Palestinian Refugee Rights
Case of Lebanon
* Palestinian Refugee Rights
“Case of Lebanon”
* Violette Daguerre
Mohammad Hafiz Yaqoub
* All Right Reserved #
* 1st English ed. 2001
* Published by:
Al AHALI Publishers
Syria – Damascus – P.O.Box: 9503
Tel: 6624447 – 2213962 – Fax: 6667549 – Tlx: 412416sy
36b Rue Cotentin, 75015 Paris, France
Mohammad Hafiz Yaqoub
Palestinian Refugee Rights and a Durable Solution based on International Law
ARAB COMMISSION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Table of contents
Palestinian Refugee Rights, and a Durable Solution based on International Law
— Part 1: INTRODUCTION AND HISTORICAL BACKROUND
A – The Establishment and Role of UNRWA
B – Challenge Facing UNRWA
— Part II: THE PALESTINIAN EXODUS AND ITS CAUSES
A – Zionist Terrorism
B – Expulsion
C – Breakdown of Security and Government before the end of the Mandate
D – Israeli Response to Palestinian Exile
— Part III: THE CREATION OF THE PALESTINIAN REFUGEE TRAGEDY
— Part IV: THE RIGHT TO RETURN ASSESSED IN INTERNATIONAL LAW
A – Palestinian Refugees and the 1951 Convention
B – The Fourth Geneva Convention and Refugees
C – The Right to Return in the Universal Declaration
D – The Right to Return as part of Customary International Law
— Part V: GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTIONS 194 APPLYING THE RIGHT TO RETURN IN INTERNATIONAL LAW
A – Resolution 194(III) of December 11, 1948
B – Other UN Resolutions affording Palestinian Refugee
C – Security Council Resolutions Pertaining to Palestinian Refugees
— Part VII: CONCLUSION
A – Framework for a Solution Can Only Start When Israel Admits Responsibility
B – Final Solution Must Be Based On International Standards
The Situation of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
A – The situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon in light of what they have said and written
– Historical background
– References of the Palestinian Refugees
* the Lebanese authorities
* The Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Political Reference
– The Social Palestinian Organization
– The Economic Situation – Utilization of their Caliber
– The Rising of the Economic Crisis
– Civil Rights
– The Habitat Situation
– Cases Describing the Social Situation
– Emigration as a Solution?
– Refusal of Marginalization and Working on the Reality
– The daily suffering
– Estrangement in the Host Country and Longing for the Home Country
– The Security Situation and the Armed Existence of the Palestinian Detachments in the Camps
– The Position Towards the Palestinian Authority and Oslo Agreement
– Their demands
– Prospects of the Future
– The Lebanese Non-Governmental Organizations
B – Psychological – Sociological Approach of the Living Reality
– Wasted Rights of Scattered People
– Integration within the Receiving Society
– Strategies of Dealing With The Other
– Relationship of Ego vs. Other
The Price of Misery: The Palestinians of Lebanon: The Surrounded Identity
— First – The Palestinian Misery in Lebanon
— Second-In the production of Palestinian Misery in Lebanon
— Third – The Course of Marginalizing, The Price of Misery
ABC Palestinian Human Rights
More than fifty years have passed since the foundation of the State of Israel. What is known in the Western political literature as the Middle East area is witnessing a constant increase in violence, in a manner that has made this area one of the most tensed in the world. The Israeli/Arab wars and the explosions caused by the presence of the Israeli existence, including the so-called Lebanese “Civil” war and the first and second Gulf wars, have led to economic collapse, environmental decay, social decline, political violence, civil hindrance and non comparable violations of human rights.
It is known that between the First and Second World War, the countries map of this area had been redrawn according to power balances and parameters that did not take the interests of this area into consideration. This blend was not the result of national, political and societal maturity as it was rather resulting from a relationship of domination and external interests. Reaching Balfour Declaration was only a confirmation of the policy of colonization in the southern and eastern Mediterranean that the French and British were following. Then, the growing role of the United States in the region emerged, especially after the end of the Cold War and the fragmentation of the Soviet Union. It was easier for the super power to play the role of the International Policeman using the legalization of violations and imposing its policies on the world; which is a strong double standards and lack of respect of the basics of the International Conventions of Human Rights.
The discovery of oil in the Gulf area and the increase of its important role on the economic and energy fields have stimulated geo-strategic interests, especially for the big countries. In order to preserve its interests in the region, the western policy was founded on the basis of sustainability and stability of the national political allies regardless of the nature of their tyrannical systems or their position as regards human rights. In many Arab countries, it has supported tyrannical regimes all mighty over the destiny of their people and violating their basic rights, the main program being the ability of remaining in power as long as possible.
In spite of the International Covenant of the Civil and Political Rights stating that all people have the right to a nationality, and stating the right of return of the Palestinians in the most important resolutions of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations and the resolutions of the United Nation’s General Assembly stating the same right, we still find that granting the nationality and the concept of return in the Israeli laws are still based on discriminating religious criteria, granting the Israeli nationality to any Jew from any country in the world, and depriving those who are entitled to this right, on the grounds of land and blood.
In nearly sixty years, the Israeli concept of return of all Jews to the Promise Land has been created as well as the concept of pushing the Palestinians out of Palestine, and to change the anthropological map of this country, by having one additional people, not only in the numerical sense, but also in the societal and psychological one. In other words, there is a fear of the Other, the Palestinian, whose existence threatens the Israeli ideology, based on “People without land for a land without people”. Israel has applied its own interpretation of nationality on the Palestinian occupied lands after 1967 as part of its colonization policy. These territories are occupied today by more than 200 000 settlers, in violation of all known international human rights laws. Unfortunately, for more than half a century, the blame was put on the victim not on the offender, and the reward was given to those who follow Israel and not to those proclaiming the Palestinians’ rights.
Two human blocks were growing together day by day: the Israeli block occupying most of the Palestinian lands, having the main qualifications of power in the economic and military sense, and thus, strongly backed up by the United States; on the other hand, the Palestinian block, deprived of all features of power and sovereignty in all its senses and devastated between the Israeli occupation and the refuge out of Palestine. During this time, Israel went on with its colonial policy in the area disregarding the United Nations resolutions and the international legitimacy, not paying the least attention to the Arabs of 1948 who are discriminated against in the domains of religion, politics, administration, finance, social and culture, etc…
The despair and hopelessness, resulting from the failure of 9 years of negotiations mainly due to the Israeli stagnancy in going forward with the peace process, and the non-compliance of Israel to treaties signed by its successive rulers with the representatives of the Palestinian people, have led to the explosion of a new Intifada (uprising) in the Palestinian lands. The visit of Sharon, the Israeli Minister of Defense, to the Aqsa Mosque in 28 September 2000 was the blaze that has set the fire of violent and blood shedding conflicts that have kept on growing to cover larger areas since 29 September till today, and is still getting worse day after day. The last direct colonization system appeared to the world with its worst face through daily conflicts with unarmed Palestinian children facing an army that does not hesitate to face stones with life explosives and ammunition. bombing the Palestinian cities with missiles, tanks and planes, causing thus big material and human losses.
The victims of these conflicts, at the time of drafting this preamble,-that is to say two months since the Intifada started- are many thousands of injured Palestinians, and more than 260 killed, amongst whom there is a high proportion of children. The situation is not promising and indicates an augmentation of violence and the risk of pulling the area to face other unpredictable forms of conflict that could be more violent and more tragic, while continuing to use unjustifiable excess force to face the protest against the Israeli occupation. Meanwhile, the Israelis are imposing a kind of economic and health suffocation on the Palestinians, curfew in some areas, cutting the links between the West bank cities and areas, and isolation of Gaza Strip and Jerusalem from the rest of the Palestinian territories. In addition, they prevent the medical and nutrition supplies from reaching Palestinian territories , they irrationally destroy houses, trees, they attack a large number of ambulances and medical personnel, and are responsible for many other inhuman practices in complete violation of the human international laws and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which state the right to live in dignity in peace and in war.
It is difficult to predict what could happen following these conflicts, but it seems that the only basis of violence in the region is the supremacy of power over equity, and the status quo on the rights, which is building for the temporary at the cost of the future and makes of each political measure a timed bomb.
Before the latest developments occurred, this research aimed at contributing and shedding some light on the magnitude of the violations of the rights of a people to live in peace on its lands, and the right of this human, who was forced to leave his country, to live with dignity in the host country until the return to his homeland is possible. The research is based mainly on the study of the situation of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon as an example of one of the most tragic situations of the twentieth century, which is not over yet. On one hand, there is the continuity of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands in its worst forms, and the stagnation of Israel against the right of return; on the other hand, the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are deprived of their civil and social rights, if compared to the situation of their analogues who live in Jordan or Syria. This deprivation is made under the pretext of preventing their resettlement on Lebanese lands due to the “special situation in Lebanon and given the secular constitution of its inhabitants”.
The issue of settlement of the Palestinian refugees has been strongly raised lately, in light of the tension between the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon regarding the Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian dues. In spite of the Palestinian Authority insisting on the necessity of implementing the United Nations resolution 194 of 1948 stating the right of return of the Palestinians to their homes, it failed to negotiate its position after the results it had reached through the Oslo Agreement of 1993 for reasons that we will not mention here. This fact has raised the fears of settlement in Lebanon, which is the only Arab country with a constitution stating in its preamble the refusal of settlement. Lebanon has boycotted the working group on the refugees and refused to participate at the multi-lateral negotiations, expecting for a real and tangible improvement in the bilateral negotiations.
During this time, as before, the watchful mode was prevalent in Lebanon in a manner that ignores the responsibilities towards the Palestinian refugees and insensitivity towards their suffering. The relationship between the refusal of settlement and the refusal of improvement of their living conditions is not based on any rational or rightful basis. There is a deterioration in the economic, psychological and social situation of the refugees resulting from the harsh suffering due to their deprivation of their civil and social rights, in addition to the reflection of the reduction of the services and projects of the Relief Agency and the employment of refugees that is linked to the measures taken towards ending the responsibility of the International society towards them. It is also related to the withdrawal of the Palestinian Liberation Organization from extending services to them since it has left Lebanon with the invasion of the Israeli forces storming Beirut in 1982. This explains why we have 60% of the refugees in Lebanon living under the poverty line according to the UNICEF statistics.
Israel has refused from its side to accept the principle of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees and adopted resettlement policies on the residential areas, It has made this refusal while it is enjoying supremacy in power and is receiving international support which is still sparing it to face its political, legal and ethical responsibilities towards the tragedy it has caused to the Palestinian people ; while it has accepted a very little minority into the Palestinian State-to-be territories. Israel is refusing its one-sided declaration and is threatening that there will be consequences resulting from such a declaration. It was trying to include within the final settlement agreement that the refugees relinquish their right of return to the Israeli land and accept the right of return only of the exiled in 67 according to the capacity of the future Palestinian State, provided they supervise the assessment of such a capacity themselves. The remaining exiled are to be compensated through an international commission to be in charge of this task.
The Final Situation Negotiations around Jerusalem, resettlement, borderlines and refugees was shifted when the situation exploded again with the Aqsa uprising on 29 September, putting the area thus at the cavity of a volcano opening the door to all possibilities. This change of conditions would encourage the demands of the “Return Movement” that began through popular initiatives within the Palestinian society and based on the historical right of the Palestinian people to return to their homeland as a non-negotiable right. This position is different from the other one aiming at turning around the right of return and looking for feasible or realistic solutions within the framework of the peace process and proposing other options such as compensation, resettlement or expatriation. This would create feelings of injustice on the Palestinian, Arab or even the human level. It is not understandable that while the Palestinians are prohibited from returning to their country, Israel is opening the option of emigration to Palestine to all the Jews of the world.
The first chapter of this research has been dedicated to the examination of this question, meaning the right of return to all Palestinians based on the international laws and conventions. The Attorney Mohammad Abou Harthia, ex-Manager of the Palestinian Al Haq Organization, which is the oldest Palestinian human right NGO in Palestine, has written the first chapter. The reader will be exposed, through this objective and documented study, to the Palestinian school of human rights which strife is manifested through various centers, high quality NGOs having a high level of performance, striving soul and a nationalistic speech. The author was keen to clarify the different aspects and problematics of the issue, including the Israeli side. He has examined the extracts from the United Nations with its General assembly and Security Council as two structures whose activities are mainly political, and the Economic and Social Council through its human rights conventions. It is presented in a manner disclosing the meaning of the inflexible American and Israeli position towards the implementation of the 4th Geneva Treaty regarding the protection of the civilian citizens in Palestine. It would explain the meaning of the following quote from the researcher Fateh Azzam in a seminar held in Paris in 1996: “There is still a big gap between the rights of the Palestinians according to the International Conventions on Human Rights and the total of what we have read and followed in the agreements and promises coming along the Palestinian/Israeli negotiations since Madrid”.
The second chapter is a field research based on case studies discussing the situation of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon through testimonies of a number of them interviewed at the end of 1999and throughout the year 2000 by the author of these lines. Such interviews were held in the camps of Shatilla, Ein El Helwa, Mar-Elyas and were held outside of the camps as well. The choice for relying mainly on the testimonies is based on the rationale that the priority shall be given to the refugees to speak for themselves rather than talking on their behalf or focusing on what is written on them, especially that in light of their marginalization and disregard they undergo, the Lebanese legislation does not consider them as foreigners only: although they bear Lebanese documents, it prohibits them, amongst a long list of restrictions, from expressing themselves through NGOs, Unions or media outlets of their own, which is of course a violation of the International convention of Human Rights and Geneva Treaty on refugees signed by Lebanon as well as a violation of the Arab and National Agreements accredited in 1965.
It is worth mentioning here that the methodology of treating this subject did not allow the expansion of the research to cover the Lebanese ground where the Palestinians live, and what this relation has caused in terms of problems on the Lebanese side, in addition to the residues of so-called “Lebanese Civil War” left at both sides, especially from the psychological point of view. Treating this issue in an earnest and scientific manner requires a research dedicated for this subject alone, since it is not appropriate to deal with it in a brief manner in our framework of study.
The other half of the second chapter is based on an analytical perspective of the relationship of the Ego versus the Other from a psychological point of view. It has meant to shed light on the behavioral background that is leaving its meaning and usefulness as an unanswered question at the people who neither adopt it nor belong to a majority that sees this behavior in harmony with its own constitution. Such a majority is pursuing an ideology in its consideration of these behaviors, to convince itself and the others that it is normal and ordinary. If we assume that the psychological mechanisms are common amongst humans, we find that the activation of some of such mechanisms rather than others, by a particular group in a given time, is subject to a specific structure resulting from cultural and ideological heritage that could develop under favorable historical conditions. Such behavioral patterns that does not recognize the humanity of the Other and does not rise above, are usually developed when there is nothing to stop them legally but on the contrary, we find what can encourage them.
In the third chapter of the book, Mohammad Hafez Yaakoob is writing about the official Lebanese policy and the course of the forced marginalization on the social and political levels and the production of misery. In other words, the mechanisms of strangling the basic human rights. This analytical study is approaching its subject from two angles: the first angle is political, including the historical aspect since the arrival of the Palestinians to Lebanon following the calamity till present. The second angle is the pretexts taken to justify the different political stands of the Lebanese State towards the Palestinians of Lebanon. It is dealing in depth with the structural problematic of the political act in Lebanon: “Yet the Palestinian misery in Lebanon is, according to Mohammad Hafez Yakoob, in its base, a political misery that surpasses rights. It is a political situation that is exceptional when it comes to rights, or more precisely, deserves its own special rights, this means practically the absence of rights. The Palestinian misery in Lebanon is first the misery of politics in Lebanon, so that we do not say Lebanon’s misery in its politics. For politics here appear as if void of any content other than the content it decides itself, or as if it were ruled only by its desires that needs to be accomplished, and that its standards are imposed on all others. That is how humanitarian standards and international agreements, treaties and protocols that were signed by Lebanon, and which are by definition political, meaning legal and procedural, are put between brackets when it comes to Palestinian refugees, and are pushed backwards on the ladder of priorities.”
We hope that this work will contribute to the deepening of the Arab and International rights perspective towards the issue of the Palestinian refugees and would expand the horizons of knowledge of rights that need to be restored.
Palestinian Refugee Rights,
and a Durable Solution
based on International Law
PART I: INTRODUCTION AND HISTORICAL BACKROUND
The situation of the Palestinians is unique in the annals of modern history, since the majority of the population of single country has been deliberately and forcibly uprooted by a minority of foreign origin with the object of taking over its lands, homes and cities and living thereژ1گ. As a result of the establishment of Israel on the land of Palestine in 1948, and her seizure of the whole of the country in 1967, two-thirds of the Palestinians today live in exile as refugees, and one-third live under Israeli domination in their own homelandژ2گ.
The Palestinian refugees represent a challenge to the rest of the world, which recently has begun to be concerned about Palestinian refugee rights, as they are being discussed in final status negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Prior to the twentieth century, the International Community made few systematic attempts to address the problem of refugees populations created by war or persecutionژ3گ.
At present, lack of commitment by the international community towards refugees is causing further suffering to people who have suffered too much already. Governments must act at home and abroad to stop the human rights violations that cause refugees to flee. They must ensure that all refugees receive the protection they need and deserve. They must contribute more equitably to the cost of and the sheltering of Palestinian refugees. To do any less is to break their own commitments to refugees and to betray millions of men, women and children who desperately need protectionژ4گ.
Many International organisations were developed to assist refugees after World War Iژ5گ (To assist Russian refugees from 1917 Revolution, Armenian and Greek refugees from Turkey and other groups displaced during the political conflicts in internal wars).
In the midst of World War II, a group of countries joined together as the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) to provide aid to some eight million displaced personsژ6گ (As German-Italian Axis forces were re conquering Czechoslovakia, Greece, Italy, Poland, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere) UNRRA repatriated virtually all the refugees to their countries of origin, except for the one million who were unwilling to return to their home countriesژ7گ.
In 1946 the UNRRA was joined in its work by the International Refugees Organisation (IRO); three years later UNRRA discontinued its operations; then the IRO was replaced by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 1951. UNHCR was given responsibility to seek a permanent solution to the refugee problem, to offer international protection to refugees under its mandate, to co-ordinate the activities of voluntary agencies working on behalf of refugees, and to assist the most needy refugee groups in returning those refugees to their homes (if this is what they desired), or otherwise to establish new lives for themselves in alternative countries of residence. In no case was it anticipated that a refugee situation would remain unresolved indefinitelyژ8گ.
This changed with the Palestinians refugee crisis. Palestinian refugees were dealt with through a separate UN agency rather than being placed under the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees or its predecessors. Initially, this was the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees. In 1948 UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) set up the three-state Conciliation Commission for Palestine (CCP)ژ9گ. The mandate given to the CCP was “to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement, and economic and social rehabilitation of the Palestinian refugees and the payment of compensation”ژ10گ.
The first priority of the Arab international position was compensation and repatriation. This led to a conflict between Turkey, France and the USA. Israel said that it would allow a trivial number of refugees to return to Palestine in the context of a general peace agreement, but that they would be unable to return to their original homes, as they had either been destroyed or were inhabited by Jewish immigrantsژ11گ.
With this situation the CCP started searching for alternatives and sent an economic survey mission to the region with the task of finding an economic solution for what was essentially a political problem. The mission recommended the establishment of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), taking over most of the tasks of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR).
UNRWA’s initial responsibilities included the creation of schemes for integrating the refugees into their host economies and providing emergency assistance. As the political conflict between Israel and the Palestinian remained unresolved, what had been expected to be a short-term problem was converted into a long-standing condition, with millions of Palestinians relying on UNRWA for food, health, housing, and education. Due to UNRWA’s historical importance relating to Palestinian refugees, it is assessed later in this note in greater detailژ12گ.
The year 1917 marks a turning point in the history of Palestine, not only because of the end of Turkish rule, but also because of the issuance in November of that year by Britain of the Balfour Declaration. This Declaration constitutes the root cause of the Palestinian Question and changed the course of history in Palestine and the rest of the Middle East.
Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, was applied in the Arab territories detached from Turkey at the end of the First World War and four new states came into existence: Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Palestineژ13گ. In accordance with this Article, these four states were subjected to temporary mandates designed to assist them and to lead them to complete independenceژ14گ.
During the period of the Mandate, the Jewish population increased more than fourtyfold, from 56,000 in 1917 to 1,972,560 in 1946. Most of this immigration came from Eastern Europe. This demographic change in the structure of the population was achieved against the will of the original inhabitants and despite their oppositionژ15گ. This led the British Government in 1939 to remember its obligation to safeguard the rights of the original inhabitants and also the fact that its tutelage was not intended to be permanent but should lead to the independence of Palestine. Accordingly it announced in a White Paper its intention to limit Jewish immigration into Palestine to 75000 during the following 5 years and to grant Palestine its independence within ten years. Their failure to carry out this policy led the British Government to refer the question of the future of Palestine to the UN on the 2nd of April 1947ژ16گ, under Article 10 of the UN Charter. On 28 April, 1948, a special session was convened by the General Assembly, and five Arab states requested the termination of the mandate and the declaration of the Independence of Palestine. Instead, under the influence of the US and the Soviet Union and their satellites, the General Assembly adopted on 29 November 1947, Resolution 181 (II) for the Partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states with the UK abstaining in the voteژ17گ. This Resolution 181 (II) gave the Jews 57% of Palestine and 43% for the Arab stateژ18گ.
In December 1947, the British Government informed the UN that it would terminate the mandate and withdraw its forces on 15 May 1948. The Partition resolution precipitated the fall of the country into anarchy and chaos. The chronology of events: murders, arson, bombing and massacres during the remaining period of the mandate reads like horror story. The Mandatory Power was unwilling to commit its forces to re-establish law and order and insecurity reigned all over the country. While the UN was immersed in debate about the future government of Palestine, the Zionist Jews put into effect their own plan to seize Palestine and to establish a Jewish state, known as D-Plan. Its main purposes were the seizure of control of the area of the Jewish state and the destruction of Arab villages near Jewish settlements and the exodus of Palestinian inhabitantsژ19گ.
A – The Establishment and Role of UNRWA:
In late 1948, the third UN General Assembly adopted resolution 212(III), which established the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR, an organization designed to plan and implement a relief programme and to seek the aid of UN specialized agencies and such Non-Governmental Organizations as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of Red Cross Societies. The Role of the UNRPR was to provide administrative co-ordination with operational responsibility left to the voluntary agencies.
The United Nations Economic Survey Mission of August 1949 demonstrated in their report an urgent need for the continuation of direct relief beyond 31 August 1950, and recommended the establishment of a completely new organization to concentrate upon the interests of the refugees themselves, and subsequently in December 1948 the United Nations General Assembly took the decision to establish the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) by Resolution 302 of 8 December 1949 in paragraphs 4 and 7ژ20گ. Its task was to ‘prevent conditions of starvation and distress among the Palestinian Refugees and to further conditions of peace and stability, and that constructive measures should be undertaken at an early date with view to the termination of international assistance for relief20..As of September 1998, there were 3.5 million Palestinians refugees registered with UNRWAژ21گ.
At the outset UNRWA recognized that the refugees were dispersed to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan including West Bank and the Gaza strip (Appendix XVII) and established its field offices in Beirut, Damascus, East Jerusalem (for Jordan and Gaza). After the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967 war and its subsequent de facto separation from Jordan, the Jordan field was transferred to Amman, and the Jerusalem office was transferred to serve the West Bank. The Headquarters directing the five geographical areas was established in Beirut and transferred temporarily to Vienna in 1976 as in the Civil War.
In addition to the establishment of UNRWA, Resolution 302 established an Advisory Commission 62 to advise and assist the Director of UNRWA in the execution of the programme.
UNRWA Operations are based on two premises;
A – The consent of the state concerned to the operation of UNRWA within its territory (or territory controlled by it).
B – The mandate given to UNRWA by the United Nations General Assembly to perform a range of tasks on behalf of the international community in respect of the Palestine refugeesژ22گ.
It should be emphasized that unlike most other UN organizations, UNRWA is an operational agency performing specific tasks of a governmental characterژ23گ.
On 1 May 1950 UNRWA assumed all the relief functions of UNRPR, which had been the co-ordination body for all relief work. Unlike UNRPR, however, UNRWA was to be operationally executive and therefore needed an entirely different and larger administrative organization than its predecessorژ24گ.
The UNRWA definition of a refugee became very essential for the purpose of the 1950-51 census, and today is accepted as:
“A person whose normal residence was Palestine for a minimum of two years preceding the Conflict in 1948, and who, as a result of this conflict, lost both his home and his means of livelihood and took refuge in 1948 in one of the countries where UNRWA provides relief. Refugee within this definition and the direct descendants of such refugees are eligible for Agency assistance if they are: registered with UNRWA, living in the area of UNRWA operations; and in need”ژ25گ.
UNRPR, UNRWA’s predecessor, was always intended to be a temporary body dealing with an immediate emergency situation. This emergency situation was inherited by the new Agency, with one cardinal differenceژ26گ. UNRWA was intended to go beyond the original concept and to evolve a development programme aiming at the economic integration of the refugees in lost countries. It was until 1955 impossible to plan on a long-term basis. In the first few years of its work UNRWA concentrated on providing immediate relief in the form of foods, shelter and clothing. It has adjusted its programme in keeping with the changing needs of the refugees. It has turned its attention to education and health programmes, which have higher priority in the Agency’s current workژ27گ.
B – Challenges facing UNRWA:
Failure to repatriate or compensate refugees as well as their continuing needs through the past five decades has prompted the General Assembly to extend UNRWA’s mandateژ28گ. Whereas the refugee problems in Europe have been solved almost in tits entirely, no progress has been made on the question of Palestinian refugees more than 50 years later. The typical refugee still lives in a camp, has no occupation and earns nothing, and is completely dependent on the daily rations issued to him by the UNRWA. He has received no compensation for property left in Israel, and he has no opportunity of getting an education or a job in the county where he finds himselfژ29گ. He is not permitted to return to the part of Palestine under Israeli authority and he does not wish to, nor can he in most cases, move to some other Arab country most of which have a surplus of manpower. As regards settling in other parts of the world, persons of Arab descent, without an education, would come under the restrictive immigration laws of various countries even if they decided to take such a step.
UNRWA continues to provide ‘essential education, health, relief and social services to Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Its mandate is constantly discussed and extended because of the lack of a lasting solution to the refugee problem in the region. The role of UNRWA is crucial to ensuring the basic social relief to the Palestinian refugees in the face of international neglect. Unfortunately, UNRWA remains a cash-strapped relief agency that cannot overcome the insurmountable obstacles placed in the path of the refugees and their right of returnژ30گ. The belief that economic development can make peace proved to be a fundamental error but UNRWA role remains very essential until a political solution is achievedژ31گ.
¦ ¦ ¦
PART II: THE PALESTINIAN EXODUS AND ITS CAUSES
War began in Palestine on Nov. 29, 1947, and by the beginning of April of the following year the British began their withdrawal. This ended on the 12th of May with their total evacuation, and with this the whole Arab population left with themژ32گ. By the 14th of May, 200,000 Palestinians were refugees. Soon after, the regular Arab armies entered Palestine from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Trans-Jordan in an official war, which ended with nearly 700,000 to 900,000 Arabs made refugees from the areas controlled by the Jewish armyژ33گ. Only 170,000 Palestinians remained.
Before discussing the main causes of the exodus it must be mentioned that both sides to the conflict, the Jews and the Arab countries, disclaim responsibility. The Israelis alleged that the refugee problem was the result of the war between Arab states and Israel. Traditional Israeli history has claimed that the Palestinian exodus was the responsibility of Arab leaders who ordered the Palestinians to flee promising that they could soon return to their homes as conquering heroes, and that Israeli leaders encouraged them to stay in their homes and villages. Recent research by a number of historians and political scientist, including the Israeli scholar and journalist Benny Morris reveal that this image is a complete fabrication on several groundsژ34گ. The myth of Arab responsibility has been debunked:
1- Indeed, there was no widespread or co-ordinated effort by Arab leaders to encourage Palestinians to leave the area; on the contrary, as early as March and April 1948, broadcasts by the Arab Higher Committee unsuccessfully urged and even ordered Palestinians to stay in their homes.
2- Although thousands of Palestinians, mostly from the middle and upper classes did voluntarily leave the areas allocated by the United Nations to Israel, what was considered as the first stage of the Arab exodus occurred immediately after the passage of the partition resolution. Only 30,000 of those who left found their way to safer parts and the loss of so many key people led to a serious break down among the Palestinian Arab community in communication, economic, and administrative services, once the British began to leave. Morris provides the following list of reasons for Palestinians who abandoned some 369 villages throughout the territory that became Israel.
a) Expulsion by Jewish military forces
b) Fear of Jewish attack or being caught up in the fighting
c) Military assault on the settlement by the Jewish troops
d) Refusal to obey the orders of local Arabs
e) Haganah/IDF “Whispering” campaign (Psychological warfare).
f) Influence of the fall of, or exodus from, a neighbouring town.
According to Morris the majority of Palestinians were expelled by the Israeli defence forces, or fled because of terrorist attacks by Jewish military forcesژ35گ. Nearly a million Palestinians left or were forced to leave their homes, towns and villagesژ36گ, were robbed of their lands, properties and possessions and became refugees without any means of livelihood. The exodus was due to three main causes: Jewish terrorism, expulsion and the breakdown of security and government machinery for the preservation of law and order during the last month of the mandate. “The exodus of Palestinian Arabs resulted from panic created by fighting in their communities, by rumours concerning real or alleged acts of terrorism, or by expulsionژ37گ.
A – Zionist Terrorism:
The Zionist terrorist organisations had for several years post-1948 attacked British authorities with the avowed purpose of forcing their hands on the immigration issue, and against its policy declared in its White Paper of May 17, 1939. They organised the emigration from Europe in violation of the law and also launched a terrorist campaign against the British in order to secure the repeal of the immigration restrictions. They sabotaged public installations, dynamited government offices, raided military stores and shot, killed, and abducted British soldiers and Government officialsژ38گ.
The late Count Bernadotte in his report to the United Nations mentioned the destruction by Israel of Arab villages after their occupationژ39گ. He mentioned his investigation into the systematic destruction of villages on a large scale. This destruction was conducted with a view to prevent the inhabitants who had fled or had been forced to evacuate, from returning to their homes. By November 1953 one hundred and sixty one Arab villages had been razed to the ground, after their occupation by Israeli forces. Many of these villages were even destroyed after the United Nations Resolution of December 11, 1948 calling upon Israel to permit the return of the refugees to their homes, in accordance with the D-Planژ40گ.
On 9th of April 1948, the Irgun massacred 300 men, women and children without any military reason or provocation of any kindژ41گ. It can be safely be said that the Deir-Yasin massacre was the principle cause of the Palestinian exodus in 1948, the Jewish objective of its terrorisation of the Arab civilian population was achieved with disastrous results and where it did not achieve its objectives in removing the Palestinians from territory which the Jews had seized, they did not hesitate to expel then physically (as happened at the time of the occupation of Tiberias on 19 April, Haifa on 22 April, Jaffa on 28 April, and Safad on 10 May 1948.
B – Expulsion:
Where terrorism failed to force the departure of the Palestinians, Jewish forces resorted to expulsion. On various occasions Israeli forces used loudspeakers to threaten the civilian population and to order it to leave, allowing them to take only what they could carry. Many had their valuables stolen by Israeli soldiers as they passed military checkpoints. Once the areas had been evacuated, soldiers looted or destroyed most of the property the residents had been forced to leave behind. Recent Jewish immigrants then settled in the townژ42گ.
C – Breakdown of security and government before the end of the mandate:
During the last six months of the mandate, the British Government was neither able to maintain law and order in Palestine nor willing to commit its forces for that purpose, and was only concerned with the evacuation of its personnel and equipment. An indication of the complete absence of any government machinery at the time is afforded by the fact that on the occurrence of the massacre of Deir-Yassin, no government authority lifted a finger, either to prevent the massacre, or to assist and save the wounded or even to bury the deadژ43گ. Although Article 22 of the Mandate had imposed upon the British Government the responsibility for developing self-governing institutions in Palestine, no administration machinery of any kind existed or was envisaged for the preservation of law and order after the abandonment by the Mandatory Power of its function of Government and Administration.
On February 10, 1948 the UN Palestine Commission in its report stressed the need for an international police force, and envisaged the responsibility of a collapse of security on the termination of the mandate unless adequate means were made available. On Feb. 16, in a special report to the Security Council, the Commission stated that unless immediate steps were taken, uncontrolled widespread strife and bloodshed would be initiated by the withdrawal of the British from Palestineژ44گ. The complete state of chaos into which the country was plunged impelled many Palestine Arabs to seek temporary refugee elsewhere either in Palestine or in neighbouring countries.
D – Israeli Response to Palestinian Exile:
Soon after the war of 1948, the International Community began to put pressure on Israel for the repatriation of Palestinian refugees but Israel’s argument was:
1 – that a significant Palestinian presence would harm Israeli internal security.
2 – with all the Jews coming to Israel there would be no place for Palestinians.
3 – the Palestinians had left voluntarily, so they had given up their rights to live in Israelژ45گ.
In 1948 Israel had no fixed position concerning an Arab return, and this was presented by the Prime Minister on 16, June 1948 Ben-Gurion, before the Israeli Cabinet that ‘no Arab should be admitted back’ژ46گ. The UN Mediator in Palestine Count Bernadotte, was among those expressing dismay over the plight of the refugees, but he was unsuccessful in his efforts to convince Israel to allow their return, and in a reply to an appeal for the return of the Arab refugees, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Provisional Government of Israel, Moshe Shertok, declared in a letter of August 1, 1948 that:
“The return during the truce of thousands of displaced Arabs to the state of Israel which is still beset by enemy armies would in fact gravely prejudice our rights and position… when the Arab states are ready to conclude a peace treaty with Israel, the question will come up for a constructive solution as part of the general settlement with due regard to our counterclaim…”ژ47گ.
Israel’s Foreign Minister unofficially told the UN Mediator that, while Israel was unwilling to accept a mass Arab return before peace, it would consider repatriation of certain categories of individuals who deserved special treatment.
Bernadotte sent a comprehensive report to the General Assembly pursuant to Resolution 194 of 11 December 1948, prior to his assassination by Zionist terrorists. The Resolution established a Conciliation Commission for Palestine and instructed it to “take steps to assist the Government and authorities concerned to achieve a final settlement of all questions outstanding between them”. Paragraph 1 of the Resolution declared that: “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for the loss of or damage to property which under principles of International Law or in equity should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible”. More than 52 years later, Israel still refuses to implement the resolution 194. The UN. Conciliation Commission in its third report declared that it had not succeeded in securing from Israel the acceptance of the principle of the repatriation of Palestine refugeesژ48گ.
The Arab view towards Resolution 194 encompassed two elements. Firstly, they believed that it was illegal, because it was based on the illegal concept of the state of Israel (based on the Partition Resolution 181 “II”) and secondly because it considered the solution of the Palestine problem as a refugee question, a view which it had always rejected. “The indigenous Arab people of Palestine had an inalienable right to return to their homes and homeland. That right could never be a matter of option or permission, nor could it be waived or bartered away”ژ49گ. That is why the Arab state voted against the Resolution. However, by 1949 it became the source of an absolute right of Palestinian repatriation and so they began to reserve their position and they invoked paragraph 11 as authority for an immediate unconditional, and wholesale, repatriation of the refugees with compensation for those not choosing to return and for loss or damage of property. They demanded that their rights should be implemented under the principles of international law or equityژ50گ.
The Palestinian interpretation of the phrase “should be permitted” as “right”; that is; the right to return and the right to compensation, but the Israelis and their allies interpreted this phraseology as calling attention to a general humanitarian principle, not as denoting “must be allowed” to return.
