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Investigative Report

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 concerned?

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 them.

Palestinians Registered With UNRWA:

Jordan 244,026 949,513 1,193,539 (a)
The West Bank 129,727 374,343 504,070 (b)
Gaza 350,620 292,980 643,600
Lebanon 175,426 162,864 338,290
Syria 91,476 235,812 327,288 (c)
Total all Countries 991,275 2,015,512 3,006,787
(a) The total includes 482,082 refugees who moved out of the West Bank and |
|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.

[Table omitted]


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