The appalling blockade on the Yarmouk refugee camp south of Damascus continues to generate words of outrage, cries of despair and statements of condemnation, but no action.
The horrific stories of malnutrition and death coming out of the camp are being relayed on a daily basis as politicians and diplomats gather in Switzerland for Syria’s peace talks. But the international community and all of the self-styled defenders of Palestine around the world have been unable to lift a finger to alleviate the siege, now more than six months old.
In Geneva, politicians and diplomats are struggling to agree in discussions of key issues, such as Syria’s political future, and getting much-needed humanitarian assistance to the city of Homs. Yarmouk might have a specific political entity (the Palestinian Authority) and a specific U.N. agency (UNRWA) responsible for conditions there, but these haven’t done the thousands of people who remain in the camp any good.
Some people talk about the need to arrive at solutions to humanitarian problems, as if they are separate from the realm of politics. Perhaps they have forgotten that the Damascus regime’s chief skill is to turn any discussion of human suffering into questions of “terrorism” and “security.” Perhaps they have forgotten earlier government-supervised “evacuations” of besieged areas, and the wave of detentions and disappearances that followed.
The tragedy of Yarmouk is a potent symbol of the international community’s resounding failure to deal with the humanitarian aspect of the Syria crisis, but more importantly, people should remember that the failure to solve the political aspect is responsible for all of the horrific suffering we see today.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 30, 2014, on page 7.