Regarded by some as a temporary issue, the tragedy of the Palestinians is rarely presented to the Arab and international public opinion through the media or during political occasions. Even some Arabs and Palestinians intentionally turn a blind eye to the issue so as not to expose abuses. What is happening in Lebanon's Nahr al Bared camp today is just one such example where battles have raised an overwhelming number of questions: who are these people? How long have they lived in the camp and how? What are their rights? The answers can be found on the UNRWA's website. Tens of thousands of people crammed in undignified houses, where many of them were born and have lived for five decades.
Some Arab countries "hosting" refugees ban them from leaving [camps], from occupying a large number of positions and deny them any other legal rights. Some of them have to jump over walls and sneak out to complete their chores or to breathe and experience the outside world. One can imagine these randomly and poorly built houses during the winter chill and sweltering heat of the summer among the sewage and insufficient services. It is a shame. How can we talk about the liberation of Palestine, which we simply associate with stolen land, a desecrated mosque and a powerful enemy, while we do not allow Palestinians to settle down, earn a living or travel like all other human beings?
Our insistence to lock the Palestinians in camps and treat them like animals in the name of preserving the issue is far worse a crime than Israel stealing land and causing the displacement of people. The 60 year-old camps only signify our inhumanity and double standards. Israel can claim that it treats the Palestinians better than their Arab brothers do. It gives citizenship to the Palestinians of 1948 as well as the right to work and the right to lead a somewhat normal life, although they are treated as second-class citizens. [Comment - how are Jews treated in Saudi Arabia? How are Arabs treated in Saudi Arabia? Who has more rights, a an Arab in Saudi Arabia who is not a member of the royal family, or an Arab street sweeper in Israel? Who can vote? Who can go to law if his rights are violated? ]
In Nahr al Bared and other camps, however, they are neither citizens nor humans based on weak pretexts. I cannot believe Lebanese allegations that state that they have been confining the Palestinians, being Sunnis, to camps so as not to disturb the demographic balance between the Shia and Christians. It is a ridiculous excuse that even Israel would not try to use. No one is asking for citizenship or permanent settlement for themonly permission to live like any other foreigner. Blame lies with the Arab League and Arab governments that took part in or kept silent about this moral scandal. Rather than seeking to help them or provide for their demands, they preoccupy Arab public opinion with conferences and hollow rhetoric on the issue and on refugees.
Finally, we have to be true to ourselves and ask whether the way of life of these one million people is fair.
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed
the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. Mr. Al Rashed is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate degree in mass communications. He has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.