Craig Eisele on …..

April 23, 2012

Displaced Palestinians Face Discrimination in Arab World

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mr. Craig @ 9:15 am

Discrimination in the diaspora

Many Palestinians face social and professional restrictions living in Arab countries.

Since the establishment of the state of Israel, the number of Palestinians living in Arab countries has grown to nearly five million. They are often denied citizenship, and have few legal or economic rights in their host countries.

Many point to a failure of integration as the root cause of such discrimination. Arab host governments claim this is done to maintain pressure for the “right of return.”

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Since the establishment of the state of Israel, the number of Palestinian refugees has grown to 4.6 million, the vast majority in Arab countries. Though many were born outside of Palestine, or have lived elsewhere for the majority of their lives, Palestinian refugees still have few legal rights and limited economic opportunities. This cartoon reads “the trapped Palestinian refugees on the Jordanian-Iraqi border.”

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  1. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the main organisation responsible for providing services to Palestinian refugees, only operates in refugee camps in the Occupied Territories, Syria, or Lebanon. Below are the most recent figures available for the number of Palestinian refugees, according to UNRWA criteria.

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    In addition, the figures for Palestinians in other Arab countries include 250,000 in Saudi Arabia, 70,000 in Egypt, and 3,000 in both Kuwait and Iraq (each down from much larger figures before the first and second Gulf wars).
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    Discrimination is common against Palestinian refugees in Arab countries. Below, a clip from an MTV Lebanon programme demeans the situation of Palestinians. Lebanon’s Christian parties are strongly against granting rights to Palestinians, saying loosening of restrictions would lead to tawteen, or naturalization.
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    In this video, Queen Rania of Jordan speaks at an anniversary commemoration for UNRWA. Although Jordan is the only Arab country where Palestinian citizens are granted citizenship and voting rights, political and social discrimination against Palestinians still exists. Raw footage of a brawl between Palestinian-Jordanian and “East Bank” Jordanian football fans is available here.
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    Palestinians in Lebanon are prohibited from social security benefits, property ownership, and from employment in almost all major professions, including high-status occupations such as medicine, engineering, and law as well as profitable jobs in construction and teaching. This short documentary shows the perspectives of second-generation Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon.
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    Although Palestinian camps have been in existence for more than 60 years in some cases, most of the camps lack functional services. Below, a photo of wires and pipes in a Lebanese camp.
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    Most of the camps are not permitted to build outside the original territory allotted when the camp was established, resulting in overcrowding.
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    This video describes a project for Palestinian children living in Lebanese camps.
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    In late 2010 a socioeconomic survey of Palestinians in Lebanon found that 63% of working age Palestinians in Lebanon were unemployed, compared to 9% of Lebanese citizens. The same study showed that Palestinian refugees spent $170 per month on average. This video shows the conditions of one refugee camp in Beirut.
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    The Nahr al Bared camp, one of the few sites of social and economic integration for Palestinians and Lebanese, was destroyed in 2007 in a clash between the Lebanese forces and the group Fatah al Islam. The destruction of the camp displaced over 27,000 residents, many of whom have since returned even though the camp has not been rebuilt. In June 2008, four Gulf countries promised to foot half of the $328 million to rebuild the camp, but no money from that pledge was received until Saudi Arabia donated $25 million in June 2009 and another $10 million in 2011. The Dubai Red Crescent also donated $6 million.
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    Over the past two decades, the amount contributed to UNRWA by Arab states has steadily decreased. In the 1980s, their donations amounted to 8% of the group’s annual budget. In 2010, their contributions were less than 3% of UNRWA’s total spending. This chart shows the disparity between the amounts pledged by Arab countries and the outstanding amounts.
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    This advertisement by Zain, one of the largest telecommunication companies in the Middle East, is a fundraising effort for UNRWA.
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    Palestinians in Syria have the right to work, freedom of movement, and eligibility for social services. The rate of employment for Palestinians is comparable to that of Syrians. This video depicts life in Yarmouk, the largest refugee camp in Syria, which has become integrated into Damascus. Palestinians have also been subject to political repression from the Syrian government over the past year. Over 100,000 Syrians have been allowed to flee to Jordan, while 3,000 Palestinians fleeing have been reportedly detained at the border.
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    Iraqi Palestinians mostly fled to neighbouring Jordan or Syria after the American invasion in 2003, but some thousands were trapped in refugee camps on the borders with Iraq. Though some conditions have improved since the height of the war, refugees still in in the border camps lack legal status, freedom of movement and freedom to work.
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    An art installation, “Return of the Soul,” was displayed in Beirut and Edinburgh commemorating the Nakba. Below, Ghada Karmi introduces the installation. More photos are available here.
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