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February 23, 2011

Tawtin or Return: Divergent Views from Lebanon, but one Common Goal

By Franklin P. Lamb

Lebanese opponents of civil rights for Palestinian Refugees often use less objective and more crude wording to define "tawtin" ("settlement") than is normally employed in civil society discussions.

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Lebanese opponents of civil rights for Palestinian Refugees often use
less objective and more crude wording to define "tawtin"
("settlement") than is normally employed in civil society discussions.
During last summer's debate in parliament, which failed to enact laws
that would allow the world's oldest and largest refugee community the basic civil right to work and to own a home, the "tawtin or return"
discussion took on strident and dark meanings, which were largely
effective in frightening much of the Lebanese public from supporting
even these modest humanitarian measures. Right-wing opponents of
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon often define tawtin during public
discussions as "implantation" (as in inserting a foreign malignant
object or virus into Lebanon's body politic), or "grafting,"
"insertion," "impalement," "forced integration," "embedding"
"impregnation", or "patriation".

The concept's varied meanings among a largely uninformed Lebanese
public have by and large prevented a balanced consideration of the
provision in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative that includes "a just
solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in
accordance with UNGAR 194."

The discussion in Lebanon has centered on presumed Palestinian desires to stay in Lebanon at all costs, as opposed to returning to their country Palestine. The large anti-Palestinian political community has kept the discussion focused on the API's language: "the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation [tawtin] which conflict with the
special circumstances of the Arab host countries."

The concept, indeed the very word " tawtin" , was used in the summer of 2010 as an emotional bludgeon or cudgel embodying all manner of dire social predictions from the political parties representing the Phalange, Liberal Party, Lebanese Forces, and Free Patriotic Movement's leader General Michel Aoun.

Virtually all opponents of Palestinian civil rights frequently
claimed that tawtin would ruin Lebanon. This was arguably the main
reason that there was a broad-based consensus in support of the
parliamentary decision of August 17, 2011 to do essentially nothing to enact relief for Lebanon's quarter million Palestinian refugees.

It was a spurious argument because very few in Lebanon, and even fewer in the Palestinian community, have any desire to see tawtin actually implemented. One remarkable aspect of last year's tawtin "debate" was that, in private discussions, few politicians publicly decrying its dangers really thought tawtin was a realistic threat to Lebanon.
Nonetheless, the chimera was used to maintain a power base in their
own sect or community. These political leaders assumed that their
supporters wanted no rights for Palestinians in Lebanon; tawtin was a
useful political boogie man. This view was not only common in various
Christian sects but also among many Druze and Muslims. Numerous
politicians have explained in private that their supporters by and
large still believed that the Palestinian refugees were the cause of
Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war and many of Lebanon's current woes and wanted them out of Lebanon as soon as possible.

Another political factor contributing to the false depiction of tawtin
were widely-rumored American and Israeli plans to use tawtin to
permanently settle thousands of Lebanon's Palestinian refugees in
Lebanon and thus take pressure off of Israel to implement United
Nations Security Council Resolution 194's right of return mandate.
These suggestions by  visiting US officials during last summer's parliamentary examination of tawtin and return riled segments of the Lebanese public and provided grist for right-wing elements to politically, socially and economically squeeze Palestinian refugees yet again.

Palestinian refugees' views regarding tawtin were unfortunately rather
muted or not credited during 2010 discussions in Lebanon and
parliament. Occasional statements by Palestine Liberation Organization leaders that Palestinian refugees were grateful for Lebanon's hospitality and realized that they had overstayed their welcome, but that they had every desire and determination to return to Palestine, were largely ignored.

The fears of certain elements of Lebanese society about tawtin are
unwarranted. The oft-expressed view that Palestinians secretly want to stay in Lebanon and abandon their right to return has been
consistently refuted by Palestinian public opinion surveys, academic
studies, and most compellingly by the statements of Lebanon's camp
residents themselves.

According to a recent survey, fully 96 percent of Lebanon's
Palestinian refugees living in 12 camps and more than 24 communities, insist on their full right of return to Palestine, eschew tawtin, and agree with the language of the API regarding 194.

Over the past few years, and one imagines even more since the events
in Tunisia and Egypt, the demand for the full right of return has
increased. The events at Tahrir Square raise hopes among Palestinians in Lebanon that return to Palestine may come sooner rather than later. Tahrir Square reinforces the view that Palestine's occupation could crumble faster than many have believed possible given the military and political power granted by the American and European governments.

