|Palestinian Resettlement in Lebanon: Behind the Debate
Source: Montreal Studies on the Contemporary Arab World
by Hilal Khashan
avril 1994/April 1994,
This is an exploratory study, the objective of which
is to provide information on the views of Lebanese
respondents concerning the controversial issue of
resettling Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The issue
is examined in accordance with four pertinent variables:
(1) the intensity of awareness on the issue of Palestinian
resettlement in Lebanon, (2) its perceived impact
on Lebanese politics, (3) proposed reaction to the
possibility of its imposition, and (4) its expected
impact on Lebanon's individual sectarian groups.
The study is based on a stratified random sample
of 986 Lebanese adult respondents. The data were
collected during the months of November and December
1992. The findings show that many respondents do
not seem to know much about the continuing debate
on resettling Palestinians in Lebanon, although most
of them tend to oppose the idea. They fear that resettlement
will have damaging repercussions for the domestic
situation in Lebanon, including the possibility of
renewed civil war. The majority of respondents believe,
however, that the resettlement of Palestinians should
not be contested, even if it hurts the political
and economic assets of Lebanon's confessional groups.
Plans for resettling Palestinian refugees in the Arab world date back to December
1948, when the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 194 calling
for repatriation or compensation of the refugees as part of a comprehensive
package for ending the Arab-Israeli conflict. The main outcome of the resolution
was the establishment of the Palestine Conciliation Commission, which was entrusted
with the task of working out the logistics of the solution. Syria, Jordan and
Egypt expressed their willingness to integrate many of the refugees in their
societies, if Israel repatriated those remaining and offered specific territorial
concessions.  But
Israel declined, and Prime Minister Ben-Gurion was quoted as saying: "Peace
is vital--but not at any price."  Because
the US decided not to pressure Israel to repatriate some of the refugees, it
began to consider their resettlement and reintegration in neighbouring Arab
countries. The UN General Assembly's creation, towards the end of 1949, of
the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was intended to speed up the resettlement
process. However, the US--which provided more than 60 percent of UNRWA's annual
budget--did not, and probably could not, force resettlement on the Arabs.
Some important developments occurred in the mid-1950s
in the Middle East that had the effect of shelving
all resettlement plans. Arab nationalism was on the
rise: the Arab Socialist Ba`th Party emerged in Syria
while, simultaneously, Nasir rose in Egypt and posed
as the predominant Arab nationalist leader. The Palestine
question added mightily to renewed interest in Arab
nationalism; correspondingly, conciliatory public
statements on Arab rights in Palestine became the
main legitimizing force for the policies of Arab
leaders. The mood in the Arab world was one of defiance
towards, and confrontation with, Israel and its Western
supporters. Resettlement and reintegration plans
for the Palestinian refugees were dismissed as a
Zionist and imperialist conspiracy to liquidate the
The resurgence of Arabism coincided with an increase
in Soviet interest in Middle Eastern affairs. This
was translated into large-scale military and economic
aid to Egypt and Syria, the two Arab countries championing
anti-Western slogans at the time. Thus the Middle
East was thrown into the mire of superpower bipolarity,
and with it the trauma of the Palestinian refugees
receded to an issue of secondary importance. Officially,
the Arabs appeared more concerned with recovering
Arab rights in Palestine than with improving the
miserable social and economic condition of most refugees.
The refugees received little attention, then, beyond
UNRWA's humanitarian operations.
With the Six Day War of 1967, Arab objectives shifted
towards regaining their newly-lost territories. In
turn, the PLO abandoned its slogan of destroying
Israel and replaced it with another calling for the
creation of a binational (Jewish and Arab) state
in Palestine. However, Israel's outright rejection
and the PLO's active involvement in the Lebanese
civil war soon made the idea of a binational state
seem unrealistic, spawning a further PLO shift towards
seeking an independent state alongside Israel. Subsequent
events such as the Camp David agreement, the decline
of PLO power in Lebanon, Israel's 1982 invasion,
and the inconclusiveness of the intifada all
seemed to further diminish the expectations Arabs
held of peace with Israel. The Gulf War over Kuwait
and the collapse of the Soviet Union further undermined
the Arab position and demoralized its exponents.
It was against this backdrop that the Arab-Israeli
Peace Conference was convened in Madrid on October
30, 1991. It ushered in, among other things, a new
era of serious debate about the destiny of Palestinian
refugees still residing in the Arab world. This has
occurred because the present Arab political context
differs sharply from that of the 1950s and early
1960s. The setbacks of the last three decades appear
to have made the Arabs more accommodating in their
dealings with Israel. This has revived the question
of resettling Palestinian refugees, an issue of direct
concern to three Arab countries: Syria, Jordan, and
Lebanon. It should be noted, however, that the standing
of Palestinians in Syria and Jordan differs significantly
from that of their brethren in Lebanon. In Syria,
for example, the Palestinians have largely been integrated
into society. This was made possible because the
government, "through a series of laws, gradually
paved the way for [the Palestinian refugees'] thorough
integration into the Syrian socioeconomic structure."  This
is demonstrated by the fact that more than 70 percent
of Syria's 300,000 Palestinians live away from refugee
camps.  Likewise,
the Palestinians in Jordan were naturalized and are
nearly indistinguishable from Transjordanians in
the country's public life, and as many as 80 percent
of them reside outside refugee camps. 