Resolution 194 has been reaffirmed each year by the General Assembly but to no avail. Israel’s opposition to the repatriation of the Palestinian refugees has not changed or diminished. When Israel refused to comply with the Resolution for the repatriation of the refugees and the restitution of their property, the General Assembly gave a directive to the Conciliation Commission on 14 Dec. 1950 in Res. 394 (V) to ensure the protection of the rights, property and interests of the refugees. In its tenth progress Report (1951) the Conciliation Commission stated that it had asked for assurances from Israel that no steps had been taken or would be taken by that government which might be likely to impair the task with which the Refugee office had been entrusted, and the outcome was, “No reply was received to that request “ژ51گ.
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PART III: THE CREATION OF ANOTHER PALESTINIAN REFUGEE TRAGEDY
In accordance with an estimate made by the Government of Jordan, 410,248 Palestiniansژ52گ, comprising 145,000 refugees of the 1948 conflict, were displaced in 1967 and crossed into Jordan, some left as a consequence of the hostilities, others were expelled by force or threatsژ53گ.
Under the pressure of world opinion and UN resolutions Israel announced in July 1967 that it would allow the return of the refugees of the latest conflict; however, it hemmed in its offer of repatriation by such conditions and time limits that only 14,000 of the 410,248 refugees were permitted to return. At the same time Israel expelled some 17,000 Palestinians from the country.
This happened less than twenty years after the first tragedy. UNRWA in Jordan assisted 325,000 refugees, but as the Special Representative of the Secretary General estimated in his report dated 15, Sept. 1967, that number was only 70% of the total number of refugees and displaced persons, leaving some 30% without any kind of assistance.
The second Exodus of 1967 can be explained in many ways. Some left out of fear of being massacred by the Israelis, others were either expelled or forced to leave as result of the destruction of their homes or because of oppression, or by the memory of 1948 and the desire not to live under Israeli Occupation. Israeli forces in many cities and villages expelled Palestinians physically, either by loudspeaker threats, or by psychological warfareژ54گ, and the mass destruction of their homes and villages even after the ending of the hostilities. “In the Jerusalem area the two villages of Battir and Beit Iksa were destroyed after the end of Hostilitiesژ55گ.
Security Council Resolution 237 of June 14 196714, and General Assembly resolution 2252 of July 14 1967 both called upon Israel to facilitate the return of those inhabitants who had fled since the outbreak of hostilities, but Israel announced that it would allow only those who had crossed over the East Bank of Jordan between June 5 and July 4, 1967 and whose applications were approved by Israel, would be allowed to return to their homes by the end of 31 August 1967. This made it practically impossible from the outset for the refugees to returnژ56گ. The most recent Palestinians made refugees occurred during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the US-Iraqi War of 1991ژ57گ.
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PART IV: THE RIGHT TO RETURN BASED ON INTERNATIONAL LAW
A – Palestinian Refugees and the 1951 Convention:
Palestinians are the only group in effect excluded by the words of the statute and the conventionژ58گ. The competence of the High Commission in the political issues surrounding the Palestinian question was once thought incompatible with the proclaimed non-political character of UNHCR’s workژ59گ.
The main difficulty in determining the legal status of the Palestinian Refugees and their rights is that, as a group, they defy easy description. As a result, a number of false problems have been created leading at least one jurist; to conclude that the Palestinians have themselves rejected the term refugeeژ60گ. As Bassiouni describes “Between 1948 and 1969” Palestinians were almost uniformly treated by west European and American spokesman as “refugees” and from that time on the “misunderstanding” was perpetuated. Even the United Nations in its annually reaffirmed resolution granting the “refugees” a right to return to their former homeland and to compensation for their lost property, did not admit the reality that these refugees constitute a “People”ژ61گ.
The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of July, 1951 interpreted the term refugee in Article 1 Paragraph A (2) 28 as a person who: As a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951 and owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country: who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it. So whether one considers the Palestinians as stateless or not since, according to the Convention, a refugee may either be “outside the country of his nationality”, or “not having a nationality” be “outside the country of his former habitual residence”. However the Refugee Convention does not as such apply to all Palestinian refugees since Article I (D) excludes “persons who are at present receiving from organs or agencies of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Protection or Assistance”. Although some Palestinian refugees decided to leave their homes by themselves they did so out of fear of the Israeli armed forces and, in this respect, they may be considered to have been expelled by forceژ62گ. The Refugee Convention, as well as relevant provisions of UNHCR Statute, define a refugee as one who is “unable…or unwilling” to return to the country of his nationality or former habitual residence.
There can be no doubt that the Palestinians in exile are truly refugees, however they are unique in their desire to return to their country of origin while general political conditions that caused them to become refugees persist. As stated by Mr. Askoul: “The Palestine refugees… differed from all other refugees. In all other cases, persons had become refugees as a result of action taken contrary to the principles of the United Nations…”
The existence of the Palestine refugees, on the other hand, was the direct result of a decision taken by the United Nations itself with full knowledge of the consequences. The Palestinian refugees were therefore the direct responsibility of the United Nations and could not be placed in the general category of refugees without a betrayal of that responsibility”ژ63گ.
The Arab states resisted any change in the status of Palestine Refugees that might lower the distinct visibility of the Palestinians predicament and undercut the political will to effect their repatriation. At the time of drafting of the convention the Arab representatives stressed the priority of repatriation, and that the present situation of Palestinian refugees was a temporary one, and furthermore that the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly provided that they should return to their homes. When the convention was presented, the Palestinian Arabs were excluded permanently by paragraph D. The phrase ‘at present’ implied that the convention should not apply to those persons receiving at a specific time protection or assistance from organs or agencies of the United Nations: it did not imply that when such protection ceased the refugees concerned would come under the protection of the Convention. Until the United Nations cease operations to assist the Palestinian refugee through UNRWA whereupon they will automatically come within the scope of the convention, or as soon as the Palestine problem has been settled and the refugees no longer enjoy United Nations assistance and protection, they should be entitled to the benefits of the conventionژ64گ.
This exclusion under Article 1(D) applies not only to those individuals who were actually receiving protection or assistance from UNRWA or 28 July 1951, but also to those individuals who became the concern of UNRWA at any later date, including those born after the signing of the convention since the UNRWA mandate classification is as a class or category and not to an individual personژ65گ.
Paragraph D did not exclude Palestinians who do not receive assistance from UNRWA. They can qualify for refugee status under the criteria of the convention if they seek asylum abroadژ66گ.
B – The Fourth Geneva Convention and Refugees:
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 provides more legal authority for the Palestinian refugees’ case. Israel is a signatory and has ratified the Convention, and therefore its provisions could be construed as applicable, even retroactively, to the events of 1947 – 1948. The Article states that ‘individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.’ The authors of the Commentary on the Geneva Convention declared this prohibition to be ‘absolute and allows of no exceptions…’ Since Israel has actually carried out such mass population transfers by means of force and psychological warfare upon the Palestinian refugees, it stands in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The legal claim of the Palestinian refugees is therefore bolstered by the Convention. To argue simply that it is inapplicable retroactively is to defeat the purpose of such a treatyژ67گ.
Particular provisions have been made to protect the right of return, termed “repatriation” in armed conflict and belligerent occupation situations. The Fourth Geneva Conventions of 12 Aug. 1949 concerning the protection of war victims contain many provisions relating to the repatriation of each victimsژ68گ Convention I, art. 63(3); Convention II, art. 63(3); Convention III, art. 142(3); and Convention IV, art. 158(3) recognize the right of return or repatriation. Furthermore, they apply to protect civilian persons as in the case of the Palestinians.
The exodus of Palestinian Arabs was a result of warfare. The Fourth Geneva Convention came into force on Oct. 21, 1950 and was ratified by Israel on 6 July 1951, so its Provisions are examined as of the right of uprooted civilians to returnژ69گ.
Article 44 of the convention which reads “In applying the measures of control mentioned in the present convention, the detaining power shall not treated as enemy aliens exclusively on the basis of their nationality de jure of an enemy state, refugees who do not in fact, enjoy the protection of any government”, applies to refugees already existing at the outset of hostilities. Article 13 talks about the sufferings caused by war, and article 26 deals with dispersed families and not all displaced persons.
Palestinian refugees have a good claim under international law to repatriation and compensation for their plight caused by the 1948 and 1967 wars. The rules of war of humanitarian character designed to protect ” uman rights” are applicable to all de facto hostilities. Refusal to allow repatriation or compensation would therefore violate the laws of warژ70گ.
C – The right to return in the Universal Declaration:
The right of Palestinian repatriation is supported by Article 13, Paragraph 2, of the Declaration of Human Rights: “Every one has the right to leave any country including his own, and to return to his country”. UNRWA reports have repeatedly emphasised that the refugees desire to return to their homes had not “diminished” but that it had actually been “strengthened and encouraged” by the General Assembly’s resolution on repatriationژ71گ. According to the General Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man “everyone has the right to freedom of movement and to live within the borders of any state” and “everyone has the right to return to his country” (Article 13). The same rule was confirmed in Article 12 of the Covenant on Political and Civil Rights. At the moment when the refugees left their part of Palestine, it was still “their land” in the sense of the aforementioned provisions.
The Israeli position finds some support within the scope of international agreements for its stand on the right of return for the Palestinian refugees. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which will be considered in further detail, infra, contains a provision that would seem to tolerate Israel’s refusal to implement a large-scale Palestinian repatriation. Israel argues that if it were to let Palestinians return to the areas it conquered in 1948, the influx of a potentially hostile element of that size would undermine its own national security. Such a threat to national security suspends the implementation of the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One commentator has noted in reference to this issue, however, that ‘the United Nations is under no more of a legal obligation to maintain Zionism in Israel than it is to maintain apartheid in South Africaژ72گ’.
Additionally, the ICCPR permits the suspension of rights relating to entry and departure from one’s own country, which ‘are necessary to protect national security and public order.’ Palestinians can therefore be prohibited from returning to what is now Israel because they constitute a threat to Israeli national security. However, the ‘national security’ exception has the potential to swallow the general rule of applicability of international agreementsژ73گ. If Israel, or any other country, wanted to invoke these ‘escape’ provisions to deny refugees originating in its territory the right to return to that territory, it could make the national security argument any time it wished under the flimsiest of pretexts. Additionally, it should be noted that upsetting the Jewish majority of Israel is not tantamount to a threat to national security. To the contrary, the right of the Palestinian refugees to a peaceful return is in my judgement a prerequisite for a stable and lasting peace in the Middle East.
Finally, clauses such as the aforementioned should not be allowed to upset the spirit of international support, which seems to support, rather than deny, the Palestinian refugees’ right to repatriationژ74گ. In this vein, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains several provisions, which the principles stated in Resolution 194 and apply them on a universal scale. Article 13(2) states that ‘everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his own country.’ In a similar vein, Article 17 (2) declares that ‘no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.’ژ75گ These provisions would seem to support the contention that the Palestinian refugees fro the 1948 hostilities should be allowed to repatriate. While that may be the case, the Declaration is not strictly, binding on the legal sense upon the member states of the United Nations. It serves as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations to end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of the Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdictionژ76گ. Nevertheless, it is a useful document, despite its precatory and non-binding nature, as it effectively articulates the standards through which stateless Palestinian refugees might make a plausible case for their own repatriation.
Ironically, today the Jews are actually citing the right to return, but they are referring to the right of Jews to return. Since they were expelled from Palestine 2000 years ago, it should not have been difficult for them to understand the Arab refugees unquenchable yearning to return to their homesژ77گ.
The existence of Israeli nationality laws such as “Law of Return” of July 5, 1950, which grants every Jew in the world the right to claim Israeli citizenship and residence, makes it difficulty to understand how a whole people were uprooted from their homeland and were denied this right of return, while people who never set foot on this territory are provided full nationality and replaced other peopleژ78گ.
D – Right of Return as part of Customary International Law:
The great majority of people in the world are able to exercise the customary right of return based upon State practice. The Palestinians, however, are in an unusual situation because their right of return has been systematically denied to them ever since the events of 1947 – 1948ژ79گ. Historically, the right of return was so universally accepted and practised that it was not deemed necessary to prescribe or codify it in a formal mannerژ80گ.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Right recognized the right to return of the Palestinian Refugees. The Covenant is certainly a valid international treaty with binding effectژ81گ.
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PART V: GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTIONS APPLYING THE RIGHT OF RETURN IN ACCORDANCE WITH INTERNATIONAL LAW
A – Resolution 194 (III) of December 11, 1948:
The clearest and most direct piece of international law which affirms the right of the Palestinian refugees to be repatriated is Article 11 of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194, which was ratified on December 11, 1948. Due to the situation in Palestine at the time, the General Assembly declared that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for the loss of or damage to property which, under the principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsibleژ82گ.
The resolution also creates a Conciliation Commission for Palestine, which it instructs to ‘facilitate’ the aforementioned purpose of Article 11. This Resolution has been affirmed by the General Assembly over forty times (most recently in General Assembly Resolution 45/73 of December 11, 1990) and represents the strongest claim, under international law, for the inalienable right of repatriation available to the Palestinian refugees. Indeed, one scholar has remarked that Article 11 was ‘written on the assumption that the principle of right of return was not in issue and that the central task was achieving practical implementation of repatriation. ‘ Its language is clear and exacting, yet its goal remains as far from realization as the day the Resolution was enacted. This position remains at odds with the official Israeli stance on the Palestinian refugees’ right of return.
Israel disputes the legality of the Palestinian claim based on U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194, because, were it to accept such a right, it would be assuming the responsibility of repatriating refugees whom it blames the Arab states for creating, in the War of 1948ژ83گ. The official Israeli position, according to most mainstream scholars, is that the Arab states are responsible for creating the Palestinian refugees, because they ordered the refugees to flee so that Arab armies could liberate Palestine from Zionists. Further, Israel could never accept the Palestinian right of return because it would alter the character of the Jewish state entirely, making the Jews a minority, where they previously were not. With the new wave of Israeli ‘revisionist’ historians uncovering more material on the War of 1948 and the origins of the Palestinian refugee problem, it has become clearer that the mass flight of Palestinian civilians from the area of Mandate Palestine was a strategic goal of the founders of Israel.
This Resolution consists of fifteen paragraphs dealing with the ongoing conflict and it established a Conciliation Commission for Palestine composed of three member states of the United Nationsژ84گ. The Commission was given broad authority to carry out the functions previously entrusted to the United Nations Mediator and was instructed to assist the governments and authorities involved in the Palestine conflict with the purpose of achieving “a final settlement of all questions outstanding between them”.
Paragraph II that dealt with the Refugees appears to have been written on the clearly and unequivocally expressed. The refugee’s basic aspiration to live in dignity indicates their assumption that the principle of the right of return was not in issue and that the central task was achieving practical implementation of repatriation. Accordingly, it authorized the Conciliation Commission to deal with the government of Israel on the subject. The failure of repatriation led to the adoption of Resolution 513 (VI) III by the General Assembly, which provided in paragraph 2 that its provisions were without prejudice to the repatriation provisions of Resolution 194, paragraph II.
B – Other UN Resolutions affording Palestinian Refugee Rights:
In the years following the occupation of the rest of Palestine in June 1967, the General Assembly adopted a series of resolutions 2252, 2452 (XXIII), 2535(XXIV) 2787, 2963(XXVII) and many other resolution concerning the 1947 – 1948 and 1967 Refugees, which treat separately the right of return of the group of Palestinians displaced as a result of the 1947-1948 conflict and of the groups displaced as a result of the 1967 conflict.
Resolution 2452 A, dealing with the 1967 refugees, recalls Security Council Resolution 237 of 14 June 1967 which calls upon the Government of Israel “to facilitate the return of those inhabitants who have fled the areas since the outbreak of hostilities”.
The prefatory language of General Assembly Resolution 2452B dealing with the 1947-1948 refugees, after recalling both resolutions 194 and 513, further recalls those resolutions which affirms the principles of repatriation and resettlement stated in these resolutions.
Paragraph 2 of resolution 2452 A asks the Secretary-General to follow and report upon “the effective implementation of the resolution”.
Resolution 2535, recalls Secretary Council resolution 237 (1967) and General Assembly resolutions 2252 and 2452A, which deal with 1967 Refugees and paragraph B, which reaffirm the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine. This resolution requests the Security Council to take effective measures to implement those resolutions and draws attention to the refusal of Israel to implement the Resolution relating to the 1967 Refugees.
Resolutions 3089 (XXVIII), (3236) (XXIX) are subsequent resolutions concerning the Inalienable Right to Return to the Area of Palestine.
The 1947-1948 Refugees are dealt with in Resolution 3089B in a manner like that employed in earlier resolutions, paragraph D refers to the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine and to the enjoyment of the refugees of their right to return recognized in Resolution 194(III) seeking a just settlement of the refugee problem. Paragraph C concerns the 1967 refugees and those expelled from the Gaza Occupied territories of 1967.
Resolution 3236 has separated provisions for the 1947-1948 Refugees and those of 1967 and 1973 refugees. Paragraph 1 deals with national rights and paragraph 2 deals with the individual rights. It can be summarized that the repatriation of the Palestinian refugees will be in two phases, first, the refugees of 1967, and second, the refugees displaced between 1948 and 1967ژ85گ.
C – Security Council Resolutions relating to Palestinian Refugees:
The Security Council has had, at the most, a minor role in dealing with the Palestinians refugees. Its Resolution 73 of 11 August 1949 expressed the hope that the “Government and authorities concerned” in the 1947 – 1948 conflict would undertake to seek agreement “by negotiations conducted either with the Conciliation Commission or directly” to achieve agreement on “all questions outstanding between them” including necessarily the refugee question although it was not specifically mentioned.
After the 1967 war, the Security Council adopted resolution 237 of 14 June 1967, which in paragraph 1 calls upon the Government of Israel “to facilitate the return of those inhabitants who have fled the areas since the outbreak of hostilities”.
Security Council Resolution 242 of 22 November 1967 establishes a framework for “a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” by enunciating certain principlesژ86گ. Among these, “the necessity” for “achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem” is set forth.
Security Council Resolution 338 of 22 October 1973 called for a cease-fire in the intense hostilities in the Middle East. It may also have some connection with the Palestinian Refugees since operative Paragraph 2 calls upon the parties concerned to start implementing all of the parts of Security Council Resolution 242 immediately following the cease-fire. Up until the present time Resolution 242, including the reference to the refugees, has not been implemented although it has been consistently referred to as the basis upon which peace must be established.
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PART VI: CURRENT SYSTEM FOR REFUGEE PROTECTION INADEQUATE
The existing system of refugee protection depends on the actions of individual states. There is no mechanism of ensuring that their actions are consistent or for holding states accountable if they fail to honor their obligations. Governments provide little information about how they treat refugees, even though the UN Refugee Convention requires states to report to UNHCR on the condition of refugees, implementation of the UN Refugee Convention and any laws relating to refugees. UNHCR issues general reports on the practices of states and their adherence to the UN Refugee Convention. However, its ability to report publicly its findings is seriously constrained by the fact that it can effectively only operate in countries with the permission of the government and it relies on the goodwill of major funding states. While UNHCR annually compiles reports on the legal protection of refugees by governments, these reports are not made public.
A – Avoiding a Repeat of the Palestinian Tragedy:
It is the responsibility of the world’s governments to stop the human rights violations that force people to abandon their homes and communities, as was the case of the Palestinians. This means that the international community must immediately intervene when faced with a region suffering human rights violations. This intervention must be based on respect for humanitarian law rather than world politicsژ87گ. If the international community committed the necessary resources and political will to prevent human rights abuses, then many refugees’ crises and individual tragedies could be avoided. In some cases, powerful governments have actually fuelled conflicts in which human rights have been the first casualtyژ88گ.
B – Future Effectiveness Depends on International Cooperation:
All states should support the work of the Representative for Internationally Displaced Persons of the UN Secretary-General by allowing access to their countries and providing adequate resources. The role of the Representatives should be strengthened to enable the Representative to identify perpetrators of human rights abuses against innocent civilians to ensure that they are held to account.
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PART VII: CONCLUSION
A – Israel Must Admit Responsibility Before Framework for a Solution Can be agreed:
It would probably be most realistic to ask Israel before approaching the solution of the whole problem of its relations with its Arab neighbours, to make a statement accepting the principles contained in Resolution 194. In return, Israel will be guaranteed that UNRWA,or some other body to be set up by the UN, will participate in ascertaining the real will of the Palestinian refugees as regards repatriation, and establishing whether the person wishing to move back to Israel are really refugees from those parts of Palestine, or their descendants.
Obviously the solution to such a complex question cannot be sought simply in the fulfilment of legal obligations. It does, however, seem indispensable that these obligations be accurately established first of all, for then it will be possible to ascertain who is responsible for the cost of implementing the new solution, even in case a solution differing form the submitted by the General Assembly is considered to be more in the interests of the refugees in that region of the world, as part of the general regulation of relations.
Once Israel admits responsibility, it could be discharged as part of a permanent, just and comprehensive resolution of the question of Palestine. Complete discharge could occur only if the issue of Palestine refugees could embody recognition of a wrong done, via acceptance of the principle of the return or compensation of those made refugees in 1948 and 1967. It should include as well the unrestricted return to the West Bank and Gaza Strip of those displaced after the 1967 war, a process which should already have been well under way.
Israel should cooperate with UNHCR, other international organizations, NGO’s and humanitarian organizations in the pursuit of durable solutions to the Palestinian refugee problem. They and other countries hosting Palestinian refugees should allow access to their countries so that the human rights situation can be properly assessed in order to come to an agreed upon repatriation programژ89گ.
B – Final Solution Must Be Based On International Standards:
The failure of the Mediator and the Conciliation Commission in their efforts to achieve the right to return did not affect the legal position of the right to return of the refugees provided to them by the International Law. Paragraph II of 194(III) resolution provides for two specifics concerning the implementation of the right to return.
1 – The Refugees themselves are entitled to choose whether or not they wish to return to their homes within the de facto boundaries of the state of Israel.
2 – The Refugees are to be compensated for the loss or damage to their property whether or not they choose to return.
3 – The refugees are to be compensated for the 52 years of exodus, the use and exploitation of their property.
The Palestinian refugee status has necessitated the legitimate claim for repatriation and settlement in their own homeland of Palestine. The United Nations has adopted a number of resolutions to this effect, also concerning the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
“The current condition of Palestinian refugees, whether inside or outside refugee camps, cannot be ameliorated by “humanitarian” projects aimed at improving the condition of their living (although we fully favour upgrading their health, welfare and educational standards.) What is more urgently needed today than ever is a comprehensive political settlement based on the recognition of the right of return and self-determination. Refugees are not merely slum dwellers who need an improvement in the quality of their life. The refugee question is a national question. Its humanitarian aspects are a consequence of the refugee status, not its essence”. “The non-resolution of the Palestinian problem, and above all its refugee component, has continued to generate conditions of instability in the whole region. To contribute to a lasting and just settlement, the world community is invited to support a settlement based on the application of the UN resolutions. They must pertain to guarantying the implementation of international law, that is to say allow the exercise of the refugees’ Right of Return as embodied in UN General Assembly Resolution 194, and all subsequent relevant international resolutions.
Finally, regardless of the details of any final agreement, the political aspirations of the refugees must be indispensable fundamental demand, which they share with the rest of the democratic world: “Palestinian Self-Determination.”
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of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
First of all, I would like to thank my friend Fateh Azzam for his valuable support to have this work done. I would also like to express my gratitude and appreciation to all those who have kindly received me and gave me their testimonies, and those who have kindly facilitated holding interviews, gave help to ease my mission and provided me with essential documents and information.
“Everything in this or that camp, in the torment of the exile and refugee, everything moves from its primordial age, where there is the home, the yard and the splendor of Palestine, it moves into the age of the angry decision, carrying on fifty years of endurance and massacre, raising “the Return” flag, a pillar of blood, fire and persistence.
The camp is the decision, either in the field or on the negotiation table, at the United Nations and within the new international order, from which comes both the war and the peace. The camp says: I will not sell the martyrs for the compensations money and charity of donor countries, nor will I be fooled by the co-habitation and resettlement slogans and the so-called realistic solutions, preferring humility facing the arrogance of power and the military insolence..
The camp says: I know no other solution other than the return of my children to the home of their dreams and their ancestors, back on their own lands under the shades of their Olives. The future is ours, for the generations that have not forgotten their names and have not abandoned the soil that is longing for them, waiting there in the historical Palestine.. The camp knows the road of the future, and reads the words of the refugees stones and the dreams of children.”.
Quoted from the statement of the convention of refugees foundations in the Southern Bank on the occasion of the anniversary of the massacres of Sabra and Shatilla.
The situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon in light of what they have said and written:
A: The Situation of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon in light of what they have said and written
The foundation of Israel took place following the Middle East war of 1948. The result of the war was the destruction of nearly four hundred villages in Galilee, the coast and the center of Palestine, as well as the scattering of nearly 950 thousand of its people out of their homes who were moved to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Eastern Jerusalem. Amongst those who were moved, 500 thousands Palestinians were expelled and forced to abandon their homes once more. Before that war, Palestinians used to live in 531 city and village and were representing 85% of the land inhabitants, lands that became later related to Israel.
According the UNRWA’s statistics for 1999, the Palestinian refugees are distributed as follows:
Gaza Strip has 798.444 refugee approximately, representing 22% of the total number of refugees. They are distributed amongst eight camps. They represent 76.8% of the inhabitants of Gaza Strip.
The West Bank has 569.741 Palestinian refugee, representing 17% of the total registered refugees at the UNRWA. They also represent 73.1% of the population of the West Bank and they are distributed amongst 19 camps.
As for the host countries, Palestinians are distributed as follows:
Jordan occupies the first place in terms of number of refugees, which is 1.512.742, representing 40.6% of the total registered refugees at the UNRWA and 31% of the population of Jordan. They are distributed there amongst 10 camps.
The share of Syria is 11% of the total number of Palestinian refugees registered at the UNRWA, e.g. 374.521 thousand persons, representing 4% of the population in Syria. They are distributed amongst 10 camps.
370.144 Palestinian refugee live in Lebanon, which is 11% of the total number of the registered Palestinian refugees at the UNRWA and 10.2% of the population (varying between 3 and 4 million inhabitants). More than half of this number are distribued amongst 12 camps. The rest are living in residential areas.
It is worth mentioning that some existing camps and residential areas of Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon are not included in these statistics simply because they do not fall under the UNRWA’s mandate. We would also like to draw the attention to the fact that some of the figures mentioned are not accurate due to the applied method and criteria of population counts used by the United Nations Relief for Palestinian Refugees. The UNRWA estimation of the Palestinian refugees of Lebanon does not comprise those who are not beneficiaries of its services, whilst it includes a number of those who have immigrated from Lebanon during the Israeli storming of Beirut in 1982, it also includes those who returned to Gaza Strip and the West Bank after the signature of Oslo Accord. It includes as well those who have obtained the Lebanese nationality in 1994, those who were the inhabitants of the seven villages.
On the other hand, a Norway study carried out on the Palestinian refugee camps has considered the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon today to be 180 thousand persons. The difference is huge, as it shows, between the figure given by UNRWA and these statistics. Besides, neither of them reflects the truth. The Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon are divided into different groups: Some live inside the camps and some do not.
Also, there are some who carry the Lebanese nationality and others who carry other countries’ nationalities. This resulted in the fact that the PLO’s statistics unit could not present a comprehensive and accurate count. Same thing goes for the Lebanese State that did not present official accurate numbers, whilst it is said that it has more accurate figures kept for later liabilities to come. Therefore, the figures given by the Lebanese officials were varying according to their political stand and to the aims of their announcements and interventions.
References of the Palestinian Refugees
1 – The lebanese Authorities:
It is known that the Lebanon Palestinians do represent the worst case compared to the situation of other Palestinian refugees in other areas. They are deprived of their civil and social rights, including the deprivation from the right to work and to have access to the health, education and social services. Work permits that allow the bearer to work legally are given to Palestinians sparingly (about one work permit per thousand Palestinians according to the 1995 statistics of the Central Lebanese Office for Statistics. In case he finds a job there is no legal liabilities forcing the employer to respect his obligations towards him. This situation reflects the methodology followed by the Lebanese State towards the Palestinian refugees for the past half a century. There were many excuses to avoid any obligations towards them.
How does the Lebanese authorities evaluate this situation?
It was not easy to get to meet the high ranking Lebanese officials (the government of Salim El Hoss was in charge during the course of the study). I was made to understand by officials close to the Prime Minister that even if I get some arranged appointments, there will be nothing more than their statements they give to the newspapers, besides that, no one, other than himself, is designated to make statements related to the refugees issue. The reservations are of course related to the peace talks with Israel, and what could result from it in terms of arrangements related to the situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, which the Lebanese officials are keen not to disclose. They only claim that it is important to wait for the results of their diplomatic moves, which would definitely be in the best interest of both sides, the Lebanese and the Palestinian.
The subject of the refusal of resettling the Palestinians in Lebanon is obviously out of question, as Dr. Salim El Hoss mentions in his speech given on the subject of resettlement at the conference of the University of Saint-Joseph held in 26/11/1999. The close (I) of the constitutional preamble indicates this implicitly. This constitutional close is not a penal refusal of Palestinians, but rather an adoption of their case (…) to preserve their right of return to their country and to maintain the Lebanese concord, which the refusal of resettlement has become an integral part of it… Al Hoss adds:
“The subject of refugees will be discussed in the final resolution talks by the Palestinian side between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. We answer to this saying: We are as well affected by this issue, being the hosts of a large number of refugees, we will not accept a solution imposed by the agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel that is not in line with our principal position…”
In the expectation of new events to occur on the Middle East arena, we are hereby quoting what the Refugees Affairs Manager at the Lebanese Ministry of Interior, Dr. Khalil Shtewi, has told us regarding the subject of the Palestinian refugees. We will be giving space later on to the concerned themselves to give their testimonies on their living reality and their evaluation of their situation.
Khalil Shtewi starts saying:
“The mass departure of Palestinians towards the neighbor countries: Lebanon, Syria and Jordan and a smaller number to Egypt, started after the declaration of the Israeli state. In 1948, 125 thousand refugees arrived to Lebanon amongst which 25 thousands were distributed amongst the so-called camps, and the other 100 thousands stayed at relatives’, friends’, residential areas or at hotels. The area allocated in the camps for the refugees was meant to accommodate only this number. But after the fifties the situation became clearer to the refugees, the Lebanese and the Arabs: the return to Palestine is not likely possible. The people who had brought along what they could manage to bring from their money had spent it during the first two years. Their hosting period at relatives’ places or at friends had limits. The result of their declining economic status was the increase of number of the people living in the camps. The need to find a job created a concentration of more residents at camps located at the suburbs of the bigger cities. Therefore there was an exodus and a high demand on living in the camps of Beirut and Sayda more than the demand on other camps in other areas of Lebanon. This has led to the situation of an inadequate living space comparable to the volume of the population of Palestinian refugees.
When Palestinians first arrived to Lebanon in 48, President Bishara Khouri received them the following day and went all the way to the South to do so. This reflects a certain treatment of Palestinians that was suiting the type of relations existing in the past between the two peoples, in terms of the historical, geographical, language and blood bonds. What supports this is that there was a large number of Lebanese who used to live in Palestine and came back then to Lebanon. Another proof is that the former Lebanese population of the seven villages cut out from Lebanon in 1923 came back with the Palestinians as refugees.
The geographical dimensions where the refugees came from did not exceed 15-20 Km long on the Lebanese southern borders. There was also a big amalgamation amongst the population of South of Lebanon and those of North Palestine in all their districts and groups.
In 1950, the Agency for Relief and Employment of the Refugees was founded and was assigned by the United Nations to provide assistance and also to help the employment of the refugees. The objectives were many, amongst which was the return to Palestine based on a UN resolution in which this agency has linked the return to Palestine to the acknowledgment of the Israeli State. Both the Palestinians and the Arabs were aiming for the return, while the International society and the UN through its Relief Agency were aiming at the employment of refugees wherever they were, which would thus deny their need of International aid. Therefore the political mandate of the refugees was dropped.
The employment projects carried out by the Agency between 1950 to 1955 all failed. This failure was due to the prevalence of the service rending aspect, and it has metamorphosed into a semi governmental agency providing basic needs of accommodation (responsibility of the local council) as well as health and education services, which are the three basic needs provided by the state to its citizens. There are major differences between the three host countries: Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, which explains the apparent diversity of approaches of these countries towards the Palestinian refugees. Jordan took some decisions as soon as the refugees reached there: firstly, the removal of the word Palestine from all diplomatic terminology, then the joining of the west Bank to Jordan and considering all the inhabitants of the West Bank as Jordanians, whether they were refugees or originally living there. There was no longer any differences except by origin to designate a Jordanian citizen and another. This situation had its own particularity, but despite that, the political conflicts led to what has happened in 1970, well known to all.
Syria is a country of 189 thousands square Km and a population of 3 – 4 millions at the time of refuge, while this figure is more than 16 millions today. Syria has the same number of Palestinian refugees who exist in Lebanon, which space is 10 thousands Km2 and has a population today of 4 millions. The difference between the two countries is 4 times more in terms of population and 18 time more in terms of size. There is also a difference in the political systems since the mass departure to date. Syria is dealing with the refugees in a different manner, they have granted the refugees all rights, which was related to the nature of the system, except the nationality.
In Lebanon, there were no special rules nor legislation related to the refugees. The system and laws in Lebanon divides all residents in Lebanon into two groups: Lebanese and non-Lebanese, comprising the Palestinians. In other words, the Palestinians in Lebanon have no legal status in Lebanon other than being non-Lebanese. The nature of the Lebanese system is different from the one in Syria or in Jordan. Lebanon has a free market economy and the basic services are still provided by the private sector rather than the public sector, especially in the domain of the basic health and education services. As for the health service, 90% is provided by the private sector while 10% is provided by the public sector. While 30-50% of the education services, either elementary, preparatory or secondary education, is provided by the private sector. The percentage is less than that when it comes to the university level. On the other hand, the prevalence in Syria and Jordan is for the public sector. For these reasons, we find a variation between the services provided to the refugees by Syria and Jordan and those provided by Lebanon.
What are the responsibilities of any country in the world towards resident refugees?
The first right is the right of residence and accommodation. Today, half the Palestinian refugees live inside the camps and the other half-lives outside of it. Those who live outside the camps have the same rules and regulations applied on Lebanese citizens with regards to rental and payment of dues and local service taxes, etc… There is no discrimination against Palestinians preventing them, only for being Palestinian, from residing anywhere in Lebanon, as long as they pay the rentals. The other point is: Ownership. Palestinians have the right, as any other Arab (e.g. more privileged than a foreigner), to own lands within the limits of 5000 mژ2گ outside Beirut and 3000 mژ2گ in the city of Beirut, they have also the right to own real estate related to business foundations.
As for Palestinians residing inside the camps, they live free of charge there on the expense of the Lebanese State who pays the majority of the rental fees, due to the fact that 8 – 9 from the total of 12 camps are erected on private properties. The Lebanese State is committed to paying rentals and accommodation fees to the landlords till further solutions are reached. Therefore, the housing is allowed and linked to only one factor which is the financial ability of the Palestinian refugee to pay the cost of accommodation. There is also no restrictions nor reservations on the general human rights definition of the right to habitat.
