich in irony for the Alawite regime to bemoan the loss of cultural artefacts of great antiquity while it goes about demolishing countless lives.

Russia, under guise of fighting Islamic State has launched its air campaign to aid the Syrian regime to remain in power. And while Russian pilots have instructions to avoid launching bombs on Palmyra's ancient artefacts, they bomb elsewhere killing people, not destroying archaeological sites since government attacks invariably follow the airstrikes hitting insurgents in central and northwestern areas of Syria, not the east where ISIL strongholds are to be found.

ISIL busies itself with its expansion of the caliphate, with expounding on the virtues of Islamist jihad; with reaching out through the various avenues of the social sites on the Internet to attract recruits to holy jihad; with rampaging through its third of Syria; with destroying any vestiges of religions that prefaced Islam; and with the sale on black market of archaeological items that fetch a good price to keep their campaign in fine fettle.

ISIL had previously destroyed two of the well-preserved temples of Palmyra, saving sacred relics for the black market. Syria's head of the Antiquities and Museums Department, Maamoun Abdul-Karim is anxious that government forces aided by Russian airstrikes recover Palmyra as soon as feasible. Word that ISIL has destroyed the Arch of Triumph has caused anguish to the lovers of history and archaeology -- and evidently, President Assad.

President Assad speaks of Palmyra as a vital index of the history of civilization. Civilization, after all, is what propels the dictator to order his military to use chemical weapons on his civilian population, to starve out residents of refugee camps, to barrel bomb the suburbs of his own capital and other cities, leaving entire neighbourhoods in ruin, and the population fleeing in terror.

The deaths of a quarter-million Syrians is unfortunate; the destruction of an ancient historical site a true tragedy.

As for the perspective of refugees from Palmyra, they have taken to Facebook to warn that the Syrian president is not to be regarded as the saviour of the city. A city that has come under fierce government bombing even recently, compelling thousands of its residents in desperate search for haven, anywhere else.

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