Syrian forces attacked a Palestinian refugee camp in Latakia this week, causing up to 10,000 residents to flee. UNRWA, the UN agency in charge of Palestinian refugees, said it has no idea where they went, how many were killed, or whether wounded and elderly people might still be trapped in the camp; it deemed the situation “very, very worrying.” A senior Palestinian Authority official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, went even further, terming the attack “a crime against humanity.” But one Palestinian organization had not a word to say about this assault on its brethren: Hamas.
Hamas, of course, is deeply beholden to Bashar Assad’s regime: It’s headquartered in Damascus and receives extensive military and financial aid from Assad’s patron, Iran. For the same reason, smaller Palestinian terror organizations based in Syria also kept quiet about the assault. But unlike these smaller groups, Hamas aspires to lead the Palestinians; it even won the last Palestinian election. That’s precisely why many Westerners advocate engaging with this terrorist organization: They say it authentically represents many Palestinians, and therefore can’t be ignored.
The Guardian announced the finalists for its reader-nominated Not the Booker Prize this morning. As I’ve had occasion to say before, literary prizes are just another way of advertising books. The anti-establishment spirit of the Not the Booker is as feeble as complaints about sexist TV commercials.
Even so, one of the nice things about the Guardian’s prize (the winner gets a coffee mug) is that nominations must be accompanied by a defense of the novel in not-less-than 150 words, although Sam Jordison said that the paper “had to be pretty lenient with the rule.” Unexplained “complications” would have ensued otherwise. “So long as people have had a decent stab at writing something,” he admits, “we’ve accepted it.” I can’t make up my mind about that phrase decent stab. After 20 years in the college classroom, I know that a stab can be decent, and yet awfully messy. Still, the Guardian has made a decent stab at replacing book enthusiasm with at least some book discussion, and that’s worth something.
Jordison swears that he will publish his own reviews “within a week.” Desperate for informed recommendations, hungry readers will be waiting impatiently.