SHAFAQNA – The news and social media is suddenly filled with people who want to highlight the plight of the Palestinians in Yarmouk.
Many of these ‘concerned’ writers however, are drawing parallels between what is happening in Yarmouk now and last summer’s bombings in Gaza. According to some mainstream media, the pro-Palestine community is shamefully silent ‘when Israel is not to blame’.
Israel Is NOT Blameless
To make statements like, ‘when Israel is not to blame’, is an extreme distortion of the facts and denial of Israeli wrong doing, both historically and at present time.
Not only is Israel not blameless here, it is the mother of this catastrophe. Had it not being for Israel’s actions during its creation in 1948, which led to the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes, there would be no Yarmouk today. Had Israel not refused Palestinians their right of return, defying UN and international laws, there would be no refugees remaining trapped in Yarmouk today. Far from granting Palestinians their right of return, Israel is currently working on ethnically cleansing the remaining population in its efforts to expand its Jewish state to all areas presently inhabited by Palestinians.
Yarmouk is a creation of Israel. The reality of displacement is at the centre of the Palestinian refugees experiences. Millions of Palestinians are scattered all over the world, homeless, stateless, and at the mercy of all kinds of predators due to Israel’s actions. The current tragedy in Yarmouk camp today, the massacres in Sabra and Shatila camps (directly facilitated by Israel) in 1982, only occurred as a consequence of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people.
The Story of Yarmouk
Yarmouk camp was founded in 1957 by the Syrian authorities, who decided to allocate a land in south of Damascus for Palestinian refugees, most of whom were expelled from their homes during the creation of Israel in 1948.
Refugees in Syria enjoyed a relatively privileged life compared to Palestinian refugees in other Arab countries, and certainly a better life than those Palestinians remaining in occupied Palestine. Whether a registered refugee or not, by law, they were offered the same benefits and rights as Syrian nationals, except citizenship and the right to vote. They were given full access to Syrian schools and universities, with no restrictions on employment, trade, and travel. The degree of integration, through employment, education and marriage was the highest in the Arab world.
These conditions played an important role in shaping Yarmouk into the ‘de facto capital of the Palestinian refugees’ which it came to be known. Before the 2011 Syrian civil uprising, Yarmouk was home to approximately 160,000 Palestinian refugees, and Syrians. It had a thriving community, and was a centre of commerce, with well established infrastructure. Literacy and numeracy rates were among the highest across the Arab world.
Is Yarmouk Gaza?
Unlike Gaza, where one of the most powerful armies in the world was deliberately targeting a civilian population, in Yarmouk the unfortunate Palestinian population there has found itself in the middle of chaotic proxy wars aided by imperialist interventions. In these proxy wars, there are no Syrian civilians watching the show from hilltops, drinking beers, while their army deliberately targets Palestinians only. In Syria, everyone is displaced, and everyone is a target, Palestinian or Syrian.
Like the rest of Syria, Yarmouk lost most of its residence. Of the 160,000 residents, 18,000 currently remain trapped in the besieged camp. The latest UN figures show almost 4 million registered Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.
The camp, which is just 5 miles from the centre of Damascus, has been under government siege for more than a year now. Trapped residents have witnessed infighting between the various factions and rebel groups currently fighting for control.
By Koos Mohammed
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Shafaqna’s editorial policy