Yarmouk Camp – Resistance Camp Needs to Reflect

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Palestinian women, who had been living at Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, wait outside the Lebanese immigration authority to have their papers stamped at the Lebanese-Syrian border, in al-Masnaa December 18, 2012. (Photo: REUTERS - Jamal Saidi).

By: Amal Saad-Ghorayeb

Published Sunday, January 19, 2014

There are very few Arab intellectuals who have displayed the same unwavering commitment to the Resistance and the Palestinian cause as Al-Akhbar’s editor- in- chief, Ibrahim al-Amin. It is precisely because of this that his recent commentary, “Yarmouk – A Palestinian Responsibility,” astounded and disturbed many of us in the Resistance camp.

His thesis, that the Palestinians are personally and collectively responsible for the tragedy that has befallen the Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk, is at once intellectually flawed, morally indefensible and politically damaging. Although Amin’s position is one not shared either publicly or privately by Hezbollah, his commentary warrants a response if only because it reflects the rise of a new and troubling discourse within our ranks which fails to distinguish between ordinary Palestinians and the treachery of their leadership.

Amin’s commentary only reinforces this troubling trend in so far as he boldly and unequivocally asserts that all Palestinians, refugees in particular, are “100 percent” responsible for their own starvation and deaths: “First and foremost, the Palestinians ought to face the truth themselves, commoners before leaders, and refugees before residents of the historical land in the territories stolen in 1948…”

Apparently, the refugees brought this plight upon themselves when they sided with the armed opposition against the Syrian state. But this gross overgeneralization is contradicted by Amin himself when he claims that only “some of the residents” took over parts of the camp and turned it into a safe haven for militants. According to this logic, the bulk of the 20,000 or so refugees who obviously did not take up arms, are still responsible because they have yet to “force the militants out."

In other words, Yarmouk’s defenseless refugees are to blame for the sins of their leaders, who have allowed in groups that have held some residents hostage – groups which the Syrian army itself has been unable to oust from many areas of Syria. Rather than blame the governmentand rebels for the strangulation of the refugees who have effectively been turned into human shields by the latter, or expose the opposition’s cynical exploitation of the siege to score PR points against the Syrian government, Amin inexplicably chooses to scapegoat their victims. This faulty line of reasoning can just as readily be misapplied to the Lebanese Shia victims of terrorist bombings who can also be blamed for their own slaying on account of their allegiance to Hezbollah, as well as to government-controlled territories in Syria where civilians are subject to even more frequent terrorist attacks.

The Palestinians of Yarmouk are not just any victims either, they are victims of a double oppression: the oppression of Israel which has forced them to flee their homeland, and the oppression of the takfiris and other militants who are banning them from fleeing their refugee camp.

But Amin doesn’t merely stop at blaming the victims. He goes on to depict Yarmouk’s hapless refugees, and by extension all Palestinians, as a fifth column wreaking havoc in our midst, when he repeatedly asks, “Can any Palestinian explain the secret of this great enthusiasm to topple the Assad regime? Whose interests are they serving by destroying Syria?” Amin is referring here to the handful of Palestinians in Gaza (27 to 70 according to different reports he cites) who joined the war on Syria – a miniscule proportion of the foreign jihadis who have made their way there.

Yet such overgeneralizations and undertones about the Palestinian people were not lost on the more racist supporters of the Syrian government who lavished praise on Amin’s article for outing “Palestinian treason” and “highlighting their treacherous nature.” Nor were these racist tropes lost on outraged Palestinian supporters of the Resistance, including the widely celebrated poet and public intellectual Tamim Barghouti, who tweeted “the racist article of the Lebanese journalist who supports the killing of the people of Yarmouk, is the racism of those who carried out [the massacres of] Tel al-Zaatar and Sabra and Shatila. The resistance should not be associated with the language of its enemies."

Also derogatory was Amin’s demand that Palestinians “admit” that in Syria they “enjoyed advantages that their counterparts were deprived of in every corner of the world – advantages not even enjoyed in Gaza and the West Bank.” While factually correct, such demands for gratitude are counter-productive in that they easily descend into the logic of keeping score of moral debts accumulated by those we are supposedly collectively and morally obligated toward. Moreover, the theme of the “guests who bite the hand that fed them” is politically damaging to the Resistance in that it undermines its prioritization of the Palestinian cause as the leading moral and religious obligation, and reduces its longstanding solidarity with the Palestinian resistance factions and the Palestinian people as something conditional upon their “good behavior."

