Over the last several decades, Palestine has been in the world’s spotlight with Arab states paying especially close attention. Even while under oppressive Arab regimes, Arab people have remained faithful to Palestine. This loyalty has shown itself as the Arab people have begun to take to the streets, in order to demand their rights. The Palestinian flag and the call for Palestinian freedom were featured in the demonstrations in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria. But, in light of this support, what have Palestinian citizens and more specifically the Palestinian government given in return, especially in the case of the ongoing struggle in Syria?
The Palestinian government has not officially expressed its stance on the situation in Syria. Even when the Arab League met to make decisions on the Syrian situation, Palestine did not contribute. The official position of Palestine as a nation, both in the West Bank and Gaza, simply does not exist. Leaders in the West Bank (led by Fatah) sustain a good relationship with Arab regimes and therefore prioritize those ties over the opinions of the Palestinian people, while the leadership in Gaza (led by Hamas) fears losing the bold support of the Syrian government for Hamas, and so has continued its loyalty through silence.
Despite the concerns and interests of the political parties here, the support of the Palestinian people generally lies with the anti-government movement in Syria, as we cannot help but empathize with the people of Syria given our own struggle. However, when it comes to vocalizing this support, we hear very little.
During the Second Intifada, a Palestinian resistance movement, and the years directly following (2000-2010), 6,422 people were killed by the Israeli military, including women, children, medical personnel, journalists, and internationals. The number of Palestinians injured during this period totals 17,783. In addition to injuries and fatalities, arrests were also frequent with over 50,000 Palestinians having been arrested since the beginning of the Second Intifada. During this time, as Palestinians, we were astounded at the lack of response from the global community in the face of such violence.
Beginning in March 2011, Syrian people began to resist an unjust government by taking to the streets and demanding freedom and the resignation of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian regime, like the Israeli military during the Second Intifada, has responded violently against demonstrators and besieged cities such as, Dira’a, Hama, and Homs. It is difficult to receive accurate information from Syria due to the escalating levels of violence, yet the numbers of casualties that have been confirmed are shocking, with UN official Lynn Pascoe reporting that casualties are “certainly well over 7,500″ with the death toll exceeding 100 a day as of February 28, 2012. Many websites have reported sources on the ground in Syria claiming that in fact more than 9,000 people are dead with 35,000 people reportedly having been injured.
At the beginning of the Second Intifada, there were six or seven people killed on average every day; we complained of the world’s silence and this is only a small fraction of the approximately 100 people killed daily in Syria. And yet the suffering of the people at the hands of a military assault against entire cities is the same in both cases. While the occupation of Palestine is ugly, the tyranny of the Syrian regime is no less ugly.
Even with these striking similarities between the two events, the Palestinian governments do not have a clear position on Syria. As it is not a recognized state, the Palestinian government cannot give much aid to the Syrian people but the one thing that it can and should give is our support. While it can be difficult for Palestinians to look beyond the occupation, as it is more personal than outside issues, in order to be heard you must also listen. How can the people of Palestine and the Palestinian government expect others to stand up with us, if we are unwilling to do the same?
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