Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Palestinian Refugees Deserve Better, Much Better

It is that time of the year when the Arab world rediscovers the Palestinian people and their just cause. Alas the discovery does not last for more than a few hours during which politicians make their speeches and compete with each other in an effort to establish their political concern and awareness. We have been going through this ritual for over 60 years and there isn’t anything that anyone can show for these efforts. One cannot help but feel sorry for the Palestinian people since with such friends who needs any enemies.

The Lebanese, in general, have been possibly the worst opportunists and exploiters on these occasions. I have no doubt that there are some very sincere Lebanese who truly believe that the Palestinian people have been unjustly treated and must be supported in their struggle for an honorable settlement. But I am so very disgusted when I hear the disingenuous sentiments expressed in support of the Palestinian struggle by those who have consistently exploited them and abused them. The crocodile tears shed on this occasion are a convenient cover to argue against the Palestinians through a shrewdly constructed rationale that argues that the Palestinians should be abused and discriminated against; they should be deprived of many of their human rights and educational opportunities in order to preserve their right of return. We discriminate against them because of our love, concern and support for them. This strange logic is similar although it predates the Vietnam policy of “We had to destroy the village in order to save it”.

Does our duplicity know any bounds? Would we want to be treated like we treat the Palestinians? After all isn’t that the best guide for action: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Let us play a mind game if you will: Let us imagine that a group of people invaded Lebanon and that half the population decided to flee the war for a variety of reasons. They sought refuge in a number of neighbouring countries till the hostilities end. To their surprise when the war was over they were not permitted to go back. Would we then want these refugees to spend the next 63 years living in the hastily erected temporary refugee camps that were set upon their arrival or would we expect their host countries to treat them like they treat any other immigrant? Wouldn’t we expect and even insist that the hosts make every effort to alleviate their suffering and to integrate them into their respective societies and economies? Shouldn’t they be allowed to own property like all other inhabitants and enjoy the same privileges and protections of the law of the land? And wouldn’t we insist that if they choose then they should become citizens of their adopted countries of residence so that they will be able to exercise their right to vote and thus participate fully in shaping the society in which they are an integral member?

I am confident that our answers to each and every one of the above hypothetical question is in the affirmative. Not only that but we would expect all people anywhere in the world to be treated that way whether they are Iraqi refugees, Vietnamese refugees, Somali refugees or Armenian refugees, just to name a few groups. We will never sanction that we be treated differently than the population where we sought refuge and most importantly we will not accept the argument that we need to be discriminated against for our own good, as if love of country and adherence to moral values and principals are best promoted through mistreatments and opprobrium.

And finally let us repeat one more time what many studies have made abundantly clear: The right of return will not be diminished or watered down in any way form or fashion if the mistreatment and abuse of the Palestinians comes to an end either through acquiring the citizenship rights of where they live or the right to be permanent legal residents with all the rights enjoyed by all other residents.

Lebanon and the Lebanese must right what has been wrong for 63 years. The shameful treatment of the Palestinian refugees is a blot on our national character and history, a blot that we have the moral duty and the obligation to ameliorate by admitting our past errors and by offering the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon full equality under the law in each and every sphere. We also need to offer citizenship to those that want it. Nothing else will do.


Prophet said...