The objective of this exploratory study is to obtain
systematic information on the views of Lebanese respondents
regarding the issue of resettling Palestinian refugees
in Lebanon. In connection with this, answers are
sought based on four variables related to resettlement:
first, awareness of the issue; second, its perceived
impact on Lebanese politics; third, proposed reaction
to the possibility of its imposition; and fourth,
its expected impact on Lebanon's individual sectarian
groups. The author proposes that the respondents
are significantly aware of the issue of resettlement,
perceive its impact on Lebanese politics negatively,
oppose its imposition, and expect it to have injurious
consequences for Lebanon's sectarian groups, including
THE PALESTINIAN COMMUNITY IN LEBANON
Although the Palestinians in Lebanon do not exceed 330,000 (14
percent) of the total number of 2,354,000 registered
refugees (according to UNRWA statistics), they nevertheless
constitute the focus of the debate on Palestinian resettlement.  The
Palestinians in Lebanon stood out as an unassimilable
group from the first days of their arrival in the country.
Official antipathy and sectarian barriers meant that
the Palestinian presence in Lebanon would remain tenuous.
Early reports from Lebanon were pessimistic about the
reaction of the government to the influx of 90,000
Palestinian refugees in 1948. The refugees were described
as an "unbearable burden,"  mainly
because of the "sensitive balance that exists between
Christians and Moslems."  Palestinians
in Lebanon continue to live uneasily. One of the top
priorities of the Lebanese secret police ( Deuxième
Bureau ), ever since it was established by former
President Fuad Shihab in 1959, was to guard against
Palestinian "subversion."  Shihab
considered the Palestinians a potent threat to Lebanese
security; he reacted by, among other things, deciding
to curtail their movement inside the country. In fact,
it is reported that "of all Arab countries where they
are present in significant number, intrastate mobility
is the least for the Palestinian community in Lebanon."  The
statistic of 53 percent of Palestinians in Lebanon
still living in one of the 12 refugee camps attests
to the impediments placed in the way of their mobility
within the country.  Refugee
status and the miserable life in the camps have reduced
most Palestinians in Lebanon to a socially marginal
position. Social interaction with Lebanese religious
groups is believed to be minimal. Even off-camp residents--the
vast majority of whom are mixed in with the Lebanese,
mostly in Beirut, Sidon and Tyre--complain about the
social distance which most Lebanese maintain towards
Lebanese law bars Palestinians from employment in the public sector, and
limits their entry into private organizations. One consequence of this policy
is a 40 percent unemployment rate among Palestinians in Lebanon.  Another
consequence is that those Palestinians who are able to obtain jobs in the private
sector without securing a permit--i.e., illegally--have to endure abuse and
underpayment. Fisk aptly describes the status of these Palestinians:
From the start, the Palestinians were treated with little love by the Lebanese...
Some Palestinians with relatives in Lebanon were later to change their nationality
and become Lebanese, but most of the refugees were classed as non-citizens....
They could not enter the civil service or acquire the privileges of Lebanese
citizenship. It was almost impossible to obtain work permits. Poorly paid employment
on Lebanese construction sites... was the fate of many of the farmers and labourers
of Palestine. 
Unsympathetic official policy on Palestinian employment has caused many Palestinians
to seek employment outside Lebanon, especially in the Gulf region. But Palestinian
labour--particularly in the wake of the conflict precipitated by Iraq's invasion
of Kuwait in the summer of 1990--is no longer welcome in most Gulf countries.
This has mightily aggravated the socio-economic position of the Palestinian
community in Lebanon, which has been declining steadily since the Israeli invasion
Palestinian political influence has also dropped sharply since its highwater
mark in the 1970s. After the Six Day War, the presence of armed PLO guerrillas
was sanctioned by the Cairo Agreement of 1969. The agreement, though, was rejected
by Lebanon's Maronites, and it led to their political and military mobilization
against the Palestinian community. On the other hand, PLO military operations
against Israel, and the latter's heavy-handed reprisals, took their toll on
the Shi'i community. Support for the Palestinians began to erode among the
Muslims, especially the Shi`is.  The
outcome of the invasion left the Palestinians in Lebanon totally vulnerable.
The immediate result of that vulnerability was the Sabra and Shatila massacre
in which Phalangist forces slaughtered hundreds of Palestinians. The rift in
PLO ranks in Lebanon in 1983 led to the encirclement of loyalists to Arafat
in Tripoli by the Syrian-backed Fateh-intifada , a splinter group
led by Abu Musa. Arafat eventually departed the city in the fall of 1983, but
his confrontation with Syria on Lebanese soil escalated into the Camps War,
in which the Shi'i Amal movement, acting as a Syrian proxy, fought the PLO.
Palestinian civilians suffered immensely in terms of human casualties and material
destruction. The PLO, on the defensive in the Beirut camps, reacted by expanding
territorially east of Sidon at the expense of the Amal movement. Many Lebanese
grew worried that the PLO was aiming to establish a substitute Palestinian
homeland in east Sidon; memories of Palestinian activities between 1967 and
1982 were revived, particularly among Amal adherents whose leaders swore not
to allow a repeat of the pre-1982 situation. It was in this atmosphere of belligerence
that the debate on Palestinian resettlement in Lebanon commenced with seriousness.
