Source: The Oregonian – by Bob Horenstein (Where was the Portland protest when Syria was slaughtering Palestinians?)
The scenes from the Palestinian refugee camp are horrific. The military is carrying out a cruel siege against the camp’s residents, who are literally starving to death due to the lack of humanitarian aid that is allowed into the camp. Close to 150,000 Palestinians had once lived there, but fewer than 20,000 still remain. Most have fled from the ongoing air and artillery strikes. At least 1,800 have been killed to date.
The above account is from March of this year, and it took place not in Gaza, but in Syria. Yet, even after months of brutal attacks on these defenseless civilians by the regime of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, the world was virtually silent. No pro-Palestinian rallies were held in in Paris, London or New York?no outcry was heard in Portland. Curiously, the hundreds who came to Pioneer Square on July 24 to protest against the current Israeli military operation against the terrorist group Hamas were nowhere to be found back in spring, when news of the murder and starvation in the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, Syria, came to light.
But it’s hardly surprising. Never mind that during the past three years of civil war in Syria, tens of thousands of non-combatants, including over 11,000 children, have been slaughtered, mostly by their own government. Since those atrocities were not perpetrated by Israel, however, they’re of no interest to many of those who are now marching in the name of Palestinian human rights and accusing Israel (falsely) of war crimes in Gaza.
The comparison between what happened in Yarmouk and what’s occurring in Gaza is thus useful to expose the blatant hypocrisy of those whose real aim in singling out Israel for condemnation is to delegitimize the Jewish state. It’s also useful in demonstrating the stark contrast between the two situations: Whereas the Syrian military has maliciously targeted Palestinian and other civilians believed to be opponents of the government, Israel strenuously seeks to avoid civilian casualties in its difficult fight against a fascist, hate-mongering terrorist group.
Tragically, sometimes painful mistakes are made in such a complex, asymmetrical combat environment (though it should be pointed out that 10 percent of Hamas rockets fall short of the Israeli border and actually hit inside Gaza). Still, those who are understandably concerned about the mounting Palestinian civilian death toll ? and hopefully also the loss of life on the Israeli side ? should be asking themselves the obvious: Why is Hamas hiding rockets in U.N.-run schools as acknowledged and denounced by the U.N. itself? Why has Hamas converted Gaza’s central hospital into a de facto headquarters? And why is Hamas encouraging or even forcing civilians to remain in areas the Israelis have warned should be evacuated in order to minimize casualties?
A reasonable observer might conclude from this that Hamas, whose goal is the destruction of Israel and its replacement with an oppressive Islamic theocracy, cynically exploits the ethical standards to which the Israeli military adheres. Hamas, like the ruthless Assad regime in Syria, cares not how much blood ? including Arab blood ? is spilled to achieve its aims. If there is ever to be peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the total defeat of Hamas and the dismantling of its terrorist infrastructure is an absolute prerequisite.
Bob Horenstein is community relations director for the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland.