[News] Disembowelling Palestinian Right of Return: America’s Dog in Lebanese Fight

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Aug 5 13:18:50 EDT 2010



Disembowelling Palestinian Right of Return: America’s Dog in Lebanese Fight

05. Aug, 2010
http://www.intifada-palestine.com/2010/08/disembowelling-palestinian-right-of-return-americas-dog-in-lebanese-fight/

By Dr. Frankin Lamb

Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp, Beirut

“Some members of Parliament  prefer that the 
camps explode and then they will insist that 
“Palestinian  security problems must be resolved 
before Parliament can consider giving them civil 
rights”­meaning several more years of delay. That 
would be a disaster for all concerned.”

‘Ahmad’, Resident of Al-Buss  refugee camp, Tyre, Lebanon

Following some initial optimism after MP Walid 
Jumblatt’s June 15  introduction of draft 
legislation that would exempt Palestinians  from 
the Kafkaesque work permit process,  grant them 
the right to own a home outside their oxygen 
scarce  ‘sardine can’ camps, and  allow them 
to  receive some  worker paid earned social 
security benefits,  progress has dramatically slowed .

During  last week’s Parliamentary  session Head 
of the Administration and Justice parliamentary 
committee, MP Robert Ghanem,  reiterated his 
request to Berri and Parliament for a two-month 
“rest period”.  Premier Saad Hariri called for 
postponing the voting  for “two months or two 
months and a half.” Several other members asked 
the same. Parliament Speaker Berri  quickly 
agreed and postponed voting on the subject until 
August 17, adding that  “
the law will not pass 
unless  it enjoys consensus among Lebanese parties.”

Some supporters of Palestinian civil rights see 
problems  with more delays and with Berri’s  “no 
passage of civil rights without consensus”.  What 
is meant by consensus?  A simple majority plus 
one, two-thirds or..?   “ Does it mean  taking no 
legislative action on Palestinian civil rights 
unless and until  MP Jumblatt  can agree with MP 
Sami Gemayel-normally polar opposites  on 
important issues?  Others argue that Berri has no 
authority to require ‘consensus’ as it would 
likely mean any proposal will deteriorate  into 
the lowest common denominator with virtually no 
rights being granted.  Under the Lebanese 
Constitution, a law passes when it receives one 
more vote in favor than against and what is 
needed for passage is not determined  by the 
Speaker.  Some in Parliament are insisting on  a 
straight up or down vote on bills presented on 
the subject of Palestinian civil rights.  If 
Jumblatts  or any other draft law  garners 65 votes out of 128 it passes.

A review of Lebanon’s Parliamentary history shows 
that virtually all  of Parliament’s important 
decisions have been made by a straight up or down 
vote, not  ’consensus’.  Surely one  very 
important vote was the one that took 
place  on  August 17, 1970.  The  Parliamentary 
vote  margin that elected ‘consensus’ candidate 
Suleiman Frangieh  President of Lebanon  over 
Elias Sarkis was one vote, a result of  last 
minute vote  switches  engineered by Druze leader 
Kamal Jumblatt.   Forty years later to the day, 
August 17, 2010,  the  ‘consensus’  vote” on 
Kamel’s son Walid’s historic Palestinian Civil 
Rights  bill is scheduled for a vote.   A propitious  sign?  Enshallah!

Ambivalence has spread around Parliament despite 
two additional  measures  being  offered.  One 
was introduced in Parliament in early July by 
the  Syrian Socialist National Party (SSNP). This 
draft law most closely reflects internationally 
mandated civil rights for refugees  and of all 
the proposals to date  the NSSP draft is what 
Parliament should enact  to finally remedy  six 
decades of  civil wrongs. If enacted it would 
remedy the serial discriminations by successive 
Lebanese governments  since the 1969-1982, “Ayyam 
al-Thawra” (“the Days of the Revolution”) , when 
Palestinian refugees  had many more  employment 
prospects and benefited from  improved camp 
living conditions.  The SSNP  proposal is a 
preferred “one package” solution that will avoid 
a protracted  piece by piece  process and would 
largely finish this urgent problem.

