The Daily Star (Editorial)
October 18, 2007 - 5:43pm

A new report by Amnesty International has rightly placed blame for the especially onerous plight of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon on several doorsteps. Apart from the consistent inadequacy of the Lebanese approach, it also points out the failure of the international community in general - and of Israel in particular - to find acceptable solutions. It should be noted, too, that for decades Lebanese policies on this issue (like those in countless other areas) were constricted and/or dictated by the Syrian overlords who held sway over Beirut. It is also true, as the Amnesty report acknowledges, that the current government has made some headway toward lessening the deprivations of Palestinians. None of these facts alters the need, though, for the Lebanese authorities to appreciate the suffering in their midst, the potential threat it poses to their own people, and the need to do something about it.

Like their brethren residing in other countries, Palestinians in Lebanon face a host of long-term existential threats, including a steady erosion of their cultural identity. Their homeland is occupied, their properties have been illegally expropriated, and the matter is of such long standing that those born around the time of the original crime in1948 are now beginning to die of old age - and the vast majority of their children and grandchildren have never seen Palestine except in photographs, or through a fence. In Lebanon, though, these challenges are exacerbated by dozens of restrictions that serve to make their existence even more uncomfortable. The result is a population that produces more than its share of desperate, radical and/or violent individuals who have concluded - quite understandably - that they, their families and their society have nothing left to lose.

For Lebanon, therefore, improving the lot of the refugees is not a just a moral imperative: It is also a matter of self-preservation. It does not make sense to follow policies that make each and every refugee camp in the country a potential hothouse for instability. Instead, Beirut should be combining a foreign policy that stresses the refugees' right of return with a domestic one that strives to accomodate their stay here as humanely as possible. In this way, the Lebanese government can fulfill both its duty to support a fellow Arab people and a responsibility to protect the interests of its own.

The next president of this country will come to office with a long and difficult agenda. The tasks at hand will include dealing pragmatically with United Security Council resolutions like 1559 and 1701, all while working to defuse intra-Lebanese tensions that those and other issues have caused or intensified. None of this will truly secure Lebanon's future, however, unless priority is given to improving the situation of its Palestinian guests.



American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017