An overlooked complication in Syria…

TW: Syrian revolution, Palestinian diaspora

Yesterday, the Ma’an News Agency reported the death of multiple Palestinians in Syria, several of whom were non-combatant civilians living in the Yarmouk refugee camp. That brings to the fore an often overlooked part of the conflict in Syria – there’s already well over 100,000 Palestinian refugees registered as living in Yarmouk alone, with nearly half a million of them in Syria altogether. Even as there’s extensive discussions about the increasing proportion of the Syrian population living abroad or within Syria as refugees, it seems often unexamined how many of those people were already refugees, had been born refugees, and whose own parents might have been born as refugees.


(An image of the camp being attacked, from here.)

The issue of course is complex. There are estimated to be multiple millions of refugees as a result of the conflict in Syria who aren’t Palestinian as well as millions of Palestinian refugees who were displaced within current Israeli-controlled spaces or to other countries besides Syria. But it seems crucial to acknowledge that many thousands of people fall into both the groups of people displaced by the Israeli government and those dislocated by Syrian regime.

This is the world that various influence people, organizations, and states have allowed to come into existence: one where there are now two overlapping refugee crises in the eastern Mediterranean.

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3 thoughts on “An overlooked complication in Syria…

  1. Michael says:

    How can someone who was born in Syria, and who’s parents were born there, have been displaced by the Israeli government? How can a refugee status be inherited?

  2. Michael – that’s curious. If Palestinians displaced by the establishment of the modern Israeli state can’t pass down their status as refugees or people in exile, then why is such a status for Jews viewed as what gives that same Israeli state and many of its policies legitimacy? It seems like we can’t reasonably accept the validity of only one of those population’s claims to that land generations after removal without allowing the other (unless you argue from a place of either Jewish or Palestinian exceptionalism).

    It’s common to counter by pointing to the long history of Jewish exile and marginalization as a difference, which is a founded argument, but as I noted in the article above, the Palestinian populations in many neighboring countries (in this case Syria, but often in Lebanon and Jordan as well) are largely relegated to refugee camps. Often located in urban areas, they somewhat reflect the historical Jewish ghettos in appearance. There are some differences in terms of the historical experiences of Jews and the present experiences of Palestinians in exile, but it seems difficult to view those differences as salient to the right to claim an exiled social or legal status.

  3. Michael says:

    What I find curious that this is the only refugee group of the 20th century that has remained relegated to camps for generations. Why can’t the solutions that have been applied to other refugees be applied here? Especially since the displaced population is essentially the same ethnically, culturally and linguistically as the population of the countries where they ended up (and in many cases originated from not long beforehand).

    But since the Arab countries are vanishing as a whole, this whole issue of Palestinian refugees they created and nurtured is about to vanish with them anyway, swallowed by the much larger crisis. And I don’t see that one being resolved for the decades to come, surely not by Israel.

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