More than 50 people have been killed – the civilian death toll is unknown – as Lebanese Army forces battle Islamists in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared, located just outside of Tripoli.
The event that set off the shooting began last Sunday, after security forces raided a building to arrest suspects in a bank robbery. The suspects were associated with the same Fatah al-Islam elements apparently involved in the bombing of two passenger buses last month filled with Lebanese Christians.
The resemblance of the Lebanese chain of events to Israel’s April 2002 assault on the Jenin refugee camp as part of Operation Defensive Shield is striking. Israel launched its attack after sustaining seven suicide bombings in a two-week period, culminating in the bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya on Seder night, which killed 30 civilians.
Following Operation Defensive Shield in Jenin, Palestinians, Arab League, United Nations and human rights organizations all called for investigations into the Israeli operation, initially dubbed a "massacre" by Arab leaders and the news media. The IDF operation resulted in the deaths of 52 Palestinians and 23 Israeli soldiers.
Depending on which report you believe (Human Rights Watch’s or the IDF’s), anywhere between 30 to 38 of the Palestinians killed were gunmen.
Still, protests were sent to the UN Security Council, and inquiries were conducted by the UN, journalists and human rights organizations. All admitted that no massacre had taken place; however Human Rights Watch and others did claim that Israel had violated international law.
CURIOUSLY, similar calls by the world community for investigations into the recent fighting in Lebanon are absent. Missing are the cries of the Arab world for an investigation into the deaths of innocent Palestinians. Gone are the demands by human rights organizations to access the area and scrutinize the actions of the Lebanese Army vis-a-vis the Palestinians.
The UN has not been called upon to examine the operation, and some Western newspapers even took the bold step of calling the Fatah al-Islam "terrorist" – a word absent in describing attacks against Israelis.
Plainly, while it is acceptable for Lebanese to deal with the Palestinians as they see fit, it is not okay for the Israelis to defend themselves from Palestinian violence.
Granted, the Palestinians are the most oppressed people in the Arab world: They are denied citizenship by most of their Arab host countries, restricted from jobs and educational opportunities, and deported from countries at the whim of security officials. At the same time, contributions from the Arab world to Palestinian "resistance" organizations continue, as Israeli-Palestinian violence is played out on Arab television on a daily basis.
The only time the world seems to care about the Palestinian Arabs is when they are suffering at the hands of Israelis. Amnesty International has issued more reports on Israel than the Sudan. The hypocrisy is astonishing.
So this begs the question: With regard to the most recent military activity in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared in Lebanon, where are the cries of "massacre"?
The writer is a research fellow at the Belfer Center at Harvard University, and a Ph.D candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.