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Hussein Ibish

Murdering Palestinians by starvation

Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk are being starved to death by the Syrian regime. Does anyone care?

A PFLP-GC fighter walks down a destroyed street in Yarmouk

There isn't much the Palestinian people haven't suffered. But the use of enforced starvation against them by the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad at the Yarmouk refugee camp breaks new ground in cruelty. Hundreds are said to be facing imminent death by starvation, lack of water and medical care, and the loss, for almost a year now, of all heat and electricity.


Last weekend, at least 41 Palestinian refugees were reported to have died as a result of food and medicine shortages, and all the evidence suggests this account is a low estimate. The numbers continue to grow daily.

Rights groups said that today eight more Palestinians in Syria have died from malnutrition, including an 80-year-old, Jamil al-Qurabi, a 40-year-old, Hasan Shihabi, and a 50-year-old woman called Noor. Meanwhile 10-year-old Mahmoud al-Sabbagh and two 19-year-olds, Majid Imad Awad and Ziad al-Naji, were killed while protesting the blockade of the camp. Muhammad Ibrahim Dhahi is reported to have been tortured to death by regime forces, while Hasan Younis Nofal was killed by one of Assad's now-notorious barrel bombs.

Yesterday a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) convoy of trucks loaded with desperately-needed food and medicines were fired on by pro-Assad forces, most likely the so-called PFLP-GC, as they tried to enter the camps and were unable to deliver the urgent relief.

The PLO says it is still trying to negotiate with "Syrian officials and [pro-Assad] militants in Palestinian camps in Syria in order to reach a solution and create a safe passage for the entry of relief supplies to Yarmouk." They are, in effect, begging for the lives of innocent Palestinians suffering a siege that, while significantly smaller in scale, is without doubt much crueler and more arbitrary than anything imposed on Gaza by either Israel or Egypt.

"All is fair in war, and starvation is one of the weapons of war," blandly observed Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo, Nigeria's then-Minister of Finance, who is widely blamed for overseeing the use of famine as a technique in the suppression of the Bifran separatist movement. And, he reportedly added, "I don’t see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight harder." Quite.

During the 20th century, starvation was used as a weapon in numerous conflicts around the world, but has rarely been seen in the Middle East. There was a dreadful famine, partly caused by the Ottoman Empire, both before and during the First World War, and the Sudanese government is widely accused of using this tactic in Darfur. But the Arabs, Israelis, and Iranians have no real track record of such practices. Until now.

Brutality has been commonplace in the Middle East since at least the Second World War, but deliberate starvation has been much less common than shootings, bombings, massacres, and even the use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Palestinians have been driven from their lands, forced to live in squalid refugee camps, murdered en masse by various hostile forces, suffered under decades of occupation, and besieged. For a time being, they were even "placed on a diet" by Israel, which apparently actually calculated how many calories each Gaza resident would be allowed at the height of the blockade. As a people, they could well be forgiven for thinking they had seen it all, short of outright genocide.

But against all odds, the savagery of the Assad regime has managed to discover a form of suffering new to even the Palestinians: starvation as a weapon of war. I suppose for a people who had suffered almost everything else, it was only a matter of time that Palestinians would actually be starved to death.

 

The crucial thing is not simply that Assad and his allies – Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia – must be held fully and completely responsible for this outrage. It must also be noted that the international community and the Arab world are not doing enough to respond to it, practically or politically. They have done virtually nothing as Yarmouk's pre-war population of 250,000 has shrunk in the past three years to 18,000 famished, cowering, and shivering souls.

The Palestinians are, predictably, among the most vulnerable of victims in a merciless conflict in which Syrians, especially their own government, have turned on each other with breathtaking viciousness. If little is being done to help the Syrians, how, then, could Palestinians hope to be spared?

More than merely apathy and indifference – or in the case of some actors, a real focus on trying to deal with both Assad and al-Qaeda but not helping the Palestinians in Yarmouk – there is a deep sickness in some Arab political discourse and in a part of the Arab soul. To be fair, most Arabs are appalled at the Syrian war and feel deeply for the suffering of the Yarmouk refugees. But not all, by any means.

Those who still worship at the altar of the false idol of "resistance" and see Assad, Iran, Hezbollah, and their allies as the embodiment of the Arab cause are not simply disingenuous or delusional propagandists. Their thinking – not even, but especially, if it is sincere – is profoundly sick.

