Yarmouk: what western media doesn't tell you

Yarmouk: what western media doesn't tell you
Comment: Coverage of the crisis in Yarmouk camp in Syria ignores the wider historical context of Palestinian refugees, says Tom Charles.
3 min read
29 Apr, 2015
Residents of Yarmouk camp have been subjected to unimaginable suffering [Anadolu]
Ban Ki-Moon was recently moved to describe conditions inside Yarmouk camp in Syria as being akin to the "deepest circle of hell".

The UN secretary general's comments have been illustrated by a mass of reports on al-Araby al-Jadeed of the horrors visited upon the camp's Palestinian residents.

Their suffering began with the 2012 siege by Bashar al-Assad's forces, and last month the camp was invaded by the Islamic State group.

Scenes from the camp have been shocking. However, this should not be a surprise given the history of the Palestinian refugees. Their fate has been dangerously absent from Middle East peace talks, western media and western political debate.

Palestinian refugees are not represented by any functioning political body. As a result, they remain victims and western governments feel little pressure to resolve their plight. Sucessive governments in the UK, which has a historical debt to the Palestinians refugees, have failed them.
     The scenes in the camp have been shocking, but should not come as a surprise given the history of the Palestinian refugees.

Not many in the UK would have heard of Yarmouk before this latest tragedy, or the situation its residents were facing.

Perhaps some might have thought: "Why don't these people just go back to Palestine?" 

The truth is this: the people of Yarmouk were forced out by Israel, which has since denied their right to return to their ancestral home.

The UK news media failed to give Yarmouk any historical context. There was little mention of UN Resolution 194, guaranteeing the right of return to Israel / Palestine to all Palestinian refugees, not just those in Yarmouk.

I found one prominent call for Israel to intervene: in an article by Oudeh Besharat, in Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper. Besharat lamented the fact that "no moral question is being raised regarding Israel's role in creating the killing fields".

He is right; in the UK, condemnation of the crimes committed against the Palestinian refugees is one thing, to provide people with an understanding of the solution is another.

Two things are obvious but rarely articulated in the mainstream media: a just and legal solution in the Middle East is only possible via a solution to the Palestinian refugee crisis, which can only come through implementation of the right of return; and further delay in implementation will inevitably lead to more tragedy for the Palestinians.

The policy of providing charity to the Palestinian is, at best, a plaster over a gaping wound, keeping the Palestinians' position as victims. But this is the UK's policy: destruction of Palestinian life is met by underfunded refugee agencies and charitable donations. From Yarmouk during the IS occupation, and across the region, the situation faced by Palestinians remains excruciatingly precarious.

In any scenario in any Middle Eastern country, it is impossible to conceive a situation in which Palestinian refugees emerge as the winners. In Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Gaza and the West Bank there is ample historical evidence that they will again be made victims of any upheavals, conflict or regime change.

UK and western policy continues to prop up Israel's denial of the right of return. Serious, contextualised reporting of events by our media is a prerequisite if the public is to be informed about what is going on in that region.

Only then will the public be informed enough to be able to effectively press their governments to act.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.