Human Rights

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Lebanese Journalist: Palestinians Lost Credibility in Arab World By Staying Silent on Syria

By failing to take a stand against the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Palestinian leaders have “lost the Arab depth, their credibility and their narrative,” Hanin Ghaddar, the editor of the Lebanese news site NOW, wrote in a commentary Thursday.

Ghaddar observed that Assad and Hezbollah, both of which are backed by Iran, have”relentlessly using ‘Palestine’ to justify their massacres and interference in Syria.”  But Ghaddar noted that “we have rarely heard a word of sympathy toward the Syrian people from Palestinian political and public figures.” Even when the Palestinian refugee camp in Yarmouk came under siege, “no Palestinian figure came out to denounce the siege and destruction of the camp.”

She added:

Hezbollah has woven the cause of Palestine so assiduously into its propaganda, and because of that, the “Resistance” and “Palestine” have lost credibility among the people in the region. In addition to the severe internal divisions among the Palestinian leadership and factions, the Palestinians’ silence in the face of human rights violations and crimes in Syria has drastically changed the way people see Palestine.

When Hezbollah used the slogan “Road to Jerusalem” to justify its actions in Syria, Ghaddar wrote, “many expected a statement or a ‘Not in Our Name’ campaign by some Palestinian political or human rights group. Instead, silence ensued.”

Assad and Hezbollah’s references to Palestinians as a means of justifying their brutality is a continuation of a trend that has been going on for decades, Ghaddar observed. The Palestinian cause has become a global issue “because Arab dictators realized long ago that it would serve as a perfect excuse to oppress the opposition and all voices of change and democracy in their countries,” she wrote.

Palestine became the sacred word to justify oppression, political agendas and conflicts. Corrupt regional leaders and dictators couldn’t have dreamt of something better. Everyone jumped on the Palestinian cause and used it to hijack people’s aspirations for freedom. It became the backbone of every totalitarian regime’s rhetoric. …

In Syria, the Palestinian issue reached ridiculous proportions. If you are in the opposition, you are required – mostly by leftwing Arab and Western intellectuals – to start with vocalizing your support for Palestine before criticizing Assad or his regime and supporters. If you don’t do that, you will be considered a suspicious element and could also be labeled a traitor. Allegiance for Palestine is more significant than your allegiance to your own cause: freedom for the Syrian people.


Ironically, Ghaddar noted, even as Syrians are required to express their support for the Palestinians, “the Palestinians are not required to support the Syrian people.” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has even expressed support for Russia’s intervention on behalf of Assad.

Ghaddar warned that the Palestinian silence won’t necessarily be “forgiven and forgotten,” because Syria has now become “the central regional issue” in the Arab world.

Today, [the Palestinians] are hypocrites who demand everything and want to give nothing. Meanwhile their leadership and narrative are being used by Islamists, dictators and terrorists to launch the most atrocious wars. The Palestinians will not be forgiven.

Last week, Ghaddar profiled a number of Hezbollah fighters who are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the terrorist organization.

In Yarmouk and the Failure of Palestine Solidarity, which was published in the May 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, senior editor Ben Cohen examined the silence of Palestinian leaders and pro-Palestinian activists in the wake of the siege of Yarmouk.

George Galloway, the former British parliamentarian who famously saluted Saddam Hussein’s “courage, strength and indefatigability,” has warned that the “people who are trying to bring down Bashar are the same people who helped bring down [Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi,] the elected president of Egypt.” Sharmaine Narwani, one of The Huffington Post’s more unhinged commentators on Middle Eastern politics, took to the website of Vladimir Putin’s mouthpiece RT with an article—partly eyewitness, entirely apologia—exonerating Assad’s regime for the situation faced by Palestinians in Syria. With individuals like these setting the tone of what passes for debate in the Palestine solidarity movement, small wonder that the devastation of Yarmouk has been largely met with bemusement, indifference, and the wholesale revision of recent history.

Finally, there is the PLO itself, whose response to Yarmouk has pitifully exposed its own fragility. In the days that followed the IS takeover, the PLO was leaning towards a military operation, coordinated with the very same Syrian regime that caused the crisis in the first place, against the IS forces in Yarmouk. Then, on April 9, the PLO—which is regarded, as the Ramallah-based journalist Ahmad Melhem pointed out, as “the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” whose “Department of Refugee Affairs, headed by PLO Executive Committee member Zakaria al-Agha, is responsible for Palestinian refugees across the world”—publicly came out against a military operation. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas faced strong criticism from his more radical opponents for allegedly caving to Saudi and Qatari distaste for military action specifically carried out by the Palestinian factions. “The main issue is that the camp is located on Syrian territory and is therefore the responsibility of the Syrian government,” confessed Ahmad Majdalani, a PLO Executive Committee member who had earlier argued in favor of intervention. “It is this government that decides on the way it deems appropriate to maintain the security of the Palestinian and Syrian citizens. It is the Syrian government that decides on the security solution, not us.”

If the story of Yarmouk tells us anything, it is that the Palestinian national movement and its supporters profoundly lack both intellectual imagination and moral integrity. Yarmouk might have been an opportunity for the Palestinian solidarity movement to re-examine its entire world view, now that an Arab regime is turning the descendants of the original Palestinian refugees into refugees themselves. Such a process would not necessarily lead to a meaningful transformation of the Palestinian view of Israel. But it could trigger a more honest appraisal of the role of Arab regimes in delaying a final resolution of the Palestinian issue, as well as recognition that the successive generations of Syrian-born Palestinians genuinely belonged to a country now ravaged by the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.

[Photo: WarClashes / YouTube ]