Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Palestinian refugees

Status of Palestinian “refugees” in Lebanon and how they feel they have been treated

بيان ونداء
باسم مليون ونصف مليون فلسطيني في الداخل
من محمد بركة
رئيس لجنة المتابعة العليا لشؤون الفلسطينيين في الداخل

إلى الأشقاء في لبنان وإلى الدولة اللبنانية:
الفلسطينيون اللاجئون الى لبنان امانة في اعناقكم حتى العودة

نتابع بقلق وغضب شديدين ما يجري على الساحة اللبنانية من استهدافٍ لحق الحياة لأبناء شعبنا الفلسطيني اللاجئين في لبنان الشقيق.
نحن المليون ونصف المليون فلسطيني في الجليل والمثلث والنقب والساحل الذين بقينا في وطننا رغم سموم التشريد والنكبة وبقينا قابضين على وطننا كالقابض على جمرة،لا نقبل باي حال التعرض لأبناء شعبنا واهلنا والمس بكرامتهم وحقوقهم وبمصدر رزقهم الذي يبلغونه بشرف عرقهم وتفانيهم وعملهم.

موضوع وجود اللاجئين على ارض لبنان هو إفراز للكارثة التي حلّت بالشعب الفلسطيني في العام 1948 وإقامة إسرائيل كرأس حربة امبريالي في المنطقة العربية بهدف النيل من الامن القومي والاقتصادي، ولتقصير حبل الاستقلال الوطني في كل العالم العربي بما في ذلك لبنان.

على ذلك فان شعبنا الفلسطيني يدفع الفاتورة الغربية والصهيونية نيابة عن الامة كلها.

موضوع وجود اللاجئين الفلسطينيين على أرض لبنان لا يمكن ان يكون سياسة وزير او سياسة حزب انما هو يخصّ جوهر ألامن ألقومي اللبناني ويخص كرامة الدولة اللبنانية التي نرى أنفسنا حريصين عليها كما على فلسطين، لان فلسطين هي جنوب لبنان ولبنان هو شمال فلسطين: تاريخا وثقافة ووشائج قربى.

نحن لا نقبل مشاغلتنا بتعابير انشائية حول الحق الفلسطيني من ناحية، والتعرض لحياة وكرامة الانسان الفلسطيني من ناحية أخرى او كما هتف الكاتب اللبناني الكبير الياس خوري: “يحبّون فلسطين ويكرهون الفلسطينيين”.

 

أبناء شعبنا اللاجئ في لبنان الشقيق ليسوا عالة على لبنان، بل هم من ساهموا في رفعته وكرامته واقتصاده وصروحه الاكاديمية والثقافية، لكن العالة القاتلة على لبنان هم أولئك الذين يسعون الى ارتهان الشموخ اللبناني الأصيل – مقابل منافعهم- للطاعون الأمريكي وبالتالي “للأمن الإسرائيلي” ولهواجس “الخطر الديموغرافي ” الذي تمتهنه بغايا الصهيونية.

نحن نعرف أبناء شعبنا اللاجئين في لبنان وفي غير لبنان..

نحن نعرف مَن هم شخصيا ونعرف أين تقع بيوتهم ومراتع طفولتهم او طفولة ابائهم او طفولة اجدادهم ونعرف صلات قرابتهم ونعرف انسبائهم ونعرف حكاياتهم في مواسم الحصاد وفي مواسم الزيتون وفي قوارب الصيد وفي أسواق شطارة التجار..

نحن نعرف قطعا انهم ليسوا “مقطوعين من شجرة”، فهم اشقائنا واهلنا ونعرف ان المتآمرين على حقوقهم المدنية إنما هم مقطوعون عن شجرة الارز الشامخة في لبنان.

نحن نعرف ان الذين يستكثرون على اللاجئ الفلسطيني حقه الإنساني في الحق المدني والحق في العمل وممارسة الكفاءة، إنما هم بالجوهر متآمرون على حقه الوطني في العودة بما يتّسق مع صفقة كوشنير وفريدمان وجرينبلاط وتابعهم الاحمق الاكبر.

ان توقيت الحملة المكررة على الحقوق المدنية والإنسانية للاجئين الفلسطينيين ليس عارضا فنيا إنما هو ملازم لدمار مخيم اليرموك وقبله لدمار مخيم النهر البارد، وهو ملازم لتجفيف الاونروا، وهو ملازم للتدمير في غزة ومخيماتها، وهو ملازم للاستيطان في الضفة، وهو ملازم جدا لاغتيال القدس وهويتها العربية الفلسطينية الإسلامية المسيحية،وهو ملازم اولا وأخيرا للإجماع الصهيوني الساعي لقبر حق العودة.

لقد حددنا لأنفسنا، نحن أبناء الشعب الفلسطيني في الجليل والمثلث والنقب والساحل، ان احدى وظائفنا الوطنية ان نحرس ظل الزيتون ومسميات المكان وان نفرد ركنا في كل بيت من بيوتنا ليستريح فيها العائد الفلسطيني من منافيه، ريثما يعود كلٌ الى بيته.

حددنا لأنفسنا ان نقف بأذرع مفتوحة في محطة الوصول لاستقبال أهلنا العائدين الى وطنهم الذي لا وطن لنا ولهم سواه.

يستطيع الطغاة من صهاينة وامريكان، كما تستطيع أنظمة الطغيان والتطبيع كما تستطيع أذنابهم العفنة ان يتلهّوا بأحلام الإجهاز على حق العودة.. لكنهم جميعا ذاهبون الى حيث ألقت،

والفلسطينيون اللاجئون آتون الى حيث ترفرف رايات العز والحق والعودة.
هل هذا كلام في الخيال؟ فلنراجع التاريخ لنرى كم محطة فيه كانت خيالا.

نحن نكنّ أسمى آيات الاعتزاز والشموخ والاحترام لأشقائنا اللبنانيين الرافضين للتعرض لأهلنا وأقاربنا وأبناء شعبنا ونعرف انهم يشكلون الأغلبية الساحقة في الشعب اللبناني الشقيق..

اننا ندعو الدولة اللبنانية والشعب اللبناني الشقيق والأحزاب السياسية ومؤسسات المجتمع المدني ان لا يسمحوا بهذه السياسة الملوثة التي لن تنال من الفلسطينيين فقط إنما ستنال من لبنان الكرامة والشعب العنيد… وهذا ما لا يرضاه احرار لبنان واحرار فلسطين.

وختاما من باب الشفافية بودي ان افيدكم انا محمد ابن سعيد وعائشة بركة اللاجئ في وطنه من قرية صفورية المهجرة والتي أراها كأجمل بقعة في الكون، ان الامر اعلاه يخصني شخصيا وكل ما دوّنته أعلاه كان بصفتي التمثيلية وبصفتي الشخصية.

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A world endeavor to impose national integration (Tawteen) of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan?

Lebanon is witnessing concentrated pressures from the USA and western colonial powers to integrate the Palestinian refugees since 1948 in its social fabric. The same pressures are being exercised on the fabricated monarchy in Jordan that has the highest concentration of Palestinian refugees and share 800 km border with the colonial Israeli implant in the Near East.

Economic and financial difficulties are imposed on Lebanon and Jordan, as well as accumulated sovereign debts that a third of the budgets are spent on satisfying the interest.

Sure, in Lebanon, this defunct political system run and ruled for 3 decades by civil war militia “leaders” is Not helping in any kinds of reforms or changes to confront the external pressures to impose their plans.

For example, after the newly elected Parliament under a twisted election law, Lebanon is unable to form a legitimate government. In the past 4 months, Lebanon is run by a government, supposed to be taking care of running business, but in fact hurrying up to loot the budget as fast as it can.

The Cedar 4 agreement to lend Lebanon about $10 bn for its infrastructure is being delayed until a government is in place. Most of these loans are actually meant to sustain the Syrian refugees in Lebanon and preventing them to return to their home State.

Lebanon is witnessing some kind of Palestinian camps security upheavals. And Jordan faced last month a serious mass disobedience connect to the IMF constraints of increasing taxes on bread and fuel.

