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Monday, August 16, 2010

AP notices Palestinian Arabs in Lebanon have few rights

It is always notable when reporters who cover a country ignore a huge story for years.

Arabs in Lebanon, who happen to have ancestors who lived in British Mandate Palestine in 1947, have lived under often-horrific conditions. For decades they have been discriminated against.

None of this was a secret.

Yet the media simply ignored them, even when fighting would flare up in "refugee" camps.

Now that the Lebanese parliament has debated the issue, the mainstream media is starting to tiptoe around the topic - an area that they should have been covering since the 1970s.

Here's AP discovering the obvious:

Mohammed al-Amin spends his days doing little more than playing billiards and smoking cigarettes in this sprawling Palestinian refugee camp, where gunmen roam narrow alleyways dotted with tin-roofed, cement-block homes.

The 25-year-old studied dental lab technology but works at a small, grubby coffee shop in the camp, making $100 a month. He dreams of working with a respected doctor in Lebanese society and being welcomed like any other foreigner, without being looked down on.

"Sometimes I feel like a pressurized bottle that's about to explode," said al-Amin, who was born in Ein el-Hilweh years after his family fled what is now Israel. "Why should three quarters of the Palestinian people here be selling coffee on the street?"

The approximately 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, many of them born here, are barred by law from any but the most menial professions and are denied many basic rights.

Now parliament is debating a new law that would allow Palestinians to work in any profession and own property, as well as give them social security benefits. The bill, due for a vote on Aug. 17, is the most serious effort yet by Lebanon to transform its policies toward the refugees.
Even so, practically no one is stepping up and saying that these increased human rights should include the right of nationality in the country of one's birth. That, apparently, is way over the line.