Yes to Palestinian Implantation?

A post scriptum to my previous post, concerning the Palestinian implantation in Lebanon.

I have discussed this issue at length with Palestinians of the diaspora; mainly American Palestinians and British Palestinians. One argument kept recurring.

But first, here’s Kissinger’s account on it. I came across these lines today, as I was reading a passage of his memoirs again:

[The Lebanese’s] major concern was (…), above all, that we [Americans] help solve the Palestinian problem, finding them a home anywhere other than in Lebanon.

I did not have the heart to tell President Frangieh that, from what I had heard in the Middle East, he was unlikely to obtain relief from his devouring guests. In the judgment of all the other Arab leaders I had met–with the possible exception of those in Saudi Arabia–very few Palestinians would want to return to the West Bank whoever ruled there. (…) (Years of Upheaval, 1982, pp. 788-89).

(Just as a reminder: It was President Beshara al-Khuri’s idea to scatter the Palestinians refugees all over the Lebanese territory, whereas Prime Minister Riad al-Sulh had insisted that they be kept together on the southern Lebanese border. Sulh’s argument was that this measure would facilitate their return. But Khuri knew somehow that the refugees did not come for a short visit, and preferred the scattering in order to prevent them from establishing an autonomous entity or state in the south.)

So, the famous recurring argument is that the Palestinian refugees in question have been in Lebanon much longer than I had been. I had also heard that several times during debates with fellow Sunni Lebanese. This is a point; they’ve been here before, therefore, they deserve to be Lebanese. (More than us? Haven’t dared to ask.)

Needless to say, I did not adhere to the argument, which cost me to be accused of ta’ifiyya (sectarianism) by my Palestinian interlocutors. Turns out I am sectarian because I rejected the implantation of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

My argument was primarily based on demographic reasons. Lebanon has already a very high population density (405/km2, World 25th, and Arab 3rd, after Bahrain and the Palestinian territories, i.e. Gaza and the West Bank). There is no need for an additional. and sudden, increase of population.

The second argument was based on economic reasons. The naturalization of the Palestinian refugees would negatively reflect on all the economic indicators and indexes of the country: GDP per capita, average standard of living, etc.

The third argument was, naturally, sectarian, but my Palestinian interlocutor was persuaded that I was in fact only concerned about this argument rather than the two previous ones.

Am I?

I read in President Charles Helou’s memoirs that the reason why the refugees were left in an “undesirable” condition was to keep them dreaming of Palestine without becoming too attached to the life in Lebanon! (I have no precise reference for that one, but you will surely find it in the vol. II or III of his memoirs).

All that being said, we are supposing, of course, that the proponents of implantation are devoid of any sectarian logic.

Burj al-Brajneh Palestinian camp.
Burj al-Brajneh refugee camp / (c) Cagil M. Kasapoglu 2010
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2 Responses to Yes to Palestinian Implantation?

  1. That’s a lot of Kataeb-like wordplay my friend. Let’s look into the three arguments.

    1- Demography: “Lebanon has already a very high population density […] There is no need for an additional. and sudden, increase of population”. This argument doesn’t hold. Granting citizen rights to the Palestinians of Lebanon will not affect the country’s demographic density because these people are already there!! What it will affect are the statistics. What are you more worried about, reality or figures?

    2- Economy: “The naturalization of the Palestinian refugees would negatively reflect on all the economic indicators and indexes of the country: GDP per capita, average standard of living, etc.”. Again, what are you worried about, reality or figures? If you were worried about the economical repercussions of naturalisation, you’d speak on the loss of UNRWA subsidies, the effect on social security and schooling (with the loss of UNRWA schools)…

    3. Sectarian: Do you believe placing this argument third makes it any better? Yes, I too believe that your motivations are principally sectarian. And the problem with sectarianism is that it’s trapped in zero game conjectures. That’s why it’s better to resort to neutral well assumed communalism in which win/win solutions are sought.

    • a.s. says:

      – Indeed, I am worried about figures and reality. They both matter.
      – There is a difference between national economy and domestic economy.
      – There is no wrong in being Kataeb, LF, FPM, or whatever, in a democracy.
      – Finally, extreme pragmatism is not a sufficient reason to yield to the facts.

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