[Editor's Note: There are many in Israel who are genuinely concerned for and who labor towards the humanitarian resolution of the Palestinian Arab "refugee" (for 60 years?) issue. Among the shining lights of reason and hope, we at UCI recommend the work of Rabbi Benny Elon and the Israeli Initiative.]
Illuminating the Situation of Palestinians in Syria
A New York Times Op-Ed by Rod Nordland and Dalal Mawad on July 1, 2012 describes aspects of the Palestinian situation rarely discussed in The Times's usual coverage of the Palestinians.
The article describes a recent spate of assassinations of Palestinian officials in Syria. One victim was a Hamas official. Another was an officer in the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA).
While Hamas immediately blamed Israel for the assassination of the Hamas official, the article suggests that it was most likely carried out by the Syrian regime itself to send a message to Hamas. The authors point out that the Syrian regime has served as Hamas's benefactor and host of its senior leadership for many years. But recently due to the regime's violent suppression of domestic, mostly Sunni, opposition, Hamas has balked at offering support to the Syrian regime and chosen to relocate outside of Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot, has long been suppressed in Syria, at times brutally, yet only recently has Hamas found it necessary to cut its ties with the Syrian regime.
The assassination of the PLA Colonel is also illuminating. The PLA, according to the authors, is “nominally a branch of the PLO,” yet it is “incorporated into the Syrian military.” Most interesting though is how the authors characterize the situation of the Palestinians in Syria, who are generally described as refugees. The authors write:
Syria prides itself on being one of the few Arab countries to offer Palestinians full civil rights. They can own property and hold government jobs, for instance…
One middle-aged Palestinian, concerned with what regime change will bring, states,”It is hard for us to forget that Syria deals with us as ordinary citizens…”
The article then contrasts this cautious view of the future with those expressed by younger Palestinians.
Many other Palestinians in Syria, especially younger ones, diagree. With so many civil rights, they were raised essentially as Syrians, and they find it hard not to be swept up in the fervor on the streets.
The picture presented by the authors is one of the Palestinians participating in Syrian life in a relatively normal manner, though with some concerns. This is a more nuanced picture than the conventional depictions of Palestinian refugees as living in squalor, isolated from the population at large and with fewer occupational opportunities.