Trump has already denied 5 million Palestinian refugees the UNRWA yearly allocation since 1948. Trump wants to recognize only 40,000 still alive Palestinians of the al “Nakba”

معلومات فلسطينية عن “سيناريو دولي” لفرض التوطين في لبنان

فيما يواجه لبنان تحديات سياسية كبرى، في تشكيل الحكومة العتيدة بعد مراوحة طويلة، ووضع خطة للنهوض بالاقتصاد، يتقدم الملفّ ال​فلسطين​ي في لبنان بعد انعقاد الجمعيّة العموميّة للأمم المتحدة في ​نيويورك​، حيث ألقى الرئيس الفلسطيني ​محمود عباس​ خطابا انقسم الشارع الفلسطيني إزاءه بين مؤيد ومعارض، فدخلت المخيّمات مجددا في مرحلة “انتظار قاتل” بين المخاوف من عودة الخلافات مجددا،

رغم التوافق على أهمية حمايتها من أي توتير أمني، يفتح الابواب الموصدة على الفتنة والاقتتال، وبين غياب الخطة الاستراتيجية الموحّدة لمواجهة التحديات المحدقة بقضية العودة ووكالة “الاونروا”.

وتؤكد أوساط فلسطينية بارزة لـ”النشرة”، ان أي توتير أمني يطال المخيمات يعتبر بشكل غير مباشر وجها سيئا جديدا لـ”صفقة القرن” الاميركية التي ترفضها كل القوى السياسية الوطنية والاسلامية وتعمل على التصدي لها، إذ يهدف الى إلهاء القوى في تطويق ذيوله دون التفرغ الى القضيّة الاساس الكبرى في حماية ​حق العودة​ الذي بات مستهدفا مباشرا بعد القرار الاميركي بشأن ​القدس​ ونقل السفارة اليها.

حتى الآن، اتخذت ​الولايات المتحدة الاميركية​ تسع قرارات متتالية منذ بداية العام 2018، ويتوقع أن تتخذ المزيد منها، بل وأخطرها إسقاط حق اللجوء بالوراثة، وهو ما اشار اليه الرئيس “أبو مازن” في خطابه في الامم المتحدة، بأن ​الادارة الاميركية​ تعتزم الاعتراف بنحو 40 الف لاجئ فقط، هم الذين ما زالوا على قيد الحياة من جيل النكبة وليس 5 ملايين كما هو متعارف عليه في قيود وكالة “الاونروا” والاحصاءات الفلسطينية الرسمية.

وترى المصادر الفلسطينية، ان كل الخطوات الاميركية لم تأتِ من فراغ، فهي مترابطة في سلسلة حلقاتها، منذ الاولى منها وهي الاعتراف بالقدس عاصمة لـ”اسرائيل”، وصولا الى إسقاط “صفة اللجوء” عن غالبية اللاجئين في الشتات، وما بينهما من قرارات اتخذت بهدف ممارسة الضغط على القيادة الفلسطينية والقوى السياسية لشطب الثابتين الرئيسيين: القدس عاصمة دولة فلسطين، وحق العودة من خلال انهاء عمل الاونروا” وفتح باب “التذويب الطوعي” عبر “اللجوء الانساني” أو فرض ​التوطين​.

*خطة موحدة*
ويعتبر لاجئو المخيمات في لبنان الاكثر تأثّرا بهذه القرارات الاميركية في ظل الواقع الهشّ على كافة المستويات السياسية والامنية والخدماتية، في الاولى يطلّ شبح الخلاف مجددا بعد الخطاب الرئاسي، وفي الثانية يترنح بعضها تحت وطأة “الامن الهش” وتحديدا ​عين الحلوة​ والقابل للاهتزاز عند أي حدث طارىء او اشكال،

وفي الثالثة في ظل حرمانهم من حقوقهم المدنية والانسانيّة والاجتماعيّة مع ارتفاع معدل البطالة وانتشار حالات اليأس والاحباط بشكل غير مسبوق.

وتشير المصادر، انه لكل هذه الاسباب، يجب وضع خطة مواجهة مزدوجة، فلسطينية تأخذ على عاتقها تناسي الخلافات السياسية والتأكيد على استثنائية الساحة في لبنان، وتفعيل الأطر المشتركة وتحصين أمن واستقرار المخيّمات بما يسدّ كل منافذ الفتنة والاستدراج الى اقتتال، وصولا الى اطلاق “مبادرة” جديدة تجمع بين هذه العناوين، وفلسطينية–لبنانية تقوم على ثنائية منح الحقوق الانسانية وتعزيز صمود ابناء المخيمات لابعاد شبح التوطين الذي يلوح في أفق لبنان من خلال الضغط على مسؤوليه.

*سيناريو دولي*
وفق ما يتداول في الأروقة الفلسطينية، فإن توحيد الموقف الفلسطيني–اللبناني، سيساهم ببدء تحركات سلميّة نحو الدول الفاعلة والمؤثرة في القرار العالمي لابعاد شبح التوطين وتمكين ​وكالة الاونروا​ من القيام بمهامها على أكمل وجه، حيث تملك بعض ​القوى الفلسطينية​ معلومات هامة أشبه بـ”سيناريو دولي”، بل “خارطة طريق” لشطب حق العودة والتوطين بعد التذويب،

ومنها انهاء عمل الوكالة المذكورة عبر وقف دعمها ماديا، ومنها عزم بعض الدول على فتح باب اللجوء الانساني ويتردد اسماء ثلاثة دول بارزة، ومنها اعادة الاف من الفلسطينيين الى اراضي ​السلطة الفلسطينية​ تحت عنوان “لمّ الشمل” ومعظم هؤلاء يملكون جوازات سفر صادرة عن السلطة او لهم اقارب او انتماء سياسي،

واخيرا فرض التوطين لمن يبقى في لبنان تحت شعار “انساني”، مقابل مبالغ ماليّة كبيرة تدفع للبنان وتسد العجز وتساهم في النهوض الاقتصادي من جديد… وهو ما يرفضه لبنان والقوى الفلسطينية معا.

*حراك للمواجهة*
وتؤكد المصادر، أن المطلوب اليوم اطلاق “مبادرة وطنية” جديدة تتماشى مع التطورات السياسية والامنية المتسارعة في المنطقة (كما جرى في العام 2014، حين أطلقت “المبادرة الوطنية الفلسطينية” لحماية ​المخيمات الفلسطينية​ والحفاظ على العلاقات الاخوية مع الجوار اللبناني وقد نجحت في تجاوز الكثير من القطوعات الامنية الخطيرة إبّان ​الاحداث السورية​)، تتضمن انشاء “خليّة ازمة” أو “طوارىء سياسيّة”، تدير الملفّ برمّته بموقف موحد، وبحراك سياسي شعبي يقوم على تناسي الخلافات وتعميم خطاب الوحدة من القيادة الى القاعدة،

تحصين أمن المخيمات واستقرارها، الدفاع عن بقاء “الاونروا” كشاهد حيّ على النكبة واللجوء، تنظيم تحركات احتجاجيّة سلميّة ترفع شعار “نختلف مع الاونروا ولا نختلف عليها”، خاصة بعد نجاح ادارتها في توفير المزيد من الدعم المالي بلغ 118 مليون دولار وآخرها من دولة الكويت 40 مليون دولار اميركي، لينخفض العجز المالي من 186 مليون دولار الى 68 مليون دولار اميركي فقط وهو مبلغ زهيد قياسا على موازنات الدول.

خلاصة القول، ان القرارات الاميركية ليست قدرا محتوما يجب الاستسلام لها، بل يمكن المواجهة والتصدّي لها، اذا جرى توحيد الموقف الفلسطيني واعداد خطة مشتركة فلسطينية لبنانية تأخذ على عاتقها الدفاع عن الحقوق المشروعة، وان اضاعة الوقت لم يعد لصالح أحد، وقبل فوات الاوان في افراغ المخيّمات من سكانها وتحديدا شبابها، واسقاط عنوانها الوطني كرمز للقضية الفلسطينية وحق العودة

How the half million Palestinian refugees disappeared in Lebanon since 1948?

Note 1: The survey sheds light on the living conditions of the latest count of 174,422 Palestinian refugees, as well as another 18,601 Palestinians who fled the neighboring conflict in Syria to camps in Lebanon. Instead of the official count of over 460,000 since 1948 and the successive Israel preemptive wars in Palestine and Lebanon.

The painstakingly conducted count found the Palestinians evenly divided between men and women with half of the total 24 years or younger. While 7.2 percent are illiterate, 93.6% of children aged between three to 13 were enrolled in schools.

Also documented is the well-known fact that Lebanon’s Palestinian camps suffer serious problems, with varying degrees of poverty, diseases, overcrowding, unemployment, poor housing and lack of any functioning infrastructure.

The census found that the rate of unemployment among young Palestinians aged 20 to 29 is 28.5% whereas for Lebanese it is currently 6.8 percent (If this percentage of unemployed Lebanese is correct, it certainly Not taking account of the thousands who immigrate every year for no return and those living in remote areas, barely surviving).

