Yarmouk was home to the largest Palestinian refugee community before the conflict began. 180,000 Palestinian civilians called it home. Now only 20,000 remain. Food and medical supplies are routinely denied entry, and starvation is one of the three main causes of death. Recently, in the Jarabulus area, 22 people were killed and thrown into the streets to instill fear in the population. Some of them were children.
Amnesty International has called for the immediate lifting of the siege, the cessation of shelling and other indiscriminate attacks, and for humanitarian agencies to have unfettered access to the area. The disproportional attacks on civilians must end.
Down with Israel? Not quite. Yarmouk and Jarabulus are in Syria.
This seems worth discussing.
At the very least, it’s interesting to see how little discussion the mass murder of Palestinians in Syria generates when compared to the discussion of Israel’s on-going operation in Gaza.
It’s easy to understand why it looks to many people like the real problem is with Israel rather than with the deaths of innocent Palestinians.
LTMC: The difference between these two cases is that everybody is in general agreement that the Assad government in Syria is an oppressive regime, and they properly view oppressed people within its borders as victims. Syria is also still in the throws of an ongoing Civil War, which appears to be an isolated cause of the suffering of Palestinian refugees there. It was not until Hamas began actively fighting on behalf of rebels in Syria that Assad moved against the refugees. From the Times of Israel article linked above:
Nevertheless, it was hard not to be moved this week by a report published by Amnesty International on the situation in Yarmouk near Damascus. Until the start of the civil war, Yarmouk was the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. Close to 150,000 people lived there in crowded conditions. But since the summer, the regime has carried out a cruel siege on the camp’s residents after Hamas members there took an active part in fighting the Syrian army. Now there are only 20,000 residents left in the camp.
Furthermore, the link states that the 22 people mentioned above were not killed by Assad, but by ISIS—a non-state actor who once again, virtually everybody in the international community agrees is an oppressive organization.
On the other hand, everybody is not in general agreement that the Israeli government oppresses Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Educated people of diverse political dispositions regularly support the Israeli Government’s conduct in the Occupied Territories, minimizing its mistakes and denying the existence of atrocities. Even the author of the article above refers to the “nonexistent siege around the Gaza Strip,” which is one of the biggest jokes I’ve read in a long time.
Flipping back to the other side of the coin for a moment, the Syrian government does not have boosters in virtually every country in the Western world attempting to minimize the violence it is inflicting on Palestinians within its borders. In fact, Israeli officials often ask the international community to support the Israeli Government while it engages in the same activity it condemns in other countries. There is a perfect example in the Times of Israel article above where it discusses the siege of the Syrian refugee camp:
The [Assad] regime, Amnesty [International] said, prevented food and military supplies from reaching the camp, arrested and tortured medical staff there, bombed schools and hospitals, caused severe malnutrition (60% of the camp is malnourished), and more.
Amnesty International cites these same deprivations (lack of food, access to education, medical care) in its criticism of the Israeli government’s ”nonexistent siege” of Gaza. The author writes as if these deprivations don’t exist—and he genuinely appears to believe that. And many, many people both in Israel and abroad will believe him.
So the difference between these two cases is that very few people are trying to justify the Syrian government’s conduct towards Palestinian refugees in Damascus. But a lot of people are trying to justify the Israeli government’s conduct towards Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories. I think this explains the reason why so many people choose to highlight the Israeli government’s conduct rather than the Assad regime. Nearly everybody in the Western world agrees that Assad’s conduct towards the resident of Syria is bad and very few people are trying to defend him. Not everybody thinks the Israeli government’s conduct in the Occupied Territories is bad, and many people in the Western world are actively trying to convince others that what happens to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is either justified or non-existent, as the Times of Israel article above demonstrates.