Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Protests About Palestinians

by Elliott Abrams
December 31, 2013


There were protests this week about some construction notices issued by the Government of Israel. In tandem with the release of murderers from Israeli prisons–something the United States has indefensibly pushed–the Netanyahu government has sought to appease complaints within Israel by announcing new construction in settlements. Mind you, whether the construction will actually take place, or when, is unclear; the protests come nevertheless.

The New York Times reported that

Palestinian leaders threatened that any new settlement activity could lead them to seek membership and sue Israel in the International Criminal Court, a move they had promised not to take during peace talks that started this summer. European diplomats warned the Israelis in a series of high-level meetings over the past week against pairing the prisoner release with a construction announcement, as was done twice before.

The Jerusalem Post reported that

The European Union will strongly object to any new announcements of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, a senior EU diplomat told Channel 10….The unnamed diplomat said “there will be very little understanding from the European governments” if Israel plans to announce further construction beyond the Green Line next week following the release of a third group of Palestinian security prisoners. “Israel needs expect a harsh reaction from the European governments if it intends to go in that direction,” the official said.

What makes these threats and protests noteworthy is the context. For the Daily Star of Beirut reported this today:

At least 15 Palestinians have died of hunger since September in a besieged refugee camp in the Syrian capital Damascus, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees told AFP on Monday. “Reports have come in over the weekend that at least five Palestinian refugees in the besieged refugee camp of Yarmuk in Damascus have died because of malnutrition, bringing the total number of reported cases to 15,” UN Relief and Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness told AFP. He warned of a deteriorating situation in the camp, where some 20,000 Palestinians are trapped, with limited food and medical supplies.

No threats from the EU about this. No reports of a “harsh reaction.” No “series of high level meetings.” Israel announces plans for constructing homes and the threat to Palestinians gets the EU into high gear. In Syria, Palestinians starve to death and no one at “high levels” in Europe appears to notice.

This is not “new news,” of course; it has long been obvious that most of the tears about the suffering of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are crocodile tears. But the events this week certainly drive the point home: more attention is paid, more protests are lodged, when Israel issues a press release than when Syria starves Palestinians to death.


Post a Comment 11 Comments

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    If the Palestinians want to take things to extremes , in this particular case , Israel should tell the International Criminal Court to “take a hike” .

  • Posted by Jon Steelman

    isn’t it Israel who sends medical personnel to the Syrian refugee camps to alleviate suffering, to work side by side with the UN relief workers? does Abbas do the same??

  • Posted by ah

    Abrams is missing the forest in favor of his usual “Israel can do no wrong because look the Arabs are even worse” trees. Simply one of the usual pro-Israel argumentative tactics of “You can’t criticize Israel, unless you also criticize every other human rights abuser in the world,” which is of course absurd.

  • Posted by Jules

    I have no trouble with the double standard. We can live with it . The problem is the impossible standard. I suggest that someone else implements it first!

  • Posted by AbbaJohn

    Actually, ah, it’s you who misses the forest but most reader get it I suspect. The question is: are you interested in criticizing human rights abuses – in which case killing Palestinians is the far greater abuse. Or are you interested in criticizing people you don’t like – in which case anti-semites, like ah, will always criticize the Jews (or should I play along with the pc fiction and say “Israelis”?) for even inconsequential abuses. We get it, ah, we really do get it.

  • Posted by Jody

    Just think. If there is an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, the West Bank/Gaza Palestinians and Israelis could join to show the abuses of Palestinians in the Arab countries that do not have a peace treaty with Israel.

  • Posted by Bob Zinner

    The message will repeat itself over and over again in world news. The rights of the Palestinians are not at issue nor were they ever at issue. The issue is the right of the Jews to live in their own land; the right of the Jews to a Jewish state. The message is not one of injustice that the world has to wake up to-the double standard- where unspeakable atrocities are committed every day in every Arab country and there is never any hint of an international boycott. The message is meant for every Jew to realize that he has no guarantee of the freedoms that are afforded to his fellow citizens in every Western democracy. He is a Jew and has no rights. Just as the world attempts to hold Israel hostage and deny her the right to the lands that had been guaranteed by international law by the Council of the League of Nations in July 24, 1922. At the same conference, the territorial integrity of Syria, Lebanon and Iraqi were also established as the formal parts of the Ottoman Empire and overseas possessions of Germany were granted independence and territorial integrity. No one questions the rights of the Lebanese Syrians, Iraqis to the territories established at that conference and later ratified by the league of Nations. The rights of the Syrians, Iraqis and Lebanese to their countries borders is never called into question by the international community and United Nations-only Israel.
    In the same way that an international double standard exists pervasively throughout the world for the Jewish state, so too, we should clearly see and understand the ongoing double standard and injustice of the 27 year imprisonment of Jonathan Pollard in the United States of America, where according to the Constitution all citizens are guaranteed the rights of a fair trial and equality before the law. Despite the fact that Pollard’s crime of passing information to an ally, information, that revealed America was endangering Israeli security by withholding information from the only Democratic state in the Middle East, a Jew will continue to languish in prison interminably as an example to any Jew who puts the security of the Jewish state above the even illegal acts of the American State Department. Jews in America have not awoken to the stark fact that they too are in prison with Jonathan Pollard.

  • Posted by mario.waldhausen

    Where is this human rights body when over 100 000 innocent human beings in Syria have been killed. The international body makes a deal with Syria to rid them of their chemical weapons in exchange for the massacres of human beings. Woman all over the middle east have no rights and are treated as being inferior and are abused without no recourse.
    Israel is the only country in the east that has a democracy that cries out for peace with their neighbours and exercises human rights yet the world bodies punish them for this.
    U mess with Israel u mess with God. No weapon formed against Israel will prosper. The world body has an agenda against Israel

  • Posted by ah

    Ahhh AbbaJohn, You didn’t even wait one paragraph before whipping out the ridiculous “anti-semite” accusation. Most commentators at least have the intellectual depth to couch that accusation a bit, before using it when they run out of rational explanations for their blind support of Israeli human rights abuses.

    At least stop pretending you care about Palestinians being killed. Otherwise, that would obligate you to go look up history and discover why Palestinians are in these countries and not in historic Palestine instead. I’ll give you a little hint – Israel ethnically cleansed them from their land.

  • Posted by Stephen

    Sorry, ah, but apart from the ethnic cleansing lie, you changed the subject again. Palestinians are safest, have the most rights, and make the most socioeconomic progress when living under either Israeli sovereignty or under Israeli military occupation. If you care about human rights abuses, you protest most strongly the worst abuses. That doesn’t happen in the Middle East, where Israel is the all-purpose whipping boy, because the people complaining (including the Palestinians themselves) don’t care about human rights. They care about attacking Israel. There’s no changing the facts.

  • Posted by ah

    I disagree Stephen. Even Jewish Israeli historians agree it was ethnic cleansing. Read every revisionist historian of the last 15-20 years (Benny Morris being one of them). That really isn’t in dispute anymore.

    Secondly, the difference in focusing on Syrian human rights abuses (which definitely happen, I don’t disagree) and Israeli human rights abuses, is that Israel is a democracy receiving aid from the US. Therefore, they should be held to a higher standard if they are to identify themselves as an enlightened Western-style democracy in the Middle East.

    I completely disagree that Palestinians do not care about human rights. They without a doubt do, as their rights are the ones being violated by Israel. It is THEIR land being stolen, and THEIR houses being broken into at night. I’m not changing facts, I am simply reporting those that exist, no matter how uncomfortable you may find them to be.

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