*Representative of the Amal Movement in the Lebanese Working Group on Palestinian Refugees.
Due to its political, humanitarian and ideological importance, this cause has marked the history of contemporary Arabs and Muslims, and cost them human and material sacrifices at all levels, producing negative effects on various Arab political, social and even economic issues.
Over the past 70 years, the issue of Palestinian refugees has created many problems and complications that have weighed on the reality, capabilities and capacities of the host countries, paarticularly Lebanon, the Arab country which, since the 1948 Nakba (Palestinian exodus), has proved its national and nationalist integrity in its support and advocacy for the cause of Palestine and the rights of its brotherly people. All of this despite its small geographical area and its modest economic capacities and potential, and despite its particular and sensitive sectarian model and sectarian and religious diversity.
Lebanon has borne on its territory the burden of Palestinian refugees, relying officially and popularly on itself and the best it could do. As time passed, Lebanon found itself facing an individual responsibility toward the Palestinian refugee brethren because its values, nobility and traditions would not allow it to shirk this responsibility. The League of Arab States was no longer present with its supportive influence and effective programs. In addition, a great distance emerged between the founding principles of this Arab institution and what should have been done for the rights of the Palestinian people. This happened as a result of a decline in the positions of most Arab regime members of this institution and a decline in its embrace and support for the Palestinian cause, especially since Arab agreements – tacit and explicit – with the Israeli entity have contributed more and more to a siege of Palestinian rights in all aspects and the nonfulfillment of the return of diaspora refugees to their land and homeland. This has left Lebanon as one of few Arab countries bearing the weight of human concerns (such as economic and financial), in addition to the suffering of the Palestinian brethren on its land.
Although UNRWA in its programs has not achieved the appropriate level of support for the dignity, life and needs of these refugees and did not respond to the bare minimum owed to them, the question that arises here is: Is it capable of providing the required services based on the objectives of the international resolution establishing it, as long as it is part of the agenda of the international community, which has not yet endeavored to implement Resolution 194?
Over the course of seven decades, “government institutions” and NGOs in Lebanon have been involved in the service of this cause – albeit their work was not coordinated and unified in a single plan – until the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee was conceived in its official form and began to examine the needs of refugees in their camps and residential gatherings.
We note our appreciation for the achievements of the committee, particularly the Lebanese Working Group on Palestinian Refugees during the last three years.
The working group has taken upon itself, with seriousness and using scientific and technical methods, the issues before it. The group benefited from qualified specialists who made it possible for it to crystallize ideas and rectify data at times. This contributed to facilitating dialogue among its members and to moving toward better drafting positions for discussion themes and their complexities, so that the joint conclusions reached by the participants became the motivation and drive to achieve and announce the common vision contained in its 2017 document. Thus, the two teams of experts and facilitators and the working group have made meaningful contributions, objective in their process and style, flexible and useful. The working group is owed a debt of gratitude.
The representatives of the parliamentary blocs and their parties in the working group used as a basis, given their great national responsibility, the historical background of the course, junctures and the results of past incidents between the Palestinians and the Lebanese, on the one hand, and between the Palestinians themselves on Lebanese soil, on the other. They examined the current reality of the issue of continued displacement and discussed the legal, political and national repercussions and consequences of the Palestinians being exiled from their homeland and denied the right of a decent return to Palestine. They also discussed the duty of the Lebanese state and its capabilities to continue to support and address the basic and urgent need to improve safety in camps and gatherings. The members of the committee proposed important recommendations and effective ideas in correcting the responsible handling of this issue/cause. They presented texts that contribute to and are complemented by cooperation and role, with the previous laws issued by the Parliament and the initiatives of Lebanese governments and their service institutions. This is what was submitted in the name of the Working Group to then-Prime Minister Tammam Salam.
What set apart the tireless effort of the working group members and chair are several important points, namely:
Their commitments were not separate from the guidance of their leaders and their authorities, as there was clear determination to reach Lebanese collective and Lebanese-Palestinian agreements that would achieve the desired goal of healing this group and agreeing on the titles and themes of the relevant topics.
The discussions were not just limited to security problems; the dialogue also included various aspects surrounding and relating to the cause. The humanitarian dimension had its place, and the national and nationalist link was the priority in the search for solutions to this suffering and its existing challenges.
The recommendations of fellow members were indeed the best possible to be reached as suggestions tackled in-depth the most fundamental dilemmas, which are a priority in the desired solutions. The working group did not hesitate to propose effective follow-up mechanisms with a view to applying and implementing these recommendations with the competent official authorities in the Lebanese state.
Given that only one recommendation has been achieved, i.e. the statistical census of Palestinian refugees living in refugee camps and gatherings, we hope that the other recommendations will be adopted with the formation of the next government so they too take the course of implementation, in order to complete this unique effort in national devotion and to agree together to alleviating the social and humanitarian suffering of the refugee brethren.