Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

Farid el-Khazen 'Permanent Settlement of Palestinians in Lebanon: A Recipe for Conflict'

In pre-war Lebanon, the Palestinian presence in Lebanon provoked deep communal divisions, intense political debate, and ideological controversy, From the late 1960s, no issue did more to militarize the country, mobilize communities, political parties and leaders, and split public opinion than the PLO military presence. And when the war broke out in the mid-1970s, what prolonged it and turned it into a full-fledged regional conflict was the direct involvement of the PLO.

Since the end of the military confrontations in 1990, however, an issue on which there has been unprecedented consensus shared by all Lebanese communities and by leaders in government and in the opposition, both in Lebanon and abroad, has been the rejection of permanent settlement of the Palestinians in Lebanon (tawteen, in Lebanese political jargon). Indeed, one of the modifications in the amended Lebanese constitution of 21 September 1990 that provoked no opposition from any faction was the provision introduced in the preamble: 'there shall be ... no settlement of non-Lebanese in Lebanon' (Republic of Lebanon 1995: 12).

From the most divisive issue in post-independence Lebanese politics to one of the few issues to arouse national consensus in post-war Lebanon, the Palestinian presence has been a highly delicate and controversial matter at all political, social, and economic levels.


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