Syrian boys, whose family fled their home in Idlib, walk to their tent, at a camp for displaced Syrians, in the village of Atmeh, Syria, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012
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"If Da'ish (ISIS) doesn't liberate Palestine who will?"
Ein el Helwe Palestinian camp, Lebanon
This is one of the questions ricocheting among Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon, being posed by ISIS (Da'ish) operatives, as the hot summer months and plummeting quality of existence raise tensions in the refugee camps and gatherings.
ISIS resilience, on the ground "achievements", adaptability, global franchising, copy-cat knock-offs, chameleon like adaptations, combinations and permutations, ever upgrading and slick honing of messages via social media and speeding them to all points of the compass are offering oppressed and desperate populations in this region some fantasies for escaping their deepening misery. Achieving the dream of escaping abject poverty and indignity by joining Da'ish (ISIS) or like-minded cash flush groups, which these days seemingly appear on the scene from thin air.
Some in Lebanon and Syria are wondering why it took ISIS so long to present a detailed plan to Palestinian refugees to liberate their country, now in its 67th year of brutal Zionist occupation. A subjugation which has created an Apartheid state that according to South African leader Bishop Desmond Tutu and others exceeds the crimes of the Afrikaner National Party who also in 1948 began a racist occupation of a majority indigenous "less civilized" population. South African apartheid ended in 1994 but in Palestine it continues to metastasize. Some ISIS representatives in the camps are pledging to destroy the Zionist occupation and boast about opening Palestine to Full Return within two years.
Who is listening to Da'ish (ISIS)?
In the early days of the crisis in Syria, many Palestinians fleeing to Lebanon quickly returned to their fate in Syria when they saw the conditions in Lebanon's camps. But as the fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces intensified in Damascus, they became trapped, alongside their fellow Palestinians in Lebanon sinking ever deeply into dire poverty.
During recent discussions with an unscientific sampling of Palestinian refugees from several camps in Lebanon and Syria it's not surprising that the main subjects of discussion quickly moves to what many of us who live among Palestinians in this region and beyond have become familiar with. The agenda for discussion and grievance listing is ever expanding and many of these subjects are exactly what Da'ish (ISIS) supporters and recruiters are taking advantage of as they attempt to round up recruits and sympathizers to join their growing ranks.
A representative sampling of refugee grievances usually includes frustration and anger over the perceived pervasive corruption among political and religious "leaders" who basically speak gibberish while urging patience for the next life or promising fruits of countless 'dialogue' sessions among sworn political enemies that to date have achieved nothing to help those most in need. The outlawing by Lebanon's Parliament of the right to work and home ownership ranks near the top of grievance lists, followed by severe camp overcrowding, lack of hygienic infrastructures, declining health care, rising illnesses among children due to respiratory diseases and more than a dozen easily preventable communicable illnesses, shortages of medicines, drugs and drug gang violence, increasing tension and gun battles among militia such as has been occurring nearly weekly recently in Ein el Helwe camp in Saida and this week in Shatila camp, domestic violence, petty crime, increase in school dropout rates, the near collapse of UNWRA's ability to fulfill its mandates including the recently announced 700 school closings in Gaza which will impact UNRWA's work in Jordan, Gaza, the West Bank, and Syria, with worries here that some UNWRA schools, even those operating two shifts, may soon close in Lebanon and Syria.
One of the most urgent crises here in Lebanon's camps is the fact that the few remaining Palestinian hospitals are also nearing collapse, particularly Haifa Hospital in South Beirut's Burj al Barajneh camp. The former two main Palestine Red Crescent Hospitals, Gaza and Akka closed decades ago. These problems are just a sampling of what life has become for Palestinians in Lebanon and those nearly 50,000 from Syria who are still stuck here.
Da'ish has started to capitalize on these problems as pressures mount under the long hot summer days and adequate water and electricity becomes ever more tentative. Some camp residents speculate about what form of 'explosion' will happen during or after Ramadan.
What is Da'ish (ISIS) offering Palestinians?
Firstly, they are pledging Full Return for the nearly 12 million Palestinian refugees scattered around the world of whom approximately 6.4 million whose homes and lands were occupied in 1948 (approximately 55% of the Palestinian people), and of whom 4.5 million live outside historic Palestine with 1.8 million living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Da'ish (ISIS) is also offering an alternative to the half-century of the fake "peace process" and a change in what increasing numbers of refugees claim is the quisling thinking of the current PLO leadership.