right of return to nahr el bared and palestine

a-films has a new film out from nahr el bared refugee camp in northern lebanon where palestinians led a protest against the lebanese army’s control over their camp and unrwa’s submission to that control:

on 15 may 2009, several hundred residents of the destroyed nahr al-bared refugee camp in north lebanon gathered at the al-quds mosque to march along the army posts to a construction site in the south of the camp. there, yet another piece of land was flattened and the building of the fifth unit of temporary shelters for displaced families is being prepared.

in their chants, the protesters demanded the return to the old camp and the end of the siege on nahr al-bared and the abolishment of the permit system respectively. abu tayyeb of the residents’ committee demanded the immediate stop of the building of the new barracks as long as the reconstruction in the old camp wouldn’t start. he further criticized corruption and nepotism in the reconstruction process and asked why the rebuilding of the old camp is constantly being delayed. he hinted at intentions to actually not rebuild the camp and told the crowd: the laying of the foundation stone on 9 march was nothing but a lie!“

and, for the record, the situation in the rest of lebanon, for palestinians, is not much better as irin news reported yesterday:

For the last 30 years Ali Mohammed Hindawi, aged 84, has lived alone in a rusty tin shack in south Lebanon, without water, electricity or a toilet, sleeping among chickens, flies and litter, and separated from his family by displacement and poverty.

“What do I think about at night? I think about my situation, that this is not a life for me,” said the frail old man, barely able to sit up after weathering another winter of freezing temperatures and downpours. “It is the life of a dog. All I want is to spend my last few years in a good way.”

Hindawi is one of tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon who live in unofficial “gatherings”, collections of homes built without official permission and left largely unserviced, by either the Lebanese state, the Palestinian Authority (PA) or the UN Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.

Driven from his home by Israeli troops who overran northern Galilee in 1948, the young Hindawi crossed into Lebanon and settled in an UNRWA tent, set up in the Kafr Bada area of south Lebanon, near Qasmiyeh river.

Many of these tents later grew into officially recognised refugee camps, with fixed boundaries and services provided by UNRWA. But for refugees like Hindawi – or Zahra Saeed and her family of 13 children living across the river in the Qasmiyeh “gathering” – no such certainties exist.

“There has been no real interest in the `gatherings’, only in the camps,” said Ghazi al-Hassan, secretary of the Palestinian Popular Committee in Kafr Bada. “Now there’s a limit to the PA’s budget so they send very little here.”

Without a mandate to operate outside the 12 official refugee camps in Lebanon, home to around half the 400,000 Palestinians, UNRWA only makes food deliveries to Kafr Bada and other “gatherings” once every three months. With a budget of just US$100 a month, al-Hassan’s Popular Committee can do little more than collect rubbish and pay transport costs.

NGOs such as the Lebanese Popular Aid for Relief and Development (PARD) try to fill the gap in the dozens of “gatherings” across the country.

Hindawi – like the partially blind Mariam Dyabissa, a 94-year-old Palestinian refugee who shares her tin hut in Qasmiyeh with her mentally ill son – relies on kindly neighbours to bring him food, wash and dress him and light the fire at night.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is now conducting the first comprehensive household survey of Palestinian gatherings in Lebanon, which include areas adjacent to UNRWA camps. In the northern Nahr al-Bared camp, largely destroyed in fighting two years ago, reconstruction in the adjacent areas has been hampered by the absence of a clear mandate for any one agency to lead efforts inside Palestinian “gatherings”.

In 2005, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) made a needs assessment of 39 “gatherings”, defined as having a minimum of 25 households. It found that the right to work and own property was the refugees’ main need. In the Qasmiyeh “gathering”, Zahra Saeed said she had received an eviction notice from the local court every six months for the last 10 years, Palestinians being banned from owning property in Lebanon.

NRC Lebanon, whose report is due out in June, is hoping to secure $2-$3 million which it said would allow them to upgrade the homes of around 250 families living in “gatherings” in south Lebanon.

For Ali Hindawi, that could mean spending his last days with at least a weatherproof concrete wall and door. But that may be little comfort in a life of such hardship. “If I feel happy or sad it doesn’t matter,” he said. “No one cares about me.”

and people wonder why we worry about lebanese collaborators in lebanon? just look at where their loyalties lie with these new spy escapees:

A disabled Lebanese citizen and his family fled to Israel at dawn on Monday along with another suspected spy amid a crackdown on espionage networks throughout Lebanon, a security official said.

Elie Maroun Hayek, a 49-year-old mathematics professor who lives in the southern town of Qolayaa, some 10 kilometers (six miles) from the Israeli border, slipped under barbed wire between the border towns of Rmaysh and Yaron, the official told AFP.

Hayek, who is paraplegic, fled with his wife and three sons, he added. Another man from the town of Rmaysh also fled to Israel early Monday, the official said without giving more detail. He said the man and Hayek are suspected of being part of Israeli spy networks that have been uncovered by Lebanese officials in recent months. Lebanon has arrested 13 people since January on suspicion of spying for Israel. An undisclosed number of others have also been detained for interrogation.

and for the record: the root of the problem is the zionist state. it is not lebanon or even the current lebanese government. right of return is the only solution. as always. as ever. and not right of return to nahr el bared, but right of return to palestine. period.

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