Friday, 25 May 2007

Extinguishing the campfire

By Khaled Diab
The violence in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam fighters raises serious worries about the short-term stability of Lebanon and has been yet another sad episode in the desperation and violence engulfing Palestinians. The fighting also resonates with worrying echoes of 1982.

I will not engage in the speculation and finger-pointing as to who is behind the violece - plenty of others have done that. My question is: why have these refugee camps, breeding grounds for frustration and extremism, been allowed to exist for so long? Would it not be to the advantage of both the Palestinians refugees and Lebanon that these ugly and depressing camps are dismantled and the Palestinians living there given Lebanese residencies?

I know Lebanon is sensitive to maintaining a balance in its delicate and fragile sectarian mix, but concentrating so many poor Palestinians for so many generations in one place and marginalising them is, in my view, far more destabilising than allowing them to integrate better into Lebanese society.

Some will raise the issue of keeping the memory of the Palestinian national struggle alive. But allowing Palestinians to live in dignity will not erase memories of their struggle. Some will argue Israel has to take responsibility for the refugees. Well, until it does, Palestinians deserve a better life and it is in Lebanons interest to help them gain it.

©Khaled Diab

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