This demented attitude has been put on full display by the Lebanese shill for Hezbollah and Iran, Ibrahim al-Amin, editor of the Al-Akhbar newspaper that is wholly devoted to those two faithful paymasters. With absolutely no sense of decency or shame, Amin writes, "the unfolding events [in Yarmouk] are 100 percent a Palestinian responsibility."

 

He claims that "Palestinians in Syria enjoyed advantages that their counterparts were deprived of in every corner of the world," untrue certainly of Jordan and Western states, arguably of Israel itself. Being Lebanese, Amin may even believe this, since Palestinians in Syria have indeed historically been treated well in comparison to those who have suffered under Lebanon's virtual apartheid policies, or in the clutches of the Israeli occupation.

Amin blames Hamas for the crisis – as there is no honor among thieves, neither is there among formerly-allied extremists – and makes an overtly sectarian argument against Sunni, but not Shiite, Islamists. Worse, he accuses the Palestinians – who except for the brutal and tiny pro-Assad factions have made every effort to stay out of the conflict, remembering the lessons of Lebanon – of "contributing to the war in Syria." This may be the first time in a decade I have defended Hamas, but of this, they are not guilty.

Amin claims that either 27, or maybe 70, Palestinian salafis from Gaza (he cites both figures) have joined the fighting in Syria. Not Hamas members, mind you. Assuming this is true – and it would be a small number compared to the Sunnis fighters from other parts of the Arab world, and miniscule compared to the Shiite combatants that have rallied to help Assad murder his own people, especially Amin's Hezbollah cronies – who is to blame?

According to Amin it is, believe it or not, the Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk themselves. "What are these Palestinians doing?" he thunders. "Why are they doing it? Who can stop them or convince them that their battle is elsewhere? Palestinian refugees are the ones called to conduct an overall review."

Really? What were the dying, starving, and wretched refugees in Yarmouk supposed to do about this? Has even Israel ever come up with a more cynical argument in favor of the collective punishment of innocent Palestinians for the actions of a tiny few over whom they have no control?

Like all Arab demagogues, Amin knows just who to blame. On cue, like the broken record he is, he concludes, "The one who seeks to liberate Palestine doesn’t join a bunch of murderers who work under US command to serve one occupier and one criminal: Israel."

 

If justifying murder is a sin, Amin is deeply damned. If being boring and predictable is a crime, he's a capo di tutti capi, even if his real rank is no better than a major in Iran's Pasdaran. According to him, if Palestinians are being starved, shot, and tortured to death by the Assad regime, they have only themselves to blame.

But the worst sickness is not Amin, who is an ideological hack and a paid stooge. His cynicism comes with a price tag.

 

The deeper problem is those Arabs who are willing to put up with his rationalizations for extreme cruelty. And, more deeply, it also lies with those who, in the past, were beguiled by the transparent lie – whether they have begun to doubt it yet or not – that there is an "axis of resistance" that includes the Syrian dictatorship, the Iranian theocracy, and Hezbollah; those, including Palestinians, who, either now or in the past, would drop everything to run to hear the latest ravings from "Sayyed Hassan."

They know who they are, and there is no need to name names. But if they look back on their former attitudes whose shame, most of them show no sign of it. The same mentality continues to operate, with slight adjustments, on significant parts of the Muslim religious right and the Arab political left.

 

Even assuming they reject what is happening at Yarmouk, and are repulsed by Amin's brazen exercise in blaming the victims, if the events of the past three years nonetheless haven't prompted deep introspection and caused them to rethink their whole political worldview, they remain trapped in an ideology that led directly to the tragedy of Syria, and particularly, that of the defenseless Palestinian refugees being starved and murdered at Yarmouk. And, therefore, even if their symptoms are now presenting differently, the deeper sickness remains undiagnosed, unacknowledged, and, most importantly, untreated.

Patrolling the vicinity. (AFP Photo/Anwar Amro)

"If little is being done to help the Syrians, how, then, could Palestinians hope to be spared?"

  • Sammy Jay

    Just one group Arabs behaving in fulfillment of the savage stereotypes many of them project on others. It must be awful for a group of marginalized proxy war patsies born into institutional discrimination, to realize that their "friends" and "allies" and so called supporters actually hate them and will go out of their way to harm them more than the Zionist enemy does - and no one else cares or will do anything meaningful about it because it is being done by Arabs to other Arabs.

