I know I shouldn’t be surprised any longer, but I still can’t help it. In a recent edition of The New York Times, after seeing 25 column inches on page A4 devoted to an article entitled "Israel Rebukes 2 in Attack on U.N. Complex," I read a short news item two pages later. It wasn’t quite eight lines long, the fourth of five items under "World Briefing."
Here are the first two (of three) sentences:
"A human rights group criticized Jordan on Monday for stripping the citizenship of nearly 3,000 Jordanians of Palestinian origin in recent years. Concerned about increasing numbers of Palestinians, who make up nearly half the population, Jordan began in 2004 revoking the citizenship from Palestinians who do not have Israeli permits to reside in the West Bank."
Apart from the scanty news coverage of what is, after all, an important story -- thousands of people losing their citizenship as a country seeks to tilt its delicate demographic balance -- there is, of course, another issue.
Apart from the group that blew the whistle on this years-old policy, where is the outcry?
When Israel is accused, however unjustly, of any alleged misdeed against the Palestinians, the din is immediate and deafening. But when fellow Arabs are shown to be inflicting real damage on the Palestinians, there's hardly a peep.
Since the story surfaced nearly a week ago, I've looked in vain for editorials, columns, op-ed pieces, or letters-to-the-editor on the citizenship policy. Couldn't find a thing.
I checked on the usual addresses that profess to care about the Palestinian fate -- the UN General Assembly, UN Human Rights Council, UN Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories, Arab League, Organization of the Islamic Conference, and Non-Aligned Movement, among others -- and found nothing.
I looked at the usually loquacious individuals and groups for whom the Palestinian issue is the alpha and omega of human rights questions -- the first and last example of refugees ever produced by conflict -- and met a blank slate.
Silence from the mayor of Malmo. Silence from the London School of Economics Student Union. Silence from the British trade unionists who want to boycott Israel. Silence from the Norwegian academics who wish to shun their Israeli counterparts. Silence from those who seek to remove Israeli products from Trader Joe's and Carrefour supermarkets. Silence from the media outlets that can be counted on to slam Israel for every perceived violation of Palestinian rights. Well, you get the point.
In other words, when Israel takes action to defend itself, pro-Palestinian forces around the world are ready to mobilize at a moment's notice with emergency sessions, self-righteous indignation, heated resolutions, angry protests, boycotts, letter-writing campaigns, and over-the-top ads.
Yet, these very same forces are AWOL if Israel is not involved. They simply can't be bothered. Suddenly, their self-described anguish over the Palestinian plight evaporates. And, of course, this isn't the first such instance.
Here are two other examples.
In 1990, Saddam Hussein ordered Iraqi forces to occupy Kuwait, claiming it was a province of his country. After the Iraqi military was ousted, Kuwaiti officials ordered the expulsion of 3-400,000 Palestinians who had been living in the country, in some cases for decades. The Palestinians were accused of having served as a fifth column for Iraq. Out they went.
Stop to think about it. An entire community was labeled subversive and kicked out en masse. That's a pretty heavy-duty step by a government that offered no judicial recourse, no right of appeal, and no compassion for the broken lives.
Where is the moral outrage? Why the telling silence?
Where were pro-Palestinian forces at the time? Again, missing in action. They couldn't pin the blame directly on Israel -- although indirectly they blame everything that happens to the Palestinians on Israel's very being -- so the fate of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fleeing Kuwait didn't cause them sleepless nights.
Or how about the situation of Palestinians living in Lebanon? According to UNRWA, there are over 400,000 Palestinians registered with the UN agency. Most have been there for decades. In line with UNRWA policy, there is no mandate to resettle these Palestinians or future generations. Rather, they are deliberately kept as "refugees," unlike any other such population in the world.
Meanwhile, the Lebanese government has adopted resolutions and decrees over the years effectively aimed at the Palestinians in the country. "Foreigners," meaning Palestinians, are restricted from working in over 70 different professions in Lebanon, including medicine, dentistry, law and accounting.
Moreover, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon cannot today purchase property, and those who bought land before 2001 are barred from passing it on to their children. Only Lebanese citizens have the right to form non-governmental organizations. Palestinian refugees must do so through others since they are not accorded the chance to acquire Lebanese nationality.
Pretty draconian stuff. Yet, once again, where is the moral outrage of those who claim concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people? Why the telling silence?
Oh yes, I had forgotten. It's not Israel placing the stiff restrictions on Palestinian professional activity, land purchases, or the formation of civic associations, so it doesn't pass muster as a cause worth pursuing.
If this isn't a case of rank hypocrisy and transparent double standards, then what is?