According to the Action Group For Palestinians of Syria, 3,987 Palestinians have died in Syria since the beginning of the civil war in that country in 2011. Some 18 Palestinian journalists, political and social activists, and academics have been killed in Syria in recent years. This revelation, however, did not make it onto the radar of the international community or "pro-Palestinian" groups in Western countries. Pictured: Palestinian men sit amid the bombed-out rubble in Yarmouk refugee camp, Syria. (Image source: UNRWA)
Some 18 Palestinian journalists, political and social activists, and academics have been killed in Syria in recent years, while dozens of others have been arrested. This figure was recently revealed by the Action Group For Palestinians of Syria, a London-based human rights watchdog organization that monitors the situation of Palestinian refugees in war-torn Syria.
This revelation, however, did not make it onto the radar of the international community or "pro-Palestinian" groups in the US, Canada, Britain and other Western countries. The most probable reason: Israel had nothing to do with the deaths of the Palestinian journalists, political activists and academics. They died in an Arab country (Syria). They were killed by their own Arab brothers, not by Israelis.
Had the Palestinians been killed or injured or arrested by Israel, their plight would have been immediately criticized by the international community, foreign journalists and media outlets. Yet, why should major media organizations report on these Arabs when they are victims of Arab brutality and repression?
The human rights group said that the Palestinians were killed in several parts of Syria while they were covering the civil war that erupted there in 2011. Nine were killed in shelling, five under torture in Syrian prisons, and four were fatally shot by snipers, according to the group.
It named the victims as: Fadi Abu Ajjaj (photographer), Jamal Khalifeh (photographer), Ahmed al-Sahli (media activist), Bassam Hamidi (media activist and photographer), Ahmed Taha (photographer), Bilal Saeed (media activist and photographer), Jihad Shehabi (photographer), Yamen Thaher (media activist), Tareq Ziad Khader (journalist), Niraz Saeed (photojournalist), Khaled Bakrawi (photographer), Hassan Hassan (artist), Ala'al-Naji (political activist), Bilal Ahmed (journalist), Eyas Farhat (journalist), Ghassan Shehabi (media activist and academic), Ahmed Kusa (media activist), and Muneer al-Khatib (media activist).
The whereabouts of scores of Palestinian journalists, also according to the human rights group, writers and media personalities who were arrested by the Syrian authorities in the past few years remain unknown. Among the missing Palestinians, who are presumed to be dead, are the following journalists and writers: Muhanad Omar, Ali al-Shehabi, Rami Hejjo, Ali Musleh, and Ahmed Jaleel.
"It's worth noting that the killings of the Palestinian journalists have not drawn an official Palestinian reaction," the human rights group pointed out. It also noted that Palestinian leaders have failed to call for "bringing the perpetrators to justice on charges of murder and torture of civilians who carried cameras or mobile phones as part of their work."
By wondering why Palestinian leaders were not paying attention to the plight of their people in Syria, the human rights group is either being naïve or has yet to realize that these leaders have other priorities than caring for their own people.
Let us consider some of those "other priorities." Palestinian Authority leaders in the West Bank, for example, are more concerned about their salaries than the suffering of their people. Last week, Palestinian sources revealed that the ministers of the Palestinian Authority government have given themselves a $2,000 raise in their monthly salary. The decision has triggered a wave of protests among Palestinians, who say it came at a time when the Palestinian leadership is claiming that it is suffering from a financial crisis.
The Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, on the other hand, have no time to think about their people in Syria. These leaders are too busy worrying about how to silence and intimidate critics of Hamas.
Recently, Hamas decided to ban the distribution of the Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida in the Gaza Strip on charges of "incitement and fomenting discord" among Palestinians. The newspaper, which belongs to Hamas's rivals in the Palestinian Authority, has long been critical of the rulers of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas sources said the ban came after the newspaper allegedly "incited" Palestinians during last March's widespread protests over economic hardship in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, they added, is also considering banning the Palestinian Authority's Palestine TV from operating in the Gaza Strip. Hamas is apparently furious because Palestine TV reported that tons of meat donated by Saudi Arabia to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were stolen by Hamas officials.
According to the human rights group, 3,987 Palestinians have died in Syria since the beginning of the civil war in that country in 2011. The 18 journalists, activists and academics were among the victims. It is probably safe to assume that the total figure of those killed will reach 4,000 very soon.
Hardly a day passes without another Palestinian reported killed in Syria.
The latest victim died under torture in a Syrian prison last week. The victim's family has requested that his name not be published out of concern for their lives. Their son, they say, was held in prison for five years before he died under torture. The Syrian authorities gave the family a death certificate, but the body has yet to be delivered to them. His death brings to 606 the number of Palestinians who died under torture in Syrian prisons in the past eight years.
One doubts whether Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are even aware of these disturbing figures. When was the last time a senior Palestinian official talked about the torture and arrest of Palestinians in an Arab country? They really don't have the time: they are too busy condemning Israel and the US administration to take note of the fact that thousands of their people are being killed, displaced and tortured in Arab countries.
Palestinian ministers take yet more money for themselves from the pockets of their own people. Hamas leaders are obsessed with gagging anyone who dares to call them out for their violent and despotic behavior -- even when it has to do with the meat that they stole from the plates of their own people. This is the Palestinian leadership in action. When, one might ask, might we see some reaction on the part of the international community and media?
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.