Jerusalem has one of the largest concentrations of press in the world, and as a result, Israel is certainly one of the most scrutinized states.  It is perhaps for this reason that the international media can only focus on the Palestinians in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza, while ignoring the plight of Palestinians elsewhere in the Arab World, and especially in the mayhem that is the Syrian civil war, where Palestinians are being brutalized by the Assad regime and the Islamist resistance.  Naturally, the western comforts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are more appealing than the killing fields of Syria and Iraq.  The fate of the Palestinians in Syria is of no interest to western journalists, if Israel cannot be blamed.

Sharif Nashashibi, writing for Al-Jazeera (October 15, 2016) pointed out that, “The Palestine solidarity movement is facing an unprecedented internal crisis, brought about not by the conflict with Israel, but by the war in Syria.  The latter has caused divisions that are arguably deeper and more damaging than those over how to realize Palestinian rights and aspirations.”

Essentially, in the civil war in Syria, the Palestinians have been caught in the middle of the fighting among various factions.  Some are fighting on the anti-Assad regime side, however most have chosen to remain neutral in a conflict they consider to be a domestic Syrian affair.  Needless to say that neutrality went by the wayside, once the war came to the Palestinians doorstep.

Those Palestinian groups supporting the Assad regime include the leftist PFLP-GC (a terror group) and the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. Some Christian leaders such as Bishop Atallah Hanna, the Greek-Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia, also support the Assad regime.  Hamas supports the opposition to Assad, and remembers Hafez Assad’s 1982 massacre of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood in Hama.  Other Gaza-based salafist groups support al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.  Palestinian groups supporting the opposition remember the role Assad’s Syria played in the massacre of Palestinians at the Lebanese refugee camp of Tel al-Zaatar in 1976.  Fatah, the largest group (party) within the P.L.O. seeks to remain neutral.

The war in Syria affected Palestinians as it did Syrians.  Both Syrians and Palestinians have endured kidnapping and death.  The UK-based Action Group for Palestinians in Syria estimated that 3,420 (including 455 females) Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the war in 2011.  By some estimates, about 250 Palestinians have been kidnapped for ransom, and at least 30 community leaders have been assassinated.  UNRWA sources reported that 280,000 Palestinians, almost half of the Palestinian population that is officially recognized in Syria, has been displaced internally, while 80,000 left Syria for Europe.  An estimated 43,000 left for Lebanon, about 16,000 moved to Jordan, and 8,000 to Turkey.  Ninety-five percent of Palestinians in Syria are dependent on humanitarian aid provided by UNRWA.

These stark statistics indicate a fundamental problem, which is inherently Arab in the making.  The refusal of the Arab states, whether Syria, Lebanon, or Egypt, to integrate their Palestinian fellow Arab-Muslims (predominantly Sunni) into their society has resulted in Palestinian statelessness.  That is despite sharing the same language, religion, and culture.  Unlike Israel, which absorbed and integrated close to a million Jewish refugees from the Arab countries, the Arab states used the Palestinians as pawns in a political game against Israel.

The Yarmouk camp outside Damascus, where most Palestinians were housed, became a battleground between the Assad regime and the anti-regime rebels.  The Free Syrian Army entered the camp first.  That brought about the Assad regime dropping barrel bombs on the camp, which caused most of the population (Syrians as well as Palestinians) to flee.  It resulted in the exodus of the camps residents, which left only 18,000 remaining in the camp.  Al-Nusra (the al-Qaeda affiliate) used the chaos to move into the camp, and with them came along the Islamic State (IS).  In April, 2015, when the extremist terrorizing IS entered the Yarmouk camp, many of the remaining 18,000 Palestinians and Syrians fled.

Khaled Abu Toameh, writing for the Gatestone Institute (January 23, 2017) quoted Arab sources saying that “The year 2016 was full of all forms of killing, torture and displacement of Palestinians in Syria. The last year was hell for these Palestinians and its harsh consequences will not be erased for many years to come.  During 2016, Palestinians in Syria were subjected to the cruelest forms of torture and deprivation at the hands of armed gangs and the ruling Assad’s Syrian regime.  It is hard to find one Palestinian family in Syria that has not been affected.”

