Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network expresses its strongest solidarity with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon struggling for their civil and human rights as well as their right to return to their occupied homeland, Palestine. In the past days, thousands of Palestinian refugees have taken to the streets of the refugee camps under banners demanding dignity and justice, a struggle that is continuing now.
The protests were sparked by the actions of the Lebanese Minister of Labor, Kamil Abu Sleiman, to impose new registration requirements on Palestinians working in Lebanon or operating their own businesses. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, who have been present since 1948 when they were expelled from their homeland, Palestine, in the Nakba, have long faced severe discrimination and repression by the Lebanese state and, in particular, right-wing political parties and militias. It should be noted that Abu Sleiman represents the Lebanese Forces party, a right-wing political movement long known for its anti-Palestinian and anti-Syrian policies.
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are barred from 72 regulated professions, including medicine, public transit, farming and fishery, and the implementation of this Lebanese labor law barred Palestinians (and Syrian refugees) from working at all without costly and difficult-to-obtain work visas. These protests, led mostly by youth in the camps, which are home to nearly a half-million Palestinian refugees, also come in rejection of the harsh conditions that have impacted Palestinian refugees after the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993. In fact, the situation of deprivation, repression and despair has forced many Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to migrate to Europe or elsewhere, seeking human dignity.
The signing of the Oslo accords and the creation of the Palestinian Authority, only 11 years after the massacres of Palestinian refugees carried out at Sabra and Shatila by Phalangist militias in alliance with Zionist occupation forces, led to even deeper deprivation among Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. From the center of the Palestinian revolution, they were pushed to the side and their demand for the right to return – the key struggle of the Palestinian liberation movement – marginalized by the official Palestinian leadership under the rubric of “state-building,” leaving Palestinian refugees with few resources with which to confront a multifaceted attack led by Israel and the United States and backed up by the most reactionary sectors of Lebanese politics and capital.
It is no coincidence that the latest attack on Palestinians in Lebanon comes amid ongoing Israeli threats of war against Lebanon; U.S. plans to restructure the region; intensified drives to normalization with the Israeli state by the reactionary Arab regimes in partnership with the U.S.; cuts to the funding of organizations like UNRWA, providing support to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon who are excluded from government services; the ongoing siege on Gaza and the massacres against Palestinian refugees marching there for their right to return and imperialist war drives against Iran. Much the same, the rising of Palestinian refugees is essential to the resistance against Zionism, imperialism and Arab reaction.
Mohammed Khatib, Samidoun coordinator in Europe and a Palestinian refugee from Ain el-Helweh camp in Lebanon, writes:
“The uprising in the camps is a clear protest against the continuous and prolonged state of oppression, exclusion and siege imposed on our people living in the camps in particular, an expression of the rejection of injustice, racism and government policies that deal with the Palestinian presence in Lebanon as a “security file.”…The protests that we witness in the camps of Beirut, in the North and the South reflect the long-term struggle of our people in Lebanon to defend their rights and to confront the policy of racism and marginalization practiced by the Lebanese sectarian regime against the Palestinians and against foreign workers and refugees on a sectarian and reactionary basis. These serious and angry protests in Lebanon remind us of the fact that the Palestinian camps, the reservoir of the revolution, have become miserable enclaves for the most oppressed and impoverished classes in Lebanon, of all nationalities. And these classes today are ready for uprising and even revolution, confronting these realities and regaining their role in the Palestinian national movement and in the resistance, in order to complete the project of return and liberation.”
Palestinian organizations in Lebanon have expressed specific demands, including:
- the granting of clear legal status to Palestinian refugees with civil, economic and social rights;
- amending Lebanese labor law to cancel the work permit requirement for Palestinian refugees and end their exclusion from regulated professions
- ending ongoing discrimination against Palestinian refugees in a range of areas, including allowing them to own property.
They pledged to continue to protest until the dignity of Palestinian refugees was respected, emphasizing that this campaign is part and parcel of the struggle to return to and liberate the entire land of Palestine and reject all attempts to undermine the Palestinian cause. (The statement was signed by the Al Naqab Center for Youth Activities, Arab Palestinian Cultural Club, Palestinian Cultural Club – Beirut, Palestinian Cultural Club at AUB, Palestinian Cultural Club at LIU, Camps Boycott and the Palestinian National Theater – Lebanon.)
Samidoun urges all supporters of Palestine and the struggle of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands to support the protests taking place in Lebanon. These protests reflect an ongoing mobilization to defend Palestinian rights and the Palestinian people against a comprehensive attack – and to support their steadfastness to move towards victory and liberation.
1. Organize events or actions in your area to support Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Hold a protest, gathering or event in a public square. You can also include support for the Great March of Return in Gaza as part of these events. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us about your events!
2. Call the Lebanese embassy in your country to say that you support Palestinian refugees and that you want to see an end to unfair labor laws restricting Palestinian refugees from working or requiring expensive permits. We have included below a call from the Palestinian Youth Movement with one suggestion – if you are in the United States, call the Lebanese embassy at 202-939-6300. You can find the phone number for your local Lebanese embassy at this link.
Palestinian camps in Lebanon have witnessed popular movements in response to the implementation of the discriminatory labor law which aims to “limit foreign labor” as the Lebanese Ministry of Labor calls it. This campaign has targeted our interests and work as Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, increasing our suffering due the deprivation our most basic civil and social rights. Most of the successive Lebanese governments have not spared any effort in increasing the suffering of our steadfast people in Lebanon. The Lebanese government has not yet defined the legal status of the Palestinian refugee in Lebanon and as such is treated sometimes as a refugee and others as a stateless individual.
As such, our people in the camps of Lebanon have moved in demand of the following:
- The Lebanese state must release a law granting clear legal status to Palestinian refugees, guaranteeing them their civil and economic and social rights to live in dignity.
- Amending Labor Law 129/2010 to cancel the work permit and grant Palestinian refugees the right to practice free professions and releasing the necessary implementary decrees.
- Amending the laws regulating free professions in accordance with the Labor Law to complete the exemption from the condition of reciprocity and the condition to stop practicing in country of origin.
- Stopping the composite discrimination against Palestinian refugees and releasing a legal amendment allowing them to own property.
- We reaffirm that our protests will continue until our rightful demands are met.
Additionally, we call upon Palestinian factions to unite around the demands of our steadfast people in Lebanon. We call upon the Lebanese people who are the first supporters of Palestine and its people to support these popular movements and to stand with our rightful demands.
We call upon our people in occupied Palestine and in the Arab nations and in Europe and the United States and across the globe to support us in our demands by organizing events and mobilizations.
We as Palestinian people reaffirm our right to return to Palestine, all of Palestine, and reject resettlement and all conspiracies aiming to eliminating our Palestinian cause.
One united impenetrable front for the rights of our Palestinian people
- Al Naqab Center for Youth Activities
- Arab Palestinian Cultural Club
- Palestinian Cultural Club in Beirut
- Palestinian Cultural Club at American University of Beirut
- Palestinian Cultural Club at Lebanese International University
- Palestinian Cultural Club at LIU
- Camps Boycott
- Palestinian National Theater – Lebanon