Drug Trafficking in the Palestinian Camps Mixed Networks of Families and Factions

Drug Trafficking in the Palestinian Camps  Mixed Networks of Families and Factions
*Palestinian journalist. Member of “The Palestinian Media Collective in Lebanon “Interact”.
The Palestinian camps and Lebanon in general were recently rattled by a wrenching surveillance footage of a woman carrying her child when a bullet hit her head in Farhat neighborhood on the outskirts of the Shatila camp in Beirut and killed her immediately. This woman only fault was passing by at a moment of confrontation between drug traffickers. Weeks before, two people were also killed in the Rashidiya camp in southern Lebanon by drug traffickers as well.
These two events ignited the social media, and public anger burst out in demonstrations in the streets of the camps, demanding that the factions put an end to this scourge, which seriously threatens the social fabric, stability, and security of the Palestinian community.
To Farhat neighborhood, where Woroud Kenjo was killed, I went carrying a camera bag on my shoulder. The observing eyes of two young men chased me the moment I put my foreign foot in the neighborhood. Some women and boys were looking at me from the windows of their apartments that were overflowing with poverty and misery. My friend said: “Most of them are families of drug traffickers, watching every movement of all those who enter the neighborhood.”
Two older men were playing backgammon on the street. A third man sitting next to them gestured for me to come closer. He asked: “What’s in the bag?” I told him: “Camera”. He whispered in my ear: “son, it is better to hide the camera and leave. Press is forbidden here. If one of the young men notices you, he might hurt you.” 
I left.

Family members of drug dealers are securing watch out of movement into and out of the camp
Conversation with a Drug Dealer
The next day, I called a friend of mine from the Shatila camp. He arranged for an appointment with a dealer who agreed to talk to me on two conditions: not to carry any recording device, and not to mention or publish his name.
He started talking without asking him. He said: “Don’t think that I am happy with what I do, but I have no choice.” I asked him why? Many Palestinians in the camp do have jobs, and many others are unemployed but did not resort to drug trafficking.
I escaped from my difficult reality to addiction and dealership
He said: “I entered this world four years ago. I was working for Elegance company, distributing its products to stores. I was once stopped by a security checkpoint who held the company’s car because I did not have a commercial driver’s license. Then the HR manager at the company called me and asked me to leave the company. I started looking for another job for several days. Finally, a small restaurant in Tariq alJadideh agreed to hire me as a delivery boy, if I have a motorcycle. I bought the motorcycle and finalized the registration papers. The whole thing cost me about $1100; all I had saved from my previous job.
He went on: “three weeks later, I was delivering an order. I parked my bike in front of the building and went up to the fourth floor, but when I went back down, I was surprised that there was no bike. I was shocked and confused. I informed the police station, but unfortunately, they could not bring it back.  I was desperate, and I no longer knew what to do. The main condition to work for the restaurant was to have a motorcycle, and I did not have enough money to buy a new one. To escape my difficult reality, I began to smoke hash. I stayed for several weeks without a job. At this time, one of the dealers felt sorry for me and asked if I wanted to work with him and make some money. Initially, I hesitated, but then I agreed. With time, I became a well-known dealer, and I became a wanted”. 
“Are you satisfied with that?” I asked
“Of course not. Our reputation is bad, and our lives are at risk. We can be killed at any time, or we can get arrested. But I have no choice.  There are now some university graduates working in drug trafficking because there are no jobs.”
I interrupted him and said: “but that is no reason. Drugs are very harmful to you and others. All the people here are enduring the same living conditions. Still, nobody died of hunger, and everyone is managing and supporting families. Secondly, don’t you see that by doing so, even if you do not intend, you are destroying the reputation and the social fabric of the camp and ultimately serving our enemies’ goals.”
“You exaggerate, there are drug factories everywhere, and drugs are exported to all regions. We are only selling here and in small quantities. Lots of our goods are sold to people from outside the camp. We don’t force anyone to buy drugs. 

