So the war is over. The war on the Palestinian refugee camp Nahr el Bared for those Americans who are not aware that there has been a war in northern Lebanon for the past few months (since May 20th). The national newspapers have picked up the story here in Amrika, but the heartland here hasn’t heard of Nahr el Bared. They don’t seem to know that some 30,000 Palestinian refugees were displaced for a second and third time. Or they don’t seem to care. And they don’t seem to ask any questions about it. The New York Times reports on the disturbing context of the Lebanese army’s declared “victory,” though of course without any criticism of what that means for the Palestinians who remain Internally Displaced People (IDPs):
As news from the camp spread Sunday, Lebanese from different political backgrounds, including those allied to Hezbollah, took to the streets across the country in celebration. Television programs showed residents in northern cities near the camp waving Lebanese flags and throwing rice at soldiers who were flashing victory signs as their convoys arrived.
“The army is emerging as the guardian of the state of Lebanon,” said Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut. “Politicians have failed, therefore the army is the only institution capable of shoring the country toward peace.”
The Washington Post, attempting to provide context about Fatah al Islam, fails to provide links to Seymour Hersh’s thesis that the group was funded by the U.S. government, Saudi’s Prince Bandar, and Lebanon’s own Sa’ad Hariri in order to create a Sunni group to fight Hezbollah. Instead they claim:
The ideology of Fatah al-Islam is a matter of debate in Lebanon. Some pro-government leaders see it as a front for Syrian intelligence, a contention Syria denies. Others see it as affiliated with al-Qaeda, or at least related in doctrine.
The British media is no better with its glorification of the Lebanese army complete with a photo essay of the Lebanese army’s so-called victory.
Of course the Lebanese press has not been any better on this or any other front throughout this battle. Al Nahar, like its American counterparts erases the Palestinian context for the war and the way that Palestinians have been demonized, tortured, detained, and scapegoated throughout this conflict. All we hear from them is:
The camp was home to some 30,000 Palestinian refugees, most of whom fled in the early days of the confrontation and have since been housed at the nearby camp of Beddawi.
The army urged the refugees not to seek to return to Nahr al-Bared until they received the all clear.
This is code for: let the army cover up its massacres and damage so that Palestinians do not get to see what really happened to their camp. While the last UN Protection meeting I attended promised that one woman from each family will be allowed to enter the camp to collect her belongings (which all must be cataloged and photocopies by the army before taking anything) this will only take place after the army deems it’s “safe.” Unlike people from South Lebanon who were afforded the decision to return to their homes despite the unexploded cluster bombs, Palestinians will not have this choice.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora regurgitated his pledge to build a “model camp” yesterday after declaring victory. Most disturbing about his speech, however was his statement, quoted in Al Nahar, that:
He pledged that the Lebanese government would rebuild Nahr al-Bared, but said that the camp would be placed under the authority of the state and “only the Lebanese state.”
Does this mean we will return to a state of Lebanon in the 1950s when the Deuxieme Bureau or the Maktab Thani , the intelligence branch of the army placed all Palestinians under surveillance and every decision made by individuals in the camps–including decisions such as putting a nail in one’s wall in one’s own home–was left up to the army and if such an infraction was discovered it was punishable by detention and torture?
We hear something a bit different from Lebanon’s The Daily Star, quoting Siniora:
Siniora said the army’s attacks on the camp did not target “Palestinians nor Islam.”
“The fight against Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared was a fight against terrorism,” he said. “It is the fight of both Lebanese and Palestinians against terrorism.”
But here the words are so empty given the state of the country in its “you’re with us (the army) or you’re with the terrorists” rhetoric that has pitted the army and many Lebanese against Palestinians over the past few months in disturbing ways. What we don’t hear is the type of hard news that we can only get from news sources like Electronic Lebanon such as reports on how this simplistic, dichotomous ideology plaguing Lebanon has affected Palestinians living there.
My only hope is that people from Nahr el Bared get to return home on their terms. But my fear is that when this happens there will be another blood bath as the Lebanese army seems to think that live ammunition is an appropriate means of crowd control. This is especially worrisome in light of Siniora’s comments yesterday. Let’s hope I’m wrong.