Thursday, October 11, 2007

400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon Refugee Camps - Who Cares?

I just read this article in the Boston Globe.

We focus on the brutal treatment by the Government of Israel of the Palestinians in the West Bank, the Palestinians in Gaza, and the Bedouin Israelis.

That leaves little time to be concerned about a mere 400,000 Palestinians living in impoverished refugee camps.

Think about these Palestinians living in refugee camps for 40 years. Think about them raising their children and their children raising their children in abject poverty with no hope for meaningful employment.

A settlement of the conflict - dealing with issues such as the "right of return" or the possibility of resettlement in a Palestinian state - are far from theorectical, political concepts for them.

As the Government of Israel uses delaying and stalling tactics year by year and tolerates violations of international human rights and acts contrary to the values of Judaism, dreaming someday of complete control over a West Bank without Palestians who have been "encouraged" to go somewhere else, I remind Jewish people and others of this excerpt from the Haftarah read on Yom Kippur called Acharey Mos written by Ezekiel ABOUT 400-500 BCE:

“O city that sheddest blood in the midst of thee, that thy time may come and that makest idols unto thyself to defile thee. …therefore have I made thee a reproach unto the nations, and a mocking to all the countries. Those that are near and those that are far from thee, shall mock thee, thou defiled of name and full of tumult. Behold the princes of Israel, every one according to his might, have been in thee to shed blood. In thee have they made light of father and mother; in the midst of thee have they dealt by oppression with the stranger; in thee have they wronged the fatherless and the widow. Thou hast despised My holy things and hast profaned My sabbaths…. In thee have they taken gifts to shed blood; thou hast taken interest and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbors by oppression, and hast forgotten Me, saith the Lord God. Behold, therefore, I have smitten My hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made and at thy blood which hath been in the midst of thee. And I will scatter thee among the nations, and disperse thee through the countries; and I will consume thy filthiness out of three. And thou shalt be profaned in thyself in the sight of the nations and thou shalt know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel XXII, 3-8

I do not have a citation to it but I recall a recent global survey that found that the two countries that are the greatest threat to world peace are the United States, of course, and Israel (a "reproach" and a "mocking" for sure).

Palestinian refugees return to camp devastated by militants in Lebanon
By Hussein Dakroub, Associated Press October 11, 2007


They came in buses, cars, and on foot, clutching plastic bags and boxes of food. About 100 Palestinian families become the first of 30,000 displaced people to return to this refugee camp, destroyed in three months of fighting with Islamic militants inspired by Al Qaeda. More are expected to arrive in the coming weeks even before reconstruction begins.

Buses and pickups with mattresses and pillows piled on top and packed with canned food, bottled water, bread, and dates queued at an army checkpoint on a dusty street at the camp's eastern entrance in front of shelled and burned buildings.

Most of the families were returning for the first time to the camp since the army crushed Fatah Islam militants on Sept. 2 after more than three months of heavy fighting. Many did not know whether their homes and shops were still standing.

The government has said it would cost $382.5 million to rebuild the camp, and the United Nations has appealed for $55 million in emergency funding.

Lebanon has about 400,000 Palestinians - mostly refugees who fled after Israel was created in 1948 and their descendants. They live in 12 impoverished camps, including Nahr el-Bared, banned from all but menial jobs and mostly living off UN aid.

The issue is so sensitive that the refugees, and the government, are eager for a quick return to Nahr el-Bared even though large parts are unfit for habitation. The refugees fear being permanently resettled elsewhere in Lebanon as a prelude for a larger Palestinian resettlement, and the government has taken pains to allay their concerns by promising a quick return to Nahr el-Bared.

"I cannot describe my happiness with the return to my home in the camp," said Samira Youssef al-Bani, a veiled 44-year-old mother of 10, seated in a waiting bus. "I am ready to live with my family even in one destroyed room in Nahr el-Bared."

Large parts of the camp, on the outskirts of the northern port city of Tripoli, were destroyed by tank and artillery bombardment and door-to-door fighting. More than 200 militants, 168 soldiers, and about 40 civilians were killed in the worst internal fighting Lebanon has witnessed since the 1975-90 civil war.

The 100 families, who fled to the nearby Beddawi camp, are the first group of about 800 families the Lebanese Army is allowing to return to one section of the camp. About 100 families will return per day, Lebanese military and Palestinian officials said.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East handed out leaflets to the returning families warning them against touching unexploded shells. Troops banned journalists and photographers from joining the families.

© Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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