The plight of Palestinians living in Arab countries in general, and Lebanon in particular, is one that is often ignored by the mainstream media in the West.
[All photos are from Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon]
The true tragedy of the ‘Palestinians’ is not that they left their homes in Israel 62 years ago, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. The true tragedy is that 62 years later they are largely still in refugee camps because the Arab countries are holding them hostage in the hope of sending them back to what is now Israel. Compare that to Israel, which absorbed more than 900,000 Jewish refugees who were expelled from Arab countries in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Each Arab country has its own way of making sure that the Palestinians who live in that country never feel at home
National Post In Lebanon, that is done by excluding them from work in nearly every profession. When was the last time the United Nations Security Council met to condemn an Arab government for its mistreatment of Palestinians? How come groups and individuals on university campuses in the United States and Canada that call themselves “pro-Palestinian” remain silent when Jordan revokes the citizenship of thousands of Palestinians? How come they turn a blind eye to the fact that Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and many more Arab countries continue to impose severe travel restrictions on Palestinians?
And where do these groups and individuals stand regarding the current debate in Lebanon about whether to grant Palestinians long-denied basic rights, including employment, social security and medical care? Or have they not heard about this debate at all? Probably not, since the case has failed to draw the attention of most Middle East correspondents and commentators.
The demolition of an Arab-owned illegal building in Jerusalem is, for most of these correspondents, much more important than the fact that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Lebanon continue to suffer from a series of humiliating restrictions. Not only are Palestinians living in Lebanon denied the right to own property, but they also do not qualify for health care, and are banned by law from working in a large number of jobs.
Can someone imagine what would be the reaction in the international community if Israel tomorrow passed a law that prohibited its Arab citizens from working as taxi drivers, journalists, physicians, cooks, waiters, engineers and lawyers? Or if the Israeli Ministry of Education issued a directive prohibiting Arab children from enrolling in universities and schools? But who said that the Lebanese authorities have not done anything to “improve” the situation?
In fact, the Palestinians living in that country should be grateful to the Lebanese government. Until 2005, the law prohibited Palestinians from working in 72 professions. Now the list of jobs has been reduced to 50. Still, Palestinians are not allowed to work as physicians, journalists, pharmacists or lawyers in Lebanon.
Ironically, it is much easier for a Palestinian to acquire American and Canadian citizenship than a passport of an Arab country. In the past, Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were even entitled to Israeli citizenship if they married an Israeli citizen, or were reunited with their families inside the country.
Lebanese politicians are now debating new legislation that would grant “civil rights” to Palestinians for the first time in 62 years. The new bill includes the right to own property, social security payments and medical care. Many Lebanese are said to be opposed to the legislation out of fear that it would pave the way for the integration of Palestinians into their society and would constitute a burden to the economy.
The heated debate has prompted parliament to postpone a vote on the bill until next month. Nadim Khoury, director of Human Rights Watch in Beirut, said, “Lebanon has marginalized Palestinian refugees for too long and the parliament should seize this opportunity to turn the page and end discrimination against Palestinians.”
Rami Khouri, a prominent Lebanese journalist, wrote in his country’s Daily Star that “all Arab countries mistreat millions of Arab, Asian and African foreign guest workers, who often are treated little better than chattel or indentured
Foreign journalists often justify their failure to report on the suffering of Palestinians in the Arab world by citing “security concerns” and difficulty in obtaining an entry visa into an Arab country. But these are weak and unacceptable excuses given the fact that most of them could still write about these issues from their safe offices and homes in New York, London and Paris. Isn’t that what most of them are anyway doing when they are write about the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip?
An Arab Made Misery
CURRENT The media tend to attribute Gaza’s decline solely to Israeli military and economic actions against Hamas. But such a myopic analysis ignores the problem’s root cause: 60 years of Arab policy aimed at cementing the Palestinian people’s status as stateless refugees in order to use their suffering as a weapon against Israel.
Arab countries implemented special laws designed to make it impossible to integrate the Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Arab war against Israel. Even descendants of Palestinian refugees who are born in another Arab country and live there their entire lives can never gain that country’s passport. Even if they marry a citizen of an Arab country, they cannot become citizens of their spouse’s country. They must remain “Palestinian” even though they may have never set foot in the West Bank or Gaza.
This policy of forcing a Palestinian identity on these people for eternity and condemning them to a miserable life in a refugee camp was designed to perpetuate and exacerbate the Palestinian refugee crisis. So was the Arab policy of overpopulating Gaza.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, whose main political support comes from Arab countries, encourages high birth rates by rewarding families with many children. Yasser Arafat said the Palestinian woman’s womb was his best weapon. Arab countries always push for classifying as many Palestinians as possible as “refugees.” As a result, about one-third of the Palestinians in Gaza still live in refugee camps.
For 60 years, Palestinians have been used and abused by Arab regimes and Palestinian terrorists in their fight against Israel. Now it is Hamas, an Islamist terror organization supported by Iran, which is using and abusing Palestinians for this purpose. While Hamas leaders hid in the well-stocked bunkers and tunnels they prepared before they provoked Israel into attacking them, Palestinian civilians were exposed and caught in the deadly crossfire between Hamas and Israeli soldiers.
As a result of 60 years of this Arab policy, Gaza has become a prison camp for 1.5 million Palestinians. Both Israel and Egypt are fearful of terrorist infiltration from Gaza — all the more so since Hamas took over — and have always maintained tight controls over their borders with Gaza. The Palestinians continue to endure hardships because Gaza continues to serve as the launching pad for terror attacks against Israeli citizens. Those attacks come in the form of Hamas missiles that indiscriminately target Israeli kindergartens, homes and businesses.