As Palestinians were being killed and beheaded by Islamic State terrorists in the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus over the past week, Palestinian leaders once again proved that delegitimizing and isolating Israel is more important than caring about their people.
After seven days of fighting, Islamic State is now in control of nearly 90% of the camp, which once used to be home to more than 150,000 Palestinians. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) estimates that since the beginning of the civil war in Syria four years ago, the population of Yarmouk has dropped to 18,000.
Part of Yarmouk, near Damascus, after being damaged by fighting. (Image source: RT video screenshot)
Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas leaders have expressed deep concern over the Islamic State takeover of Yarmouk. Over the past week, these leaders issued daily statements strongly condemning the "massacres" in Yarmouk and calling for an end to the fighting. But they have stopped short of calling for an emergency meeting of Arab leaders to stop the attack on the camp.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas decided earlier this week to dispatch senior PLO representative Ahmed Majdalani to Syria for talks aimed at ending the crisis and saving the lives of the camp residents.
In some parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian activists held sit-in strikes and small rallies in protest against the "heinous crimes" perpetrated by Islamic State against Palestinians in Yarmouk.
But the decision to dispatch the PLO official to Syria and the limited protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are unlikely to help the Palestinians in Yarmouk. Nor will they deter Islamic State terrorists from proceeding with their crimes.
The Palestinians in Yarmouk are unlucky, mainly because they are being attacked and killed by Muslims, and not by Israel. An Israeli attack on the camp would have drawn worldwide condemnation and protests, with Palestinian and Arab leaders rushing to seek the intervention of the UN Security Council and the international community.
The Palestinians in Yarmouk are unlucky because their leaders in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are still busy fighting each other over power and money. This is a power struggle that has been going on since Hamas drove the PA out of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.
They are also unfortunate because Palestinian leaders seem to have other things on their minds, such as proceeding with the campaign to isolate and delegitimize Israel in every possible international forum. For PA leaders, the desire to punish Israel is stronger than the will to save the lives of thousands of Palestinians being killed by the Islamic State and starved by the Syrian army, which has been besieging Yarmouk for more than 700 days.
Instead of devoting their energies and efforts to stop the massacres in Yarmouk, Palestinian Authority officials were busy during the past week preparing a new draft resolution to be submitted to the UN Security Council, establishing a timeline for ending Israeli "occupation."
The proposed resolution, of course, does not make any reference to the Yarmouk tragedy. The Arab foreign ministers who met in Cairo earlier this week to discuss ways of backing the new Palestinian bid deliberately ignored that, as they were chatting and sipping coffee, Palestinians were being slaughtered and forced to flee their homes in Yarmouk.
Instead, PA officials were traveling from one country to the other to advance their campaign to punish and isolate Israel.
Jibril Rajoub, Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, was in Cairo to demand that the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) suspend Israel's membership. Rajoub did not see any need to travel to Syria to try to help his people in Yarmouk.
It is worth noting that FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he was opposed to the Palestinian bid. "[S]uspension of a federation for any reason is always something which harms the whole organization," he said. It is hard to see how suspending Israel's membership in FIFA would help any Palestinian, especially those who are being starved to death and slaughtered by the Syrian army and the Islamic State.
While the fighting in Yarmouk continued, PA President Mahmoud Abbas flew to Doha for talks with the emir of Qatar. The PLO's official news agency reported that Abbas and the emir discussed "bilateral relations and the latest developments concerning the Palestinian cause." Again, there was no reference to the plight of the Yarmouk residents. It later transpired that Abbas went to Qatar to ask for a $100 million loan.
Although Abbas's ruling Fatah faction did express concern over the Yarmouk tragedy in a series of laconic statements published in the past few days in Ramallah, Fatah proved once again that Palestinians being butchered, starved to death and forced out of their homes is not more important than the campaign to punish and isolate Israel.
Instead of talking about that the Islamic State's and Syria's war crimes against Palestinians, Fatah continues to boast that it is spearheading the campaign against Israel at the International Criminal Court.
Here is what Fatah spokesman Osama Qawassmeh had to say while the fighting in Yarmouk was underway: "The Palestinian leadership is determined to pursue its efforts to prosecute Israel for war crimes. We will present to the International Criminal Court all the necessary documents that implicate Israeli war criminals."
The Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Information also seemed to be more concerned with a "settler marathon" than with the lives of Palestinians in Yarmouk.
In a statement issued in Ramallah, the ministry condemned a planned marathon by settlers as an "aggression against Palestinian territories and continuation of Israeli arrogance." The ministry called on all international institutions and human rights groups to "focus on the terror of settlers, which is this time disguised in sports clothing."
For the Palestinian Authority, Jews participating in a marathon seems to be more serious and life-threatening than Islamic State terrorists beheading Palestinians and destroying Palestinian homes in Yarmouk.
Were the Palestinian leaders to invest 10% of their anti-Israel efforts to help their people in Yarmouk and the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians would be in a much better situation today. However, these leaders are obviously determined to remain obsessed with Israel at the same time as they continue to bury their heads in the sand about ISIS's slaughter of their people.
Summing up the state on apathy toward the suffering of the Palestinians in Syria, Ashraf al-Ajrami, a former PA minister, remarked: "The Palestinian situation is at its worst phase. The PLO has lost the ability to move and defend the Palestinians in all places. The various Palestinian factions are incapable of forming a Palestinian force to protect the refugees. The Palestinian leadership is also incapable of ending the division between Fatah and Hamas. All that is left for us to do is to howl, slap and cry."