Cutting to the chase: Ramzy Baroud
Yarmouk was not established until 1957, and even then it was not an ‘official’ refugee camp. Many of its inhabitants were squatters in Sahl al-Yarmouk and other areas, before they were brought to Shaghour al-Basatin, near Ghouta. The area was renamed Yarmouk.
Many of Yarmouk’s refugees originate from northern Palestine, the Safad District, and villages like Qaytiyya, al-Ja’ouneh and Khisas. They subsisted in that region for nearly 67 years. Unable to return to Palestine, yet hoping to do so, they named the streets of their camp, its neighborhoods, even its bakeries, pharmacies and schools, after villages from which they were once driven.
But calls for ‘hiyad’ -- neutrality -- were not heeded by the war’s multiple parties, and the Palestinian leadership, incompetent and clustered in Ramallah, failed to assess the seriousness of the situation, or provide any guidance -- moral or political.
The results were horrific. Over 3,000 Palestinians were killed, tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees fled Syria, thousands more became internally displaced and the hopeless journey away from the homeland continued on its horrific course.
Yarmouk -- a refugee camp of over 200,000 inhabitants, most of whom are registered refugees with the UN agency, UNRWA -- was reduced to less than 20,000.
Much of the camp stood in total ruins. Hundreds of its residents either starved to death or were killed in the war. The rest fled to other parts of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Europe.
The most natural order of things would have been the return of the refugees to Safad and villages like Qaytiyya. Yet, few made such calls, and those demands raised by Palestinians officials were dismissed by Israel as non-starters.
In fact while countries like Lebanon had accepted 1.72 million refugees (one in every five people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee), Turkey 1.93 million, Jordan 629,000, Iraq 249,000, and Egypt 132,000, Israel made no offer to accept a single refugee. Israel, whose economy is the strongest in the region, has been the most tight-fisted in terms of offering shelter to Syrian refugees.
This is a double sin considering that even Syria’s Palestinian refugees, who were expelled from their own homes in Palestine, were also left homeless. Not surprisingly, there was no international uproar against a financially able Israel for blatantly shutting its door in the face of desperate refugees, while bankrupt Greece was rightly chastised for not doing enough to host hundreds of thousands of refugees.Now let's consider how the war mongering/agenda pushing media has been blaming Syria's Arab neighbours for not taking refugees. While staying silent on the Palestinian refugees who have a right to return to the land Israel stole from them! The media is silent on Israel's failure regarding the Palestinians. The media is silent on Israel's failure to assist any refugees. The media likes to point fingers everywhere else, at everyone else, but not Israel!
According to UN statistics, by the end of August of this year, nearly 239,000 refugees, mostly Syrians, landed on Greek islands seeking passage to mainland Europe. Greece is not alone. Between January and August this year 114,000 landed in Italy (coming mostly from Libya), seeking safety. Around the same time last year, almost as many refugees were recorded seeking access to Europe. Europe is both morally and politically accountable for hosting and caring for these refugees, considering its culpability in past Middle East wars and ongoing conflicts.
Some are doing exactly that, including Germany, Sweden and others, while countries, like Britain, have been utterly oblivious and downright callous towards refugees. Still, thousands of ordinary European citizens, as would any human being with an ounce of empathy, are volunteering to help refugees in both Eastern and Western Europe.
The same cannot be told of Israel, which has alone ignited most of the Middle East conflicts in recent decades.
Greece, Hungry, Serbia, Macedonia, the UK, Italy and other European countries, along with rich Arab Gulf countries must be relentlessly pressured to help Syrian refugees until they safely return home. Why then should Israel be spared this necessary course of action? Moreover, it must, even more forcefully be pressured to play a part in relieving the refugee crisis, starting with the refugees of Qaytiyya, who relive the fate they suffered 67 years ago.Flashback to this post- Where I talked about double standards and Israel.