There are no drug factories or hashish farms inside the camps. Drugs come from outside. 
Whether we sell it or not, whoever wants drugs can get them just like any other commodity,” he said. “If someone does not smoke drugs, is it reasonable that we catch him and force him to do it against his own will?”
I asked him: “If you find a job, are you willing to quit drug dealing?” He replied: “yes, but on one condition, that the state cleans up my record too, and stop chasing me.” 
I said: “do you think all drug traffickers will quit drug dealing if they have this option?”
“Honestly, I don’t think so”, he said. “Some big dealers make lots of money, and they care less about the camp’s or Palestine reputation.  They are involved in crimes, and part of large drug networks inside and outside the camp, and I do not think they will quit this business. Those people are precisely the greatest danger, and they are not many. They are the main source of problems. The only way to deal with these people is by force and by handing them over to the authorities. There is another problem, though. Some people from the factions’ deal with them and provide cover for them. Whereas people like me, we are but small dealers.”
“How drugs infiltrated the camps?”
He said: “There are no drug factories or hashish farms inside the camps. The camps are only for distribution and consumption.  Drugs come from outside the camp, especially from the neighborhoods adjacent to it. Did you notice that drugs are widespread in the neighborhoods on the outskirts of the camp? For quite some time now, and because of geographical overlap, relationships developed with people in these neighborhoods, specifically among youth. At first, when they used to meet, they smoked hash in the evenings, and brought small quantities home. The discussions then evolved about bringing drugs inside the camp and drug dealing. The proposal was welcomed because this business makes quick profits. Later other types of drugs were brought in the camps, and networks developed with the outside and with some of the factions.”
“I wish more journalists join us,” he concluded, joking.

Some faction officials are involved in drug trafficking, securing cover, and protecting wanted people. 
With a Camp Security Officer
Kazem Hassan, the secretary-general of the PLO factions in Shatila camp, i.e., the camp security authority, has his own story regarding the entry of drugs into the Palestinian camps.
He said: “it all started with the departure of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) from Lebanon in 1982. There was no longer an effective authority to control the popular committees and no more armed struggle, which led to a big vacuum and opened the door for such poisons. Over time, drug trafficking became organized and was run by gangs inside and outside camps. Particularly lately, their aggressions escalated. As a result, the factions decided to prevent them from any cover and to fight this scourge in all possible ways. However, the main problem remains that the security forces in the camp are not covered and protected. In 1969, the Cairo Agreement for the Regulation of Armed Action in Lebanon (CAPA) was signed by the PLO in charge of camp security. Everything was in order. But in 1987, as a result of political developments in the country, President Amine Gemayel canceled the Cairo agreement as it affected Lebanon’s sovereignty, and the camps became under the responsibility of the Lebanese state.”
I asked him: “but where is the problem if drug traffickers are arrested and handed over to the Lebanese authorities?”
He said: “there are two problems: first, using weapons in any raid may expose the security forces to prosecution from the Lebanese state, and the agent becomes wanted and they might issue a warrant of arrest against him, especially if a shooting happened and people died. The second problem is that some promoters, to avenge themselves, sometimes accuse those who have delivered them to the Lebanese authorities of being partners in the drug dealing. The issue becomes open, and any agent or official in the security forces becomes at risk of appearing before the courts and being judged. The issue is complicated. The right solution is to find an agreement between the Lebanese state and the PLO that would respect the Palestinian intricacies in Lebanon and give the security forces the authority to intervene  and fight these ills while protecting them from being prosecuted.”
The solution, as they see it, is to establish a joint security force from all factions, lifting the cover off all dealers,

Responsibility of Factions and Families
In an interview with some of the activists inside the camp, they accused mainly some faction officials of being involved in drug trafficking, securing cover, and protecting wanted people. They also pointed out that one of the most significant obstacles that prevent dealing with this issue are the families who approve drug dealing. The solution, as they see it, is to establish a joint security force from all factions, lifting the cover off all dealers, and allowing two weeks to anyone who wants to quit this business, then arrest anyone still dealing with drugs and hand him over to the Lebanese authorities.
They all agree that drugs have severely damaged some camps, namely Shatila, Burj Al-Barajneh and Rashidiya, and tarnished their security, reputation, and values. It is not acceptable that the Shatila camp, which was a place to train the men and women of the resistance, such as Dalal al-Maghribi and Ali Abu Touq, and which soil witnessed the martyrdom of hundreds of heroes, turns into a drug-dealing market.
The factions must act and save the camps. They should not let those dealers plant their poisoned daggers in the heart of our camp. They should not let them squander the revolutionary and heroic values that our martyrs have enshrined.