Right on ….
Palestinians have been victimized, first by Israelis, second by brotherly Arab states, and thirdly and most importantly, by their own leadership.
Israelis have , for the last sixty year plus, victimized, uprooted, jailed, and destroyed every opportunity ,Palestinians may have had ,to improve their living conditions .
Arab regimes, and their dictators never failed to use and misuse the Palestinian issue in order to control their own people with all kinds of emergency laws and to tighten their grip on their rules. The least they could have done for Palestinian refugees in their own countries, is to improve their living conditions, and provide them with basic civil rights. Lebanon, especially, as you rightly pointed out, was the worst of Arab states when it came to Palestinian refugees and their living conditions. Lebanese leaderships and politicians, from all sides, are hypocrites . They claim to defend and support Palestinians, yet when it comes to refugees civil rights ,and the horrible living conditions they have to endure, are worst then whores. At least whores know who they are, and what they have to do to make a living.
We should not be surprised since you and I know how much these leaderships care about their own people. So no surprises they don’t care about Palestinian refugees.
As for the Palestinian leadership and their failure to improve the living conditions of their own people, again, they never had any will or intention to do so.. Palestinian leaderships, from Arafat to the lowest ranking official, became a reflection of any other Arab regime and its ways of dealing with their own domestic issues. These leaders have used and exploited the suffering of their own people to enrich their organizations and hold on to what ever power they believed they had. I remember an old poor man in my own town always saying; Arafat is willing to accept a state, even is it is on the back of donkey, as long as he has the power and the money .This was proven to be true by the way Arafat established his own state, and the way he ran , and ruined it.
Excuse my venting here If I strayed away from your topic, You can blame my frustrations with Arab and Lebanese politics.

ghassan karam said...

Feel free to vent whenever you feel like it:-) That is what blogs are for, Free uninhibited exchange of ideas.
The history of the zigs and the zags between the Palestinians and the Israelis makes for fascinating reading. The Palestinians and the Israelis have switched positions a few times already. I do hope that they stop passing each other, during these switches, like bouts in a deep fog. Maybe then when they find that both are at the same positon they can stop and resolve this issue that has affected lives of millions for way too long.
But my point is that even if there is no resolution then we have no right to keep depriving the Palestinian refugees of their human rights and of being integrated.
The Lebanese argument that they need to be kept in these dastardly camps in order to keep their attachment to Palestine alive is an insult to all the Palestinian scientista, lawyers, engineers, professors, novelists etc all over the world.

Prophet said...

The Lebanese argument is an insult to humanity. It is like hugging some and squeezing him to death.
As for the Israeli /Palestinian conflict; It can only be solved when Israelis agree and decide to live normally like any other country . It is not enough to ask to be accepted as a military bunker/state who claims to want to live in peace when its record has been anything but peaceful. I truly doubt that Israel is seeking the kind of peace you have in mind here. Their peace is about dominating others and asking them to be peaceful. Literally speaking, subduing their enemy and then forcing their version of peace.
That being said, Palestinians have to realize that they may not be able to achieve all of their dreams, and that they have to be realistic in what to expect. Palestinians have their own worst enemy aside from Israel.
I always wonder what would have happened, had Palestinian leadership decided to tell all Arab regimes that they can not be part of any Arab alliance ,and that they can’t be part of inter-Arab disputes and politics.

joseph said...

Ghassan - why the selective memory?

The Palestinians have not been the best behaved guests over the years.

I am all for every last Palestinian returning to Palestine or Israel or whatever you want to call it.

But the fact remains, the Palestinians caused the Lebanese enough heartache and destruction.

Why have we all of a sudden forgotten the road to Jerusalem runs through Jounieh?

ghassan karam said...

It is not an issue of selective memory . The Palestinians or at least some of them, have been their best enemies. But that does not change my argument.
The fact that some have fought with the Lebanese, and the fact that Nahr El Bared was the center of a potential insurruction does not mean that you throw away the child with the dirt water. And then one must wonder whether life in the camps is responsible for radicalization. Had the Palestinian refugees been absorbed then the camps would not exist. Had they been allowed to buy property then they would feel that they have a vested interest in the community. Had they been treated as equals then they would not feel discriminated against...
The mistreatment is not a solution but is creating more trouble for the future.

joseph said...

Whether these camps created or led to their radicalization does not excuse their behaviour towards the Lebanese state and its people over the years.

And granting them citizenship (regardless of its merits) will in my opinion, create more problems for Lebanon.

I have never looked into it, but would you know the rights of Palestinian refugees in Syria? How is life in camps there governed?

ghassan karam said...

That is a good point. The Palestinians in Syria are not nationalized citizens but they have the full rights of a Syrian citizen and full access to all social programs. That is one reason that I stated we should offer citizenship to those that want it and full legal residency to the others.


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