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The Arab Revolution: What Comes Next?

Over the past few days, on the orders of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his brother Maher, the head of the Republican Guard, state security forces opened fire on anti-regime protesters gathering peacefully at a mosque, mowed down people from nearby villages who rushed in to assist the protesters, and shot mourners at the funerals of the victims. In so doing, the Assad boys reminded their people and the world — should any of us have been in any doubt — that they are the progeny of Hafez al-Assad, the scourge of Hama. And yet, like the Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans, Bahrainis, Jordanians, and Yemenites before them, the Syrian citizenry continues to rise up, taking their lives in their hands, to evict the tyrants and transform their lives.

It’s heady, inspiring stuff. We feel it in Israel, too. Heaven knows there are bad guys galore in this neighborhood, and most of us can’t help but sympathize with the people who are trying to get out from under them.

We wonder, though, what will happen after the dust settles.

John Hannah, writing in the NRO, is relatively sanguine about our prospects if the tyrants fall. He says that it is they, not their subjects, who will be tempted to lash out against us as the democratic wave gains strength across the Arab world. Fighting Israel is, after all, the Hail Mary pass of every Arab despot. As Hannah puts it,

It’s the oldest ruse in the playbook, a murderous attempt to draw the moths of the international media back to the light of Palestinian suffering, and redirect the anger of mobilized Muslim masses away from their current laser-like focus on the brutal and ruinous regimes that rule over them.

Can’t argue with that. We’re seeing evidence of it now in Hamas’s escalation of violence against us, which is tantamount to an escalation of violence against us by Iran — a country particularly skilled at both crushing its internal opposition and deflecting foreign attention toward Israel’s alleged crimes.

Where I take issue with Hannah, however, is in his suggestion that the Arab populations that are now mobilizing are any less inclined to take us on. He says that “the dozen or so mass movements that have emerged across the Middle East over the past three months have all been distinguished by the near total absence of anti-American or anti-Zionist sentiment.” It is true that anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism have not been at the forefront of any democratic movement, but a simmering anti-Zionism has been evident almost across the board.

During the uprising in Tahrir Square, it was difficult to find an image of Mubarak that did not sport a Star of David scrawled on the forehead. The Star of David has become something of a motif, in fact; like the mark of Cain, it has appeared drawn on images of Qaddafi as well.

This is not trivial. On a metaphorical level, the Star of David represents that which is most despised, that which must be expunged. In Mubarak’s case, there was a literal meaning as well: the Star of David represented the Devil’s bargain, otherwise known as the peace treaty with Israel.

Al-Jazeera reports that the protesters in Daraa have now called out Maher al-Assad by name. “Maher,” they chant. “You coward. Send your troops to liberate the Golan.”