Note 2: Is Lamb trying to preempt Donald Trump’s decision to curtail Palestinian refugees aid? Trying to offer the lame excuse that the poor and non-oil producing countries (Lebanon, Jordan) cover the UNRWA deficit? Lamb uses terms of “colonization by Iran” as a way of discrediting the resistance of the Lebanese to Israel’s many successive , preemptive wars, 8 of them and frequent threats on Lebanon

By Franklin Lamb [First Published by Counter Punch, January 5, 2018]

Rashidieh Palestinian camp, on the border of Occupied Palestine, by Franklin P. Lamb The first ever official census of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon was finally released on 12/21/2017 in Beirut. The village by village and camp by camp survey by 500 specialists found that only 174,422 Palestinian refugees are living these days in the country.

Counted were all Palestinians living in the 12 official camps and 156 informal settlements known as ‘gatherings’ and those living outside these areas across Lebanon. This figure is shockingly lower than the previous estimate of 469,331 Palestinians by UNRWA and as many as 600,00 by others for political purposes. (Trump has started to drop funding of UNRWA

Lebanon is a country where demographics have long been a politically sensitive subject to be approached with extreme caution. For the past nearly 85 years (since 1932) Lebanon’s leaders have refused to allow a count of the population out of feelings of terror that a rival sect, among the 17 other rival sects, might gain power at their expense were there to be an honest count. Consequently, plenty of political lords have used fake population figures, without fear of contradiction by a forbidden official government count, to secure benefits-political and financial- for their own sect.

With respect to Lebanon and regional endemic tribalism, one is reminded of the words of Hannah Arendt from her volume, “The Origins of Totalitarianism:”

“Politically speaking, tribal nationalism always insists that its own people is surrounded by “a world of enemies”, “one against all”, that a fundamental difference exists between these people and all others. It claims its people to be unique, individual, incompatible with all others, and denies theoretically the very possibility of a common mankind long before it is used to destroy the humanity of man”.

The reason for UNWRA’s own higher figures since it was created by General Assembly Resolution 302 (IV) 69 years ago this month to help feed and care for refugees forced out of their homes in Palestine, its mandate has always been to register all Palestinians who, since the 1948 Nakba, apply for its help.

This UNWRA has faithfully done to the best of its ability while facing many obstacles-political and financial-over the decades.

Affecting its record keeping, starting in 1950s, scores of thousands of Palestinian refugees left Lebanon for a better life abroad. Just as more than 1,780,000 Lebanese have done since the onslaught of Lebanon’s civil war in 1975. Hence the larger number of UNRWA recorded registrants. UNRWA does not have a headcount of every Palestinian refugee who currently resides in Lebanon.

What they do have are official registration records for the number of registered Palestine refugees in Lebanon. If a Palestinian registered with UNRWA in Lebanon should decide to live outside Lebanon, as countless thousands have, they don’t normally advise UNRWA that they are moving.

As a gentleman this observer admires, Hassan Mneimneh, chairman of the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee, which coordinated the census, told the media a couple of weeks ago, “tens of thousands of Palestinians left Lebanon when the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) withdrew from the country in 1982. This observer knows something about this firsthand as he was on one of the August 1982 boats than left Beirut harbor by boat for Tunis courtesy of an invitation from Yasser Arafat along with the American journalist, Janet Lee Stevens.

Unfortunately, Janet missed the boat as she was assuring a group of Palestinian women in Burj al Barajneh camp in South Beirut that all would be OK as they worried about losing their PLO protection. The next month was the Sabra-Shatila massacre and seven months later April 18, 1983 Janet and our unborn child, Clyde Chester Lamb III were killed in the bombing at the American Embassy.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians left Lebanon when the PLO withdrew from the country in 1982.

Like the Lebanese over the past 3 decades, many Palestinians try to leave Lebanon at the first opportunity. And why wouldn’t they?

Lebanese seemingly leave their birth country any chance they get these days and during Lebanon’s civil war more than one million left and hundreds of thousands have until today.

There are fewer than 3.5 million Lebanese remaining with many of them searching for the first opportunity to begin a new life elsewhere because they realize that there is little future here for their children given the deep prevailing corruption of the former ‘warlords’ who appointed themselves ‘political lords.

Other reasons include the growing Iranian influence in Lebanon and the failure of the Sunni and Christians to counter the takeover of their country.

According to this seminal study, undertaken by both Lebanese and Palestinian statistics bureaus and the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, 45.1% of the 174,000 Palestinians in Lebanon live in refugee camps, while the remaining 54.9 percent live in “other gatherings.”

According to the census taking teams spokesperson: “We would see huge numbers used, 500, or 600 thousand, and these would be used in politics. But this demographic project was able to define things, and thank God today we have results,”

Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in an address at the event where the figures were released. The survey sheds much needed light on the living conditions of 174,422 Palestinian refugees, as well as another 18,601 Palestinians who fled the neighboring conflict in Syria to camps in Lebanon.

The survey found that the number of Palestinian in Lebanon were split essentially evenly between men and women, with half of the total being 24 years or younger. The percentage of Palestinian youth is nearly identical to the numbers of youth across the Middle East.

Dear reader can imagine what these demographics and living conditions portend for this region as the bright, energetic and acutely aware youth seek justice and empowerment from dictatorships who have cynically denied them empowerment for countless decades. Revolution is in the air across in Lebanon’s Palestinian camps and across this region.

Announcing the population survey results, Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Lebanon had a “duty” towards Palestinians. He pointed to “exaggerations” as for the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon which estimated the count at 600,000. He said the “actual number is 174,422,” assuring “that the State will adhere to its responsibilities.”

Hariri lamented how “some parties in the international community wish to offer no help to UNRWA but instead want to disrupt UNRWA.”

Pointing to the UNRWA’s financial crisis, he said: “It directly affects the basic requirements of refugees in Lebanon. We call upon donor countries to increase their contributions and support to enable UNRWA fulfill its financial obligations to meet the needs of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.”

With a total of $644,701,999 in contributions, the US, EU, UK, Sweden, Norway, Germany, The Netherlands and Japan pay 71% of the annual UNRWA budget. Mr. Hariri omitted mention of the fact that Lebanon, like Israel, donates zero dollars to UNRWA’s budget.

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Assuming the PM is sincere, and this observer does, then Lebanon “adhering to its responsibilities” can be quickly demonstrated by its Parliament granting Palestinians the half-century overdue elementary civil rights to work and to own a home granted to every refugee on earth by every country but Lebanon.

Why do many Lebanese politicians inflate the number of Palestinians in Lebanon?

Plenty of Lebanese and regional political lords have used the inflated Palestinian population figures seeking political advantage.

Lebanon’s anti-Palestinian block that consistently misrepresents the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is led by more than one Christian militia who committed the 1982 massacre at Sabra-Shatila and by the Amal Shia militia that carried out the 1985-89 massacres at three camps which they servilely, on orders from the east, labeled “wars of the camps.”

There were no wars but rather massacres of Palestinian civilians who were without weapons to protect themselves since the PLO left Lebanon in August of 1982.

Among others with a long history of misrepresentation of the number of Palestinians, is Lebanon’s President, Michel Aoun. When this observer last met with Aoun as part of a delegation of pro-Palestinian Americans, Aoun stressed the point as he has done dozens of times before and since, that there are 600,000 Palestinians in Lebanon who, he implies are sucking Lebanon dry.

Also accused by Mr. Rifi of the same crime as Aoun is his son-in-law Jebran Bassil , who got appointed Foreign Minister despite Bassil having admitted he has no qualifications for the post but is close to Hezbollah and Iran like his father-in-law.

This week Bassil is again facing calls to resign. This time for remarks he made this week about Israel being no threat to Lebanon. Speaking on Iran funded Al-Mayadeen on 12/26/2017, Bassil in his position as Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, stated: “For Lebanon, [Israel] isn’t an ideological cause. We are not against Israel existing in security. We accept it. We are not against it. We just want all people to live in peace and to recognize each other. This is not a blind cause.” Adding “We are a people who accept and want the Other, despite our differences.” (For a reminder to all: Israel is an existential enemy in the Near East and created mainly by USA and the colonial powers)

In response to Bassil’s statements, former Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk called on Bassil to immediately be fired, declaring: “If Jebran Bassil does not find an ideological difference with Israel and demands security for it, Cabinet should dismiss him because he violates the Constitution. “Is this Lebanon’s position in international forums? This is shameful!”