Meanwhile, there exists in Lebanon near unanimity among the 18 sects and various Palestinian factions. Tawtin is not a desirable option.
Only justice for Palestine, including the right of return as restated
in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative will resolve the dilemma of tawtin
or return for Lebanon and her Palestinian refugees.



Authors Website: http://mealsforsyrianrefugeechildrenlebanon.com/

Authors Bio:

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 Syria.


Like Iraq, Syria is the cradle of civilization, and as such it has been a rich source of our shared global culture and historic heritage. Already endangered from illegal excavation, looting, international trafficking and iconoclasm; the theft and destruction of these sites has greatly increased as a result of the conflict in the Middle East.


Many of the endangered archeological sites and artifacts are over 7,000 years old. The oldest remains found in Syria are from the Paleolithic era (c. 800,000 BCE). The most endangered artifacts and archaeological sites currently are in Tell Halaf, the north of Syria near the Turkish border with Syria. These archaeological sites date as far back as 5,500 BCE. They include archeological sites and artifacts of the Babylonian, Sumerian, Egyptian, Assyrian, Phoenician, Aramaic, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Umayyad, Ayyubid and Ottoman civilizations and empires.


Professor Franklin Lamb has also been working, sometimes under dangerous circumstances, to record and photograph the war damage done to religious icons, images, monuments, and ancient structures that span pre-Roman civilizations, and structures such as Islamic mosques, Christian churches and Jewish synagogues.


Professor Lamb is working tirelessly to record and photograph these sites and artifacts because they are in danger of complete destruction for religious, political and illegal trafficking reasons, especially due to the ongoing wars in the Middle East.


Professor Franklin Lamb's website and his latest book, "Syria's Endangered Heritage, an International Responsibility to Preserve and Protect" presents exclusive and never published before photographs, records, data, articles, and interviews from across the whole of Syria. His book can be purchased at his website http://www.syrian-heritage.com/.


In addition to Dr. Lamb's urgent archaeological work he is also deeply committed to rescuing and aiding refugee children in Syria. He is a volunteer with the Lebanon, France, and USA based "Meals for Syrian Refugee Children, Lebanon (MSRCL)", which seeks to provide hot nutritional meals to Syrian and other refugee children.


Lamb says that the goal of MSRCL is to be able to provide one meal a day to 500 children. More donors are needed in order for him to reach that goal. At $2.25 per meal x 500 children per day ($1,225), the budget for a month (30 days) requires approximately $36,000. Over 95% of each donation goes directly towards the cost of each meal. The MSCRL volunteer teams give their time, energy and even their own money to help the refugee children so that they will not become part of the "lost generation" of Syria.


Lamb's books and publications include "Pollution as a Problem of International Law"; "International Legal Responsibility for the Sabra Shatila Massacre"; "Israel's 1982 War in Lebanon: Eyewitness Chronicles of the Invasion and Occupation", "The Price We Pay: A Quarter Century of Israel's Use of American Weapons against Civilians in Lebanon in addition to the three volume set, "Palestine, Lebanon & Syria Palestine, Lebanon & Syria (Commentary and Analysis 2006-2016)." Due out during Fall 2016, in English and Arabic, is "The Case for Palestinian Civil Rights in Lebanon: Why the Resistance Sleeps."


Dr. Lamb's most recent book is "Syria's Endangered Heritage: An International Responsibility to Preserve and Protect". www.Syrian-heritage.com


Lamb's Academic Credentials include: BA, and Law Degrees from Boston University, Master of Law (LLM) Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy from the London School of Economics (LSE); Diploma in International Air & Space Law from the University College of London; Post-Doctoral Studies at Harvard University Law School of East Asian Legal Studies Center, specializing in Chinese Law; International Legal Studies at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Studied Public International Law at The Hague Academy of international Law, at the International Court of Justice, in The Hague, Netherlands.


Lamb's Professional and Political Activities include Assistant Professor of International Law, Northwestern College of Law, Portland, Oregon and Assistant Counsel to the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, During the Administration of President Jimmy Carter, Lamb was elected for a four year term to the Democratic National Committee, representing the state of Oregon. Lamb served on the Democratic National Committee Judicial Council with California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi as well as the Platform Committee on East-West Relations. Professor Lamb served on the presidential campaign staff for Presidential Candidate Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.


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