Faced with two substantive draft bills, 
the  right wing Christian  parties,  often at 
odds, have joined ranks with Prime Minister Saad 
Hariri’s (“If it were up to me I would grant 
Palestinians their rights tomorrow”-April, 2010) 
Future Movement (“Muqtaqbal) to slam on the 
Parliamentary  brakes.  All  the March 14th 
coalition  except  the Phalange Party have 
accepted this draft bill which currently  has the 
most support in Parliament  probably because it 
offers the refugees the least civil 
rights.  According to its sponsors, the draft 
must  be studied more before 
formally  considered.  A draft  being 
circulated  reveals that those refugees with 
a  Palestinian ID Card approved by the  Lebanese 
General Security can receive a temporary 
residency permit including a 5 year ‘laissez 
passer’ travel document but not the approximately 
5000  non-ID’s who came in the 1970’s following 
Black September. Regrettably, this draft bill 
keeps the work permit  and only amends  Article 
59 of the labor law  in order to  waive work 
permit fees for Palestinians.  Nor does it allow 
participation in the 25 Syndicated Professions 
because it retains the impossible to meet  Reciprocity requirements.

Some MPs are dexterous in their efforts to limit 
civil rights granted to Palestinians.  MP Robert 
Ghanem, argued on 7/19/10 that work permits are 
good for Palestinians “because they  will 
preserve the refugee status of Palestinians in 
Lebanon. We fear that if we exempted the 
Palestinians from a work permit, we will drop 
their refugee status and this does not come in 
line with their interests.”  MP Ghanem surely is 
aware that being allowed to work is very much in 
line with the refugees interests and has nothing 
at all to do with “dropping their refugee 
status.” In fact they do not have refugee status 
as provided by international law.  That is one of 
the main problems.  Lebanon considers 
Palestinians  variously as “foreigners”, “special 
category of foreigners” and other times a 
“Palestinian refugees” without allowing them the 
legal rights that their refugee status warrant.

With respect to Social Security benefits, the 
March 14 proposal  requires that refugees pay 
into the Lebanese  Social Security Fund but 
allows only for end of service and a family 
allowance payment. Its specifically forbids 
sickness, accident or maternity benefits to 
Palestinian refugees. Without  health and 
accident  coverage the incentive to even seek a 
work permit wanes.  This ‘consensus’ proposal is 
more of a gesture than a solution and unless 
redrafted  remains  a bare bones proposal that 
will do little to  provide internationally 
mandated civil rights. Nor will it satisfy 
the  pursuit of genuine  rights among Lebanon’s 
Palestinians,  increasingly insisted on by the 
international community. Many Palestinians and 
their supporters are critical of this latest 
proposal and see it as offering  ‘a little 
something’ that  will allow its supporters to 
say, as one MP boasted last week: , “we will 
finally have achieved something for the refugees 
and anyhow,  how much more can we be expected 
to  squeeze from our flesh for  these Palestinians?”

No Enshallah please!   Just tell us Yes or No ok?

Meanwhile scores of Palestinians  protested 
outside Parliament last week as Palestinian 
frustration continues to mount in the camps over 
delays in granting civil rights. Parliamentary 
Speaker Nabeh Berri’s office when pressed for a 
statement  whether Parliament would take action 
this summer on the various bills would only offer 
a one word response: “Enshallah”

As a foreigner  in Lebanon this observer has come 
to really despise the  Arabic word 
‘Enshallah’.  True, it sounds nice 
enough  and  more likely than not it comes from 
lips with a smile, and the literal translation is good also: “God willing”.

However in reality, it’s a deadly and vicious 
expression that every guide book publisher on 
Lebanon has a moral duty to warn their readers 
about.  For the real meanings of “Enshallah” 
are:  , “probably not”, “almost certainly not 
going  to happen”, “forget about it fool”, or 
simply, “no way and go away!”  So if one is 
presented with the response, ‘Enshallah’, whether 
by the office of  the Speaker of 
Lebanon’s  Parliament ,  or  from someone you 
might be asking out on a date or trying to get 
something done in Lebanon,  or tying to get civil 
rights legislation enacted into law, one has a 
big chance of being disappointed.

In Lebanon’s Parliament,  about the worst thing 
that can happen to a members pet legislative 
initiative is to have it placed in “the Enshallah 
drawer”, meaning it is set aside for ‘Enshalleh’ 
consideration sometime in the  ‘Enshallah’ 
future.  Often never to be heard from.  Some 
fear  this is what may happen to proposals to 
grant Palestinian refugees  their internationally 
mandated right to work and to own a home.

Other reasons for Parliamentary delay?