(Bassil had to meet with Hassan Nasrallah, secretary General of Hezbollah, for 5 hours after his unwelcome pronouncement. Israel is an existential enemy to the people in the Near-East countries) 

As do some other anti-Palestinian politicians in Lebanon, including the former Minister of Education and Aoun partner, Elias Bou Saab as he a few months ago incited his Christian supporters with the 600,000 Palestinians in Lebanon gross exaggeration at an event at the American University of Beirut (AUB) which this observer attended.

(The author is confusing anti-Palestinian/isolationist sections of mainly Christians Parties with people wanting that the world community apply UN 196 resolution of returning Palestinian refugees to Palestine)

Mr. Saab knows that many of his and Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) political party supporters worry about Muslims swamping them politically and socially much as was the case in the run-up to the 1975-90 civil war. (The Moslems, Sunnis, Shiaas and Druze are already 75% of the population)

Truth told Mr. Saab is probably not all that wild about this observer because at the above-noted event earlier this year in the presence of the UN’s elegant Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag and a number of officials and directors of NGO’s and plenty of media, this no-account observer proceeded to deliver a short- well so it seemed to me- lecture with ample details and statistics to the then Minister of Education Bou Saad on the subject of inflating the number of Palestinians in Lebanon for political purposes.

I also painstakingly addressed the subject of the right to work and home ownership for Palestinian refugees forced into Lebanon against their will 7 decades ago (as Israel chased them out of their homeland). Despite the Ministers public assurance that he would meet with me and we can “fix the problem about the right to work” I still not heard from the gentleman.

But as life instructs us, there is plenty of good in all of us and during his three years as Minister of Education, Elias Bou Saab did, to his great credit, work to get a significant number of the 200,000 Syrian refugee kids now scattered across Lebanon into its public-school system employing a double session innovation whereby Syrian child could study using the same classrooms during split shift afternoon-evening time slot.

Some of the same political motivations have led to fake statistics regarding the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

As of the end of November 2017, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) tallied 997,905 Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

A clear majority of them being women and children who fled their country to Lebanon from the outbreak of the civil war in March of 2011. More than 70% live in extreme poverty, struggling to eke out a living while sheltering in informal tented settlements or unfinished buildings because Parliament has refused to authorize refugee camps where they could receive more organized assistance.

The highest number of Syrian refugees who were ever in Lebanon from the ongoing war next door was 1,011,366.

From 2011 until September 2017, nearly 49,000 Syrians departed Lebanon for third countries under the UN’s resettlement program including the United States, Sweden, and France. Others left on their own, making the dangerous sea journey to reach Europe.

As with the Palestinian refugee’s count, the UN Syrian refugee tally has been shown to be 500,000 fewer than the 1.5 million scare tactic number some Lebanese politicians and their media have hyped for political purposes.

By buying food and necessities, made possible with international humanitarian aid, partly in the form of ‘food stamp ATM cards’ the Syrians are growing Lebanon’s economy and Lebanon shopkeepers are generally thrilled with them. (The Syrians are and were the main construction workers in Lebanon, even before 2011. Now they are also into the restaurant and food business)

But Syrian refugees are not growing Lebanon’s economy according to experts at the International Labor Organization (ILO) as fast as the Palestinian refugees would grow this country’s ailing economy if they were allowed the elementary civil right to work and home ownership as required by international humanitarian law and Lebanon’s constitution.

Lebanese law targets Palestinians that denies them the right to work, social security, or joining a union. There are at least 25 banned areas of work for Palestinians including medicine, law, engineering and pharmacy. Also outlawed for Palestinian is ownership of land, property or a home.

As Fathi Abu al-Ardat, a representative of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Lebanon, noted this past week: “when Palestinians have the rights to work and can live a decent life, they will improve the country on the level of economics, on the level of community, even on the level of security and stability for the country.”

Iran & Hezbollah know better but also use inflated Palestinians population numbers to keep the increasingly restive Shia population loyal by inflating the size of the Palestinian Sunni “Takfiri” threat to Lebanon.

Approximately 92-96% of Palestinians are Sunni and many resent Iran influence for several reasons. One is that in Syria, Iran’s funded and trained 12 militia including Hezbollah and the Al Quds force that have killed nearly four thousand Palestinians, and have targeted a majority of Syria’s ten Palestinian camps. (This exaggeration demonstrate the biased and unfounded siding with USA/Israel/Saudi Kingdom front)

The Yarmouk Palestinian camp near Damascus was home to 120,000 and another Palestinian camp in Latakia last month. (During this world war on Syria, Hamas and many Palestinian jihadists sided with the “extremist opposition factions).

The most recent demolished camp, over the past two weeks, was in the Southern Ramal district of Latakia, which residents claim Iran wants to ‘develop.’ For nearly 70 years, Ramal has been located along Latakia city’s southern coastline, on a strip of land that slopes down towards the Mediterranean Sea. The district was settled as an informal encampment in the 1950’s by Palestinian refugees fleeing Jaffa and other coastal towns. Approximately 10,000 Palestinians in Syria have lost their homes in Ramal.

By slinging inflated figures for the number of Sunni Palestinians in Lebanon at the Shia community, Iran’s leadership reportedly hopes to help Hezbollah whose primary bases, South Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, and South Lebanon increasingly believe that their sons, brothers and fathers are dying in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan for no reason except the whims of Iran’s Wali al-faqih.

(These are the kinds of crappy quick regurgitation of news media bad-wording against Iran)

Iran also seeks to instill fear among its own population to quell the growing number of protests from its own population spreading across Iran.

Iran, according to even neighborhood Hezbollah sources, has vastly overreached in the region with its hegemonic objectives and the people of the region, including increasing numbers of Shia, including thousands of fed up Iranians. Many Hezbollah leaders have long objected to what they have been ordered to do in Syria and the region.

Moreover, thousands of Iranian citizens have taken to the streets of the country’s second-largest city, Mashhad and other towns this week to once again protest high prices, unemployment, and the fact that their government is spending countless billions funding militia across the Middle East while “our women are selling themselves on the streets for money to feed their families and our young men are forced to steal!”

(These uprising were consequent to banks foreclosure due to shortage in liquidity. It subsided within 3 days as millions of counter Iranians surged in the streets))

Videos on Nazar’s Telegram channel showed citizens in Mashhad, an important religious center in the northeast of Iran, not chanting “Death to America” but rather “Death to the dictator” (Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei) and protesting about their ruler’s efforts at regional hegemony, rather than improving conditions at home. “Not Gaza, not Syria, not Lebanon, my life for Iran” was one of main chants.

Iran’s brutal theocratic rulers have a problem as many Iranian believe and hope that the current rebellion will rapidly spread and become for their rulers what Benghazi in February 2011 was for Gadaffi and Deraa, Syria was a month later for Assad. (The author is mainly day dreaming his wishes)

The claimed “Resistance” has also long used the inflated figure for political advantage as they seek to rein in many of their hard-core Shia supporters with claims that Palestinians in Lebanon comprise another 600,000 Sunni so why empower them with the civil rights to work and own a home? Given Hezbollah’s political power it would take just 90 minutes in Parliament to grant Palestinians the right to work and home ownership. But the tribal “Resistance” axis has chosen to block these elementary civil rights.

Hopefully growing pressure from the new generation of young Palestinians vying for leadership positions in the camps and the growing number of young Shia in the region who no longer want to be fodder from their leaders seeking revenge for the events at Karbala 1,500 years ago, can persuade the “Resistance” that true Resistance begins with improving the Palestinian camps and being allowed to seek a job.

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 archaeological sites and artifacts of the Babylonian, Sumerian, Egyptian, Assyrian, Phoenician, Aramaic, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Omayyad, 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 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”. http://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.

mealsforsyrianrefugeechildrenlebanon.com/

Living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

For decades, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been living in poverty and subpar conditions in Lebanon.

Some 450,000 Palestinians are registered as refugees in the country, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

More than 50% live in one of the country’s 12 refugee settlements, “all of which suffer from serious problems, including poverty, overcrowding, unemployment, poor housing conditions and lack of infrastructure.”

As much of the world turns a blind eye on the problems these refugees must deal with on a daily basis, generations and generations of Palestinians continue to be born and die within a harsh and unfair reality. Here are 7 horrible facts about life for the majority of these people.

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6 horrible facts about life in Lebanon for Palestinian refugees
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1. High unemployment

A young man walks in an alleyway of a Palestinian refugee settlement in Beirut. Source: Jason Lemon

A young man walks in an alleyway of a Palestinian refugee settlement in Beirut. Source: Jason Lemon

More than half of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are unemployed, leaving only 37 percent of the working age population employed, according to a 2012 report by ANERA.

Despite educational backgrounds, Palestinians are restricted from even being considered for employment in as many as 20 professions, according to the UNRWA.

