More fortunately than in Syria, in Lebanon, Palestinians have been driven by nationalist rather than sectarian instincts. That, alongside Hezbollah's efforts to secure the allegiance of Palestinians in Lebanon, their refugee camps have so far not meddled in Lebanese sectarian conflicts.
Finian Cunningham explains the regrettable situation concerning some Palestinian refugees in Syria in his article "Syria's shameful betrayal by Palestinians."
In Syria, the dominant anti-government militants share the same fundamentalist Wahhabi ideology of the Persian Gulf monarchies, and they have varying affiliation with Al Qaeda. This ideological spectrum has drawn in factions of the Hamas movement in Palestine, which has traditional links with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Why is this particularly shameful for Palestinians? Well, of all the Arab countries that have provided humanitarian aid and solidarity to the Palestinians down through the decades perhaps none has been as loyal and self-sacrificing in its fraternal help than the Syrian Arab Republic. From the Zionist Nakba massacres against the Palestinians in 1948 until the present day, Syria has received millions of Palestinian refugees with open arms. The country is believed to host the biggest exiled Palestinian population in whole the region.
One of the largest Palestinian communities in Syria is at the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus where some 20,000* live. But as political analyst Christof Lehmann points out, the term “refugee camp” is misleading. Palestinian residents have always been granted full citizenship and civil rights.** "Yarmouk is more of an ordinary suburb of Damascus," notes Lehmann, "but it has a technical status of refugee camp under Syrian and international law."
Since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Palestinian factions within the Yarmouk district have allowed the foreign-backed extremists of Jabhat al Nusra and others to infiltrate and occupy large swathes.
"Half of Yarmouk has been overrun by Jabhat al Nusrah and some other Al Qaeda brigades, as well as some small Muslim Brotherhood brigades," says Lehmann. "Sadly, Hamas has been playing a role in this through a recruitment campaign among young Palestinians to join the anti-government forces in Syria."
Anti-government Palestinian factions within Yarmouk blame the Syrian army for the blockade and they claim it is being used as a tactic to force submission. This narrative has been zealously amplified by the Western media as a way of discrediting the Assad government. But many observers say that it is the foreign-backed militants who are holding the Yarmouk residents as hostages and human shields. This week a UN aid convoy of food trying to enter the area was turned back when it came under fire from gunmen believed to be from the militant side. Palestinian Labour Minister Ahmad Majdalani*** blamed the foreign-backed insurgents. It's sad that some sections of Palestinians have been swayed because Saudi and Qatari influence who, unlike Syria, had always been a picture of neglect to the Palestinian cause.
*The correct figure is150,000 lived in Yarmouk prior to the war, and now some 18,000 remain.
**Syria didn't grant the refugees citizenship, but that didn't make any practical difference as they were given full civil rights.
***Ahmed Majdalani is actually former labor minister
who is attached to the PLO and is now a minister without portfolio. That explains his Syrian policy. Unlike Hamas, PLO is supporting the Syrian government, though latest news through some sources claim that Hamas has now broken off from Qatar and wants to rejoin Syria. However, Syria's trust has been shaken quite understandably and while many Palestinians at Yarmouk are supporting and also voluntarily fighting for the Syrian Army, the Syrian government is no longer in a position to blindly trust all residents of Yarmouk Camp .. unfortunately.