The Palestinian camp populations here are not exempt from the politics and violence arriving from Syria. Some of the militia and Islamist movements warring next door are enticing and pressuring camp residents to take up arms and join various religious and secular militias.
It is true that some foreign powers are seeking to influence events in Syria and Lebanon with cash, weapons, and ideology. But as increasingly is being heard in Syria and elsewhere, "Da'sih (ISIS) has many mothers." Meaning that it is a gross oversimplification and a bit inane to insist that the creation and appeal of Islamist groups and the "terrorist-takfires" is yet another conspiracy by the Saudi's, Iranians, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)Turks, and/or Americans, EU, NATO or others. It is far more complicated than what the bewildering assortment of water carriers for various paymasters asserts. Indeed, as Iran's President Rohani repeated last week, some of the funders, too clever by half, are experiencing shock to learn that the evil being spread by groups they may have aided-hoping for sundry positive results--are now targeting and planning to destroy them.
Al Qaeda affiliated groups have been analogized to opportunistic bacteria or virus. They may be dormant and unnoticed for long periods. But if they receive a certain amount of light, some oxygen, and warm temperature, something to feed on and perhaps attach themselves to they may quickly grow and metastasize as they acquire and with time perfect their deadly capabilities.
Causative of some of these groups that are attracting youngsters and others in Lebanon's camps are the same factors suffered for decades in this region, and recently they have intensified. Some examples, among others, are lack of jobs, widespread and deepening poverty, feelings of hopelessness and lack of control over one's life and future, corrupt politicians who do not deliver public services while enriching themselves, abuse by security services and heavy-handed police and armed forces widely believed to be selectively deployed for political purposes.
Particularly deadly in Lebanon's camps is the growing poisonous Sunni-Shia and ethno-nationalist sectarianism.
Adding to these problems, Lebanon's Palestinian camp inmates often have tap water that is dirty and or salty, surface sewage, and electricity cuts on the average of ten times a day. There are generally no street lights, only a few paved roads with many of the dwellings increasingly showing signs of crumbling. Crime, drug-use, infectious and communicable diseases, skyrocketing child respiratory diseases, domestic violence, school dropouts and teenage pregnancies are all increasing.
The current and long overdue upswing in civil
activism across Lebanon, seen in the camps as a breadth of fresh air, with its
calls for deep change and intifada are
in tandem with the spreading rejection of what are considered the Lebanon's unsalvageably
corrupt politicians. Many of these
former warlords, now political lords thanks to
their self-granted amnesty without which many could be in prison for
life, appear daily on the TV "news" bulletins and regurgitate rubbish. This as they work to
deepen sectarian divides to keep their particular "wasta sects" docile.
This includes the intensifying Sunni-Shia religious war that is beginning to spread inside the camps. A recent survey by the "You Stink" activist group which seeks to oust corrupt politicians found that approximately 90% of Lebanon's population surveyed want all the current leaders replaced and believe that massive civil disobedience may be required to get rid of them. Many refugees in the camps want to capitalize on the recently revealed civic activist energy of the new groups to realize their own political rights.
The danger to the Palestinian camps such as Ein el-Helwe is the rising violence. Two days ago (9/11/2015) eight grenades were thrown in different neighborhoods of the camps. Several gunmen also opened fire, seemingly out of nowhere according to eye-witnesses. Several people were killed last month during Fatah Movement, Jund al Sham and Fatah el Islam gunmen fought. Situated near the city of Sidon, Ein al-Helweh is home to approximately 80,000 Palestinian refugees, including an estimated 10,000 who fled the seemingly endless civil war in Syria, according to camp officials. The Joint Palestinian Security Force (JPSF) set up in 2014 to police Ein al_Helweh is anemic and so far largely ineffective.
AD79 and killed thousands of people in the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Cynically playing the Palestinian card while conspiring to grind down, humiliate, disparage, provoke, marginalize, and deprive Palestinians in Lebanon of their anchored-in-international humanitarian law most elementary civil rights to work and purchase a home is the equivalent of Lebanon's "leaders" picnicking on Mt. Vesuvius back in AD 79 and what happened to Pompeii and Herculaneum may well happen here as the Takfiris slip into the camps. An overdue reckoning may explode and any time.
The political "leaders" in Lebanon who are wringing their hands and lamenting the growing number of "Terrorist-Takfiris" working to convince Palestinian refugees to join the "sacred Islamic cause of liberating Palestine" are well advised to reflect on the past five years in this region as well as the past nearly 67 years of repression of Palestinians in Lebanon.
The pressure inside the sealed cooker of Lebanon's camps is building as the political temperature here rises daily. Those who bleat that Palestine is their bloodstream issue and who circulate selfies of themselves, wearing the keffiyeh as some politicians here do, can help avoid a fast approaching catastrophe on the order of what largely destroyed Syria.
One way is to stop blocking the election of a President and convening Parliament. And when they assemble to cut up the pies on the legislative agenda, put its members to work earning a part of their hefty salaries. In just 90 minutes the Parliament of Lebanon can repeal the racist 2001 law that outlaws home ownership for Palestinians and after nearly seven decades, grant the third generation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon he same right to work and home ownership that every reader of these words is granted the moment her or his foot touches Lebanese soil or the tarmac at Beirut airport.
Lebanon's politicians generally do not want this and
neither does Da'ish (ISIS). Both groups
seek to keep the Palestinian's in Lebanon oppressed for their own political advantage. Eschewing justice and elementary civil rights is
subverting peace in this region and one may be sure that the "terrorist-takfiri"
are today manipulating this reality in Lebanon's camps.