Published in The Jerusalem Post, November 10, 2013. Print-friendly copy
Read also my Israel Hayom oped column from Friday, Kerry’s antagonism unmasked
All the human rights moralizers are ignoring the frightening plight of Palestinians and Christians in the Syrian civil war. There is, alas, no anti-Israel angle to the story.
The fighting in Syria once again proves the sad old adage that human rights organizations and their advocates in the mainstream Western media are essentially anti-Israel. There is no other way to explain the fact that all these high-and-mighty moralizers are ignoring the frightening plight of Palestinians and Christians in the Syrian civil war.
You see, there is no anti-Israel angle to the story of Palestinian or Christian suffering in Syria. That suffering can’t really be blamed on the Jews. So nobody cares.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East reports that approximately 250,000 Palestinians have been displaced inside Syria since the beginning of the conflict two years ago. In May, for example, some 6,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes in Ein al-Tal, a refugee camp near Aleppo in northern Syria. The response from the world: Nothing. Silence.
In addition, more than 55,000 Palestinians have been forced to flee Syria to Lebanon and Jordan over the past two years. In Lebanon, the Palestinian refugees join more than 500,000 other Palestinians who live in refugee camps and are subject to apartheid laws that deny them work, social and health benefits, and freedom of movement.
But of course, there has been no international uproar about this.
Now imagine if six (never mind 60, 600, or 6,000) squatting Palestinian families were forced to move two kilometers out of an IDF firing zone in the southern Hebron hills. There would be UN investigations, international tribunals, condemnations from Western capitals, and much handwringing and moralizing by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and more.
Actually, this has happened exactly. A grand total of 10 Palestinian families were forced out by an IDF evacuation order. And the world went berserk.
It gets much worse. At least 2,000 Palestinians have been killed in Syria, by both the rebels and the Syrian army.
But of course, you wouldn’t know about this from the Western press.
Now imagine if IDF troops killed 150 terrorists, and inadvertently also killed a few civilians behind which the terrorists were hiding, during a raid meant to destroy enemy missile launchers. There would be UN investigations, international tribunals, condemnations from Western capitals, and much handwringing and moralizing by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and more.
Actually, this has happened exactly.
The two Palestinian governments – Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank – have said or done nothing to draw global attention to the plight of their brethren in Syria. Neither the Palestinians nor Arab countries nor Arab League foreign ministers have asked for an emergency UN Security Council session to discuss the new Palestinian tragedy. They are more worried about construction of a few homes in Israeli settlements in the West Bank than the lives of thousands of Palestinians in Syria.
IT IS NOT ONLY Palestinians suffering from Arab and Western disinterest. It is also Syria’s Christians, more than 600,000 of whom have been displaced or fled Syria since the rebellion began, according to Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, spiritual leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. It seems that their fate will be similar to that of the Christians in Iraq, half of whom emigrated, fled or were killed.
In March 2012, Islamist militants went door to door in neighborhoods of Homs, expelling local Christians. Of the more than 80,000 Christians who lived in Homs prior to the uprising, approximately 400 remain today. In May 2012, Christian residents of Qusayr received an ominous warning: Either join the opposition against Bashar Assad or leave. Soon after, thousands of Christians fled the town.
Christians who have fled to Egypt or Jordan tell of harassment, fictitious marriage proposals designed to traffic their daughters, and curses and beatings for being Christians.
In September, the rebel Al-Nusra Front (an affiliate of Al-Qaeda) took control for several weeks of the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, northeast of Damascus, and desecrated all the churches. A grisly video has been posted online of the public beheading of a Syrian priest and two youths by Al-Nusra fighters. Similar attacks on churches have been documented over the past month in Raqqa, Sadad and Tel Abyadh. The most recent video out of Syria shows Islamist Sheikh Omar Raghba smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary in Yakubiya, as he declares that “Allah alone will be worshipped in the Levant.”
But of course, you wouldn’t know about this from the Western press or Western leaders.
The Vatican News Agency Fides and Catholic Online magazine reported this week that 45 Christians were recently massacred and thrown into mass graves by Islamists in Sadad, a town of 15,000 mostly Syriac Orthodox Christians located 160 km north of Damascus. The 4,000-year old Assyrian town’s 14 churches and monastery were defiled and looted.
According to Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Homs and Hama, about 2,500 families have fled from Sadad. “What happened in Sadad,” he says, “is the largest massacre of Christians in Syria and the second in the Middle East, after the one in the Church of Our Lady of Salvation in Iraq, in October 2010, when 58 were killed… We have shouted aid to the world but no one has listened to us. Where is the Christian conscience? Where is human consciousness? Where are my brothers?”
But of course, you wouldn’t know about this from the mainstream Western press or from Western leaders.
Now imagine that a few Jewish hooligans were to vandalize a monastery or two in Israel. There would be howls of protest worldwide. The attack would be covered extensively in just about every newspaper in the world, with a lot of buzz about the supposed brutalization of Israeli society and a radicalization of religious Jewry. There would be UN investigations, condemnations from Western capitals, and much handwringing and moralizing by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and more.
Actually, this has happened exactly.
In short, the world is quick to jump on the rare cases of shameful Jewish hooliganism against Christians in Israel, or measured Israeli actions against Palestinians, but gives short shrift to the rampant and deadly persecution of Christians and Palestinians in the Arab and Islamic world.
When persecution against Palestinians and Christians doesn’t come from the Jews, nobody cares. And this tells me that international howls of protest against Israel related don’t stem from real concern for Palestinian or Christian “victims” of Israel’s heavy hand. Might it be possible that they stem from ancient hatreds of a different kind?