    January 21, 2014

  • mamolen1

    Less fake "right of returners" No such thing as Palestinians. Call them what they are regional Arabs. Check out the Fakestinians leadership Yasser Arafat. = Egyptian Mahmud az-Zahar. = Egyptian Saeb Erekat = Jordanian Faisal Abdel Qader Al-Husseini . = Iraqi Sari Nusseibeh. = Syrian

    January 19, 2014

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    (...) If Palestinians are a "fake" people invented by Arabs to harass Israel, then shouldn't the Israeli identity be even more fake, since it was created by importing people from all over the world, of all races, colors, brands and ethnicities, under the sole primitive criterion of a religion from the Stone Age of humanity, people who have never been to Palestine and were never born there? In my mind, the concept of a Jewish identity is as stupid, barbaric, and antiquated as the concept of an Islamic identity or a Christian identity that overrides national, ethnic, racial and other identities. Israel is no different from Saudi Arabia in the fact that they both define their existence by religion. There were people in Palestine long before even Abraham wandered out of Baghdad and had a sunstroke in the desert that made him believe that God gave him the land. Whether you call them Canaanites, Arameans, Phoenicians, or Palestinians is not the point. The point is that there was a people living in Palestine long before the hordes of modern "Jews" came 100 years ago, and began killing, massacring, displacing, and evicting the native people, a process that is ongoing as we speak. Sadly for you, all your lies and fabrications will not change the facts of history. Israel, in my honest opinion, will one day go down in history as the Crusades. Any person or people who try to impose a religious identity on themselves and use that identity to exclude others is doomed. I otherwise like the Israelis and despise the Palestinians. But the truth must be said.

    January 21, 2014

  • Syricide

    What utter piece of garbage this article is .. all very emotional for effect to avert the eyes. Yarmouk is tragic. Yarmouk is terrible. But you haven't even mentioned WHY Yarmouk is being blockaded? You think this is a purposeful military stratagem to starve people who have no part in this war? What is the logic in that? What is the logic in concentrating troops and armaments to starve a demograph of peope for no reason while they still have rebels to fight? You haven't even mentioned that the rebels shoot at Palestinians and steal their food. None of this you touch upon. Just a drawn out opportunity to attack your target of choice with all your dutiful zionist trolls following on behind to post their pointless petulant comments about israhell (ignoring the fact that israhell is terrorist state that has been doing this for 60yrs). Utter utter .. G A R B A G E

    January 17, 2014

  • Jacob the aggressive watcher

    After readying all this, it should be clear to everyone that the state of Israel (the only Jewish state in the world) must rely only on itself. If Muslims act against their kin in such a brutal way, what would Jews expect from them if , g"d forbids, they would get the upper hand. And: see how the non Muslim population diminishes. They are helpless, dhimmies. Only in Israel they flourish and they start to recognize it. Additionally the Druzes on the Golan heights start to change their percepition

    January 16, 2014

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    ...and after reading your version of events, it is definitely clear to everyone that defining oneself by one's religion is the most backward primitive way of viewing one's existence and humanity in this day and age. By having a "Jewish" state, you are justifying the existence of "Muslim" states and of "Christian" states and so on, and this definition of the world is keeping us stuck in the Stone Age of humanity with fantasies and hallucinations that only smelly old men could dream of in the desert: Chosen People? Splitting oceans? Virgin births? Last prophecies? Resurrections? Returning Messiahs? Promised lands? How can you even continue to believe this ...? Religious people like you and their inane GOD (spelled fully, unlike your ... ... g"d) and prophets and sons and messiahs and mahdis and messengers are the scourge of this world, all of them, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Hindu or whatever you choose to be named. I see no difference between Israelis, Iranians or Saudis.... equally barbaric religious neanderthals bent on the genocidal exclusion of others who believe different Stone Age myths, stories, fantasies and lies than their own.

    January 17, 2014

  • adam.larson.106

    Sorry, I care, in fact I care enough to get hung up on the obvious ... can anyone here, including the author, explain HOW "the Assad regime" is making sure all the rebels fighters we see on video, and most people in Yarmouk, remain fairly well-nourished, while certain other people starve to death? Those people, once dead, are in rebel hands, so one presumes they died in an area rebels control. So ... why isn't this an issue with food distribution WITHIN the rebel held areas? There clearly is enough food for fighters to hold out and even chase aid away to heighten the crisis (which they seem to loove siunce it's getting blamed on "Assad") and yet they keep claiming there's no food. To me that strengthens the impression that this is a lie and a propaganda campaign, but using real people.