LEBANESE STATEMENTS ON PALESTINIAN RESETTLEMENT
Opposition to resettlement in Lebanon is articulated openly by politicians and in the mass
media. The government's firm position on preventing the entry of 415 Palestinians
deported by Israel from the occupied territories in December 1992 is suggestive
of how the spectre of resettlement haunts Lebanese policy makers. Palestinian
resettlement is the hottest concern in Lebanon and the source of the most intensive
debate among politicized citizens. It is probably the only issue on which the
views of Lebanese politicians, columnists, and radio commentators of various
persuasions seem to concur. As a matter of fact, the Lebanese seem to agree on
all matters related to the Palestinian presence in their country. In this regard,
Brynen identifies an emerging Lebanese consensus that "cuts across ideological
and confessional lines."  One
might add that resettlement is the central issue underlying this consensus, which
began to grow, almost imperceptibly, after the consolidation of the PLO military
presence in Lebanon in 1969.
Lebanese Christians have been more vocal than Muslims in demanding the expulsion
of most Palestinian refugees from Lebanon and their resettlement elsewhere
in the Arab world. In 1978, then-President Elias Sarkis dismissed outright
any possibility of Palestinian resettlement in Lebanon:
... Lebanon will not accept any kind of settlement providing for the Palestinians
to remain on its territory, because it is aware that this would encroach upon
the very core of its interests, would be beyond Lebanon's ability [to absorb]
and would harm the Palestinian issue itself ... 
Sarkis's position is shared by many Christians who believe a foreign conspiracy
exists to expel the Lebanese from the southern and northern parts of their
country as a prelude to resettling Palestinians and solving the problem with
Israel at Lebanon's expense.  Al-Ma'ushi,
for example, mentions a Palestinian scheme to establish a substitute homeland
in Lebanon, after they realized that their war against Israel was hopeless. 
The Lebanese Army takeover of Palestinian positions in East Sidon in July
1991 put an end to the foreign conspiracy theory. However, new reasons for
rejecting resettlement were raised. UNRWA's census project (conducted during
the summer and fall of 1992), which coincided with a noticeable reduction in
the agency's activities, was viewed as a first step towards ceasing all relief
programs in preparation for the eventuality of resettlement.  In
the wake of UNRWA's census, the Minister of Information announced during a
visit to the Maronite patriarch that resettlement was unacceptable because
it would upset Lebanon's sectarian balance.  Simultaneously,
the Minister of Foreign Affairs warned that Lebanon will not accept any agreement
on the Palestine problem that does not include the right of refugees to return
to their homeland.  Christian
apprehensions about resettlement increased on the eve of the agreement on Palestinian
autonomy in Gaza and Jericho. The Higher Council of the Free Liberals Party
saw in resettlement an infringement on Lebanese sovereignty, while the League
of Greek Catholics believed it would hurt Lebanese interests. 
For their part, Lebanese Muslims offer other reasons for opposing resettlement.
Thus Muhammad al-Juzu, the Sunni mufti of Mount Lebanon, insists that the Muslims "will
not accept Palestinian settlement in Lebanon... not because the Palestinians
are unwanted, but because [the] Zionist danger will increase if the Palestine
question is given up."  Similarly,
Shi'i cleric Shaykh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah rejects resettlement because
it will liquidate the Palestinian cause.  Shaykh
Muhammad Mandi Shamsuddin, another prominent Shi'i cleric, is unusual in advancing
a different position: namely, that "permanent Palestinian settlement in Lebanon
is unavoidable.... Let us accept that they [the Palestinians] should take part
in our politics and all other aspects of life in the country." 
This study is based on a nationally-selected
stratified random sample of 986 Lebanese adult respondents. A conscientious effort
was made to represent women in the study, although interviewing women (especially
in rural areas) proved to be much more difficult than interviewing men. The field
workers were able to include 286 women in the sample (29 percent of the total
sample size). The data were collected by sixteen interviewers, whose services
were contributed by al-Safir daily newspaper, between November and
December 1992. Interviews took place in the interviewees' places of residence,
during weekdays and in the early evening hours, when most people are normally
at home. The interviewees were encouraged to express their views freely in an
atmosphere of strict confidentiality. Still, the completion of the questionnaires
proved far from easy. A total of 1225 interviews were attempted in order to obtain
a sample of 986 respondents, indicating a 20 percent non-response rate.  The
initial objective was to represent equally the three major Lebanese religious
groups (Sunnis, Shi`is, Maronites), but actual representation varied because
of different non-response rates.  Nevertheless,
the respondents reflected fairly accurately several characteristics (age, education,
socioeconomic status) of Lebanese society. 
All interviewers had previous experience with the principal research from
an earlier study. They attended two additional training sessions. In the first,
the questionnaire was fully explained to them; in the second session, they
were instructed as to how to enable respondents to express their views without
intervention by the interviewer. To strengthen the validity of the study, the
questionnaire was constructed under the direction of a panel of 20 professionals,
such as college professors, journalists, and politicians. The research instrument
was pretested (n=35) prior to formal interviewing; vague questions were modified,
and seemingly leading questions were restructured. In view of the fact that
the issue of Palestinian resettlement is a sensitive one in Lebanon, two reliability-test
measures were applied to the data: (1) internal consistency, and (2) response
bias. The test for internal consistency compared the percentage distributions
of several pairs of similar items, and the responses were invariably constant.
