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Palestinians must not be used as cannon fodder by
By Khalid Amayreh
in occupied Palestine
April 13, 2015
The PLO leadership has rejected, and rightly so, the idea of
joining the forces of Syrian dictator Bashar el-Assad in a joint operation
to expel Islamic State (IS) fighters from the already bombed-out Yarmouk
refugee camp near Damascus.
"We refused to drag our people and
their camps into the hellish conflict which is happening in Syria and we
categorically refuse to become one of the parties involved in the armed
conflict that is taking place at Yarmouk," a statement issued by the PLO
in Ramallah said.
"We refuse to be drawn into military actions,
whatever or wherever they are, and we call for other means to ensure the
safety of lives at Yarmouk and to prevent more destruction and forced
The latest decision ostensibly came after the PLO
received warnings from various quarters in the region that fighting along
the forces of Assad would lead to "dire consequences" for Palestinian
refugees in Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.
As many as 300,000
people have been killed in the ongoing sectarian war in Syria where Assad
has been trying to maintain his Alawite sect's grip in power in the face
of severe opposition from the vast majority of Syrians. Moreover, as many
as 13 million Syrians, roughly a half of Syria's population, have been
forced to leave their homes.
Palestinian groups, including Hamas
and Fatah, stressed repeatedly that they wouldn't take sides in the
However, this didn't prevent the Assad regime's
forces, including the notoriously barbaric paramilitary Shabbiha thugs,
from targeting Palestinians. Reports issued by human rights organizations
and third-party monitors speak of hundreds of Palestinian refugees killed
or tortured to death at the hands of Syrian government forces and
sectarian thugs fighting alongside the regime.
Some of the victims
were reportedly killed on suspicion of sympathizing with the opposition
while others were killed or tortured to death only for being "Sunnis."
A few weeks ago, Palestinian activists in Syria revealed that five
new bodies of Palestinian refugees tortured to death in Syria were
This brought the total number of Palestinians tortured
to death in Assad's detention camps, dungeons and other torture chambers
to more than 330.
But the real number is likely to be much higher.
Mistrust of Assad
It is not certain what prompted the PLO to
backtrack on an earlier decision to join Assad's forces in a coordinated
military operation against IS, which controls the bulk of the camp.
On Thursday, Ahmed Majdalani, a senior PLO official visiting Damascus, was
quoted as saying that 14 Palestinian factions backed the idea of a joint
military operation with the Assad's army to expel the IS fighters from
the camp where more than 15,000 people, mostly Palestinian refugees, are
Abu Yousuf, a PLO official who would only give his nom de
guerre and who was only speaking at the personal level, said the
Palestinians couldn't trust Assad, “given our unpleasant experience with
this man and his criminal regime."
"First of all, Assad cannot be
trusted. In the final analysis, a dictator that murders his own people
without any feeling of guilt wouldn't spare the lives of Palestinians.
"Second, Assad wants to get the Palestinians involved in his war
against his own people in order to gain lost legitimacy, needless to say."
Abu Yousef said Palestinian involvement in the Syrian quagmire would
trigger unnecessary hostility between our people and wide sectors of the
"If we allowed ourselves to be implicated in
shedding Syrian blood, either directly or indirectly, we would effectively
create many enemies in Syria and Palestinians and their just cause would
pay a dear price for such a stupid move. Generations of Syrians would
start to view us with sullen hostility. This is a trap that we must never
allow our people to fall in.”
Apart from the
expected rift with Syrians, Palestinian involvement on the side of Assad's
forces would also alienate tens of millions of Arabs and Muslims, who
would view us as virtual mercenaries fighting for an oppressive tyrant and
an unjust cause.
Also, important countries such as Turkey and
Saudi Arabia would detest a Palestinian move of this sort, which would
tremendously undermine our national cause.
Eventually, this would
inflict an incalculable harm to our just struggle, and make us regret such
a folly for many years to come.
Indeed, Palestinians would look
quite hypocritical and morally duplicitous if and when they are seen
fighting on the side of criminal oppression in Syria while passionately
asking the peoples of the world to identify with their own struggle
against Israeli occupation and apartheid.
is a veteran Palestinian journalist and current affairs commentator living
in occupied Jerusalem.
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