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Monday, August 22, 2011

How come the world doesn't react to Syria's treatment of Palestinians the way it reacts to Israel?

The hypocrisy of the international world is so clear when you compare the reaction to how Bashar Assad has treated Palestinians and their reaction to whatever they imagine that Israel has done.
n the latest example, Bashar Assad's regime last week launched an assault on a Palestinian neighborhood in the Syrian port city of Latakia, and some 10,000 residents have fled, died, or gone missing. Will the United Nations now ask Judge Richard Goldstone to investigate?

The assault on Latakia, complete with naval shelling, is part of the regime's broader effort to suppress five months of peaceful demonstrations against Mr. Assad's misrule. Though Syria's nearly 500,000 Palestinians are not citizens—they have been frozen into refugee status for 63 years to be used as pawns against Israel—they have suffered their share of the regime's indignities and have been active in the protests. Now they're in the regime's gun sights.
With all the outrage over anything that Israel does to protect itself from outright terror attacks, we don't see one-hundredth of the outrage over how Arab countries themselves have treated Palestinian refugees that they've kept in camps or denied citizenship since 1948. Remember, the Arabs who stayed in Israel in 1948 are voting citizens. The ones in Arab countries are still being treated as refugees all these decades later.

So what reaction have we seen to Assad's brutality towards Syrian Palestinians?
All this has met with a certain amount of international protest. A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the regime's assaults "unacceptable." Turkey has wagged a stern finger at Mr. Assad, though it has yet to follow the lead of Saudi Arabia by withdrawing its ambassador from Damascus. President Obama finally came around to doing the right thing yesterday by calling for regime change in Damascus, only days after Hillary Clinton said that doing just that was "not going to be any news." Mr. Obama deserves praise for superceding his Secretary of State, who seems to rate the influence and moral weight of the U.S. on a par with that of Vanuatu.

Meanwhile, Russia plans to go forward with arms sales to the regime, reminding everyone what the Administration achieved with its Moscow "reset." Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group long-headquartered in Damascus, recently broke up a small anti-Assad demonstration in the Gaza Strip. We also haven't heard much by way of support for Latakia's Palestinians from the usual suspects in the pro-Palestinian movement.

Compare this international reaction to what has happened in Latakia to the outrage after last year's Turkish flotilla incident involving Israel. No wonder Mr. Assad has spent the past months thinking he can get away with anything.
Compare how Obama's administration has dawdled over finally working itself up to say that Assad should go to how they jumped all over Mubarak. Or how Obama evaded congressional approval to try to evict Qadaffi. Or to the rudeness and many public criticisms of Israel's Netanyahu. Is there any sort of rhyme or reason to Obama's Mideast policy? Mario Loyola is similarly perplexed.
I can’t wait to read Obama’s White House memoirs. The main reason is that I think I might find in those memoirs some explanation of the reasoning behind his foreign policy. For example, there must be some logical reason why he pushed Hosni Mubarak out of power in Egypt after a few days of mostly nonviolent protests in Cairo, but it took eight months of killing on a massive scale in Syria before he was willing to offend Bashar Assad by calling for him to step down. When a policy seems utterly senseless, it’s usually not because it’s utterly senseless. But every explanation I can think of seems highly implausible.
He runs through several possible explanations, but remains dumbfounded. One story out there is that Obama overruled his advisers in calling for Mubarak to step down because he felt so strongly that Mubarak was a corrupt autocrat who had to go. How has that worked out for everyone?
Well, Mubarak fell, and in the weeks and months that followed, it became apparent that the mob in Cairo was no more sympathetic to Obama than it had been before. Now, with the Rafah crossing permanently open, weapons flooding into Hamas arsenals in Gaza, Fatah caving in and forming a unity government with Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood about to take over Egypt, and essential elements of the Camp David accords teetering on the brink of revision, the Israelis probably weren’t the only ones showing up at the White House to explain to the president that he really had screwed everything up. Perhaps the president learned not to overrule his advisers on a subject on which he’s essentially a complete amateur.

There’s one major reason to doubt this explanation, namely that the president is one of the smartest people in the world, and whenever something goes wrong, it’s generally not because he made a mistake, but because he didn’t explain himself well enough, and that’s obviously his listeners’ fault, because he’s the greatest orator since Lincoln, so he’s obviously able to explain himself, but you have to smart enough to follow him, you see.

Any other theories out there?
The only link I can see in Obama's actions is that the less the chance that there would be any backlash or consequences for taking action, the more likely Obama is to try to throw his weight around. The more disdainful of world opinion a country is, the more likely Obama is to try to "engage" with the regime and see hints that they are "reformers." We know that he'd never treat Assad the way his administration jumped all over Netanyahu for a few apartment buildings on Israel's own soil. Even if he's assaulting his own citizens as well as thousands of Palestinians within his country. And all those people who were willing to board flotillas to thumb their noses at Israel are sitting at home now while Assad continues his brutality. I wonder if British universities are going to ban any Syrian scholars (if there are such) from giving talks or doing research as they were so quick to ban or condemn Israeli scholars. It's so much easier and morally self-satisfying to condemn the Jews than a brutal Syrian dictator.

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