Regarding the freedom of movement inside the country, which is a basic right, it is possible within Lebanon with no problems to be mentioned. As for the movement to\from Lebanon, it is allowed as it is allowed to any Lebanese, with the exception of a particular period of time from 1995 to 1998, where Palestinian refugees had to obtain visa to move in or out. This was related to a political decision taken by the Libyan leadership and Moammar Geddafi regarding the deportation and resettlement of all Palestinian residents in Lybia to the Palestinian Authority areas. Given that these areas, according to the agreements with Israel, are not allowed to receive Palestinians without the prior Israeli approval, and given the absence of such approval, a number of these Palestinians could have come to Lebanon as refugees without any arrangement or prior communication with the Lebanese State. Therefore there was the decree 472 issued by the Minister of Interior in July 1995 forcing refugees to obtain a visa to leave and return (same as for Lebanese residing in France for example, we had to have a visa in and out each time we had to travel). With the exception of this period, the Palestinians enjoyed a free and unconditional movement.
With regards to the services, they can be divided into three sections: Habitat or locality, health services and education services.
Regarding the habitat services, we can say that it is equally provided to Palestinians and non-Palestinians and comprises all. As for the services rendered inside the camps, the Lebanese State perceives the Relief Agency as the agency founded especially for Palestinian refugees and therefore this agency, the United Nations as well as the International community have to bear the responsibility of providing adequate services to the required habitat services inside the camps. The Lebanese State regards the camps as any other Lebanese village, area or neighborhood, meaning that its water network reaches a certain location but the internal network and distribution lies in the hands of Palestinians themselves. As for the electricity, it reaches there and the distribution is made internally inside the camps. Therefore the basic habitat services are available inside the camps to a great extent.
As for the education services, in fact it has a higher level in Syria and Jordan than in Lebanon, this is due, as previously mentioned, to the difference in the systems and the effective presence of the private sector in Lebanon more rather than it is in Syria or Jordan. Despite this factor, the number of Palestinians receiving education in Lebanon has reached 55.000 students approximately this year (1999) distributed as follows: 40.000 study in the schools of UNRWA and the remaining 15.000 study at non-UNRWA schools which are varying between private sector and public sector schools. The private sector schools comprise 3.000 Palestinian pupils and the public sector comprises 7.000 Palestinian pupils. These 15.000 students, between public and private, represent 25% of the students in Lebanese schools. If we take only those who receive their education in public schools, we will find the ratio to be varying from 13 to 15% in schools supported by the Lebanese State.
Regarding the health services, everybody knows that 90% of health services are provided in Lebanon through private health institutions and hospitals. The conditions of admission of the Palestinian refugees in these hospitals are the same applied on the Lebanese citizen, e.g. available financial resources. As for the governmental hospitals, the Lebanese State is towards carrying out a fundamental renovation and technology modernization. But till now the work in public hospitals is considered to be a mediocre work. Hospitals located nearby Palestinian camps, and especially the governmental hospital at Ein Helwa, do not deny admission and provision of health services to Palestinians and are dealt with equally as any Lebanese, despite the regulations prohibiting provision of services to the non-Lebanese.
There was a finding reached by a study carried out by a Norway organization, that there is a number of refugees who get to receive the services of health units, either of the Lebanese Ministry of Health or those of the Ministry of Social Affairs or the governmental hospitals, where they are treated equally to Lebanese citizens. But they are a small number due to the weak portion the public sector represents in the health domain.
When we tackle the civil rights issue, the charter of Human Rights states the principles of habitat and free movement. There are other rights comprised within the so-called social and economic rights, and here we come to the issue of the right of work for Palestinian refugees living on Lebanese territories.
The Lebanese labor law does not prohibit a Palestinian from having any occupation or profession for being Palestinian. But the law in Lebanon states that a major portion of all professions is kept exclusively to Lebanese citizens, meaning that it has excluded not only Palestinians, but all the others. But this is a decree issued by the Minister of Labor rather than a law that specifies such occupations within what is called the preserving of labor rights of the Lebanese. This law has applied many exemptions for many years to those who have a Lebanese spouse or mother. The Minister of Labor was entitled to make such exemptions to Palestinians to be able to have any of the occupations preserved to Lebanese citizens. There was another exemption applied on all those who were born in Lebanon, which covers a major part of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
This was regarding the legal content, but in reality I believe that the Palestinians, and for many reasons, do not benefit from such exceptions. The State does not prevent them from benefiting from this condition but the number of Palestinians eligible for such occupations preserved to Lebanese citizens is a small number. The majority of them do have these occupations without obtaining a work permit, although it is prohibited to do so. For example, most of the constructions work preserved to the Lebanese are made by Palestinians. Within the practical framework that differs from the theoretical legal one, there is work according to a work permit, there is the clandestine work not announced to the Ministry of Labor and there is the casual work.
Inside the camps, there is a sort of mini municipalities with their own small closed economic cycle with all the necessities of the daily life, especially with regards to work. There is the medical doctor, the pharmacies and all professions related to maintenance and food provision. It is rare to find a profession not practised inside the camps, and these are not subject to the State supervision. There is a sort of auto-sufficiency within the camps. But regarding the functional jobs, like banking and public utilities professions for example, there is an non-ending list of restrictions to keep it for the Lebanese due to the labor reality in Lebanon. There is a large Lebanese emigration for employment reasons. In fact the job vacancies in these professions in Lebanon are not sufficient for the Lebanese, let alone for the others. It is not possible to say that the number of jobs in Lebanon reflects the number of granted work permits. The urban residential areas that have a considerable number of Palestinian refugees have a number of refugees working in small shops and small artisan professions. This reality is found in Lebanese areas where Palestinians live.
As for the highly educated, they endure another reality; they are lawyers, engineers or medical doctors. The sectors of engineering, medicine, pharmaceutical and the legal profession, such self-managed occupations in Lebanon are subject to membership of the professional unions. Joining the unions is ruled by a law stating that members have to be Lebanese. Joining is not allowed to all non-Lebanese, only in very rare occasions exemptions from this rule are made in an exceptional manner. This is the reality of many countries, it is even applied in France where the non-French has no right to own a clinic, while he has the right to work in hospitals. Palestinian doctors work for Lebanese hospitals, a big number amongst them do it without having a work permit. A Palestinian can also work without work permit as an engineer at an engineering office.
But clandestine work deprives them from many guarantees, which is the main problem. They are deprived from the benefits of the social security programs provided for Lebanese and cannot be offered to Palestinians. Usually it is provided to non-Lebanese, but not the Palestinian refugee due to a legislation void in the application of the principle of the “mutual treatment” that prevents them from benefiting from it. This principle prevents the social insurance institution from providing the coverage it grants to all workers whether they were Lebanese or not. This is due to the absence of a Palestinian State, and it is possible to reach a solution of this point upon the creation of the Palestinian State.
The main obstacle is that the war was extended from 75 to 89. After this period, the establishments of the Lebanese State started getting back to performing its role, but in manner that is inadequate to the economical crisis Lebanon is going through now. The matter has been discussed amongst the concerned Lebanese officials, the present manager of the Social Security Fund, with the people in charge at the Ministry of Education and Health to provide more humanitarian services to the Palestinian refugees. The consideration of this matter is linked to two factors: First, to be not related to any political stand regarding resettlement. Second, the ability of the Lebanese State to provide such services.
It is worth mentioning that the reality of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is different from their reality in Syria and in Jordan. Their presence in Syria is purely a civil presence, e.g. non-armed and subject to censorship to a great extent. This means that they find the freedom of political activities in Lebanon, despite all criticism, and they enjoy it there more than in any other Arab country, therefore they benefit from the Lebanese reality from this point of view. The political seminars that are held there, the articles published in the Lebanese newspapers and the Palestinian writers living in Lebanon, the important opinion leaders present in Lebanon, the Palestinian Studies Foundation working in Lebanon, political activities, interaction between the intellectual and cultural agents and activists with the Lebanese civil society.. All this is a sign of well being which is available for them in Lebanon more than in any other exile country.
What highlights the difference is the reality of some camps in Lebanon, but not all. There is an exceptional reality, there is no armed status allowed in the camps in Syria or in Jordan while it is existing in some of the camps in Lebanon. There is a political role played that could be sometimes, not only unfavorable to the Lebanese State, but also unfavorable for a big ratio of Palestinian refugees. Those who carry these activities live on Lebanese lands, which cannot exist in any country other than Lebanon.
The existence of arms inside the camps gives an excuse for the security belt around the camps, or the military check points at he entrance of some of the camps, and not at all of them. The other point is, the check-points located away from the camps outside its fringes, at Lebanese neighborhoods. There are check points for the Lebanese army inside Beirut and between Beirut and Tripoli, which is related to the security situation in Lebanon ; while the existence of these check points around the camps is related to the arms in the camps and to what happens inside and around those camps. There are many court orders against many Palestinian residents of the camps, but they were never handed over to the Lebanese authorities. If there was a proper reality in dealing with Palestinians, what is keeping them from handing over the so-called the “Banded Ansars” living at Ein Helwa camp? Also there was a court order regarding the killing of Sheikh Nizar Halabi, where the Lebanese murderers have been executed while the instigator who planned the murder is a Palestinian who is still living at Ein Helwa camp despite the fact that he is sentenced to death. As we can see, there are such cases. The existence of security checkpoints is related to the armed status inside the camps and to the killings occurring at the cities where these camps exist.
We have witnessed lately a heating up of the situation when one of the spokesmen of a group of Palestinians has turned Ein Helwa camp into a military training camp and has graduated a group of martyrdom militaries. We are not living in the 69 environment or the era before the war and what has happened during the civil war. The Lebanese State does not prevent any military Lebanese training, and why not a Palestinian? It does not allow it, but it does exist due to the Palestinian armed status and due to the desire of the State not to get involved in an armed conflict with the refugees. The main battle and the main enemy is common to the Lebanese and to the Palestinians, and there is no point in getting into an armed conflict against each other.
As for the matter of constructions inside the camps, which is an issue raised by the local and international media, constructions works are subject to authorization. No resident from outside the camps has the right to initiate construction before obtaining along bureaucratic chain of authorizations. Any construction work inside the camps that is not upon authorization nor the submission of an administrative request is considered unfeasible and is seen as a slum construction. We have to find another solution. If the Lebanese State was preventing the Palestinian refugees from living outside the camps and prevents construction inside the camps, this situation would have been considered unacceptable on the human level. But how can we visualize a camp for ten thousands people comprising forty thousands approximately? Can we figure out habitat services for all this unplanned for number? Was there any dialogue between the Relief Agency and the Lebanese State regarding this issue? No, none of this happened. The destruction during the civil war had reached the Palestinian camps as well as some of the Lebanese lands. The residents of the camps of al Dakona, Tell al Zaatar, Gissr al Basha, a part of Dabbiah and Nebteya left towards a couple of locations, either inside the camp or outside of it. These who have occupied vacant flats outside the camp, same as for Lebanese, received the same compensation equal to the Lebanese. Compensations were either made directly by the Central Resettlement Fund or indirectly via the Relief Agency, and I have proofs on that. The number of the resettled refugees was estimated to be five thousand families. Till 1995 the Central Fund for Resettlement paid compensations for 3300 families approximately, and they were compensated all alike regardless of their nationality. Since that date, there are definitely some other families who have taken advantage of such compensations. The Lebanese State is taking no responsibility for those who have taken refuge inside the camps, they are under the responsibility of the Relief Agency. It was possible for the Relief Agency to do some construction work, which is feasible in some of the camps, but it did not do it. There are meanwhile ongoing construction of buildings at the camp of Shatilla where flats are sold by one individual to another. As for the question of those who have lost their shelter outside the camps because Lebanese people have occupied it, they are not entitled to have compensations, for they have to go back and stay at their homes and the Fund will pay compensations for those who were occupying their place”.
2 – UNRWA
We will hereby present the main role played by the Relief Agency for Refugees which was born following the UN resolution 302 issued after one year from the calamity, and upon which the UNRWA was founded. One of the roles of the Agency is to look after the refugees situation and extend the necessary services in the field of relief, health, education, social affairs and employment, until the compliance to the General Assembly’s resolution 194 takes place. This resolution implores Israel to return of refugees to the places they had to leave or to compensate those who do not wish to return.
This international agency has provided regular semi governmental services for the Palestinian refugees till the start of the Israeli incursion of Lebanon in 1982. Since that date, the agency started taking some cutting costs measures, which had an impact on the nature, volume and level of services.
“This is partially due, not only to the reluctance of some donors either countries, organizations or non governmental organizations, to pay their dues, as mentioned by Mr. Fathy Kuleib in his booklet on the subject, but rather due to the policies of the economic donor countries, headed by the United States. This is primarily with regards to the Peace program implementation. This program released by the Relief Agency since October 1993 is in charge of supporting the implementation of Oslo accord in waiting for the final hand over of its work to the Palestinian Authority”.
Mr. Salah Salh, the head of the National Palestinian Council’s “Permanent Committee for Refugees” states at his annual report of 1998:
“There is a fear that there is a gradual policy followed by the UNRWA to end its responsibility towards the refugees. This bears political risks targeting the denial of their right of return and their resettlement in the countries they reside in. This is not in accordance with the UN resolution 302 and 194. The fears we have are based on the following examples:
Trying to transfer the service provision from the UNRWA to be carried out by other parallel Lebanese instruments…
What the UNRWA has referred to in its report for 94 – 95 to freeze some amounts from its budget to pay termination allowances for the local employees.
The huge deficiency in the UNRWA budget was unprecedented throughout its years of existence. It has reached as low as 70 million dollars, according to the report of the UNRWA General Delegate, which made it insufficient to fill emerging gaps: The freezing of the employment of 249 teachers UNRWA needed for its operation areas to cope with the annual increase of students in its schools. Ceasing the provision of services for poor families not listed at the UNRWA registers, ceasing university scholarships and finally shrinking the international staff by 15%”.
The Education Sector:
Kuleib sees that:
“The education program is exhausting a major part of the UNRWA budget. It amounts to 19.5 million dollars from a total of 45.3 millions in 1997 (as per the 1998 report of the General Delegate of the UNRWA). The education was for the elementary stage till 1965, since then it was approved to be extended to comprise the preparatory education. The UNRWA could not include the Secondary education in its program until few years back when this had been heavily demanded due to the economic and social problems that came over the refugees and prevented them from sending their children to private schools. Meanwhile, the official schools were putting obstacles for the admission of Palestinian students. Getting post preparatory education did not go without say, and was a decision to be carefully considered by the families, especially that some of them, falling under financial difficulties, were forced to depend on their children and send them early to work. Over and above, the passing rate was not high due to the lack of interest since the early years of education, the poor quality of the curriculum and teachers, the overcrowded classes, the shifts system and other factors that contributed to the decline of the education situation. With the eruption of the civil war in 1975, the Palestinian students endured, like all Lebanese citizens, bad security situation, resettlement problems, and destruction of the school buildings.
As regards to the university education, the already small number has been greatly shrunk due to the economic crisis, the ceasing of the university scholarship since 1982, the direction of students towards certain types of education, closing the doors of employment in front of them and many other reasons. This increased the demand for technical training education at the UNRWA’s Sbleen Institute where education is provided for free, the fact that it admits only 30% of all applicants”.
Soheil El Natour adds:
“The Lebanese sources started to be on the defensive facing the information presented by the Palestinians to the International organizations regarding their difficult situation. The Lebanese sources started to present figures in a manipulative manner, in the same way they manipulate the figures related to the size of the Palestinian presence in Lebanon. For example: they say Palestinians are admitted to the official education institutions, and they also say that Palestinians are allowed to receive treatment at the governmental hospitals equally to the Lebanese poor. In fact these matters were completely disallowed, but they took some relatively speaking flexibility measures to obtain an excuse by presenting few figures to avoid obligations due from its side. The Lebanese law allows the official institutions to have 90% Lebanese and 10% foreigners. Therefore, a Palestinian, Syrian, Egyptian or others living in Lebanon and wishing to send their children to the governmental school are considered amongst the 10%. There are thousands of Palestinians in Lebanon and they have a huge number of students, while Lebanon has only 300 Palestinians at the governmental schools, and one thousand at private schools. Saying that they are at Lebanese schools, it is important to mention that they cost their families the same costs incurred by a Lebanese student.
Some others, financially sustained by external funds, or rich Palestinians can afford to send their children to private schools, even if it expensive. But they represent a very small portion. Actually, it is the UNRWA that provides free education for the elementary and preparatory education for more than 35 thousand students. When those wish to go to the secondary education, they have to find schools that can absorb their large numbers. There we have a big problem when we find that the majority of the secondary students dropped out for not being able to find a way to enroll at a private school when the governmental schools have closed their doors for them. UNRWA had to collect donations to found the first secondary school at Ein El Helwa and another one in Beirut to absorb hundreds of secondary students.” (We have received, while making the final touches on this part, a letter sent by Palestinian children saying that they have organized a sit-in in front of the UNRWA offices that forced the latter to decide to open two other secondary schools in the North).
El Natour carries on saying: “In 1998 a famous incident occurred in Sayda, where many Lebanese families, pushed by the exhaustive expensive installments of schools, transferred their children from private to governmental schools, especially that the latter has started to improve the quality of teaching under the pressure of the Lebanese State. The families found out that the schools in Sayda preferred to register the Lebanese students instead of the Palestinians, and even sent away the old Palestinian students they had. This happened at the time when there was a long-standing good environment between Palestinians and Lebanese. We found then that we had around 800 student at the preparatory and secondary education put out of schools. At this time, prime minister Hariri and his sister Lady Bahia took initiative to sponsor the opening of classrooms at private schools they owned to admit the Palestinians to solve the problem for only one school term. But it is not possible for any Lebanese official to claim that the Lebanese have solved the problem, because it was an individual initiative taken by a local who does not want problems between residents of his area, especially that the problem is of an emotional nature caused by the poverty of both the Lebanese and the Palestinians in Lebanon.
The only place which admitted Palestinian students was the faculties of Arts of the Lebanese University. As for the Education or the scientific faculties, they are denied to the Palestinians. The faculty of Education graduates the teachers who work at governmental schools, and have therefore to be Lebanese for ten years. Due to the small number of the scientific faculties, the exclusive priority is given to the Lebanese. The nationality is the main obstacle to have access to a human right. Those who graduated as doctors or engineers are those who could have a scholarship during the Palestinian revolution and traveled abroad. Today, this portion is extremely thin and can be counted on one hand, or they could be some lucky ones who received scholarships either from organizations or from other countries. The Palestinian can hardly make it to the secondary education, which is not even available in all areas. In the North, for example, there is no UNRWA school, a fact that is posing a big problem.
Forty percent of the Palestinian children in Lebanon have dropped-out from schools, many of them have never even been to one. We find children of martyrs who have no financial resources sent by their mothers to work and secure some food. Lebanon has 10 thousand families of martyrs, therefore, we can figure out the tragedy if we know that families of martyrs do not receive support. When the PLO reinitiated payment for the martyrs families during the past few months, it was only a monthly amount of 70 dollars, which is not enough to buy bread for a whole family. Those children constitute today an illiterate generation by excellence. If it is meant to impoverish the Palestinian to force him to accept political compromises on his rights, this leads to the destruction of his society and the deterioration of his socio-economic level till reaching as down as to the level of illiteracy. The illiterate, even the talented ones, cannot evolve, while he lives in Lebanon and interacts with the Lebanese society, he influences this society and makes it deteriorate socially. The Lebanese of the same level can find a way to be employed at the municipalities and the State offices, while this is not possible for the Palestinians. When they are pushed towards illiteracy, we can imagine the future of these children. The situation started deteriorating as was the case in 82, and is getting worse day by day.
If we would compare, we’ll find that the number of Palestinians in Syria is nearly 365 thousand. UNRWA schools receive 70 thousand students at the elementary and preparatory education, while the governmental and private schools admit the Palestinian equally to the Syrian. In Lebanon, UNRWA schools have half the number, e.g. 35 thousands, so we can imagine the Palestinians’ education tragedy mainly due to poverty and deprivation from rights”.
The Heath Sector:
Fathy Kuleib says:
“UNRWA has 25 health centers operating under its supervision in Lebanon through which they provide treatment, medical and preventive care to the refugees, as well as environmental health services. But the treatment provided at the UNRWA’s clinics is inadequate, whereas the small number of doctors and physicians is due to the weak hospitalization budget, which is negatively reflected on the quality of performance and time allocated to each patient to give treatment. This forces the patients to bear costs of complementary treatment at other centers to continue their treatment, which is beyond their financial abilities. The categorization of the medical services into basic and secondary, given the lack of medical provisions by the official State establishments, makes it extremely difficult to keep up the level of services, especially after the UNRWA shrank its budget as of 1993. Consequently, the average spending in 94 – 95 became 5.4$ yearly per citizen. The patient has to contribute personally 75% of the costs of the major surgeries, and cannot meanwhile afford to see himself on a long waiting list which would lead to his death. This has happened in fact in many cases due to negligence at hospitals, administrative bureaucracy for the transfer of the patient by the Relief Agency, delay in operating primary check-ups, etc… Besides, UNRWA is not covering dialysis operations nor traffic accidents. This simply means that those who cannot secure treatment costs are sentenced to death. In 1992 only, there were 40 death cases of kidney patients, 36 amongst which were due to failure to cover treatment costs.”
“UNRWA has recently decided to provide the bare minimum of services. It has taken a serious step called the sharing of costs of services by the Palestinian community. Those who used to go for treatment at UNRWA clinics used to get a check-up, the medicine, and if needed he was transferred to a hospital. Now the check-up is free, but he has to buy the medicine himself. In case he needs hospitalization, UNRWA is only covering the bed rental, while all the expenses of operations and medicines are borne by the patient’s family. How could a person with a large family and who has no regular income bear such costs? He is working at the clandestine market on and off without any insurance. When a Palestinian is affected by any of the illnesses such as cancer, heart diseases, brain, dialysis , he is presumed dead, because he dies out of lack of means.
Amongst the current UNRWA’s measures, any Palestinian who turns 60 years of age is not eligible for treatment. They take the little means as an excuse and prefer to treat a youngster instead, as if it is a matter of prioritizing people. We had lists of some 70 or 80 of Palestinians cases of dialysis in Lebanon. In two years, there was only ten left, all the rest died. Those who made it, it was either thanks to one of the institutions, or to Friends of the Relief Association in the United States which carried out a fundraising campaign and bought dialysis equipment and medicine and sent it as a gift to the Red Crescent hospitals. Equipment was placed at the Hamshary hospital at Ein El Helwa camp and referrals of Palestinians started to be treated there. Now the Crescent has a major problem in securing a regular supply of the dialysis solution. But still it remains a less important problem than before, compared to the previous status. The Lebanese hospitals used to allow operating dialysis but only after the payment of the expensive fees, the minimum expense of each dialysis operation was 100 dollars. Each patient needs two operations weekly, therefore he had to secure 800 dollars monthly. By the way, this sickness is non-curable.
In 1999, an evolution occurred that has relatively eased the problem. Due to the budget cuts especially in the domain of health care, UNRWA decided not to contract Lebanese hospitals but to deal instead with the Palestinian Red Crescent, under the condition that the Crescent meets the requirements and treatment standards of UNRWA. The Crescent has therefore identified a hospital in each Lebanese area to be contracted by UNRWA. It was meant to choose the best hospitals but they are still weaker and inadequate to the level of required services. For this reason, many organizations working in the field of medical services in the Western countries collected funds, bought equipment and sent it to the Crescent hospitals, which has relatively ameliorated the situation.
The Multi-National Negotiation Committee for Refugees Affairs decided also to dedicate a part of its efforts to support the improvement of the refugees health situation in the camps. They have sent an Italian doctor to Lebanon for this purpose (because Italy is in charge of this file). He has followed up with the Palestinian Red Crescent the allocation of funds to qualify doctors and nurses of the American University hospital in Lebanon, providing a range of training programs, which has improved the quality of services.
But due to the small budget of the Red Crescent, many of these competent practitioners, after receiving the training certificates, left to look for other jobs outside because they are looking for better living standards. This draining is completing the impoverishment cycle. The matter needs to be tackled by a comprehensive project providing the chance to the skilled personnel to find a job with suitable and satisfactory conditions that allows him to have dignified life with his family, otherwise what has happened can be considered as part of the resettlement policy.
As far as environmental health services of sewerage, provision of potable water, waste water management, garbage collection and processing,insecticides are concerned, they are all in a lamentable status, according to Kuleib. A report prepared by the Lebanese Ministry of Health in 1995 on Borg Al Shamaly camp, is giving a briefing on the situation of all the camps following the spreading of a disease amongst all its 10 thousand residents because of water pollution. It quotes: The principal and secondary drainage network is uncovered and bad smells fuming constantly, also the positioning of the domestic water pumping network is not correct, in addition to its old age, most of the houses are pumping water through containers linked to uncovered barrels”.
The report of the Palestinian Organization for Human Rights’ on the health reality of the Palestinian refugees described it as being in a very bad shape: children under school age suffer malnutrition, there is environmental pollution, especially water pollution with its effects such as diarrhea of children and grown-ups. The report has also monitored the illnesses of hearth diseases, systolic pressure, M.I., renal failure, bronchial asthma, diabetes, gastric ulcers, bones inflammation, psychological distress due to economic and social stresses the Palestinian people endures. The type of hospitalization UNRWA offers stays at its minimum levels due to the applied health policy based on prevention rather than treatment. This forces some Palestinian patients to beg in order to receive some assistance. Given that the International law states the necessity of having one doctor per thousand people as a minimum requirement, we have less than one doctor per 10 thousand refugees. The report draws on the mortality rate of Palestinians at the governmental hospitals, where some have kept the patients as hostages till hospital fees were paid, in some of the cases their corpses were kept as such.
Services and Social Relief Sector:
This sector comes at the third class after education and health, and also witnesses a big decline, according to Kuleib:
“Due to the UNRWA practiced policy of cutting down expenses, it has reduced its program assisting families who cannot secure food and shelter, for all Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. UNRWA reduced this program since the eighties till it was cancelled and restricted only to cases of extreme difficulties. These cases ratio was 10.5% in 1996, the criterion was the absence of a medically fit male adult who can work to provide for family. But there are other criteria reflecting the social reality in a more accurate way, which would exceed this ratio by far. One of the criteria coming at the first place is the constraints related to the work of Palestinians in Lebanon, the rise of the unemployment rates to a great extent, which goes in parallel with having not received health, social and educational benefits. This is proven by the data of the social organizations working in the camps, affirming that three quarters of Lebanon’s Palestinians are under the poverty threshold. The martyrs families considered to be 10 thousand families do not benefit from this program while the above criterion applies to them”.
Amongst other things mentioned by the program officer of the Relief and Social Affairs at UNRWA, Mrs. Zein Seikaly, in answer to our inquiry regarding the complaints made by Palestinians against the foundation and their dealing with it with a lot of doubts and caution:
“The previous management feared the reaction to projects of refugees assistance in case it is taken for attempts of resettlement. Same as when new Ids were issued to refugees, it has raised many irrelevant interpretations. But the current management does not have such fears anymore, especially that the host and donors countries appreciate the importance of the continuum of the work of the agency till the end of negotiations. Lebanon has 25% of the beneficiary families of the food distribution program (comprising 10 Kg of flour, 1 Kg rice, 1 Kg sugar, oil, lentil, check pees and milk in addition to 40 dollars). Also the amount of 85 thousand dollars have been spent in Lebanon since 1994 (while camps in Gaza received 15 million dollars) to hold projects in the camps. There are loans programs granted to hold income generation projects to help them sustain themselves. But a part of the financial aid provided to refugees stopped in fact since 1997.
Regarding the fact that secondary schools were not built for students until recently, there used to be financial aid given to families to enable school students to follow their secondary education, which was more cost effective than building schools. But UNRWA is attending to the problem partially and all its attention goes to the Palestinian poor, while Palestinians consider that all individuals should have access to the same rights”.
Concerning UNRWA’s provisions, Kuleib claims:
“The reform of the agency’s departments is necessary, it is not acceptable that the budget of the head office of the UNRWA where 150 employees are working reaches 10.3% of the total budget of UNRWA, while the budget for Lebanon does not exceed 12.6% where 1500 employees are working, in addition to services rendered to 350 thousand Palestinian refugee. The majority of the budget is spent on allowances and administrative purposes, while there is a widely spread financial and administrative mismanagement and half of the budget is misallocated. Meanwhile this agency is unable to solve the accumulative budget deficiency, which led to a major shrinking of its services, it is allocating huge funds to support the path of settlement and peace program implementation with a special emphasis on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In addition, the management dysfunction of the saving fund and the investment operations made by the presidency of the agency resulted in a major financial crisis for the UNRWA”.
3 – The Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Political Reference:
“The first official political reference for Palestinians was formed after the Arab League declaration of the PLO in 1964, says Salah Salah in his report. In the same year, it had opened an office in Beirut to attend to the situation of Palestinians and follow-up on their issues with the authorities in charge in the Lebanese State. But the office could not undertake its tasks as planned because of the martial laws in place and the control of the Second Affiliation (A military security body affiliated to the Lebanese army) over the camps, which was preventing any direct connections with its residents and had to be made via it. This body had prohibited, rather prosecuted, all activities (political, media, unions, popular) in the camps. The PLO office became just a diplomatic organization playing its role according to the diplomatic protocol of embassies.
In 1969, following some armed conflicts between the Lebanese army and the Palestinian martyrdom who have set army bases in the South, a popular uprising occurred in Lebanon headed by the Martyr Kamal Jumblat, proclaiming the incubation and support of the Palestinian resistance and allowing it to fight against the Israeli occupation from the Lebanese territories. As a result of this uprising, the government who was in power resigned, the political life was frozen and conflicts erupted between the camps in power. Abdel Nasser had to intervene and deal with the situation by convening the so-called “Cairo Agreement” between the Lebanese authority and the PLO, where Palestinians agreed to form the “High Political Committee” as a reference for the Palestinian issues in Lebanon, with a popular committee and a location of “Armed Strife” affiliated to it, e.g. a Palestinian police in each camp. This was the first time since 1948 for Palestinians to have a Palestinian management of the camps affairs acknowledged by the Lebanese State.
In 1982, Israel stormed the Lebanese territories, the primary target was to destroy all the political, organizational and military infrastructure of the PLO and give an end to its establishments in Lebanon. It was a destructive Israeli war that forced the Palestinians to accept what was called the accord of “Phillip Habib”, the American mediator, to stop the Israeli raid in return for the PLO organization leaving with its leadership, fighters and agencies… One of the clauses of the accord implied to form a committee acting as the main referral for all matters related to the remaining Palestinian presence in Lebanon, which was accepted by the Lebanese authorities. This committee started its communication with the authority designated by the officials (and it was a security authority). But these communications meant to found a basis of organization of the Palestinian / Lebanese relationship, were soon interrupted from the Lebanese side, and the committee was prosecuted by the same authority that was designated to liaise with. Some members of the committee were taken into custody while some others were forced to leave. The Palestinians became without reference. This may be a reason that has encouraged some to raid the camps aiming to have power over it (due to the absence of reference).
Once the war with the camps was over, PLO worked on the reactivation of its role in Lebanon, and formed the “Palestinian Patriotic Operation H.Q.” consisting of the divisions within its framework to be the Palestinian reference in Lebanon at all levels and all domains; the political, economic, military and other. Some main circles became active in providing urgent services to the camps.
In 1990, the Taef accord was reached which gave an end to the war in Lebanon, a new phase of peaceful coexistence and security stability started. This comprised the Palestinians living in Lebanon. A ministerial committee was formed to dialogue with Palestinians having as a point of start the acknowledgment, for the first time since 1948, of the civil and social rights of the Palestinians in Lebanon, with the exception of the nationalization and occupation of public office posts. In return, the Palestinians formed their committee and the dialogue started between the two parties. The Palestinian committee presented a working paper where it specifies its perception of the civic and social rights and the problems that have to be resolved to reform the Palestinian / Lebanese relationship. In this meeting they agreed on dates and scheduled the following meetings, but the Lebanese side is dragging slow the execution of what has been agreed upon and is still playing maneuvering till now…”
The PLO represented, via its multiple institutions till few years ago, a considerable source of income for Palestinians in Lebanon, until its budget declined and was redirected towards the inside when the 1987 uprising – Intifada – took off. The situation became worse when the Gulf countries stopped the major part of its aid to the PLO when the second Gulf war started and PLO took a supporting position towards Iraq. This was in parallel with the expulsion of a large number of Palestinian families residing in the Gulf, some of them did not even get the chance to transfer their savings or obtain their financial dues. The financial support PLO was sending to the camps shrank by the beginning of Madrid negotiations until it stooped completely after the Oslo agreement. This is in exception of the salaries of some employees who remained in some of its departments and the aid provided to the martyrs families. Based on this, we can imagine how the situation of the Palestinians developed in the camps, after it was attending to the vital and humanitarian matters from reconstruction of the destroyed camps to the maintenance of the infrastructure and filling the gaps of UNRWA provisions in the domain of health, education, etc…
We met with Mr. Shafik Al Hoot to discuss the PLO representation issue; (He was a member of the Executive Committee and the Palestinian National Council. He resigned from the executive committee and from the representation of the PLO in Lebanon in 1993 in protest against the Palestinian Authority signing Oslo Agreement). After his resignation, there was no official representative of the PLO in Lebanon. But the Palestinian Authority did not accept this resignation and did not designate a substitute, while the Lebanese government overlooked the matter. Mr. Hoot sometimes exercises some authorities to manage the Palestinians matters in Lebanon, his signature is still accredited in the official circles.
Shafik Al Hoot says:
“Lebanon is living today under common strategic circumstances with Syria, therefore it is supposed that the divisions who are against Oslo are those who are allowed to move freely in the Lebanese arena. But for many reasons, on one hand some are related to the handicaps of the divisions and the internal conflicts they have amongst each other, on the other hand, some are related to the residues of the historical experience of the Palestinians and the Lebanese. The result is that the Lebanese government does not have an interest in reviving its official links with the PLO and we became without a reference. Especially that after 1982, there remained no Palestinian leadership nor Palestinian institutions of the PLO in Lebanon.
After Oslo, the PLO was over; it had no tangible existence. Yasser Arafat went beyond this organization and changed in its bylaws, while Oslo in itself is bounding the authorities of the PLO, except with regards to its signing the Agreement. The political representation the PLO has shrunk and was reduced only to the representation of the Palestinian Authority and the application of Oslo. The representative of the Palestinian people today does not any longer have the same proclaims and slogans of the PLO, which were the right of return, self-determination and the Palestinian State”.
AL Natour adds:
“The reference in the camps, as a general reference of the Palestinian people was the PLO. Since 1982 and the withdrawal of the liberation forces with the Phillip Habib accord, there is no officially announced reference. The reference has to be acknowledged by the Lebanese State and dealt with officially. The Lebanese State acknowledges the PLO and deals with it within the context of the Arab League but does not allow it to re-open the office previously closed by the Israelis in 1982 at Kornish Mazraa in Beirut. It does not also allow the refunctioning of the research center affiliated to the PLO, which was perceived as the meetings center of the local Palestinian authorities, and as a mediator between the State and the Palestinian masses in Lebanon. This premises had been bombed by a loaded car in February 1983 and it was never allowed to revive its role ever since. Instead of the official representation of Palestinians in Lebanon, there is the de-facto reference representing each division as a part of the Palestinian people that the official counterparts in Lebanon, the political powers and the international agencies are dealing with”.
Mrs. Samira Salah, who is working for the department of Refugees Affairs since 1989 as she was appointed as the manager of this department in Lebanon (formerly the department of the Return Affairs):
“From the side of the Lebanese State, there is no official relationship with the department of the Refugees Affairs. But I was admitted at the follow-up committee and presented memorandums on the civil and human rights of the Palestinian people. The follow-up committee held two meetings but the communication stopped due to influences of parties who have put obstacles to this opportunity. We had asked the former Minister of Health, Marwan Hamada, to allow dialysis and provide medicine to cancer patients, but we did not obtain an approval. UNRWA had also held meetings with representatives of the Lebanese State to allow subcontracting governmental hospitals, but this was also rejected. Now they are putting extra obstacles. Emirates and Saudi Arabia have put pressure to re-issue visas because they were complaining about the procedure, and this was the only matter we have obtained”.
