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Lebanon's Palestinian Civil Rights Campaign moves into the Christian heartland

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Lebanon's Palestinian
Civil Rights Campaign
moves into the
Christian heartland


Franklin Lamb
Shatila Camp, Beirut, Lebanon

Even though not even one work permit has been issued to one Palestinian in
Lebanon since the August 17, 2010 "right to work" law passed in Parliament
and even though Palestinians are still forbidden from owning a home, the
cause of Palestine Civil Rights in Lebanon endures.

Leila El-Ali, executive director of Najdeh, a Palestinian advocacy group that has long campaigned for civil rights for refugees in Lebanon is pleased that the new law has at least provoked real debate among Lebanese about the plight of Palestinian refugees but agrees that it will have no impact on the ground. ''All of the professions - doctors, lawyers, engineers, pharmacists, academia - will remain closed to Palestinians,'' she says. ''There is no syndicate here that will admit Palestinian members. And to actually be allowed to work legally in other jobs, the new law says you need specific guarantees from your employer - things that in the end make it very difficult for Lebanese to employ Palestinians."

The August 17, 2010 "cave in' by progressive forces in Parliament that allowed
Parliament to do essentially nothing towards granting internationally
mandated basic civil rights for Palestinian refugees, was obviously a bitter
disappointment but it was not entirely unexpected. The reason is that current
political pressures here in Lebanon, internal and external, eroded the
requisite political will in Round One.

As wounds are cleaned from last summer's Parliamentary debacle, NGO's
and human rights activists regroup, tactics and projects are being discussed
and readied to forge ahead. Neither the Palestinian refugees here nor the growing
international coalition to secure these rights has been daunted. This, despite
the fact the more than two months after the meek and fairly meaningless
Ministry of Labor gesture of cancelling work permit fees for Palestinian
refugees, nothing has changed in the camps employment wise and all the
other barriers to Palestinians working remain in place. By law and prejudice.

The currently being launched Round Two of the struggle for Palestinian Civil
Rights in Lebanon is concentrating on developing much more international
involvement in the campaign to secure the right to work and to own a home.
Prominent endorsers of Palestinian Civil Rights for Palestinians in Lebanon
who have signed an Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI and Lebanon's
Maronite Patriach Nasrallah Sfeir include:

" Dr Rowan Williams, The Archbishop of Canterbury,
" Archbishop Tomasz Peta, of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan
" President Jimmy Carter
" Joseph Zen, Roman Catholic Cardinal of Hong Kong,
" Bishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu
" The Reverend Jesse L. Jackson
" Nelson Mandela
" Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, Cardinal Archbishop of Havana, Cuba
" The Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd, Dean of the National Cathedral,
Washington, DC
" Mary Robinson, former President of the Irish Republic
" Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow
Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, Moscow
" Cardinal Simon I. Pimenta, Archbishop Emeritus of Bombay, India

A major effort is being undertaken to take this civil rights struggle to the
rightist Christian community in Lebanon who constitute the only real barrier
to enacting meaningful rights in Parliament. Christian support, at least one
quarter of the Lebanese Forces, Phalange party or Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic
Movement is vital in convincing their members in Parliament to help
Lebanon by allowing its economy to benefit from Palestinian involvement
and by lifting the growing international outcry over Lebanon's violations of
basic rights that all refugees are guaranteed by international law and local
regulations. Certainly the endorsement of the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah
Sfeir, is very important.

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The following Open Letter has been delivered to Pope Benedict XVI and
Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir and is now released to the public.

_____________________________________________________________________

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE
PALESTINE CIVIL RIGHTS CAMPAIGN-LEBANON

Embargoed until October 22, 2010 9 a.m. Beirut time EET (GMT + 2)


The Palestine Civil Rights Campaign-Lebanon and the Washington DC-Beirut
based Sabra Shatila Foundation have released a copy of the Open Letter that
was delivered this morning in Rome to representatives of Pope Benedict XVI
and Lebanon's Marionite Patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir on the occasion
of the VATICANS 2010 SPECIAL SYNOD ON THE MIDDLE EAST
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Supporters of civil rights for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, from 105
countries have signed hard copy and online Petitions, totaling more than
430,000 signatures urging Lebanon's Parliament to support the immediate
enactment of elementary civil rights, including the full right to work and
to own at home, in Lebanon's Parliament. The personal appear to the Pope
and Lebanon's Maronite Patriarch is part of the recently launched campaign
to achieve civil rights for Lebanon's Palestinian refugees, the largest and
oldest refugee population and the one depraved of the most basic civil rights
in Lebanon.

According to PCRC spokeswoman, Ms. Ghada Jiliani, "As the Palestinian
civil rights struggle continues in Lebanon, following the disappointing
results of the August 17, 2010 Parliamentary vote, the focus will shift to two
fronts.

One is seeking to involve in a major way the Lebanese Christian community
in this critically important human rights cause. Secondly, and this is crucial,
we must achieve the participation of the international pro-Palestinian,
pro-peace activist community through education and awareness to
dramatically broaden the global campaign to encourage Parliament to act for
the good of Lebanon and her refugees pending their return to their country,
Palestine.

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