Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon Deserve Civil
By Mahmoud El-Yousseph
Al-Jazeerah & ccun.org, March 1, 2010
Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon face a very uncertain
future. They deserve better. When Palestinians were kicked out of their
homeland at gun point in 1948, some found a safe haven in Lebanon, where
they were received with an open arms. Lebanese provided them shelters, food
and other life essentials years before the United Nations Relief and Works
Agency (UNRWA) took over. For that I am grateful, because I was born in one
those 12 refugee camps 59 years ago.
Over six decades later, these
refugees who constitute 17% of the total Palestinian population, continue to
live in camps awaiting the right of return to their original homeland in
Palestine. Until then, they have nowhere to go. Since most of the 450,000
refugees currently living in Lebanon (ten percent of Lebanon's population)
were born and raised there, why not grant them the basic civil rights
enjoyed by their Lebanese counterparts and the rest of the world? With that
I mean give them the right to work, own property and the right to medical
benefits and social services.
Nawal Assadi is a young Palestinian
writer who lives in Lebanon and writes extensively about the suffering of
the refugees. In one of her articles she mentioned the story of Salah, who
is a father of six children and unable to work for a medical reason. He
relies on fishing to provide for his family, but that only nets him enough
income for one meal per day to feed eight people. And if he is caught
fishing, he has to pay a $1000 dollars fine.
Miss Assadi also met a
family who lives only on deep fried potatoes [French Fries], never tasted
fruits, and fresh vegetables are not part of their diet. Another
heartwrenching story is about an elderly Palestinian living in a camp near
Beirut who has to rely on the good will of others to survive and has no clue
where her next meal is coming from.
Another heartbreaking story of
mistreatment happened several years ago when a Lebanese-born Palestinian
refugee was was refused entry at Beirut airport because of some trumped-up
problem with his documents by Lebanese authorities; he could see his mother
through the glass partition but had to turn back to Bahrain without being
able to visit.
Late last year, my niece Nadia's husband Mohammad,
who works at a dairy processing factory, was picked up at a checkpoint as a
result of mistaken identity. His family was forced to pay 2000 dollars in
legal fees to prove his innocence. He was kept in jail for nearly 5 months.
He is a father of five and the only bread winner. Mohammad told his wife who
visited him weekly not to bring his children along, as he did not want them
to see him behind bars. As a condition of his release, his wife has to come
up with $1000 bond, which she had to borrow. Talk about coercion and
Generally speaking, Palestinian refugees living in
Lebanon are not much better off than their couterparts living under Israeli
occupation in the West Bank or under siege in Gaza. Their life is a sad
chapter full of sorrow. They are denied basic civil and human rights and
their movement is restricted. In fact, they are caged inside the twelve
camps like animals with armed guards at the gate.
Franklin Lamb, along with several non-governmental organizations are trying
to generate awareness and pressure Lebanon to grant Palestinian refugees
their basic civil rights. Mr. Lamb, a leading expert on the Palestinian
issue, recently published a letter arguing for the need such rights. After
all, the U.S. government has given the Palestinian Liberation Organization
(PLO) a written guarantee in 1982 that Palestinian civilian refugees in
Lebanon would be protected if they withdrew their fighters from Beirut
following the Israeli siege of the Lebanese capital.
No one puts more
smiles on the faces of Palestinian children in Lebanon and in other refugee
camps throughout the Middle East than Susan Abulhawa. Abulhawa, who is a
resident of Philadelphia, is the founder of Playground for Palestine. For
the last serveral years, she has been busy building playgrounds in every
Palestinian refugee camp. Abulhawa is the author of the book,The Scar of
As of late January, a three-member team of volunteers sent
from the USA by the Palestine Children's Relief Fund (www.pcrf.net<http://www.pcrf.
net/>) visited Lebanon to provide hundreds of Palestinian refugees
highly specialized wheelchairs at no cost that were otherwise not available
to them locally. The chairs were shipped by the PCRF in cooperation with
ANERA and Hope Haven International Ministries, both of which the PCRF has
partnered with in the past to help handicapped children in the Middle East.
The team included Greg Skolaski, Tom Glumac and his son Michael, all three
of whom have worked with the PCRF in the past in the West Bank, Gaza Strip
and Syria. Throughout the country the PCRF cooperated with several
Palestinian and international NGOs to ensure that each person got the proper
chair to fit their needs.
Finally, the aforementioned stories of
abuse and mistreatment of Palestinians are used by Zionists to counter
critics of Israeli policies. For instance, how can the government of Lebanon
or Egypt demand Israel comply with U.N. Resolution 194 granting the right of
return, but at the same time deny Palestinian refugees living in their
countries very basic human and civil rights. Case in point is the traitorous
regime in Egypt who is currently aiding Israel in starving Palestinians to
death in Gaza.These governments serve one master, and we know who that is.
That said, it would be unfair not to recognize and honor the Lebanese
family who employs my niece Nadia's husband. As of this writing, I have
learned from my older brother, Nimer, that the "Koju family" has rehired
Mohammad upon his release. Not only that, they provided his wife and
children all of his lost income during his wrongful imprisonment. That act
of compassion and generosity is what gives me hope that one day, the
Palestinians I left behind in Lebanon in 1971 will soon have the same rights
and freedom that my family and I enjoy in the USA.
Retired USAF Veteran
you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with
a mosquito." Italian Peot - Dante [1265-1321]