Often, the only jobs Palestinians are able to find in Lebanon are menial labor, paying poor wages.

2. Very low average income

An elderly Palestinian woman walking down an alley. Source: Jason Lemon

An elderly Palestinian woman walking down an alley. Source: Jason Lemon

As a direct result of the employment situation, Palestinians on average have a significantly lower income than Lebanese. Out of other countries hosting Palestinian refugees, Lebanon has the highest percentage of Palestinians living in extreme poverty, according to ANERA. Two out of three Palestinians in the country survive with less than $6 per day.

3. Subpar education facilities

An UNRWA school for Palestinians in Beirut. Source: Jason Lemon

An UNRWA school for Palestinians in Beirut. Source: Jason Lemon

Palestinians are not allowed to enroll in Lebanon’s public school system. (The new Syrian refugees can). Although they could enroll in private institutions, with just $6 a day, paying tuition is virtually impossible. Thus, refugees rely on UNRWA schools and vocational centers that are increasingly inadequate to meet the needs of the population.

As many as half of Palestinian teenagers, especially males, drop out of school – usually to work in part-time menial jobs to support their families.

4. Crumbling infrastructure

A Palestinian refugee settlement in Beirut. Source: Jason Lemon

A Palestinian refugee settlement in Beirut. Source: Jason Lemon

While Palestinians have been living in the same settlements for decades, with little support and poor economic prospects, these settlements remain to be some of the poorest and least developed areas in Lebanon.

Increasingly overcrowded, ANERA reports these Palestinian settlements suffer from “Poor housing conditions, leaky pipes, deteriorated water and sewage treatment systems, contaminated water, and jerry-rigged electrical connections.”

5. Poor health

A young Palestinian girl traces a crack with her umbrella. Source: Jason Lemon

A young Palestinian girl traces a crack in the street with her umbrella. Source: Jason Lemon

Its not surprising that all of the aforementioned factors have a negative affect on the average Palestinian refugee’s health. “One out of three refugees suffers from a chronic illness such as hypertension, cancer and diabetes,” according to ANERA.

Additionally, “infant, child, and maternal mortality rates are high.” Numerous disabilities, mental health problems and poor nutrition also plague the community.

All of these factors are complicated by the reality that Palestinians are unable to access Lebanon’s public health system. They rely on UNRWA facilities that are understaffed and underfunded, with one doctor at an UNRWA clinic seeing nearly 120 patients per day.

6. Severely limited travel

Residents of a Palestinian refugee settlement walking. Source: Jason Lemon

Residents of a Palestinian refugee settlement walking. Source: Jason Lemon

Why would Palestinians choose to stay in this situation?

Well, despite the obvious economic problems involved in leaving, traveling outside of Lebanon is extremely difficult for Palestinian refugees. Requiring visas to visit the vast majority of countries in the world makes things complicated.

Add to this the fact that Palestinian refugees’ travel is also limited and controlled by the Lebanese government through a complicated visa system based on their particular legal status within the country, and you have a population of people that is essentially stuck in a dire situation.

And the bad news? With the influx of refugees from Syria, some of whom were already Palestinian refugees residing there, the situation only becomes more complicated and hundreds of thousands of innocent people continue to suffer the consequences.

Note: Many Palestinian refugees have been living in Lebanon for 6 decades since their forced exodus by Israel in 1948.

Many more flocked in in 1967 after the June pre-emptive war against Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

More came in after King Hussein of Jordan drove them to Lebanon in 1971.

Lebanon main reason for denying a Lebanese woman to give citizenship to her children is because many married Palestinians.

Lebanon refused to give Palestinian descendants any rights

 

 

When justice is served to Palestinian refugees: Roger Waters to Dionne Warwick

Najat Rizk  shared this link
May 16, 2015

Thank you Roger Waters ….Humanity and Justice for All.

Doc Jazz's photo.

ROGER WATERS, former PINK FLOYD frontman:

“Dionne Warwick called me out by name in asserting she’d play Tel Aviv. Here’s what she misunderstands.

Singer and U.N. global ambassador Dionne Warwick recently released an interesting if puzzling statement asserting that she would, and I quote, “never fall victim to the hard pressures of Roger Waters, from Pink Floyd, or other political people who have their views on politics in Israel.”

“Waters’ political views are of no concern,” I assume she means to her, the statement read. “Art,” she added, “has no boundaries.”

Until today, I have not publicly commented on Ms. Warwick’s Tel Aviv concert or reached out to her privately.

But given her implicit invitation, I will comment now.

First, in my view, Dionne Warwick is a truly great singer.

Secondly, I doubt not that she is deeply committed to her family and her fans.

But, ultimately, this whole conversation is not about her, her gig in Tel Aviv, or even her conception of boundaries and art, though I will touch on that conception later.

This is about human rights and, more specifically, this is about the dystopia that can develop, as it has in Israel, when society lacks basic belief in equal human value, when it strays from the ability to feel empathy for our brothers and sisters of different faiths, nationalities, creeds or colors.

It strikes me as deeply disingenuous of Ms. Warwick to try to cast herself as a potential victim here.

The victims are the occupied people of Palestine with no right to vote and the unequal Palestinian citizens of Israel, including Bedouin Israeli citizens of the village of al-Araqib, which has now been bulldozed 83 times by order of the Israeli government.

I believe you mean well, Ms. Warwick, but you are showing yourself to be profoundly ignorant of what has happened in Palestine since 1947, and I am sorry but you are wrong, art does know boundaries.

In fact, it is an absolute responsibility of artists to stand up for human rights – social, political and religious – on behalf of all our brothers and sisters who are being oppressed, whoever and wherever they may be on the surface of this small planet.

Forgive me, Ms. Warwick, but I have done a little research, and know that you crossed the picket line to play Sun City at the height of the anti-apartheid movement.

In those days, Little Steven, Bruce Springsteen and 50 or so other musicians protested against the vicious, racist oppression of the indigenous peoples of South Africa.

Those artists allowed their art to cross boundaries, but for the purpose of political action. They released a record that struck a chord across the world. That record, “I Ain’t Gonna play Sun City,” showed the tremendous support of musicians all over the world for the anti-apartheid effort.
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Those artists helped win that battle, and we, in the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, will win this one against the similarly racist and colonialist policies of the Israeli government of occupation.

We will continue to press forward in favor of equal rights for all the peoples of the Holy Land.

Just as musicians weren’t going to play Sun City, increasingly we’re not going to play Tel Aviv. There is no place today in this world for another racist, apartheid regime.

As I’m sure you know, Lauryn Hill canceled her gig in Tel Aviv last week. She did not explicitly cite Israeli oppression of Palestinians as her reason for cancelling, but the subtext of her actions is clear and we thank her for her principled stand.

Dionne, I am of your generation. I remember the road to Montgomery, I remember Selma, I remember the struggles against the Jim Crow laws here.

Sadly, we are still fighting those battles, whether here in the USA in Ferguson or Baltimore, or in Gaza or the Negev, wherever the oppressed need us to raise our voices unafraid. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with them, our brothers and sisters, until true equality and justice are won.

Remember, “Operation Protective Edge,” the Israeli bombing of Gaza last summer, resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including more than 500 Palestinian children.

It is hard for us over here to imagine what it is like to be exiled, disenfranchised, imprisoned, rendered homeless and then slaughtered, with no place to flee. Hopefully, in the end, love will triumph.

But love will not triumph unless we stand up to such injustice and fight it tooth and nail, together.

Dionne, your words indicate that part of you is set on going through with your concert. I am appealing to another part of you, to implore that other part to join us. We will welcome you.

It is more than likely that you harbor reservations in your heart about what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, that when you see a mother’s child in ruins you wonder what if that child were mine?

It is not too late to hear those reservations, to listen to that other voice, to value freedom and equality for all over the value you place on your concert in Tel Aviv.

When global pressure finally forces Israel to end its occupation, when the apartheid wall comes down, when justice is served to Palestinian refugees and all people there are free and equal, I will gladly join you in concert in the Holy Land, cross all the boundaries and share our music with all the people.”

Source: http://www.salon.com/…/roger_waters_to_dionne_warwick_you_…/

The story of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria?

On 18 January 2014, barely five miles from the centre of Damascus – with President Bashar al‑Assad’s office complex visible in the distance – a small crowd of desperate people emerged from a seemingly uninhabited wasteland of bomb-shattered buildings.

News had spread throughout Yarmouk, a district of the capital that is home to Syria’s largest community of Palestinians, that the government and rebel groups had agreed to allow a delivery of food, briefly opening a crack in a year-long siege that had starved the area’s civilians and caused dozens of deaths.

