Selective outrage: The Palestinians of Yarmouk and the shameful silence when Israel is not to blame

Mehdi Hasan writes: Palestinian refugees are being starved, bombed and gunned down like animals. “If you want to feed your children, you need to take your funeral shroud with you,” one told Israeli news website Ynet. “There are snipers on every street, you are not safe anywhere.” This isn’t happening, however, in southern Lebanon, or even Gaza. And these particular Palestinians aren’t being killed or maimed by Israeli bombs and bullets. This is Yarmouk, a refugee camp on the edge of Damascus, just a few miles from the palace of Bashar al-Assad. Since 1 April, the camp has been overrun by Islamic State militants, who have begun a reign of terror: detentions, shootings, beheadings and the rest. Hundreds of refugees are believed to have been killed in what Ban Ki-moon has called the “deepest circle of hell”.

But this isn’t just about the depravity of Isis. The Palestinians of Yarmouk have been bombarded and besieged by Assad’s security forces since 2012. Water and electricity were cut off long ago, and of the 160,000 Palestinian refugees who once lived in the camp only 18,000 now remain. The Syrian regime has, according to Amnesty International, been “committing war crimes by using starvation of civilians as a weapon”, forcing residents to “resort to eating cats and dogs”. Even as the throat-slitters took control, Assad’s pilots were continuing to drop barrel bombs on the refugees. “The sky of Yarmouk has barrel bombs instead of stars,” said Abdallah al-Khateeb, a political activist living inside the camp.

It is difficult to disagree with the verdict of the Palestinian League for Human Rights that the Palestinians of Syria are “the most untold story in the Syrian conflict”. There are 12 official Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, housing more than half a million people. Ninety per cent, estimates the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), are in continuous need of humanitarian aid. In Yarmouk, throughout 2014, residents were forced to live on around 400 calories of food aid a day – fewer than a fifth of the UN’s recommended daily amount of 2,100 calories for civilians in war zones – because UNRWA aid workers had only limited access to the camp. Today, they have zero access.“To know what it is like in Yarmouk,” one of the camp’s residents is quoted as saying on the UNRWA website, “turn off your electricity, water, heating, eat once a day, live in the dark.” [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

5 thoughts on “Selective outrage: The Palestinians of Yarmouk and the shameful silence when Israel is not to blame

  1. TColwell

    I hear lots of voices of outrage at the horrors being visited on the victims of the Syrian conflict. The papers I read cover the war on a daily basis. What does the writer want? Louder voices? To what end? Will Assad, ISIS, and al-Nusra drop their weapons if only we shout more loudly? Except for funding for refugees, the writer suggests no course of action.

  2. Paul Woodward

    Hasan’s first appeal is for honesty.

    Let’s be honest: how different, how vocal and passionate, would our reaction be if the people besieging Yarmouk were wearing the uniforms of the IDF?

    Our selective outrage is morally unsustainable. Many of us who have raised our voices in support of the Palestinian cause have inexcusably turned a blind eye to the fact that tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed by fellow Arabs in recent decades: by the Jordanian military in the Black September conflicts of the early 1970s; by Lebanese militias in the civil war of the mid-1980s; by Kuwaiti vigilantes after the first Gulf war, in the early 1990s. Egypt, the so-called “heart of the Arab world”, has colluded with Israel in the latter’s eight-year blockade of Gaza.

    Selective outrage is endemic in the West. For instance, the United States justifiably draws scorn as the self-anointed leader of the free world when it ranks 49 in the World Press Freedom Index, yet if the BRICs are supposed to represent a counterweight to Western power, let’s not pretend that has anything to do with those countries’ commitment to freedom: Brazil ranks 99, India 136, Russia 152, and China 176.

    If we’re going to take human rights seriously, then to say that they are human must surely mean they matter everywhere.

  3. Chet Roman

    “would our reaction be if the people besieging Yarmouk were wearing the uniforms of the IDF?”

    Typical ploy to distract and undermine a political position based upon the pretense of hypocrisy, such examples are often used by the Zionists to deflect criticism of their almost 70 years of incremental genocide of Palestinians.

    That’s like an individual making a contribution to cancer research but, oh my God, they aren’t supporting research on Autism, Alzheimer’s, Ebola, Salmonella, Chlamydia and the hundreds of other diseases. You’re such a hypocrite, you only care about cancer but turn a blind eye to all the other suffering in the world.

    Let’s be honest: how different, how vocal and passionate would your reaction be if your mother had Autism, Alzheimer’s, Ebola, Salmonella and Chlamydia? You’re such a hypocrite for only supporting cancer research.

  4. Paul Woodward

    Ah, so Medhi Hasan’s commentary on the plight of Palestinians in Syria is a ploy to deflect criticism of the Zionists?

    It seems to me, on the contrary, that you’ve perfectly illustrated Hasan’s point, Chet. Your definition of the genocide of Palestinians is apparently limited to those being killed by Israelis.

    With your choice of analogy, you presumably regard Zionism as a disease. The Palestinians in Yarmouk landed there originally as a result of Zionism, so I would have thought that would place them within the sphere of your concerns. But then Assad starts dropping barrel bombs on them and ISIS takes over and it all just gets too complicated. It’s better to just stay focused on the Zionists, I guess.

  5. TColwell

    Honesty? There’s been more honesty toward the Syrian conflict than with the I/P conflict. Western governments never cease to express their outrage at Assad and ISIS. Many in the US and in France have called for military action. Meanwhile during the Gaza War, crickets. Virtually not one Western government dared to criticize the slaughter. The charge of dishonesty is patently absurd.

    Second, Hasan writes from a position of cynicism. What does he want us to do? In the I/P conflict, critics put their cards on the table: they want the US to put pressure on Jlem. Will Hasan put his cards on the table? What does he want? He wants honesty? How about honesty on his part: will he put up or shut up?

Comments are closed.