    January 16, 2014

  • adam.larson.106

    See, someone could have replied, well, there's constant shelling that interferes with food delivery, so some people get isolated and starve. To which I'd respond it doesn't stop them from scooping the bodies up as soon as they're dead. Sandwich to body while living? Regime stops it somehow. Dead body to Youtubes? No problem, any time.

    January 17, 2014

  • Isahiah62

    Arabs have never cared for Fakestinians and routinely keep them in way worse conditions and with far fewer rights than their favorite whipping boy the JEWS- err Zionists err I mean Israel. FACT is that Fakestinians are ONLY trotted out by UN, NGOs, and OIC to demonize Israel- otherwise they do not care at all if they die. or suffer. Fakestinians are ARABS who other ARABs keep in apartheid situation for publicity and incitement ONLY-they have no other purpose. Arabs are guilty of not accepting them as citizens in the nations of their birth- Libya, Syria, Lebanon etc

    January 15, 2014

  • pointingatyou

    Where are all the morons and flotilla flotz, I mean farters that go after Israel all the bloody time, you know the anti Semites and yes, there are despicable Jewish anti Semites!

    January 15, 2014

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    (cont'd)... If in the Syrian situation described here there was one Jewish person, let alone an Israeli or a some other Westerner involved, then the whole world would be agonizing over repercussions, consequences, and moral responsibility.

    January 15, 2014

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Read "Orientalism" by Edward Said and you'll understand why no one (in the West, that is) cares. Only yesterday, there were editorials and remembrances for the 1982 Sabra-Shatila massacre, on account of the death of Ariel Sharon. The only reason why this one, of many hundreds of massacres that went on in the Lebanon War and elsewhere in the Arab world, has such sustainability in the media is because of Israel's involvement, which is mind you that of a witness, not a perpetrator. Briefly, an act of violence committed by an Arab against an Arab is "normal" because Arabs are subhuman, but an act of violence - even if only witnessed by a Westerner or a pseudo-Westerner like the Israelis - is a source of moral angst and doubt about responsibility and accountability. Just as in January 1976, when hordes of Palestinians, Syrians, Druze and other Arabs descended on the peaceful town of Damour south of Beirut, killed a 1,000 people, chopped off limbs, eviscerated babies in front of their parents, raped young women, and ethnically cleansed the town in two nights of orgiastic violence, the starvation of Palestinian refugees by Syrian troops or the cold-blooded killing by Lebanese Christian militiamen of Palestinian refugees in Sabra-Shatila in 1982, are not a source of moral angst because, again, Arabs in western eyes, are subhuman and are therefore expected to act like this. There is no moral dilemma posed by neither the criminal nor the victim. So, no editorials, no remembrances, no memorials. Nothing. But for a few Israeli soldiers to watch as Christian militiamen enter a Palestinian refugee camp and slaughter innocent people is an abomination. The abomination is not the crime itself, it is not what the killers and victims have experienced, but that Israeli soldiers watched the crime. The reason: A westerner like an Israeli is capable of moral judgment, but an Arab is not. If in the Syrian situation described here there was one Jewish person, let alone an Israeli or a some

    January 15, 2014

  • FSA make genocide on palestinians

    What doing FSA terrorists in civilains camp??? That is war crime. Moscow on Tuesday strongly condemned the provocative acts of the armed terrorist groups in Syria which prevent the humanitarian aid from reaching the civilians in some regions, including the Palestinian Yarmouk camp near Damascus. "A big part of the camp is still under the control of the Syrian opposition factions which changed the residents there to hostages," A statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry said, adding that difficult conditions were originated regarding the supplying of the camp with humanitarian aid. It affirmed that the Syrian government has exerted great efforts to deliver the humanitarian aid to the neighborhoods of the camp dominated by the gunmen. The statement called upon sides which have influence on the Syrian opposition to allow the humanitarian aid into the camp. It pointed out to the gunmen's foiling of the convoy of assistance under the flag of the UN on Monday, condemning such provocative acts by the armed groups which obstruct the delivering of the aid to the besieged civilians.

