Syrian routine

A damaged mosque is seen after what activists said was a Syrian Air Force fighter jet operated by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad fired missiles on Darya near Damascus December 16, 2012. (REUTERS/Fadi Al-Dirani/Shaam News Network/HO)

A look at the history of Syria’s treatment of its Palestinian population should mean the recent violence in Yarmouk comes as no surprise.

Despite its proclaimed role as the ultimate defender of the resistance, Syria’s involvement in the Palestinian cause has always been inextricably linked to Palestinians’ support for the Syrian regime.

In the 1980s Syria was the catalyst for splits in the resistance, as it worked to rid the country of Yasser Arafat and his supporters after the Palestinian Authority moved away from the Assad regime.

After that, what remained were pro-regime splinter groups, with The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command at the forefront.

Despite the apparent reluctance of many of the Palestinians to get involved in the current violence, it was inevitable that the fight would enter Yarmouk at some point. For many it is seen as an opportunity to be rid of pro-regime elements in the camp.

The history of the Syrian regime’s relationship with its Palestinian population is evidence that its primary concern in Palestinian politics is not the best interests of its people, except perhaps in words.

The world knows the history of how the Syrian regime has treated rebellion within its Palestinian population over the years. Syrian jails are full of Palestinians who have opposed them in some way.

And of course the regime has few restrictions over who it is willing to harm in order to get its own way. Lebanon has seen more than enough evidence of this; there is barely a group that has not felt the wrath of Syria when it doesn’t behave how the regime wants it to.

This has nothing to do with any kind of noble resistance. The Palestinians were welcomed so long as they were deprived of their freedoms, independence, identity and politics. Instead they had to settle for the regime’s hollow words of liberation.

Meanwhile Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem issued a message to Palestinians to expel the “terrorist” rebels, a feat the Syrian Army has itself been unable to achieve.

The regime has taken violence in Yarmouk and attempted to use it to gain sympathy for itself. In this it fails to realize that the world can see through its propaganda over the Palestinian cause.

Yet, as with the rest of the Syrian conflict, seeing the truth is not necessarily enough to make the world act. But it should. The United Nations has a responsibility for the Palestinian people, and should consider what can and should be done, even to the drastic extent of isolating the area.

Instead, all the international community has done is played a few more moves in the endless game of chess that the discussions over the situation in Syria have become, passing between them plan after plan to no end.

It is a game that will only end in more bloodshed, as the violence in Syria creeps out ever further into its surrounding areas.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 18, 2012, on page 7.




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