Palestinian men sit amid the bombed-out rubble in Yarmouk refugee camp, Syria. (UNRWA) (UNRWA)
Yarmouk refugee camp, Syria

The European court decision, obliging retailers to identify products made in Judea and Samaria with special labels, does not help the Palestinians in Syria in any way. 

By Bassam Tawil, The Gatestone Institute

As all eyes are turned on the latest tensions in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinian terror groups have been firing rockets at Israel in retaliation for the Israeli killing of Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata, the number of Palestinians killed in Syria since the civil war began there in 2011 has risen to 4,006.

The plight of the Palestinians in Syria, however, is of no concern to Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, who continue to be obsessed with destroying Israel. The international community, including the United Nations and human rights organizations, are also clearly not interested in the suffering of Palestinians in Syria — or in any other Arab country.

The 4,006 Palestinians killed in Syria were not targeted by Israel; evidently that is reason enough for the international community and the UN to look the other way.

The Europeans evidently think they have all the time in the world to worry about foodstuffs originating from Israeli suburbs, but no time at all even to express concern about the brutal deaths of more than 500 Palestinians a year in Syria over the past seven years.

This week, instead of taking notice of the rising death toll of Palestinians in Syria, the European Court of Justice ruled that member states must oblige retailers to identify products made in Israeli settlements with special labels.

The European court decision does not help the Palestinians in Syria in any way. These Palestinians do not give a damn whether or not the Europeans label settlement products. What they do give a damn about is staying alive — a goal which they would appreciate the people of Europe would further by helping them to stay employed, rather than focusing on debates about packaging.

What, for example, does the European court’s decision do to highlight the case of three Palestinians who were tortured to death in October while being held in detention in a Syrian government prison? The three, identified as Said Mustafa Amarin, Ziad Lutfi Amarin and Fadi Fuad Al-Sotari, were arrested by the Syrian authorities several years ago. Their deaths bring to 611 the number of Palestinians killed as a result of torture in Syrian prisons in the past eight years, according to a recent report.

According to the Action Group For Palestinians of Syria (AGPS), another eight Palestinians were killed in Syria in various outbreaks of violence in October.

These victims likely knew nothing of the European court’s move to label settlement products — but they might still be alive if Europeans had turned some of their attention to the atrocities perpetrated the Syrian regime against Palestinians instead trying to block products just because they were made by Jews living peacefully in their communities in Judea and Samaria. The Europeans, however, have proven that the only Palestinians they care about are those who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and whose “suffering” might somehow be blamed on Israel.

European ‘Moralizing’

The European court would have done Palestinians a greater service had it ruled that the Syrian authorities must reveal the whereabouts of 329 Palestinians who have gone missing in Syria in recent years. The court would also have done a greater service to the Palestinians had it ruled that the Syrian authorities must release 1,768 Palestinians languishing for years in Syrian prisons.

The Palestinians held in Syrian prisons are probably not overly concerned about whether or not a bottle of wine made by Jews is labeled by the Europeans. The Europeans, however, who never stop moralizing to the rest of the world, take a different view: they seem to perceive settlement products as more dangerous than the repressive and brutal measures taken by the Syrian authorities against Palestinians.

Palestinian leaders, too, appear deadly oblivious to the suffering of their people in Syria. As the death toll crossed 4,000, Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaders were still squabbling over whether they should hold new and long-overdue presidential and parliamentary elections. The two parties have been fighting for more than 10 years, and the only thing they seem to agree on is repressing their local Arab opponents.

Details like 4,000 Palestinians who died at the hands of the Syrian butchers are, it appears, too minor to warrant the attention of the Palestinian leaders. Hamas, together with its allies in Islamic Jihad, seems determined to continue the fight against Israel, no matter what price the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have to pay. The Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, are meanwhile too busy hunting down critics on Facebook to pay any heed to the Palestinians in Syria.

In two months’ time, Abbas will turn 85. The PA president seems determined to stay in power until his last breath. This past week, his Fatah officials have publicly stated that Abbas will be their only candidate in any presidential elections, if and when they ever take place. Such an announcement could not have been made without Abbas’s approval. Abbas, in other words, is too busy holding onto power to notice that his people, particularly those living in Syria and the Gaza Strip, are busy spending their days staring down the barrels of machine guns aimed at them by fellow Arabs.

‘Clearly Anti-Semitic’ Preoccupation with Israeli ‘Settlements’

The clearly anti-Semitic European preoccupation with combating settlement products — after all, they do not label products from China although it occupies Tibet — rather than saving the lives of Palestinians must elate Abbas and Hamas. For the PA president and Hamas, how come it is not at the very least embarrassing when Arabs kill Palestinians? Much better, from their point of view, for the international community to spend its time disgorging hate against Israel and Jews; after all, at least that serves the Palestinians in their real project of delegitimizing, and destroying, the region’s only free and democratic state.

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.

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