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Are Palestinians Being Scapegoated Over Army Killings in Lebanon?

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  "Around 38,000 people are living in deplorable conditions and unfit for humans."

Are Palestinians Being Scapegoated Over Army Killings in Lebanon

Franklin Lamb

Nahr al Bared Palestinian refugee camp

The killings of three Palestinian refugees this past week including Ahmad Qassim  from Nahr al Bared ( "cold river') camp near Tripoli and 15 year old Khaled al-Youssef from Ein el Helwe (" the beautiful eye')  30 miles south of Beirut in Saida, and the wounding of more than a dozen others by the Lebanese army were not, as some Lebanese  politicians are claiming, " accidental security incidents".  They were avoidable negligent homicides as much so as Zionist occupation forces and settler/colonists in Palestine regularly commit.

It is true that Lebanon's army, like the country itself, is confessionalized and as it has done before, the army will likely fracture if a civil conflict erupts.  It is also undertrained, weak on discipline, and ill equipped.  But from this observer's experience and learning from friends in the army, the least that can be said on its behalf is that it is no worse and is probably more humane than some others in the region.

Some in the Palestinian community fear that the recent killings of  refugees by the army represents a revival of what in the Lebanese army it has often meted out to Palestinians  and that it may be intensifying 30 years after the massacre at Sabra-Shatila.

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Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are the worst 12 of the 57 UN established camps in the Levant including Jordan, Syria, Gaza and occupied Palestine in terms of  problems of poverty ( 65 per cent of Palestinian family living in camps in Lebanon live on less than six dollars a day), health, education, general living conditions, discrimination, isolation, joblessness, shanty housing and a lack of proper elementary and secondary schools,  forbidden by law to enroll in state colleges,  lack of adequate clinics, hospitals and sewage systems as well essentially  no potable water, little fresh air and sunlight in many areas of the camps, rising respiratory diseases, domestic abuse and psychological health issues. Contributing to all of the above is the outlawing of Palestinians enjoying the elementary civil right to work or the own a home.

During a recent visit to the camps, Muhammad Farwana, a member of Hamas's politburo described the Nahr al-Barid camp in which "around 38,000 people are living in deplorable conditions and unfit for humans." He added: "I visited Nahr al-Baredd  and no human being can lead a normal life in it. Not even animals can have a normal life in it."

No refugees on earth are so targeted and discriminated again as Lebanon's Palestinians and only some political help and negligible economic assistance sporadically arrives from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Not even the employees at its Embassy of Palestine in Beirut have been paid their salaries for the past two months due significantly to US and EU aid shrinkage aimed at forcing yet more concessions from the PA in favor the Zionist occupiers of their country.

Every camp Palestinian family in Lebanon can recount cases of arbitrary arrests, beatings, false imprisonment and harassment from the army's Military Intelligence unit, the supposedly disbanded Deuxieme Bureau. This Stasi type organization -- supposedly reformed -- hunted and terrorized Palestinians following the PLO departure from Beirut in August of 1982.  According to long time PLO representative in Lebanon Shafiq al Hout in his wonderful book, My Life in the PLO , the Deuxieme Bureau was a major factor in 70,000 departing Lebanon in   just1983 via Beirut airport.

The army initially suspected that the motor bike riders it stopped at Nahr al Bared camp had no ID.  This was a reasonable assumption because thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have no ID because the country where they were born, Lebanon, refuses to provide them ID, thus depriving them of even the few rights given their fellow Palestinian refugees.   Most Palestinians, for example, who arrived in Lebanon after being expelled from Jordan in 1970 never registered with the Lebanese barely functioning bureaucracy and despite a quarter century of promises by politicians here to remedy "the non-ID problem" it's been just more idle talk with not action being taken. Once more the non-ID issue has become a deadly one and officials promising yesterday to solve the problem.  Lebanon's politicians will likely do nothing unless they see some significant personal benefit. Hence non-ID Palestinians will remain subject to arrest at any time, not able to register their marriages or get ID's for their children or achieve a score of other civil acts that require a government issued ID.

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While a meeting was held between a number of officers including the head of Army Intelligence, Edmond Fadel, with a delegation of Palestinian factions in order to restore calm in the camp there is little confidence that much was achieved except another pledge on behalf of Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji to uncover the details of the crime "through a swift investigation that will determine the perpetrators and prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future." Given past experience, few believe the investigation will be serious or even completed.

Compounding these problems is a number of politicians who lack the political will to provide a simple available solution.  Lebanon's Interior Minister on 6/20/12 told Akbar al-Youm news agency that "the disturbances" (army killing of Palestinian civilians) that occurred lately in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein al-Hilweh were not related to what had happened in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp" What happened in the two Palestinian camps has nothing to do with the security situation in Lebanon.  They were just coincidence. The problems inside the camps have been resolved by the Lebanese army."

This gross mischaracterization of what occurred at the camps this past week is inflaming passions even more.  Every 9 year old anywhere in Lebanon knows that the "incident" in Ein el Helwe was a direct and predictable result of the army's killing in Nahr al Bared. What is remarkable is the restraint shown by refugees in the other 10 camps and dozen "gatherings'.

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