LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images
Members of the Syrian pro-government forces inspect the damage of a street in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp on the southern outskirts of the capital Damascus on May 22, 2018.LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images
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Palestinian Lives Matter

In Damascus as well as in Gaza

by
Liel Leibovitz
May 23, 2018
LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images
Members of the Syrian pro-government forces inspect the damage of a street in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp on the southern outskirts of the capital Damascus on May 22, 2018.LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images

Last week, I wrote a piece lamenting the fact that tens of thousands of Palestinians were being manipulated by a murderous terrorist organization to risk their lives for no other reason than its maniacal commitment to the destruction of the state of Israel. Many readers, including some former friends, wrote to tell me that I was a heartless monster for failing to sufficiently empathize with the Palestinians, and the accusation stung: Staunchly supporting Israel does and should not mean being unable to feel deeply moved by the despair of Gaza’s inhabitants, even if their calamity was brought about chiefly by their homicidal warlords.

And so, in the spirit of empathy, I’d like to offer a challenge of my own to all those—in the media, in prominent progressive organizations, and elsewhere—who were so rattled by the riots in Gaza. Call it a reality-based thought experiment. Here goes: Imagine a government, run by a bloodthirsty dictator, who bombed a heavily populated urban area containing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, reducing it to rubble. Furthermore, imagine that this benighted regime offered these poor Palestinians, the descendants of refugees living in squalor because of generations of systemic discrimination, two choices: Be ethnically cleansed from your makeshift neighborhoods, or continue to be bombed and gassed from the air until only a few thousand of you are left in the ruins. How would you react?

It ought to be a no-brainer: Covers in The New York Times condemning the massacre, impassioned pleas for justice from Senator Bernie Sanders, an emergency gathering of the UN Security Council, and prayer circles of progressive Jews all over the world, reciting the Kaddish for the murdered and chanting about Tikkun Olam. Right?

Wrong. In fact, none of these things would happen. Not one.

How can I be so sure? Easy: Because it’s happening right now, in the Yarmouk neighborhood of Damascus, where the genocidal dictator Bashar al-Assad has murdered an untold number of Palestinian residents and driven all but a few thousand fighters—who he identifies as members of ISIS— from the wasteland of a heavily populated urban area that he has bombed flat.

Here, take a look.

If you’re not outraged now, you don’t really believe, like me, that Palestinian lives matter. And if you were only outraged when Israel killed 50 Hamas terrorists trying to attack it, well, there’s an age-old term that accurately describes how you feel about Jews.

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.