Hanin Ghaddar

The Palestinians’ hypocrisy on Syria

The Palestinians will not be forgiven for their apathy toward the suffering of the Syrian people.

Students from the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, which is located south of Damascus and besieged by Syria

As Hezbollah, Iran and Assad are relentlessly using “Palestine” to justify their massacres and interference in Syria, we have rarely heard a word of sympathy toward the Syrian people from Palestinian political and public figures. As a matter of fact, except for a couple of writers, Palestinian journalists, intellectuals and artists have kept silent toward the atrocities against to the Syrian people, including the Palestinian refugees in Syrian camps. Even when the story of Yarmouk moved the world, no Palestinian figure came out to denounce the siege and destruction of the camp.  


Palestinians are once again being used as fig leafs to cover regional political agendas, and they have nothing to say about it. In the name of Palestine, Hezbollah is fighting in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and soon elsewhere. "The Road to Jerusalem" now passes through Zabadani, Qalamoun, Aleppo and other Syrian cities and towns. In the name of Palestine and the Palestinians, massacres are being committed and people are dying of hunger.


Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, most of the Palestinian factions in the West Bank and Gaza have either thrown their weight behind Assad (PFLP-GC and the West Bank-based Arab Socialist Baath Party) or took a passive neutral position (Fatah). Hamas tried to support the rebels, but then quietly backed off to a more neutral position.


When Hezbollah announced its first “Road to Jerusalem” agenda through its actions in Syria, many expected a statement or a “Not in Our Name” campaign by some Palestinian political or human rights group. Instead, silence ensued. Hezbollah has woven the cause of Palestine so assiduously into its propaganda, and because of that, the “Resistance” and “Palestine” have lost credibility among the people in the region. In addition to the severe internal divisions among the Palestinian leadership and factions, the Palestinians’ silence in the face of human rights violations and crimes in Syria has drastically changed the way people see Palestine.


The whole issue of Palestine hasn’t gained international momentum because of it being a just cause or because of the suffering of the Palestinian people. It has reached this level because Arab dictators realized long ago that it would serve as a perfect excuse to oppress the opposition and all voices of change and democracy in their countries. Palestine became the sacred word to justify oppression, political agendas and conflicts. Corrupt regional leaders and dictators couldn’t have dreamt of something better. Everyone jumped on the Palestinian cause and used it to hijack people’s aspirations for freedom. It became the backbone of every totalitarian regime’s rhetoric.


We had to let go of our freedoms for the sake of Palestine and this dragged our societies to the bottom of the world. The Palestinians allowed this to happen and they still are.


When the people in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen started to realize that the enemy is mainly within and that their regimes had been oppressing their freedoms for too long, people also realized that they needed to redefine their relation to their regional context. Yes, the whole Israeli-Palestinian struggle has sunk into the background and people started to focus on their individual concerns.


In Syria, the Palestinian issue reached ridiculous proportions. If you are in the opposition, you are required – mostly by leftwing Arab and Western intellectuals – to start with vocalizing your support for Palestine before criticizing Assad or his regime and supporters. If you don’t do that, you will be considered a suspicious element and could also be labeled a traitor. Allegiance for Palestine is more significant than your allegiance to your own cause: freedom for the Syrian people.


While it is demanded that Syrians side with the Palestinians at every turn, the Palestinians are not required to support the Syrian people. When they do, they support the Syrians individually, never as a group or through a communal initiative. Not only that, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has recently expressed support for Russia’s military intervention in Syria, including air raids used to prop the regime. And no one objected.  


The result is that in the name of the Palestinians, crimes are committed on a daily basis in Syria, and death fills the air. But not all will be forgiven and forgotten. As Hezbollah is losing Arab support, so will the Palestinians, because if no one has realized yet, Syria has become the central regional issue, and Syria will determine the next phase, not Palestine. 


The Palestinians have to realize that they’ve lost the Arab depth, their credibility and their narrative. Today, they are hypocrites who demand everything and want to give nothing. Meanwhile their leadership and narrative are being used by Islamists, dictators and terrorists to launch the most atrocious wars. The Palestinians will not be forgiven.


It is not only an ethical question; it is a matter of gaining credibility.


Hanin Ghaddar is the managing editor of NOW and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council. She tweets @haningdr 

Students from the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, which is located south of Damascus and besieged by Syria's regime for over two years, wait to leave the camp to take their final exams in the capital on May 14, 2015. (AFP/Rami al-Sayed)

Palestine became the sacred word to justify oppression, political agendas and conflicts.

  • alparis

    Bonjour Hanin your article is very professional.

    April 16, 2016

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    I am surprised that you, of all people, find fault with the Palestinians' position on Syria. They have actually adopted the same position of neutrality vis-a-vis Syria that you and all Hezbollah's Lebanese enemies have adopted, i.e. staying out of it النأي بالنفس. Shouldn't that make you a hypocrite too? In any event, we've seen this Arab, not just Palestinian, hypocrisy decades ago when "Palestine" was the commodity which Jumblatt, Lebanon Sunnis, Baathists, Syrian National Socialists and other Arab-Muslim hypocrites, cheats and bigots used to wreck Lebanon into the coma from which it never recovered. Today it is Hezbollah's turn to "milk" Palestine. Fact is, no one ever gave a damn about Palestine anyway. The Palestinians were, for many decades, used by Arab dictators and politicians, and they have finally understood the vacuity of all this Arab brotherhood and sisterhood incestuous nationalist BS, and have come to count only on themselves. The motto of the Palestinians should be ما حك جلدك مثل ظفرك (only your own nail can scratch your itchy skin).

    April 15, 2016

  • AproudSafavid

    Dear H. Ghaddar, As far as we are aware, Hezbollah's declared position to enter the Syrian conflict was based on one of providing security for Lebanon from inside Syria: A preemptive military/security initiative to prevent those takfiri terrorist animals, which you call, the Syrian opposition forces to find their footsteps inside your country, Lebanon; murdering Shiite sons & daughters: It never was about the "Road to Jerusalem". They say, you Arabs, quintessentially possess one characteristic; unique only & only to yourselves: "You cry when your backs are against the wall, and you stab each other in the back; when you are happy: "As Hezbollah is losing Arab support, so will the Palestinians": Sir, you could [Not] have put it more befitting to a simple characterization of an Arab-sole. After all, one set of Semites can always relate to another set of Semites; love you more Zionists!

    April 15, 2016

  • idit

    Is that new? they were always crybabies narcissists

    April 14, 2016