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Pending the return - Restore and rebuild Palestinian refugee camps

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Palestinian refugee campsBy Hiyam Noir and Fadwa Nassar

The WikiLeaks recently published a secret file on the camp of Nahr el-Bared, a refugee-camp located in the Northern part of Lebanon. Reading the document feels as if backwater is pushed downwards in particular towards the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

Let’s explain the factual background: Armed groups, combined of several Arab nationalities (Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian, Saudi, Iraqi, Kuwaiti, etc.), established them self in the Palestinian refugee- camp of Nahr el-Bared. These groups undertook in May 2008, a combat mission against the Lebanese army, followed by street battles in the Libyan city of Tripoli, these groups were Fatha-el-islam militiamen who holed up in Nahr al-Bared. The Lebanese government believed that the sudden surge of violence was linked to the moves of members in the United Nations Security Council, to appoint an international tribunal to prosecute suspects in the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The Lebanese army, planned to uproot and dislodge the militia and destroy the Nahr el-Bared camp, without to inform or counsel first with the Lebanese government, where elsewhere the civilian population in the camp would be transferred, before the army would proceed with its plan. Again the Palestinian refugees, their political and military organizations were forced to abandon their homes and their property. Their bitter-sweet fruit of life, gathered after years of hard work, having decided that it was better for the future of Palestinian-Lebanese relations, to deal with the Lebanese authorities, hope for the best and believe in their promises.

The story is the classic version sold to the refugees and their friends, and to the Medias watchdogs. According to this version, the refugees would in the near future be allowed returning to their homes in the camp, as it was promised, to be rebuilt with Arab and European funds. The Palestinian refugees where told - just do wait, don’t complain, have faith, in particular have trust in the Lebanese, and in the Palestinians, the Arab and international authorities.

However, the true story about the refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared is another story and the document file No. BUCHAREST37408 published by WikiLeaks a few days ago, have unveiled all the lies and concessions squared up between all the parties. As of May 15, 2008, the Embassy of Bucharest announced that a U.S. road-map is in process with regards to a regional plan, in collaboration with the Lebanese, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Saudi Arabian authorities.

Here is what they came up with, the removal of the Nahr el-Bared camp and the transfer of its refugees to a new development in the town, al-Rawabi, located on the West Bank in the district of Ramallah. Palestinian refugees of Nahr el-Bared are approximately 35,000 people, thus the city of al-Rawabi could accommodate 40, 000 inhabitants, that is, if designed customary.

The information leaked reveals the ugly lies of former Prime Minister, the bodeful Fouad Sanioura, who had insured the spokesperson representing the refuges of the Nahr el-Bared camp, that without doubt, the eviction from the camp would be temporary, that only some reparation and reconstruction would be necessary before the inevitable return back home. Simultaneously Sanioura was involved in the transfer- plan of the refugees.

The insurance provided to the inhabitants of the refuge camp by Sinioura and the representative of the PA in Beirut, Abbas Zaki, proved to be a deliberate falsehood intended to silence the voices of the refugees. These two men were plotting against the refugees to take possession of their property and their right to return to their homeland, to their towns and villages from where they were expelled - and the Palestinian refugees of the Nahr el-Bared camp had followed the instructions given to them, and they are still this very day, awaiting patiently for the reconstruction of their homes in the camp. United Nations have assured that the arrangement for the return to the camp is on the way, so have the Lebanese and Palestinian circles - but what are the conditions?

Here lingers another question. It is true that the camp has been rebuilt, but in a manner which leaves one to believe that it will be administered by the Lebanese district, no longer have the social safety-net and international protection of Palestinian refugee camp. Or will the refugees move back to a modern stile camp, i.e. situated in an area with the Lebanese police located in the center, and roads wide enough to allow movement of vehicles (armored?). In all cases, the heart of the refugee camp, its houses and its typical streets, where a Palestinian social life, once woven in the exile, on a prolonged period persisting in the claim of the right to return - and the liberation of Palestine – has it disappeared forever ? Thus we come this far, have we now when almost there, at the end, failed? How long we carried our hopes and our dreams, and how we all have prayed ….

In 2002, after the Zionist destruction of the refugee camp in the West Bank town of Jenin, which entire area was razed, bulldozed to rubble, reduced to nonexistence, the combatants and their families. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was contracted to reconstruct the areas of the refuge camp. Believe it or not. Since the Palestine Authority had no voice, no well-functioning authority, Zionist standards were applied to the reconstruction: The streets in Jenin are wide enough to allow the passage of military vehicles, and the homes are large enough and purposely separated wide from each other, to prevent wanted fugitives ( resistance fighters) to move freely and escape the occupants assassination squads.

Yet there was no plan, ten years ago, to destroy the entire camp and to evict its inhabitants. They would go to where ever they may found a shelter, if not in the same areas, nevertheless, in the midst of the heart of the Palestinian territory, occupied by the Zionists in the 48. The refugee camp in Jenin was maintained, but rebuilt within a sterile “modernized” neighborhood - responding to the security standards of the Palestinian people’s tormentor, the Zionist occupant.

The Nahr el-Bared refugee-camp is not the first Lebanese refugee-camp to be destroyed, but it is the first to be rebuilt, at least partly, through the perseverance of its population and the presence of a political will – political, in the reality of the hostile plans of the United States, to be executed against the countries in the region. Earlier, the Palestinian refugees were attacked and abused by other military forces: For example on January 4th 1976, the refugee camp of Tell el-Zaatar, “The Hill of Thyme” with its 50- 60.000 inhabitants, located in the northeastern parts of Beirut, was bombed by the Lebanese Phalangist militia.


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