The Israeli ambassador to Sweden, Mr. Isaac Bachman, was the keynote speaker at this year's celebration of Akitu in Södertälje, the de facto capital of Assyrians in Sweden. This is the first time Israel sent an official representative to an Assyrian activity in Sweden during the four decades that I have been involved in the Assyrian Movement. To an outsider, it is perhaps nothing to raise eyebrows. An ambassador from any country who wants to show its support for the Assyrian people in these difficult times is welcome in most people’s eyes. But Israel is not whichever country to Assyrians who come from the Arab countries of Syria and Iraq. Since 1948, when the state of Israel was founded, it is officially war between theese countries (at least for Syria nowadays), but with an ongoing ceasefire. This is commonly known. But what is less known is the fascist Baath regimes in different Arab countries have forced Assyrians and other ethnic minorities into submission for the last 50 years. They also have indoctrinated the younger generations with propaganda that demonizes both Jews and their state. Since political parties were not allowed in those Baathist countries, the clergymen became the real leaders of different minorities. For that reason most of the prominent Assyrian church leaders originating from Syria are today considered loyal servants to the regime.
Many Assyrians in Sweden who originate from Syria are still afraid of the regime's extended arm, which consists of a large number of Assyrian informers to the Security apparatus of Bashar al-Assad, the Mukhabarat. Their headquauters seems to be in the town of Södertälje where about 30.000 Assyrians reside. A large number of Assyrians from Syria were thus afraid of coming to the celebration of Akitu. Even a well known Assyrian singer, who has been in Sweden for about 40 years, did not dare to participate.
It is in this light that the violent outbursts of Bishop Shabo against the presence of an Israeli representative in an Assyrian arrangements should be seen. His boycott clearly shows that as a representative for his church in Scandinavia he takes a position in the Israeli-Arab conflict on the Baathist regime. From his point of view, the regime in Syria is the best guarantor of the minorities in the country. This point of view is nowadays shared by many other Assyrians, ecpecially after the Islamic State's ruthless violence against Assyrians and other groups. But the latest events in northern Syria, where 35 Assyrian villages along the river Khabur has been emptied of its population, show that the Syrian army has not lifted a finger to help the Assyrians. Their bases are located just ten kilometers from the Khabur. Neither do the regime’s allied Kurdish forces have the will to protect the Assyrians, who are now refugees in their own country and are about to leave Syria for good. Political analysts believe that the Assyrians in the Khabur are being used as a pawn in an ongoing propaganda war between the Kurdish PYD and the Islamic State, where both sides are trying to create facts on the ground, by expanding their border lines.As to the cooperation of Assyrian Church leaders with Arab regimes, it is a well known fact that many of them go to extremes and transform their cooperation into submission. In my forthcoming book, I describe in detail this phenomenon, which has been particularly hard for us as an ethnic minority. Bishop Ablahad Shabo’s boycott against Akitu is the latest of these inappropriate statements by Assyrian church leaders.