Beirut Journal: Lebanon’s Palestinian Refugees Resist from the Sidelines

The cafe proprietor, Abed al-Hussein, nicknamed Mr. Eid, was in actual fact brewing espresso after espresso for a bunch of older males who sat in entrance of a tv, disgruntled by the day’s information.

“I wish we never had to hear about America,” mentioned Mr. Eid as he tamped an espresso. “I don’t understand why America has so much say in our affairs.”

If there have been ever a time for an additional intifada, or rebellion, he mentioned, it might be now.

“The Israelis have always oppressed us, but they always knew that if they went too far, there would be international repercussion,” he added. “Now, with this decision, Israel and the Zionists know they can do whatever they want and get away with it.”

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Palestinians in the Ain al Hilwein refugee camp in Lebanon protesting President Trump’s determination to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

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Mahmoud Zayyat/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

More than 450,000 of 5 million registered Palestinian refugees worldwide reside in exile in Lebanon, 69 years after they had been pushed from what’s now Israel throughout the battle over its founding.

Palestinians usually see Mr. Trump’s announcement as the ultimate breath of a long-stagnant peace course of — and a menace to any future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But for refugees, it additionally means compromising their proper of return to their households’ unique properties in the West Bank, Gaza or Israel.

That proper of return is especially essential for Palestinians right here. Despite almost 70 years of presence in Lebanon, the stateless refugees reside underneath harsh circumstances.

They don’t have the rights afforded to Lebanese residents. They are barred from over 30 professions, together with white-collar jobs in fields like drugs, legislation, engineering and schooling. They can not personal property or attend public colleges, and they don’t seem to be protected by labor legal guidelines.

Those who aren’t in a position to depart reside in tight, overcrowded camps, which over the a long time have turn out to be overcrowded, city concrete-block neighborhoods. Residents broaden their dwelling areas vertically, constructing above one another as a result of the camps can not legally broaden past their allotted area.

The Lebanese authorities maintains that to enhance dwelling circumstances for the Palestinians would compromise their eventual proper of return, by permitting Israel to argue that they’ve assimilated in new properties. But the actuality is extra difficult and pertains to Lebanon’s troublesome historical past with the Palestinian refugees.

Long struggling from sectarian stress, Lebanon underwent 15 years of civil battle that many consider was exacerbated by the presence of the Palestinians, most of whom are Sunni Muslim. The tipping of the sectarian stability, along with the Palestinian management’s transfer to Lebanon from Jordan in the late 1970s, prompted nationalist fears and aggravated the battle.

Even Mr. Eid — whose nickname comes from the Arabic phrase for “holiday” due to his persistent cheer — is bored with life as a Palestinian in Lebanon.

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Posters depicting Yasir Arafat, a father and chief of Palestinian nationalism, at the Burj al-Brajneh refugee camp in Beirut.

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Nabil Mounzer/European Pressphoto Agency

Life is depressing, he mentioned, with no work and no safety.

“If someone were to ask any one of us, ‘Do you want to go back to your homeland?’ we’d say yes, right now,” Mr. Eid mentioned. He expressed gratitude for Lebanon’s hospitality, however added: “Our rights have been reduced to nothing. We’re at zero.”

Palestinians can not maintain protests exterior the camps with out permission from the Lebanese authorities. But inside the camps, protests had been held on daily basis the week after Mr. Trump’s announcement. Leaders of the camps’ varied Palestinian political factions mentioned they hoped to realize momentum from the common outrage.

William Nassar, a 55-year-old resident of the Burj al-Brajneh refugee camp, attended a march there, protesting for the second day in a row.

Like most Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, he has by no means set eyes on Jerusalem. But it stays a logo of hope.

“There is no Palestine without Jerusalem,” mentioned Mr. Nassar, who has lived in Lebanon his entire life however whose household is initially from Akka, also called Akko, in what’s Israel right this moment.

Raneem Youssef, a 22-year-old pupil, attended the Burj al-Brajneh march together with her household. “It’s true that we can’t go out and do anything,” she mentioned. “But we’re the youth of Palestine and we have no way of getting our voices out except like this.”

Lebanese residents later did their share of protest. Leftist events organized an indication close to the United States Embassy, and Hezbollah held an excellent bigger one in southern Beirut. But there have been at all times, in the background, reminders of Palestinians’ insecure place in Lebanon.

On Dec. eight, in a present of Arab unity, hundreds of Palestinians funneled out of the camps and had been joined by Lebanese supporters in a march via the Tariq al-Jdideh neighborhood.

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A espresso store in the Burj al-Brajneh camp. Palestinians can not maintain protests exterior the camps with out permission from the Lebanese authorities.

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Nabil Mounzer/European Pressphoto Agency

The march ended at the Martyrs Cemetery close to the Shatila camp, a reminder of one in all the worst massacres of Lebanon’s civil battle — a mass killing of Palestinians by Lebanese.

Buried there are a few of these killed in Sabra and Shatila in 1982, when Israel was occupying a lot of Beirut. Lebanese factions aligned with Israel killed as many as 2,000 Palestinian civilians there as Israeli troops guarded the perimeter.

Some of these implicated in the bloodbath stay in energy as politicians, and they don’t seem to be shy to wrap themselves in the Palestinian flag.

One of many members of Parliament who rose to denounce the Trump declaration was Sethrida Geagea, whose husband, Samir, is accused of collaborating in the killings. She quoted “Flower of the Cities,” a track about Jerusalem, spiritual acceptance and resisting oppression by the revered Lebanese singer Fairouz.

The home is ours, Jerusalem is ours,” the lyrics go. “And with our palms we’re going to return the metropolis to its splendor.

In Shatila per week after Mr. Trump’s announcement, Mr. Eid was nonetheless making espresso. His tv was switched to the information, the place the president’s speech replayed.

He straddles a line between hope and actuality. To him, the lack of Jerusalem means resignation to a life in Lebanon.

“If nothing comes out of the resistance, if good people don’t go out and demand their rights, it won’t happen,” he mentioned. “Maybe I’ll be alive, maybe I’ll be dead. But we will see a revolution.”

A person at the cafe scoffed into his espresso. “We’ll see the right of return realized on Judgment Day.”

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