Lebanon and Palestine: A neighboring controversy

Ever since President Donald Trump’s decision on Wednesday December 6th 2017, which recognized Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel, the world has been agitated and brought to face major contradictions, many of which revolve around the question “Should one’s nation endorse this decision or reject it?”. A decision which has broken the formerly adopted American policy and most of the international treaties concluded since the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and the founding of Israel in 1948; a decision that clenched the official Palestinian position, and shredded it to pieces.

Lebanon, being one of Palestine’s bordering countries, has endured consequences as well: notably when the flow of Palestinian refugees started settling amongst the Lebanese population, consuming the given and allocated space that held both territorial markings at balance. The spark between both sides ignited when Lebanese problems started surfacing right after the refugees question arose. Are they the ones to blame?

The Lebanese discriminating behavior towards Palestinians is deeply rooted, reaching back to 1948. Despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10th 1948 ratified by Lebanon, and also the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol which Lebanon did not yet accede to declaring the right of the refugees to live and work until they could return home; most Lebanese citizens and authorities have not lived by those standards. In Lebanon, the Palestinian people (labeled as “refugees”), have never been given the right to work in fields like medicine or transportation, regardless of their qualifications. Because of restrictions on ownership, their property is mostly bought under Lebanese names, leaving them vulnerable to embezzlement and expropriation. The same concept applies to education. Living by with a small wage at hand, little space for them to settle in (which is often compared to a “ghetto”) , with limited essential social help, we notice that an average Palestinian finds it grueling to subdue the harsh reality of being away from his/her country.

Various refugee camps are scattered around Lebanese regions, displaying precarious and underdeveloped cases of life. These camps, unsurprisingly, are the first to get inspected once a new problem spreads like a virus, taking the crisis of ammunition and car bombs for example, as well as various other acts of terrorism from the past six to seven years until now, which have drastically amplified the consensus of the negative view on Palestinian refugees.

Historically, the strife has seemed to be going on forever. Most often, as a common misinterpretation, Palestine is associated as country, culture and belief to Israel. Certainly, the region “occupied” by Israel is the same region that is known to Arabs as Palestine. The Israeli measures against neighboring territories are far from what Palestinians believe to be right and true. Serving as a bright example, the war Israel led on Lebanon in 2006 is far from the economic and social embroilment Palestine has dismayed in the region. Aside the war, Israel violates many UN resolutions, and the violation of those resolutions increases sectarianism and has a direct negative effect on Lebanon, regardless of any Palestinian action most notably the contestation and dispute between pro-palestinian rights activists such as ISM (International Solidarity Movement) volunteers, and anti-palestinian rights activists like the US decision supporters.

Furthermore, little warmth is discharged on Palestinians in Lebanon, except from Sunni and Druze respondents.

But if relations between Palestine and Lebanon are so agitated, why does a vast majority of the Lebanese people stand in unison with the Palestinian case? Why did the Lebanese protest against Trump’s decision? And why do others want Palestinians to fight their own battle and to leave Lebanon alone?

It’s commonly known that Christians and Muslims in this country respect Palestine for being the “Holy Land”, mentioned in both the Bible and the Quran. Most Christians however, have always been hostile to the Palestinians, due mainly to the Palestinian exploitation of the internal tensions of the Lebanese society for their own ends. After the events of 1967, PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organization, triggered sympathy amongst Sunni Muslims who also displayed signs of hostility afterwards.

Lebanese people consider multiple unison factors when standing hand in hand with Palestinians. The first factor may be the Arab origin lineage, which regroups the territorial outlines and the common language. The second factor is tied to the history that clashed in the Middle East, which was shared between Lebanon and Palestine. Last but not least, Lebanese people consider Palestinians as “brothers and sisters”, in terms of facing a common enemy: Israel. But as a matter of a displayable fact, despite the tension between the two, both Lebanon and Palestine will always provide each other with all the help needed to face the rising threats.

Recently, right after President Trump’s decision to proclaim Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, many protests took place in various Lebanese areas. The most notable protest was the one held in front of the US embassy in Beirut, on December 10th 2017. Many Lebanese chanted against the decision, some of whom even resorted to acts of violence to disperse their opinions about the harsh reality which led the Lebanese security forces to fire tear gas and water cannons on the crowd that had gathered near the stated Embassy. Adding to that, a considerate number of students from multiple Lebanese universities have held protesting campaigns as well to support the Palestinian case, for example the conference held in the social sciences campus in Saint Joseph University of Beirut on Thursday December 14th 2017 which was titled “The Palestinian struggles on the crossroads of discipline”.

Most importantly, European countries are standing against President Trump’s official announcement. The only country that adopted the decision was one of US’ most trusted allies: Saudi Arabia. Of course, as it is widely precept, no announcement can come into force except with the accession of the wide majority, not to forget the ability of certain countries to set a veto in refusal.

Turkish president Erdogan and French President Macron will work together in a joint attempt to persuade the United States to reconsider its decision in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Britain, Sweden, Italy, Russia and other countries refused to acknowledge it as well.

Lebanon and Palestine, united in blood, divided by ideologies.

Will peace ever find its way to Palestine? Will Palestinian refugees go back to their homes and deflate the Lebanese territory which has longly suffered from overpopulation and limited resources? Should the Lebanese system itself be changed? Will President Trump back down on his decision?

Questions yet left unanswered, tend to save time for the Lebanese and Palestinian people to think again on further and stronger unison to reach common goals and find peace in the region. Peace which benefits both Palestine and Lebanon specifically, and the other Arab countries generally, from which aid is demanded for the substantiation of the main goal.

“United we stand, divided we fall.”

 

                                                                        Eva Jabali

                                                                        Étudiante en première année de droit

 

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