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Syria’s Betrayal by Palestinian Jihadists

January 19, 2014

Finian Cunningham  Press TV

For many Palestinians today the conflict in Syria is a source of deep shame. This is because large numbers of young Palestinian men have joined the ranks of the foreign-backed extremists trying to destabilize the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad.

The covert war of regime change in Syria, sponsored by the US and other NATO powers along with Saudi Arabia and Israel, has caused as many as 130,000 deaths and over nine million displaced persons (40 percent of the Syrian population).

Since the conflict began in mid-March 2011, largely fomented by these foreign forces, the estimated damage to Syria’s social infrastructure is put at a colossal 100 billion US$.

To put that last figure into perspective, this week’s UN appeal for humanitarian aid to Syria — the biggest ever such appeal — managed to raise a comparatively paltry 2.4 billion US$.

In one word, Syria has been devastated. And for Palestinians this is a cause of acute anguish.

Like from many Arab and non-Arab countries, including the US, Canada, Britain, France, and Germany, mercenaries from the Palestinian territories have flocked to Syria to join the fighting, improperly and misleadingly named “jihad,” which Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf monarchies are bankrolling.

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It is estimated, according to the Financial Times and other sources, that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have funneled more than 9 billion US$ into Syria over the past three years to pay wages and supply weapons to the extremist brigades, such as ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic Front.

Ironically, answering the UN humanitarian appeal for Syria, held in Kuwait earlier this week, both Saudi Arabia and Qatar pledged a combined total of 120 million US$.

In other words, these two Persian Gulf monarchies have spent 75 times more on fueling conflict and destruction in Syria than what they are now pledging in humanitarian assistance.

In Syria, the dominant anti-government militants share the fundamentalist Wahhabi ideology of the Persian Gulf monarchies, and they have varying affiliation with Al Qaeda. They are also aligned with the extreme Salafist fringes of the Muslim Brotherhood.

This ideological spectrum has drawn in factions of the Hamas movement in Palestine, which has traditional links with the Muslim Brotherhood and more recently has been the recipient of aid donations totaling about 200 million US$ from the Qatari royal rulers.

Why is this particularly shameful for Palestinians? Well, of all the Arab countries that have provided humanitarian aid and solidarity to the Palestinians down through the decades perhaps none has been as loyal and self-sacrificing in its fraternal help than the Syrian Arab Republic.

From the Zionist Nakba massacers against the Palestinians in 1948 until the present day, Syria has received millions of Palestinian refugees with open arms. The country is believed to host the biggest exiled Palestinian population in the whole region.

One of the largest Palestinian communities in Syria is at the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus where some 18,000 live. But the term “refugee camp” is misleading. This is because the Palestinian residents have always been granted full Syrian citizenship and civil rights. Yarmouk is more like an ordinary suburb of Damascus, but it has the technical status of a refugee camp under Syrian and international law.

This is a measure of the traditional hospitality bestowed on the Palestinian diaspora inside Syria.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Palestinian factions within the Yarmouk district have allowed the foreign-backed extremists of Jabhat al-Nusra and others to infiltrate and occupy large swathes of the area.

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Half of Yarmouk has been overrun by Jabhat al Nusrah and other Al Qaeda brigades, as well as some small Muslim Brotherhood brigades. Sadly, Hamas has been playing a role in this through a recruitment campaign among young Palestinians to join the anti-government forces in Syria.

This occupation by Al Qaeda brigades has led to a dire humanitarian situation in Yarmouk, where residents are suffering from severe chronic shortages of food and medicines. Several dozen civilians are believed to have died from deprivation caused directly by the siege.

Anti-government factions within Yarmouk blame the Syrian army for the blockade and they claim it is being used as a tactic to force submission. This narrative has been zealously amplified by the Western media as a way of discrediting the Assad government.

But many observers stress that it is the foreign-backed militants who are holding the Yarmouk residents as hostages and as human shields. This week a UN aid convoy of food trying to enter the area was turned back when it came under fire from gunmen believed to be from the militant side.

This view was echoed by Palestinian Labour Minister Ahmad Majdalani who this week visited the Yarmouk area. Majdalani warned of a dire humanitarian unfolding among the residents because of the ongoing blockade. He blamed the foreign-backed insurgents. “The source of fire (on the aid convoy) was known… to be controlled by Al Nusra Front, Ahrar al Sham and Suqur al-Golan,” said Majdalani.

Some of the bad blood between the Assad government and radical Salafists stems from a period of repression in the mid-1980s against Muslim Brotherhood insurgents carried out by Bashar al Assad’s father, the late Hafez al Assad.

Nevertheless, that episode must be set against more than six decades of unstinting solidarity afforded to the Palestinian people by the Syrian state.

The central fact is that the historical plight of the Palestinian people in Syria and beyond has come at the hands of Western-backed Zionist aggression. In contrast to Syria, the oil-rich Saudi regime has been derelict in its support to the Palestinian cause and refugees in particular.

Syria today is living through a nightmare aggression inflicted by Washington and its imperialist allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia. That some factions of the Palestinians have joined cause with the imperialist axis bearing down on Syria is a shameful betrayal of Syria, shameful for the involved actors but to some respect also shameful for their fellow Palestinians, both in the Middle East and around the world.

The Palestinians may have lost their last genuine friend and supporter.

Further reading:
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304868404579192933607042794

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