Plight of Lebanon’s Palestinians

lengthy post on the Qifa Nabki blog tackles the sensitive question of Lebanon’s 400,000-plus Palestinian refugees – more than half of them living in camps:

The living conditions of these refugees – most of whom were born in Lebanon – is dismal. They have few civil rights; they are banned from working in over seventy trades; they are dependent almost entirely on the welfare of UNRWA for basic social services like education, water, food, etc. Of all the Palestinian communities in the diaspora, the Lebanese one is surely the worst off.

The article goes on to challenge some of the familiar arguments for maintaining the status quo:

  • “Lebanon’s political system, which is based upon a delicate sectarian balance, cannot handle the influx of several hundred thousand new citizens, the majority of whom are Sunni Muslims.”

  • “Lebanon is barely big enough for its own people. We don’t have room for anyone else. “

  • “We did not create the refugee problem – Israel did … Naturalising the Palestinians deprives them of their right to restitution.”

  • “Why can’t they go to Saudi Arabia or Jordan? In a larger country, four hundred thousand new citizens would be nothing. It’s the size of a small city in Syria!”

It is high time this issue was debated, and the article already has more than 40 readers’ comments. One of them says: “If the Saudis can buy half of Lebanon, why can’t the Palestinians?”

UPDATE: More discussion of this issue on the Human Provinceblog.