Testing for response bias provided exceptionally stable responses. Two sets
of similar items, presented in reverse order, were checked to see if any tendency
occurred for respondents to answer either first or last responses with greater
frequency. No such tendency was found.
ANALYSIS OF THE FINDINGS
Serious analysis requires the evaluation
of responses to two questions believed to have a direct impact on resettlement:
the respondents' personal contacts with Palestinians, and their views on Lebanon's
naturalization code. What makes these two questions worth including in the analysis?
On the one hand, resettlement entails integration, a process that requires positive
inter-group interaction. On the other hand, resettlement implies the granting
citizenship status to resettled refugees. It is well-known that Lebanon's naturalization
law is restrictive. Government insistence on maintaining the country's fragile
sectarian balance has meant applying tight constraints on the number of individuals
granted Lebanese citizenship. Therefore, amending this law is imperative before
resettlement can take place.
TABLE 1: Most Important Personal Contact with Palestinians (n=981)
Table 1 suggests that personal contacts between the respondents and Palestinians
are limited. More than half of the respondents disclaimed any relations with
Palestinians, whereas two-thirds of those able to identify such an association
spoke in terms of ordinary friendship. Concrete forms of identification included
work, marriage, and political contacts, all of which were narrow in scope.
Weak intergroup interaction is, of course, not unusual in Lebanon. It is understood
that meaningful inter-group interaction has always been minimal in this endemically
divided sectarian country. Therefore, we should not ignore the sectarian dimension
when investigating the extent of Lebanese interaction with Palestinians.
TABLE 2: Relationship between Religious Affiliation
and Most Important Personal Contact with Palestinians
Cramer's V = 0.17
Alpha = 0.05
(Percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding.)
The results of the relationship between religious background and personal
contact with Palestinians are presented in Table 2. Religion indeed appears
to be related to the magnitude of contact between the respondents and members
of Lebanon's Palestinian community. Sunni respondents report more interaction
with Palestinians than does any other religious group, especially through marriage--the
closest form of interaction. The very weak Sunni political contacts with Palestinians
are noticeable, though not surprising. The Sunnis lag far behind other major
Lebanese religious groups in terms of political organization and mass mobilization.
This was demonstrated in the course of Lebanon's protracted civil war, during
which the Sunnis played only a marginal role, especially when politics mixed
inextricably with militia activity. That the strongest political contact with
Palestinians was indicated by Druze respondents can be understood equally readily.
The (predominantly leftist and Muslim) "Lebanese National Movement" was led
first by Druze leader Kamal Jumblat, and, after his assassination, by his son
Walid, for much of the duration of the civil war. Whereas the Druze Progressive
Socialist Party provided the political cloak for this loosely-coordinated movement,
the Palestinians supplied it with military muscle until its disintegration
in 1984 following the rise of separate Shi'i movements. In fact, Palestinian
military units continue to be stationed in Druze areas lying outside the effective
control of Lebanese army units. As might be expected, the Maronite respondents
indicate the least level of personal contact with Palestinians.
TABLE 3: Views on Lebanon's Naturalization Code (n=969)
|Code is appropriate
|Code is too rigid
|Naturalization should be ceased
A review of the respondents' perceptions of the Lebanese naturalization code
(Table 3) is vital due to its potential policy implications regarding prospects
for Palestinian resettlement in Lebanon. Responses to the question concerning
the appropriateness of the naturalization code reveal the controversial nature
of this issue in Lebanese politics. Only a minority of respondents believed
that the code is appropriate, while the vast majority took a polar-opposite
stand on the issue. Some believed that the code needed to be liberalized because
it was too rigid, while others felt Lebanon should annul the naturalization
code and cease naturalizing foreigners. Obviously, the sharp political divisions
among Lebanese rival groups have manifested themselves in the respondents'
views on naturalization.
One would expect the views on the naturalization code to be influenced by
the respondents' religious affiliation. Cross-tabulation of the two variables
revealed interesting relationships between religion and views on the naturalization
code. Sunni, Shi'i, Druze and Greek Orthodox respondents were more likely than
their Maronites, Catholic and Armenian counterparts to express the opinion
that the code was too rigid and needed revision. Conversely, respondents from
the last three groups were more inclined than the others to demand a repeal
of the code (refer to Table 4 for text and distribution of responses). More
light will be shed on the direction of these responses as the analysis proceeds.
TABLE 4: Relationship between Religious Affiliation
and V iews on Lebanon's Naturalization Code
Cramer's V = 0.15 (Percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding.)
Alpha = 0.05
Awareness of the Issue of Palestinian Resettlement
As noted earlier, the question
of Palestinian resettlement has been the subject of increasing discussion by
Lebanese political figures and by the Lebanese mass media. Three questions
pertaining to this debate were used in this study. The aim was to account for
the respondents' familiarity with this critical issue, which receives greater
public attention than the Lebanese government's controversial plans for reconstruction,
political reform, and economic privatization. The results of the responses
to these questions are presented in Table 5. The first question asked respondents
whether they believed there were serious international plans to resettle Palestinians
in Lebanon. Some 60 percent of respondents were able to express an opinion
on the issue, with most holding the view that plans for resettlement are genuine.
