Wednesday, July 24, 2013

24-Jul-13: Reports of chemical weapon attack on Syrian Palestinian Arabs have ignited their supporters. Not.

From the BBC World Service website
We don't know any more about what is really going on inside Syria than most people do.

There's no shortage of reports, of course, but there is a great shortage of reliable objective eye-witness reporting and reporters there. In fact, there always has been, since Syria has long been one of the most oppressive regimes in the world in general, and in its treatment of news reporters in particular. 

In declaring that the imprisonment of journalists worldwide reached a record high in 2012, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranked Syria in the top 3 worst offenders, along with Turkey and Eritrea. Syria is 173rd out of 178 countries in the world press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders in October 2010. It is also on the organization’s list of Internet Enemies. The Syrian tyrant Assad is regarded as one of the world’s 38 “Predators of Press Freedom”.

Still, there's something illuminating about the way one of the most recent, and certainly one of the most disturbing, reports to have emerged from the Arab-on-Arab Syrian carnage is being ignored.

Let's start with the places where the reports have not been ignored. Source #1, published two days ago, says:
Assad used chemical weapons against Palestinian refugee camp, opposition claims | The Syrian National Coalition has accused the Bashar Assad regime of using chemical weapons against civilians in Yarkmouk, the Palestinian refugee camp located south of Damascus. In a statement published on the Syrian opposition umbrella group's Facebook page Monday, it called on the international community to intervene and protect the civilians from the regime, which "does not hesitate to use all forms of weapons, including chemical." According to the coalition, testimonies collected clearly prove that poisonous gas and chemical rockets were used by the Syrian Army against civilians. They did not report the number of casualties and no video footage was published that corroborates the use of chemical weapons. Yarmouk is one of the largest suburbs of Damascus, where tens of thousands of Syrians and Palestinians live side by side.
Source #2, also from Monday, reports
Syria accused of gassing Palestinian refugee camp | A camp for Palestinian refugees in Syria has been bombed by chemical weapons, a Syrian opposition group based in Turkey said. The National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces said Sunday that the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus had been gassed by regime forces amid heavy fighting. According to Israel Radio, at least 22 people were killed in the Sunday attack, the majority from inhalation of toxic gases, according to Palestinian sources cited in the report. “[Bashar] Assad’s forces are using chemical and toxic gas bombs to shell the Yarmouk Palestinian Camp,” the opposition group said on its Facebook page. “The strategic, systematic use of chemical weapons in order to achieve military gains only proves the desperate state that Assad’s regime has reached.” The umbrella opposition group condemned the attack and said it had video proof of the incident... Yarmouk, established in the 1950s in what was then the outskirts of Damascus, is today home to over 100,000 UNRWA registered Palestinian refugees. [Source #2]
At Source #3, which describes itself as "a Syrian news agency with a focus on local news", they said this on Monday:
Regime forces use toxic material against Al-Yarmouk camp for the first time | Al-Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, south of the city of Damascus, was subject to shelling with toxic material yesterday, which caused the death of 15 people. Seven others died as a result of the artillery and missile bombardment. Palestine Hospital, located in the camp, registered several cases showing symptoms of suffocation and poisoning, due the shelling that’s being described as “the first of its type in the region”.
On the face of it, the sort of news item that ought to cause people to explode with rage and demand an emergency session of the UN Security Council or at least of its General Assembly. Then again, only ten emergency sessions of the General Assembly have ever been convened [Source #4], and the tenth (remember, an 'emergency' session) is still in session since being first convened in 1997 and then adjourned fifteen times. That one, and four others out of the ten, were exclusively devoted to criticism of Israel; starting a session now to condemn the Syrian barbarism would require the 1997 session to end. There's evidently no desire on the part of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and its 57 member states to do that.

So are the reports about Syria gassing Palestinian children reliable? Is it actual news? That's always going to be hard to know with certainty, given the news fog that has enveloped Syria for decades. But there is some background. Last month, France accused the Assad regime of using sarin gas against opposition forces. So did the U.S. And the UK "believes forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have used chemical weapons - something he denies", according to the BBC just a week ago.

And as one source explained
Damascus said it would agree to an international inspection committee on the issue, however, a UN mission has been waiting for three months for approval from Syrian authorities to enter.
Then again, this story's tragic seriousness seems to demand some exposure. So what sort of exposure has it gotten, particularly from those quarters where Palestinian Arab perpetual victimhood is at the heart of their outlook? From checking, the answer seems to be: almost none. We're not the first to observe that the voices calling for boycotts, sanctions, divestment, embargoes and vociferous protest in the name of the Palestinian Arabs' quest for whatever it is they are questing fall stunningly silent when Israel is not the party doing the doing. Though we're not the first to say it, those voices (long list here but why give them the traffic?) are supremely hypocritical.

As for the global news agencies and their shyness to cover the gassing reports, it's something to be borne in mind the next time they publish items of "fauxtography" and other unsupported (and eventually disproven) allegations against Israel.

(By the way, to stay in touch with the latest cases of injured Syrians fleeing to Israel for medical care, click here.)

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