Earlier this week the mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, reportedly told a Palestinian delegation that the Palestinian people are no longer welcome in his country. Lebanon is home to over 400,000 Palestinians, over half of whom live in squalor in refugee camps.
“We’ve hosted you and no longer want you,” the mufti reportedly said, adding, “You are trash. You [Palestinians] will never be victorious. Nor will your cause. I’m no longer afraid of your weapons.” The meeting between the mufti and the Palestinian delegation was called to discuss Palestinian seizure of state-owned and Islamic Waqf lands – land set aside to be used for religious or charitable purposes only.
Inside a Palestinian refugee camp after fighting between Islamist militants and the Lebanese army in 2007.
The mufti’s remarks, though certainly harsh and likely uncalled for, highlight an important issue so rarely discussed: the status of Palestinian refugees in Arab countries. Although the work laws for Palestinians in Lebanon were finally altered last summer, the situation remains dire. Palestinians are barred from working in the public sector and from working as doctors, lawyers, and engineers. They also are not allowed to own property, pass on inheritance, or use Lebanese state medical and educational facilities. And while Lebanon’s Palestinians suffer from some of the worst conditions, their brethren in nearby countries don’t fair much better.
Perhaps the next Gaza flotilla preparing to set sail on June 25 should make a stop at Palestinian refugee camps in Israel’s neighboring Arab states to provide the assistance that the states themselves and the UN fail to offer.