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America's "Dog in the Fight"

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US Congressional sources close to Israel expect UNRWA to be abolished outright or at least financially gutted following Congressional Hearings and an Israeli lobby organized vilification campaign resurrecting the "terrorists in their ranks" and the false "anti-Semitic UNRWA textbook" paradigms of the recent past. A campaign similar to the never proven charges made by Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and others at AIPAC events that leveled charges such as raising terrorists in UNRWA schools, is what is under consideration.

In Lebanon, the fact is that UNRWA hermetically seals its 78 schools from Palestinian politics and history. Youngsters in the camps report to the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign-Lebanon (PCRC) that UNRWA is so afraid of criticism by Israel or the US Congress that it does not even allow them to wear the traditional keffiyeh or tee shirts, bracelets, necklaces or flag pins which might suggest (heaven forbid!) political support for their own country, Palestine.

The American brand

The US government strongly favors the draft law proposal of Samir Geagea's Lebanese Forces -- March 14th "coalition." This lowest common denominator, watered-down approach, currently scheduled for an August 17th Parliamentary vote, offers the Palestinians refugees some crumbs including adjusting Article 9 of the Labor code to make it easier to secure a work permit but does not allow home ownership, meaningful social security benefits or access to the more than 20 syndicated professions.

As currently drafted, the March 14 "consensus proposal" will achieve essentially nothing towards granting internationally mandated civil, social and economic rights for Lebanon's Palestinian refugees. The US government is backing the March 14th coalition proposal and will apply pressure to see it passed; at least, if it looks like the Jumblatt-Progressive Socialist Party or the Syrian Socialist National Party, it may have a chance of being adopted. Either of these two bills would be a huge improvement over the "scattered chicken feed" Lebanese Forces bill or March 14 "consensus bill."

If the American brand bill is enacted, the US administration will pressure its friends in the region to accept it and no doubt will announce the Palestinians civil rights mission accomplished. It will be a lie and pressure from the youth generation in the camps who are being denied dignity and any real opportunity in life will continue to build toward explosion.

The US-Israel worry about Palestinian refugees in Lebanon securing the basic right to work and to own a home has nothing to do with fears of al tawtin, (naturalization) or the loss of the refugees Right of Return, which is a huge concern of the Lebanese. Indeed, US-Israeli concerns are precisely the opposite. Both want Palestinians to become citizens in dozens of countries if necessary; to fade into the woodwork, and to forget about UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which mandated their unalienable Right of Return. Israel's problem is that the Palestinian Right of Return is gaining international momentum partly because of continuing Israeli crimes.

Despite sometimes mouthing support for the Right of Return, in a clumsy and transparent effort to avoid granting Palestinians civil rights in the interim, some US prote'ge's in Lebanon could care less about refugees reclaiming their stolen homes and lands in Palestine. But, like the Palestinian refugees themselves, they are dead set against the refugees staying any longer than absolutely necessary in Lebanon. Consequently, the right-wing Christian insistence on "No Naturalization" (emphatically shared by the Palestinian refugees) is at odds with the American-Israeli project and this issue is making for some interesting bedfellows.

The only political force in Parliament that can defeat this latest US-Israel project, which also indirectly targets Hezbollah and Iran, is the National Lebanese Resistance with its broad-based public support and legislative allies. The Hezbollah-led resistance can marshal the 65 votes to enact an internationally mandated civil rights law instead of the current feel-good feeble gesture that US-Israel and their proxies are currently planning for August 17. It is better for all concerned that this vote be postponed for 60 days rather than facilitate the US-Israel supported project.

If adopted, this current, regressive "consensus" and fake "Palestinian refugee civil rights law" will fail to meet Lebanon's internationally mandated duty to her refugees and it will not even minimally comply with the requirements of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the Casablanca Protocol on the Treatment of Palestinians in Arab Countries of 11 September 1965. If passed in its current form, it will guarantee bleak prospects for Lebanon's Palestinian refugees, and quite likely for Lebanon and the region for years to come.

Franklin Lamb volunteers in Lebanon with the Palestine Civil Rights
Campaign. He is reachable c/o fplamb@palestinecivilrightscampaign.org

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Since 2013, Professor Franklin P. Lamb has traveled extensively throughout Syria. His primary focus has been to document, photograph, research and hopefully help preserve the vast and irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts in (more...)
 

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