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The Myth of Palestinian Resettlement in Lebanon
By: Moatasem Hamadeh
July 23, 2019

Resettlement is when the state grants its nationality to a refugee to settle on its territory. And thus is a process of consensus between two parties: the state that gives its nationality, and the one who demands citizenship.

In Lebanon, the Lebanese and Palestinian sides agree on rejecting settlement. The Lebanese state has stipulated this in its constitution, to fortify its decision on rejecting the resettlement of Palestinian refugees on its territory, even if it is subjected to international or regional pressure.

Palestinian refugees refuse to settle, in Lebanon and in any other country. They insist on their right to return to their homes and property in Palestine. They took up arms and engaged in resistance and national action. They fortified their decision with a national program, that one of its tenets was to uphold the right of return to their homes and properties and to reject all alternative solutions.

With the Madrid negotiations, the issue of Palestinian refugees was considered an important case, and it occupied a central position in multilateral negotiations, and even a quadripartite committee was formed for this (Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and Israel), to discuss the issue of the displaced (who were displaced with the 1967 war) and the refugees (who have been displaced since 1948). It has become clear by experience that the issue is very complex, that the Quartet did not reach any results.

On the same day, Lebanese Foreign Minister Fares Bweiz launched his project to "solve" the Palestinians refugee problem in Lebanon. He suggested to "distribute" them to the Gulf States, Canada, the United States and the Palestinian West Bank, stressing that Lebanon paid its share of the issue when it granted its citizenship to a few thousand Palestinian refugees in a political context, known for its sectarian backgrounds in the mid-1950s.

Since then, Lebanon has been emphasizing its refusal to settle the refugees on its soil, but it does not link this situation to the right of return as a solution to the issue, but the minister's plan was turned into the official strategy to "resolve" the issue at the Lebanese level.

The Lebanese state knows very well that Palestinian resettlement projects as an alternative to the right of return, as drawn by the United States and Israel, are directed to Jordan first. Even the right-wing of Israeli government does not hide its intentions to turn Jordan into an alternative homeland for the Palestinians.

This is something which the Palestinians strongly reject, in order to preserve the sovereignty of Jordan on its soil and to preserve their land and their right to establish their independent and sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital on the June 4, 1967 borders.

US and Israeli projects are also moving towards Egypt, in the framework of the so-called expansion of the Gaza Strip to Sinai, to end the overcrowding in the Gaza Strip and to put the responsibility of the Strip back on the Egyptian shoulder.

Cairo, from previous times, to the era of President Sisi, confirms its refusal to the abandonment of one inch of Sinai or the annexation of it to the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians do not want to expand the Gaza Strip, but they look towards Palestine, where their lost rights and they do not exchange a fixed right, by a false offer that would destroy all their legitimate national rights.

With the reveal of some of the features of the “Trump-Netanyahu deal” and the elements of the economic aspect of the “deal” at the Manama workshop, the discussion was clear on the issue of refugees: Redefining the refugee, so that it would be limited to those who are born in Palestine, what leaves 6 million refugee to an unknown destiny. Dissolving the UNRWA and transferring its funding to Bahrain workshop projects, transforming the camps into "modern cities" in order to provide the final stability for the refugees in their places of residency.

As some Lebanese press has revealed, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri rejected an offer by Jared Kouchner, the godfather of the Manama workshop, to accept the resettlement of the Palestinians, in return for granting Lebanon financial assistance of up to $ 6 billion for some development projects in Lebanon.

The unity of the Palestinian national position, in the street, between the national action factions and the official leadership, met strongly when the Trump-Netanyahu deal and the outcome of the Bahrain workshop were rejected. This was expressed by a practical steps, when the Palestinians boycotted the workshop, even Kouchner admitted that the Palestinians frustrated the workshop (and did not delay it), by their absence and boycotting to it.

At the heart of the Palestinians' opposition to the deal and the workshop, is their rejection to all alternative solutions to the right of return to their homes and property.

The events have put the Lebanese state, Jordan and Egypt, in front of two options: Either resisting the American-Israeli project, and refusing the resettlement, and at the same time aligning besides the Palestinians and supporting them, to uphold their right of return, or pressuring on the Palestinian presence in Lebanon, to make them leave, under various security or economic pretexts, on the illusion that this is the solution that saves Lebanon from the danger of resettlement.

Egypt also announced its refusal to respond to the American-Israeli project, and refused to resolve the Gaza issue, even at the expense of an inch of the Sinai.

Therefore, the Palestinians in Lebanon are subjected to all forms of pressure and siege.

• They have been deprived of their right to work in more than seventy professions; including those with no local Lebanese labor, which confirms that it is not about providing job opportunities for the Lebanese, but imposing a living siege on the refugees.

• They have been deprived of the right to work for university degree holders, in collusion with trade unions concerned in medicine, pharmacy, and engineering. Palestinian volunteering doctors have often been chased and accused of "sorcery" even though they successfully passed the colloquium exam in Beirut.

• They have been deprived of their right to own a residential apartment, in the midst of an overcrowding in camps, whose administrative boundaries have been the same since their establishment the day after the asylum.

• Camps have been imposed to security measures, to limit and complicate the movement to the camps. The camps in the south have also been subjected to measures that aren't existed elsewhere, so that they have been prevented from entering construction materials, including light bulbs, electric wires, paints and other materials.

Life in the camps has been turned into collective detention encampments, isolated from their surroundings, socially and economically.

The last step (is it really the last?) is preventing the Palestinians from practicing all kinds of trades, under the pretext of the need to obtain a work permit; in a move contrary to the decisions of the Arab League, and to previous laws that had been taken by the Ministry of Labor.

The inevitable result of all this, is the imposition of a comprehensive siege on the Palestinians, with one outlet left to them: immigration; so that the displacement in the accounts of the Lebanese state is the alternative to resettlement. In both cases, the Palestinians are the victim:

• A victim of a US-Israeli project.

• A victim of narrow local accounts.

But, in any case, they will not be a victim who surrenders to their destiny.

Moatasem Hamadeh is a member of the Political Bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Translated by: Rasha Abo Allan
Revised by: Ibrahim Motlaq

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