Tomorrow is the UN bid to vote on a Palestinian state. The question that first comes to mind is what kind of a Palestinian state would it be? The second question that emerges is what about the millions refugees? In Lebanon the refugees are scattered in 12 camps across the country. The camps in Lebanon are places inadequate for a healthy life: shanty towns with inhumane conditions. It is the exact same small piece of land that was given to the refugees when they first came to Lebanon back in 1948, back when the refugees thought that it would only be a matter of days until they could go back to their land, Palestine. The Lebanese, not happy with those strangers coming to stay in our country (strangers is a term that was used during the civil war to indicate Palestinians), did not bother to look after their guests; they too thought that the burden would end soon when they returned to their country. But now, after 63 years, the refugees are still here, still suffocating in their tiny camps. The Lebanese did not quite show their famous Lebanese sense of hospitality; this is reserved for the khaliji (petrodollars gulf tourists) tourists and to the white people at all times.
Just to give you a hint, a few months ago the Lebanese Mufti decided to seize a piece of land, given to the Palestinian refugees by a court order back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, right next to the Shatila camp in order for the refugees to expand their already too small camp. When a delegation from Shatila camp went to the Mufti to protest his move he blew up at them, calling them: “rubbish, and we don’t want you as guests anymore”(as reported by Al-Akbar news paper http://www.al-akhbar.com/node/16366). This racist Lebanese approach towards the Palestinians is not new; take for example The Tel al-Zaatar massacre which took place during the Lebanese Civil War on August 12, 1976; or let’s not forget the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982: the slaughter by Christian Lebanese Phalangists of Palestinian civilians that took place while the camp was surrounded by the Israel Defense Force; as well as The War of the Camps (within the 1984–89 phase of the Lebanese Civil War) in which Palestinian refugee camps were besieged by the Shi’ite Amal militia; and last but not least the Naher el-Bared camp: the camp became the centre of the fighting between the Lebanese army and Fatah al-Islam. It sustained heavy shelling while under siege. Most of the inhabitants fled to the nearby Beddawi Palestinian refugee camp (doubling that camps population) or further south to Tripoli, Beirut and Saida. The camp is still a pile of rubble and only few families were able to return to their houses. The rest of the camp inhabitants are still spread in other camps around the country.
I hope by now you have an idea how the Palestinian refugees live in inhumane conditions: a direct result of the creation of Israel but further compounded by the Lebanese who profess to help them. This also explains part of why they are determined to return to their land. It’s extremely troubling to think that people were pushed out of their homes, their lands, to make space for other people who never lived there but claim that their god promised them this piece of land(spooky stuff).
In the camps it’s always the same scene: old and young men alike hanging out on the corners of these gloomy passages, in cafes or just outside their buildings. When I talk to them I get the same reaction: “never one day were we able to work or produce a thing, (we’re) losers hanging out on the streets with all these confused guys”. But this is not the result of some bad economical or financial times but it’s precisely because they are Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. By law Lebanon bans Palestinians from practicing 73 professions and bans them from owning property so they are stuck in the camp. I remember a few years ago an incident in my family where a distant cousin decided to get married. Unfortunately the man that she loved and wanted to marry was Palestinian so the whole family turned against her and threatened that they would renounce her if she insisted on marrying a Palestinian man. Most Lebanese people look at Palestinians in disgust when they know they are Palestinian. And most surprisingly you will never hear all this racism from the Palestinians they always tell you they are grateful to the Lebanese people for having them as guests but they want to return to Palestine, they don’t want to stay here.
Almost all the Palestinians I spoke to lately, especially since the UN bid started getting closer, were not happy about the process since it completely marginalizes the millions of refugees. In parallel with this sentiment there is the one that expresses: “who are these people speaking and signing in our name” pointing at the PA. The corrupt leadership in the PA lost legitimacy from the people a long time ago especially after the failed Oslo agreement and the unjustified wealth of the PA leadership.
As much as I want to sink in peaceful illusions of life, and believe in the promises of a reclaimed state, reality hits me. This “fake state” is only another safe haven for the PA to preserve their authority and continue to be Israel and The US’s puppet.
I realize that we have always been just waiting, but now waiting is not a strategy anymore. We have been waiting for 63 years and nothing has happened to benefit the millions of refugees and the segregated, occupied Palestinian people. What exactly are we waiting for? Are we waiting for people like the PA to shove yet another peace deal down our throat in order for them to survive? In order for them to keep the Palestinian people from attempting to topple them as their Arab brothers and sisters are toppling the same old corrupt regimes?
What’s obvious now is that displacing an entire people for a so-called Palestinian “state” to come into its existence will never fruit sweet fruits, only bitterness, and determination from the displaced to take back their land. How does the world, and America, who have been safe guarding Israel by vetoing all kinds of resolutions, expect the Palestinian refugees to carry on living in the inhumane conditions in the camps? How do they expect the hundreds of thousands in Lebanon to deal with Lebanese racism that prevents them from owning property and lays siege around the camps? How do they expect this mistreated people to put up with being banned from practicing more than 70 professions in a world struggling through a dire economical crisis as a result of the collapse of capitalism?
The vote is tomorrow and, whether it passes or not, the time has come for a change of the status quo. We need to find the courage and overcome the era of the corrupt Arab leaders who have always put Israel’s priorities first. No attempt, or perhaps, to be fair, shy attempts, were made by those Arab leaders to address the injustice done in ‘48 when Palestinians were forced from their land. This voting occasion, that will ignore the millions of refugees, is tantamount, in my opinion, for a call to action. Perhaps this flawed vote will set in motion our Arab brothers and sisters; will galvanize them, in the middle of the wind of change sweeping through our enslaved Arab world, into a 3rd intifada from the surrounding countries of Palestine. We cannot ignore our Palestinian brethren. We, the Arab youth, need to support them and rid ourselves of the chains of the old ruling Arabs who seldom served the real Palestinian cause.
The Palestinians are people, victims of the victims, and not as the West continually portrays them: terrorists, peace haters, extremists, and the countless other alienating descriptions. These are a people who have held steadfast for the longest time in our contemporary history and a sham of a vote won’t break their will to return to their homeland.
To all the people out there, brothers and sisters of freedom, this is our time. The old generation had their chances and they got us into these painful realities and circumstances. The result of their actions in the past is precisely why we are revolting today. Old generation, leave us alone, stay in the back seat and let us decide what kind of world we want. We’re done with your dysfunctional old world, bring on the new.