Yarmouk Refugee Camp is a tiny district, taking up less than a square mile of Damascus, which used to be home to over 150,000 Palestinians. Today there are fewer than 18,000 left.
The Syrian regime has been besieging it for over 700 days, dropping barrel bombs — metal containers that are filled with shrapnel and thrown from aircraft — in built up civilian areas, killing indiscriminately. Refugees have almost no food, water, healthcare equipment or medicine. There has been no electricity since April 2013.
Amnesty International reported that Assad’s forces were using “starvation of civilians as a weapon”. They found evidence that some have been forced to resort “to eating cats and dogs” and civilians were “attacked by snipers as they forage for food”. They found others had been gravely ill after eating poisonous food or dog meat. In March 2014, at least 60% of the people in the camp were suffering from malnutrition. In 2014, 200 people are thought to have died from hunger. Hundreds more have died of disease and dehydration.
Last week, ‘Islamic State’ jihadists took control of 90% of the camp. ‘Islamic State’ social media uploaded pictures of decapitated Palestinians with their heads on spikes. The pitifully scarce number of food parcels had to be stopped. The only hospital was destroyed. The UN Secretary-General said Yarmouk is “beginning to resemble a death camp”.
But there is silence.
Can you imagine the uproar if the perpetrators of such a crime had been the Israelis? So we must ask: who really cares about the Palestinians? Who cares that in Syria, Palestinian people are being killed by barrel bombs or gunned down in the streets? Who cares that in other Arab countries, Lebanon for example, Palestinians are marginalised, ostracised and discriminated against? This is called hypocrisy.
If someone is attacked, if people are suffering, it should not matter who is committing the abuse. Sadly, the so-called ‘peaceniks’ have to wait and confirm who is committing such a crime before taking action.
I’ve written before on this subject: “Why are there only protests when a Jew kills an innocent civilian? Why is it more acceptable when Muslims kill Muslims or Arabs kill Arabs than when Israel kills Muslims or Arabs?” Why is your outrage selective, why only care some of the time? Are these Palestinians undeserving of your time?
When Israel attacked Hamas in Gaza last year, thousands protested. My Facebook wall was saturated with armchair warriors (often rightly) attacking Israel for their actions. Today, yesterday, the day before, there was not a single post. If you’re a Palestinian being attacked by anyone but Israel, you are by yourself.
If you are not marching through the streets calling for action — diplomatic, military or whatever — to help the Palestinians of Yarmouk, and all the other places where they are abused, you cannot call yourself pro-Palestinian. Batya Ungar-Sargon, in NewRepublic, attempted to rebuff this argument by commenting that people demonstrate against Israel because it is a state. Syria is too, and there are few protests against its government’s war crimes.
Even more importantly, however, if you ignore the crimes of states that are not supported by the West, you ignore their victims and degrade their suffering. In the end, it shouldn’t matter that the people being slaughtered are a certain race or that the butchers are from a certain country. Murder is murder and a war crime is a war crime. We should speak up against it.