Palestinian writer and researcher
Perhaps the wisdom behind the LPDC’s choice of the title: “The Lebanese through Palestinian eyes – the Palestinian through Lebanese eyes” for the purpose of discussion and examination is to paint a more accurate picture of how the Lebanese and Palestinian parties look at each other. With that objective in mind, the LPDC assigned seasoned researchers known for their continuous observance of the best relations between the two peoples to write about this theme.
There is no doubt that the title is broad. It requires us to define what is meant by “Lebanese”, from the standpoint of the Palestinian; is it the Lebanese in general, or is it the devotee to the Palestinian cause, especially in support of the human rights the Palestinian refugees are demanding in Lebanon?
On the other hand, who is the “Palestinian” who demands to define his view of the Lebanese? Is the dispute here about Palestinian members or elites? or is it the Palestinian community’s outlook in Lebanon, and the Palestinian people as a whole toward the Lebanese people?
The importance of this scrutiny here stems from the fact that we aim not to assess the individual; subjective judgment could lean toward either negative or positive depending on the judge. In other words, Palestinian or Lebanese individuals or establishments could have a rosy or tainted, written or oral view of the other, Lebanese or Palestinian, but this does not mean that the view, rosy or tainted, reflects the view of the masses.
It is neither a puzzle nor an impossibility to assess the general view the Palestinian and Lebanese have towards each other, based on the fact that there is a long and recognizable experience that has been deeply carved into the Lebanese and Palestinian psyche. The mutual scars did not instantly heal with the official Palestinian exit in 1982, and nothing serious has been done to examine the experience, mend the souls and polish the relationship. This reconciliation does not happen overnight; rather, it requires serious work that would provide a sound basis for a good and conscious relationship of strategic interest to both the Lebanese and Palestinian parties.
Coordinated and frequent efforts are underway to make Lebanon, instead of Israel, an enemy of the Palestinian people in Lebanon. These efforts include the fostering of a hate culture among Palestinians as a whole towards the Lebanese. No one talks much about the original sin, the establishment of Israel, the Nakba of 1948, and its role in generating the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees in general, and the Palestinians of Lebanon in particular. What is actually happening is the portrayal of Lebanon as the source of these people’s misery and suffering! Hopefully, the LPDC will pursue this issue and its veiled manifestations in the media and amongst the active parties in this domain.
On the implication of the surprising results of the census of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon!
I turn to the efficient management of the file of the Palestinians in Lebanon and the efforts to refine and develop the Lebanese-Palestinian relations, including the completion of the Palestinian refugee census in Lebanon which settled a long and bitter debate over their numbers, assuaged the fears of some, and revealed a smaller number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon than previous estimates.
As the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon has reached 174,422 we note that the lesson is not in numbers but in the quality of their file management, because with less efficient and competent management, there are greater problems even with fewer refugees, and vice versa.
The second observation is made on the implication of the actual number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, which is one-third of the most frequently circulated estimation, confirming that the issue of the Palestinian presence in Lebanon is also run under the pressure of false news and facts.
Therefore, if the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is doubled, tripled or quadrupled, perhaps we can assume that there is a similar exaggeration in the remaining issues related to their cause. I say this based on a careful reading and review of many papers on the problems experienced by the Palestinians of Lebanon in general and of the camps in particular!
To find out the truth, it was enough for me to carry out a rigorous and systematic reading of what the studies proclaimed and to compare them to the facts on the ground in the camps. I verified with permanent resident activists inside the camps that what was said contradicted reality. There are obscene exaggerations that have become truths in studies propagating untruths, and some of them bear high profile signatures.
From exaggerating camp populations to overstating the problem of overcrowding therein!
The most prominent and reliable examples in this area are the ones that talk about the housing crisis in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon that recur in various studies. Later on, the census came to show that an increasing proportion of residents in the Palestinian camps were no longer Palestinians. How can Palestinian overcrowding be true if the camps accommodate a large non-Palestinian population?
This does not mean that the Palestinian camps in Lebanon do not suffer from serious problems and need solutions; however, when the problem is in its natural size and has logical and applicable solutions, it is a completely different matter from when it is inflated to an extent that makes solving it impossible. The above-mentioned represents the methodological key to understanding the inputs and to forming the image of a “Lebanese through Palestinian eyes” and of a “Palestinian through Lebanese eyes”. Did the two images escape the negative scourge of exaggeration? Regrettably, negative images predominate in general, as a result of multiple and contradictory factors. It is important to distinguish between what is fact and what is merely a deliberate distortion of the narrative to create animosity between Palestinians and Lebanese.
In Lebanon the most prominent Palestinian elite was formed, and Lebanon was the tongue, lungs and mind of Palestine!
I conclude by saying that there are those who are consciously bringing up the memory of the war and its tragedies. What is more, they seek to extend this to the entire history of the Palestinian presence in Lebanon. They claimed: Lebanon was but a great prison for its Palestinians. We have rarely heard publicly from many that it was within this “Great Prison” that a university, a bank, a school, a platform and a street for Palestine were erected; Lebanon gave Palestine its tongue, money, mind and blood! In Lebanon, the most important Palestinian elite was formed. Lebanon was the lungs, mind, and tongue of Palestine! Perhaps now this psalm should be recited again!