Regarding the services provided by this department that is staffed by 20 employees and has an office in Mar Elias and another at Ein El Helwa, Samira Salah says:
“I was preceded by Maher El Yamani and Salah Salah, but we can say that I started from zero in 1989 since the department had stopped its operation in 1982. The agenda of the department as approved by the executive committee was loaded with a large number of issues of great importance to the Palestinian people, amongst which is the re-construction of the camps and its infrastructure, civil and social rights of the Palestinian people in Lebanon and their security issues. When I started working, the situation was very tough, especially with regards to the PLO. But my strong belief in the necessity of the community service helped me carry on under the major political cleavages amongst the Palestinians. I have tried to understand all parties, being related to the PLO did not stop me from taking a stand against its practices. This was necessary to change the scene.
My first initiative was to gather the popular committees consisting of the Saving Front and the divisions of the PLO, because each has its committees in their areas. We tried to agree on common issues of importance to all. The National Operation Agency took charge of construction matters while the department of Refugees Issues took charge of the infrastructure for water, electricity and drainage. We did not differentiate between a UNRWA supported camp and an assembly neighborhood (amounting to 30 assemblies), some of them are very poor and neglected. We started by the South and Beirut which were more subject to the aftermath of the Lebanese war, the Israeli storming and the camps war. We founded the main electricity project in 1989 in Ein Al Helwa camp and have distributed funds on the residents of other camps to reconstruct their homes that were made out of tanks and reservoirs material.
In the North we implemented the project of transformers for electricity distribution at Badawy, Bared, Beqaa and another electricity project at Jaleel camp. We had a golden period between 1989 and 1993 where we could implement important projects with the support of the PLO. But after the Oslo agreement, things started declining because the world started to give lesser attention to Lebanon and its Palestinians. It has ceased being an emergency case and the European NGOs and International organizations considered that it should direct its support towards the freed Palestinian lands following the signed agreement. They have forgotten about 350 thousand Palestinians in Lebanon. This resulted in the shrinking of the Lebanon budget of the PLO, where salaries were reduced or terminated and the financial support stopped. The Palestinian people in Lebanon became without any resources, especially that the second Gulf war had its major negative impact on the economic status. There were tragic social cases, which forced the PLO, after a while of proclaims and screaming, to reopen support in a gradual way, but restricted only to Fateh group, and the institutions work became limited to individuals. This was a reason of conflict with the PLO who has limited all powers in one individual on the account of the institutional work, disregarding its long striving history. This has made us feel extremely down, which was negatively reflected on the whole operation, given that this department ceased being a reference.
Only two years ago the relation between the refugees here and the center in Gaza started to be regular. In the second half of this year (1999) we have implemented a number of projects, amongst which is a water reservoir in Ein El Helwa, a drainage system for Al Bustan area which is at Ein El Helwa but is not covered by UNRWA, and at the assembly of Breksat as well. We started focusing on the assemblies (we spent 35 thousand dollars in three months). We are optimistic about the possibility of implementing other projects, which are made upon sealed bids to ensure the non-discrimination and equity; public work is not easy. Of course the implementation is supervised by people assigned for this job, to ensure the best use of funds, especially that they are limited funds, and the workers have interest in doing the work even if they receive a low pay.”
The Social Palestinian Organization:
It remains for us to refer to the role of the social organizations and Palestinian NGOs which are heavily existing in the camps and are trying hard to fill the gaps created since the Palestinian resistance left Lebanon in 1982 and the closure of most of its institutions. It has absorbed a part of the Palestinian labor force within its projects implemented in the camps. But unfortunately it could not and would not be able with its limited resources to solve the economic and social problems of the Palestinian refugees.
If we take the example of the social aid that the two ladies, Haifaa Gamal the deputy manager of the association, and Maysser Taha the person in charge of the aid branch in Ein El Helwa camp, talk about saying:
“It is a Lebanese/Palestinian association founded in 1976 when the residents of Tell Azaatar emigrated to Damour, many amongst them were orphans and widows. There was a group of doctors and engineers who saw that the best assistance they can provide to the women emigrants was to employ them. It started with traditional Palestinian weaving and it developed into sewing training programs and then it expanded to cover all the Palestinian camps.
The training programs comprised hairstyling, carpentry, typography, secretarial work, decoration, architectural design, photography and illiteracy. The goal of the association is qualifying Palestinian women through education to enable them to be independent in running their private and family matters, with a special emphasis on the production quality. The ages of widows were varying between 25 and 40 years and approximately half of the employees were volunteers.
We have now 14 vocational training centers, 6 kindergartens each comprising 110-120 child, but this is not covering all the needs. We found that the kindergarten is essential for the child’s smooth admission at schools. Of course the production is not enough to break even and we receive an external support to sustain us. Our projects try to be developmental and we organize our long training programs (it lasts for many months) based on the present needs that we detect and based on the demand of the labor market. Less than half of those who graduate from the Aid programs find a job.
There is a Lebanese coordination institution in Sayda formed out of 40 foundations and association, amongst which are some Palestinian ones, but they are not always successful in the coordination. We implemented the national program for the child, another program on domestic violence and there are other programs on reproductive health that started 4 years ago and some awareness raising sessions for women”.
Amongst the social organizations existing in the camps, there are centers for the disabled and women associations carrying out different activities. Some of these activities are carried out by volunteers from the camps. If we take for example the National Association for Social Care comprising 1315 children, 97% of them are orphans and the others come from the mentally or physically disabled families as a result of the war. Mr. Kassem Eina who is in charge of this association says:
“The association was founded in 1976 after the incidents of Tell El Zaatar camp and it was directed towards children who have lost their families, and they were of many nationalities, amongst which were Lebanese. The association has focused its work on the children of camps who suffer from psychological and educational disorders resulting from the economic and social situation of the families and the deteriorating status of schools and lack of entertainment means.
After the massacre of Sabra and Shatilla in 1982, its scope has changed. It is subsidizing the child while remaining with his family, and the staff members are from the residents of the same camp. It has become not only a service rending center but rather a developmental center open to all and not only to the orphans. Each 30 families are followed-up by one social worker working under the supervision of the center. The association does not receive any benefits from the government while the latter is benefiting from such organizations as ours who are providing a part of their services to the Lebanese.”
Two youth members of Ajyal (Generations) Center present their center as follows:
“The center started two years ago by initiatives of some youth coming from different parties and independents who share the belief of the necessity of contributing something for the youth, especially that the vision of the future is not clear and there is a lack of political reference. The aim of the center is the activation of the institutions in the camps and working on thyself to enhance the resources and the expression of concerns. Also they are working on the communication with European countries and linking with youth groups in other countries, amongst which is the Ajyal group in France and in Palestine, which is very important to make them feel they belong to Palestine.
Today, there are many joint activities such as training programs on community mobilization, human rights or seminars and cultural activities related to our tradition. The goal of Ajyal members is to create bridges linking all camps via partners in each camp, especially those who do not belong to any political currents, the center is open to all Palestinian youth assemblies. The financial aspect is an obstacle to sustainability, despite the membership fees, some donations and the support of international agencies in holding workshops. The voluntary activities in the free time of youth are filling a big gap. It was necessary to find means of using the youth free time in a positive manner via their engagement in social work and preparation for the return to Palestine. In the meantime, the phenomena of suicide and drugs seems to be rising and the fear from the expansion of religious parties is increasing.”.
We have to mention the presence of the Palestinian Human Rights Organization founded at the end of 1997. The two gentlemen Bassam Habashi and Ghassan Abdallah, whom we met from the organization, state that: It came into being in response to essential and urgent need dictated by the Palestinian people’s reality in Lebanon, in addition to the unclear legal status with regards to its relation with the host country and the vague legislation regulating this relationship. In a humble attempt to improve the unfair situation and suffering of the Palestinian human being, a group of Palestinian intellectuals gathered to form this association with the support of Lebanese intellectuals. Amongst its objectives is the defense of the rights of the Palestinian citizen in the social, cultural, educational, environmental and legal domains, based on the universal charter on human rights, and especially on the resolution 194 granting the right of return to all refugees. It has also the goal of deepening the awareness of Palestinians of their right, the dissemination of the human rights culture and the adoption of the principles of democratic practices in addition to the monitoring of violations and handling them in cooperation with the official departments concerned and the civil society organizations.
The organization issues a non-periodical newsletter called “Hoqooq” (Rights) and publishes reports on the situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The members of the association are volunteers and they cover the publication and activities costs through their own means.
Amongst these reports is one related to the role and performance of the national Palestinian organizations in Lebanon. It is directing criticism to the bad and subjective performance of these organizations, in light of the lack of supervision and transparency as well as the political conflicts that had a negative impact on them. The report draws on the budget of the PLO in Lebanon exceeding 1.5 million dollars monthly. Nobody knows how it is spent, what for and who are benefiting from it from the Palestinian people (….). The only thing known for sure is that it is disbursed on political criteria taking into account only the political loyalty”. The report has also disclosed that “The monthly financial assistance allocated to families of martyrs has shrunk to a shameful limit varying between 22 and 40 dollars for military martyrs, while it was cancelled in the case of civil martyrs. This far too low amount sometimes does not even reach its beneficiaries”. Regarding the popular committees based in the camps, they became a mysterious framework short of content. They “do not perform their role and responsibilities because of the paradoxes resulting from the political disputes and the executive and administrative disabilities due to such disputes. This is in addition to the wide spread financial and administrative corruption resulting from the absence of supervision and lack of accountability. This has encouraged the committees to tend to chain the political freedoms, and therefore refrain the release of the capabilities and potentials of the civil society. This situation applies, according to the report, to the Palestinian Red Crescent Organization as well as on the Refugees Affairs department. It has noted that “the main feature of the Palestinian federations and unions is the marginalisation, they are emptied from any striving or advocacy content till it became hollow structures”. The responsibility of this situation is shared by the PLO, the Lebanese State and UNRWA.
The Economic Situation – Utilization of their Caliber:
“When the Palestinians were forcibly evacuated from their lands in summer 1948, Soheil Natour says, one hundred thousand Palestinians arrived in the first phase to South of Lebanon, most of them coming from villages of North Palestine. They came either by small boats, on foot, by cars or by horse-drawn carriages. They have gathered then at the camps of Rashidiyeh and Borj Al Shemaly in Soor. In the beginning, the Lebanese had received the Palestinians with a remarkable human sympathy, the President of the State Bishara Khouri went down to one of the camps in the South, accompanied by doctors and carrying medicine to inspect the situation of the refugees when diseases spread amongst them.
But they were perceived with suspicion from day one by certain religious groups in power, that made them send the military lorries to transport a large number of them and deport them. The first group crossed the borders and were left at Ladekeyeh, that is why there is refugees camp at Ladekeyeh. By the time of the second group deportation, the Syrians sensed that the Lebanese wanted to gather all the Palestinians in their country, so they closed the borders and the Lebanese army could not return the refugees to the South, therefore, they left them in the North, and the North camps started.
Shortly before us, there were the Armenian Refugees, who have obtained all the civil rights and then the citizenship. The Palestinians did not obtain any right except the right of residence. The official Lebanese stand then said that the UNHCR founded in 1950 had to find jobs for the refugees, therefore, they had to fund their employment projects. The Representative of UNHCR Corvoisier, was entitled to communicate with the representative of the President of the State in this regard. In fact, the Lebanese have allowed some projects in which Palestinians were employed.
If we look into what these projects were about, we will find that the most important ones were: a project requested by the Lebanese State to link the Beqaa zone with Tripoli. This route used to go through the mountains and snow and did not have alleys, so the Palestinians built it, many died during their work in it. The second project: Palestinians had a good experience in agriculture in Palestine, especially in growing the citrus fruits, they have brought this knowledge to Lebanon after they had lost the land. The citrus fruits in Lebanon did not have a fame and were not an important crop. There was then a room for Palestinians to work in the lands on the coast and valleys stretched between Sayda, Sour and Beirut which they had cultivated and turned into a paradise of citrus. Many Lebanese gained experience in it. Yet most of those who cultivate citrus in the South are Palestinians.
Since the beginning, there was a wish against the Palestinians settling in Lebanon. How could they manage without work during all this period?
In the beginning of the fifties, a new Arab factor helped absorb, to a big extent, the educated Palestinian labor force, this factor was the discovery of Petrol in the Gulf countries. Those who discovered petrol were primarily the British. Therefore, they needed an interpreting mediator between them and the local Bedouins in the areas where there was Petrol, either in Iraq, Kuwait or the Arab Peninsula. Those who have studied under the British mandate and graduated in English studies were Palestinians. The Lebanese and Syrians were not qualified for this work at that time because they were under the French mandate. Since then, the labor force that went to work in the Gulf, and those who had afterwards built Kuwait, were the Palestinian refugees of Lebanon and Syria, and were followed afterwards by the refugees of Jordan. The money incoming from those was relatively solving the problems of the Palestinian families and did not put the right of work in a pressurizing way on the agenda in Lebanon. Especially that this incoming money started to bring with it the money of the Gulf new princes and was concentrated in building hotels, tourism, hospitals and others. That is why the banking and medical sectors in Lebanon were built with Palestinian money and by Palestinian calibers who brought with them from the Gulf a large number of clients. We have the Berbeer Hospital as an example, where many Gulf princes families come to spend the summer in Lebanon and stay at the Berbeer Hospital owned by a Lebanese. But its financing, doctors and calibers were all Palestinian. These families were staying in it as if it was their private spa. This type of relation did not annoy the Lebanese. The tourism companies financed by the Palestinians provided a lot of job vacancies to the Lebanese, as well as the banks, for instance, Intra Bank.
When the Lebanese started learning English, working in the Gulf and amassing a competitive material, they came back to take this role and send away the non-Lebanese from the market. This happened after taking some measures that would limit the Palestinian power and lea to the collapsing and bankruptcy of Intra Bank in a fictitious manner. The rule of law then turned against the Palestinians and on the account of their civil rights.
Following that, came the second phase where the dominant effects of the economic problems were less felt, this was the Palestinian revolution phase. It has spent large amounts of money on social services and could, not only solve the camps problems, but to contribute in solving the problems of many Lebanese families during the war”.
The Rising of the Economic Crisis:
“When the PLO left after 82, Natour continues, the economic crisis started to rise at its most, especially that it was accompanied by a Lebanese hostility after the killing of Basheer Lejmayel and the squads forces holding the power control. The process of the Palestinians refugees eviction through the economic strangling is a systematic reality still ongoing.
After the Oslo agreement, there was extra negative factors. First: The Palestinian political conflicts have led to disputes still lively, which helped the Lebanese authorities to recognize none as the legitimate representative authority of the Palestinians. They are trying to throw the ball in the court of Palestinians. If we say we need an official reference, they say which organization while disputes are hot amongst you? and we fear if we open this office that it could get worse. This remains an excuse because their basic stand is that they do not wish to have a reference.
Second: The absence of the reference leads to the scattering of the former organizational structures. Given that the political disagreements are still there, it will overshadow the service rendered to this community. The competition may lead to the paralysis of service provision. If an establishment wishes to provide services to the families of martyrs, other martyrs families will be affected either negatively or positively, depending on the relationship between these establishments. Here lies the tragedy, the harvest of the Palestinian civilians due to the disagreements over Oslo made the social situation worse. After the time where it was caused by the Lebanese authority depriving the Palestinians from their rights, it was topped by the economic deprivation by the Palestinians ; especially that the PLO stopped the aid with the excuse that it is bankrupt after the second Gulf war. However, the disbursement of PLO funds to some of the faithful figures to the head of the PLO and his negotiation line was increased meanwhile.
On the other hand, Oslo agreement came to say that UNRWA was getting ready for a five years plan for a full hand-over of all its responsibilities and to end its role, with the assumption that the refugees problem would be solved within five years. In this framework, UNRWA has put a so called rehabilitation plan , e.g. the situation of its schools has to be reformulated according to what suits the governmental schools in Lebanon to be associated to the Lebanese State and become its responsibility in five years. The health centers and UNRWA hospitals also have to be rehabilitated to report to the Ministry of Health in the host country. In fact, it showed that the negotiations with Israel take much longer while the UNRWA project started to shrink its services to end after five years to be operating at its minimum capacity level to ensure a smooth hand-over to the host country. Palestinians have endured receiving less services than what they had before. Meanwhile the needs were aggravated given the increasing number of births or the increase in the rate of decline of the economic situation of the Palestinians resulting from their deprivation from the services of the Red Crescent, the PLO and the support they used to receive during the war. All this led to a major suffocation, while the Lebanese State insists on not providing any social services to the refugees. This has created unbearable tragedies in the situation of Palestinians.”
Shafik Al Hoot adds:
“The patriotic awareness the Palestinian capitalism has is not bad. There is more than one financial institution trying after Oslo to direct some of its support to the exile countries, after it used to focus its support on the occupied lands and inside Palestine to help the people to survive. The Cooperation Council, e.g. Palestinian wealth club, based in Geneva is trying to help. But however the help was, the type of problems existing cannot be resolved by charity and humanitarian issues. What matters is the return of the people to their lands and the practice of their productive life. Remaining as a burden receiving aid without development options will only accumulate problems”.
The Lebanese labor law deals with the Palestinian as a foreigner, meaning that he has to obtain a work permit, while the law restricts many professions exclusively to the Lebanese. The Minister of Labor issued a couple of decrees in 1993 amending old decrees that were formerly issued in 1964. The first decree requires the presentation of some documents to obtain a work permit. These documents seem to be almost impossible to have. The second decree describes the jobs limited to the Lebanese. For this reason, the Palestinians are forced to work in an illegal way. This makes them subject to exploitation by the employer by receiving only half the pay of their Lebanese colleague or being subject to termination of employment at any time without a protection or a termination allowance. They is also deprived of social, health insurance and union rights either nomination or election rights.
“All Palestinian skills in Lebanon are not allowed to work, as Natour is affirming. If ever they are allowed to work it is within the camps that have no adequate financial resources for a dignified living. At this time, those skills try to find a job outside Lebanon. That is why the emigration and the brain drain is very widely spread. Those who stay in Lebanon are those who are awaiting a chance to leave, or are not capable to provide for the purchase of the ticket. We find an example of an engineer who graduated after many years of a scholarship abroad, coming back to Lebanon to find himself a burden on his father who has to provide even for his cigarettes expenses. He lives a tragedy that could psychologically destroy him. We find engineers working as workshops workers because they cannot enroll in the union where membership is put under the following condition: to be Lebanese for ten years.
The foreigner in Lebanon is forbidden from having 70 occupations, including a caretaker. We have to allow him to work without a work permit because the Palestinian in Lebanon does not have another home country where he can look for a job, and has no other alternative than Lebanon, whereas the Syrian or any other nationality can go back to his country and look for a job. Also the preference in this matter should be given to the Palestinian because he spends his money in Lebanon, while the non-Lebanese takes the money to support his family in the country he comes from. The Palestinian is like the Lebanese, he supports and mobilizes the Lebanese economy.
How much is the Palestinian work force in the camp? The Palestinians existing on the ground now are not more than two hundred thousand Palestinians, while they are 365 thousand registered at the UNRWA (85 thousand got the citizenship and 100 thousands approximately are seeking jobs outside of Lebanon). The working force amongst them does not exceed one hundred thousand. If we have in Lebanon 100 thousand coming from Sri Lanka and India, 60 thousand Egyptians plus other nationalities, we’d rather grant this right to the Palestinians and regulate the entrance of foreigners to Lebanon and the distribution of labor. This will help the Palestinian tragedy and will ease the problem of the Lebanese. But the Lebanese justifies the employment of the Sri Lankans or others by saying that the Lebanese or the Palestinian refuse to take the jobs that the Sri Lankan accepts, which in my view is not true.
The work permit is a manipulative living and security tool of the life of the foreigner. It makes it easy to expel him out of Lebanon whenever the employer feels like it, whereas the Palestinian cannot be expelled when he wants to and he would be forced to reimburse penalties. When it is in the employer’s best interest to employ a Palestinian rather than a Lebanese, he does so without hesitation although he knows that he does not have a work permit, because he would be able to exploit him more. The clandestine labor market provides for the capitalists the chance to exploit the workers and not pay them their dues they would have had to pay to the Lebanese, and this is overlooked by the government. The Lebanese bourgeoisie prefers not to grant work permits to Palestinians because they benefit from this situation by exploiting their skills against reduced pays and without guarantees.
The matter is also political in the first place. This is due to the nature of the cult and religious orders included in the constitution in Lebanon that considers the remaining Palestinians as Sunnis and granting them the nationality or resettlement will make the Sunnis a political majority. Therefore, and for the sake of avoiding internal turbulence in the Lebanese composition, they’d rather push as many to leave. We wish to be seen as Palestinians and refuse to see the authorities getting back the Lebanese nationality to the Shiites living in the seven villages. Also following the Lebanese religious orders requirements, 50 to 60 thousand Christian Palestinians were granted the Lebanese citizenship. Unfortunately, we have come to a point of a totally unacceptable racial discrimination. Some suggest to Palestinian doctors and engineers to change their Muslim religion and convert into Christianity to be able to obtain the nationality and solve their work problems.”.
Regarding the same subject, Shafeek El Hoot adds:
“This deprivation from civil rights, especially the right to wok is a deprivation from the right to be and sustain. Lebanon did not grasp this inhuman and non-political truth. Maybe that is why it has paid more than other Arab countries. It has always thought that staying far from the cause and staying away from its own environment is protective. This is a big mistake because there are many objective facts involved, amongst which are: first: The South of Lebanon is the North of Palestine, whether they like it or not, they are adjacent countries, Lebanon was neighbor with a sister country that became an enemy country. Second: there were 150 thousand refugees in 1948, and it is only natural that they have reproduced and increased in number, and it is a must to have legislation regulating their residence or a law or protocol regulating the relationship between the refugees and the Lebanese State. Till present, there is not a single paper regulating this relationship. The civil rights of the Palestinian people do not exist anymore since 1948 and they were relying on their exerted effort to survive. The exit from Kuwait was a disaster and a major hit. One hundred thousand were from Lebanon and were sending money over and supporting the Lebanese economy, and now they need support themselves.
A humanitarian solution? Lebanon says it is negotiating it and Israel has to bear the responsibility. The President of the republic and the Prime Minister are carrying the anti-resettlement and return of the Palestinian refugees slogans. This is a good stand, but it has to be from the start. Most of our politicians are short sighted and do not try to avoid the hit before it falls. Besides, there is an objective fact they repeat, which is that Lebanon has just come out of a war and is economically bankrupt. It is also repeated that this country has 17 religious orders reflecting a political order that can hardly find its balance through it, meaning that Lebanon is based on sects rather than on citizenship. The Lebanese knows the meaning of citizenship only when he emigrates to another country and feels nostalgic. Under the current circumstances, we should not be harsh on the Lebanese government in our demands, but meanwhile, I have reserves. For the sake of Lebanon and the protection of its rights, there should be a bare minimum of rights granted to the Palestinian citizen, which should reflect positively on Lebanon and its political, social and safety well being. Leaving the Palestinians starve in the camps, would result in the following: either they will enroll in armed political organizations or at Mafia mops to be able to sustain their living. The absence of political thinking in Lebanon regarding this matter is felt. We do not demand to issue laws now, but at least some matters have to be tolerated. Isn’t it a shame to prosecute doctors who moved from Kuwait and opened a clinic near Beqaa camp?
There is insensibility that is politically utilized. Even those who are enthusiastically supporting the right of return of the Palestinians are doing so only to get rid of them. But how can we get rid of them unrightfully? Wasn’t the previous war, a resettlement war? The outcome of all what we have seen is that some Lebanese do not wish to have the Palestinians in Lebanon. The end result was: nothing, all have lost and paid a high price for it. Therefore, we have to find a practical, rational, human and fraternal way to deal with these problems. The Lebanese, and even the Palestinian creativity is deficient. There is a lot of talk, but there is nothing concrete on the ground. Restrictions put on Palestinians harm the image of Lebanon; it backfires on its government, people and interests, and not the contrary. The enemy benefits from this.
We can separate the political from the human and find a solution. The foreign worker does not spend his money inside Lebanon, while Lebanon benefits from the Palestinian in Lebanon till further notice. When Lebanon employs foreigners, this means that it needs them, so why don’t they employ the Palestinians instead? We have no long-term strategies, neither in Lebanon nor in the Arab countries. It is all actions and reactions. It is a small country that gets shaken by rumors”.
The Habitat Situation:
“The temporary stay was the feature of the Palestinian refuge, says Salah Salah. Until 1969, the Lebanese State did not allow them to build ceilings for their houses. When the camps were freed from the State control, this rule was cancelled. The space of the camp is still unchanged since the beginning till present, despite the overpopulation inside the camps. It was not allowed to modernize the infrastructure, even the telephone did not get to the camps, the line was extended to the nearest Lebanese point.”
The Lebanese State does not provide any support or free services via its municipalities or the Ministries in charge in order to regulate and modernize the camps infrastructure, according to the report of the General Federation of Palestinian Rights Activists. The support is limited to UNRWA. In addition to the absence of sidewalks, the alleys extension, digging and road paving with asphalt happens at very distant periods due to the little allocations made for this purpose. The result is that most of the roads are still sandy till present. In addition, the destruction that has reached some of the camps by the Israeli aggression and during the Lebanese civil war resulted in the mass departure of a part of the camps residents and a serious habitat crisis, chiefly when the State prohibited the reconstruction of the ruined camps or the building of substitute ones or even enlarging the existing camps.
We can take as an example the camp of Shatilla surrounded by heaps of wreckage. UNRWA refrained from building any constructions there with the excuse that it is requested by Lebanese official references not to do so. Given that Shatilla camp falls in a relatively lower area from the geographical point of view than its surrounding, and quoting Hoqooq magazine issued by the Palestinian Organization for Human Rights, last October, the water drainage could not absorb the heavy rain. The camp turned into a lake that broke into the houses, shops and storerooms that were drowned and the stored contents were ruined. The level of water raised to an extent that has threatened the electricity cables and the transformer feeding the camp and could have turned into a disaster if the youth of the camp did not rush under the rain to dig canals to channel again the water and prevent it from reaching the cables.
How serious the situation is differs from one camp to another, but the environmental status of the camps in general is very bad, as Hoqooq states: we can notice the “slum construction dictated by the tight space and overpopulation, the aging and crumbing infrastructure out of lack of maintenance and modernization, the alleys and passages that have turned into stinking garbage collections, the water pipelines and sewerage and the randomly designed water network that is sometimes intersecting with the sewerage network, the waste amassed at the gates of the camps, the electricity randomly distributed and always subject to power cuts. Consequently, other problems emerge like bad aeration caused by the encumbered houses, narrow alleys, absence of illumination, insects and mice all over the place that are resistant to all sorts of insecticides and that are always reproducing and increasing in number… According to the environmental and health studies, this reality leads to the expansion of diseases especially those linked to the bronchial asthma, allergies, and to the gastric system like vomiting, diarrhea, digestion problems, in addition to cases of poisoning, dermatological diseases such as ulcers and inflammations (…). Despite the fact that the environmental services and cleaning are the responsibility of the Relief and Refugee Employment Agency, the Agency does not have an ear or an eye for such a sad reality, making all sorts of useless excuses, and leaving it up to the initiative of some camps residents.
Talking about the removal of camps from Beirut to the suburbs, Samira Salah says that the donor countries have paid funds for the camps infrastructure (amongst which are Shatilla and Borj Barajneh). Such funds remained frozen at the UNRWA. There was a rumor that Shatilla and Borj Barajneh would not receive allocations.
Regarding this subject, Mrs. Laila Zakhria adds in her paper presented to the Arab National Forum in 1996: the official decision did not stop at the point of not allowing construction of camps, but crossed this point to threatening and planning to eradicate the camps of Shatilla, Borj El Barajneh, Mar Elias and Debieh that are accommodating 25’590 registered refugee. This would be done in the framework of the reconstruction and reparation plan of the Lebanese capital. But the requirements of the social development, which are recognized as human rights, are rights similar to any other refugee right that require granting support to the refugees assemblies till they are self sustained in waiting for the return home. These requirements are an obligation of the hosting Lebanese State according to its international engagements and liabilities, especially that there is a wide gap between the declarations and the concrete applications.
The person in charge of the Association for the Social Rescue in Shatilla camp tells us about her memories in this camp:
“The camp was founded in 1948 when Palestinians started flowing from Palestine. UNRWA gave them tissue tents as a shelter. When time passed they started gradually to use materials like zinc, cut tanks and metal containers inside the tent, based on the idea that construction was not allowed by the Lebanese State. There was one toilet for men and another for women. Eight thousand Palestinians resided in. Given that the zinc was absorbing a strong heat during summer, they used to take us when we were kids to the “bushes” and used to make us swings out of ropes and towels. In our house, my father had built sandy walls inside the zinc. The house used to be extremely hot during summer and Shatilla was exposed, it was not surrounded by high buildings to protect it as it is the case today. We used to stay at the bushes all day long, women were baking, and we used to eat and drink there till sunset and then return to the camp.
The situation remained as such till 1970 when the PLO came to the camps and the police left it. The PLO became responsible for what happens inside the camp according to Cairo accord. People started building concrete walls for their homes or use stones and they removed the zinc. They also built toilets inside the houses, while we had to walk before for long distances to reach a place where we could go to the toilet. I used to carry water on my head from Farahat neighborhood. The PLO got water to the camp and improved the situation of electricity, but the form of construction remained random..
After 1970, the situation of the people improved a lot. But after 1982 the situation started deteriorating gradually, especially that there was an absence of reference. The foundations remained. We as the Rescue, we have contributed greatly and provided raw material for construction, in addition to the UNRWA that has carried out some construction work at the camps, but they did not finish what they had started. They were building the walls, and leaving it up to the residents here to carry out any other necessary work and extensions. In addition, not everybody could benefit from this, service provision started to be extended to those who cannot work only. The UNRWA services got worse since the exit of the PLO in 1982, as if the matter did not concern it anymore, while the need for it has increased. The camps war came to make things even worse than ever”.
Inaam, a young mother who received us at her home in Shatilla added:
“We are eight persons sharing this little house. My husband doesn’t have a regular job; one day he is working and does not find work for another ten days. He is a paving burnisher and works outside the camp, he has no work opportunity inside it. We suffer from the drainage blockage and overflowing, also we have had no potable water for one week now and we have an electricity problem. We submitted a request a couple of years ago to have an electricity meter for the house but did not get it till now and we have to use the common electricity. After the camps war in 85 and 87, the network does not exist anymore. I submitted requests to the State because we do not want to steal the current from Farahat neighborhood. Now the current is cut since last week and people are renting electricity from a generator till the current is back. I have to pay 45 thousand liras per month for electricity and I have to buy drinking water everyday, although this water is salty and has been previously polluted.”.
Cases Describing the Social Situation:
A sample of cases of young men and women whom we have met at Shatilla and Ein El Helwa camps and at Ajyal Center and who have kindly given their testimonies on their personal situation and their views with regards to the general situation of Palestinians in Lebanon.
We have not used the real names of many of them, trying not to reveal their identity.
Essam was born in Lebanon and studied at a private secondary school, given that there was no secondary education available at UNRWA schools. Afterwards, he obtained a scholarship from PLO to study engineering in a socialist country. Since his graduation as an engineer and his return to Lebanon three years ago, he failed to get a stable job, while he is 29 years old now.
He says that his nationality stood as an obstacle to his admission at jobs in companies, although he has accepted to work as a trainee without pay, in order to obtain experience in his domain of work. When he could finally work as an engineer for one year in a Palestinian company, he could not move with it because Arab countries do not extend entry visas for the Palestinians of Lebanon specifically. Despite his bad luck he seems to be much luckier than other friends of his who could not work as engineers since their graduation in the seventies.
He stays home passing time caring for his four year old child together with his foreign wife, who does not work as well despite her being an engineer. They cannot think of having a brother or sister for their only child because they live on the support of his family and on what he could save from his one-year job. He lives with his wife and child in an adjacent room to his family’s room, while all the other members of the family share the receiving area. They are eleven people living in this house. The situation could have been much worse if there was no social consolidation amongst these families.
He does not know a way out of his situation although he is ready to accept any job, similarly to the majority of the members of the Palestinian Engineers Federation, who cannot find jobs suiting their major nor obtain a pay adequate to their qualification. The PLO establishments were closed down after Oslo, some of their support is still ongoing but is only limited to some party individuals. In addition to that, many graduates of socialist countries find difficulties to have a job in their domain of academic qualification. The scholarships granted till 1991 stopped ever since, if any still remain, they are directed towards Fateh in Tunisia, Algeria and Pakistan. In waiting for a suitable solution to be reached for his situation, he seeks to have any job to be able to provide for his family.
Essam has referred to the case of his friend who had studied with him in the same country and returned like him to the camp accompanied by his foreign wife specialized in Engineering. They have a son and a daughter and are both unemployed. It is noticed that the situation has got worse during the past few years, the job vacancies situation was better before. Those who got oriented towards a vocational profession could make it better than those who have pursued their education.
He has tried everything to resolve his situation but failed. His only hope now is to find a job outside of Lebanon. In order to get it, he is qualifying himself by following computer and English courses provided by the Palestinian NGOs in the camps. Aside from these subjects, advanced training is not made available. The only thing that made him return to Lebanon was that his family lives there, but this did not stop him from seeking a solution for his situation outside this country.
Aliya has the Lebanese nationality; she lived outside the camp, studied at the American University in Beirut and got married to a Lebanese. With great pain, she described her situation as a Palestinian in Lebanon. She said that she senses provocation, racism and is suffering from this situation. Despite her emotional attachment to Lebanon, she would choose to live outside of it if she was given the choice. She works for an international agency focusing its work on the employment of Palestinians, this makes her sense discrimination and undermining even on the side of those she thought were intellectual and progressive.
Aliya gives an example of her brother who was not accepted in jobs because he is Palestinian, despite his high degree. When he found a job, it was necessary that the company paid 35% of his salary for the social insurance, which is a sum that he will not be able to retrieve at the end of the employment term. He does not feel secured at his job because of these high amounts the company has to pay to cover him.
Amer El Sammak is a surgeon at the “Human Call” center (Al Nedaa Alenssani), de facto but not legally affiliated to Ain El Helwa camp. He says:
“There is a horizontal expansion in medicine, but there is a drop in quality and a decrease in the number of doctors. The doctor who has studied abroad is weakly qualified, and when he returned, he could not evolve academically. Even the Palestinian hospitals exploit the Palestinian doctors and pay them little wages. Therefore, we have doctors slipping away, we find a fake unemployment, nigh shift jobs, clandestine work and a lack of exposure to the latest and recent discoveries. What happens is killing the creativity of people instead of planning for the development of an advanced forward look. People lost faith in themselves and started to look for individual solutions because they knew that there was nobody out there for their protection. Dreams have dwarfed under the weight of the present problems”
Salah Salah states in his report on the situation of Palestinian refugees, that they suffer in Lebanon from serious social problems, most importantly:
“1 – Emigrants: Some camps have been subject to total destruction (Nabatiyeh, Tell El Zaatar, Gisr El Pasha), or partial destruction (Dabiey, Shatilla and Sabra). The inhabitants of those camps were forced to leave, in addition to those who have left their camps due to being subject to siege or target of bombing. All of them occupied orphanages, garages, under construction or partially destroyed buildings and lived there under unhealthy situations. This resulted in the expansion of many diseases especially the dermatological, contagious, anemia, in addition to psychological sicknesses, especially amongst children.
