Get killed by Jews: A semi-re-post

I have no desire to blog about the current round of conflict between Israel and Hamastan. The Soupy One has had a rolling updated post here, which is as good a starting point as any to the wealth of material out there with people who have much more to say than I do, and I've also been tweeting several links to some texts which have caught my eye.

However, I thought it was appropriate to return to a text I wrote towards the end of the summer, when the internal conflict in Syria spiked in brutality, without any real attention from the Western mainstream media.

This week, the tragic situation in Gaza has been rarely out of the news headlines in the UK, and I presume in America and elsewhere too. Meanwhile, there has been almost no attention to Syria, where the slaughter has meanwhile intensified, and in fact far outstrips what's going on in Gaza. Syria saw something like 111 deaths yesterday, 78 Saturday, around 100 on Friday, 63 on Thursday. Today the Syrian government has itself claimed to have killed 230 "terrorists" in one operation in Aleppo. In other words, the death toll per day exceeds the whole death toll so far in Gaza.

Meanwhile, London and other Western cities have already seen marches and rallies denouncing Israel's actions, supported by many left parties - sharply contrasting to a lack of solidarity action from the left or peaceniks in relation to Syria.

Every life is precious, and we should mourn and protest every civilian death in Gaza, southern Israel, Syria. It is perverse to measure them against each other. I am not devaluing what's going on in Israel/Palestine by saying "what about Syria". But there's something very wrong when Arabs getting killed by Jews gets so much attention compared to Arabs getting killed by non-Jews.

Here's a slightly shortened version of what I wrote back then.


I have been struck by the under-reporting of some of the most extreme acts of violence by the Assad regime in Syria in what are hopefully its final weeks. Among the most brutal of its acts have been assaults on Palestinian refugee camps in Syria.

“Camps” is perhaps a misnomer, as these are really towns as old as many American or Australian cities, built of concrete, rather than the transient communities of tents and shacks the name conjures up. Some, like Dera’a, are “official” camps administered by the UNRWA, with kindergartens and health centres. More people live in “unofficial camps”, like Yarmouk, which has born the brint of regime attacks, a densely built-up suburb of Damascus, with multistory houses, hospitals, schools, heavy trafficsatellite dishes, electricity supply

In July, there were reports of security forces firing on un-armed anti-regime demonstrations in Yarmouk. Here is a distressing video of the aftermath of one of the attacks on Yarmouk in August. The violence peaked early in September with four days of artillery bombardment, followed by ground assault (including the storming of the hospital and mass arrest of injured civilians). Later in September, there were reports of Palestinians killed and burnt by Assad’s forces and their bodies displayed in public, and of “sweeping” operations against Palestinian regime opponents, of snipers firing on children and old men. There have been reports of rape used as an act of war, and of summary executions of civilians, adult and child, male and female. This month, it is Dera’a camp, South of Damascus and closer to the Jordan border, that has been under attack, with heavy shelling around the mosque and many killed.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in these attacks, and thousands injured. Some 269 Palestinians have been killed in the Syrian conflict, most by regime forces (the PLO claims over 400) out of a total death toll of around 30,000 (of whom around two thirds are civilians). The Syrians claim the camps harbour terrorists and pose a danger to the country’s security.

The under-reporting of these horrific events is in contrast to the ways in which Israeli operations (which also claim to be against terrorists and necessary for security) are reported. When Israel has deployed aerial bombardment or ground assault on Palestinian communities, it is front page news across the Western mainstream media, and especially liberal media. In response, and quite legitimately, thousands march through Western streets, demonstrate outside Israeli embassies. Others boycott Israeli products; still others attack synagogues or desecrate Jewish graves. Progressive Jews in the diaspora write letters to editors denouncing Israel’s actions and disassociating themselves, “as Jews”, from the violence. How many demonstrations have their been in Western cities about Assad’s violence? How many letters and boycotts have Western trade unionists and intellectuals organised to protest about the deaths in Syria.

Syria’s operations are comparable in scale and excessive in intensity – so why the quiet response? It seems to me the only plausible explanation is that for the mainstream Western media, and especially liberal media, Palestinian lives are not valuable in themselves, but of value only in relation to the acts of Israel. Palestinians are never the story for the liberal media; it is always Israel that is the story.


"When the axe came into the woods, many of the trees said: “At least the handle is one of us.” —Turkish proverb (Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir).
modernity's ghost said…

You're right, the plight of Syrians has simply been forgotten in the media furor over the current conflict in Gaza.

It does give lie to the notion that Western supporters of the Palestinians' cause have any genuine interest in human rights.

Ultimately, it's a political issue for them.

The death is of thousands and thousands are only applicable when it can be used as a stick to beat Israelis with

More depressingly, the level of discussion in the West is on a par with gangs of football supporters shouting at each other.

There's no room for reasoned or intelligent debate on the Left around the current conflict or any way to end a reoccurrence.
"Why is it that when Arabs slaughter Arabs, the world gives a polite shudder and does nothing more? We have all but forgotten the hundreds of people massacred in Syria just this past week. Yet when Jews rise up to defend their lives and strike at those who seek to kill them, the world howls in protest. As far as the Arab world is concerned, as long as the massacres take place on its own ground, the conflict remains an internal family matter. But when Jews act to defend themselves, that is an offense against “the Islamic nation.”

From the West’s perspective, the silence over this Arab-on-Arab slaughter stems from soft racism: “That’s what Arabs do.” But the world’s shock when Jews rise up against their enemies stems from almost two millennia in which the image of the Jew as forever crucified, the eternal victim, was entrenched in Western consciousness. We are not supposed to climb down from the altar (or the cross) and take up arms in self-defense.

What were we thinking?"
TNC said…
"But the world’s shock when Jews rise up against their enemies stems from almost two millennia in which the image of the Jew as forever crucified, the eternal victim, was entrenched in Western consciousness. We are not supposed to climb down from the altar (or the cross) and take up arms in self-defense."

Nicely put, Noga. I think this is a good encapsulation of the liberal/left perspective of the good Jew as a perpetual victim of the state and capitalism. Israel represents Jewish control of land, the means of production, the banks, the army, the state. There is also the traditionalist right's framing of the Jew as Christ-killer and this is fit in with an anti-Zionist/anti-Israel framework. It cuts across the left-right spectrum.
kellie said…
To some extent the focus on Gaza over Syria fits a West-centric view of the world, where in Western eyes Israel is part of the West, and wars involving the West always get more coverage, and in that way it's no different to the disparity between reporting of war in Afghanistan and reporting of war in the DRC. The peculiarity is that Israel at the same time is seen as alien to the West, as seen in "puppeteer" and "Israel firster" type accusations, suggesting a Western antisemitism rooted in anxiety about other/not other ambiguity.

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