One PRRN blog reader sent in some thoughts regarding Palestinians in Lebanon, in the context of Leila Hilal’s recent critique in The Atlantic of the Ayalon video on the Palestinian refugee issue. I post them below anonymously and in their entirety:
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Leila Hilal has written an excellent response to Danny Ayalon on the issue of Palestinian refugees. I do wish, however, she had not used this mantra:
Refugees in Syria have historically enjoyed social and economic rights on par with nationals, while in Lebanon, where confessional balances dictate the political system, the majority Sunni Palestinian refugee population are denied the rights to work and own property out of demographic fears.
UNRWA has had to continuously grovel and praise the regime in Syria for fear that their projects would be stopped or their international staff expelled or denied visas. The Syrian regime is probably responsible for killing more Palestinians than Israel—for example, the War of the Camps (1985-89) in Beirut and the North which can only be described as an Assad-Arafat war; they also played a leading role in Tel el Zaatar and in cleansing the camps anywhere north of Saida from Fateh/PLO presence. They also used al-Saiqa, the PFLP-GC and the Yarmouk Brigade of the PLA to do their dirty work in the Bekaa and in the North.
Also her statement about Lebanon is not correct especially when she attributes it to the refugees being Sunni and that the problem is the confessional balance. The Taif agreement in Lebanon was a settlement to end the war and the Palestinian issue was mentioned in it as one of the (major) factors to defuse by saying that there will be no tawteen. This sectarian view of things is mainly in the eye of the beholder. It is like when people say that Lebanon gave nationality to the Christians and the rich, meaning that the Lebanese are sectarian and materialistic—yet there were many Palestinians in the camps that also got the nationality, in the 1950s it was being distributed left right and centre. One refugee from Burj el-Shamali told me that his father and his father’s eight brothers and sisters and all their children got it and they paid 10 LL for it at the time in stamp duty.
One could also note that the Jordanian government also censures researchers and tries to suppress any negative image that can be given about the refugees in Jordan. It is not that the Lebanese government does not care. Rather, they don’t read and anyone can publish anything they like on the topic.
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My own take? I tilt towards Leila’s view on this one, but invite others to weigh in via the comments section below. (Note that comments sometimes take a while to appear, since they are moderated.)