- - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The barbarians of ISIS no longer have the ability to surprise anyone. They have beheaded innocents, set a captive afire in a cage, taught children how to shoot to kill at point-blank range, and murdered Christians only because they worship the Christ. The West is outraged, both for the brutality and by its frustration for not doing much about it.

The latest outrage is an attack on Muslim refugees with the bad luck to be stuck in a camp outside of Damascus in the midst of civil war. ISIS has taken control of 90 percent of the camp. Palestinian men have been beheaded, women and children imprisoned with food, water and medicine denied.

The Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp has been controlled by Hamas and Hezbollah in the past, so evil men lurking among the dispossessed are nothing new. What is new is that these same 18,000 civilians now under siege are garnering only the slightest shred of support from the usually vociferous pro-Palestinian factions in the West. If Israel were to have shed the blood of even one of the encamped, the world would be up in arms. Where are those voices now?

ISIS compadres include the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. The groups are rivals, but are together for the moment in the Syrian wasteland of bloodshed and grief. ISIS attacked the Yarmouk camp on Wednesday, making ISIS a significant presence on the outskirts of Damascus, mere kilometers from Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The Palestinian plight in Syria is tangled in a history of bad blood between the Syrians and the PLO. Syria banished PLO leadership in the 1980s and arrested thousands of Yasser Arafat’s loyalists. Yarmouk became an opposition stronghold, but for a time its residents turned away from killing to commerce.

With the PLO out of the picture, the Palestinian Islamist movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad sought to fill the power vacuum in Yarmouk. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal lived in Yarmouk until he withdrew support for Mr. Assad. Once the Hamas Political Bureau had relocated to Egypt and Qatar in early 2012, they declared their support for the Syrian opposition. The Muslim Brotherhood in Britain tried to send help to Palestinian refugees in the Yarmouk refugee camp. In February 2014, Global Muslim Brotherhood Watch reported that “Hamas had remained in contact with Hezbollah over issues relating to the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and that Hamas and other unnamed ‘Palestinian factions’ would be temporarily in charge of security at the Yarmouk camp.”

Now the United Nations wants access to the camp. One U.N. official tells the BBC the situation for the 18,000 refugees there is “beyond inhumane.” ISIS seized the opportunity. The factions fighting the Islamic State are trying to evacuate the remaining population, but snipers target Yarmouk’s main exits. The situation is “completely catastrophic.” The camp was once home to 160,000 refugees, many of whom fled after fighting broke out between rebels and pro-Assad fighters. Only the most vulnerable remain trapped in the camp.

The West seems indifferent, and Arabic voices, perhaps to keep their heads on their shoulders, decline to criticize ISIS and use the crisis to complain about Israel. The Joint (Arab) List Party said Tuesday that the ISIS assault on the Palestinians “serves the Israeli occupation.”

Certain members of the Knesset argue that the Palestinian cause “unites all Arabs everywhere” and should give Palestinian refugees immunity from the internal strife of host states. They could have put it more simply: Why didn’t they just say that Muslims should stop murdering innocent Muslims? Pure evil has found its face in the Middle East.

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