Families had sent their strongest members to collect the newly arrived supplies, and the hungry throng filled the entire width of a street, throwing up dust in the morning light.

The relief workers making the delivery recalled one woman, gaunt with malnutrition, who fell down and was too weak to rise. She died on the spot. The scenes were such that some of these experienced aid workers needed trauma counselling when they returned to headquarters in Damascus.

There was only enough food for a few hundred families.

Thousands of disappointed people staggered home empty-handed. But officials from the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), established to aid Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East, hoped that the delivery had set a precedent.

They had not publicised it in advance – there was concern that excessive attention would anger the Syrian government – and were reluctant to invite journalists to observe a mission that might have been aborted for security reasons. Four days earlier, an attempted delivery had been abandoned after a mortar exploded very close to the convoy.

After the successful delivery on 18 January, UNRWA officials decided discretion was no longer the best policy.

On 31 January, a convoy delivering food to Yarmouk was accompanied by a local photographer, who took a picture of the vast crowd surging through a street lined with the ruins of destroyed buildings.

This image quickly became an emblem of the Syrian conflict.

To draw attention to the plight of the besieged civilians UNRWA launched a social media campaign (#LetUsThrough) in which millions clicked on a petition to put the image on two of the world’s highest-profile billboards. In Times Square, New York and the Shibuya district of Tokyo people stood in front of giant screens taking selfies, which were then beamed back to Yarmouk as a show of solidarity.

This was how Yarmouk entered the world’s consciousness: a refugee camp designed as a safe haven for the Palestinian diaspora that had become the worst place on earth.

No electricity for months. No piped water. (Reminds me of Lebanon?). No access for food.

Worse still, no chance for people to leave or return, except for a handful of emergency medical cases or the few who had the means to pay people-smugglers to get them through the multiple checkpoints.

Some called it Syria’s Gaza, but its plight was even worse, because the siege was more comprehensive; Yarmouk was a prison from which there was no escape.

But notoriety can be short-lived.

When Gaza came under Israeli bombardment in July 2014 and the world’s media rushed to report the carnage, Yarmouk slipped back into obscurity.  (Coordinated events?)

The opening in the siege that UNRWA had negotiated in January 2014 applied only fitfully throughout the year: food deliveries were only possible on 131 days, and often less than half the amount required got through.

Since 6 December, the siege has once again become impassable.

UNRWA reports that it has not been able to deliver any food at all for the past 12 weeks. “We are getting new reports of people dying of malnutrition and of women dying in childbirth, but nothing can be confirmed,” said Chris Gunness, UNRWA’s spokesperson. Unlike in Gaza, where UNRWA has several offices, the organisation cannot enter Yarmouk at all.

Hafez al-Assad

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Late Hafez al-Assad (died of cancer in 2000). Photograph: Enric Marti/AP

As Syria’s civil war enters its fourth year, other towns and villages are suffering long sieges, usually by Assad’s forces but sometimes, as in the case of Nubul and Zahra, two Shia villages north-west of Aleppo, by anti-Assad rebels.

Still, Yarmouk stands out, partly because of the large number of trapped civilians – estimated to be around 18,000 – but also because of its political significance.  (Yarmouk hosted 170,000 people before the civil war)

Hafez al-Assad, who ruled Syria for three decades before power passed to his son on his death in 2000, cast his country as the cornerstone of the Arab “axis of resistance” against Israel.

This required that he be seen as the supreme defender of Palestinian rights; a leader who would ensure that Palestinian refugees in Syria lived better than those anywhere else in the Middle East.

For Yarmouk to come under the control of anti-Assad rebels, and then be bombarded by government forces – to become a spectacle of suffering far worse than Gaza – marked an indelible stain on the mantle that Bashar al-Assad inherited from his father.

Before the Syrian civil war began, Yarmouk was home to 150,000 Palestinians. Though people still refer to it as a “camp”, tents were replaced with solid housing soon after its founding in 1957.

In time it became just another district of Damascus. As well as being home to Syria’s largest community of Palestinian refugees, it also housed some 650,000 Syrians.

Nidal Bitari, a co-founder of the Palestinian Association for Human Rights in Syria, fled the country at the end of 2011 after being tipped off that he was wanted by the Assad regime’s security services.

But, like most of the Palestinians in Yarmouk, he wanted to stay neutral when the uprising began. As Bitari wrote in a detailed account of Yarmouk’s recent political history published in 2013, Palestinians in Syria lived under better conditions than in any other Arab state:

“By law they enjoy almost all the rights and benefits of Syrian nationals except citizenship and the right to vote. They have full access to Syrian schools and universities on the same basis as citizens … And because their numbers are tiny compared to the general Syrian population (less than 2%), the refugees were never perceived as a threat, and the degree of integration between Palestinians and Syrians – through work, education, and intermarriage – has no parallel in the Arab world.”

(As the civil war raged, the Palestinians paying allegiance to Hamas and Fateh allied to the Syrian extremistIslamist  forces of Al Nusra)

When I first visited Yarmouk in March 2003, it was a hotbed of anger towards the American invasion of Iraq, which had just began.

While other Arab countries muted criticism of US policy or quietly supported George W Bush and Tony Blair, the Syrian state media was full of denunciations. Scores of young Palestinian men from the camp had crossed into Iraq to fight the Americans, often disappearing without telling their own families.

I came across a wake in one narrow back street. It was the third day of mourning for a young man named Issam. He had telephoned home for the first time as he was about to cross into Iraq.

In a bus from Damascus with other volunteers from half a dozen Arab countries, the young Palestinian told his father that he and two cousins were going off to war.

Six days of silence followed, as his family watched TV footage from Iraq even more intently than before. Then one of the cousins phoned: Issam had never even reached Baghdad.

Less than five hours after calling his parents,he died in a hail of fire from a US helicopter. Thirteen other unarmed men in the three buses were killed. The cousin escaped with minor wounds.

When Syrians began to rise up in protest against the government of Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, the situation threatened to unsettle the relatively stable position of Palestinians within the country.

Palestinian groups were closely monitored by the Syrian security services and they were expected to remain uninvolved in the nation’s politics.

According to Bitari, the trigger for Yarmouk’s entrapment in the intensifying conflict came from the Syrian government rather than the opposition.

In May 2011, during the preparations for Nakba Day, which commemorates the expulsion of Palestinian refugees during the creation of Israel in 1948, representatives of the Assad regime began to promote the idea of a demonstration at the Israeli border on the Golan Heights.

Bitari and his friends were wary, suspecting that the regime wanted to divert attention from the internal uprising. He described their decision to form a “youth coalition of Palestinians” in Yarmouk to coordinate decisions pertaining to the camp, which included representatives from each of the Palestinian political factions inside.

The group’s first meeting concerned the Nakba Day protests, and a majority opposed any participation. But on the morning of Nakba Day the government supplied buses, which hundreds of people got on.

At the border, the Syrian army let the buses through the demarcation lines and several protesters climbed the fence that blocks access to Israeli-controlled territory (occupied Golan Heights?). Israeli troops used tear gas and live rounds. Three people died.

A month later, on Naksa Day – the anniversary of the defeat of Arab armies by Israel in the 1967 six-day war – minivans sent by Syrian security took about 50 Yarmouk residents to the border, where they were joined by several hundred other young people. Syrian state TV cameras were on hand to film what happened.

Again people tried to scale the fence, and this time 23 were shot dead by Israeli forces – 12 of them from Yarmouk, according to Bitari.

Though the Israelis fired the bullets, “the rage was almost as great against the factions for not doing anything to stop the bloodshed”, as Bitari said.

The next day the funeral of the victims was attended by 30,000 people.

Angry mourners surrounded the headquarters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC, a faction led by Ahmed Jibril, which rejected the Oslo accords.)  The PFLP-GC was a firm supporter of the Syrian government and was seen by many residents as the regime’s enforcer in the camp. When a PFLP-GC security guard shot and killed a 14-year-old boy, the crowd stormed the building and set it on fire. Jibril had to be rescued by the Syrian army.

This event embarrassed Bashar al-Assad and encouraged Syrian opposition groups to see Yarmouk as a potential support base for the uprising against him.

Yarmouk’s geographical position, wedge-shaped with its apex pointing at the heart of Damascus, gave it strategic value.

The district was bordered by two poorer Syrian suburbs, al Hajar al Aswad and Tadamon, which were already being infiltrated by opposition fighters. To the south was open countryside, which was easy for them to move through.