None of this is to say that the Palestinians’ historical suffering makes them morally unassailable or politically unaccountable, or that Syrian blood is cheaper than Palestinian blood as the opposition routinely complains; only that we need to regain our perspective and remain mindful of our political identity as champions of the Palestinian cause if we are to maintain our moral integrity and consistency. From the very start, we rightly faulted the opposition and its supporters for prioritizing the struggle against authoritarianism over confronting imperialism and Zionism. But when we come to view all Palestinians as co-conspirators with our takfiri enemy and its Saudi sponsor, then we, too, are at risk of demoting our meta-struggle against Israel and the Empire to second place.

While Amin is correct in calling on Palestinians to “conduct an overall review," we, too, in the Resistance camp must also engage in a similar process of self-reflection, especially now that we are in a militarily and diplomatically stronger position than we have been in the past. While it remains even truer today that the real litmus test of our commitment to the Palestinian cause is supporting the Syrian Arab Republic in its struggle against the imperialist-Zionist-takfiri onslaught against the Resistance project, this does not absolve our Resistance camp from its responsibility toward the Palestinian people and their fundamental rights.

What Amin and others who identify with the Resistance Axis should be doing today, is to call on the Syrian authorities, who are much more likely to listen to us than our enemy is, to designate the Yarmouk camp and its inhabitants as a “red line," just as the al-Qaeda-infested Nahr al-Bared camp was for Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah when he declared it as such in 2007. This means the Syrian government must continue to facilitate the entry of food, medicine and humanitarian aid into the camp, as it did on Saturday when aid reached the camp for the first time in months, even if the insurgents will personally benefit from them. Although the militants are largely to blame for obstructing aid and for banning civilians from fleeing the camp, the Syrian government must also grant UNRWA access to entrances to the camp under its control. It also means that barrel-bombing the rebels into submission is morally unjustifiable in a densely populated area where civilian casualties are bearing the brunt of the aerial bombardment. The only other viable moral option is for the Syrian army to devise a military strategy for reoccupying the camp after first evacuating its civilian inhabitants, as it has done in other areas of Syria.

We cannot countenance the current status quo, which is forcing some of us to engage in the kind of moral rationalizations that would make our enemies proud; let us not mimic the US and Zionist occupation armies with the discourse of “collateral damage” in the name of “rooting out the terrorists," no matter how strategically located the camp is, or how many rebels are using it for refuge. Indeed, Amin is right when he says “Yarmouk is not Sabra and Shatila,” but it is not Qusayr either. As supporters of the Resistance we cannot in good conscience accept the kind of cognitive dissonance that results from condemning the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza by Zionist hands while tolerating the deaths of Palestinians in Yarmouk by Syrian hands. This is even more so the case when those Syrian hands are an intrinsic part of the Resistance Axis, whose raison d’etre is to protect the oppressed and defenseless.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb is a Lebanese academic, political analyst and blogger. She is the author of Hizbullah: Politics and Religion, published by Pluto Press.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy.

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This is even more so the case when those Syrian hands are an intrinsic part of the Resistance Axis, whose raison d’etre is to protect the oppressed and defenseless.

This is why the 'resistance axis' fails. A regime that bludgeons its people into submission is not a protector of the defenseless. And no I don't support the rebels. You do not have to support the puppet opposition to oppose this hideous regime, you can take a moral stand against both. And nobody has the right to tell us to 'toe the line' or claim we are traitors. Our cause is bigger than you and your cynical political maneuvering. We do not ignore the principles our cause is based upon.

To Ibrahim Al-Amin, Palestine is bigger than you. We are survivors, the nakba, lebanon civil war, intifada 1 and 2, and we will survive this without your petty support. If you don't want to support our refugees, please show yourself to the door.

Those who starve and shell our most defenseless people are no different than the Zionist regime. And Syrian blood is not cheaper than our blood, so perhaps you'll find time to show some concern for them.

the IRI/ Hizbo/ Assad " Resistance Axis " thinks it can hide behind the phoney, tattered cloak of anti-Zionism while it ssupports the Assad dictatorship genocide against the Sunni. That charade has lost any credibility it may have once had.

So if the opposition is a puppet as you say - and it's safe to say that it's a puppet of the West - then why isn't the syrian regime allowed to fight it which is in turn fighting its puppeteer which is the very same enemy of Palestine. No one has the right to call Palestinians traitors, because it's unjust just as it is unjust to claim that the Syrian government is killing its own people. No one in his or her right mind can claim that the Syrian government doesn't enjoy popular support and yet it survived almost three years of onslaught and it's still standing strong, while the so-called opposition is relying on sectarian jihadi foreign fighters, and foreign money and support to continue to mount attacks. You have the right to be angry, but we're all angry now. Syrian blood is not cheaper than Palestinian blood or Lebanese blood ya 3ayni. The only people that consider arab blood cheap are the zionists.

