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Palestinian refugees chased out of homes by shelling

Aug 17, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

Palestinian refugees chased out of homes by shelling
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Israel has been accused of many deeds over the years. Removed from their context, the below paragraphs from a report in The Guardian could almost sound like an exaggerated report on an Israeli military operation in the 2008/09 Gaza conflict – the kind that would be released by Palestinian state-controlled media outlets.

UNRWA, the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees, said the camp’s residents fled after [the city] came under fire from gunboats and ground troops over the weekend. It was not immediately clear where the refugees were seeking shelter.

… The Local Coordination Committees, an activist group that helps organize protests… also confirmed troops fired at fleeing families. It said random gunfire erupted Monday in addition to a campaign of raids and house-to-house arrests.

Troops later entered small neighborhoods in the al-Ramel Palestinian refugee camp, warning people to leave or risk their houses being destroyed, the LCC said. A witness said security forces were rounding up young men in the area and detaining them in a sports stadium nearby.

Of course, Israel has never fired into Gaza indiscriminately – Israeli strikes are based on specific intelligence on where militants are operating from. While there have been occasional operational errors, as in any military conflict, Israel has certainly never deliberately fired on fleeing families.

In fact, the report in question does not come from Israel, but from the Syrian city of Latakia that is currently being ravaged by violence, as we reported on Monday. The excerpt reads a little differently if its preceding paragraph (below) is taken into account.

More than 5,000 Palestinian refugees have fled a camp in Latakia, Syria, after President Bashar al-Assad’s forces attacked the port city in the latest military crackdown on dissent, the UN said on Monday.

This truly illustrates the bitter double standards that Israel faces. Were the above paragraphs in Gaza and not in Syria, they would not have been buried within a longer article, but would have likely been front page news around the world. There would have been widespread condemnations from governments  and NGOs directed at Israel, demonstrations in various capitals, and the UN would have probably called a special session to condemn Israel’s behaviour.

Yet the terrible treatment that Palestinians suffer under the Arab countries is all but ignored.

On a similar note, Barry Rubin wrote a scathing assessement on Monday of the indifference of international opinion and the muted reaction of the US administration and other governments to Syrian atrocities.

There’s a real war going on with real massive human rights’ violations, real massacres, and real alternatives at stake. Yet the world slumbers about it. Oh sure, there are expressions of dismay at the lowest level of diplomatic language and cosmetic sanctions. Meanwhile, artillery and tanks are being used directly to kill as many civilian, nonviolent protestors as possible. Those captured are being tortured.

These events make Egypt’s revolution look like a picnic and Libya’s civil war look like a scrum. Yet where is the massive outpouring of Western demonstrators, the teach-ins, the outrage, the international resolutions, the humanitarian action on Syria?

It is a waste of time, mine and yours, to write about double standards. Double standards have become standard. Nor will I inform you by bewailing the front-page coverage, misplaced outrage, and outright slander devoted to the smallest incident in Israeli-Palestinian frictions compared to these events. The same applies to the grilling of America for real and imagined sins.

As Rubin goes on to note that Syria poses possibly the biggest threat to the West’s interests and to global security of all the Arab states. He concludes by again highlighting the astounding failure of the “international community” in addressing the situation in Syria.

The debt limit on Obama foreign policy has already been raised too high. Is it too much to ask this president to devote one-quarter the effort to Syria that he wastes on futile, even counterproductive, Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking efforts?

… This is a tragedy and a shame that deserves our indignation even in the face of so many other abuses. Syria should be the top priority for Western governments in the Middle East at present. It isn’t. That’s dangerous.

Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

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