Bitari and his friends still hoped to keep Yarmouk neutral. They were alarmed when the Syrian government, shaken by the anti-PFLP-GC protest and the threat of rebel advances, gave Jibril’s men the right to parade with weapons.

This escalation encouraged the Free Syrian Army – at that time the main opposition group, backed by western governments – to plan to move into the camp and seize it from Syrian government control.

The Palestinian youth coalition’s efforts had failed. The group disbanded in despair. Civilians who wanted to avoid their district being militarised and dragged into conflict found themselves isolated. The same dynamic was affecting most of the rest of the country.

For the Free Syrian Army, Yarmouk was a particularly valued prize after Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas in exile who had lived in Damascus for more than a decade, moved to Qatar in February 2012.

Meshaal felt unable to accede to the Syrian government’s pleas that he condemns the anti-regime uprising. Instead, he accepted an invitation from Qatar, one of the armed opposition’s main financial backers. It was a severe blow to Assad’s credentials as leader of the axis of resistance.

In December 2012 the FSA and the al-Qaida affiliate, Jabhat al Nusra were ready for a concerted attack to capture Damascus and topple Assad.

Yarmouk was the gateway to the capital, closer to the centre than any of the other suburbs where the regime was losing control.

The crisis came to a head on 16 December, when a Syrian air force plane bombed Yarmouk in what the government later claimed was a mistake. Dozens of civilians were killed. Brigades from the FSA and Jabhat al Nusra seized the opportunity to enter the camp – and in response, the government launched a hail of artillery shells, turning most buildings on the edge of the district to rubble.

A girl receives soup from Kafaf, a charitable foundation, in Yarmouk

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A girl receives soup from Kafaf, a charitable foundation, in Yarmouk Photograph: Reuters

Within a few days most of the PFLP-GC, the main Palestinian faction supporting the Assad regime, had fled Yarmouk; some defected to the rebels who went on to gain full control.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians left. The Syrians of Yarmouk mainly went to relatives and friends in central Damascus or other cities, or moved to Lebanon and Jordan.

Palestinians fled to what they hoped would be safer areas inside Syria. Although rebel efforts to capture the rest of Damascus failed, Yarmouk remains in rebel hands today. Some 18,000 civilians still live there, including anywhere between 1,000 and 4,000 Syrians. Still, it is clear that Yarmouk has reverted to being a largely Palestinian enclave.

Assad’s government responded to its defeat in Yarmouk by putting the area under siege.

For a few months food could still be brought in from the rural areas to the south, though profiteering was intense.

In July 2013 the government tightened its grip and the siege became almost total. Inside Yarmouk fighting erupted between the FSA and Jabhat al Nusra, the latter of which had set up sharia courts.

Spasmodic attempts were made to relieve the suffering of Yarmouk’s civilians. In the spring of 2013 Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, even proposed that all of Yarmouk’s 150,000 Palestinian residents move to the West Bank or Gaza. In November 2013, Abbas sent a team to Damascus to discuss humanitarian relief and a ceasefire between the rebels and the government. The idea was to open a safe corridor for the movement of supplies and displaced civilians, but no deal was ever reached.

In September 2014, I met Abu Akram, a member of the PFPL-GC leadership, in a flat on the edge of Yarmouk. A tall older man with one arm in a brace, who moved to Yarmouk from Lebanon in 1994, he had taken part in the abortive ceasefire negotiations with the Syrian opposition, whose breakdown he blamed on the Islamists. A tough, battle-hardened figure firmly allied to the Assad regime, he showed no embarrassment in defending the siege. It was a legitimate tactic, he claimed, in part because the food from UNRWA that was allowed into Yarmouk ended up in the hands of the rebel fighters, for their own use or for sale on the black market.

“We saw that the armed groups were taking food from civilians,” he said, then claimed that boxes of aid meant for Yarmouk could be seen for sale in a nearby district. He even criticised the decision to relax the pressure in early 2014. “It was a mistake to break the siege,” he said. “If we had continued by another week, hunger would have forced them to give up.”

The barbaric nature of sieges has remained unchanged for thousands of years.

The aim is to starve the trapped civilians into submission, in the hope they will turn against whatever armed faction controls the territory and persuade them to surrender. The armed faction, in turn, wants to keep the civilians inside so as to make it less likely the besieging army will bring destruction upon the captives.

Now, in the 21st century, the very same tactics are being deployed not only in Yarmouk but in several other parts of Syria.

Sieges fuel a war economy in which those who man the checkpoints can run a lucrative business selling permission to leave or return. They encourage smuggling of people and food, and keep prices in the camp’s few markets artificially high.

When I visited Yarmouk’s northern entrance in September 2014, I found nothing but bleakness. Syrian government soldiers stood guard near a crossroads known as Battikha – “watermelon” – Square, so named for a green monument of a globe that stands amid a clump of palm trees in the middle of the street. The only route into the camp required a walk through a narrow alley between two five-storey buildings that had most of their windows blown out. The neighbouring alley was shielded by huge white padded sheets strung from the upper floors of buildings on either side – makeshift screens intended to stop rebel snipers from targeting anyone walking in the square.

A young woman in hijab was standing near the entrance, weeping as she and a male companion talked with the officer in charge of the checkpoint. After a few minutes of conversation that ended on what looked to be a frustrating note, the woman and her friend pulled back, then wandered up and down the street, apparently debating whether to try another tack to convince the officer or just give up and leave.

Palestine refugees in Yarmouk queue for food distributed by UNRWA.

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Palestine refugees in Yarmouk queue for food distributed by UNRWA. Photograph: HOPD/AP

“I am trapped,” the woman, named Reem Buqaee, told me. She had been given permission to leave Yarmouk three months earlier with her three teenage daughters. The oldest one was pregnant. Owing to malnutrition, she was suffering from anaemia so severe that she was at risk of losing her baby. The other two girls also had medical problems. But leaving the camp had meant splitting the family. The husband of the pregnant woman could not leave the camp, nor could Reem’s husband, or her 16-year-old son. Rebel groups were eager to keep people in the camp, she said, particularly men and boys. Their departure was seen as defection from the opposition cause as well as potentially making it easier for government troops to enter the camp by force and regain control.

Buqaee’s daughter had safely given birth and the other girls had regained their strength, so she wanted to take them back into Yarmouk.

“I had to choose between living in a prison under siege but alongside my husband and son, or stay outside Yarmouk separated but free,” she said.

On this particular day, she had come to the camp entrance to see whether her request to return had been granted, but the officer told her he had not received orders to let her and her daughters and baby grand-daughter inside. “Our house is only 100 metres from here, just inside the camp. It’s so near but very far,” she said.

The next day, I visited Buqaee at an overcrowded flat in the Dummar suburb of Damascus, where a distant relative had given her and her daughters temporary shelter.

A thick atmosphere of fear surrounds any discussion of Yarmouk. This affects everyone from UNRWA officials to Yarmouk residents. People worry that their families will suffer if they publicly attribute blame to the regime or the rebels for the siege, the collapse of ceasefire talks, and the impossibility of escaping.

UNRWA officials are concerned about losing the minimal access they have to Yarmouk if they say anything that might be misinterpreted by one side or the other. When I spoke to residents who had left the camp for other parts of Damascus, but who talk regularly with siblings and parents still inside, they refused to be quoted, explaining that people are scared of reprisals from both the regime and the anti-Assad forces inside the camp.

Buqaee, however, described the horrors of the siege without hesitation: women dying in childbirth, infants killed by malnutrition.

There was no anger or hysteria in her voice, just a calm recollection of facts. “You couldn’t buy bread. At the worst point a kilo of rice cost 12,000 Syrian pounds (£41), now it is 800 pounds (£2.75) compared to 100 Syrian pounds (34p) in central Damascus. It was 900 pounds (£3.10) for a kilo of tomatoes, compared to 100 here,” Reem recalled. “We had some stocks but when they gave out we used to eat wild plants. We picked and cooked them. In every family there was hepatitis because of a lack of sugar. The water was dirty. People had fevers. Your joints and bones felt stiff. My middle daughter had brucellosis and there was no medication,” she said. In October 2013, in a sign of how bad things had become, the imam of Yarmouk’s largest mosque issued a fatwa that permitted people to eat cats, dogs and donkeys.

The relaxation of the siege in January last year was limited and insecure, she said. UNRWA’s food deliveries were regularly cut short by mortar explosions and sniper fire. No one was sure who began firing or why. She remembered one incident vividly: “It was March 23. I had gone to collect a food parcel and was on the way back when a mortar went off. Twenty-nine people were killed. My daughter’s husband had come to help carry the boxes. He was hit by shrapnel and cannot walk now. It’ll take him another three or four months to get better.”

