Monday, March 3, 2014

Whatever Happened to Reading?

Right at the outset, can we all agree on this: 

It is better to be quiet and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.


The following profoundly simple-minded letter appeared in Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald:

"Your photograph speaks a thousand words ('Picture of misery: the suffering masses in Syria's capital', February 28). Bashar al-Assad has much to answer for." Don Leayr, Albury

The photograph referred to was accompanied by a brief explanation, courtesy of Fairfax's Middle East correspondent, Ruth Pollard. It began thus:

"A tide of people crowds into the space between the devastated buildings of Yarmouk in Syria in the hope they will receive a UN food parcel to stave off death for another week. Many have already starved in Yarmouk, once home to 160,000 Palestinian refugees..."

If Don Leayr had bothered to read that, he'd have seen those two words: Palestinian refugees.


That is, refugees from Palestine, driven from their homeland by Zionist fire and sword in 1948, and refused the right of return ever since in deference to the seriously weird Zionist myth that Jews - from here, there, anywhere/ black, white, or brindle - constitute a people/nation, and that historic Palestine, rebranded Israel, is their exclusive domain.

If that elementary fact of modern Middle East history had lodged in Leayr's consciousness at some point in his long life on this planet (spring chickens most likely do not read the Herald anymore), would Bashar al-Assad, I wonder, have been the sole, or even primary, focus of his ire?

And even if it hadn't, if only Leayr had gone on to read Pollard's short gloss in its entirety, he would have came across this:

"'The people coming from within Yarmouk appear suddenly near this distribution point. It's like the appearance of ghosts,' said UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi..."

Which might - I know I'm stretching it here - have prompted him to google Grandi's account of this appalling event. Had he done so, he would have read the following:

"But it is Yarmouk which has come to symbolize the suffering of Palestine refugees in Syria in the course of the war. Yarmouk was a large, vibrant, urban melting pot of Palestinians and Syrians. It owes its current fate purely to its location: a triangular slice pointing straight into central Damascus, a strategic last piece in the puzzle required to make a strong advance on the capital. Its relative isolation was shattered in mid-December 2012. This is when armed groups came into the camp, the government surrounded the area, and clashes ensued. UNRWA's 28 schools and 3 clinics ceased operation. Armed groups also occupied houses, looted hospitals and stores. Those inside Yarmouk... got caught in a tight stranglehold by the parties to the conflict." (Syrian Arab Republic: Lecture by Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of UNRWA at American University of Beirut, 25/2/14)


But expecting the Leayr's of this world to do a modicum of research before shooting their mouths off in a letter to the editor is apparently a bridge too far these days. 

As is expecting letters editors to filter out such rubbish.

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