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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/26/17

Granting Palestinians the right to work can salvage Lebanon's economy

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Franklin Lamb, Oxford, October 26, 2017

[Part 1: Is Lebanon's economy heading for free-fall?]

Part 2: Granting Palestinians the right to work can salvage Lebanon's economy:

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, the offspring of nearly 800,000 ethnically cleansed from their homes in Palestine during the 1948-50 Nakba, are today variously labeled by their Lebanese hosts as refugees or sometimes described as a particular category of "quasi-residents." Or as "foreigners" or sometimes during Arab emotional nationalist events or rising national sentiments or Israeli attacks, Palestinians have been described more congenially as "Arab residents" or "Arab brothers." Or at other times they are claimed by 'Resistance" factions as "Our religious, moral and political duty to liberate and return to Palestine." And sometimes Palestinians in Lebanon are labeled by yet other "Resistance Brand" elements as "Sunni Terrorists" and "Takfires" who support other 'terrorists' (rebels and civilians) in the Syrian Civil war next door and who consequently must be eradicated per certain questionable Hadith offerings weakly attributed to Mohammad the Prophet (PBUH).

But whatever the label pasted on Palestinian refugees in sectarianized and Shia-Sunni split Lebanon, they are today often thought of by certain sects with power in Parliament as some kind of parasitic outlaws. Nothing could be further from the truth and this assertion shall be demonstrated beyond cavil once Lebanon understands the benefits that will accrue to their economy if Palestinians are granted their internationally mandated elementary civil right to work.

As noted in Part I of this report, Lebanon's economy continues to weaken as foreign investors pull back, internal sectarian turmoil swells and World Bank and IMF indexes of Lebanon's economic future increasingly reminds one of the 2009 economic shut-down in Greece.

Politicizing Palestinian access to Lebanon's economy

Today, approximately 230.000 Palestinian refugees are housed in 12 camps and 42 gatherings across Lebanon. The vast majority live under harsh and deteriorating conditions with high poverty rates, and collapsing infrastructure and housing conditions. They have very limited access to quality services and social protection. In addition they are subjected to discriminatory laws and regulations including being denied by Lebanon's Parliament the internationally mandated civil right to work or own a home outside of their squalid camps.

Historically the Palestinians and the Lebanese have had deep economic relations even prior to the exodus of Palestinians from their sacred homeland. Thousands of Lebanese sought employment opportunities in Palestine. And because they were granted the same civil right to work that today Lebanon is legally obliged to grant Palestinians, the Lebanese were well integrated within Palestine's economy and many prospered. Allowing Palestinians in Lebanon the right to work is viewed by most people of goodwill and virtually all tenets of international humanity law, as simply fair based on this fact alone.

Expulsion from their lands and homes forced the entry of Palestinians into Lebanon which began five years after Lebanon had proclaimed its independence from France. As argued by many who have studied the subject including scholar and this observer's student, Jaber Suileman, the arriving Palestinians provided capital and labor which in large part helped build the Lebanese economy. In addition to augmenting the labor force, Palestinian refugees had been owners of banks, companies, heavily involved in trade, and known for their business acumen. During 72 months of their ethnic cleansing by occupying Zionist gangs, Palestinians transferred more than 200,000,000 sterling pounds into Lebanon. This cash infusion was vital to the new state of Lebanon and exceeded by four times the then value of the Lebanese economy.

Roughly two decades later, the Palestinian fueled economy in Lebanon had grown massively with scores of thousands of job creations and its budget exceeded that of the Lebanese state itself. However, given other exigencies, the PLO leadership was not much involved with long term investments but rather focused on providing for the short-term needs of the camp residents. And since the PLO was the major employer they did not feel especial urgency about developing a long term plan to guarantee, by Parliamentary decree, the enactment the elementary civil right to work for Palestinians in Lebanon. Frankly it was not a big issue at the time given the political and economic power of the PLO and the reality of the Lebanese job market being fully open to Palestinians.

Yet, as all dear readers know, times change. With the withdrawal of the PLO from Lebanon in August of 1982, (with this observer on one of their boats headed to Tunis), as a consequence of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and Israel's local and international allies which included certain Lebanese sects, a reign of terror was organized by Lebanon's Deuxiume Bureau (Military Intelligence). It was during this period that the Amal Militia under the leadership of Lebanon's current Speaker of Parliament now in his 25th year sinecure commanded the 1985-88 Palestinian Camp Massacres, on instructions emanating from elements Syrian elements. The tradeoff was cover for Berri's knowledge of the Imam Musa Sadr, Peace be upon him, murder in Libya a few years earlier. Nabeh Berri profited financially and politically from pleading ignorance about "the vanished Imam" during the subsequent four decades about who ordered Libya's Gadhafi to 'disappear Imam Sadr." Consequently Berri was green-lighted to assume the leadership of Musa Sadr's Amal organization and the post of Speaker of Lebanon's Parliament. Imam Musa Sadr's murder changed the course of Middle East history for the worst, given his ability and beliefs for bridge building among Sunni, Shia and Christians and his general moderation and rejection of Political Theocracy which is so rampant today.

A reign of terror in post PLO power target Lebanon's Palestinians

As the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon were increasingly targeted after the PLO leadership withdrew, a decision was taken to exclude them from internally mandated civil rights that every refugee on the planet is accorded. Among the shut employment doors for Palestinians, which would substantially block them from growing Lebanon's economy via employment and job expansion, is the right to work in 20 professions. In order to exclude Palestinians, all main professions require that applicants have Lebanese nationality. Professional Associations now barred to Palestinians in Lebanon include those in which they have historically excelled. The professions in Lebanon which by political design excludes Palestinians are Lebanon's Bar Association, Association of Doctors, Pharmacists, Dentists, Engineers, Media, Association of Editors, Banks, Association of Manufacturers, Accounting, Associations of Hospitals, Tourism Agencies in Lebanon (ATTA1), Association of Printing, Syndicate of Hotels Owners in Lebanon , Syndicate of Pilots in Lebanon, Association of Insurance Companies, Syndicate of the Manufacture of Gold and Jewelry, Syndicate of Public Works and Constructing Contractors in Lebanon, Association of Licensed Topographers in Lebanon, and Association of the Union of Publishers.

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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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