2 – Families of martyrs: Many martyrs lost their lives during the wars, conflicts and bombing of the camps. They have left behind their families, who are 30 thousand families in Lebanon…
3 – Early marriage: one of the negative symptoms resulting from the lack of social awareness on one hand, and the desire of getting rid of one member on the other hand, reducing the number of the family by getting rid of the girl.
4 – Aging: There is no care provided to the seniors from the side of UNRWA, the PLO and detachments nor the NGOs.
UNRWA provides minor support to what it calls “social cases under extreme poverty”. This comprises individuals and families unable to provide for themselves with basic needs like food and habitat. The number of such cases varies yearly. In 1996 they were 35382 cases, while prior to that they were 85949 cases.
5 – Youth problems: The ratio of youth in the camps is 35% of the total inhabitants. Most of them suffer unemployment and inability to pursue studies. We find them turning in circles in the streets of the camps without any aim. The camps are deprived of any means of entertainment or possibilities of spending time in a fruitful way. There are no cultural centers, no sports clubs and no libraries. Where can those youth go? What can they do? How can they spend their free time? Not having an answer for these questions makes the youth a target to all the social diseases that could result under such circumstances.”
Emigration as a Solution?
Walid, 23 years old, was born in Lebanon. He lives outside the camp, obtained a vocational diploma of architectural drawing and worked in many fields. He says:
“My aim is to leave Lebanon by all means. I feel I am treated differently once the boss gets to know I am Palestinian. I feel I am being discriminated against in Lebanon and that I would suffer from adaptation and integration problems if ever I return to Palestine. This makes me dream of leaving to any other place that could ease my situation and grant me a nationality. But those who obtain a residence abroad get their Lebanese papers withdrawn. To pursue my travel arrangement, I am using the services of a middleman agent. There are countries that open the door for immigration and there are Palestinian youth waiting to marry a Palestinian girl living abroad to be able to immigrate.
There has been recently restrictions put at the Refugees Affairs Department on giving the identity cards because Lebanese citizens who wished to leave Lebanon and used to obtain refuge papers used fake Palestinian identity. The Palestinian youth relatively suffers more than his Lebanese counter part. His life is limited to eating, drinking and sleeping, not more than that, in waiting for a better solution for his situation, aiming to be like the 80% of youth who have immigrated (against 18% who have had their visa requests rejected and 2% who were satisfied with the status quo)”.
Nabil is a young man born in Beirut from a Lebanese mother. His grandfather came to Lebanon before 48. He went to school till the secondary level then studied hairstyling and received computer training at the Social Rescue. He says that he has reached the point of despair and wants to immigrate by all means because he foresees no future for himself in Lebanon. Abroad he would receive free education, medical treatment and would obtain a house and a nationality or at least papers allowing him to more he would wish to.
Farhan adds to this saying:
“I do not benefit from my presence here in Lebanon, nor my family does. Especially that those who are abroad follow the case better than from here. The political and social stresses distance us from this country. When people get to know I am Palestinian they change their behavior towards me and I get alienated. I am a Palestinian who has no PR connections so how can I hope to find a job? Even those who are educated, cannot find a job. If I get to learn a profession, will I be able to provide for my family? I work at the camp as a barber; my connections are within the Palestinians. The Syrians work as they please and do not even need a work permit. The situation was better during the war, we had power and we were not looked down at. My parents were born here and I am perceived as a foreigner. How could it be?
I believe that the majority of youth think like me; they wish to travel and get along with their matters. Time passes and I have no interest in living like that. I pursue something better wherever this could be. This does not mean that I will forget my cause, I can defend my cause from wherever I am if I have strong convictions. I have to be empowered to be able to defend my cause. One cannot give something if they lack it. They have imposed on us the situation of “not to be” but we have to impose ourselves the way we wish to and in the form that suits us best. Besides, Palestine is not Gaza; it is rather all the Palestinian soil. I wish I could be in Palestine today and throw stones at the Israeli to send them out of my country. We have to reach our aim one day. Politics make us lose our country. I serve my cause wherever I am; it is not a prerequisite to be in Lebanon to be able to better serve my cause.
A Palestinian went yesterday to the police station to report his stolen wallet; he was detained there for interrogation and was not released before they made him a “fiche”. Any problem makes the police pinpoint at us. During the war we had a strong existence, but today we are at a lesser level than the rest and we are despised by all.”.
A heated discussion started between them and an older young man from the group who was against the idea of leaving. His argument was that going abroad would not provide them with a better position than in Lebanon. He had himself studied medicine in a foreign country and did not obtain a job in accordance with his degree and works in real estate.
“The Syrian accepts less pay than Palestinians. We have 260 thousand Palestinian immigrants pouring in money into Lebanon by supporting their families. Pushing our immigration out of Lebanon will give end to the Palestinian cause and is part of a Zionist plan. The essential thing is to have willpower. A project can start small and then grow. I have amassed my capital myself and the start was not an easy one.”.
Refusal of Marginalization and Working on the Reality:
It seemed to us that the youth dream was to immigrate in order to change their reality. While those who had tried it and lived abroad for a while did not find it was the solution they were expecting. Our meetings with other youth from Ajyal Center have contributed in adjusting the impression left by, if we may call them, “the category in despair”. The “active category” tried to change this impression of Palestinian youth in Lebanon whom are trying by all means to secure their future in a foreign country waiting for the possibility to return to Palestine one day. They replied:
“This pattern exists but it does not reflect the majority and Lebanon is our country. We were born and grew up here and our future has to be here in waiting for the return to Palestine. Until then, we have to work on obtaining our legitimate rights of return and buy lands there, even if there is no left lands in Palestine. Palestine is the title of the Palestinian existence. Elderly women and mothers are enriching the memories, they are a reservoir of memories and we enjoy their talking about it.”.
“The Palestinian child” who was not able to enjoy his childhood matured early, when he grew up he tried to live compensating his lost childhood through the love he gives to his children, trying to provide them with everything he could not have. We can say that the Palestinian is a very giving and creative person and is not marginalized. The question is: What are the consequences of this sad reality and the proclamation of one compromise after the other? The pressure exercised here will lead to an explosion.
The Palestinians in Lebanon feel exploited openly; meaning that they can be a good deal in light of the resolution. How much will the state charge for having kept them? The transfer of the Palestinian to any other place in the world will not change anything for them as long as they remain refugees. European countries advocating human rights meanwhile want to cut us off our roots, how can we trust them?”.
Iman commented on that, saying:
“There is a necessity for a balanced and acceptable Palestinian reference. But we are faced with a police mentality leading matters in Lebanon rather than a political one. Structural corruption is part of power in our part of the world. It is important that I determine my own future and it has not to be imposed by whomever. I don’t want to live like a stranger anywhere. The road to home is more beautiful than home itself, falling under the realities of oppression, retard and despotism. It will not be a legend when we obtain our right of return.”.
The daily suffering:
Enaam, 26 years old, a young married woman:
“I have two children and I am raising up my husband’ three nephews, whose father had died from a work injury (of course his family did not receive any compensation whatsoever because he did not have an insurance coverage). The children’s mother has remarried and they visit her from time to time. Between 1970 and 1982, PLO has built a school for martyrs children. But this school has been transferred to Damascus after the exit of PLO, and it is very difficult to enroll the children there. Ever since, every family is trying to get around things on their own. Meanwhile the Islamic orphanage Association of the Al Makassid does not admit children older than 7 years of age, besides, priority is given to the Lebanese ones. Not one day passes without having one of the children falling sick. We have a shop at home where I sell things, but it is closed now because of the economic recession, no one buys or sells. Children go to school from 7 a.m. till 1 p.m. and I use this time to follow a computer course at the Rescue, maybe it will help me find a job afterwards. I received education till the secondary level, learnt English and typing, but now I am staying home to look after the kids. The basic nutrition items: sugar, flour, maize and others used to be distributed by the Relief Agency, its schools used to pay more attention to the children, where they used to provide them with milk and a meal, they used to be transferred to health clinics and had a better system altogether. All this does not exist anymore, since 1982 things have changed and the support has become minor.
Following the massacre, I went to Baalbek, after few years, I moved to Sayda then came back to Shatilla. Women live under challenging circumstances and bear beyond their capacity. They are the ones who provide food for their houses and who face annoying situations. I look forward to developing myself and educating my children. I read to them stories on Palestine. My mother is Lebanese and did not tell me about Palestine, but my grandmother took over this task… Four years ago, there was no secondary education, (PLO gave a piece of land it owned in Beer Hassan to the UNRWA where they have built two schools, one for girls and the other one is a mixed secondary school for all the Palestinians in Beirut) the students reach the last year then continue on their own expense. I used to study before noon, teach in the afternoon and pay fees to a private school, to alleviate the burden from my family. We were 42 students in the class. Now they are 52 in the class of my brother-in-law’s son. This is the second year of application of the Lebanese official curricula at UNRWA’s schools, and there are problems in such an application. Teachers did not receive training in applying these new curricula and they were not provided teaching guiding manuals for all subjects. Besides, they are used to the old fashion teaching method of learning by heart, it is not easy for them to change and follow the new methods and change their old way of teaching. During summer, some children work in the clandestine market to help their families.”
Estrangement in the Host Country and Longing for the Home Country:
“Staying in Lebanon or going to anywhere else depends on enhancing my situation and securing the future of my children, adds Enaam. I belong to this camp but not to this country. My mother is Lebanese, but her trying to influence me did not succeed, I remained related to Palestine. My dream is to return to Java; I have read about it. If I do not return, my children will and they will fulfill the dream.
We are trying to persist and endure an unbearable reality. But we live on the hope of return, which makes us persevere. We are not integrated into this society because we have the return in mind and long for it. Even young children repeats the same thing, and even those who traveled abroad do as well. All houses have been built and rebuilt many times, where can we go? The land is not just geography, it is much more than that. After we leave Lebanon, it is possible to feel nostalgic and return to it. But our country lies there, and here is not ours.
Maybe if we go to Palestine this will change how the Lebanese perceive us and stop feeling that we are threatening them. There are the other foreigners in Lebanon whom no one fears, while things go upside down if we ever do anything. That is why we dream of returning home, even if Lebanon has given us a lot, and we will never forget its people and their sympathy towards us. Lebanon is our acting motherland and we love its land and its people. But we endure pressures, and all parties use us as a card while we do not participate in decision-making. We did not agree with the self-ruling agreement because it sets us steps back, and even those who live inside Palestine did not obtain much. Those who came from there think that they have many sentinels instead of just one, despite the fact that their situation there is better than ours inside the camps here. They see that we do not live a proper life here.”
A testimony of an elderly woman who received us at her house in Shatilla:
“I was 25 years old when I left my country and came with my two children. We arrived to Shuheim then moved to Shatilla camp aiming to find a job in Beirut. When we arrived here half a century ago this whole area was a cactus plantation. At start, there were 50 tents compounds and we used to live in tents. During winter under the rain and cold weather, we used to build around the compound to be able to survive. We started building when the war had destroyed the houses and the Agency provided us with building material. I went to my country in Acca district for the first time and spent a month there. We obtained an authorization to go for a visit and found them happy in their country, in their homes and having their own income to live on. While we are here suffering mistreatment, hardship, heat and humiliation.
What attaches me to Lebanon? Nothing. I don’t like immigration, we have suffered a lot and we used to live on our land. But I prefer to stay here rather than in any other place. I’d rather return to Palestine or die here. I hope we reach a decent solution and go back to my country. If I cannot see my country again, at least I would stay here, my children and myself, and live with honor from the income of our work. Let them grant us the right to work in this country where we have spent all what we have in, let them not transfer us to other countries. My children do not know Palestine, but their relation to it is quite strong. They have revived the old Palestinian tradition and want to return. The nostalgic feelings towards the old days are transferred from parents to children. Inhabitants of each village were gathered at first together and preserved their culture and customs. I don’t have any Lebanese acquaintances although Shatilla camp is more open than others are. Those who immigrated were Palestinians and Lebanese who merged and coupled, while Bared camp isolated from Tripoli remained preserved with its own tradition and customs.”
The situation is similar for young women we have met at the Rescue Center in Shatilla. The prevalence of the veil amongst them was remarkable. Wafaa talks about the veil saying:
“The veil is a phenomenon that developed greatly over the past 10 years. It has socio-political reasons. After the defeat of the PLO in 1982 and the withdrawal that followed, Islamic currents took over and influenced the minds, imposing its views on the veil and the work of women and other issues. There are currents that were holding the veil of women as a prerequisite to obtain support for the families, in a manner that has led even that girls with awareness could resist to wear the veil. The veil is also a symbol of despair. But the problem is that it stands sometimes as an obstacle preventing them from being admitted at jobs. This explains the wish for many of them to travel if possible.:
Regarding mingling with the Lebanese community, Sanaa Says:
“As young women, we do not feel exposure to the Lebanese community. Maybe this has existed before the war, but not now. The mingling was on the familial level, but after 1976, we moved away from the Christian families. After the camps war, we moved away from our friends the Sunni families because of the new circumstances. The beginning was rather political than confessional, but in 1985 it started to be of a racist nature. As Palestinians, we do not have religious fanaticism. We had relations with Christian families, some of which became part of the militias afterwards. After the war ended, connections have been revived, but what had happened stood between the people and put them apart. Some of them deal with us with superiority and some just take a stand against Palestinians without getting to know them. Some would feel astonished that I am well dressed because they have an image of Palestinians perceiving them as different from them. This also depends on our self-image, whether we perceive ourselves as positive actors or as submissive victims. I left after the storming and studied abroad then came back and married a Palestinian, despite that many of those I know got married to Lebanese and kept still their Palestinian nationality.
Before 1948, there were mixed marriages between Palestinians and Lebanese who lived in Palestine near the borders. They did not perceive any differences amongst each other because they shared the same customs, traditions and mode of life. When they left Palestine, they took refuge in Lebanon where people, in their majority, received them in a good way. Afterwards, politics set them apart, while the people were in good terms because the Lebanese and Palestinian families were sharing the same problems and concerns. Was there any difference between the immigrant from the South and the Palestinian immigrant?
Both were suffering the same from the Israelis who had occupied their homes and thrown them out of their lands. They are both facing the same problems of finding a shelter and a work to provide for the family and a school to educate their children. How can a Palestinian be a threat to the Lebanese when he is working and spends all his money in Lebanon, while the foreign worker sends a part of it to his country? The Palestinian who works abroad and has family in Lebanon sends his savings to this country, buying real estate, building homes and mobilizing the market, while the Syrian or worker from Sri-Lanka send their savings to their families and think only of the enhancement of their economic status in their countries. The Palestinian feels that he is contributing to the development of Lebanon.
My sister is married to a Lebanese. His family deals with us without the slightest problems because they know us and do not have a prejudice influencing the image of Palestinians. Before Israel stormed Beirut, obtaining permits to visit Palestine was easier, and it used to be issued upon invitation sent by the family there. Even telephone communications today are almost completely cut, and there is no freedom of movement or options to stay in touch.
We want to have our human rights. All long to return to Palestine. When the Palestinian State is declared and I am treated like any acknowledged individual, I will then start seeing whatever is most suitable for me, either I stay or return. I determine my own life and no one is to decide for me. But who claims this? Everybody used the card of the refugees. Our people have a cause and we have rights and all parties shall benefit from the solution of our issue. It is said that there are arms in the camps. There is nothing that enters the camp without them having prior knowledge of it, each side has its own reporters. But there are some matters that are being used to influence our image and serve narrow benefits.”
Haifaa adds on her turn:
“After the Gulf war and the forcible return of many from there to the camps, the economy was mobilized in a positive way, but this was only temporary and things have declined for a while now. In the past few years, since the State got a number of buses and microbuses in numbers far beyond the needs of the country, it has disturbed the work among a part of Palestinians who were working as taxi drivers. The general economic crisis in the country, in addition to the situation in the camps does not allow the absorption of caliber. There is a very strong depression amongst them, especially that youth are unemployed in their peak of their production age. From her side, the woman is faced with this reality, but she tries, more than in any other country, to work and acquire professional skills. But the market does not absorb her, and if she ever gets admitted, she is exploited to a great extent.
The Palestinian in Lebanon is not empowered to persist and obtain his political, economic and social rights. All the scenarios at hand have a negative result. If there is not a minimum level of consensus, any solution will be a negative one. There is no coordination with the Palestinians in Lebanon, which is giving more chance to Israel to gain more at the negotiations”.
The Security Situation and the Armed Existence of the Palestinian Detachments in the Camps:
The Palestinian Organization for Human Rights sees that:
“The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live under special circumstances. Their existence was subject to the laws for non-resident foreigner. This was clear in the form of decrees issued by the Ministry of Interior and the General Department for Security. In the beginning of the sixties, the relation was regulated through the Department of Refugees Affairs affiliated to the Ministry of Interior, who have dealt with this existence from a security perspective in the first place. Their mandate was focused on issuing identity cards and documents, traveling documents and addresses designation. This mandate did not comprise the regulation of legal and social matters nor issues related to their work, health or education.”
Salah Salah says regarding the security situation of Palestinians:
“There is a security status that is putting regulations to control the movement of the Palestinians. There were martial laws in 1959 that were applied on all Palestinians till 1969. The law was translated into measures such as the ruling of a reporting center (The Second Connection) over each camp, disallowing movement between camps without obtaining the prior written approval of the person in charge of the Second Connection. In case of late return, it was possible to transfer the person in question to the interrogation center, and he could be sentenced to prison. Also it was forbidden to stay up in the camps after 10 p.m. the penalty for non compliance to this was random abduction, without a court order. We can add to this that it was forbidden for more than three persons to walk together or read a newspaper and other measures were exercised without being based on any written rule. Such measures were cancelled in 1969 due to the Palestinian/Lebanese uprising that occurred in 29 April and was called “The Liberation Uprising”. Many people died and got injured when they broke into the Reporting Centers in the camps and evicted them.
Regarding the arms, Salah Salah adds, Taeif Agreement had a positive impact on the situation of Palestinians. It was the first time the Lebanese State took a decision of dealing with the armed existence. A first committee was formed headed by Minister Mohssen Dalloul and the General Director of State Security, General Nabil Farahat. It has started the dialogue with the Palestinians to solve the problems. It has been agreed to collect the middle and heavy arms from the Palestinians, who on their turn have presented their arms as a gift to the Lebanese army. The fighters located at bases outside the camps moved inside it, provided the internal security remains Palestinian. The security islands they were talking about were not decided by the Palestinian, but it was authenticated. Today, the camps in the South are surrounded by the army, while Shatilla and Borj Barajneh are surrounded by the Syrians. They do not interfere openly but do it rather through their reporters existing inside the camps at the organizations”.
Regarding the structural existence, Sahil Al Natour says:
“The open existence of organization is linked to the balance of power and regional interactions. For example: Wherever there is Syrian security forces near the camps of Beirut, the North and Beqaa, there is no office or organization existing openly that is linked to Yasser Arafat’s Fateh, while at the camps in the South where there is no Syrian existence, there is a major strong existence of forces affiliated to the PLO, especially Arafat’s Fateh. On the other hand, there are no declared offices of the Fateh’s dissidents there. Therefore, all the forces existing amongst our people and inside the PLO like the Popular Front and the Democratic Front exist at all camps because they are in no armed or security conflicts with the Syrians and the Lebanese. Meanwhile, they are part of the PLO and they exist at the Northern and Southern camps. Nearly at each camp there is a number of organizations coexisting, and there is no camp allied to any detachment at the expense of the others. For sure, there are some detachments stronger than the others. For example, in Rashideyeh, we have a strong Arafat’s Fateh and there is also the Democratic Front that is weaker there than Arafat’s Fateh. At the northern camps, the Palestinian powers that are nearest to the Syrian line exist heavily. Despite this fact, they have no popular power because these detachments do not work on popular mobilization at the gathering centers of the youth, women, workers and others. They are rather mainly of the militia type and act as political focal points. The coexistence in the camps is a known phenomenon whether during the era of PLO control or after it.
Definitely, there are differences in the political visions of all these groups. There are differences based on interests and social structures. But there is common ground for all; all these organizations work openly within the framework of the camps and not outside of it. They had to coexist amongst each other because Lebanon stopped the war by Taeif Agreement, arranged the redeployment of the army and rebuilt its economy”.
Al Natour adds regarding the armed existence:
“There was a crisis in dealing with the camps and the Palestinian arms when the Lebanese army’s units expanded to impose its control and power and out the supremacy of the State into practice, according to Taeif Agreement. Through their dialogue carried out by a two-Ministers committee formed by the Lebanese government, the two parties have reached the principle of exchange. The Palestinians would present their heavy and medium arms to the Lebanese army as a part of the disarmament process of all the powers existing on Lebanese territories; in exchange, the Lebanese State shows a sign of goodwill by announcing granting civil rights to the Palestinian refugees. In fact, the first part of the deal happened, but the Lebanese State did not fulfill its part.
On the other hand, there was a de-facto Lebanese historical tradition, which is owning personal arms. The Lebanese keep personal arms at heir homes since the Ottoman era, which remained with the individuals after the collection of arms, just in case, to be able to face any probable revenge at the beginning of the Taeif Agreement. This was to help the Lebanese security forces efforts to focus on redeployment all over the country. The number of security forces was not enough to secure threatened individuals, so it was agreed to hide evidence of visible armed existence. Those who would need to carry their personal gun have to obtain an authorization from the Ministry of Defense. This applied to the Palestinians, and is still applied today.
The media and the political declarations made use of the matter of arms in the hands of Palestinians aiming to smear them and show them to the Lebanese public opinion as heavily armed people using their arms for their own purposes. They would call the camps “islands out of the Lebanese legitimacy”, giving refuge to outlaws and criminals, etc.. It is also indicated that, if the refugees cannot reach solutions to their problems guaranteeing their return to their homes and properties, this would encourage them to undertake military operations that would affect the security of the borders and would give an excuse to Israel to carry out revenge offenses. This means that the matter of carrying arms is presented in two ways; negatively on the internal level and positively on the patriotic level. Both ways, the situation of these refugees has been characterized by being armed, differently to the other refugee brothers in Syria and Jordan.
By the beginning of the Palestinian-Israeli talks for the final status, the matter of the Palestinian arms was brought up once more in a media campaign that did not differ much from the two previously mentioned approaches. The Islamic Jihad movement carried out a military operation in the South against an Israeli occupation site. On one hand, some were happy for this saying that the turn of the Palestinian arms has come to face the occupation while Israel decided to withdraw from Southern Lebanon and was practically implementing it. Other voices immediately proclaimed the disarmament so as not to give Israel an excuse to hamper the aimed-for safety of the South after the defeated occupation leaves.
In this respect, the letter sent by the Lebanese President General Emil Lahoud to the Secretary General of the United Nations inquiring about whether the United Nations forces, intended to be sent to Lebanon after the Israeli withdrawal, would be able to handle the disarmament of the camps. This was considered to be an indication of a wish to direct focus on the future of the camps, the refugees and their arms after the enemy occupation is over.
Making use of the matter of the Palestinian arms has a clear political purpose, getting high or low, depends on who is leading politics in Lebanon, Syria and the PLO, while the Israeli enemy has not received any Palestinian hits in Southern Lebanon for a very long time now. This was due to the disharmony of the Palestinian military action (e.g. the negotiations after Oslo) and the Lebanese (Hezbolah’s domination of the militant operation and its refusal of effective coordination with the Palestinians).
If there are some Palestinian organizations such as the Democratic Front for Palestine Liberation, which have repeated their proclamation to the Lebanese State for redeployment and practice of full power in the camps, the response of the State was negative. Although the army units have surrounded the camps in the South and closed its entrances, leaving only one path for entry and exit falling under its strict supervision, these units do not have any role in supporting the refugees in organizing for their safety and the levitation of the social injustice that has turned the camps into marginalized islands isolated from the Lebanese population context. They are becoming a strange “Ghetto” with a negative image to the Lebanese public. This makes it easy for the campaigns emerging from time to time to promote the refusal of settlement as a refusal of the Palestinian existence on Lebanese lands. This would mean more immigration and scattering around the world, especially that it combined with a stubborn refusal of the implementation of the right of return of refugees from the side of Israel. This is very visible in the official Lebanese level dealing with the Palestinian existence and its arms after the Israeli withdrawal. There are closures of camps, denial of entrance of building material and there is the allowance of the visit of borders to meet through the spiky wires with family as a symbol of holding on to the right of return.
The Palestinians are happy with the freedom of movement on the borders and the media coverage, especially the TV, that has showed the painful human dimensions of the refuge throughout more than half a century. But still, they express their dissatisfaction through their constant proclamations of the release of camps closure, allowing building material into the camps and granting civil rights. Dealing with them humanly became a proclamation facing their exploitation, with all its controversies”.
The Palestinian Organization for Human Rights considered the matter of the siege around the camps, describing it in one of its reports: “The blockage of entrances at Rashidiyeh and Borj Shemaly in South of Lebanon via the plantation of Lebanese check points at its entrances, made these camps seem like a big prison”. They referred to “The status of psychological intimidation that the Palestinian endures; subject to being searched while entering or leaving the camp which would lead to a psychological withdrawal. This builds the basis for the creation of an aggressive approach towards his surrounding and the deepening of unfriendly feelings towards the Lebanese authority. This would also push towards, either the forcible withdrawal inside the camp to avoid being subject to such measures or leave it for necessities, and try to leave this social and psychological frustration and pressure at the first chance”. The report inquires about the reasons for such tough measures towards the camps, referring to the fact that there is no text nor any declared request issued by any Lebanese authority, either judicial, military, political or administrative. Also the people subject to such measures are not informed. The report gave a detailed description of the surroundings of the camps in the South “in light of the army check points and the caught violations of rules: trying to smuggle in building materials, an electrical lamp or a grave stone”. They draw the attention to “the memo issued against the violators to send them to the penal court which does not rely on any legislation or legal violation listed in the Lebanese penal code” (see annex 1).
The Position Towards the Palestinian Authority and Oslo Agreement:
Shafeek Al Hoot sees on this matter:
“The Palestinian people have internally splinted, despite efforts of having a sort of bridges. After Madrid, the Palestinians and all the Arabs have entered a new detour different from the original path started in 48, which is the political path to reach solutions. In other words, it means going through negotiations and signing of peace agreements that would, to a great extent, change the power balances in the arena, as well as it reflects the different Arab leadership values.
In my opinion, Yasser Arafat was not mistaken when he went to Madrid, but he made a mistake signing Oslo Agreement. After the bombardment of Iraq all the Arabs felt they cannot say no to the United States. But I would imagine that we could strife during the negotiations, striving is not only limited to the machine gun or canons, but also through litigation and international resolutions. If Arafat had not signed the Oslo Agreement, it would have been possible to reach a better agreement. I would not say it would have been an ideal one, or a fair one, because fairness requires the return of all Palestinians to Palestine. Till 48 96% of the Palestinian territories were owned by the Palestinian people, who have inherited the citizenship right in Palestine for more than 1500 continuous years.
But the world faced the collapsing of different regimes, the absence of the Soviet Union and the change of the world order into a monopoly system, then the collapsing of the Arab Union at its simplest form. All these incidents led us to Madrid but without forcibly leading us to sign Oslo Agreement, which we are still paying for till now. Oslo misled a big portion of our people. Maybe Arafat got tired, or gave up or just believed the reading of Oslo Agreement of his command. But this Agreement is written in a language that cannot be read nor understood in other languages other than Hebrew. The proof is that the existing translation of the Agreement on the ground, is the Israeli interpretation of the Agreement. Six years have passed and the Palestinian people gained nothing at all, except for Yasser Arafat’s movement from the exile to the inside which can be considered as a victory.
The situation of the Palestinian cause in general has lost a lot after signing the Agreement. It has lost many of the supporting factors on the level of the UN resolutions, international law, Geneva Convention and other laws concerning the regulation of relationships between occupying forces and people living under occupation. The cause of the land was reduced to disputed lands and not anymore a cause of occupation facing the indigenous people. Postponing the issue of the right of return and other fundamental and fatal issues affected the exile more than those who are inside. Those who live inside were people still living on their lands and have nobody to criticize them for being refugees. At the exile, bitterness was felt because the hope died to a great extent.
The Palestinian people lived during the past thirty years the patriotic movement and see now how it has deteriorated to this extent today. They may not even maintain their existence at the exile, especially in Lebanon. They feel that they may even not be able to keep the misery they endure now, because they may be deported to any other place or become a citizen. Citizenship in this context would probably be, other than Palestinian, Lebanese or Lebanese-Lebanese. This would bring back the misery to the Lebanese arena, because there is a clear Lebanese stand, on the official and popular levels, against the settlement of Palestinians. Meanwhile, the Palestinian can no longer live in the future as he used to do so far, living under inhuman environment, enduring impossible situations, deprived of all his human, political and civil rights.
The Palestinian Authority feels the treason it has accomplished and the big mistake it has made by signing the Oslo Agreement, or the so-called the Agreement on Principles, which did not include a clause stating that the issue of the Palestinian refugees has to be solved within the instruments of the International laws. Therefore, there is no trust towards this Authority anymore, and Yasser Arafat cannot give more than that. The refugees issue’s responsibility is shared by the Arab countries and the UN. Where is the United Nations? Isn’t the existence of stateless people a result of a resolution in 1947 of dividing Palestine, which created a war that has scattered one million Palestinians, who have become 4 millions today?”
Natour adds to this saying:
“There is a history of ups and downs of the Arab-Arab relations from time to time. Arafat took a separate path seeking a solution with Israel that is different from the path of the other Arabs, or at least from some of them. He sees that he should organize for a suitable negotiated position according to his own view of Palestinian interests, with the argument that the Palestinians have fought all this time without obtaining any lands. So he got into a dubious deal in Oslo, behind the back of even the Palestinian people, then declared the Authority. There are clashes between the different groups of the PLO, especially between the Popular and the Democratic on one hand, and Fateh on the other hand with regards to Oslo Agreement, arguing that it was giving away fundamental rights that could be obtained through negotiations and not through compromises. The other sides supported the Syrian and Lebanese points of view that Palestine negotiating separately has weakened the position of Syria and Lebanon and dispersed the Arab solidarity. This is why it rejects the contents of the Agreement and rejects give-away and the separate line in negotiation”.
Aref, the young person we have met at Ajyal Center, sees that:
“We suffer from the absence of reference. If we had a reference like the Armenians, we would not endure this situation. Why could the Armenian obtain everything while we failed to do so? Abu Ammar does not represent us and he is just using us as a useful card no more, no less. Our problem in Lebanon differs from the problems of Palestinians in Gaza. Therefore, we have to look for people who could represent us here, to reinforce our position and then we would be able to support our cause”.
His friend Ramy inquired”
“Would we trust Yasser Arafat who has been flattened by the Final Status negotiations and negotiates from a weak position, while he wishes to remain the symbol of the Palestinians? Bearing the consequences of any agreement he signs is imposed on me as a nightmare. The people made of him a symbol and it is difficult to dissipate this image, the people in despair would hold on to just anything.”
Sameeh commented on that saying:
“Yasser Arafat has tarnished the figure I was using as an example for building my personality. He is a tribe’s totem, the Palestinians can give it up for another totem that does not yet exist. He has betrayed the cause but I will not point a gun at him. There are circumstances controlling the making of whom represents me, This is something I cannot help. Since 1979, Arafat’s idea was negotiation. He builds in Gaza economic companies for the Zionist State like the casino and the airport. The Zionist adopting the logic of power and force has to be dealt with using force to make him leave a part of what he has taken. Given that the enemy will not have mercy on us and will prosecute us, arms are a part of what we should refer to in order to impose an analogous power. Referring to violence and armed strife can give us more weight. The lack of solutions makes us examine all possibilities. The enemy evicted us from the geography and wants to evict us from history. I do not think that they are close to a final settlement.”
Kassem Aina says with apparent pain:
“Is it the fate of the Palestinian to live in those camps seeing no sun and having no drainage? Where is the civilization we are praising? No one can feel the situation of the Palestinians unless they live it and get exposed to the treatment they face. Let us ask ourselves, how many Lebanese members of parliament have double nationalities while we refuse to let a Palestinian live in a flat out of camps, interpreting such an act as a wish to settle in the country? By all means Gaza and the West Bank cannot absorb us anyway. Meanwhile we are against resettlement and do not have much hopes on Yasser Arafat in the negotiations. If the youth and the educated immigrate, who would stay? The elderly? Let us be more open minded and let the Lebanese State grant some rights for those humans.
It is necessary to review the understanding of the Palestinian and their suffering in Lebanon. Amongst the entire five million Palestinian refugees, they are the ones suffering the most. We have to realize that Israel and the UN are responsible for what we have reached. We would rather have no point criticizing the Lebanese, we are one people at the end of the day. Not all the Lebanese are racist, but in Lebanon, the Palestinian was turned into a security case. We should not be perceived as a threatening and destructive element. We bear the consequences of our own mistakes, but why should we be held responsible for other people’s mistakes? Why expose the Palestinians under spot lights in this manner and harm their image to the extent that we only see their negative side?”
Al Natour adds:
“Palestinians are not allowed to receive treatment at the Lebanese governmental establishments. If this was possible, let them issue a law declaring to all that they have the right to be treated like Lebanese in health matters. It is also said that when there are vaccination campaigns fighting contagious diseases, treatment is open to all including the Palestinians. This is also not true. UNICEF presents the vaccine to Lebanon for free and provides a portion of it for UNRWA and the Palestinian Red Crescent. Lebanon does not grant the vaccine because it is on the expense of the United Nations. We proclaim the minimum standards of health care provided to the poor Lebanese to be extended equally to the Palestinian poor. The problem in Lebanon lies in the economic inability to secure the suitable provisions for its own people. They provide for education and health but deprive the Palestinian completely of it.
Palestinians demand participation like the Lebanese poor. Claims that the provisions of the Lebanese State are not enough to cater for the Lebanese poor are not true. If it was the case, a social revolution would have erupted a long time ago. The truth is that if we want to provide for the Palestinian poor in the same way we do for the Lebanese poor there would have been no problem. Besides, why do we let the Palestinian pay taxes and not provide services against it? We pay like the Lebanese but we do not benefit anything from it. We demand having access to the provisions provided to any foreigner in Lebanon, the minimum standards provided to the Syrian, the Egyptian or the Sri-Lankan.
We are requesting the PLO to bear its responsibility of the refugees, and not just politically use them. It has to reallocate budgets for its social establishments which used to provide a lot of job vacancies. We request from the Lebanese State in the first place to grant the Palestinians their civil rights (right of work, social insurance, education, entrepreneurship, free movement, etc..). Given the Lebanese particularity, we do not demand the allowance to work in the public sector, like the Palestinians in Syria and Jordan, but we wish to be granted the right to work in the private sector. We demand to stop the closure of the work market in front of the Palestinians.
Lebanon has to respect its universal obligations with regards to the Convention on Human Rights, it had contributed in its drafting but does not contribute in its implementation. Lebanon is an immigration country by nature. It is an ordinary matter if the Palestinian or the Lebanese choose to immigrate out of it looking for a better life. But to have immigration plans of a scattering nature aiming to eradicate the national Palestinian gathering with its particularity, this is something we cannot accept. This happened by setting fire on situations, like the war in the camps. Another hit was to use the law aiming at mass immigration of Palestinians and resettling them abroad, via the decision of the government of Hariri in 1995, stating the need to obtain a visa to be able to return to Lebanon. Practically speaking, this has prevented all Palestinians abroad from returning. Facing the impossible return, many of those who were working abroad have applied for foreign passports and permanent residence in these countries. Some of them applied for the family to join them later. Those who have left were removed from the Lebanese registry; therefore, they are now received in Lebanon as foreigners coming for a visit, and do not have the right to stay because they are not entitled to.
