Thursday, September 17, 2009

the Palestinians in Lebanon

image from Palestine Chronicle. 27 years ago in Shatila, Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon

There are 59 Palestinian refugee camps and Shatila outside of Beirut epitomizes the worst of the camps where the world has abandoned Palestinians. The people are waiting for their right of return to their homes and villages which are inside the land now called Israel. On and off peace initiatives have not produced any change for the people in the camps. Israel continues to enjoy impunity and people around the world continue to fear to speak out against the crimes it has committed, commits, and will continue to commit with our blessing. Or they speak to defend Israel "in fairness" to bring a "two sides" approach. A balanced approach. But, tell me, why should the murderer and the thief be heard above the victim? Is it nationhood that grants acceptance of crimes?

Franklin Lamb, on the other hand, does not join those who in their silence acquiesce. Lamb has written an excellent article, Lebanon's Palestinians 27 Years after the Massacre, that looks at the situation of Palestinians in the refugee camps in Lebanon. In his testimony of the living conditions inside the camps of Lebanon, he also provides a window into the politics and politicians of Lebanon. Too often, the complex politics and shifting allegiances that underlie the fate of peoples and nations are reduced to a simple 2-sided argument. How many well-intentioned but uninformed people have asked me, isn't the problem in Lebanon, Muslims against Christians? In his look at the particular situation of the Palestinians in Lebanon, Lamb provides some context for us for understanding beyond simple binaries. It's a long article but he has brought in many thoughts for us to think about, from the words of the refugees themselves to the scorn many Lebanese feel towards the Palestinians in their land. Also, I found it heartening that in the group of internationals who have come to Lebanon to commemorate those who were killed in Shatila, there were Finnish, Canadians and Americans. I did not read of this in any Canadian newspaper.

"Meandering the alleys and ground vapors of the wet fetid stench in Beirut’s Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp, 27 years after the 1982 Sabra Shatila Massacre, one witnesses a Dystopia. This shanty ground, the most squalid of the World’s 59 Palestinian Refugee Camps, including the eight in Gaza, is reminiscent less of Huxley’s horrifying Brave New World than Kafka’s 1914 novel, Penal Colony.

The Camp is an island society of misery characterized by poverty, oppression, tension, nearly 40 percent unemployment, depression, rising domestic violence rising student dropout rates, deep frustration among many youth today because it is time to enroll in University for Fall semester and there is neither tuition money or places for most Palestinians. The camp families are experiencing rising numbers of respiratory disease cases, nonexistent health care for the majority, pollution and the near total abridgement of civil rights. Many see an advancing explosion on the horizon.

Among the many Lebanese laws that straight jacket Palestinians is a 2002 law that forbids people with no recognized state -- Palestinians -- to own property outside the camps. So with no room for expansion laterally, the Camp residents are forced to build upward with cinder blocks and this also is illegal unless one has enough money to bribe a series of government officials. According to Salah M. Sabbagh, a Palestinian-Lebanese lawyer in Beirut. ''If Jesus Christ comes here he cannot own property, because he was born in Bethlehem. He would be better off in that stable.


Merche Pallarés said...

Terrible the plight of the Palestinians, absolutely terrible and VERY unjust. Hugs, M.

northshorewoman said...

Yes, it is unjust. I hope that the recent Goldstone report for the UN about war crimes actually gets applied--with Israel being answerable to the charges, not escaping its atrocities once again. (And, of course, that Hamas, also be answerable to the charges of targeting civilians, which while definitely wrong is not comparable to Israeli military aggression, as the report makes clear).

Today on BBC one of the commentators, paraphrasing an Israeli official, quoted him as saying that expecting the cessation of building settlements is unacceptable. I was incredulous! Is it unacceptable to insist that someone stop and cease from building on your land, not his? Why is encroaching on the land of the Palestinians OK in the eyes of Israel, Canada and the world? Would we allow another nation to just grab prime areas of land and start building and moving people in?