Apartheid in Lebanon

In this Thursday, May 4, 2017 photo, a boy walks by graffiti of the Palestinian flags with Arabic reads: "The flag is four colors that shine on the face of the sun" in the Bourj al-Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon. On Monday, Palestinians mark 69 years since hundreds of thousands of them were forced from their homes during the 1948 war that led to the creation of Israel. Palestinians in Lebanon suffer discrimination in nearly every aspect of daily life, feeding a desperation that is tearing their community apart. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

It looks as though the world is preoccupied more with the Palestinians than with any other unfortunate ethnic group in the world, or indeed than with all of them combined. But that is only an illusion. The world isn’t really interested in them. The Palestinians only interest the world when an accusatory finger can be pointed at Israel. The most oppressed group of Palestinians in the world – close to half a million people, according to UNRWA – is the one living in Lebanon.

A report on how the Palestinians are treated in Lebanon is here.

For the sake of accuracy, some Palestinian Christians managed over the decades to obtain Lebanese citizenship. It isn’t clear whether they identify as Palestinians at all. Doing so can only hurt them. That leaves the Sunni Muslims, who account for the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian refugees. What has been their fate? Fifty-six percent are unemployed, according to a study that was published at the end of 2019, irrespective of the current crisis in Lebanon. They live on six dollars a day. Fifty percent do not have even minimal training to allow them to get a job. All of that has happened because of historic decisions that were taken by the Arab countries to deny the Palestinians citizenship.

The openly stated goal was the need to perpetuate their refugee status so that they might continue to serve as a weapon in the fight against Israel, and so that they might never abandon for even a single moment their fight for the “right to return,” to facilitate Israel’s destruction.

By not granting them citizenship, by condemning them to live in squalid camps, by limiting their employment possibilities to the most menial of jobs, by not providing vocational training, Lebanon has managed to keep the Palestinians miserable, and focused not on making decent lives for themselves in Lebanon, but on the need to fight for their “right to return” and thereby destroy the Jewish state. The more wretched the Palestinians, the more useful they are as part of the propaganda war against Israel.

Lebanon went even further when it complemented that decision [to deny the Palestinians citizenship] with other draconian laws that prevent the Palestinians from earning a living in a long list of professions, restricting them to living in refugee camps, and deny them access to the public school system. Put in clearer terms: that is apartheid for all intents and purposes.

Palestinians in Lebanon are prohibited from working in 20 professions, including law, medicine, and engineering. They are limited to construction work, administrative tasks, and selling their own home-made crafts.They are prohibited from buying houses outside the camps, and cannot build new ones inside them. They do not live with the Lebanese. And the menial work they are allowed to do keeps them in a vocational ghetto with other Palestinians who are limited to the same kind of work. Nor can the Palestinians go to school with the Lebanese. They are banned from attending Lebanese schools, and receive what schooling they do receive at UNRWA schools inside the camps.

The Arabs who made their way from Palestine into Lebanon were not foreigners. They share the same language, the same culture, and the same religion. Nevertheless, they were subjected to apartheid that was anchored in law. Despite that apartheid, we never hear nor see any protests. Every once in a while, a paper gets published by a human rights organization, but that is where things end.

The Palestinians do not go to school with, do not live with, and rarely work side-by-side with, the Lebanese. They cannot become citizens, and consequently are prevented from taking part in the political life of the country.

The UN Human Rights Council has never condemned Lebanon – not even once. Human Rights Watch disseminated the libelous claim that Israel is an apartheid state, even though the conditions of the Palestinian Arabs on both sides of the Green Line are far better than those suffered by the Palestinians in Lebanon. And the refugees? They will continue to stockpile weapons in storehouses beneath mosques in Lebanon just like in Gaza. All of that is done in the context of the fight against Israel. And who pays the price? The refugees themselves. Both in Gaza and in Lebanon.”