June 25, 2010

Lebanon and Israel: compare and contrast

Here's a Cif piece from yesterday by Palestinian-American freelance journo, Ahmed Moor. Israel's friends are often citing the oppression of Palestinians et al by Arab states without considering the fact that Israel's existence is predicated on the oppression of the Palestinians. In his article, Moor sets out a key difference in the mistreatment of Palestinians in, in this case, Lebanon, when compared to others.
The vast majority of the 400,000 Palestinian refugees (10% of the population in Lebanon) who were born and raised in Lebanon do not have anything approaching the privilege I do. Today, Lebanon is the most hostile country to Palestinian refugees after Israel. They are second-class citizens here, but they are not the only ones.

Foreign guest workers also have a notoriously hard time in Lebanese society. Racism is so widespread (see Nesrine Malik's recent Cif article) that African and Asian guest workers are openly barred from attending the beaches where Lebanese people frolic. And that's saying nothing of the often inhumane working conditions they are subjected to on a daily basis.

There is an anti-Syrian current, as well. I remember encountering a barking dog while hiking somewhere in the northern part of the country. The owner rushed up and quieted the animal, remarking to me: "See how quickly he calmed down when I told him you're not Syrian."

The difference, of course, is that the Syrians, Ethiopians, Filipinos and others have consular support and countries to return to (although that is a serious problem for many guest workers, who are functionally indentured servants). The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have no such recourse.

Of course, the main difference between Lebanon and Israel, Lebanon being a legitimate state, Israel being an illegitimate one, is no excuse for Lebanon's sectarian structure nor its racist behaviour.

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