This operation was carefully planned, not caused by the fear of the entry of the Palestinians sent out of Libya into Lebanon, but aiming to immigrate a portion of the Palestinians and keep them outside to reduce their presence in Lebanon. Some camps hardly have youth in it, like Beqaa camp that has practically moved to Denmark. This policy is serving Israel and relieving it from the Palestinians existing in Lebanon. The use of deprivation of all rights is disastrous. Granting the minimum standard of rights, or at least to overlook certain matters, will not harm Lebanon.
Regarding the political aspect, we are for having an independent Palestinian delegation for negotiation, same like the Lebanese delegation representing Lebanon, the Syrian delegation representing Syria and the Jordanian representing Jordan. We do not agree with the approach of seeing it as an Arab national issue and consequently Palestinians are not to be represented. This deprives the Palestinian of his self-determination right. But we are against having this Palestinian representation and negotiation working against the general interests of Arabs. There has to be a minimum level of coordination. Practically, matters have reached the level of conflicts. We are also against the use of the refugees and camps issues by the negotiator, in his conflicts with the hosting regimes of those refugees. If ever the political vision of the Palestinian negotiator conflicts with the Lebanese, we are for the political settlement of such clashes. We are not for each of them using the matter in a negative manner, the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are the ones who pay for it at the end of the day.
When the Lebanese want to solve their problems with Arafat, they put pressure on the camps. When they want to put the issue of the refugees on the agenda of negotiations with Israel, they put pressure on the camps, which is intolerable. When things go harsh with Arafat during the negotiations with Israel, he tries to send some money to buy people, and uses the negative reality of the situation of the civil and social rights of the Palestinians in Lebanon as a pressure tool. We are also against that. The Palestinian in Lebanon has the right to obtain his civil rights, regardless of any political games or lobbying tools in the negotiation process. That is why the Democratic Front was against both parties: The Palestinian who uses the camps in a narrow minded way, and the Lebanese who uses the pressure on the Palestinians to serve its own narrow local interests, either for secular, confessional or for its lobbying purposes to put pressure on Israel using the painful screaming of the Palestinians deprived of their rights.
We demand that the Palestinian live in Lebanon in a dignified way, he has to be able to persist and enjoy his civil rights. He has to keep his own Palestinian identity, and maintain the strife for the sake of Lebanon in a suitable manner, especially on the cultural and media levels. Lebanon is a unique pillar of the Arab world, and has the ability to pour in many intellectual and cultural issues that are able to convince the highest positions in the world of the rights of Lebanon and the rights of return for the Palestinian refugees to their homes.
Cooperation can help, not just painful screaming, or leaving the refugees live in the camps without water, electricity or rights, nor infra-structure and enduring severe suffocation and banning construction while making them subject to inhuman measures. These measures are practiced with the argument that any alleviation of suffering of the Palestinian refugees from the side of the Lebanese State will be interpreted by Israel as a Lebanese tendency and ability to absorb the refugees, and would consequently impose their resettlement in Lebanon. This is complete nonsense that many use to hide behind. The Palestinians in Syria enjoy all the civil rights, and preserve meanwhile their Palestinian identity. They are not fully integrated in the Syrian society as settlers, but they are fully integrated on the economic, social and rights aspects.
Jordan went even farther, they have given the Palestinians they have the Jordanian nationality, which is rejected from the Palestinian point of view. Despite all the civil and political rights they enjoy there, they still perceive themselves as Palestinian refugees holding on to their right of return. Therefore, the Arab-Arab formula has to be more human all the way. Unfortunately, we miss this in Lebanon. I believe that it is up to the Lebanese politicians. Syria, with its well-known situation in Lebanon, has nothing to do with what is socially happening to the Palestinian. On the political level, the Syrian negotiator finds it important to have the matter of the refugees included. He knows that the refugees in Syria cannot raise their voices if not to proclaim the right of return. The Palestinians in Lebanon raise their voices because they suffer from two pains: from a patriotic point of view, they could not so far impose the right of return, while on the level of human rights, they could not reach a minimal level of social rights.
Reaching and implementing a solution for the refugees issue will take few years. Therefore, we demand that the Lebanese State stop using the argument of: waiting for the future negotiations, because they may only create illusions that would increase the suffering. The right to live a dignified life is a human right that shall not be jeopardized nor restricted or depend on commitments, negotiations nor politics. When the Convention on Human Rights was drafted, it was not tailored to suit a particular situation, but it was meant to transcend all the politics playing around with human rights. The problems have to be made clear as well as its political function, then proclaim human rights, Lebanon can definitely provide; the right to education, medical treatment and the right to work in the private sector.”
Prospects of the Future:
According to Salah Salah:
“The refugees issue is always presented in a non-human and non-political manner. The solution of their problem is carried out through projects implemented “under the table” like immigration for example. It is necessary to tackle one issue that was absent, which is “the right to refuge”. The refuge was forcible and not by choice. Some say that the matter is on its way to be resolved, but the political forecast point out the fact that it is a complicated issue and the final solution negotiations will not be easy. The solution of this issue will depend on three conditions:
That the negotiations are held on the Palestinian path and that there is a Palestinian-Israeli agreement. All indications connote failure. Despite the assuring promises, the Israeli will turn its back to the Palestinian by the starting of the Syrian-Lebanese negotiations, where the return of the South of Lebanon and Gulan Hights would be possible, which would open the door for other resolutions with the other Arab countries. The Economic Conference would continue, also Syria would be added to the multi-committee. The Palestinian gate was important to break the ice, but it is no longer as important now as the Syrian gate.
The refugees issue: All Arab hosting countries have to hold on to their right of return, but the interaction of many stakeholders makes it a complicated matter.
A third element has to be available: The position of the Palestinian refugee who is being ignored: citizenship and resettlement: These slogans were used in the fifties. The Arab regimes in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt were for such projects under the pretext of the improvement of the economic and habitat situation. If the whole world agreed on any solution other than the right of return, the problem would remain unsolved. The Palestinian is able to fail any project solution that he has not been part of. There are some that agree on the resettlement and immigration and solve their own individual problem, but resistance will prevail if these projects are felt in a tangible way and are not just suspicions.
The Palestinian negotiator will not dare to accept resettlement. The hosting Arab countries and the Palestinians living in Palestine will proclaim the right of return, how will Abu Ammar ignore them? There is a pressurizing economic situation on the Palestinian Authority inside, could it snob the opposition to corruption, the economic deterioration and bureaucracy? The “Memo of the Twenty” is a turning point the Authority is facing in the coming phase. There is a strong reaction taking the side of the signatories, which is an indicator. There are demonstrations even led by Fateh, so how can this Authority protect itself if not by the squeezing Israel?”
Soheil El Natour sees that:
“The idea of redeployment of the refugees into other countries is a Zionist concept in the first place, Palestinians and Lebanese have to resist it all the way. We have burdened the Lebanese a lot and he has endured the burden of the Israeli occupation on his lands. We cannot, while we are drawing near the solution, reward Israel for creating this suffering for both our people by creating new problems amongst them. The direct reaction is hinting to the Palestinians to solve their problems on an individual basis rather than as people or a group. When we cannot impose the solution that suits us more on Israel, we start suggesting projects to get rid of the Palestinians, which are rather racist hallucinations disregarding the Arab fraternity and not seeing the refugees problem as a tragedy. For example, the deportation of one million Sunni Palestinian from Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and Gaza to Iraq who were left at the border with Kuwait, putting control on the Shiite South of Iraq and separating it from Iran. This is political stupidity. The former Minster of Foreign Affairs Boweiz has talked about reuniting the families via their deportation to Sweden and other countries. Reuniting the families should only be via their return to their lands in Galilee, Haifa and Java. This is part of our demands and it is not solving all the refugees issue.
There can’t be a real solution for pacific relations and reconciliation without solving our problem. The interaction of the refugees problem and reaching possible realistic solutions capable of establishing peaceful relations in the area can only happen through the resolution of the refugees issue. Therefore, the more the Arab position holds on the right of return, the more we get near to the solution. When Israel declares its consent to the idea of the right of return, I do not think that all refugees will then exercise this right, but it will be optional. But the right has to be accredited first. The final reconciliation issues comprise the refugees issue, because it is a complicated issue and has to have to reach proposals for its solution. The establishment of the Palestinian State should not be at the expense of the Palestinian refugees. The Palestinian needs from Israel a statement of his right of return and will never give it up for any reasons whatsoever, although at the beginning, Palestinians were negotiating an existence and left the refugees issue for later stages. Palestinians would discuss the right of return and leave for later the assessment of possibilities and abilities of implementation, which should have two dimensions: Capacity of absorption of those who will choose the return, and finding solutions for the others who do not wish to return and the acceptance of their host countries.
From there, the information spread on the latest Camp David negotiations indicates a real danger of Palestinian compromising and accepting Israel’s suggestion of reuniting families that do not exceed 100 thousand in number within 20 years and with conditions that do not preserve the right content. The persons in question have to be born in Palestine under the English mandate, have family in Israel, their return has to be allowed by the security authorities and it has to take place within fifteen years”.
As for Shafeek Al Hoot:
“The problem of the Palestinian refugees is emerging now, because with time passing, the Palestinian Authority reached the stage of the so-called final settlement. What we read in Barak’s and the Israeli officials’ statements and what we see as practical measures taken, such as seizure of lands, economic pressure and squeezing, all this shows that Israel is clearly determined that there is no return of refugees, not only to Israel, but as well not to the self-ruling areas, which are anyway already overcrowded. In addition to the self-ruling areas, there are more than one million refugees, besides, the load is really heavy on them. UN statistics show that Gaza strip is almost the poorest in the world, and does not have a future in terms of scarcity of natural resources, including water, given that Israel has stolen the underground water and prohibits the digging of wells.
Now we have reached the stage of the final reconciliation on the last remaining paths: the Syrian and the Lebanese. There is a high probability of reaching an agreement. If such an agreement takes place, the game will be over. There will be no Arab-Israeli conflict anymore and the Palestinians will remain with their problem unresolved. If Syria and Lebanon sign before the end of negotiations on the Palestinian path, the Israeli side would stop the negotiations, because there will be nothing forcing him to continue. Arafat opened the door to the Arabs when he signed Oslo, especially the hurrying type of them, to recognize Israel and normalize relations with it, from Mauritania to Qatar. Things will go on in a manner disarming us completely. I am very pessimistic about possibilities of liberating just a piece of Palestine and the return of the refugees to their homes or at least the recuperating of their national identity. I doubt Israel could allow a Palestinian State empowered to grant the Palestinian identity to the Palestinian people in the exile.
Facing this, there may be an internal popular Arab reaction and the peoples will proclaim their human and social rights. The strife will be extended to comprise the development of Arab resources, economy and the uplifting of the Arab community, who used to make the excuse that 40% of its budgets was directed to the defense purposes. UN statistics show that, with the exception of some African countries, the Arab countries come at the end of the scale, although we have human and natural resources. For example, in Yemen, less than one dollar per year is spent for a citizen’s health care, till when will the Yemeni keep silent? The poverty in some Arab countries reached 50%, meaning that half of the people are on the verge of famine. As for illiteracy, the Arab countries are delayed by 20 years compared to what they had before. Where are we now in terms of scientific advancement and the required technical research on the verge of a century adopting the computer as the most important product. Our struggle with Israel will be around issues of this kind.
We are not condemned to be backward. There is an outstanding Arab elite that has flourished in democratic countries. But could the ruling class that the conflict with Israel has created, be sustained if a reconciliation is reached with Israel? Is self-determination true? If the West wishes to resettle the Palestinians, will Lebanon refuse? The decision of granting the Lebanese nationality is in the hands of the Lebanese government. Why do the Lebanese fear the resettlement? The Palestinian fears most being subject to their decisions, if he is really aiming to return to Palestine and establish the Palestinian State. We do not want the Lebanese nationality, but only wish to have the right of work that we are unjustly deprived of.
The Lebanese, meaning who owns the Lebanese nationality, emigrates when he finds better options for himself outside Lebanon. Why would we think that the Palestinian will hold on to this country when he finds that a secured future for himself will not be in the very country where he was born and spent more than half his age? The Lebanese people, coming in the second place after the Palestinians, are the most emigrating people for better living options. The Palestinian did not come to it by choice, and does not wish to stay in by choice. Why don’t we work together to reach a dignifying solution suitable for both parties in order to combat the resettlement and emigration projects? We are going through a negotiations phase, regardless of what will be reached on the Syrian and Lebanese paths, the Palestinian cause will remain. In other words, there will be a tension spot standing and pending till it reaches the point of explosion. Will they find a solution for it? Who knows? The weak is playing rough on the weaker giving thus the enemy the chance of getting away with what he has done.”
The Lebanese Non-Governmental Organizations:
Based on such reality, Al Natour says:
“There is a big role for the civil society associations and the human rights organizations in helping the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to pressurize the Lebanese authorities for the logical human standards that should be granted. The difficulty lies in the fact that these NGOs need notification and authorization from the Lebanese State, which is seldom granted. Therefore, we have only few officially registered associations, which are Lebanese ones working in the field of Palestinians. Some of them have started to divert from the relief services into the developmental projects focusing on vocational training for women and awareness raising on human and civil rights. Anyhow, their impact is still limited amongst the Palestinians, which was a motive for them to study the experience of the Palestinian NGOs working in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and coordinating efforts lately.”
We have brought up this question with the attorney-in-law Ibrahim El Abdellah, the head of the Lebanese Association for Human Rights, asking about their position and what they do in this regard, especially that the impression given by the NGOs, at least by most of them, is not giving enough attention to the Palestinian refugees issue, if any at all. Some of the NGOs members get shocked by the open and declared hostility towards the Palestinians. We understand from here that this kind of sympathetic approach towards their cause is not prevalent.
Ibrahim Abdellah says:
“We have a position from the refugees issue in general. There are large numbers of non-Lebanese existing in Lebanon: refugees from Somalia, Iraq, Iran and Sudan. We have organized a meeting in the association to study this matter and have discussed their problems with the United Nations office in Beirut. We were lobbying at this office in order to push them to interfere in humanistic cases, but with no avail.
The subject of the Palestinian refugees is very important. Those are our brothers in humanity and national identity. They live in Lebanon not by choice. They are proclaiming the right of return and do not proclaim resettlement or citizenship because they perceive it as a plot against their cause. As an association, we are in good terms with the Palestinian activists: The Human Rights association we are trying to support and the Palestinian Activists Association we have met with many times.
A problem occurred 3 – 4 years ago when UNRWA stopped supporting them, which had a negative effect on health care, education and has created inhuman circumstances on top of their inhuman situation. We had intervened with regards to the General Security’s decision of disallowing entry visas. We could wave this decision after the formation of the new government. The refugees suffer during the past two years from another problem regarding allowing the entry of building material into the camps, which is not normal. They and we are against resettlement, but there are civil rights not provided, which is not normal as well. We had organized a couple of years ago many meetings with many Palestinian groups and tried to reach results but we failed.
Now the subject of refugees raises great sensitivity in Lebanon, as if the one who brings it up wishes to resettle them. Resettlement is one thing and the fundamental human rights are something else. Those people have a maximum level of tolerance, and we may be creating a problem for Lebanon. We are trying to do our best from here. We are always referring to the problems they are facing in our statements or other tools, and considers it our duty to support them by all available means. The Palestinian case is a highly sensitive one.”
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B – Psycho – Sociological Approach of the Living Reality:
Wasted Rights of Scattered People:
Amongst other political incidents Palestine had known during and following the disaster, there was the emigration and mass movement of some millions of Palestinian people, which had a very negative impact on them. Some of the dilemma had to do with the experience lived in the host countries with the social and psychological effects related to it, which we are going to go through in this research.
To start with, we can say that for many reasons, the population movement has increased during the past few decades from exodus environments into attracting environments perceived as to provide better life options. Regardless of the particularity of each situation, we can affirm a common element experienced by all those who have gone through this kind of shocks, stresses and psychological pressures, besides the social, cultural, biological, economic and all sorts of changes happening to individuals and groups in question. Effects of such dilemma are extended to children and grand children affecting thus the development of their personalities, egos and identity.
One of the important factors that have a strong effect on facing such an experience is the nature and kind of interaction, whether it was forcibly implied or by mere choice. Hence, the ability of the host country in absorbing its emigrants and providing a suitable social ambiance enabling their integration. Creation of such ambiance involves legislation and measures for such integration purposes, or on the contrary, we may have rejection, marginalization and narrowing of their working options, etc..
Examining those two points in our case, we find that the exodus shock on the Palestinians-who had to move away from their lands, enduring measures aiming razing them off their roots, and enduring all what has followed during over half a century of political situations that has forced them to remain at their host countries-, had a strong impact that was obvious in reactions that were registered. Symptoms of suffering was not limited to the first generation who had lived the disaster, but it was extended to the younger generations; to their children and grand children. While there are no elements favoring conflicts between Palestinians and Lebanese, such as ethnic, cultural or language differences that would be an obstacle to effective exposure or interaction, we find an essential factor coming to add to the first one a painful aspect to this experience. This factor is the way the receiving environment deals with those guests, especially the way the political authorities treat them.
We can say very briefly that during more than half a century there was no protocol arranging the relationship with the Palestinian refugees that could be based on objective positions defining their rights and dues. They do not only have dues towards the host country but also have rights in light of the international laws and provisions followed in this respect. Regardless of the different stages qualifying the Palestinian/Lebanese relationship with its constant ups and downs in the numbers of the Lebanese who support the Palestinian case and the Palestinian people, we find that the main quality of the majority of the Lebanese society’s treatment, especially the political elite, during those long years was hostility and putting blame on the Other. During the Lebanese wars, especially after the Israeli occupation of Beirut and the armed Palestinian forces leaving Lebanon, this relationship had more violent expressions visible in the massacres of Sabra and Shatilla and the camps war that had followed. When the battles stopped, the war took a verbal aspect in most of the times. It varied between the political official’s allegations against the surrender and the submissive politics of the Palestinian Authority to accusations directed towards the Palestinians for committing crimes and using arms and turning the camps into “outlaw spots”.
Few years ago, Sour camps have been under siege and building restoration material were disallowed into it, in was paralleled with security measures squeezing its inhabitants. Those camps were therefore left to deterioration and gradual depreciation so that it becomes not suitable anymore for living. This has pushed the inhabitants of those camps to proclaim projects for its eradication, which would lead to the destruction of the social consolidation of the Palestinians and would leave a serious psychological impact on them, especially when the State does not provide substitutes. Such pressure will lead one day to an explosion when suitable circumstances occur, which will be a natural reaction to such injustice.
To top it up, there is the constant strict refusal of allowing Palestinians to work and have access to education and health care equally to the Lebanese. In the few cases where Palestinians work, it is usually without a work permit, entitling them to rights and insurances, and they work in an exploiting environment from the part of their employers. We find a study carried out by Mr. Husein Shaaban on unemployment amongst the Palestinian labor force in Lebanon (published in Al Safir newspaper in 24/6/1997), it states that only 5% of them work under stable conditions, whilst the rest are either unemployed or casuals. Meanwhile, the labor force, e.g. the age groups between 16 and 65 years, represent 66% and the youth group between the age of 21 and 30 is prevalent amongst this percentage. The Palestinian is considered a foreigner in Lebanon and required to obtain a work permit to be able to work, but he seldom obtains this permit, while we find that the other foreigners of other nationalities residing in Lebanon, which are a smaller number compared to the Palestinians, obtain a higher number of work permits. For example, the Lebanese Ministry of Labor granted nearly 350 work permits in 1994 to Palestinians compared to 10 thousands to Sri-Lankans, around 8 thousands to Egyptians, more than 5 thousands to Syrians, 3292 to Indian residents and 3009 to the Philippine residents.
All these matters are violations of the Charter of on Human Rights and the Economic and Social Rights Covenant and contradict the covenant signed by Lebanon stating that all persons have the right to gain their living through work chosen and accepted by free choice. It also contradicts statements made by Lebanese high officials who exaggerate the description of their positions taking the side of the Palestinian social and economic rights and the equality of Palestinians and Lebanese in that respect, while of course excluding the nationality and the public office jobs, basing it on the preservation of the right of return of the Palestinians to their homes, and because of the dilemma of the secular and confessional composition of Lebanon.
Till now the Palestinians in Lebanon did not obtain what they were proclaiming for long years, following many negotiations and submission of memorandums and suggestions to the Lebanese Authorities to enhance their situation. One of these memorandums was presented last year, at the dawn of a new era and after optimistic feelings that were spread amongst them on possibilities of opening dialogue channels with the Lebanese Authority. They proclaim “taking procedures to remedy a number of issues that touch on the dignity and human rights of the Palestinians, and which do not have any legal or political reason, and which creates tension in the Palestinian camps that turns into a “Ghetto” inclination harmful to the future of brotherly relations between the Palestinian and Lebanese people.”. (See full memorandum annexed to this chapter).
A study on the Palestinian refugees carried out by Phafo Foundation considers that, related to the health situation, there is one over five from the sample group suffering from chronic diseases, while only 7 out of 10 of those suffering from strong diseases get to see a doctor. The health situation of persons younger than the age of 5 is the worst if compared to the situation in the camps in Jordan. The study also shows that due to psychological stresses, one person out of five takes medicine.
Regarding education, the main results reflect poor education and a high level of illiteracy and non-enrollment at education classes is high amongst younger children, especially the males. Many students drop out due to economic reasons or for lack of motivation or encouragement. Whilst Palestinians, before the collapsing of the economic situation, were known for their devotion to education and obtaining degrees, in a manner that illiterates were rare to find amongst the young generation.
These results do not surprise the experts of childhood disturbances, who know that a child can express his psychological crisis, strongly lined to the financial and moral suffering of his family, through dropping out or failure due to his inability to focus and absorb the educational curricula. On top of that, he might be a victim of a bad educational system, that does not pay attention to the children’s psychological problems and requires them meanwhile to be intellectually productive and obtain education in an environment that lacks motivation. While victims of such a system who are dropping out or failing might have high mental potentials and brain capacities that would enable them to follow high education if under different circumstances. What seems to be laziness or negligence in following education can be due to psychological problems resulting from the negative impact of the incubating environment, which in its turn is affected by the direct environment. Failing could be an indication of the child’s inability to cope with the contradiction of his family’s requirements, it could also indicate identity problems, difficulties in identifying who “he is” and “whom he belongs to”.
The Palestinian in Lebanon feels today, more than anytime before, that on top of his economic, social and health problems, he is just a card played in a deal (that is partially a financial one) in the hands of the Lebanese government who plays with it behind his back in return of granting the resettlement as a possible option. This supports the ideas of the international conspiracy theory plotted against him in the dark. Meanwhile, he keeps on hearing the Lebanese political class repeating over and over again its strict position towards his right of return to Palestine and its absolute refusal of his resettlement. He only wishes that such care given to preserving his right of return is accompanied by measures taken to arrange his life giving attention to his unbearable daily suffering. The return to home they long for seems today to be far from happening due to the interrupted peace talks, especially in light of what is happening on the Palestinian scene with Al Aqsa uprising and the ongoing resistance of the occupation till victory and independence, despite all the bloody repression of the uprising and the heating up of the situation to end it and putting the occupied Palestinian territories under siege. All this has definitely an impact and effect on the situation of the Palestinians in the exile, while the right of return remains as their main demand, which was quite clear in the interviews with the Palestinians, we have met in Lebanon.
Integration within the Receiving Society:
The nature of the Lebanese’ reception of the Palestinians has a strong impact on weakening their tolerance of their life conditions and affects their ability to open up to the surrounding society and interacting with it. At times of crisis, the level of detachment and self-withdrawal in a semi-ghetto manner has increased, and aggressive sentiments were activated as a reaction to their rejection by the Other, which has led to the use of violence as means of release outlet.
The psychological suffering of the Palestinian refugee is painful, living amongst a society that rejects him and looks down on him, while he is torn apart between his belonging to his native land and the resettling policies of Israel keeping him from returning to it. He lives between two analogies waiting for the results of the Israeli – Palestinian negotiations and what it might come up with as a solution to this situation. But years are going by and things just got from bad to worse, while he lives the life of instability and endless waiting. Can he be able to be integrated in the society and interact with it? How can he get to do that and avoid the psychological conflicts and controversies of the identity, without feeling that he is betraying his cause? Living under an environment alienating him politically, economically and psychologically, he remains foreigner even if he carries the nationality that is good only to facilitate some administrative procedures. Self-realization becomes more of a delusion in an environment that has set its own terms and lacks the minimum standards of a free life.
Feeling estranged in the receiving country and cutting his links and bounds to the originating society makes his family become the main haven to him representing the only refuge. The family, especially the mother, is required to persevere and absorb stress and contain each of the family members; in spite of all the economic, social, psychological and political problems it is facing and threatening to explode and menacing the consolidation of the family. The community has kept strong bondage inside the residential vicinity and has managed to face the hits coming from outside using the mechanisms of the community consolidation. Inside the camp, which is reincarnating the home country or the country of fathers and ancestors, the refugee feels there his belonging to the community with all its own values and customs. This happens in spite of the censorship role the camp plays sometimes aiming to impose traditional patterns supporting its influence and increasing its ability to manipulate at the cost of personal freedom and the right of difference in opinion. This explains the slow movement of social change, especially in the camps isolated from its surrounding and during the times of withdrawal and political regional suppression.
The first generation was forced to leave its land in an abrupt and unexpected manner, without planning, leaving behind properties, family, friends and memories, while carrying along a big hope for a soon return. The uprooting circumstances they went through created a shock for those who had lived it and has created an unrecoverable wound getting constantly inflamed by the consecutive political incidents. The return became the primary obsessive compulsive thought to most of them, waiting for the change of the political circumstances allowing it to take place in fact. They lived intellectually and emotionally in a relation nearest to their lost home society and meanwhile they have almost cut themselves off the new milieu that has received them in a welcoming manner in the beginning before flipping soon enough to showing signs of intolerance towards them. During all this period they lived on their childhood memories full of colors, sounds and smells belonging to a phase that is over, but which is essential in the life of people. It has constituted an emotional shelter facing the twister of time.
What is material and physical in the geographical lost place is strongly linked to a psychological dimension ; things that are considered as an extension to the self projecting positive or negative elements, making the relationship with the geographical place rather emotional than objective. The more one is distant from his original environment where he came from as a child and lost possibilities of linking with it via visits from time to time, the more one loses the ability of putting the reality into perspective versus the imaginary picture built in one’s mind. The picture of the country becomes better than its reality and the things related to it take an idealistic form, supported by the resentment emotions towards the reality lived in the host country.
In addition to the geographical dimension, there is the physical dimension related to the self-image developed by the person on himself and his body existence. This physical existence that has kept in its memory elements partially belonging to the past, which contains a mixture of experiences of ecstasy and pain, and expressing itself with a special language reflecting the psyche pain and feelings, conflicts and disturbances storming it when it finds no verbal outlet for release. The children and the elderly particularly know this mechanism as well as those who felt incapable of influencing the geographical area they live in.
This painful suffering is passed to children by their parents where they are fed along with breast feeding from their mothers who have raised them up. They transfer, deliberately or not, consciously or unconsciously, the rejection of their marginalized and miserable situation and their entire daily psychological suffering; they pass on their feeling of handicap and low self esteem and loss of hope in the future. Under such circumstances, the self-defense mechanisms cannot find enough substance to perform in an effective manner. The menace of depression constantly hangs over it, if not the psychological breakdown that is an expected infallible destiny of an important segment amongst them.
A child grows in such an atmosphere having a big load of responsibility on his shoulder towards the family who has endured injustice and he feels like owing them something. He did not go through the exodus situation like them, and did not know their country but has built an image of it through stories they have told him about it. This image does not comply with reality since it is lacking the main elements to form it. Meanwhile, this child realizes bit by bit that he cannot be integrated, as it should be, into the society where he was born and grew up. This society that rejects and resents him, that made him see himself as worthless and lose his self-confidence. He represents to his family the unfulfilled dreams, he is facing the task of having to reorganize his existence controversies depending on himself, while he is not living favorable conditions to help him affirm this self and enhance his self-image.
It is known that the youth search for themselves through their image projected by the others, especially if they have an identity problem, which cannot be dealt with through a self-realizing work. The ambiguity of their future increases their suffering and makes them live an intellectual and psychological estrangement and can lead either to self withdrawal or to trying to seek an identity through digression or holding fundamentalist ideologies or referring to arms or search for new horizons thought to provide a compensation for the deprivation they endured. Fortunately, one of the probabilities often visible there is the transformation of the bitter experience into chances of expressed creativity, which is due to a strong ability of refinement of penchants in an atmosphere of challenge and self proving. The immigrant’s dynamism is acknowledged if only he allowed chances enabling him to evolve socially and move towards transforming the negative into positive.
A part of the dream is to obtain the right of return and accomplish the dream the family could not accomplish. What one owes them and the identity affirmation anticipates holding on to that right and working towards reaching it tirelessly. The youth have their different views on how to deal with such dilemmas that are partially inherited outcomes. Therefore, no one can really predict what one could do tomorrow, every case remains an individual one with its own particularities. This prevents us from generalizing the specific on the whole and not to reduce the complicated whole to some of its parts aiming to easily understand this dilemma. But until the repulsive environment is transformed into an attracting one creating thus a counter immigration movement, a lot of human and intellectual resources are being wasted by the Lebanese society that did not try – as it does as well to a big part of its own members – to make use of it once they became a productive force.
Integration into the receiving society is something that needs habilitation and preparation since the early years of childhood starting from the home that is open to its surrounding environment, then at school through interaction with class mates, ending to the integration at the work market and mixed marriages. We have felt that such integration factors were weak with regards to the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon who live mainly in camps or in districts somehow isolated from its surrounding environment, while depending on certain social foundations or enrolling in special schools exclusively for them, in addition to their weak integration into the work market due to their deprivation from the right of work. All this is affecting mixed marriages that are not frequent mainly due to their negative image at the Lebanese collective consciousness. In addition, the idea of fusion within the Lebanese society is not at issue, as we have seen earlier, because of the dream of return to Palestine.
The above mentioned situation does not exclude the segments who lived amongst the Lebanese due to their living outside the camps, studying at Lebanese schools and being married to Lebanese, for they have a strong feeling of being discriminated against. The demands of the generation that was born or grown up in Lebanon from the Lebanese society exceeds those of their families who have lived their childhood years in their home country. They are looking for solid grounds where they can start from and build their identity on it. We have found out that such ground are missing, which makes the present seem to be pending on waiting for a better future in a place enabling them to get back their self confidence and self realization, despite that some are giving the impression that they do not totally reject the reality and show their wish to work on enhancing it.
Strategies of Dealing With The Other:
It is possible to talk about various strategies used by those who are in such a situation, such strategies vary according to the persons themselves. Such behavioral patterns are identified according to various factors such as the age, gender, psychological abilities, cultural level, social standard, family upraising, origin, experience of emigration and other criteria. One person can use more than one strategy at different stages of time according to the behavioral changes he goes through.
One of the strategies is to avoid what could undermine his value: like fusion in the surrounding society and denial of his particular traits, or to diverge the view of the Other from the elements of comparison towards worthy elements in him. In other cases, followed strategies could be different, like isolating one from sources of humiliation by ignoring it completely or not giving it the slightest attention and run to a real or imaginary world where one can find relief. Marginalization can be also another way of avoiding to have to make a choice. This can happen in the negative sense, e.g. digression, or in the positive sense meaning not to stop at the point of the nationality, where we find the sense of belonging in this case transcending the countries in question to a world that does not have borders nor barriers.
Contrarily, a different strategy can be followed like the active confrontation of whatever and whomever resenting him. He relies on debating against the common theories with arguments against it and giving less importance to it, or by affirming the positive aspect and the supremacy of what is being used against him as a negative element. But, between a strategy avoiding the conflict by metamorphosis according to the requirements of the Other and the boycotting of the source of such a conflict, there could be a compromise solution. It requires a balanced approach to what is causing the problems and dealing with it in a calm and objective manner, tolerating some prejudice and rejecting others. It seems that this third strategy is getting weaker in front of the other more catatonic behaviors when the reception of the host country is not up to par the immigrants.
Relationship of Ego vs. Other:
When a certain community goes through a backward phase and living political, economic and social crisis, social alienation phenomenon appear and fundamentalist ideologies emerge. Feeling insecure and worried about the individual future helps denoting the human instincts in a more brutal manner. These unconsciously oppressed feelings are usually centered around the Other. This Other which is a reflection of the Ego, is translating whatever the Ego is reflecting in the form of negative feelings of fear, hate, outcast and others. Having a scapegoat makes it easier to be self protected against consequences of residues it carries deep inside and that are not socially accepted. At such time, the nationality and belonging to the country can be a pretext for social distinction and racial discrimination. This atmosphere eventually comprises a part of those who are in power, if not all, but we have to avoid generalization for the sake of objectiveness.
Reflecting the personal feelings on the Other and being convinced that this is really how the Other feels about one is the nature of the human psyche. But the level of effectiveness, rhythm, perception abilities and acceptance differs from one person to another. We find counter arguments supported by evidence as an irrevocable case of those who are more catatonic. It is known that when one sees an object, he only sees it from his own perception ant not as what it really is. Meaning that he does not receive negatively what he sees, but he sees what he wants to see in the object or the Other and gives it certain attributes. Such attributes are given based on his own criteria that is in itself the result of a certain psychological structure and a specific cultural positioning. This means that it is related to the social structure standards he belongs to or we can say that it is rather related to whatever he has adopted from such standards. Accordingly, the Other is placed within the classification he fits in allowing the inclusion of the others alike within the same classification. This mechanism makes it seem easier to deal with the dilemma and gives impressions of being in control of the circumstances and events resulting from it and gives a feeling of being secured.
This is how we can see that prejudice and generalization techniques and reducing the whole complex to some of its constituting elements make us understand the inflexibility in accepting what is different and inability of weighting things objectively. The Other becomes responsible for the dilemma in question representing a threat to the security of the Ego and the We. Those qualities attributed to the Other, which are not necessarily applicable to him, require reducing his value and gives an excuse to oppress him. Meanwhile, there is an opposite tendency to add an unjustified value to those who belong to the We.
Using such mechanisms, those who are in the power position distance themselves from those who are at a lower position so that the latter cannot reach their stage nor influence their privileged situation and threaten their being secured. When they attribute to the We qualities distinguishing it from the Others, they add a value to their individual identity that is representing in itself a part of this privileged group. This gives them the pretext to make of the Other a release outlet or rather a scapegoat whenever required. When objective criteria are lacking and laws protecting the weak from the injustice of the strong are halted, radicalism becomes accepted.
Such mechanisms are becoming more and more prevalent especially during times of crisis and with those who lack a healthy psyche who become more prone to disturbance and panic. Media play an important role in this respect because they have the role of coaching. What is worrying is that this atmosphere is growing in a society that was exposed to many extended waves of emigration where the Lebanese reached the four corners of the world. This leads us to the question: What would have happened to Lebanon if its own kin were exposed to such situations in the receiving countries they have been to, which could be similar to the situation of those refugees?
In addition to that, we belong to a time where possibilities of leaving home countries and separation from one’s roots is increasing. The fast technological revolution, the multiple environmental changes, the globalization of economy, the satellite cultural exposure and other factors require a different attitude that is more open to the Other and require also a change in behaviors shifting away from the short sighted policies, the self centered, racist environment and the many other destructive human errors.
