(My Middle East)

77 days with a journalist, Lebanon, and a list of non sequiturs

Archive for June 19th, 2009

Palestinians in Lebanon | IDRC report

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My story ran in the The Daily Star today.Well, really its not a story, just a long brief about an IDRC report on what can be done to improve the fragile relationship between the Palestinians in Lebanon and the Lebanese.

First some background: many Lebanese, particularly Christians. blame the 1975-1990 Civil War on the Palestinians, also several Palestinian camps were destroyed by Christians during the Civil War (including the Sabra and Shatila massacre) so the relationship between the two communities is not a healthy one.

The Lebanese military is not allowed into the camps, meaning they are administered by Palestinian groups, usually armed ones. Previously these militias were present outside the camps as well as inside. Now besides for a few exceptions, like the PFLP- General Command, the armed militias mostly stay inside the camps.Still, inside the camps, these militias have caused problems most recently in the killing of a Fatah member in Ain al-Hilwah refugee camp on Tuesday, and attempted smuggling of explosives into the same camp. (was the car booby trapped or just bomb laden? We may never know. Lets go reporting!)

Palestinians are not given basic rights like land ownership or ability to hold specific jobs. Most don’t have access to public services like schools or medical treatment. Part of the reason this situation exists is because of the issue of right of return and identity. Many people feel that by giving Palestinians citizenship, or giving them full rights, is in so many ways recognizing the legitimacy of Israel. That if these people were given a new home, Israel would no longer have to acknowledge millions of people without a state. So the questions becomes how many rights and services do you provide Palestinian’s before they become too much like citizens of your own? Its a dangerous game to play with the quality of life of so many people.

My “story” hopefully explains some of the other history

Sometimes my favorite thing about these reports is the footnotes and source material. Heres some of the background material that the author Rex Brynen recommends in the report’s footnotes:

  • For an overview of conditions and attitudes in the camps, see Samaa Abu Sharar, Study on the Conditions of Palestinian Refugees in Camps Across Lebanon (Beirut: Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee,June 2008), online at http://www.lpdc.gov.lb/php/Uploads/2008-06/Report19_1.pdf.
  • Given the complexity of this history, only a very brief overview can be provided here. For a fuller examination, see Rex Brynen, Sanctuary and Survival: the PLO in Lebanon (Boulder: Westview Books, 1990); Rosemary Sayigh, Too Many Enemies: The Palestinian Experience in Lebanon (London: Zed Books, 1993); International Crisis Group, Nurturing Instability: Lebanon’s Palestinian Refugee Camps, Middle East Report #84, 19 February 2009, online at http://www.crisisgroup.org.
  • UNRWA, UNRWA in Figures, 31 December 2008, online at http://www.un.org/unrwa

Heres the link to the full report.