Amid all the genocidal death and destruction in Gaza during 2014, it finally looked as if there was some beautiful news to be found amid the slaughter. The baby of a Gazan mother (who had been eight months pregnant when she was killed by Israeli shelling) was successfully delivered and placed in an incubator. The was seemingly collective punishment; her husband worked as a local radio journalist and Israel has a history of bombing media outlets that share news of atrocities. The Guardian has this amazing story:
When the doctors gently pulled the tiny newborn from the womb in an emergency caesarean, her mother had already been dead for an hour. Shayma al-Sheikh Qanan, 23, was eight months pregnant when an Israeli tank shell hit her home in the central Gaza strip town of Deir al-Balah, reducing it to rubble. She was left in a critical condition. Her husband, a local radio journalist, was also badly wounded. “Her body was brought in after an Israeli shelling at 3am on Friday,” said Fadi al-Kharti, a doctor at Deir al-Balah hospital. “We tried to revive her but she had died on the way.” Before paramedics managed to dig her out, she had been stuck under the rubble of her home for an hour. “Then we noticed movement in her stomach, and estimated she was about 36 weeks pregnant,” he says. Doctors performed an immediate caesarean and saved the baby, who was named after her late mother. For 43-year-old Mirfat Qanan, it was a tragedy to lose her daughter, but there was joy at becoming a grandmother. “God has protected this child for me. My daughter Shayma is dead, but I now have a new daughter,” she said. “She’ll call me ‘mummy’ just like her mother did.”
A beautiful sparkle of hope was snuffed out at the flick of a switch by the world’s “most moral army”. The IDF bombed Gaza’s only power plant and the electricity to the incubator died out.
This tragedy completely threw Israeli propaganda out of the window. I fail to see any Hamas fighters using her as a human shield, I fail to see any of them shooting at the IDF from positions close to the hospital, and I fail to see how a premature baby was a terrorist threat. Why else would the power be cut off, in the full knowledge of the vulnerability of innocents like Shaima, if it wasn’t part of a policy of systematic murder?
In Syria, Assad has unleashed similar forms of suffering on his people since 2011, killing hundreds of thousands. Yet, the reactions from the very same people who postured about Shaima and claim to stand in solidarity with Palestine have been very, very different.
When Israel bombs a hospital or cuts off the power, they are outraged. When Assad and Russia systematically demolish all of Aleppo’s hospitals, drops barrel bombs on sleeping children and unleash Alawite militias to rape and slaughter women, they don’t show outrage. They justify these actions. Among the most odious of their claims is that opposition forces used civilians as “human shields” to justify the regime bombing them to shreds. Some even claim that barrel bombs don’t exist.
Assad and Putin are revered in the world of faux-leftism as “anti-imperialists”, so their heinous crimes are excused for not fitting into the false paradigm of “the west” being inherently evil and “the east” being benevolent. You would have thought that this primitive mentality would have died out at the end of the Cold War, but it’s still alive and kicking in any number of Palestinian and leftist circles. Assad can rape, torture, murder and bomb anyone he wants. Why? “Duhhh… Because he’s an anti-imperialist!” Even though he really, really isn’t… Unless helping the US torture prisoners and inviting Russia to occupy his country count as some form of anti-imperialism. “Anti-imperialism” and “pro-Palestine” have become meaningless buzzwords used to condemn western aggression while simultaneously providing a perverse justification for the aggression of Russia and its allies.
The most odious manifestation of the disdain shown by both the left and the right for Syrian civilians (as opposed to their reverence for Assad) are their efforts to smear and defame the White Helmets, the rescue organisation dedicated to recovering the dead and wounded that have become trapped under the rubble following regime airstrikes and bombings. Max Blumenthal recently dedicated a whole article to defaming the organisation, despite having opposed Assad in the past (and once resigned from al-Akbar due to its pro-regime views). He seems to have changed his views depending on their profitability. Which makes him no different from Ben Norton, who supported the demands of Syrians for freedom until he got his comfy job at Salon. Below are some examples of crude propaganda produced by “Assadists”.
For many people, their sense of humanity depends on their political positions and outlook. Most self-proclaimed “activists” focused on Palestine only weep for Palestinians when they’re the victims of Israel, and not when they’re the victims of their favourite “anti-imperialist” pin-ups in Damascus, Tehran and elsewhere.
Their silence on Yarmouk was particularly damning. Some of them even tried to spin Assad’s brutal siege of Yarmouk’s Palestinian residents into Assad’s benevolent security forces having surrounded the camp in order to “save” the civilians inside from “militants” in the camp that were inexplicably denying food to themselves and their families in order to make Bashar look bad. These apologists twist themselves into knots in order to come up with all manner of misleading nonsense.
I come away from reading these odious lies feeling as if most people don’t truly care about fellow human beings or their suffering. When they do, it’s often because they’re members of their own tribe/sect or because they can manipulate the suffering for purposes of point-scoring or personal gain, be it financial or an expansion of their online echo chamber. Or to enhance their own standing in the eyes of others. Moral delinquency is the order of the day. There are millions of Shaimas in Syria. But to some people, they just don’t matter unless it was an Israeli bullet or bomb that caused the tragedy.