France 24 missed Lebanon
Lebanon has had no shortage of massacres in its brief modern history. Sabra and Shatilla was only one of them but the Jews were involved, however indirectly, so it is no surprise that France 24 focusses on it. They revisit – Five Minutes for Israel visits their revisit.
Thirty-four-years after men of the Phalangist militia staged a massacre at the Sabra and Shatilla Palestinian refugee Camps France 24 visits the camps, which now host a third generation of refugee children. Stuart Norval whose journalistic experience comes from the BBC, (never a good omen), presents a report by Antoine Laurent.
Why present now and not September is unclear. Perhaps that is just as well.
So how did they do?
Lebanon is not the only Arab country that openly enforces Apartheid laws against Palestinians. What is disturbing about the Apartheid laws in Lebanon and the mistreatment of Palestinians by Arab countries is the silence of the media, the international community and human rights groups — even UNRWA, which is supposed to look after the well-being of Palestinian refugees. — Khaled Abu Toameh
Surprisingly, the report, in most parts a feel-good exercise, is not too terrible. France 24 gains major points for noting what so much of the media and Israel Haters tend to avoid, that it was local Christian not Israeli forces responsible for the massacre. However an uninformed viewer might conclude that there was a united Christian force not uncoordinated and often mutually hostile militias, who bore responsibility. The report, to its credit, also acknowledges that there is a great discrepancy over the number of victims instead of just blindly quoting dubious Palestinian figures.
There are some debatable points. The background to the war is very sketchy. The viewer would never know that a multifaceted civil war was raging at the time and that Israel and the Palestinians were just two players, and not the most important of many.
Similarly, if the ‘International Community’ (whoever that might be) was supposed to protect the Palestinians why did no one step up? Indeed, as a what-if exercise, one must wonder what would have happened in Sabra and Shatilla if the Palestinian fighters had tried to make a stand in the camps?
Yet something really important is missing
It is not, as you might expect Israel, which withdrew from Beirut in 1982. Israel is usually the designated villain but mention is minimal.
Nor is it the 1985 heavy fighting that erupted between the Amal Movement and Palestinian camp militias for the control of Sabra and Shatila and Bourj el-Barajneh camps. This reduced virtually all the houses in the camps to rubble.
Lebanon, the state whose laws most directly dominate the lives of the camp, is completely ignored in this report.
When one teacher claims that he doesn’t want to leave the camp he doesn’t note that Lebanese law makes it difficult and often near impossible to leave. To leave the country he would have to receive both a, difficult for Palestinian refugees to acquire, exit visa from Lebanon and an equally difficult to acquire entry visa to some other country. Even moving to a better location outside the camp is problematic. Palestine refugees are prevented from legally acquiring, transferring or inheriting real property in Lebanon and rents are outside the reach of most.
He continues in the hope that his pupils might become doctors, engineers or teachers. But he ignores the continuing legal bar against Palestinian refugees from practicing law and medicine, or becoming engineers. Only 5% of Palestinians in Lebanon graduate so the hope of becoming a teacher is slim. Fortunately, the chance that his wish they become soldiers, presumably against Israel, is equally unlikely.
Although there was a relaxing of the law in 2010 that barred them from twenty professions in practise nothing seems to have changed. A Lebanese friend once explained that the reason was technical, that foreign workers need to come from a state with a reciprocal agreement and Palestine is not in a position to make such an agreement. If true, that puts Lebanese recognition of the ‘State of Palestine’ into harsh perspective.
Space is at a premium because Lebanon won’t allow the camps to expand despite the exploding population since 1948, worse with the Syrian civil war.
I rarely miss the chance to abuse U.N.R.W.A., an organisation which I believe is a major part of the problem, not the solution. Here I will conclude, as does the report with this dissonance.
In 20121 U.N.R.W.A. will have a budget of nearly half a billion US dollars ($US500,000,000) to run schools for Palestinian refugees. The (Refugee Dreams Association) centre will continue its school support despite its fragile finances.
Good luck kids. We hope your future is better than your present.