Palestinians Must Not Be Used As Cannon Fodder By Assad Regime
19 April 2015
By Khalid Amayreh in occupied Palestine
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 displacement."
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
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 internecine war.
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
A few weeks ago, Palestinian activists in Syria revealed that five new bodies
of Palestinian refugees tortured to death in Syria were identified.
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 trapped.
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
"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 Palestinian
"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
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.
Khalid Amayreh is a veteran Palestinian journalist and current affairs
commentator living in occupied Jerusalem.