Unfortunately, the collective consciousness is still far below the technological advancement, where we still find that the strongest reaction remains the social boycotting, mobilization of public opinion towards a negative direction and augmentation of tension. This leads to the violation of rights of the unprivileged groups in many ways. The marginalized aspect of their position being related to the level of labor and pay, lack of health and legal coverage in the rare cases of work availability, few of them managed to get, besides the growth of unemployment and misery in a major crisis manner. All this makes the Palestinian refugees live an intolerable situation. This does not only lead to disastrous results for them but is extended to the Lebanese society as a whole, given that they are part of it since more than half a century whether they want it or not. The International conventions and charters accredited by Lebanon are binding it to wave the discriminative measures practiced for decades. It also applies for the Arab conventions including Casablanca Convention of 1965 stating the necessity of treatment of the Palestinians living in the Arab countries equally to the citizens of the host countries in matters related to their travel and provision of work opportunities for them whilst keeping their Palestinian nationality.
When the resistance was at its peak it had managed to change the image of the Palestinian in the Lebanese mind when they dealt with them, at least for the majority of the people, it used to be more positive than today. The Palestinian represents the other side of the coin to the Lebanese, what is intimidating him are the similarities rather than the differences. This might be why the Palestinians are paying twice the cost of what they have reached now. The weakness of the Other is tempting to squander him and hold him responsible for the deterioration of his own situation. In such cases, it might not be useful to scream from pain as it is requiring to work on the image change and boosting it.
From a strict selfish interest perspective, if not to mention the ethical commitments and necessity of a minimum respect of human rights, it is essential to review measure exercised against the Palestinian refugees till now. They cannot possibly represent with their limited numbers a competing element to the Lebanese who does not accept the tasks usually given to and accepted by the Palestinians. Besides that, the Palestinians spend their income in Lebanon and do not send it to their home country as the other foreign labor does. It is unfortunate that while enduring such a bad economic situation, unstable environment and the increasing marginalisation of unprivileged and poverty groups, the Lebanese authorities have not stopped taking additional restrictive measures on the residence of Palestinians and making their living circumstances more difficult to push them to leave. This would serve the settlement policies of Israel and grants them a precious gift on a silver plate.
Unfortunately, the victim sometimes tends to imitate the oppressor copying the same humiliating measures used against him, so she/he looks for a weaker victim for herself/himself to be deluded by imaginary victories. Meanwhile, if the political power, reproducing itself in a manner preserving its privileges, is unable to transcend such negative behaviors, the democratic forces and human rights organization together with the civil society associations have to come against all aggressive and racist tendencies at the decision-making level and lobby the Lebanese authorities to grant the Palestinians their right of work, health and education. This would preserve the Palestinian dignity and national consolidation facing the resettlement conspiracy. It would also help them to work from a more firm position to obtain their right of return and have an internationally acknowledged State, instead of them getting busy with the concerns of daily life and seeking individual solutions for their suffering which consumes their energy and devastates them.
Maybe what is happening today on the Palestinian scene with the Aqsa uprising aiming to obtain the lost Palestinian rights, using will-power, the symbolic stones and the consolidation of the Arab public opinion could change something in the situation of the Palestinians in the exile and would encourage the Arab governments, and especially the Lebanese government, to deal with its Palestinian refugees in a more civilized and friendly manner. The voices of the Arab street is reaching ears that used to favor oppression and avoiding commitment to responsibilities at the cost of serious reform intentions. Could the political wisdom and long term vision take over the narrow perspectives and primitive reactions? Could it create the long-awaited qualitative shift in dealing with violated fundamental rights of those people, whose fate was to be victimized wherever they settle?
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The Price of Misery:
The Palestinians of Lebanon
The Surrounded Identity
Mohammad Hafiz Yaqoub
First – The Palestinian Misery in Lebanon:
1 – In the summer of 1995, Libyan Leader Mo’amar Al-Qadhafi crowned his objection to the political options of the Palestinian leadership after signing the Declaration of Principles (Oslo Agreement) with Israel by announcing the decision to terminate the residency of Palestinians on the lands of the Libyan Jamhireya, and asked them to return immediately to their country. The objective of the Colonel was to punish the Palestinian leadership for, first what he considered negligence in Palestinian rights, and second to reveal to the world that negligence. The Libyan leader said in a speech that he gave in Sert on the First of September 1995, “let the 30 thousand Palestinians present in Libya return to their country, if they were allowed to do so, or the world will see that the propagated peace was a conspiracy and treason”. The Colonel urged other Arab countries to follow suit considering that “Arab countries should evacuate all the Palestinians present in them to the west Bank to reveal that criminal plot”ژ1گ.
Indeed, the Libyan security authorities, backed in most times by the Militias of the Public Revolutionary Committees and the secret security forces, conducted swift implementation procedures of the leadership decision. Thus, thousands of Palestinian workers and their families were asked to leave the Libyan Jamahireya without delay, and the “Palestinians working in Libya were gathered in camps near the border with Egypt in preparation for their expulsion”ژ2گ, “under very harsh human conditions”ژ3گ. Since all Palestinians living in Libya were refugees and their return to Palestine was practically impossible, all the expelled went to countries of the first refuge, meaning Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt.
And as it were difficult for a large number of the Gaza Strip refugees in particular to go there, and when they failed to obtain residence permits in any of the Arab countries on which doors they knocked at, hundreds of them erected a camp in the area of the Fayoum Knoll on the Egyptian Libyan border, where the Libyan authorities provided them with the tents, and called it the “Return Camp”, in which they, children, women, and men, spent long months in “harsh environmental and human” conditions, as was described by (The Egyptian Human Rights Organization). The fact-finding committee sent by the Egyptian Human Rights Organization to the area inspected the camp and got to know the conditions closely. It explained, “that the situation in the camp was threatening with a humanitarian crisis… and that those innocents are paying for disputes in which they were not party, and decisions no one discussed with them”ژ4گ. Many of the refugees at the (Return Camp) fell victim to diseases, and some are still suffering from the effects of those diseases.
The decision by the Colonel Mo’amar Qadhafi is not the objective of what was mentioned in the previous paragraph, for that calls for another discussion for which this is not the place, as it is related to Arab policy and the status the human being in it, whereas our topic here is the conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanonژ5گ. It seems, as we will later see, that the relation between expelling the Palestinians from the Libyan Jamahireya and those conditions are strong and obvious. Once the Libyan authorities began the procedures of expulsion, and the first expelled began to appear at border checkpoints, Lebanese reactions to this issue with the clear humanitarian dimension were raised. The statements of Lebanese officials ranged from blaming the Libyan leader Mo’amar Qadhafi, to putting the blame on the shoulders of the Palestinian President Yassir Arafat “for accepting a caricature country”ژ6گ, to linking all this with the Zionist conspiracy to disperse the Palestinian people and dissipate their identity. Yet the most prominent and dangerous statements from the procedural point of view were those calling for closing the Lebanese borders in the face of the expelled Palestinians, and preventing them from entering Lebanese territories. In fact some of those voices even verged on blatant racism against Palestinians as people and a nation. In his speech on the needs that forces the Lebanese authorities to prevent the entry of Palestinians to Lebanon, and to complicate things for them and put obstacles in their faces, Lebanese Minister of Tourism Nicola Fattoush said that Lebanon cannot accept “human waste”ژ7گ on its soil. We will return to the significance of this “slip of tongue” in later paragraphs.
2 – The truth is that the words of the Lebanese Minister of Tourism came only two days after the Lebanese authorities took a group of administrative and security procedures regarding the entrance of the Palestinians expelled from Libya to Lebanese soil when defending those unfair procedures to the rights of Palestinians in Lebanon, especially concerning the freedom of movement and residence. After a few days from the speech by the Libyan leader with regards to expelling Palestinians, the Lebanese authorities promptly took a group of strict security measures on the land, sea, and air border check-points to prevent the entrance of the expelled into Lebanon, even if the travel documents they carried were valid and issued from Lebanese authorities. Due to hurried nature of those procedures, they were taken before the Cabinet of Ministers met, and after consultations between President Elias al-Harrawi, Foreign Minister Faris Boez, and Minister of Interior Mishal al-Morr, and the approval of Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, who was away in Paris.
The Minister of Interior announced the authentication of an unprecedented arrangement that all Palestinians present outside Lebanon needed to obtain an entry permit to Lebanon. The minister explained, “Who wanted entrance must request a an entry permit on the Lebanese passport he carries before hand. The request comes to Lebanon, and after studying it a decision is reached”. The minister added “We also asked the Foreign Ministry to send out a circular to embassies, which was already done, not to issue passports except after referring those documents to the general security, who would decide whether to grant or withhold them. The same applies for permits”ژ8گ. On 22/9/1995 the Cabinet of Ministers authenticated the Administrative Decision No. 478 issued by the Ministry of Interior to that effect. It is worth noting that the aforementioned decision includes, in addition to preventing any Palestinian carrying a Lebanese passport from leaving or entering Lebanon without a prior permit, that the validity of the permit should not exceed six months and with a fee of one hundred thousand Lebanese liras.
The Administrative Decision No. 478 represents a violation of the Lebanese Decree no. 1188 issued on 28/7/1962 stating in Article 22 the freedom of passage in and out of Lebanon for Palestinians after receiving a passport from the concerned authorities. They also have the right to renew that passport from Lebanese missions abroad. The decree also represents a blatant violation of international conventions and agreements, as well as Arab League resolutions to which Lebanon is committed and has agreed to in accordance with the applied traditions. It violates the International Declaration of Human Rights (1948), The Treaty on the status of Stateless Persons (1954), The Agreement on Civil and Political Rights (1966), in addition to the Geneva Convention on Refugees (28/7/1951). For example, Article 24 of that latter agreement gave refugees residing originally in the country the right to enjoy the benefits enjoyed by national citizens, meaning civil rightsژ9گ. These arrangements contradict the agreements, protocols and decisions related to Palestinian refugees to which Lebanon is committed as a member of the Arab League. For example, they contradict the provisions of the Casablanca Protocol (10/9/1965) with regard to the treatment of Palestinians in Arab countries. Article one of that protocol states that Palestinian refugees had “the right to work and employment similar to those of citizens” “while retaining their Palestinian nationality”. Article Two, Three and Four state the right to go out of the country in which they originally reside and enter into it “whenever their interest redeems” (Article Two), and their right “when they want to do that” to obtain “valid passports for their travel, and that the concerned authorities wherever they were should issue those passports and renew them without delay” (Article Four)ژ10گ.
3 – Related to what we mentioned are two deductions:
First is that if the Palestinian dilemma in Lebanon was limited to issues related to their passports and the freedom of movement from and to Lebanon, it would have been possible to solve the issue by another decree to cancel decision No. 478 by the Ministry of Interior on 22/9/1995 and/or admits its illegality, and then the decision by the General Directorate of Lebanese Public Security on 12/1/1999 B – “Considering Lebanese travel documents given to Palestinians residing originally in Lebanon as Lebanese passports and dealing with them on those bases”ژ11گ would be sufficient to “relieve the congestion in Palestinian camps” as the popular expression in the political and media circles in Lebanon goes.
The second deduction is that what was meant by those procedural arrangements was to reduce the number of Palestinians residing in Lebanon since 1948, and make them feel unwanted in this country. Lebanese Minister of Interior had hinted to that in two respects. The first was by saying that “in the era of President (Elias) Al-Harrawi no passports were issued to Palestinians”. And the second was that “settling is rejected by all Lebanese and that that was a decision reached by the rulers, the government, and all the Lebanese people”ژ12گ. We will go back to that last point related to rejecting settling later.
In that respect, Lebanese officials know that the procedures taken with regard to the freedom of travel of the Palestinians originally residing in Lebanon are against the most basic principles of law and humanity known and applied in the world, even against the Lebanese law itself. The Lebanese law gives signed international treaties a power surpassing that of the law, as proved by Article Two of the Basic Civil Court Law which stresses that “when the provisions of international treaties contradict the provisions of ordinary law, the first are applied over the latter in application”. Therefore, Lebanese ministerial and administrative decrees and decisions should not include provisions against those of treaties and there should not be a violation of the principle of hierarchy in legal provisions. Also the Lebanese State Consultative Council should in this case rule to the effect of the invalidity of several illegal decisions with regards to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, such as the decisions related to work, social security, family registration, etcژ13گ..
4 – The assumption of the Lebanese authorities’ awareness of the illegality of the procedures taken against the Palestinians is not based on opinions of lawyers or even on the announcements by politicians only. The Lebanese legitimate authorities have admitted in the official report presented to the “United Nations Summit for Social Development” (Copenhagen 1995) that the Palestinian refugees residing on its soil suffer from deteriorating social, housing, and health conditions. On 21/2/1994, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri admitted, in a meeting with the representatives of the Palestinian detachments in Lebanon, the necessity of “giving civil and social rights” to the Palestinians in Lebanon, yet “there is no possibility now to approve those rights for political and financial reasons”ژ14گ. We will judge the political reasons later.
Results of the survey conducted by the United Nations Agency for the Assistance and Working of Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) for the year 1992 indicated that around 60 percent of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live under the poverty line, and that more than 36 percent of them are unable to secure any type of work. This percentage increased to 40 percent in the 1995 annual reportژ15گ. The data available to us today does not indicate any noted improvement.
It was mentioned in the report of the General Commiserate of UNRWA Mr. Peter Hansen in March 1998 “that refugees (Palestinians in Lebanon) are still suffering from extremely difficult conditions, that the unemployment rate had reached 40 percent, that the purchasing ability is deteriorating, and that there are restrictions on a number of economic activity sectors, as well as restrictions on movement. UNRWA remained practically the main source of education, health, assistance and social services for the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, who are unable to benefit from the governmental health services including treatment at hospitals, as they are also unable to benefit, except in a relatively limited way, from basic education”ژ16گ. Yet UNRWA “has neither the financial resources nor the necessary authorization to address the needs of 352 refugees properly”ژ17گ. UNRWA faces an increasing deficit in its budget that forces it to the continued reduction in the health, social and educational services it provides for the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
5 – As for Palestinian labor in Lebanon, the picture here also seems dark and gloomy. More that 96 percent of the Palestinians in Lebanon have no work permit, and therefore do not enjoy the right to work. According to official government data in Lebanon, the number of Palestinians allowed to work reached 460 people in 1997 (compared with 271 people in 1996)ژ18گ. Thus the Palestinians are left with either the black labor market, which is illegitimate, or seasonal, manual and hard work where a prior governmental permit is not needed. “Servants (domestic) are not included in the Lebanese Labor Law, which means that they are deprived of any legal status, and are subjected to the whims of their employers. The law also does not condition the possession of a work permit for agricultural laborers. But the conditions in that sector are characterized by low wages, long working hours (not less than 12 hours daily), and the lack of any guarantees, compensations or holidays”ژ19گ. Also the Lebanese Labor Law closes a whole series of occupations and work in the face of Palestinians, beginning with managers till approved secretaries, from teachers till barbers and drivers, with the shoes, clothes, domestic linen industries, and mechanics along the way, as well as others in the banking, education, skills, industry, trade, and other sectors. For example, the Lebanese authorities have sent a group of Palestinian doctors in Al-Beka to court charging them with practicing the profession without license. The aforementioned license is not given to doctors (lawyers or engineers) unless they are members of the doctors’ syndicate (or the lawyers’ or engineers’), and the legal system of the syndicate states that the member must be a Lebanese for ten yearsژ20گ. Table 9, attached to the General State Budget law for the year 1999, decreed to raise in the fee on the prior approval of the work for every Palestinian registered at the General Directorate for Refugee Affairs to 25 percent of the fee on foreigners, compared to 20 percent in the past (from 1996), as well as raising the fee for residence card for foreigners in Lebanonژ21گ.
6 – “Housing represents another serious problem for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, inside the camps, and especially between the expatriated refugees who live outside the camps. Some of the expatriated people live under horrible conditions: families of 14 people live in one room that is in total or semi total need of utilities such as water, sanitary drainage or electricity”ژ22گ. Here as well, the political factor seems to be at the base of the policy of heavy restrictions on Palestinian residence, whether in the camps or outside of them. Still the geographical plot for the camps exists (or rather continued to exist) in Lebanon unchanged since more than fifty years ago, while the number of the population had doubled more than three times. With the destruction of most of the camps during the Lebanese Civil War, the Camps War, and during the continued Israeli attacks on Lebanon and the camps in it, the problem of housing in camps was severely compounded. It is a problem that is hit by the stance of the successive official authorities preventing the repopulation of destroyed camps from repopulating substitute camps, or even expanding the existing camps. “An unannounced administrative decision issued by the Lebanese General Security prevented increasing the area of any camp, as it also forbade building stories above the ground house, it actually set a condition that the building should be of stone and the roof of tin”ژ23گ. This explains “the decision to forbid any construction materials such as bricks, cement, wood planks, nails, water taps, or lamps and electric extensions from being used in camps.. this means not only preventing building, but also the fixing of the inside and outside of existing houses. The state makes sure that that decision is implemented through military inspection centers controlling all inlets and outlets designed for every camp”ژ24گ.
7 – There is nothing in the horizon to indicate a change in the stance of the Lebanese authorities in that respect. The Palestinian camps, especially in the south, are still surrounded by units of the Lebanese army regulating exiting and entering the camps for “security” reasons. This matter led the Head of the Political Circle of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Farouk Kaddoumi, to present the following question on the eve of his official visit that was approved by the official authority after years of rejection: “Is there really a necessity in your opinion for the presence of the army around the camps?”ژ25گ. The Lebanese press had published the following piece of news that it attributed to the “Lebanese Political Circle” only one day before the arrival of Mr. Kaddoumi to the Lebanese capital: “The Lebanese army opened the day before yesterday the road leading to the Ain Al-Hulwa camp from the western entrance near Hasbet Saida, which is the fourth passage that leads to Ain al-Hulwa. Only one entrance remains closed on the side of Mahalet al-Sayroubeya – al-Ta’meer”ژ26گ.
Also the project to develop the southern district of Beirut includes paving boulevards, some of which pass through the camps of Shatila and Borg al-Baragna. There is “a Lebanese official decree to remove around three hundred homes in the northern depth of the Borg al-Baragna camp for Palestinian refugees.. which would led to harming around three thousand people of the camp inhabitants (..) it is rumored in that context that there is a second project for a horizontal road that splits the camp from the south to the north, but no official authority confirmed that project”ژ27گ. Also the project to rebuild the sports city includes building utilities for vital services in the west district of the Shatila Campژ28گ, which practically means to turn the camp into a small residential compound threatened with elimination.
The political and administrative authorities in Lebanon forges a strong bond between improving working conditions and housing for Palestinian refugees originally living on Lebanese soil, meaning to include those in the life of the country, and removing them from the awful sidelining conditions from which they suffer, and between what has come to be known as the policy of rejecting settlement. Every time the issue of intended restrictions on Palestinians of all other people living in Lebanon was raised, those authorities confirm that the purpose of the restrictions imposed is to protect the rights of Palestinian refugees in returning to Palestine and preserving them from erosion on one hand, and that the humanitarian dimension, meaning the dimension related to Palestinian misery, is the dimension that should not be touched for the sake of the political dimension, on the other. This becomes clear for example, in the statement by the President of the Republic Chief Emil Lahoud at the opening of the Eighth Summit for Francophonie in Monkton in Canada, where he mentioned that “any steps to solve the problem of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon from a humanitarian angle, without taking into consideration the political size of the problem, is a dangerous and illusionary step”ژ29گ. This becomes also clear from the statement by the Chief of Government Dr. Salim al-Hoss, when delivering Lebanon’s statement before the United Nations General Assembly on the night of 23/9/1999, where he mentioned that Lebanon “affirms the complete refusal of settling Palestinian refugees on its lands… and brings to attention the danger of dealing with this issue from an economic and social view alone, and overlooking its political dimension which is the core of the unjustness resulting from expelling the Palestinians out of their homes”ژ30گ.
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Second – In the production of Palestinian Misery in Lebanon:
8 – If the Palestinian misery in Lebanon was limited to the group of administrative restrictions related to the freedom of movement and those imposed on housing and work and the group of other bans related to them, it would have been possible for every Palestinian, as lawyer Dr. Adnan Al-Danawiژ31گ says, to refer to the administrative jurisdiction to nullify every decree or order issued by the Lebanese authority that deprives him of the right to work at any private institution, such as Decision 289/1 issued on 18/12/1982 by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs which closed the door of labor in Lebanon in the face of Palestinians in fields and occupations that increase annually. The same applies to other decisions that touch on the basic human rights guaranteed internationally and in Lebanon.
Yet the Palestinian misery in Lebanon is, in its base, a political misery that surpasses rights. It is a political situation that is exceptional when it comes to rights, or more precisely, deserves its own special rights, this means practically the absence of rights. The Palestinian misery in Lebanon is first the misery of politics in Lebanon, so that we do not say Lebanon’s misery in its politics. For politics here appear as if void of any content other than the content it decides itself, or as if it were ruled only by its desires that needs to be accomplished, and that its standards are imposed on all others. That is how humanitarian standards and international agreements, treaties and protocols that were signed by Lebanon, and which are by definition political, meaning legal and procedural, are put between brackets when it comes to Palestinian refugees, and are pushed backwards on the ladder of priorities. Dr. Farid al-Khazen, Professor of Political Science at the American University in Beirut notices the following in that respect: “The issue of Palestinian refugees transcends the social and legal side to reach national politics, that is why it transcends the measured humanitarian dimension”ژ32گ.
That is how politics in Lebanon appears, a religion that is self-sufficient, satisfied with its own standards, and closing other horizons. And if the moral and humanitarian standards were of a structure that is difficult to comprehend in politics, in the narrow authoritative meaning of politics, then the political religion of the Lebanese state becomes the only religion in history that controls its actions and directs the compass of its movement. This way marginalizing the moral and humanitarian standards, and going out on even the constitutional and legal standards of the Lebanese state itself, appears as if it alone falls within the framework of political action, as if it is even politics. A quick tour of the reasons that accompanied and still accompany the stifling procedures against Palestinians in Lebanon is enough to realize that. When the issue of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is called up, and the idea of the necessity of organizing the Palestinian existence and their legal status in that country is presented, murmuring rises and talk is immediately directed to “the problem settling presents to the balance of the sectarian structure in Lebanon”. This way it becomes a confirmation of “the intention of the Lebanese government to prevent the inclusion of Palestinians in Lebanon in a way that negatively affects the form of its constitutional, political, social and demographic life and its balance”ژ33گ, and to saying B- “The misconception that providing humanitarian and social rights would contribute in supporting the right of Palestinians to return to their country”ژ34گ.
9 – There is a close relation then between the Palestinian misery in Lebanon and what the Lebanese political language call the policy of “rejecting settling”, which means, according to this same language, resisting settling Palestinians in Lebanon and refusing to grant them the Lebanese nationality. As for this will to resist, it originates from the idea that says that “settling is the most dangerous project presented today on the Lebanese arena”ژ35گ and “a pure evil for Lebanon”ژ36گ considering “that any granted citizenship and settling would destroy the Lebanese characteristics defended by the Lebanese (… and) disintegrates the historical and current characteristics of Lebanon”ژ37گ.
It is the keenness on the “Lebanese Form” (meaning the demographic balance between the parties of the Lebanese society that stands behind the distribution of the quota of authority of the Lebanese state between the representatives of the human / sectarian components) then and preserving it from collapsing is what stands behind the policy of “rejecting settling”. And it is the fear of that possibility that urges the Lebanese authorities to constantly confirm that lifting the big restrictions surrounding the life of the Palestinians in Lebanon, improving the conditions of their residence, and organizing their existence is a proof, as we have previously explained, of their settling in Lebanon. This way the topic of settling Palestinians, or actually rejecting it and setting obstacles in its way, has become a political priority in Lebanonژ38گ, on one hand, and an issue “that cannot be ignored and that Lebanon cannot tolerate”ژ39گ on the other. Paragraph (i) of the introduction of the new Lebanese Constitution (issued in 1990) states that there “is no partition, no division and no settling”ژ(*)گ, which means, as the Deputy Director of Al-Kata’eb Party, Attorney Karim Bakradouni says, that settling has become “an entity issue related to the destiny of Lebanon”. Mr. Bakradouni added that “the unanimity of the Lebanese on refusing settling and introducing this concept in the heart of the Lebanese constitution proves the extent of the Lebanese fear of that possibility and the conviction of all Lebanese that settling is a real problem that Lebanon cannot endure”ژ40گ. Lawyer Dr. Mohamed Al-Magzoub adds in his speech before the conference organized by the Center for Legal Studies of the Arab World at the Faculty of Law and Political Science, Saint Joseph University (Beirut in 26-27/11/1999), that “the most important results of paragraph (i) is represented in its binding nature to all authorities, entities and individuals inside and outside of Lebanon”ژ41گ. This way it can be said that refusing settling has become in Lebanon the only point unanimously agreed upon at a time when elements of unanimity are obviously scarce.
It should be said that the keenness of the Lebanese on “preventing settling” does not mean that there are specific projects and programs presented to settle Palestinians in Lebanon, and that the politicians of this country and the decision makers in it have discussed the matter and researched its results and deducted after that its danger on the “Lebanese Form”. The issue of settling “is not a matter of fact as is rumored in some circles”ژ42گ, meaning that it is not an issue presented on the agenda and no one from Lebanon is requesting to do that. Neither those directly related, who are the Palestinians and especially those in Lebanon, call for settling, nor others in power in the world call for it. Foreign Minister Faris Boez, one of the most prominent figures opposing settling and engineer of its policies, admits that the topic of settling is not on the agenda: “I have never at any time heard from any international party of a project to settle Palestinians in Lebanon, but the danger is not that there would be a project, instead it is of not having a solution to their problem (= leaving Lebanon) that is equal to the danger of settling”ژ43گ. The policy of refusing settling is then the policy of fearing its happening, and/or the policy of dissipating that fear. The siege of camps, banning the maintenance of homes and houses, closing work opportunities, imposing restrictions on medical treatment, and limiting movement are then a preventive policy against the possibility of settling or actually against the difficulty of the Palestinians’ return to Palestine in the near future. Pushing the Palestinians to leave Lebanon is the direct objective, immediate, from this policy of “banning settling”. “What is meant by talking about settling in Lebanon”, As Minister of International Cooperation in the Palestinian National Authority Dr. Nabil Shaath says, “is relocation, and unfortunately there is a conspiracy to relocate Palestinians”ژ44گ. Actually the direct result of this policy of preventing settling, or in other words deepening the Palestinian misery and renewing its elements, was exactly, as confirmed by the Palestinian official, reducing the number of Palestinians in Lebanon greatly: (Half the “number” of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, around 150 thousand, were relocated… they were relocated by the Lebanese policy that worked to deprive them of work and life)ژ45گ. This way the production of Palestinian misery was not without effect in the political calculations of the authority in Lebanon, for it resulted, as we previously mentioned, in that a big number that is difficult to count of the Palestinians living in it left Lebanon to European countries (Germany, and the countries of the north, especially Scandinavian countries), the United States and othersژ46گ. News is being circulated regarding the agreement of a number of countries on some ideas, of Lebanese origin, to accept a number of Palestinians in them.
10 – it can be said that, since the Madrid Conference was held in the Autumn of 1991, a thought was popular that a peaceful solution for the Palestinian problem was on the way, that some end to the issue of the Palestinian refugees was being arranged, and that that end was not going to be their return to their country, but would most probably be compensating them and settling them in the countries of refuge. Lebanon’s official address of that thought was to consider it a big possibility and a project to be accomplished. Then there was the Declaration of Principles Agreement between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel in autumn 1993 (Oslo Agreement) to support the Lebanese idea that the Palestinian refugees in it will remain, and will thus be the burden it was requested to bear. This explains why Lebanese Foreign Minister Fariz Boez stressed all through the nineties that not having a project for settling means settling, as well as on the necessity to relocate the Palestinians from Lebanon, all if possible, if not then at least some. Mr. Faris Boez said in a lengthy interview: “I have never at any time heardfrom any international party of a project to settle Palestinians in Lebanon, but the danger is not that there would be a project, instead it is of not having a solution to their problem that is equal to the danger of settling”ژ47گ.
In two statements, separated by five years during which Faris Boez was the foreign Minister of Lebanon, he gives an image that almost summarizes its essence, the story of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon in general, and in the last two decades in particular. Gathered in that image are first, the elements of the logical arguments used by the authorities of the Lebanese state to wield official policies related to the Palestinian refugees, second, the objectives that the authorities look forward to reach through those policies become clear, third, the practical program for radically solving the issue of the Palestinian presence in Lebanon becomes clear, and fourth, in it the picture of political activity appears to be the exception. F- “Settling the refugees in Lebanon represents a demographic, geographic, political, sectarian, economic and social problem that Lebanon cannot tolerate”. According to Mr. Boez, there are two necessary conditions for Lebanon to succeed in implementing its comprehensive program to resolve this matter that “Lebanon cannot tolerate”, meaning the Palestinian presence in Lebanon. The first is that Lebanon “asks its Arab brothers for solidarity to find an Arab solution to this problem”, and the second is that “Lebanon mobilizes its international powers” to implement this strong program. The program is based on the two principles of bringing families together, “meaning that it is the right of the minority living in Lebanon to join the majority of their families in the liberated areas of Palestine”, and “the return of those who are originally from Gaza, Jericho, and the areas of the Bank that will be back next” as a first step, and as Mr. Boez knows that the majority of Palestinians living in Lebanon (or actually what is left of them) have immigrated from the Galilee area in 1948, he therefore follows (the first right) with a second condition which is “crystallizing the right of choice for the Palestinians who want to choose a country of residence (=outside Lebanon) with international assistance”.ژ48گ Yet what Mr. Boez did not mention was explained by former Lebanese President Elias Al-Harrawi with regard to his request “to distribute Palestinians on those big countries (meaning Australia, Canada, Brazil, and Latin America) and some Arab countries as the area of Lebanon is very narrow”ژ49گ.
That is how we understand the continuous repetition of phrases such as Lebanon’s share, and Lebanon’s share of the refugees in the discussions between Lebanese politicians and journalists. Former Lebanese Ambassador to the United States of America Bou-Habib Bou-Abdullah writes that “the countries of the American, European, and Australian continents should open the doors of immigration for those refugees (=Palestinians in Lebanon) so that each of those countries takes its share of Palestinians who are serious, hardworking, and active, and have contributed to the development of several Arab and African countries”ژ50گ.
11 – Matters seem hard to believe here as well. Although the Lebanese officials know that the direct parties in the relation, who are the Palestinian refugees, announce non stop their refusal to settle in Lebanon, clearly affirm their clinging to their right to return to their homes, and that there is no one suggesting to Lebanon, other than Israel, to settle Palestinians in it, yet those officials do not cease to announce that settling is “the beginning of an international and regional effort that dissipates the historic and current characteristics of Lebanon, in a way that after it – if the nationalization and settling took place – Lebanon would become just another country like all other countries”ژ51گ.
There is a conspiracy then against Lebanon to force it to settle Palestinians in it. Al-Anwar newspaper that is published in Beirut, puts the hands of readers in its issue on 30/8/1999 on additional information related to the conspiracy: That “the pro-rejection activists informed international and regional powers on purpose that they refuse any ‘trading deal’ that would make the Lebanese relinquish their rejection of settling and nationalization”. The Head of the Maronite Sect Biar Al-Helou adds to that by saying that “Lebanon is not a nation for sale”ژ52گ.
This shows that there is a suspicious deal whose parties are “the international agencies that offered Lebanon 20 billion dollars as a price to settle Palestinians in it”, and “some Lebanese politicians who are willing to go ahead with the settling project, though they declare otherwise”. There are those who want to protect Lebanon from losing its identity, and refuse settling and nationalization despite the lucrative deal. The current Lebanese President Chief Emil Lahoud, who revealed lately the secret of the deal in a lengthy newspaper interview, is keen “on emphasizing that the project of settling Palestinians will not be passed in his era regardless of the cost”, and that an “in-dept research to find solutions to the problem of refugees through the (get together) formula is being discussed in back stage, as it was discussed in the Camp David Summitژ53گ, and that the Palestinians of Lebanon are the ones to benefit from this”. It is clear that the president is referring here to what has been rumored lately about Israel’s agreement to Palestinian President Yassir Arafat’s request to begin with Lebanon’s Palestinians when taking in some Palestinians in the areas under the Palestinian National Authority. It is worth noting in that respect that the Lebanese press reported what was being said by “Lebanese diplomats who participated in talks with American diplomats” that the latter have expressed their consent on “working to open the door of immigration before a limited number of those (= Palestinian refugees in Lebanon) in the direction of big countries, and to move another group to Arab countries that will not find difficulty in hosting some tens of thousands of them”ژ54گ.
Third: The Course of Marginalizing, The Price of Misery:
12 – Ever since Lebanese President Amin Al-Jumaiel, and the Head of Government Dr. Salim Al-Hoss authenticated in 21/5/1987 on Law No. 25/87 that stipulates canceling the “Cairo Agreement” on one side, and consider it “null and void. Also considering all agreements and appendixes linked to the Cairo Agreement and the procedures related to it null and void”ژ55گ, and the Lebanese authorities had not shown what proves that they are in the process of issuing new laws to organize the civil Palestinian presence in Lebanon. That way the legal status of Palestinians in Lebanon went back to what it used to be before the “Cairo Agreement’ and the Lebanese authorities, theoretically, reverted to their previous policies before that agreement with regards to the treatment of Palestinians living on Lebanon, while practically they compounded difficulties and restrictions in both quality or quantity.
It is known that the terms of the “Cairo Agreement”, signed on 3 November 1969 between the Lebanese Authorities and the Palestine Liberation Organization were not limited to military issues alone, and that it did not regulate the Palestinian armed presence in Lebanon only, but also the civil presence as well. Needless to say that the second part related to the civil presence is not less important than the first part. Both parties agreed, according to the wording of the agreement announced by former President of the Lebanese Republic Charles Helou “on the reorganization of the Palestinian presence in Lebanon on the following bases:
1 – The Palestinian right to work, reside, and move in Lebanon on the base:
2 – Forming local committees from Palestinians to look after the interests of the Palestinians residing in it in cooperation with the Lebanese authorities and within the context of the Lebanese hegemony”ژ56گ.
The “Cairo Agreement” remained very confidential, the matter that permitted not translating the civil part of it into legal legislations regulating the relation between the Lebanese State and the Palestinians in Lebanon on one hand, and freed the Lebanese authorities, through its abolishment in 1987, from any binding commitment, and unleashed its hand to hit without punishment on the other. The Palestinians had nothing left after abolishing the agreement other than those ideas that regard the Palestinian presence in Lebanon, as we previously explained, as one of the major dangers that threatens the Lebanese entity, if not the only one. Thus the Palestinians in Lebanon were subjected, ever since the departure of the Palestine Liberation Organization after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and the siege of Beirut in the summer of 1982, to the series of blatant violence that continued till 1987, and to a veiled violence that targets their exiling from Lebanon since the end of the civil war and what was called the camps war during the years 1986 and 1987.
The only attempt to legalize the Palestinian presence in Lebanon led to no result at all. After pressure and insistent requests in order to organize this presence, the Lebanese government invited the Palestinian side on 3/7/1991 to determine its vision of the type of civil rights that it deems necessary and request them. For that purpose it formed a ministerial committee to conduct talks with Palestinian representatives in Lebanon. The committee was originally comprised of Minister Mohsen Dalloul and General Farahat, then it was reformed and comprised of Ministers Abdullah al-Amin and Shawki al-Fakhoury. The Palestinian delegation presented a unified memorandum in which it defined its vision of the civil and social rights, as well as the problems that should be solved in order for the relation between the two parties to be right. An agreement was reached in the meeting, as the Member of the Palestinian delegation Salah Salah says, on times and scheduling of next meetings. But the Lebanese delegation harried and harried. So that was the first and last meetingژ57گ. The truth is that the Lebanese party rushed to freeze the dialogue, on the eve of the holding of the Madrid Conference (Autumn 1991) “claiming avoiding any action that might affect the results of the peace process”ژ58گ.