Iran, Syria and Hezbollah supported you more then all your greedy leaders(Arafat) put together. Survivors on your own, keep surviving on your own until Jerusalem is fully taken by the israelis and then blame everybody for no help. They did support your refugees and gave free education and medical care. They treated a palestinian like a regular citizen in Syria and not like dogs like in every other country. You guys ignored your cause long ago as soon as you went to syria to help a revolution supported by the same people conspiring against your country.

If you view your support to the Palestinians as charity then all your charitable good nature has evaporated with a comment such as this. But then again Palestine is not a charity case. The resistance will always help Palestine because it's a religious, moral and patriotic duty, because we share the same enemy. We're not doing it out of pity or out of charity. The comments of a Palestinian or any arab that denigrates the resistance for no matter what reason shouldn't deter us from staying focused on the one and only enemy and that's the zionist entity.

ASG makes many valid points, but offers no practicle way of handling the situation in Yarmouk.

The suggestion seems to be that because the Palestinians collectively have suffered, they should be allowed, collectively, a free pass from the same suffering visited on Syrians. These terrorists have systematically embedded themselves among civilians all over Syria and the government must take them on with whatever resources are available or cede control and responsibility to these takfiri tyrants and their statelets.
I think all people who consider themselves supportive of the resistance and the Palestinian cause must make it clear that there is no room for mercy when dealing with this strain of extremism, we should not expect it from them, but equally we should give them no quarter.

It's easy for me to say this, because I, like ASG and Mr Amin, have nothing on the line in Syria, but if the resistance axis is dealt a defeat in Syria, I will definitely expect to be next in line.

I congratulate you Amal for this excellent article which i agree with you 100%.

The writer of this article, Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, accuses Ibrahim al-Amin of “overgeneralizations” in his article yet Amal Saad-Ghorayeb is doing exactly that here in this article. Aside from the issue of Yaramuk I think that Amin‘s article was a timely wakeup call to all Palestinians to get their act together and for that I applaud him.

In what other newspaper would the editor-in-chief have the humility and honesty to allow to be published in his own pages such a scathing criticism of himself. At the very least, Al-akhbar's grandeur must be praised

Disgraceful article!

We criticise Israel and are labelled as 'racists'. This time we criticised Palestinian role in Syria and Amal Saad-Ghorayeb &Co are calling us 'racists'.

She is equating Yarmouk with Gaza and talking about setting 'red lines' ...as Nasrallah notoriously set for Nahr al-Bared in 2007. Shameful!

And what is "Resistance Axis" 's '....responsibility toward the Palestinian people and their fundamental rights'. There is no responsibility. Palestinians are capable people and have been taking their own responsibility for decades.
Syria, Iran and Hezbollah should care of their own people rather than finding glory in 'Palestinian cause' over the dead bodies of their own people.
The article is not at all a support for poor residents of Yarmouk. Rather it is rather same old meaningless Arab rhetoric which has brought Arabs to the condition they are in at the moment, while their elite (like Amal Saad-Ghorayeb) flourish.

I have the impression that ASG is referring to another piece written by another Ebrahim Amine!!! Because, Amine's arabic piece doesn't sound much like what ASG is referring to!!!

I am so glad Amal Saad-Ghorayeb responded with such precise intellect! She hit everything that Al Amine failed to do in his piece. Thank you!

God Bless You ASG

should be translated and published in the arabic version

Totally agree. Translate it!

I have great respect for ASG, but assuming that Palestinian civilians have no responsibility in the extremism in their camps, and the ungratefulness with which they treat their host countries, is paternalistic.

I'm not sure that it is justified to take as fact this barrel-bombing story, when it comes from an FSA source, who presumably has the same interest in constant atrocity propaganda as other anti-Assad sources. This is the sum total of the claim as reported in Ma'an, following the link you give:

The head of the Omari Battalion, a Free Syrian Army militant group, told Ma'an that a military helicopter dropped an explosive barrel on houses in the "Palestine Park" area of the camp.

I have seen stories which propagandise against 'Assad' (ie, Syria) by enumerating multitudinous sources of arms and ammo, such as for instance this from Reuters on Jan 17, which claims that 'Assad' (ie, Syria) is receiving arms and ammo from Russia, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine. This Reuters story manages to combine 'barrel bombs' with constant ammo supplies, quite a feat of logic. Another thing is that hovering to drop a 'barrel bomb' is asking for a bang from a MANPAD.

Technical Knockout.

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