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Palestinian refugees in Lebanon do not only have Israel to blame for their plight

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A news report from before the Lebanese Parliament reformed laws regarding Palestinian work permits.

The Lebanese Parliament on Tuesday approved a law permitting Palestinians residing in Lebanon the same work opportunities as foreigners; the proposal amending the Lebanese Labor Law will grant Palestinian refugees in Lebanon the right to free-of-charge work permits and severance pay.  A plethora of Lebanese have called this a victory, a long awaited triumph in a long process to establish basic rights for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

There are, of course, two primary sides to this heralded victory: Those who support the new law and those who oppose it; ironically, the underlying narratives for both sides can be quiet similar.

After more than 60 years of exile, Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon continue to be unequivocally deprived of  civil, economic, and social rights – they are a stigmatized and marked community. This new law will not change the social and cultural deprivation the Palestinians face and the economic “improvement” is nothing more than a façade designed to look much like a hand-out. The mentality of the Lebanese must change in order for the situation to improve for the Palestinians.

Though it isn’t just the Lebanese and of course it is not all the Lebanese.

Palestinian journalist Ramzy Baroud cites that ”…Hezbollah has, until now, guarded various refugee camps against many threats.

Palestinians here gratefully acknowledge that without Hezbollah serving as a bulwark against the many looming dangers, the plight of the refugees would have been much worse.”

The Palestinians, As A Burden

The Arab world has long considered ministering to the Palestinians as a burden of sorts; the laymen will boast about what their country has done in terms of “helping” the Palestinians and a plethora of governing bodies will do no less than tout the same dry rhetoric. Reality is blatantly inconsistent with any such anecdote.

The marginalization of Palestinians in the Arab world is irrefutable, unashamed and circadian.

The Arabs have all but washed their hands clean of the Palestinians, many of whom cannot even be classified as 2nd class citizens.

In Lebanon, notably, there are those who are feel kinship and affinity towards the Palestinian refugees, those who are determined to keep them in the refugee camps and then those who consider them no less than an encumbrance on Lebanese society and would like them to leave – and that is putting it nicely. The Lebanese populace have generally fought about the Palestinians, instead of for them.

lebanon refugee campsLebanon’s Palestinian refugee’s began the trenchant migration from their occupied homeland in the 40′s; In 1948 hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from or forced to flee Palestine in the wake of the creation of the state of Israel. There are now more than 425,000 registered Palestinian refugees, many of whom reside in 12 overpopulated and unkempt camps in Lebanon:

Burj El Barajneh, Beddawi, Bur El Shemali, Dbayeh, Ein El Hilweh, El Buss, Mar Elias, Mieh Mieh, Rashidieh, Wavel, Shatila, Nahr El Bared.

I cringe at the thought of calling the refugee camps “slums” but I must use candid rhetoric; The Palestinians are being subjugated – by the Israeli’s, the Americans and the Arabs.

Now, in respect to the recent provision by the Lebanese parliament , it has taken 60 years for the Lebanese to allow the Palestinians the sparse right to work; I don’t know whether to be ashamed or slightly optimistic. It is a move in the right direction but surely we can all contend that it is a fairly apathetic crawl – in the right direction. No one should be bragging, especially not the Lebanese Government.

I Am My Brother’s Keeper: The Blame Falls On The Arabs

The Palestinians have been stripped of their homeland, their identities, their family’s and their very way of life – the only precious item they have managed to hold on to is their dignity.  The Palestinian struggle is marked with pain, torment and unwavering determination; the Lebanese have a common history, especially those in the South who were once occupied by Israel and who liberated themselves in the year 2000 with the help of Resistance groups like Hezb’Allah.

Let me be frank and inject some emotion and brutal reality into the argument, because for far too long has emotion been removed from this dispute ‘over the Palestinians’. The Arabs have forgotten the Palestinians, as a people.

The Palestinians are not slogans to be chanted on the anniversary of the Nakba, during rallies or marches.

The Palestinians are not faceless statistics to be pitied.

The Palestinians are not the keffiyeh; worn as scarves in the streets of Beirut or hung in shops, or strapped around the waist.

The Arabs see their support of the Palestinians as if they are doing someone a favor. The general populace asserts that they are doing the Palestinians a favor by allowing them to reside, regardless of how uncomfortable and degraded their lives are, in their country – be it Jordan, Syria or Lebanon.

This mentality is for the cowardly and the weak.

The Palestinians are not looking for hand-outs and they do not need or require our pity.

For over 60 years it has been this way. For over 60 years, the Palestinians have lived as outsiders and victims of unwavering brutality.

The Lebanese Parliament did no one a favor on Tuesday.

So, when will the Arabs wake up?  How much longer will they pretend that the blame solely falls upon Israel and America?

The Israeli entity and imperialist regime of the United States are both doing their jobs, why are we refusing to do ours?

I cannot speak on behalf of the Lebanese or the Palestinians but I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I am my brothers keeper and until the Palestinians are free – I shall forever be his keeper.

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American humanitarian activist. She is a an undergraduate student majoring in Political Science/Pre-Law and Journalism. She was a member of the Gaza Freedom March last December in Cairo.

Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American writer based in Sydney. She writes the Sharp Edges column at Shadowproof and politics at Paste Magazine. She tweets at @roqchams.

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