13 – It is not the subject of this research to straighten the past of the Lebanese – Palestinian relations or even its present. This is a historic issue that is necessarily complicated, and in which passions and illusions are mixed with mythology, intentions and facts. It has become, since the siege of Beirut by the Israeli forces in the summer of 1982 and the withdrawal of the Palestine Liberation Organization forces from it, a subject for every misunderstanding. Especially since the mid nineties, the Palestinian presence in Lebanon has become a ripe field for every possible sensitivity, and the Palestinian/ Lebanese relation entered into great difficulty. The engineers of the Lebanese policies refusing “settling” say that they want to protect the identity of Lebanon from the danger of dissolving and vanishing, and to protect Lebanon itself from division. Some add to that that if the Palestinians respected Lebanese laws and systems, Lebanon would not have been hard on them. If it were not that they interfered in the internal affairs of Lebanon, then the wish to get rid of them would not have been as strong as it is todayژ59گ. The proof of that, as they say, is that Lebanon had embraced the Palestinians and treated them well in every way since their obligatory immigration in 1948, and continued to treat them that way till they became a dangerous element threatening the entity of Lebanon itself, its balance, even its stability and presence.
Yet when we overcome the depths of the political dimension related to the current stances from “settling”, and delve a little in things, matters reveal themselves in that they are more complicated than this simple and simplified portrait, and open on a wide field of contradictions that touch on the Lebanese society itself with its collectiveness, myths and contradictions on one side, and the great destructive force it embraces and feeds with means of survival and continuity on the other. It is hard to agree on the opinion saying that the policy of sidelining the Palestinians and refusing to grant them the most basic human and social rights known in this world goes back to the memory of the civil war and the role of the Palestinian detachments in itژ60گ. For other than the picture marketed by some, the Lebanese authorities did not deal with the Palestinian refugees before the Cairo Agreement except from the security point of view, with all what the security aspect carries from illusions, aggressiveness, and narrow mindedness, and could only see in them a danger that needs suppression. This treatment was based on a study with security considerations as well, that sees in Palestinian misery a fertile land for revolution and mutiny, and a suitable environment to breed thoughts considered destructive by every security authority, or in other words, a threat to stability.
And as the collective memory of the inhabitants of the different areas of Lebanon did not reflect a common identity, the Agreement of 1943 represented a partnership deal overshadowed by necessity between the nobles of all the local groups. Since the Lebanese are still local groups that gives priority to the solidarity of the family, district, clan, countryside, location and faction above all else, then the wording of the agreement succeeded in managing the differences, and reducing the degree of tension necessitated by the new nationalism for which the agreement was made. Or else how could it be possible to combine between all those scattered loyalties and overcome their divisions except by beginning with weaving a common history that is new by definition?
Also when the Palestinians arrived in Lebanon as refugees by thousands beginning from April 1948, , they arrived in a country whose inhabitants had not settled on a project that combines and reforms them in the new identity desired for them by the agreement, nor had their country recognized its own strategy as a country with respect to neighboring countries. And as Lebanon, on the eve of the Palestinian misfortune in 1948 had not formed its national elite, in the known sense of the expression, and did not have a policy in the developmental meaning, then the Palestinian crisis had the effect of an earthquake on it. It is not without any indication, bearing that in mind, that the first victims of the Palestinian earthquake in Lebanon were the two most prominent characters in establishing the new Lebanon, the Lebanon of the agreement, the late President Sheikh Beshara Al-Khoury, who was toppled by his inability to govern the country after the crisis, and the late Prime Minister Reyad Al-Solh, who was exiled from power by Shiekh Beshara Al-Khoury, his first partner in the agreement. It is repeated that the late Reyad Al-Solh said, “That the crisis in Palestine broke my back, and that the defeat of the Arabs, is before anything else, my defeat in Lebanon”ژ61گ.
The wording of the agreement was not of the type that could stand change, any change whatever it were. For its makers wanted it to be an untouched form no matter what happened, although all the delicate balances resulting from it, and which were expressed at a time, were at the core of their structure more fragile than the possibility of any imbalance. Former President Charles Al-Helou says in that, “the agreement of 1943 was phrased in the interest of a Lebanon that is demographically stable, or one that has a balanced growth in an East that is prosperous, quiet and fraternal, and in the presence of a West that is close and amicable”ژ62گ. Thus it could be said that it was the misfortune of Lebanon that the national agreement established for it did not bear in mind and/or could not take precautions for any change, neither internal nor regional, nor even with regards to the possibility of rephrasing the agreement itself. And that it is the misfortune of the Palestinians who fled to Lebanon that they found themselves in that confused country, and were subjected to the terms of its society that does not tolerate any storms, especially of the weight of the Palestinian crisis.
It is not strange that the Palestinian presence in Lebanon should become an internal matter in the power conflict raging between the Lebanese. Actually, how could it survive the direct political use of it, so long as the power struggle necessitates piling up strengths, and arranging lines in a world whose religion is power, meaning authority? And how could it survive when the Palestinian issue itself has been colored in Lebanon from the beginning in the colors of the Lebanese divisions that the agreement wanted to manage and eliminate its tension? It is not strange if we know that the parties in the Lebanese agreement are the same parties who imposed the Palestinian refuge on the internal matters related to the balances of “the Lebanese Formula” itself? An indicator in that respect is that the geographic distribution of the Palestinian moving to Lebanon has been subjected to political, if not political/sectarian, considerations. The Christian Palestinian refugees were distributed in Christian areas, and the Muslim refugees settled in Muslim areas. For example, the camps of Shatila, Borg Al-Baragenah, and Nahr Al-Bared, located in Muslim areas housed Muslim Palestinians, while the camps of Gesr Al-Basha and Dabia, situated in Christian areas, included Christian Palestinians. We bring forth what was published by Al-Nahar newspaper of Beirut in its issue on 12/5/1949: “Most of the Christian Palestinians who did not return to Palestine were granted the Lebanese nationality in stages (..) While only a few of the Muslim Palestinians were granted the nationality and the transactions they presented to acquire the nationality were stopped”ژ63گ.
14 – The Lebanese agreement is not the purpose of the previously mentioned, it is the relation of Lebanon with the Palestinian refugees in it at that early stage of the process, and the great misunderstanding that surrounded and is still surrounding this relation. The objective of this research is to reveal the Palestinian misery in Lebanon and endeavor to shed light on its elements, and not to write the history of the Palestinian/Lebanese relationship and its subdivisions, so we will limit ourselves to the official stance of the Lebanese authorities with regard to two related issues, the legal Status of Palestinians in Lebanon and its reflections on the Palestinian labor in it.
We should begin with the immediate correction of the picture that was mentioned in past paragraphs with regard to the singleness of the security view of the Lebanese authorities of the Palestinians. Lebanese officials know that improving the health and living standards of the refugees is the best way to guarantee security in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon, yet it seems that they have been unable, for reasons that are not included in the context of our current research, to adopt a policy that aims in that direction. From the beginning, reports kept recommending the necessity of improving the conditions of the Palestinians to avoid chaos and maintain security, but in spite of that, the official policies remained as they were with regards to depending on the security authorities. Two examples are sufficient to explain that. In an official report presented to Prime Minister Reyad Al-Solh in June 1948 regarding the conditions “in some camps” where refugees live, the writer of the report Mr. Atef Nour Allah, asked “government employees and officials to avoid the hunger and neglect the refugees are suffering from, or else chaos, protests and the instability of security will prevail in Lebanon”ژ64گ. More than twenty years after that first report, and in a “Top Secret” report presented by the General Director of Public Security Joseph Salamah to the General Directorate of the Army (Second Office), dated 8/9/1969, Mr. Salamah recommended the necessity to “improve the condition of the camps on the social, educational and health levels”, and the necessity to strengthen relations with the Palestinians inside the camps and include them in improving their living conditions “on a purely humanitarian level”ژ65گ, for security needs in Lebanon.
Yet Lebanon officially resorted or could not but resort to security remedies, of all other possible remedies. Whether the reasons that led to that unfortunate result were due to the wording of the agreement or to the contradictory opinions between officials in that respect, or to the limited financial resources, or even to the inability of the governing minority to comprehend the meanings behind the Palestinian crisis, and/or to all of that, the result was tiring on the history of the relations between two people linked by historical, geographical, cultural, linguistic and future ties.
Undoubtedly, the stances of some Lebanese sects that do not like the Arabicising of Lebanon played a controlling role with regards to the adoption by the official authorities of a balanced policy toward the Palestinian presence in Lebanon. For they were quick to accuse the government of threatening the Lebanese entity and sacrificing it. Yet the base of this political policy is primarily due to the limited Lebanese resources on the administrative and economic fronts, more than to the objections that were raised here and there. The Central Committee for the Rescue of Refugees, that was formed late in 1948 and headed by George Hemery, the Director of the Presidency Chamber, did not have any resources to qualify it to handle the burdens of the serious mission assigned to it. While the General Directorate for Refugee Affairs, that was established in 1959 and assigned the duty of caring for the Palestinian presence in Lebanon, was comprised of a director and ten employees onlyژ66گ to look into the affairs of around 130 thousand, which was the number of the Palestinians in Lebanon and that timeژ67گ. That way the Lebanese state had no practical choices but to increase its dependence on the security agencies for the purpose of recording the Palestinians in Lebanon.
It could be said that the awareness of the Lebanese authorities of the fragility of the “Lebanese Formula” and the poorness of the resources, was what caused it to slip into the security choice with the limited vision, and increasingly depend on it. With the increase in the number of Palestinian refugees that began flooding from the end of Aprilژ68گ towards the south of Lebanon, the clarity of the size of Arab defeat in Palestine, and the increased angry feelings everywhere in the Arab countries, not only in Lebanon, the catastrophic earthquake began to shake Lebanon as well, and the fragility of the “Lebanese Formula” became clearer as wellژ69گ. And while calling for change and revolution filled feelings and throats, it was not possible for the political arena in Lebanon to survive the repercussions of the heated Palestinian catastrophe.
15 – Whatever it was, the Lebanese authorities did not wait long to show its unease with the presence of tens of thousands of Palestinians on Lebanese soil, and the security aspect, or actually the clarity of the fragility of the “Lebanese Formula”, was the strong reason that stood behind the quick change in the relationship with the refugees from hearty welcome to unease.
Since the first groups of refugees began to flood on Lebanon, President Sheikh Beshara Al-Khoury sent on 25 April 1948 (before the Arab armies entered the field) a message to the Lebanese urging them to be calm and avoid security disturbances and chaos in order to “allow your government to act wisely and slowly to defend Palestine and support that sister nations in confronting the Zionist greed… and help your government to receive your brothers, the Palestinian refugees”ژ70گ. Prime Minister Reyad Al-Solh and Foreign Minister Hamid Frangiah expressed strong solidarity with the Palestinian refugees in their statements “no matter what their numbers were and how long they stayed (..), what affects us affects them and we will share between us and them the last morsel of bread”ژ71گ. The Permanent Office for Palestine in Lebanon, the organizations of the Lebanese Red Cross, Rescue, the National Authority, and others began to collect assistance and distribute it and provide first aid and other acts of rescue and support.
Soon the grumbling started to rise above the welcoming solidarity, for Lebanon began, according to the statement of the Foreign Minister before the Council of Representatives on 12/5/1948 “to send to Syria some Palestinians daily by train”. And at the same session, a number of representatives insisted that “it is the duty of the Arab countries to share with Lebanon this heavy responsibility and to extend a helping hand to it and work on housing some refugees” also to “take a part of those refugees”ژ72گ. And Lebanon began officially from that date onward to grumble from that load that fell on it unawares. As a year and a half passed on the Palestinian catastrophe, the Lebanese official, political and psychological stances crystallized with regards to the Palestinians and we can find these stances expressed today.
16 – A follower of today’s fight with regard to the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon cannot but notice the clear fixedness in the logic of the approach than what it used to be fifty years ago, or in other words since sheltering began. For although time changed, international relations changed, Lebanon changed, and the Palestinians themselves changed, yet the content of the relation with the Palestinians, the political and legal content, meaning the procedural content, seems as if it was defiant to change. And as the slogan of refusing “settling” appears as if it were the magic wand around which all today’s contradictory policies and various Lebanese stances with regards to the Palestinian presence in Lebanon gather, the slogan of “refusing settling” played a role fifty years ago similar to the role that it plays today as we will see.
On 19/10/1949, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry issued a statement that said “Lebanon cannot accept refugees on its soil for permanent residence.. (and conditioned) that refugees are not to be authorized to work in Lebanon to harm the Lebanese labor force”ژ73گ. On the same day, an official government spokesman explained that refusal as due to “that the Lebanese entity is set on delicate bases the most important of which is sectarian balance, if the number of refugees, regardless of how small that number was, was added to it, that balance would be lost in a way that could result in unlimited problems (.. and that) Lebanon is a small country that is too small for its own sons, so how can it then host our brothers the refugees when it is too small for its sons? (Also) other Arab countries can have them easily”ژ74گ.
It is true that the aforementioned statement of the Lebanese Foreign Ministry was originally directed to explain the Lebanese and Arab official stance in the public and closed negotiations regarding the Palestinian refugees, and to explain the refusal of Lebanon to accept any of the numerous projects to settle and contain the Palestinians. Yet it also reflects the bases of the official Lebanese view that is still evident till this day: It is the political balance within the Lebanese “Formula”, meaning in the allocations of power that were divided by the 1943 agreement in a known division on the nobles of the Lebanese groups and sects once and forever. The strong desire to maintain the balance of power under the authority of the Lebanese state without any amendment is what lies at the base of all these policies and the rumors that accompany it.
Mentioning the delicate bases on which the Lebanese entity was established does not only refer us to the fragility of the balance on which the Lebanese formula stands, and the awareness of this fragility, but also to the build-in panic some have regarding the possibility of any amendments to the balance of power that led to that formula. This explains, as is our concern here, why quickly the Palestinian presence in Lebanon turned into an element employed within the Lebanese Formula itself, on one hand, and contributes to understanding the phenomenon that we referred to with regards to Lebanon’s official inability to deal with the Palestinians in it except from the security point of view on the other.
There are other elements of course. Of them is that the Palestinian catastrophe was also the beginning of a storming change that was witnessed by the Arab countries, starting with Syria as is known. Naturally, Lebanon could not have escaped the repercussions of the catastrophe. The desire for change and rebellion filled the souls that were shaken by the catastrophe everywhere in Lebanon as well as out of it. Another of those elements is that the dense Palestinian presence in Lebanon formed accordingly a material suitable for employment within the framework of the “Lebanese Formula” by the parties of that formula themselves. The fragility of the formula lures its parties to amend it in order to elevate their personal status in it, as we noticed, with regards to preferring to grant the Lebanese nationality to Christian Palestinians and not any other refugees. As for the “revolutionary” movements preaching the necessity of change, the Palestinian misery had formed the suitable environment for the inclusion of available refugees as striving comrades. That way the Palestinians were categorized according to the considerations of the Lebanese Formula and the logic of its balance. They also became, Christians and Muslims, belonging or should be belonging to this party or that in the parties of the Lebanese formula.
As for official Lebanon, the Lebanon that was reeling from the catastrophe, as was the situation in other Arab countries, its stumbling and confusion had led it to take refuge in the security standards and the security agencies in dealing with the Palestinians. One example is sufficient to prove that. On 9/3/1950, an attempt to assassinate the Head of Government Reyad Al-Solh in Ras Beirut on the hands of a nationalistic Syrian of Lebanese nationality in revenge for the execution of Antoun Saada failed. Yet political and media circles forged a strong tie between the failed assassination attempt and the Palestinian presence in Lebanon, as the National Syrian Party included in its ranks a number of Palestinians that were arrested among other members of party after the operation. Instead of linking between the environment favoring change that resulted from the Arab catastrophe in Palestine, talks spread about the responsibility of the Palestinians themselves in producing that atmosphere. At a session of the Lebanese Parliament held on 13/3/1950 that was dedicated to discussing the assassination attempt, Deputy Ibrahim Azar requested the necessity to strengthen security arrangements against Palestinians: “In the country there are Arabs who came from outside, they had experienced misfortune in their money and their country, their souls became weak and some evil preachers found their way to them (..) Count the refugees, check the identity of each individual, and exclude from Lebanon the unwanted of them, if you do not take a firm action you will subject the country to jeopardy”ژ75گ.
17 – The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon were certainly not a Lebanese faction. Yet they formed according to the standards of the Lebanese society a topic for dual dealing. On one side it was possible for them to become a material added to the Lebanese sectarian factions, to strengthen it and contribute to the success of the newly born Lebanese experiment. On the other hand, and to the contrary of that, they could have formed an element of disturbance and chaos to threatens the “Lebanese Experiment” itself. As the Palestinians in Lebanon were by definition a complex group of people that carries both possibilities as well as other possibilities at the same time, it was not feasible to condense them into a homogenous group in one formula. This urged to favor the security handling above all else. Four days after the assassination of President Reyad al-Solh in Amman on the hands of some nationalist Syrians, King Abdullah was assassinated in Jerusalem on 20 July 1951 on the hands of the Palestinian Mustafa Shoukry Ashou, who belonged to the Holy Jihad Army. On the 23rd of July, Lebanese President Sheikh Beshara Al-Khoury sent a message to King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud in which he mentioned the “daring of Palestinian terrorism to assassinate King Abdullah”ژ76گ.
Former President Charles Helou does not leave any choice before the reader of his memoirs except that of the security approach with regards to the issue of the Palestinian presence in Lebanon. The Palestinian camps that “surround our cities” and “controls our cities”ژ77گ, “have quickly become Palestinian strongholds that could not be touched or moved”ژ78گ. He adds, in a report prepared for the Director of the Second Office in 1957, (before the events of 1958) “I drew the attention to that the camps around Beirut circle the capital, controls the army camps in Sidon, and the Nahr Al-Barid (camp) controls all movement from Tripoli to the north”ژ79گ. It becomes logical with the situation as it is that the deduction reached by Charles Helou here is the only one possible, it was: that “The refugees remained in Lebanon close to our main cities, and their numbers did not stop increasing (..), and with the inflation of their catastrophe, they sometimes became victims and in other times planners of all movements of rebellion and revolution”ژ80گ.
What was previously mentioned may explain why the Palestinian presence in Lebanon remained till 1960 to be considered, from the point of view of the Lebanese state as “an emergency presence” that sometimes falls under the laws for foreigners, and in other times under contradictory administrative decisions issued sometimes by the General Security Directorate, or by the Ministry of Interior, or even by the Second Faction of the Lebanese Army, which guarantees the supervision of all movements and travel of Palestinians, as well as the monitoring of all political activity by them, while gradually ignored their livelihood presence”ژ81گ. Yet it probably explains the “strategy” of isolating Palestinian groups from each other, and “subjugating movement between one camp and another to the condition of prior military permit and to a group of aggressive investigation, as it also targeted preventing communication between the Palestinians in Lebanon and others in other Arab countries, in addition to the Law of Political Isolation, which included preventing the admittance of newspapers, magazines, and political books to the camps within the power of arrest and torture”ژ82گ.
18 – We had talked about the restrictions currently imposed on Palestinian labor as one of the elements of the total Palestinian misery in Lebanon. But we will try here to explain the meanings of those restrictions and their total or occupational role in establishing that misery on one side, and its relation with the ways of the Lebanese society itself on the other. Here as well, matters seem hard to believe. The keen observer of Palestinian labor in Lebanon cannot but notice the strong stability in the logic of the approach compared to what it used to be fifty years ago, meaning at the beginning of asylum. Since 1951, less than three years after the catastrophe and asylum, the issue of Palestinian labor had become a Lebanese political preoccupation and one of the hot topics that occupied a wide space in its press. It became a topic for discussions in the parliament and a source of tension that reveals the severity of the Lebanese division on the Lebanese Formula, and necessarily opens the way for all types of maneuvers that targets using it in the power struggle in Lebanon.
By the end of 1951, the Minister of Social Affairs Emil Lahoud issued a decision in which he set a condition for any foreigner wishing to work in Lebanon to acquire a permit from the Ministry of Social Affairs because the aforementioned ministry applies the law on any “foreigner without discriminating whether he was a Palestinian or not”.
The decision of the minister raised objections from the Supreme Arab Authority for Palestine in Lebanon, which explained in a document that it published in that respect, that the number of Palestinians working in Lebanon does not exceed two thousand people, and that “Lebanon benefited from Palestinian refugees and was not harmed by their presence”. And that the last campaign of restrictions, to which the Palestinians were subjected in Lebanon has been “accepted by some respectable deputies, to the liking of some journalists, and welcomed by those of personal interests and opportunists, and for which the occupier rejoiced”ژ83گ. The Opposition Deputy Emil Al-Boustani mentioned anew the issue of employing Palestinians in Lebanon in the parliament session on 13/12/1951, denouncing considering them foreigners and preventing them from work for that reason. Deputy Joseph Shader turned the case around as follows: “we want the Lebanese citizen to be treated as a refugee, the Palestinian refugee gets his assistance from the International Rescue Committee. We want the Palestinian refugee to be equal to the unemployed Lebanese. I think this is the best we can do to the refugees”. While Deputy Elias Al-Khoury insisted on that “the Lebanese citizen has the right before anyone else in his country”, Deputy Habib Moutran added that he considers all breaking of the labor law as nationalization of Palestinians. The Minister of Social Affairs concluded the discussion stressing that the government does not refuse them (the Palestinians) a job unless their interests contradicted with those of the Lebanese citizen, as the Lebanese is more deserving”ژ84گ.
At the end of that statement, which is still open, a word must be said and withheld at the same time. It is not possible to deduct from what was previously presented in that text the presence of a Lebanese racism against Palestinians in Lebanon. And the blatant desire of some for the departure of all or most of the Palestinians from Lebanon cannot be attributed to racism in the sense known to the civilization of white Europe and/or the racial discrimination system in South Africa or Israel.
From the beginning, the strict policies against the Palestinians, which set the bases for a legacy of social and political forced sidelining, were not of a racial nature against the Palestinians as such. It was originally a policy of panic aiming to preserve the “Lebanese Formula” that resulted from the 1943 agreement, and the total advantages this formula provides for a special group of Lebanese. The Palestinians have paid the price of the fragility of that formula, or actually the price of the preventive defense policy that targeted preserving a formula that does not withstand any test. A simple example is that it is a formula based on the fragile, or in other words marred, balance. Finally, doesn’t the popular Lebanese saying that (Lebanon’s strength is in its weakness) summarize the fragility of the formula and the awareness of that fragility at the same time?
Perhaps the Palestinians in Lebanon were victims of the Lebanese Formula that did not leave any space in 1943 for any new human group and/or sect inside it. Yet Lebanon before the Palestinians was also a prisoner of that fragile formula that could not withstand any possible permanent change whether on the interior level or on the near regional level.
In that respect, Mr. Karim Bakradouni was not mistaken when he said that he is “certain that there is no policy of racial discrimination between the Lebanese and the Palestinians in which the Palestinians were impoverished and the Lebanese enriched on their expense”ژ85گ. Yet the Palestinian misery needs in addition to that an explanation, or understanding and comprehension. Mr. Bakradouni’s and others’ confirmation that the conditions of the Palestinians in Lebanon are not as bad as the conditions of Palestinian refugees in other Arab countries are not enough to pronounce them innocent. For how could we understand restrictions on work? How could we understand the social and political/economic job consequently by definition for putting more than 1010% of the total inhabitants of Lebanon on the sidelines? The Lebanese labor market is practically closed in the face of the Palestinians with the exception of the only labor market that keeps the Palestinians on sidelines, which is black labor. Even the individuals of the minute percentage (5.3%) of Palestinians permitted by the official authorities the conditions of black labor applies to them: They are deprived of social guarantees, family advantages and other “advantages” that are deducted from their salaries and not given to them at the same time.
It is true that there is no official racism aiming at impoverishing the Palestinians and enriching the Lebanese. But this represents only half of the story and the part floating on the surface of it. For how could we forget the strong relation between various sectors of the Lebanese economy and the parallel and black markets where black labor necessarily plays a central role in its vitality? How could we forget the fact that Palestinians in Lebanon represent the human material in black labor?
In that respect, lawyers and intellectuals with good intentions try to prove the illegality and inhumanity of that cruel deprivation in the right of the Palestinian labor force in Lebanon. Yet matters it seems do not go beyond the good intentions. One proof is that this administrative arrangement is applied and has been in force for fifty years despite all the objections and denouncements of it, proof of its illegality, and the appeals to abolish it that have been going on for fifty years as well. We cannot in this case resort to the excuse of the forgetfulness of the legislator, or his ignorance, or confusion.
It is left to say that the Palestinian misery in Lebanon remains hard to comprehend if the job achieved by the Palestinian labor in the Lebanese society itself was not put in the spot light. It can be risked to present the following assumption: many are the proofs that favor the saying that Lebanon, that was newly established when the Palestinians took it as an asylum, could not but put the Palestinians on the sidelines and to adapt itself, its politics, economy, and the formula of its social principles on the Palestinian presence in that margin on one hand, while at the same time employ that margin to its favor on the other. This of course is linked to that ordinary “racism” according to the expression of Mr. Samir Kasir in Al-Nahar that was expressed by former minister Nicola Fattoush describing Palestinians as “human garbage” and with that enormous destructive power that was revealed by the child killers in the Sabra and Shatila massacre, and is clear in the thousands of formulas that do not begin with jokes nor end with pity. Yet this calls for more research where here is not the place.
ABC Palestinian Human Rights
Mohammad Hafiz Yaqoub – Haytham Manna
In the first years of its existence, Israel and the Zionist movement excellently employed the image of the victim in the collective Western consciousness and succeeded to a large extent in the process of converting the feeling of guilt at the Europeans for the massacres that were conducted by the Nazis into a kind of protective immunity for Israel, which was always introduced as the country of the survivors from the Holocaust and Western European historical persecution. Maybe one of the strongest elements of the media forces belonging to the Zionist movement is that it succeeded in converting the racist crime against the Jews into a moral burden on the shoulders of the entire humanity. That was how it was able to make a spontaneous bond between the image of Jewish victim and the Israeli, whether that Israeli was a soldier, a diplomat, a member of the mafia, or an arms dealer. Thus, the attack on the gladiator soldier became equivalent to the attack on the whipped victim. It is not a coincidence that French film maker Claude Lanzmann, the maker of one of the most important documentary movies on the Holocaust (Showa) is the same maker of the most important movies defending the Israeli army (Tsahel Film). How to phrase the Der Yassin massacre without keeping the Oshfitz file constantly open? And how to convert the Zionist evil that produced the Palestinian catastrophe into an element of Israeli unanimity without skillfully turning all of Israel’s Jews into victims?
Israel introduced itself to the world as a special country, meaning that it was different from other countries, and as the moral guardian on the massacres from which the European Jews have suffered. It had mastered the process of employing the tragedy in a successful scenic manner, from the ceremonies of the Jerusalem museum till the kidnapping and trying of one of the most important symbols of Nazism (Aichman). Despite its constant military supremacy, Israel always presented any war it fought as a war for survival (to be or not to be), which gave it more compassion from the international public opinion than it received from the Lobby that was dedicated to defend it. Western consciousness did not open its eyes to the aggressive and colonial nature of the state of Israel till the 1982 war. For the first time, the world saw Israel fighting a war to destroy the other and not to protect its presence as it has always claimed. On that day, cries in Europe were uttered requesting to deal with Israel as any other country. Many of the intellectuals of the Zionist lobby stood warning from naturalizing dealing with Israel, claiming that talking about what the Israeli occupation army is doing in Lebanon normally will return the shadow of anti Semitism, and thus a kind of “necessary reserve” should be present whenever talking about Israel.
Regardless of what has been said about Zionism as an answer to animosity against Jews, and that its central aim is to form a new political nation, and not to harm the Palestinians, yet misery cannot give the miserable a receipt of acquittal to relieve him of the moral and political responsibility, nor can it be in itself a source of superiority owing to which he rises above the others. Misery is neither a virtue in itself, nor is its occurrence in the past or as a result of the past, something that cannot be stopped or cannot be remedied. The death of many victims does not give a receipt of innocence to those who survived, nor does it relieve them from their responsibilities, instead it compounds them. In the many instances in which misery had become the only source of political legitimacy, the miserable never proved that they have risen with their misery to the supreme humanitarian level or that they have been cleansed with it and from it. Many a time has hatred, revenge, and payback from the human element a reason not only for producing a miserable world, but also for abolishing all possible policy in an argumentative framework of violence that is grown in a logic of payback. Isn’t throwing the responsibility for the Palestinian misery on the Palestinians themselves saying that they have left willingly and/or in response to the call of their leaders or in imitation of another form of increased evil? Otherwise why do the Israelis insist today on denouncing the Palestinian rights according to the principles of justice and the basics of every human logic? Is it possible that by begging misery, they can formulate the seizure of the countries, homes, and properties of the Palestinians, thus prevent them from returning there?
Thanks to the children of the Intifadah, a new crack in the image of the peaceful Israeli threatened by his neighbors was opened. As for the Madrid Summit, it came suddenly with a new dimension that the Israeli media strategists were not to pay attention to or calculate: The image calling for peace no longer remained an Israeli card. But, looking back on the years of failure and confusion in the settlement process, peace has been increasingly considered by many observers as a discovery of the Israeli social structure, if not forming a threat to it ; not because the latter will be torn to shreds in internal civil wars with the absence of the Arab outside enemy as some say, but, before anything else, because the state of Israel does not have the components of peace with its surroundings, meaning that it is not ready to give the acceptable limit of Palestinian rights to reach a just and comprehensive solution as the politicians say, more than that, it is unable to respond to a pragmatic Palestinian solution emanating from the balance of power that was lost to Arabs and Palestinians in the face of a military arsenal protected by the first super power in the world today.
The whole problem lies in questions that were postponed till today, so that the bubble burst at the second Camp David: Is it possible for any pragmatic solution to avoid the issue of Arab Jerusalem? Is it possible for such a solution to tolerate the continued Apartheid system the Israelis have been preparing for since the Alon Project and have been speeding up since Oslo? Is it possible to close the file of the Palestinian refugees before it were open? Last but not least, how is it possible to deal with the Israeli settlements that tear the possibility of any geographic cohesion for a country that inspires trust when the name is used?
In front of a situation such as this, and under an Israeli political crisis, the second Intifadah ignited after the political negotiations had reached a dead end. One of the first observations on what took place in the first week of the most violent confrontation between the unarmed Palestinian people, and the various weapons of the Israeli army that can be used since the Intifadah, are two points:
First: That the Israeli political level is born to a single machine and single equipment, and that any scratch affecting this equipment required a continued holy unity between the parties comprising and supporting it. In a situation such as this, there is no left and right in the Zionist movement, all agree on using power as a basic right of the state of Israel regardless of the price paid by the Palestinian individual.
Second: That these events had completed the moral defeat of the image of Israel in the international public opinion. The defender of Israel has nothing more to use but whatever he wants from expressions such as strategic ally or a friend of the West, or the necessity for the Jewish people to stand with the only Jewish state in the world. But the old words are no longer convincing, even to those uttering them.
We imagine that the question asked today is the following: How to employ the moral defeat of the Hebrew state on the scope of the Palestinian human rights? How could the necessary shift from the “right” of the Israeli power to the “power” of the Palestinian right occur?
To defend any right, it is necessary to determine and define its owner. Israel has been keen till today on rejecting the understanding of occupation to the lands occupied, which leaves it as country without fixed borders, and thus allows it to annex the lands under occupation. It is noticed that the Zionist lobby planted the expression of lands, skipping the word occupied in an expression void of any concept of international law. Also the various governments of Israel have excluded the Palestinian citizen from the definition of citizenship in what is less than a state, and deprived him of the rights of individuals in the case of a nation suffering from occupation. Even during the Palestinian transitional situation, Israel refuses to respect its signature on the international convention on the civil and political rights, and avoids the fourth Geneva Convention on protecting civilians under occupation. Despite its annexation of Jerusalem and Golan, Israel does not deal with their inhabitants as full Israeli citizens. It is difficult to count the serious violations of human rights under the Israeli occupation, or even its violations of the rights of the Palestinians bearing the Israeli nationality.
To disintegrate the Israeli statement, we need a statement that combines rationality and the international legal dimension, and avoids as much as possible the mythological statement that directly or indirectly supports the myth of the Israeli foundation through entering into the battle of special readings of history.
The racist state in its Israeli form is founded on its nation of God’s chosen people, and as much as the holy halo bestows on its “pure” children, as much as the existence of others turns into a subhuman state. We are thus facing human groups that are excepted from the world of rights, which is the only explanation for not throwing the British Emergency Law in the wastebasket. As further as the Palestinian “other” is from humanity, the more Israel has the right to deal with him with the violence and viciousness that does not enter into the dictionary of human rights. There are great symbolic scenes to remind us of this racial upbringing: Israeli soldiers breaking the bones of Palestinians during the first Intifadah, a picture of the Palestinian boy avoiding death with his unarmed father in the second Intifadah to become the victim of live bullets. The racist approach seeks to strangle any act through which the group deprived of rights, known as the Palestinian people, tries to get into the world of basic human rights. The Palestinian individual in the eyes of the Israeli gladiator does not have the right even “to resort to rebellion on tyranny and unfairness at the end”, if we were to borrow the format of the famous International Declaration on Human Rights. The other was taken away from his national and citizenship self, knowing that the other is fully aware of that. As the thief whose doings are known to whom he robbed is afraid all the time that the robbed might regain his rights, or at least a part of them. The decisions to surround Jerusalem with roads and tunnels, to surround the West Bank with settlements, to strengthen the siege on the Palestinian existence regardless of its size, and the insistence on keeping settlements in the Gaza Strip, are all but indicators confirming two related matters. The first is that the logical trial is no longer of a size to be mentioned in the equations of the Israeli oppressor. The second is that it urges us at the same time to learn the lessons from the experiences of the strugglers for freedom in South Africa, lessons on how to remove the public opinion from the grip of the Israelis and their supporters. For as much as the Israeli racism seeks to transmit its viruses to the Palestinian lines, as much as the Palestinian people should stress that they do not represent an exception in humanity, despite being the rightful owner of a usurped right, and that the Israeli machine had cut the links to that right in the individual and group meaning.
Settling today is a crime against humanity, the Apartheid system contradicts the principles of justice, equality, legitimacy of human rights, and moral and spiritual principles for which the respect of human beings call. Protecting civilians had become indivisible when defining people to denounce barbarism. Israel cannot be excepted from the international human rights standards. The only thing equal to the Israeli conduct is the crimes of the Milosevic regime, if the Israeli conducts had not surpassed it in several crimes of new quality?
In this field, it is possible to achieve the big psychological shift from the excellent image of the victim to the excellent image of a gladiator for a country that is now perhaps the only in the world that insists on relentlessly judging others, and at the same time insists on being out of any type of judgment.
Dr. Violette Daguerre
Specialized Researcher and Lecturer in Psychology, occupied a number of Lebanese, Arab and International positions in NGOs. Has published writings and researches on issues of emigration, violence, women, secularism and human rights. President of the Arab Commission of Human Rights.
Dr. Mohammad Hafiz Yaakoub:
Palestinian writer and researcher. Obtained the State Doctorat in Sociology, founder member of the Arab Commission of Human Rights, author of “Decay and its Signs in the Culture and the Democratic Blockage” and various other writings about the Palestinian issue, lately: A Statement Against Apartheid: The Palestinian Refugees and Peace.
Mr. Mohammad Abou Harthieh:
Palestinian Attorney, obtained the Bachelor degree in Law and Administration. Masters degree of International Law for Human Rights. Human rights activist on the Palestinian level. Has published various studies and articles. Currently General Director of Jerusalem Centre for Rights and Justice.
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