For most of 2014, both sides were willing to allow some humanitarian supplies to enter the camp on an ad hoc basis, UN officials told me, even if the amount was far below what was needed.

Every day, UNRWA would check whether there had been exchanges of fire in Yarmouk. Sometimes the agency’s minivans never left the warehouse in central Damascus, on other occasions, delivery convoys were turned back. “We never say we’ve had access. All we say is that they’ve given us some opportunities to provide aid,” one UN official said.

UNRWA has not yet been able to enter the camp to conduct a needs assessment.

Since the graphic scenes of starving masses early last year, the agency developed a more orderly process, with lists of people who are allowed to cross the no man’s land at the edge of the camp once each month to collect food parcels.

Each parcel contains 5 kilograms of rice, 5 kilograms of sugar, 5 kilograms of lentils, 5 litres of oil, five kilograms of powdered milk, 1 kilogram of halva, one and a half kilograms of pasta and five 200g tins of luncheon meat. This is designed to feed a family of 8 people for 10 days.

In other parts of Syria where displaced Palestinians are living, UNRWA provides cash so that people can buy food for the rest of the month, but in Yarmouk that has not been not possible.

Providing medical supplies is sensitive, since the Syrian government fears they will go to wounded fighters.

Initially it only gave permission for rehydration salts and basic painkillers. UNRWA eventually managed to operate a mobile health clinic at the food distribution point, which provided basic treatments for communicable diseases and other infections, as well as conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Tests conducted in 2014 on a random sample of patients found that 40% had typhoid.

Education has been dramatically affected by the siege.

According to residents inside the camp, all of Yarmouk’s 28 schools have been closed, and volunteer teachers hold informal classes in 10 “safe spaces”, including the basements of mosques.

The lack of electricity means children have to do their homework by generators if their parents can afford the fuel for them, or by candlelight. The spotlight that the UNRWA has tried to keep on Yarmouk may have acted as some restraint on government forces – the area has not been bombed as heavily as other rebel-held districts of Damascus. But this is only a crumb of comfort.

“Conditions are far worse than Gaza,” said one UN official. “Palestinians always had dignity, hope, resilience. Now after four years of war I see people giving up. They find it hard to accept there are no options”.

The latest attempt to reach a ceasefire and end the siege of Yarmouk was last June, when the armed groups inside the camp and some civilian representatives signed a pact with 13 representatives of the Assad government, which would have seen gunmen leave Yarmouk after the creation of a new security force to defend the camp. The deal was never implemented.

Nidal Bitari now lives in the United States, where he remains in daily contact with friends in Yarmouk by phone and Skype. He lobbied at UN headquarters in New York for western governments to support the June ceasefire agreement, and blames them, along with supporters of Jabhat al Nusra, for letting the deal collapse.

“I suppose this initiative went against the wishes of France, UK and USA,” he said, “as their policy is based on supporting the interim government in exile, and they believe such truces give legitimacy to the regime.”

Talal Alyan, a Palestinian-American writer and researcher who lives in the US, recently wrote that Jabhat al Nusra controls 60% of the camp, and suggested the group had attempted to ban singing and force women to wear the veil.

Since our conversation, Reem Buqaee has managed to go home to Yarmouk, even though it meant returning to siege conditions. When no response came from the Palestinian authorities who shared control of the camp’s northern entrance with regime forces, she decided to use an unofficial channel.

A friend in the air force, one of the pillars of Assad’s regime, persuaded his commander to contact officers at government checkpoints in Beit Sahem, a village to the south of Yarmouk, to let them cross the frontline. Inside the camp, the water supply has still not returned, 6 months after pipes were damaged by fighting in September 2014. This has forced the residents to rely on untreated groundwater and a single well.

To add to the horror of the siege, the shadow of ISIS has fallen across Yarmouk. When the group announced the establishment of a caliphate last year, Bitari said, some Jabhat al Nusra fighters in Yarmouk switched their allegiance and threatened to kill anyone who supported the ceasefire agreement.

Isis is not yet in Yarmouk in full force, according to Bitari, but it was in nearby suburbs and had threatened to enter the camp at any time. (It did and has occupied a large portion of the camp)

Nidal Bitari is gloomy in exile. When it became clear the US was about to strike targets in Syria in September, he coordinated an appeal from activists back home.

They feared Obama would attack Isis positions in Yarmouk. “Here in Washington I’m surrounded by people from the Syrian National Coalition [the western-supported opposition] who tell me they want Obama to bomb Damascus. It would be a political more than a military action, aimed at warning Assad that the opposition has powerful friends. I told them it would cause a high number of casualties and there’s no way for Palestinians in Yarmouk to flee,” he said.

The appeal condemned the Syrian government for mounting a brutal siege but said any coalition air strike on Damascus would create an even greater humanitarian disaster.

In Bitari view the reimposition of a total siege since early December was a tactic by the Assad regime to drive Yarmouk’s people to despair and have them press the armed groups to accept a truce under the regime’s conditions. It would amount to a surrender like those the government achieved in the city of Homs and the Damascus suburb of Muadhamiya last year.

The armed groups would have to give up their weapons and submit to interrogation, with the risk of torture or execution.

In spite of the siege, Bitari feels that in one way Syria’s Palestinians who have escaped abroad may be worse off than those left behind.

“We heard much about the Nakba from our parents and grandparents, about their suffering when forced to leave their country, at having lost everything,” he wrote. “They worked hard to build their lives in Syria, and what they built is destroyed. And now we, the third generation, are experiencing this also, of starting from zero in other countries.”

  • This article was amended on 11 March 2015. It mistakenly described Talal Alyan as a former Yarmouk resident. He is a Palestinian-American writer and researcher who lives in the US. This has been corrected.
Najat Rizk  shared  Jamil Mroue link  on FB this April 9, 2015

This is criminal and nothing else.

The long read: Yarmouk, near the centre of Damascus, prospered as a safe haven for Palestinians.
Under siege, it is now a prison for its remaining residents….
theguardian.com|By Jonathan Steele

Massive Attack visit Palestinian refugees in Lebanon:

‘All of them have a right to a life of dignity and beauty’

Massive Attack have spoken of their ‘love and commitment’ to supporting the plight of young Palestinian refugees after the political band visited the Bourj el-Barajneh refugee camp in Lebanon yesterday [28 July].

Members Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall were taken on a tour of the Al Naqab Center, run by Palestinian volunteers.

The center, which offers remedial classes, is a meeting place for active youth and other social activities. It has primarily been set up for Palestinians who have recently arrived from war-torn Syria.

Tonight (29 July), they will stage a concert in Lebanon in collaboration with the Hoping Foundation, part of the proceeds of which will go towards Al Naqab, as well as funding the building of a new public library in a separate camp in the north of the country and supporting the ambulance service in Gaza.

“We have been working with HOPING since 2005 doing gigs for the children of Palestine, so it really thrilling for us to be able to finally meet some of the brilliant young Palestinians we have been working with,” Robert Del Naja said.

“We wish to especially mention three groups of Palestinian refugees today.

First, those we just met, recently arrived from Syria who escaped death but are still living such harsh lives today. They have been made refugees many times – first in 1948, and again since the destruction of the Palestinian camps in Syria.

“Also it is important to bring attention to those Palestinians living in Lebanon since 1948: all the young people I met who weren’t born in Syria were born in Lebanon, and all of them are waiting to go home.

“And today we want to show our love solidarity and support for the Palestinian people in Gaza, indeed most of them are also refugees. All of them have a right to a life of dignity and beauty.

“As citizens of the UK, we are very aware of the role our country has played in shaping the history of the region,” he continued. “Like most people we believe in peace and justice over violence and oppression.

The crisis for Palestinians everywhere is most evident with the horrific violence and loss of life we have been witnessing in Gaza these past weeks. Massive Attack have always supported the Palestinian people in their struggle. We are therefore honoured to be working with these young people, and with the Hoping Foundation that serves them.

The band, who have long been vocal in their solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza, used their headline slot at Longitude Festival over the weekend to highlight the widening humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict in Israel.

A lit-up message behind the performers said: “Gaza has been occupied or under restrictions since 1948.”

The recent acts of war in Israel and Gaza has seen over 2,200 Palestinians killed, and 11,000 injured, many of which have been civilian casualties.

READ MORE: JON SNOW’S EMOTIVE PLEA TO END CHILD VIOLENCE IN GAZA
PRESIDENT OBAMA CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE ISRAEL CEASEFIRE
ZAYN MALIK RECEIVES DEATH THREATS OVER #FREEPALESTIAN TWEET

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