From Tahrir Square To Shatila Camp: "Cry Hurriya!" (freedom!)
The Tahrir Square "Hurriya!" tremors spreading across the Middle East may or may not be impacting today's events in the historically liberal American state of Wisconsin and other areas of America, yet most of us would agree that the Tunisian-Egyptian revolutions are being felt far and wide and appear to be dramatically gaining steam. Lebanon's Palestinian refugees camps are no exceptions.
Perhaps sooner rather than later, a half dozen or so Arab despots may reluctantly retire or leave for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. Indeed some Saudis may themselves move to America to occupy their vast real estate holdings stateside, some located in largely Israeli duo-national neighborhoods, whose occupancy rates are also dramatically rising, as many in Israel sense that the CIA predicted collapse of their settler colony may be accelerating.
Also feeling the widening flood torrents are those depending on the 1978 Camp David Accords and its "Rosemary's baby,' the 1979 "Peace Treaty" that castrated Egypt, betrayed the Palestinians and ceded regional dominance to Israel for three decades. The White House reportedly is reconciled to the fact that Camp David may be "renegotiated' but, like Israel, fears it may be frozen and indefinitely suspended if not scrapped completely in the coming months. This is part part of the re-ordering we are witnessing as the new era and indeed culture of resistance spreads.
Panicked Israeli leaders and their agents in Congress are busy trying to convince the American public how vital and cheap the $3 billion per year cost of Camp David is for America's security while they know the truth is precisely the opposite. AIPAC has been saturating Capitol Hill this week as well as media outlets with its just released Red Alert! "Urgent Appeal" which reads as follows: "Please urge your House member to sign a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that urges all branches of the U.S. government to emphasize to prospective Egyptian leaders and opposition figures the importance of Egypt's international obligations, specifically its Camp David peace treaty with Israel."
Just yesterday, 2/18/11, the Palestinian UN delegation, in a rare display of back bone, presumably influenced by the revelations in the Palestine Papers, of treachery and resulting charges of treason, as well as Tahrir Square, joined the 130 UN Member co-sponsors of the UNSC Resolution and stared down Barak Obama and Ambassador Susan Rice and rejected their proposed gutting of the modest Security Council Resolution condemning Israeli settlements. Before the vote, threats were issued from the White House personally delivered to PA "President" Mahmoud Abass during a 40 minute reportedly tense telephone call from the President and before Abass presumably recovered from that upbraiding, another one came from Hilary Clinton.
The British, Russian, and Chinese ambassadors were among those who rose to speak in favor of the failed resolution. Still, it was a rare 14-1 Security Council vote in solidarity with Palestine. It was also yet another American Veto, that for the 63rd time, signaled the American public and the World that under Congressional pressure, it is Israeli settlers inhabiting stolen land, not the American people or their values, that still prevail even as the US and Israel reap an Arab and Islamic awakening that is hastening their expulsion from the region. Just hours after the courageous UN vote, the new provisional government in Cairo announced the opening of Rafah crossing, if only on a limited basis--for now.
Symbolism is everywhere-and sometimes seemingly everything. Who would have thought that Egypt, just days after Mubarak's recall, would welcome, for the first time since 1979, Iranian warships through the Suez Canal? When Iran's ships arrive at Port Said they are expected to be greeted and perhaps feted by dock workers and the Egyptian public , despite Israeli threats and claims delivered by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that Iran's use of the international waterway is "an hostile act" and "proves the Iranians are becoming more and more cheeky."
Many Palestinians in Lebanon's camps and communities, like the rest of us appear almost mesmerized by what's been happening. A survey conducted by the Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD), published on February 2, 2011 showed , that 74 percent of the Palestinians support pro-democracy protests in Tunisia, which toppled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In Lebanon's camps it appears that support for the Arab Awakening grows with each new revolt in the region.
They feel, as no doubt many who have been working for Palestinian civil rights in Lebanon for the past 20 years, including more than two dozen International and local NGO's and civil society organizations, that the power of Tahrir Square will mean that Lebanon's Palestinian refugees will at long last be granted the elementary , internationally mandated civil right to own a home and to work that every other refugee enjoys by law.
Stellar examples of the new Palestinian leadership in Lebanon's camps pressing for civil rights include my best friend in Shatila Camp Zeinab al Hajj, born, raised and still living in Shatila Camp. And does she ever welcome western visitors whom she quickly converts to her cause! To arrive at Zeinab's home/office and to learn about the Palestinian refugee's urgent need for elementary civil rights, and why she and her friends believe the new Hezbollah led government, also inspired by Tahrir Square, will honor its moral, religious, legal and political obligations to achieve the right to work and home ownership, is simple enough.
The 14 member three generation Al Hajj family always welcomes foreign visitors into their three rooms and roof top space that overlooks the area of the camp where some of the most intense slaughter took place not only during the 1982 Sabra-Shatila Massacre, also during the 1985-88 camp wars when Shatila and Burj Barajneh camps were targeted for destruction by some factions who still today boast that Palestine is their blood stream cause. Indeed some of those who gave the orders to slaughter men, women and children in Shatila during the misnomered "camp wars' ghoulishly have their photo-shop posters plastered around parts of the south end of Shatila camp.
Of course there were no "camp wars" but rather a series of intermittent slaughters of mainly unarmed civilians between 1985-88, allegedly to prevent the return of the PLO under Arafat's leadership, until then Hezbollah spokesman, Subhi al-Tufayli (later Secretary-General between 1989-92) and others stepped in and demanded that President Hafez Assad of Syria put an end to the killing, declaring that Hezbollah was prepared to send fighters to defend the Palestinian camps. One can imagine what Palestinian families, nearly all of whom lost a relative at the hand of their Arab brothers, feel today about those smiling "solidarity" faces as they walk their children to school. Just seeing them plastered on poles and walls, is for this observer, enraging and the equivalent of seeing Ariel Sharon's or Rafael Eitan's bill boarded mugs inside Shatila camp.
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