Palestinians to Arab leaders: Stop blaming us for unrest

As Palestinians accused of being behind Arab unrest, they express fear that charges would be used to justify harsh measures against them.

Syria Pro-government rally 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Syria Pro-government rally 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian officials on Wednesday appealed to Arab leaders to stop inciting against them by accusing them of instigating unrest in their countries.
The appeal came after the Syrian authorities claimed that Palestinians were behind the recent wave of violence that hit the country.
RELATED:Analysis: Assad the intimidatorAnalysis: Sound of a dictator preparing for a long battle
Buthaina Shaaban, an advisor to Syrian President Bashar Assad, said last week that Palestinians had joined Muslim Brotherhood supporters in attacking residents of the cities of Latakia and Deraa.
The Libyan authorities had also made similar charges against Palestinians.
Government officials in Tripoli claimed that opposition forces have recruited many Palestinians living in Libya as mercenaries to fight against the regime.
In Amman, some Jordanians claimed last week that Palestinians were involved in anti-government protests that have swept through the kingdom in recent weeks. Pro-monarchy activists who attacked an anti-government rally in Amman last Friday shouted slogans against Palestinians, such as “Go back to the West Bank!,” eyewitnesses reported.
Palestinians expressed fear that the charges would be used by Arab regimes to justify harsh measures against them, first and foremost deportation.
They specifically fear a repeat of what happened after the first Gulf War in the early ’90s, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were deported from Kuwait and other Gulf countries for supporting Saddam Hussein.
The Palestinians believe that the Syrian allegations against them will be followed by punitive measures, including deportation. Nearly 700,000 Palestinians live in Syria, many of them in refugee camps.
The Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah urged Arab leaders to stop blaming Palestinians for the unrest in their countries.
Members of the PLO Executive Committee expressed fear over the fate of the Palestinians living in Syria. In a message directed to the Syrian government, the committee said that the Palestinians were keen on maintaining good relations with all Arab countries, and appreciating the Arab peoples’ struggle for reforms and democracy.
Unconfirmed reports indicated that the Syrian authorities were planning to ask Damascus-based Palestinian groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine- General Command to leave Syria.
But Hamas on Wednesday denied the reports as baseless.
Representatives of the three groups also denied that Palestinians had been involved in any way in the recent clashes between anti-government demonstrators and Syrian security forces.
Palestinian newspaper editor Abdel Bari Atwan said that the Palestinians have no grievances against Syria. “The Palestinians are not planning to topple the regime,” he said. “The Syrian regime’s problem is with Syrians, not Palestinians.”
Atwan warned that similar allegations in the past triggered retaliatory attacks against Palestinians in Iraq, Iran and Libya.
Hafez Barghouti, editor of the PAfunded Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda newspaper, said that the Syrian charges against the Palestinians were a sign of “political bankruptcy.”
“Like other Arab dictatorships, the Syrian regime has declared its political bankruptcy by accusing Palestinians living near the city of Latakia of instigating sectarian strife,” Barghouti said. “Earlier, they claimed that Palestinians living near Deraa were behind the riots there, just as they once tried to blame the Palestinians for the [2005] assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.”
Barghouti added that the allegations represent an “escape from reality and an attempt to export the crisis to a third party that is weak and defenseless.”
He noted that the Syrians had in the past used artillery to shell Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, killed hundreds of Palestinians and imprisoned thousands others.
“Syria also played a role in Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip,” he said.
“The Arab regimes have turned the Palestinians into a scapegoat. The Palestinians have nothing to do with the Arab revolutions, although they have 1,000 reasons to intervene to settle scores with the Arab regimes.”
Palestinian political analyst Adel Abdel Rahman warned that the Palestinians have become the “rack on which Arab leaders hang their cowardice and collusion against each other.
They think the Palestinians are weak and that they could use them whenever they want to cover up their defectiveness.”