Source: excerpted from al-Majallah (London) 9-15
April 1995. [FBIS]
by Nada 'Abd-al-Samad
The settlement of Palestinians in Lebanon is a major
issue that has been the subject of agreement and disagreement
in Lebanon--agreement to reject it and disagreement
about the motives for rejecting it. While some people
think that the Lebanese rejection of the settlement
of the Palestinians is motivated by the fear for the
fragile Lebanese formula, some others have raised
the slogan of rejecting the settlement of Palestinians
in Lebanon or in any other country. In other words,
the rejection here does not mean that settlement of
the Palestinians in Jordan is acceptable, for example.
The only acceptable thing is a return to the provisions
of UN Resolution No. 194.
This is the Palestinian view, which Salah Salah,
representative ofthe PLO's political leadership in
Lebanon, has expressed to AL-MAJALLAH.Summing up the
Lebanese position to AL-MAJALLAH, Lebanese Labor Minister'Abdallah
al-Amin said: "The talk about settling the Palestinians
in Lebanondoes not concern us in any way. We say that
the Palestinians must returnto Palestine, as we are
unable to absorb or settle anyone." In the past,Minister
al-Amin was authorized by the government to negotiate
with thePalestinians regarding their civil rights
in Lebanon. Now he is a memberof a ministerial committee
recently set up to discuss these rights andfind a
solution to the problem of Palestinians displaced
by the war in Lebanon.
The fact remains, however, that under the terms
of the Oslo agreement, the refugees' issue would come
up for discussion at the beginning of 1996. In other
words, it has been assumed that the position on the
refugees' issue would become clear within the first
three years of the five years that have been set for
implementing the Oslo agreement. Still, this fact
has not concealed another fact: serious efforts are
being made to solve the refugees' problem based on
the impossibility of implementing UN Resolution No.
194 concerning the Palestinians' right to return home.
The successive meetings held by the multilateral negotiations'
working group on the refugees' issue are a manifestation
of these efforts. It is known that Lebanon is not
participating in these negotiations. It has maintained
a common position with Syria not to participate in
the multilateral negotiations until progress has been
made in the bilateral negotiations.
The question being asked here is: Will Lebanon succeed
in preventing any of the estimated 320,000 Palestinians
from settling in Lebanon? Is it true that Lebanon
has been seriously advocating this view with the parties
The first question has brought two answers: The
first says yes, and this has already been made clear.
The second says that Lebanon will not be able to prevent
the settlement of a number of Palestinians. The officials
who say this prefer not to be quoted. The official
Lebanese position is to avoid raising this issue because
it causes internal divisions, not about the principle
of rejecting the settlement of Palestinians but about
the way in which this policy should be carried out.
Some people in Lebanon believe that the presence of
the Palestinians in Lebanon has created demographic,
economic, social, and sectarian disorders.
Following its resolution to partition Palestine,
the United Nations has tried to deal with the refugees'
problem. On 11 December 1948, the UN General Assembly
passed Resolution No. 194 concerning the refugees.
The 11th paragraph of this resolution states: "The
UN General Assembly resolves that it is necessary
to allow the return, as soon as possible, of the refugees
who wish to return to their homes and live in peace
with their neighbors, and to pay compensation for
property to those who decide not to return to their
homes and to every missing or wounded person whenever
it would be necessary, according to the principles
of international law and justice, for the governments
or the responsible authorities to pay compensation
for such loss or injury."
The resolution has not been implemented, but several
attempts have been made to raise the issue of settling
the Palestinians. Salah Salah said that in 1951 an
attempt was made in Lebanon to transfer 50,000 to
75,000 Palestinians out of 150,000 to Libya, which
had agreed to settle them in the al-Jabal al-Akhdar
area. Salah added that a Palestinian-Lebanese committee
was formed to survey the area. Those who foiled the
plan were the Palestinians themselves, he said. Today,
several decades later, the problem still exists, but
the social conditions have worsened. A report by the
multilateral negotiations' committee on the refugees
says that the situation of the Palestinians in Lebanon
is the worst in the whole area due to the economic
crisis caused by the Lebanese war, the Lebanese political
situation, and the sensitivity of the issue. According
to UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency]
reports, there is 40 percent unemployment among the
Palestinians in Lebanon, and they are not granted
the same rights as Palestinians living in Jordan and
Syria because of the internal political situation
in Lebanon and the view that if given what they want
in Lebanon, the Palestinians will melt into Lebanese
society and refuse to leave the country later.
According to this report by the multilateral negotiations'
committee on refugees, a copy of which AL-MAJALLAH
obtained, the committee's delegation that visited
Lebanon, during a tour in the region, sensed that
there is a tendency eventually to remove the Palestinian
camps; that is, not to settle any Palestinians in
Lebanon. The UNRWA has prevented the rehabilitation
of three camps that were totally destroyed in the
war. The UNRWA has permitted the restoration, on a
minimum scale, of the camps damaged but not totally
destroyed in the fighting. According to information
received by AL-MAJALLAH from diplomatic sources in
Beirut, Lebanon will have to face the reality of settling
the Palestinians in it. More than 330,000 refugees
currently live in Lebanon. Under the best circumstances,
it might be possible to ensure that 150,000 of them
leave, but Lebanon will find itself compelled to absorb
at least 200,000 of them. This is not a problem just
for Lebanon or just for the Palestinians in Lebanon.
It is a problem affecting more than 3 million Palestinians
in the diaspora. No one knows what will happen to
Palestinians Registered With UNRWA:
|The West Bank
|Total all Countries
|(a) The total includes
482,082 refugees who moved out of the West Bank
|the Gaza Strip.
|(b) The total includes
7,087 refugees who moved out of the Gaza Strip.
|(c) The total includes
32,236 refugees who moved out in 1976.