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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The two truths that we see from the new Pal/Lebanese rights movement

Thousands attended a rally in Beirut on Sunday demanding the government giving Lebanese Palestinians their civil rights.

The arguments that Lebanese politicians are using to justify their endemic discrimination against Palestinian Arabs are hilariously specious. They will all claim to love the Palestinian Arabs, but then they add that big "but:"

For example:

Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun stressed on Tuesday granting Palestinian refugees in Lebanon their rights, but noted that this requires funds that are unavailable.

He added after the FPM's weekly meeting that they cannot be granted right of ownership in Lebanon, and said that houses for Palestinians should be built in refugee camps, similar to those that were constructed at the Nahr al-Bared camp.

The MP stressed: "We cannot scatter the refugees throughout the Lebanese territories because if they lose their communication then they will lose their cause."
In other words, they must remain confined in squalid "refugee camps" and not be allowed to purchase land in the rest of Lebanon because if they are treated the same as other Lebanese, they would lose their Palestinian identities!

If Palestinian Arab nationalism is so weak that it cannot survive a nation treating its members like human beings, how strong was that nationalism to begin with?

Another MP is more explicit:
In an interview with OTV on Saturday MP Nematallah Abi Nasr , a member of the Free patriotic Movement said that he is concerned that the extended presence of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon would lead to their naturalization.

“Keeping the Palestinians in Lebanon kills the country and grants Israel a favor,” Abi Nasr said.

He said that the issue of granting foreigners property rights in Lebanon should be well-studied.

It is not acceptable to grant the Palestinians civil rights while there are still armed Palestinian factions in the country ,” the MP added.
That's funny - there is an armed Hezbollah faction in the country; should that mean that Shiites should lose their property rights?

Prime Minister Hariri used different code-words in his remarks but said the same thing:

Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Tuesday said Lebanon has a duty to fulfill towards Palestinians' civil rights and vowed not abandon the Palestinian right of return.
"Lebanon has to ensure the safety of residents on its territory," Hariri told a conference at the Grand Serail under the title "Achievements: vision and future" at the invitation of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee.

Hariri, however, stressed that "building the Lebanese state is a priority."

"This small country has paid price in blood for the Palestine cause, and Lebanon is still committed to the cause," Hariri said.

Equally, Hariri, said, Palestinians living in Lebanon should realize the importance of stability in Lebanon for their cause.
 “But in Lebanon’s duties toward the Palestinians, there is no window of naturalization,” Hariri also said, adding, “We confirm our commitment to rejecting naturalization and to deal with the issue of weapons in and outside the Palestinian refugee camps.”

What he is saying is that there is no way that Lebanon will allow the Palestinian Arabs to gain equal rights, because that might destabilize Lebanon. Therefore, by denying them those rights, Hariri is saying that this preserves their fake "right of return." You see, it is for their own good!

Lebanon has reason to be worried about Palestinian Arabs, of course - Fatah was in no small part responsible for the Lebanese civil war. Even so, the vast majority of Palestinian Arabs  would jump at the opportunity to become normal, productive members of Lebanese society. They were born there, their parents were born there, and they have never set foot in "Palestine." And for most of them there is very little likelihood that this will change.


There are two subtexts in this drama that everyone in the Middle East knows very well, but they keep hidden from the Western world.


The first is that no Arab country likes the Palestinian Arab people enough to want to actually give them equal rights. The Arab League says that every Arab country must allow any Arab to become a citizen - unless they are Palestinian. Individual Arab countries have their own reasons not to allow PalArabs to become citizens. In Lebanon, the reason is obvious - it would upset the delicate (and, by now, fictional) demographic balance between Christians, Shiites and Sunnis. Other countries would be worried about an influx of relatively educated (thanks to UNRWA) and relatively liberal new citizens which could challenge existing dictatorships. The bottom line, though, is that Arab nations have no desire to integrate hundreds of thousands of their bretheren."


The second subtext is that Palestinian Arab nationalism is weak. The public excuse used to oppose naturalization is that this would dilute or destroy the Palestinian Arab "cause," which is a ridiculous argument on the face of it - unless you are worried that most Palestinian Arabs would happily integrate into their new societies and never agitate to "return" to a land that most of them never lived in. If their sense of a national self was so strong, then citizenship in other countries would not be considered a threat to that sense of solidarity. In reality, there is no such sense - it is a fiction that is peddled to the West. To the extent that it exists at all, it is a recent phenomenon and it is only alove due to the misery that PalArabs have been living under in their host countries.


The massive effort to hide these truths from the world is the reason that Palestinian Arabs are stateless today. The solution to their problems must acknowledge this reality, as well as the real aspirations of the stateless and how their needs have been actively opposed by the Arab leaders for decades.


This entire new Palestinian Lebanese civil rights movement, which was ironically sparked by the flotilla, has the potential to truly expose the first truth to the world. That is a start.