According to the same sources, the Assad regime was withholding the bodies of more than 456 Palestinians who died under torture in Syrian prisons.  The Assad regime refused to release the bodies to the families.  More disturbing however, are reports that the Syrian regime is harvesting the organs of dead Palestinians.  United Arab Emirate based al-Khaleej (The Gulf in English) newspaper published in the Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, suggested that “testimonies collected by some Palestinians point out that Syrian government-linked gangs have been trading in the organs of the victims, who include women and children.  In addition, 1,100 Palestinians have been languishing in Syrian prisons since the beginning of the civil war.”

It is rather ironic if not downright revealing that Israel, rather than much of the Arab world, is seeking ways to help wounded Syrians.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on December 20, 2016 that he instructed his government to “find ways to extend medical assistance to Syrians injured in the latest fighting, especially those from the embattled city of Aleppo.” Addressing foreign journalists at a meeting in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said, “We see the tragedy of terrible suffering of civilians and I have asked the Foreign Ministry to seek ways to expand our medical assistance to civilian casualties of the Syrian tragedy, specifically in Aleppo where we’re prepared to take wounded women and children, and also men, if they are not combatants.”

The Times of Israel reported on January 25, 2017 “Israel is to grant refugee status to 100 orphaned Syrian refugee children, in line with a decision by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.”  According to Israel’s Channel 10-TV, “the children will receive temporary resident status and become permanent residents after four years, and be able to remain in Israel for their entire lives.”

While Israel is lending a helping hand to the people of an enemy country, Palestinian leadership in Ramallah and Gaza are busy scoring points against each other, as their people in Syria suffer.  Mahmoud Abbas is more concerned with the Trump administration’s declared intention to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem than the plight of his people in Syria.  Abbas has warned of violence if the U.S. embassy moves to Jerusalem, but has been rather quiet on the bloodshed committed against his brethren in Syria.

Mahmoud Abbas can count on the western press to amplify his self-righteous threats, but the same western press has been silent on the destruction in the Yarmouk camp, and the plight of its Palestinian residents.

Originally Published in FrontPageMag.



A leftist administration’s cruelty toward the Jewish state.


Moscow is not interfering with Israeli attacks on Hezbollah in Syria.

One of the most interesting stories, if not the most puzzling, is the close understanding and amity between Jerusalem and Moscow.  While the Russian Air Force pounds the civilian population in Aleppo on behalf of the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and his Iranian allies, Russia is coordinating the moves of its Air Force in Syria with Israel’s Air Force.  Moscow is not interfering with Israeli attacks on Hezbollah convoys carrying lethal arms shipped to Syria by Iran, as the Shiite terrorist group is attempting to move these arms to Lebanon.  Walla, a Hebrew language Israeli news outlet wrote on December 1, 2016 that “Russia’s silence following reports that the Israeli Air Force bombed an arms depot and a Hezbollah bound weapons convoy in Syria on Wednesday might signal ‘tacit consent’ to such action as long as they do not harm Kremlin’s interests.”  Israel, on its part, is staying out of the civil war in Syria, but provides medical assistance to wounded opposition fighters combatting the Assad regime.

The Obama administration failure to act on its announced “Red Line,” (on Assad’s use of chemical warfare on fellow Syrians) and subsequently leaving the Syrian arena in Russian hands, has damaged U.S. credibility in the region.  It has also encouraged Russia to take aggressive action against opposition forces supported by the U.S., and Syrian civilians.

Gen. Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian defense ministry said according to Russian RT-TV(11/29/2016) that, “Over the past few days, well planned and careful action by the Syrian troops resulted in a radical breakthrough.  Half of the territory previously held by the militants in eastern Aleppo has been de facto liberated.”  Konashenkov’s cynical statement referring to the Assad regime’s brutal actions in attacking (along with Russian aerial support) civilians in homes, hospitals and schools with barrel-bombs to be “well planned and careful action,” sharply contrasts with Israeli hospitals opening their doors to perform truly humanitarian work by treating wounded Syrian civilians and fighters.

Konashenkov also stressed that “over 80,000 Syrians, including tens of thousands of children, have been freed.  Many of them, at long last were able to get water, food and medical assistance at humanitarian centers deployed by Russia.  Those Syrians served as human shields in Aleppo for terrorists of all flavors.” That statement is turning the truth upside down.  After relentless bombing by Russian and Syrian jets that have killed thousands (mostly Sunni civilians), these Syrians do not consider Russia’s role as “humanitarian.”