Some Parliament watchers speculate that certain 
members seek to delay granting 
Palestinians  civil rights until the Special 
Tribunal for Lebanon hands down  expected 
indictments, concerning the 2005 assassination of 
Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.  They calculate the 
STL announcements will dramatically increase 
Lebanese-Palestinian tensions.  Change and Reform 
parliamentary bloc MP Michel Aoun (Free Patriotic 
Movement leader), no advocate of any meaningful 
civil rights for Palestinians, is warning of a US 
‘green lighted’  Israeli invasion of Lebanon if 
the STL indicts “uncontrolled” Hezbollah members. 
Others claim the main problem is that Lebanon 
cannot move beyond the 1975-1990 Civil War and 
raising in Parliament the subject of Palestinians 
brings up also many painful memories that 
most  of the confessions wish to forget.

While some political analysts in Lebanon think 
there is a chance that  Parliament may well ease 
the restrictions on the right to work, there is 
still strong opposition to granting Palestinian 
refugees the internationally recognized right to 
own real property or even a single home–an 
international right allowed in all other 
countries.  As a scare tactic on this issue the 
specter of ‘Naturalization’ is again raised even 
though it has nothing to do with home ownership.

If Israelis can buy homes in Lebanon why not Palestinian refugees?

There is no shortage of Lebanese politicians  who 
will explain why Palestinian home ownership is 
out of the question including the claim 
that  there is simply not enough land in crowded 
Lebanon for foreigners to be allowed to purchase 
any. Kataeb-Phalange bloc MP Elie Marouni  told 
his followers on Bastille Day  last week  “that 
the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon will never be 
naturalized  as long as there are Christian 
believers who  will sacrifice themselves for the 
sake of Lebanon. We don’t have the space.” His 
colleague and Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel 
warned the day before  that “granting 
Palestinians the right to own property would lead to their naturalization”.

Neither of these leaders, has  explained  why 
during  the half century (1948-2001) when 
Palestinian refugees were allowed to own property 
the question of “naturalization” was never an 
issue.  There was no problem. The fact is that 
the assertion that  ‘naturalization’  would be 
the result of a refugee family owning a home 
is  false and it is was invented  solely  for the 
reason that it provides ‘raw meat’  for 
detractors who  basically  don’t want any rights 
for any Palestinians no matter what the facts are.

According to Lebanese Human Rights Ambassador Ali 
Khalil: “Fanning the coals of ‘naturalization’ is 
a recent bogeyman meant to scare Christians who 
already are nervous because their numbers 
continue to shrink.  Generally  more affluent 
than other sects, they are able to leave Lebanon 
for better prospects.  If Palestinians were able 
to work and became a bit more affluent many of 
them would leave also but that fact appears lost 
on those who prefer to keep them in squalid camps 
in Lebanon rather than  allowing them  to work 
and perhaps move out of Lebanon.”

The ‘not enough land for foreigners’ claim is 
faulty on two grounds.  Regarding population 
density, in  Saida’s Ein el Helwe Camp, the 
largest of the 12 in Lebanon, approximately 
90,000 refugees are tightly packed into less than 
1 km sq. area whereas the average Lebanese 
population density is close to 350 persons per sq, km.

Foreigners buy as much land in Lebanon as they 
wish and can afford despite the ‘legal’ 
limitations for  foreigners of 3,000 sq. meters 
in Beirut and 5000 sq. meters outside Beirut. 
Foreigners regularly  ignore the “law”  and 
sometimes pay bribes to purchase whatever land 
they want and sometimes even citizenship.

Free Patriotic Movement leader and Hezbollah ally 
MP Michel Aoun is  calling for a new law to 
reclaim property from foreign owners in response 
to complaints about his voicing  strong objection 
to granting Palestinian refugees in Lebanon the right to own property.
“We can’t issue a law that gives the Palestinians 
the right to own property, but we can issue a law 
to reclaim properties owned by foreigners,” 
Aoun  said with a straight face,  adding 
that  “Christian parties didn’t act with 
prejudice when the issue of civil rights 
for  Palestinian refugees was raised. “Our stance 
is similar to that of the Phalange Party and the 
draft law would only be put to the vote of the 
parliament after being studied,” Aoun added. Some 
in Lebanon are waiting to see if  General 
Aoun’s  “No buying a little bit of Lebanon” law 
gets introduced in Parliament and what the US 
Congress and Arab league reaction will be if it does.

BayIt BeyLebnan?  (Hebrew for ‘your home in Lebanon?’)

