Is Gaza Really the Biggest Case of Arab Suffering?

What would a Sudanese person watching that country’s renewed civil war — which has killed 14,000, displaced eight million, and threatens 17 million with famine in less than a year — think when they this CBS headline: “Gaza faces unprecedented desperation.”

Sudan has a population of 46 million, Gaza only has two million.

Between 2004 and 2009, the Sudanese regime killed 400,000 people in Sudan. Millions were displaced and still live today in camps suffering acute hunger and the spread of cholera. Since then, the Sudanese regime has disintegrated into its components: its the army and its militias. Since April, the two sides have been engaged in a civil war, causing even more Sudanese deaths, displacement, and agony.

A child in Sudan is dying every hour, according to Medecins Sans Frontier. The International Rescue Committee lists the war in Sudan as the top concern of its 2024 Emergency Watchlist.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported that 25 million Sudanese are in need of assistance. Close to 18 million of them face acute hunger, 4.9 million on emergency levels. Of the $2.7 billion needed for Sudan in 2024, UN agencies have received $96.7 million, amounting to only four percent.

Yet, the Sudanese tragedy never seems to attract as much attention as the newer and much smaller conflict in Gaza. UN Secretary General Secretary General António Guterres said about Gaza: “We are witnessing a killing of civilians that is unparalleled and unprecedented in any conflict since I have been Secretary-General.”

But Guterres is wrong.

When the number of deaths in Gaza stood at a reported 29,000 — if we were to believe local Gazan sources — Hamas claimed that it had lost 6,000 of its fighters. Israel alleged that Hamas had lost double that number. Even assuming nearly 30,000 people have died (something we have no way to verify), if we split the difference, the ratio of combatants to non-combatants killed in war in Gaza would be roughly 1:2, lower than the 1:3 (or 1:4) ratio of a similar Middle Eastern asymmetric war when US forces eradicated ISIS in Mosul.

While the death of a single civilian in war is regrettable, it is unlikely that Guterres will ever walk back his claim and admit that the number of non-combatants killed in Gaza is below war average. Guterres’ statement will linger for a long time, and feed the misinformation mill of anti-Israel hatred.

Similarly, a World Health Organization’s spokesperson said that the “war in Gaza has resulted in unprecedented levels of destruction.” Notwithstanding that almost any war in the Middle East — including in Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon — has caused comparable destruction, the WHO will unlikely qualify its statement or correct itself.

In fact, even when proven false, the global media has rarely retracted erroneous reporting. On October 17, the world media claimed that Israel had committed an “unprecedented” attack on a Gaza hospital that killed 500 Palestinians. It turned out that errant Palestinian fire had killed tens of Palestinians who were camped in the yard of that hospital. Yet the original report is still available today on Reuters‘ website, without any update or errata notice.

For non-Palestinian Arabs who have been suffering from war, there is a sense of unfairness that Palestinians have been monopolizing global headlines for the past century.

Palestinians even get their own UN agencies, such as UNRWA, dedicated exclusively to the affairs of 5.9 million Palestinian “refugees” — when 12 million displaced Syrians, 8.1 million Sudanese, 4.5 million Yemenis, and 1.1 million Iraqis are all tucked under UNHCR and receive a fraction of the global resources and attention.

In fact, the majority of Palestinian refugees today were not themselves displaced, but are the descendants of Palestinians displaced in the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israelis wars. Millions of displaced Palestinians from these wars resettled and were naturalized in countries around the world, yet are still registered as UNRWA “refugees.”

Even claims that the rate and scale of Israel’s fighting in Gaza “is unlike any war in recent memory” are false.

Unless humanity has the memory of a goldfish, most of us remember (and this writer witnessed) Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon to eject Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization militias. In 12 weeks, Lebanon estimated its losses at 18,000, with many more thousands of Palestinians fighters unaccounted for. Even Israel suffered heavier losses in 1982 Lebanon, 350 troops in 88 days, compared to 230 in 140 days in 2024 Gaza.

Until 2003, Iraqis suffered 24 years of brutal Saddam Hussein tyranny, including his usage of sarin gas on his own people. Kuwaitis suffered Saddam’s invasion and burning of their oilfields. Similarly, Syria’s Assad used chemical weapons in crushing a revolution, between 2011 and 2018, killing along the way at least 300,000 and displacing 12 million.

In Lebanon, a UN Tribunal found that Hezbollah assassinated Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and a dozen other politicians, journalists, and activists after him. The World Food Program (WFP) has been working to prevent a famine by feeding 400,000 “vulnerable Lebanese families.”

And yet, in their rallies and in the statements of their leadership — whether the Palestinian Authority or Hamas — Palestinians have praised Hussein, Assad and Nasrallah, and have shown disinterest in the tragedy of other Arabs, claiming exclusive victimhood.

Despite their agony, ongoing displacement and hunger, the Lebanese, Syrians, Iraqis, Yemenis, and Sudanese people are expected to focus on Gaza as their “central cause.” In fact, the UNRWA’s budget per capita is multi-folds that of non-Palestinian Arabs. These Arab people would raise their voice, but social shaming and physical harassment that threatens them — both at home and in their Western diaspora — keeps them silently weeping and prevents the world from understanding these tragedies that are happening in the Arab world.

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