28 August 2008

Let them dream of Palestine

Posted in Comment tagged , at 3:05 pm by lilithhope

Mahmood Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, arrived in Beirut today and is currently meeting with Lebanese president Michel Sleiman.

According to reports, Abbas stated: “We are against the naturalization of Palestinians in Lebanon”.

Now, what a completely hollow thing to say! As a Palestinian teenager from Shatila told my S.O. not so long ago: it is in the interests of the Palestinian administration if the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon continue to live in squalour. Because as long as the refugees in Lebanon are maintained in a situation of desparation by being denied free movement, access to quality education and employment opportunities, voting rights etc, the Palestinian nationalist cause remains alive. If, on the other hand, Palestinians were naturalised into Lebanese citizens (which would have its own undesired demographic and hence political impacts in Lebanon), if Palestinians were allowed to live decent, fulfilling lives and no longer treated as second-class citizens, then their desire to continue the battle for nationhood would be weakened.

I do find this approach so disheatening. Essentially, it maintains that it’s ok for a whole group of people to suffer social ostracisation, to live in conditions of poverty, to be harassed by the police and army, to be disallowed from working in over 30 proffessions (for more details on how the Palestinians suffer systematic discrimination in Lebanon, see this Amnesty report). The president of a people is saying that it is alright if they are suffering now, because it is a means of preserving an abstract nationalism.

In order to keep ‘the cause’ alive, people’s livelihoods are being dashed.

How much of today should be sacrificed for the dreams of tomorrow?

I wish Mahmood Abbas would ask that question to all the refugees in all the 13 camps in Lebanon. I don’t think he’d be too happy with their answer. Incidentally, I wonder if he will  visit the camps. I’d guess not, because i’m sure some Future party-sponsered Sunni militant would be lying in wait in order to knock him off…

Regardless, it is always such a shame to see people being played as pawns in the big political chessgame.


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