The Israeli-American  Likud banker and warmonger 
Irving I. Moscowitz, financial backer of the 
archeological tunnel in east Jerusalem and 
supporter, financially or otherwise,  of 
virtually all Zionist groups developing stolen 
Palestinian land including his  own  properties 
in Maale Adumim, Har Homa in Palestinian east 
Jerusalem and Beitar Illit is claimed to have 
moved  into the real estate market in  Lebanon.

Regarding occupied Palestine, Moscowitz has for 
years advised would be investors, (ignoring the 
Geneva Conventions and settled International 
law)  at Jewish only “real estate fairs” in 
American and European Synagogues :  “Your 
investment is insured, protected and 100% legal. 
You should consider strengthening your portfolio and Israel’s future!”

Moscowitz   is said to  expect competition  for 
Lebanese land from Lev Leviev, who the NYT refers 
to as ‘the missionary mogul”.  Leviev,  now the 
world’s largest cutter and polisher of 
diamonds,  also specializes in illegal real 
estate developments on stolen Palestinian 
land.  Leviev’s , Leader Management and 
Development, is currently building the settlement 
of Zufim on Palestinian land in the illegally 
occupied West Bank. When asked recently by 
Ha’aretz Daily if  he has a problem building on 
expropriated Arab  land he replied,  “For me, 
Israel, Jerusalem, Lebanon are all the same.”So 
are the Golan Heights. As far as I’m concerned, 
all of Eretz Israel is holy. To decide the future 
of Jerusalem? It belongs to the Jewish people. 
What is there to decide? Jerusalem is not a topic for discussion.”

Both tell associates that with their American 
partners, they are moving into the Lebanese real 
estate market which they find attractive. If 
true, Lebanon’s  Parliament might  want to 
consider using some of the extra time  they have 
extended themselves this summer, currently 
being  devoted to sounding the ‘chicken little 
sky is falling’ alarm about Palestinians wanting 
to exercise their internationally mandated civil 
right to own a home pending their return to 
Palestine.   Parliament should 
investigate  claims that  “American” companies”, 
some with 100%  Israeli stockholders are buying 
up Lebanese land and using bribes to avoid Lebanese law.

‘Darwish’, a school teacher in South Lebanon 
explained this week what many Palestinians feel:

“My family home and property were stolen by 
Zionist thugs  in Akka  in 1948 and also our 
cousins home  outside Jerusalem. If you look at 
the current advertisement in Israeli 
newspapers,  (‘Darwish shows a copy of an ad he 
printed off the internet from Haaretz.com  that 
reads, “Own a little piece of Switzerland” which 
describes a quaint Swiss like scene, and it shows 
a bucolic vista that Darwish claims was his 
family’s village, now a Zionist colony.)  so you 
see this is my problem.  In Palestine our  home 
was stolen and in Lebanon I cannot own 
one.  Worse than this, it bothers me and my 
family that Zionists can now sell my land in 
Palestine to foreigners while as a Palestinian in 
Lebanon I cannot buy a temporary  home.  Israelis 
can invest their profits from our stolen 
Palestinian land  and they can build homes in 
Lebanon  and sell to other foreigners, but 
Palestinians can’t buy a home here.  We have 
heard that some of the same “American and 
European” companies that sell  our Palestinian 
land to foreigners in Palestinian  now operate in 
Lebanon. One ‘American’ company is reported to 
have 11 stockholders.  All of them Israelis”.

Parliament appears to be  ‘playing’ the 
Palestinians this summer,  as well as 
‘playing’  the international community that 
expects more courage,  compassion  and respect 
for international human rights  from a gifted 
people.  Parliament   risks  degrading Lebanon in 
the process and its  leaders  should schedule a 
straight up vote  without further dilatory 
tactics such a ‘more study’ and ‘building   near 
unanimous consensus’ that appears designed to 
produce the lowest common denominator which means 
that without  political will and courage  it will 
likely produce not much at all.  Regarding six 
decades of  annual calls for ‘more study of this 
sensitive problem’ there are already more than 30 
studies completed just since 2000.  They 
unanimously conclude  what  nearly  every ten 
years old in Lebanon understands  needs to be 
done and  that is to grant  the internationally 
mandated right to work, to  own, inherit and 
bequeath  a home, and access to  some social 
security protection without further dilatory tactics.

Franklin Lamb volunteers with the Palestine Civil 
Rights Campaign and can be reached at 
<mailto:fplamb at palestinecivilrightscampaign.org>fplamb at palestinecivilrightscampaign.org. 





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