‘Violence in Syria not entirely Syrian-made’

By Dr. Hanan Ashrawi/

The horrendous violence that has been unleashed in Syria is not entirely Syrian-made. It has evolved into a proxy war with the participation of regional and international players, creating unimaginable suffering and destabilising the whole region.

The brunt of the suffering has been borne by ordinary Syrians, who are witnessing a relentless assault on their lives, rights, lands, homes and cultural heritage, leading to a sense of hopelessness and a desperate attempt to find refuge. The Palestinian refugees in Syria – mainly in Yarmouk and other refugee camps – have also been hard hit with nowhere to go and no chance of returning to their homeland.

With Syria as the focus of global attention, the Palestinian issue has been largely side-lined. Israel used the Syrian tragedy as an excuse to continue its nearly 50-year-old military occupation of our lands, claiming that it cannot withdraw due to the risk of instability. In addition, Israeli leaders have been trying to turn the Arab Peace Initiative on its head by bypassing Palestine and normalising relations with other Arab countries to exploit the ‘Sunni-Shia divide’.

In Syria – as in Palestine – the international community must work for a peaceful solution based on international law and respect for human rights, and restore the sovereignty of both states. Syria’s fragmentation into ethnic- and religious-based statelets, and Israel’s attempts to create isolated Palestinian ‘bantustans’, are lethal for the region and beyond. In Syria, as in Palestine, there is no military solution.

The UN must demonstrate courage and leadership in resolving these crises, as extremist ideologies thrive on the continued injustice. By addressing the causes of these traumas, the international community can begin an historical process of rectification and redemption.

Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian leader, legislator, activist and scholar; former spokesperson, Palestinian delegation to the Middle East Peace Process