[News] Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon: Righting a Perpetual Wrong
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jun 28 11:25:41 EDT 2010
Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon: Righting a Perpetual Wrong
By <http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/ramzybaroud>Ramzy Baroud
Monday, June 28, 2010
Finally, a parliamentary debate in Lebanon over
the human rights of Palestinian refugees. What is
unfortunate though, is that granting basic civil
rights to over 400,000 Palestinians - 62 years
after their expulsion from their historic
homeland and the issuing of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights has been a topic of
debate in the first place. Equally regrettable
is the fact that various Christian Lebanese
political forces are fiercely opposing granting Palestinians their rights.
Most Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are second
and third generation refugees. Impoverished camps
are the only homes they have ever known. In
Palestine, their real home, their villages were
destroyed, their fields were burnt down and their
culture was eradicated. An ongoing attempt at
erasing every aspect of the Palestinian Arab
identity in todays Israel continues unabated,
strengthened by the rightwing government of Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is recognized in
many political circles as fascist.
But what 62 years of dispossession, massacres and
untold hardship failed to destroy - the memory
and the belonging - will certainly not be
eliminated now by some rightwing politicians and
few parliamentary bills at the Israeli Knesset,
including one that forbids Palestinians from
commemorating their Nakba (Catastrophe of 1947-48).
The ongoing debate in the Lebanese parliament,
however, is of a different nature. Lebanon is
striving to settle many hanging political
questions. Despite Israels devastating wars, a
more confident Lebanese populace is emerging.
This was largely empowered by the success of the
Lebanese military resistance to Israel. A country
of law and order is replacing that of chaos and
turmoil, and a level of political independence is
making some promising appearances after decades
of total political dependency and proxy civil wars.
However, there are those who want Lebanon to
remain a country divided on sectarian lines, a
characteristic that defined Lebanese society for
generations. Only such a division could guarantee
their survival at the helm of dismal clan-based,
sectarian hierarchy that has long degraded the
image of the country, and allowed outsiders,
notwithstanding Israel, to manipulate the fragile
structure for their own benefit.
The denial of rights for Palestinian refugees in
Lebanon is an old subject that often resurfaces
as a political ploy to serve immediate interests.
This time, however, things seem to be different.
Lebanon needs to move forward. Denying 400,000
people living a most wretched existence in
scattered refugee camps, surrounding by mass
graves, military checkpoints and no political
horizon whatsoever is not conducive to the
process of political and social progress.
Of course, those who dread the possibility of a
modern Lebanon unified by one common identity
one that is not held hostage to sectarian
allegiances or tribal affiliations want
Palestinian refugees to remain perpetual victims.
The good news is that the bill is supported by
who are otherwise political rivals in Lebanese
politics - Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime
minister of the Future Movement, and Hezbollah and Amal, among others.
The bill, introduced by the Progressive Socialist
Party (PSP) on June 15 would cancel prohibitions
on property ownership and social security
benefits for Palestinians, and ease restrictions
on their right to work, according to Human
Rights Watch. Nadim Houry, HRW director in
Beirut, said, Lebanon has marginalized
Palestinian refugees for too long (and the)
parliament should seize this opportunity to turn
the page and end discrimination against Palestinians.
Indeed, it is an opportunity. But MPs from the
Free Patriotic Movement, Phalange and Lebanese
Forces are strongly opposing the measure.
Phalange official Sami Gemayel, for example, has
tried to delay the measure, hoping perhaps to
deflate the strong movement that no longer
tolerates denying Palestinian refugees their
basic rights. A matter that has created a number
of crises for more than 60 years could not be
tackled within three days, the Lebanese Daily
Star quoted him as saying. Of course he could not
help but infuse the same old tired mantra,
stressing that integrating the Palestinians in
the Lebanese society would undermine their right
of return and fulfill an Israeli demand.
Not one Lebanese could possibly believe that a
Phalange official - whose party worked with
Israeli forces in the summer of 1982 to
orchestrate and carry out the killing of
thousands of defenseless Palestinian refugees in
the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps - could
truly be concerned about the Palestinian sense of
belonging, identity and right of return. It is
obvious that the measure could embolden refugees
into demanding full integration into Lebanese
society, which would completely undermine the
foundation of the sectarian society that the
Phalange official stalwartly champions.
But why should Palestinian refugees be humiliated
for no fault of their own? Why should they live
under the choice that they either suffer under
draconian measures or risk losing their right of
return? Its like repeatedly punishing the victim
for allowing his victimhood. The fact is,
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, like Palestinian
refugees elsewhere are utterly clear regarding
their right of return and their adherence to that
right. They need not to be fined or jailed for
adding a bedroom to their ramshackle homes in the
refugee camps. They need not be treated like
tenth class citizens to be reminded of their love
for Palestine, the names of their destroyed
villages, and the memories of their ancestors.
It is ironic how Mr. Gemayel found it implausible
to reach a solution regarding the acknowledgement
of Palestinian refugees basic rights in three
days, while it was astoundingly achievable to
butcher thousands of innocent civilians by
Phalange forces in 36-48 hours in Sabra and Shatilla on September 16, 1982.
The survivors of those camps, and the rest dont
wish to impede the Christian parties bid for
demographic and sectarian balance in Lebanon.
Their home is Palestine and they cannot wait to
return. But, until that day arrives, there is no
need to deny them the most basic of rights and
infringe upon their very dignity. One can only
hope that Lebanons new political development
overpowers those who wish to keep the country
fragmented, sectarian and forever hostage to the ghosts of its colonial past.
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