When our meeting started I realized that “425”written on the blackboard did not, as I had wrongly assumed, refer to UN Security Council Resolution “425” which ordered the withdrawal of Israeli troops from occupied Lebanese territory in 1978, a UN demand Israel has still not fulfilled 33 years later as it remains in Shebaa Farms and Ghajar. Rather it referred to the 425 days since Lebanon’s Parliament on August 17, 2010 claimed it had “partially” granted the right to work to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
Of course it did not do any such thing and the feel
good thinly cosmetic gesture of abolishing the work permit fee (the fee
was never a significant problem) for any Palestinian refugees who
somehow might be able to navigate the Kafkaesque labyrinth was
stillborn. A representative of the Camp informed us that since last
summer’s Parliamentary feel good gesture, of a very minor amendment to
the Lebanese labor law had not even been implemented. As many of us
predicted at the time, Parliament had not created one Palestinian work
permit and every Palestinian still remains barred from any job except
casual farm labor, per day construction and a few other very marginal
jobs such as tending livestock. So the factory idea has run into a
problem since under Lebanese law it is still forbidden for refugees from
Palestine to work in more than five dozen jobs including the new hoped
for assembly plant.
But to hear the refugee’s new friends report on the current prospects for Palestinians internationally, conditions are coming up roses for the camp inhabitants in Lebanon as well. Bit the facts are quite the opposite for refugee prospects here in Lebanon.
It’s true that the recent events at the UN regarding the Palestinian request for UN Membership has raised the hopes of many in Lebanon’s camps. This observer was happy to see the much larger than expected turnouts in support of Palestinian statehood at UN HQ in downtown Beirut and also at Mar Elias refugee camp, the smallest of the 12 camps in Lebanon and one of three teeming camps in Beirut along with Shatilla and Burj al Barajneh.
One visiting Palestinian who was not hoodwinked during his visit last week was Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Zahar who following a visit to Nahr al Bared camp declared that Palestinians in Lebanon live is worse conditions than in occupied Palestine or even Gaza following the 2008 Israeli war on the enclave of 1.5 million. Zahar promised Lebanon’s refugees: “We will make all efforts with the Arab League and with Arab states to help lift this injustice inflicted on you in the camps here in Lebanon. It’s injustice that cannot be tolerated by any man and is not acceptable to God Almighty.”
Arch Palestinian foes are talking as if there is no problem with approximately 250,000 Palestinian refugees without the right to work or own a home. Michel Aoun, who more than any political leader has been and remains responsible for blocking Palestinian basic human rights in Parliament told the September 27 weekly meeting of his Free Patriotic Movement that “ it is the UN that commits an international crime by not recognizing Palestinians remaining rights…“Today, the UN is confused and remaining silent vis-a-vis the ongoing crime against the Palestinian people, for which it is mainly responsible since Israel was established via a UN declaration. The Palestinians are not demanding their full share, rather what is left for them after the Jews occupied their land in 1948. They are demanding the 1967 border. If the UN is incapable of proclaiming the state of Palestine within the 1967 border, why is there a United Nations?... Today, the UN will commit yet another crime against the Palestinians by not recognizing the remainder of their land and rights. So I would like to ask the so-called Arab moderate states whether or not they understood that the path they adopted with Israel was the wrong one.”
Aoun’s rivals in keeping Parliament from enacting civil rights is the right wing Kataeb politburo and Phalange party some of whose members bragged during last year’s elections about how many Palestinian the party had killed over the years. Sami Gemayal stated on 9/28/11 that his party is “positively” following up Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ steps at the UN regarding the former’s formal submittal of a membership bid to the UN. He claimed remarkably that “The Kataeb, has always stood by the Palestinian people and supported their legitimate rights to establish an independent state in Palestine and it cannot but stand by achieving the rightful and urgent demands. It supports any governmental plan that fulfills these demands.” The Kataeb statement also called on the Arab and international communities to find a “quick solution” to the issue of Palestinian refugees particularly those present in Lebanon.
While neither Aoun nor the Kataeb party as “new friends of Palestinians” is at all serious in demanding that the International community enforce Palestinian refugees rights in Lebanon and would reportedly take up arms to try to prevent it, this is exactly what the UN is obliged to do.