Uncertainty increased when the respondents were asked if they believed resettlement
would be imposed on Lebanon. More than half the responses indicated uncertainty,
but of those who expressed an opinion, the majority believed resettlement
would be imposed. However, the percentage of uncertain respondents dropped
sharply when respondents were confronted with an attitudinal question regarding
their own position on resettlement. Three-quarters of the respondents rejected
The responses to the three questions concerning awareness of the
issue of Palestinian resettlement revealed uncertainty about its prospects.
Lebanese mass media, the major source of information available to the public
on political issues, themselves reveal confusion as to the possibility of
resettlement. There is a general impression among Lebanese that the future
of the Palestinians will be decided by the US as the Arab-Israeli peace talks
reach a decisive stage.  Even
though many respondents did not know whether Palestinians would eventually
be repatriated or resettled, they were nevertheless quick to point out their
opposition to resettlement in Lebanon.
TABLE 5: Awareness of the Issue of Palestinian Resettlement in Lebanon
Are there plans for resettlement?
|Will resettlement be imposed?
|Will you accept resettlement?
Opposition to resettlement appeared to cut across the religious affiliations
of the respondents. True, there are slight variations, especially between
the Sunnis and the Maronites: the first leads in support and the second in
opposition, as can be seen from Table 6. But the extent of discrepant responses
is not significant, especially if one takes into consideration that the Muslims
were strongly supportive of the Palestinian military presence in Lebanon
when the civil war broke out in 1975. It is obvious from the responses that
the Palestinian cause is no longer a divisive element in Lebanon's sectarian
TABLE 6: Relationship between Religious Affiliation and Position on Resettlement of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Cramer's V = 0.13
Alpha = 0.05
Perceived Impact of Resettlement on Lebanese Politics
Table 7 provides information
on the respondents' perceived repercussions of resettlement. Almost three-fourths
of the respondents foresee damaging repercussions. This question was probed
further in an effort to acquire more detailed information regarding the respondents'
opposition to resettlement. Thus, in response to an open-ended contingency
question on what actually motivated them to oppose resettlement, many respondents
made a number of projections which are given in Table 8. The most ominous concern
is connected with the fear that resettlement will lead to the resumption of
civil war. Lebanese officials seem to concur with the respondents on this aspect
of the damaging repercussions of resettlement. During a meeting between the
Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs and the United States Ambassador, the
former stated that "[a]ll Lebanese groups reject the idea of resettling Palestinian
refugees in Lebanon ... They fear that it might restart the civil war." 
TABLE 7: Implications of Resettlement on Domestic Situation in Lebanon (n=978)
|Resettlement will cause damaging repercussions
|Resettlement will cause no worthwhile repercussions
|Unsure of the impact of resettlement
(Percentages do not add up to 100 due to rounding.)
The second worry was economic; it was offered by one-third of those
who responded to this question. Lebanon is a country of scarce economic opportunities,
even for its own citizens. Many ambitious Lebanese sought to satisfy their
occupational expectations through working abroad. Widespread Lebanese emigration
to the Americas, Australia, West Africa and, more recently, to the Arab countries
of the Persian Gulf attest to the country's precarious economic situation.
Thus the resettlement of Palestinians in Lebanon was viewed by many as an
unbearable economic burden on a country that is still unable to launch programs
for the recovery of its shattered economy. However, it should be mentioned
that Lebanese authorities have traditionally been much tougher when it comes
to issuing work permits to Palestinians as opposed to other foreigners. It
is documented that "out of 15,000 work permits given [in 1991] to foreigners,
only 125 of them were given to Palestinians."  It
is claimed that the reason for impeding employment of Palestinians in Lebanon--unlike
other nationalities--can be associated with a scheme to make Palestinian
residence in Lebanon unrewarding. 
TABLE 8: Projection of Damaging Repercussions of Resettlement (n=740)
|Resettlement will cause the resumption of civil war
|Resettlement will aggravate Lebanon's economic crisis
|Resettlement will upset Lebanon's demographic ecology
|Palestinians will emerge as a new sectarian group
A third group of respondents opposed resettlement on grounds that
it would upset Lebanon's demographic balance. Resettlement of Palestinians
in Lebanon, most of whom are Sunni Muslims, is bound to upset the demography
of this confessionally-structured country. However, it should be noted that
Lebanon's demography was already upset even before the Palestinians became
a cause of concern in Lebanese politics. Lebanese Muslims outnumbered their
Christian fellow citizens from the early days of the first republic (1943-75),
but the Christians dominated the country's political and economic life. Muslim
insistence on reforming the Lebanese political system--and the Maronites'
adamant opposition--were the major causes of the outbreak of civil war in
Lebanon in 1975. The Palestinians joined ranks with the Muslims against the
Christians. Direct Palestinian military participation in the conflict exacerbated
the demographic imbalance between Muslims and Christians. Civil war memories
are still very much alive in the minds of the Lebanese people; apparently,
these caused many respondents to worry about the implications of resettlement
on the future of peace in Lebanon, as well as the fibre of Lebanese society.