Putin’s Russia has saved Bashar Assad’s skin, and has done so for purely Russian interests, including air and naval bases in the Latakia Governorate of northwestern Syria, bordering the coveted Mediterranean Sea.  Putin’s Russia has planned to sell, and according to Russian and Iranian sources, already delivered to Iran the highly sophisticated S-300 air defense system.  Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his many meetings with Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, implored the latter not to sell such weapons to the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Thomas Shannon, U.S. Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, said that, “We have made it very clear to the Russians that we consider this (the sale of the S-300) to be a bad move, that we consider it to be destabilizing and not in keeping with what we’ve been trying to accomplish, not only through the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal) , but broadly in terms of our engagement with Iran.”

Putin’s Russia alliance with the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and the repressive Islamic Republic of Iran notwithstanding, to watch the warm reception Benjamin Netanyahu received in the Kremlin by his host Vladimir Putin is most certainly eyebrow raising, if not an amazing phenomenon.  Considering decades of Soviet support for Israel’s enemies, and oppression of its Jews, Putin’s Russia has a rather warm spot for the remaining Jews in Russia, and satisfaction with the Russian cultural enclave in Israel.  In fact, outside the former Soviet Union, Israel has probably the largest Russian speaking population.  Putin felt at home when he visited Israel, first in April, 2005, as he met for discussions with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.  In June, 2012, Putin was in Israel again on an official visit.  This time, he unveiled the national monument honoring the memory of Jewish soldiers in the Red Army who fought the Nazis in WWII.  He also met with PM Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.  Reuter’s story by Josh Cohen on January 14, 2016 was headlined, “Vladimir Putin is the closest thing to a friendIsrael has ever had in Moscow.”  And yet, Putin’s Russia has continued to vote with the Palestinians at the UN, has helped Iran with its nuclear program, and sold missiles to both Iran and Syria.

Stalin, the Soviet Union murderous tyrant was one of the first to recognize the Jewish state in 1948, and sold arms through Czechoslovakia to the nascent Jewish nation.  At the same time, Stalin ordered the murder of Jewish anti-fascist leaders in Russia, and made anti-Semitism a state policy.  Following the Six-Day war in 1967, the Soviet Union severed diplomatic relations with Israel, and during the War of Attrition (1969-1970), Soviet pilots flew missions for the Egyptians.  Israeli pilots engaged and downed a number of Soviet pilots (Israel never publicized it in order not to inflame the Russians).  During the Yom Kippur War of 1973, the Soviets were heavily involved with the Arab war machine against Israel, providing Egypt and Syria with huge quantities of arms, including lethal missiles.

The last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, renewed diplomatic ties with Israel in 1991. Putin’s personal admiration for Israel elevated its profile in Russian foreign policy.  The Arab market for Russian arms is a lucrative one, and it is therefore pragmatism that motivates Putin along with personal sympathy for Israel and Jews.  Israel’s experience with Islamist terrorism made it sympathetic to Russia in its 1999 war in Chechnya, which dealt with combatting Islamist terror.  The Jerusalem Post quoted Putin telling Netanyahu that Israel and Russia are “unconditional allies” in the war against terror. In fact, Putin was one of the few world leaders to support Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in 2014.  Putin is quoted as saying, “I support Israel’sbattle that is intended to keep its citizens protected.”

In 2008, Israel made significant gestures towards Putin’s Russia.  It transferred to Russia parts of the Russian Orthodox compound (Sergei courtyard) in Jerusalem.  In the same year, Israel halted military supplies to Georgia (at war with Russia at the time) for a Russian promise not to sell the S-300 air-defense system to Iran.  Israel has also been neutral in the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine. It did not condone Russian aggression there, but seeks to avoid alienating Moscow.  For the same reason, Israel abstained on a UN vote that condemned Russia for its annexation of Crimea.

The Obama administration’s open dislike for Netanyahu’s government, has forced Israel to look elsewhere for support.   Avigdor Lieberman, (a native of Moldavia, part of the former Soviet Union) Israel’s former Foreign Minister and current Defense Minister greatly enhanced Russian-Israeli relations.  The incoming Trump administration, seeking to reset relations with Russia, might find Israel to be a trusted go-between in dealing with Putin. This might aid the incoming U.S. administration, while at the same time further strengthen Israeli-Russian relations.

Originally Published on FrontpageMag.