    January 15, 2014

  • FSA make genocide on palestinians

    Palestinian Labor Minister Ahmad Majdalani said that the act of preventing relief from reaching Yarmouk Camp in Damascus by armed groups constitutes a war crime and use of Palestinians as hostages and human shields. In a press conference on Tuesday, Majdalani said that those who opened fire on the humanitarian aid convoy which attempted to enter Yarmouk Camp on Monday were located in an area controlled by terrorist groups from the so-called Jabhat al-Nusra, Suqour al-Golan and Ahrar al-Cham. Majdalani's statement refers to the aid convoy organized by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) which terrorists opened fire on, preventing it from reaching Yarmouk Camp. He pointed out that preparations were made in recent days to deliver 1600 parcels of relief to the Camp in coordination with the Syrian authorities, but the convoy delivering them was fired upon a hundred meters before arriving at its destination. Majdalani said that alternatives are being pursued to deal with the situation in the Camp, with arrangements being made with the Social Affairs Ministry to deliver relief to it and evacuate those who want to leave it. He asserted that Palestinians are not a part of the crisis in Syria, and their involvement in it serves no purpose, noting that armed groups have targeted all Palestinian camps in Syria, killing many of their occupants and creating a major humanitarian crisis that burdened the Syrian government, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian state in general. "The hijacking of Yarmouk Camp in Damascus by armed groups that have practices and still practiced methodical terrorist constitutes a war crime against humanity," Majdalani said. He said that Palestine's position was to remain positively neutral in the crisis in Syria and not involve the Palestinian camps and Palestinians in it, saying that attempts to drag the Camps into the crisis seeks to detail Palestinians from the

    January 15, 2014

  • adam.larson.106

    Thanks for bringing these facts to the table here.

    January 16, 2014

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Finally, the proof that the genocide of Palestinian refugees is not something that only the Christian militias, the Hezbollah gangsters and the Zionists perpetrate. Everyone does it, it seems, Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Jews. But to argue like the idiot Zionists ISAHIAH62 and POINTINGATYOU that the Palestinians did not originate in Palestine and were not kicked out by Jewish people born everywhere except in Palestine is plain stupid and wishful thinking. You can convince a few idiots in Texas and Florida of these hallucinating lies, but we people who live in the area know the facts and the truth.

    January 17, 2014

  • FSA make genocide on palestinians

    FSA block aid to civilians. That is their tactic and then blamed Assad. That they were doing in berzah, Muadine in Damaskus. Now these cities are liberated by Army and people have a food and other things.

    January 15, 2014

  • adam.larson.106

    That's just one clue, how they complicate and chase away needed aid. It's also how they share what is there - and there must be some or everyone would be losing weight. Normally, people spread the shortage out somewhat, an give babies preference. That's not happening here. Every day, another 1 or 2 bodies rebels never could get a sandwich to, but could get in front of a camera to, as you note, blame Assad. Even though that doesn't pan out if you pause to think (luckily many don't).

    January 16, 2014

  • FSA make genocide on palestinians

    Nice pro terrorist propaganda article. True is other. FSA terrorists that occupieng part of camp BLOC ALL SUPPLY TO THIS CAMP. FSA Firing on RED CROSS and doing from paltestians human shield. Then show foto of death polle to spread propaganda like doing Nazi. Syrian army try delivered aid many times, byt were stopped by FSA hordes in camp.FSA doing genocide on Palestinians, that confomred Palestinians minister. I cal to FSA bucthers to imidiately go away from camp and free all hostiges.

    January 15, 2014

  • daniel.hutnicki

    The reality is that for most of the Arab and Western World, the murder and starvation of thousands of Arabs by other Arab forces is a mostly a yawn. The death of 50 Arabs by Israelis is a massacre. I dont say this to justify the death of those 50, but the brutality visited about Arabs by others Arabs is basically ignored by other Arab nations, the UN, the Arab League and the Human Rights Watch. In contrast, you get a UN security counsel meeting everything time Israel builds condos in E. Jerusalem. I am not asking you to forgive the condos, but when you compare the two reactions, its insane

    January 14, 2014

  • AboudDandachi

    Well said, very well put. Syria has proven to be the great moral test of our time, and the people at Al-Akhbar have time and again shown their moral failings in this regard. It is quite telling that Asad Abu Khalil aka Angry Arab, who time and again has to remind us how much he "loves" Palestinians, continues to write for Al-Akhbar despite its editor in chief's inhumane attack on the Palestinians in the Yarmouk camp, proving one more weary time that there are some in this world who are motivated not by any affection for the Palestinians and their cause, but by hatred for Israelis.

    January 14, 2014