Finally, a small fraction of respondents expressed concern about
the possibility that resettlement would allow Palestinians to establish themselves
as a new sectarian group in the Lebanese political system. The choice of
this response deserves comment. If the Palestinians did emerge, as some fear,
as a distinct political force, this would attest to the rigidity of the Lebanese
political system and its inability to accommodate new social forces.
Proposed Reactions to the Possibility of Resettlement
The respondents are split over how their own religious groups should
react to the possibility of foreign powers imposing resettlement. Table 9
demonstrates the acuteness of these differences in views. Some respondents
see resettlement as unavoidable, and prefer that their group react positively
to its implementation. Others prefer that their group acquiesce if resettlement
is imposed. A substantial percentage of respondents remain defiant and demand
that their group resist resettlement by military means. The confessional
nature of Lebanese politics clearly affects respondents' views on this matter.
The results of the relationship between religious affiliation and reaction
to the imposition of resettlement are presented in Table 10.
TABLE 9: Views Concerning How Respondents Believe Their Own Religious Groups
Should React to Imposed Resettlement (n=820)
|My group should react positively
|My group should acquiesce
|My group should resist militarily
The resettlement of Palestinians in Lebanon poses a direct threat
to Maronites and Shi`is. Thus, respondents from these two confessional groups
are less likely to acquiesce in its imposition than are other respondents.
Similarly, they are more prone to recommend a resort to military confrontation
to block resettlement. Recently, Sa`id Aql, a Maronite parliamentary deputy
from northern Lebanon, called for steadfastness in confronting any attempt
to encourage the Palestinians to resettle in Lebanon.  Respondents
displaying an intention to resist resettlement were moved by different forces
and factors. Sunni opposition could result, at least in part, from pan-Arab
considerations and the perceived inevitability of an all-out Arab-Israeli
confrontation. It is unlikely that Sunnis would oppose Palestinian resettlement
from the same confessional perspective as Maronites or Shi`is. Religious
identification is very important for most Lebanese, and they give it precedence
over identification with the state. In the 1960s and 1970s, Lebanese Sunnis
sided with Palestinian coreligionists (who were attacking Israel from bases
in southern Lebanon) against their own government (which was trying to control
the armed Palestinian presence in the country). Resettlement is seen by many
Sunnis--traditionally staunch advocates of Arab nationalism--as an admission
of final defeat by Israel. It appears that Sunnis are not yet ready to accept
the loss of the Arab cause in Palestine. The majority of Armenian respondents
acquiesced in the prospect of imposing resettlement. Lebanese Armenians have
generally preferred to detach themselves from the country's more controversial
issues. They adopted this policy of political neutrality in the wake of their
expulsion from western Anatolia following the genocide of 1915. In addition,
Armenians constitute an immigrant group. They required the assistance of
the French mandatory authorities to resettle in Lebanon after World War I,
and in 1924 they were granted Lebanese citizenship. 
TABLE 10: Relationships between Religious Affiliation and Reaction to the
Imposition of Resettlement
Cramer's V = 0.14 (Percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding.)
Alpha = 0.05
Despite the unpopularity of resettlement, more respondents were willing
to accept it rather than rising against it. This is probably the case because
many Lebanese feel they have little control over events in their country.  Many
Lebanese tend to exhibit fatalism towards political events of consequence.
The heated controversy over the legality of the 1992 parliamentary elections--a
campaign led by Maronite Christians--subsided after it became obvious that
the elections enjoyed regional support as well as international approval.
Earlier, in September 1991, the numerous supporters of General Michel Aoun
watched with bitterness as Syrian troops evicted him from the presidential
palace. Lebanese mass-media outlets used to report fully the activities of
Aoun's supporters, including the crowds of people who camped for weeks outside
the palace as a demonstration of support for his stated policies. But these
outlets ceased to carry reports reflecting the views of Aoun supporters once
he was ousted.
Expected Impact of Resettlement on Lebanon's Sectarian
The implications of resettlement for Lebanese society are
a matter of public discussion. The major concern is the projected impact--political
and economic--of resettlement on various Lebanese groups. To elicit respondents'
views on these matters, respondents were asked to project the political and
economic impact of resettlement on their religious groups (see Tables 11-12
for the text and distribution of the results). Less than one-quarter of all
respondents foresaw either of the two potential impacts as positive, although
a substantially higher percentage were unsure about the likely economic impact.
The reasons for such disparate responses are not difficult to explain. In
view of the confessional nature of the Lebanese political system, it is difficult
to imagine a large percentage of confessionally-diverse respondents perceiving
the political impact of resettlement in favourable terms. Apparently, respondents
still remember the considerable negative political consequences of Palestinian
militancy, from the mid-1960s onwards.
The politicizing of Palestinians and the maintenance of their military
apparatus required heavy financial spending. The transfer by the PLO of huge
financial assets to Lebanon invigorated the country's economy and helped
to delay the onset of economic depression. Furthermore, it is widely believed
that in order to make resettlement possible, UNRWA and other international
and regional donors will pump large sums of money into Lebanon.  Thus,
the prospect of resettlement and improved economic conditions in the country
seem to be linked in many respondents' minds. This prospect mitigates what
would otherwise be an unacceptable project.
