Taking It Out on Palestinians...Israeli Style
By: Ibrahim al-Amin
Published Friday, June 22, 2012
Nobody following the repercussions of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon can ignore the attempts being made to exploit the country’s Palestinian refugee camps.
The camps are deeply affected by what is happening in Syria, as is the rest of Lebanon. Moreover, the political and security situation within them is such that no central authority can claim to be in control. A plethora of Islamist groups have been increasingly active in them. They have also been receiving growing numbers of “Arab fighters” who have been arriving at the camps in Lebanon, as elsewhere in the country, in connection with developments in Syria.
While the Palestinians are expected to prevent the camps from erupting, and the Lebanese are supposed to work with them to prevent tensions flaring in their vicinities, none of the above justifies the new refrain we are hearing these days.
Political groups and security agencies, Lebanese and non-Lebanese, are rooting for the Palestinians to be subjected, once again, to bloody punishment.
Over the course of the past three decades, the Palestinian refugees have been turned into Lebanon’s whipping boys. That was the case after the army launched its campaign against them in the Saida region after the exile of General Michel Aoun – those in charge at the time thought that would appease the dejected Christians. It was also the case in the insane campaign against Nahr al-Bared a few years ago, an abominable military assault launched under the banner of going after terrorists and criminals.
The outcome, in both cases, was to subject the residents of the camps and their environs to further killing, persecution and displacement and to unending humiliation, in the name of security and the law.
The Palestinian Authority has never stood by its people. It has always treated the refugees in the camps as second-class subjects, if not commodities to be bought and sold as part of the political game. It regularly tries to keep them quiet by dispensing cash to a few big shots, which is quickly spent on turf wars in the already ravaged alleyways.
The “civilized” world, for its part, is only interested in dismantling the Palestinians’ social structures in the diaspora, as in historic Palestine.
As for the majority of Arab governments, they have only ever treated Palestinian refugees as an affliction. They thus denied them their human and civil rights in the name of justice, the right to return, and the cause.
In Jordan, they are put down because fears of an ‘alternative homeland’ haunt the inhabitants.
In Syria – which had stood out for its humane treatment of the refugees – the camps today are under severe pressure, related to the obligatory attitudes test regarding the crisis in the country.
In Egypt, the revolution has changed little in terms of the restrictions imposed on Palestinians moving in and out of the Gaza Strip.
And in Lebanon, their predicament grows more tragic by the day, in the complete absence of the minimum human requirements for living a normal life.
But the Palestinians in Lebanon suffer from an additional problem. The only language in which the Lebanese authorities know how to communicate with the camps is that of security: roadblocks, sieges, security checks, and an army of informers deployed in and around every camp.
A vast amount of information is provided by petty informers, who may be repaid for their services with a telephone card, a can of petrol, a handgun licence, or a blind eye turned to a “bag of something” smuggled in a car into the camp. That is the totality of the relationship.
All of a sudden, a political and official consensus has emerged in Lebanon to vent out frustrations on Palestinians.
The authorities can’t arrest gunmen who block roads in broad daylight in any part of the country, so they resort to arresting a Palestinian suspected of carrying an explosive belt.
When the relevant agencies fail to apprehend a criminal or fugitive, they decide to announce that he has fled to a Palestinian refugee camp.
Relations become tense between the Lebanese political parties, so they decide to bring the camps into the picture. The March 14 Christians refuse to shake the hand of a Palestinian, yet urge the Future Movement to persuade the Palestinians to become its army and use them to confront Hezbollah.
Syria senses a risk of foreign powers using Palestinian groups against it, so it activates its own allies in the camps, sending residents fleeing in anticipation of a fresh wave of killing.
And to top it all, after the destruction of an entire camp – i.e. Nahr al-Bared – its sea-side location is coveted by the possessors of ill-gotten gains, who plan tourism and investment projects on the site. That will appease Israel and the West, who want the Palestinians denied access to the sea, while depriving the state of yet more of its seafront property. The camp residents will meanwhile be kept under siege on all fronts: political, media, security, military and economic.
There are still many Lebanese who will sell themselves and their country to any passerby, and yet live the lie of the “alien” in their midst. The disgusting racism this enables them to spew makes it possible to say that those baying for Palestinian blood in Lebanon are Israeli in every respect.
Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.