Friday, July 27, 2012

The Palestinian dilemma over Syria

Hamas opposes Assad, but some seem more interested in being anti-Israel and anti-US than standing up for human rights

Sharif Nashashibi, Friday 27 July 2012

"Palestinian leaders, organisations and officials were generally silent at the start of Syria's revolution, mainly out of concern for the fate of the half million Palestinian refugees in the country.

However, that has now changed, and not in President Bashar al-Assad's favour. Attacks on Palestinian camps by Syrian forces loyal to him – most recently last week against the Yarmouk camp – have resulted in killings, injuries, and the displacement of thousands. This has angered Palestinian refugees, many of whom are now openly supporting the revolution, as well as taking in Syrian refugees.

This is particularly damaging for the Assad regime because it has long regarded itself as a guardian of the Palestinian cause.

In an obvious reference to Palestinians, Jihad Makdissi, the Syrian foreign ministry spokesman, wrote on Facebook that "guests" in Syria "have to respect the rules of hospitality" or "depart to the oases of democracy in Arab countries". He later removed his comments following an outcry.

The regime's supporters often cite the fact that Palestinian refugees in Syria are treated far better than in other Arab countries. What they overlook, though, is that the law enshrining the rights of these refugees was enacted well before the Ba'ath party took power......

Hamas is the only member of the "axis of resistance" (grouping the Palestinian movement, Hezbollah, and the Iranian and Syrian regimes) to denounce Assad's crackdown. Although Hamas's decision is in line with polls indicating that Palestinians support the Arab spring, it has come at a significant price. A subsequent drop in Iranian aid to Hamas – which has been a lifeline for the movement in recent years – has yet to be filled by other sources.....

......First, to Israel, Assad is "the devil you know" who (along with his father) has kept the Syrian-Israeli border quiet for decades, and helped the US in its "war on terror".

Second, it is misguided and offensive to view the suffering of Syrians in terms of whether or not this benefits Israel, the US or the Palestinians.

Third, there has always been strong support among Syrians for the Palestinian struggle – and this wasn't created by the Ba'ath party or the Assads.

A post-Assad Syria will likely reorient itself away from Russia, Hezbollah and Iran, but that will not translate into abandoning the Palestinians and cosying up to Israel because it would be domestically and electorally disastrous.....

The only certainly at this stage is that axes of power and alliances will be redrawn. However this happens, and whoever benefits, should not be the priority. The rights of Syrians are paramount. If Palestinians and their supporters want the world to view their struggle as one of universal human rights – and rightly so – they should practise what they preach, and do so in unison.

While most have stood by the Syrian people, some seem more interested in being anti-Israeli and anti-American than standing up for universal human rights. This is as harmful to the Palestinians as it is to the Syrians."

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