TABLES 11-12: Relationship between Religious Affiliation and ProjectedImpact
of Resettlement on Respondents' Own Groups
Cramer's V = 0.23 (Percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding.)
All respondents (n=958)
Alpha = 0.05
Cramer's V = 0.15
All respondents (n=928)
Alpha = 0.05
When the results are broken down further by religious affiliation,
several patterns emerge. The association was clear between views on positive
political and economic impact and Sunni respondents. In addition, almost
one-third of the Druze represented in the sample predicted some positive
political impact from resettlement. Numerically, the Druze are a small confessional
group in Lebanon, but their political weight and ambitions far exceed their
actual size. Future affiliation with Palestinians, which proved propitious
for the Druze during much of the last twenty-five years, might enhance the
political bargaining position of the Druze in Lebanese affairs. By contrast,
Maronites, Catholics, Armenians, and Shi`is emphasized the political costs
of resettlement much more than they did the economic costs. In the case of
the Christian groups, this is likely explained by reference to concerns that
the Palestinians have in the past allied with their political opponents and
threatened to tilt the demographic balance towards the Muslims. For Shi`is,
tension and clashes between the Palestinians and the major Shi`i political
organizations has undoubtedly heightened political concern.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS OF THE STUDY
The issue of resettling Palestinian
refugees in their country is unpopular among the Lebanese. Opposition to the
idea from government officials, spiritual figures, confessional leaders, and
mass-media commentators is shared by the public, as this study has demonstrated.
Most respondents do not accept the resettlement of Palestinians in Lebanon,
and believe it will result in damage to the country. Many assume that resettlement
will cause a resumption of the Lebanese civil war, and call for military resistance
to prevent its imposition. Only Sunni respondents project that Palestinian
resettlement will eventually be beneficial to them. Lebanon, devastated by
civil war and burdened with foreign occupation, is unprepared to cope with
resettlement. Magnifying the Lebanese dilemma over resettlement is the religious
background of Palestinian refugees. Christians' blunt rejection of Palestinian
resettlement--because of the refugees' Sunni Muslim background--has infuriated
the Sunni Grand Mufti; although he himself does not support resettlement, he
has opposed raising the sectarian dimension of the issue. 
Many Lebanese fear that resettlement might jeopardize the political
development of their country in the post-Tai'f period. Although not all Lebanese
factions consented to Tai'f when the accord was struck, it has nevertheless
gained credibility as the agreement that finally placed the country on a
stable political footing.  The
Shi`is are particularly concerned that resettlement could threaten the process
of implementing the Tai'f Agreement and the political gains it accorded them.
Maronite wariness stems from the assumption that resettlement would eventually
invite more Muslim demands for a bigger slice of the political system. The
unwillingness of all Lebanese groups to return to the trauma of civil war;
hope for a better future combined with worries about what that future might
hold--all these factors seem to have united the vast majority of Lebanese
in opposition to resettlement. Equally, however, the trauma of civil war
might also explain why a majority would be prepared to respond positively
or acquiesce--rather than resisting militarily--if resettlement were imposed
on the country.
The future well-being of the Palestinian community in Lebanon seems
to depend on two main factors. The first of these is the development of a
viable Palestinian entity in the West Bank and Gaza. The September 1993 Israeli-PLO
agreement on a declaration of principles for peace makes no immediate provisions
for Palestinian refugees, especially those of 1948. This--despite undertakings
to address the issue later, in the course of final status negotiations--increases
the likelihood that many or most Palestinians in Lebanon will ultimately
settle permanently there. The UN has already begun preparing plans to integrate
the refugees into Lebanese society.  However,
even if the refugees are unable to exercise a "right of return" to historic
Palestine, Palestinians in Lebanon might nonetheless acquire the identity
of the new entity.
The second major determinant of the future status of Palestinians
in Lebanon will be the emergence (or non-emergence) of a strong Lebanese
central government. While such a government might feel it could ignore Palestinian
pleas for greater rights, it might also feel self-confident enough to grant
them. The Lebanese government might then accept resettlement as part of a
peace package that includes generous financial aid for Lebanese economic
reconstruction. In this case, Lebanon would probably insist that resettled
Palestinians be granted non-Lebanese travel documents. However, if Palestinians
in Lebanon did gain the formal political identity of the emerging Palestinian
entity, they might continue to live in Lebanon as residents with comprehensive
civil rights, minus the right of Lebanese citizenship and its privileges
(such as voting and running for public office). This would put the Palestinians
in Lebanon on a par with their brethren in Syria.
