Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Remember Syria?

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From the moment Israel's Operation Pillar of Defence began last week, news of Syrian President Bashar Assad's bloody suppression of the rebellion against his rule was pushed down the news page, and in some cases knocked out of the paper entirely.

This, in spite of the fact that more Syrians than Palestinians were killed over the same period and that the death toll in Assad's crackdown is approaching 40,000 - many times more than the total number of Palestinians killed during fighting with Israel in decades of conflict.

At Commentary Magazine's Contentions blog, veteran journalist Evelyn Gordon lamented the lack of coverage of the carnage from Syria in the highly-respected International Herald Tribune at the expense of the Gaza-Israel conflagration.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, that weekend (the IHT doesn't publish on Sunday) saw at least 129 Syrians killed, 47 on Saturday and 82 on Sunday, including 69 civilians. In other words, more civilians were killed in Syria that weekend alone than the total number of fatalities, both combatant and noncombatant, since the latest Hamas-Israel war began. But in the overseas edition of America's self-proclaimed paper of record, they didn't even rate a mention. Nor is the coverage less warped in other media outlets.

The point is not to downplay the tragedy of the civilian casualties in Gaza. Every life lost is profoundly regrettable. But it is important to put the media storm over the numbers into some perspective. More innocent lives are being lost daily in neighbouring Syria, yet it is barely being reported, much less made the subject of endless comment and even outrage.

Meanwhile, the responses of Syria and some of Israel's regional neighbours to the Hamas-Israel fighting can be described as pure chutzpah.
Last week, the Assad regime added its voice to the Arab outrage against Israel's effort to defend itself.

"The Syrian government condemns the heinous atrocities committed by the enemy Israeli army against the Arab Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip," the Syrian government announced in a statement.

This, in spite of the fact that Assad's forces have also been responsible for the killing of Palestinians in Syria (as reported by AIJAC's Sharyn Mittleman).

In another display of hypocrisy, Turkey, whose Prime Minister Recep Erdogan called Israel a "terrorist state" in recent days, was responsible for an attack on Kurds that left 42 dead earlier this month.

In a previous campaign against the PKK in August and September, Erdogan boasted of 500 separatists either killed or captured.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict between Turkey and the Kurdish terror group PKK since 1984.

Ahron Shapiro