All this would be a major accomplishment. The concretization of any
such plans, however, awaits further progress in the current peace process--especially
along the Palestinian-Israeli and Lebanese-Israeli tracks. It also depends
on domestic developments within Lebanon. In the meantime--and the "meantime" may
prove to be a lengthy one--the debate over Palestinian resettlement in Lebanon
About the Author: Hilal Khashan is an associate professor
of political science at the American University of Beirut. He is the author
of Inside the Lebanese Confessional
Mind (Lanham: University Press of America, 1992). He has contributed numerous
articles on Arab affairs to journals such as the Journal of Conflict Resolution , World
Affairs , Orbis , International Sociology , Armenian
Review , Journal of Arab Affairs , Arab Studies Quarterly , Middle
East Quarterly , Research in Higher Education , Bulletin
of Peace Proposals , and Journal of Social, Political, and Economic
Studies . In 1991 he received the 'Abd al-Hamid Shuman Prize in social
sciences for young Arab scholars. He spent the 1991-92 academic year as a visiting
scholar at the Annenberg Research Institute in Philadelphia, USA.
Shwadran, "Assistance to Arab Refugees," Middle Eastern Affairs 1,
1 (January 1950), p. 2. See also David Forsythe, "The Palestine Question: Dealing
with a Long-Term Refugee Situation," Annals of the American Academy of Political
and Social Science , 467 (May 1983), p. 91.
Donald Neff, "US Policy and the Palestinian Refugees," Journal of Palestine
Studies 18, 1 (Autumn 1988), p. 104.
Brand, "Palestinians in Syria: The Politics of Integration," Middle East
Journal 42, 4 (Autumn 1988), p. 104.
of UNRWA's Areas of Operations (Vienna: Public Information Office
of UNRWA H.Q., 1992).
of UNRWA's Areas of Operations .
 UNRWA (Beirut:
UNRWA for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, 1990), p. 6. Two of these
camps are in northern Lebanon, one in the Biqa' valley, four in Greater Beirut,
and five in southern Lebanon. Five other camps were destroyed in the course
of the Lebanese civil war (three by the Lebanese Forces and two by the Amal
movement during the Camps War of 1985-87).
political writers are particularly outspoken in warning against the dangers
of the Palestinian presence in Lebanon. See, for example, Ibriza al-Ma'ushi, Lubnan:
jabin la yanhani [Lebanon: Too Proud to Bend] (Beirut: n.p., 1978),
 Neff, "US
Policy and the Palestinian Refugees," p. 102.
Khashan, "The Despairing Palestinians," Journal of South Asian and Middle
Eastern Studies 16, 1 (Fall 1992), p. 5.
 Khashan, "The
Despairing Palestinians," p. 5.
of UNRWA's Operations .
 al-Wasat ,
5 October 1992.
 al-Safir ,
5 October 1992.
Fisk, Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War (London: Andre Deutsch, 1990),
more information on this matter, see Rex Brynen, "Palestinian-Lebanese Relations:
A Political Analysis," in Deidre Collings, ed., Peace for Lebanon? From
War to Reconstruction (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1994).
 Brynen, "Palestinian-Lebanese
by John Cooley, "The Palestinians," in Edward Haley and Lewis Snider, eds., Lebanon
in Crisis (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1979), p. 21.
Karam, Khafaya wa asrar harb al-sanawat al-khams: 1975-1980 [Secrets
of the Five Years: 1975-1980] (Beirut: Mu'assasat Karam lil tiba'a wa al-nashr,
 al-Ma'ushi, Lubnan:
jabin la yanhani , p. vii.
 al-Safir ,
6 October 1992.
 al-Nahar ,
9 September 1993.
 al-Nahar ,
9 September 1993.
 al-Diyar ,
11 September 1993.
 al-Shira' ,
5 October 1992.
 al-Diyar ,
11 September 1993.
 al-Hayat ,
17 September 1992.
revealed a greater nonresponse rate (28%) than men (15%). Also, nonresponse
varied considerably from one religious group to another, as follows: Druze
(3%), Greek Orthodox (9%), Sunnis (11%), Catholics (20%), Maronites (25%),
Shi`is (29%), Armenians (30%).
religious groups were represented according to the following order: 27% Sunnis,
22% Shi`is, 7% Druze, 23% Maronites, 9% Greek Orthodox, 8% Catholics, 4%
Armenians. The respondents came from all regions of the country as follows:
Beirut 31%, Mount Lebanon 21%, North Lebanon 14%, Biqa' 18%, South Lebanon
age distribution of the respondents included 52% in the category of 18-33
years, 35% in the category of 34-49, and 13% in the category of 50 years
or older. Educationally, 3% of respondents were illiterate, 14% completed
elementary education, 40% said they had completed secondary education or
received vocational training, and 43% received college education. The socioeconomic
status of the sample was also mixed since it included 13% upper-class, 36%
middle-class, and 51% working-class respondents.
 al-Safir ,
20 February 1993.
 al-Wasat ,
12 October 1992.
 al-Wasat ,
12 October 1992.
 al-Safir ,
16 September 1992.
Morning , 21 December 1992.
some Palestinian refugee camps were once transit camps for Armenians.
Hilal Khashan, Inside the Lebanese Confessional Mind (Lanham, Md.:
University Press of America, 1992).
 al-Nahar ,
1 February 1993.
 al-Anwar ,
9 September 1993.
Nuwayhid al-Hut, "Mustaqbal al-'alaqat al-lubnaniyya al-filistiniyya" [Future
of Lebanese-Palestinian Relations], Shu`un Filistiniyya 242-243
(May-June 1993), p. 30.
with Zacharias Backer, Head of Delegation of the International Federation
of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Lebanon, 17 November 1993.
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