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Part II- Lebanon's dilemma as Palestinians pursue statehood




by Joseph Earnest  September 25, 2011


Newscast Media HOUSTON, Texas -- The dilemma for Lebanon played out after Israel became a state in 1948, and Palestinians from the areas of the North of Palestine: Haifa, Acre, Safad and the Galilee region, were forced to leave their homes, due to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  During the first months, the Palestinians were housed and given food by Lebanese farmers. The Lebanese government also offered assistance by offering the LRCS (International League of Red Cross Societies) free depots, warehouses, security, labor and transport. The Lebanese Authorities later allocated certain area for the refugees to settle in.

After the signing of the 1969 Cairo Agreement between the Lebanese Government and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) the situation of the refugees greatly improved. The Cairo Agreement granted residency, freedom of movement and labor rights to the Palestinian refugees, as well as autonomy of the refugee camps.

During the 1970s, the PLO gained political clout, and extended financial and military support to the Lebanese left-wing, which angered the Maronites and right-wing parties. PLO attacks against Israel led to Israeli retaliations against Palestinians and Lebanese, especially in the South, which in turn diminished Lebanese support for the Palestinians and their cause. All this aggravated the already existing tensions between the various Lebanese political factions and eventually led to the outbreak of the 1975 civil war. Here is a detailed map of Lebanon. (pop-up)

The Lebanese dilemma


Of all host countries of Palestinian refugees, none is more affected than Lebanon. Lebanon's biggest dilemma is that the Palestinian youth are becoming extremely radicalized, causing increased retaliation from Israel into Lebanon, and quite frankly, the Lebanese government would rather see the refugees leave, but there is nowhere for them to go. 


Another issue the Lebanese have to deal with is the fear that if they allow the Palestinians to integrate into Lebanese society, it might erode their cultural identity.  It would also play into the hands of Israel who would argue that if Lebanon can absorb Palestinian refugees and integrate them into her culture, other Arab countries like Jordan, Syria and so forth, also have the ability to do the same, so there is no need for them (Palestinians) to have their own state.  


An additional aspect is that assimilation would decrease international sympathy for Palestinians, and lessen Israel's desire to comply with international treaties, due to lack of pressure from the international community, since Palestinians would have finally been absorbed by other neighboring Arab countries.

Back To Their Roots

Not all Lebanese consider themselves Arabs. Some consider themselves Phoenicians, others Maronite Christians, others Syriac while some refer to themselves as Arabs.  In addition, the French occupation of Lebanon left an impact on the culture and language, whereby a typical Lebanese greeting is usually a combination of English, Arabic and French such as: "Hi! Kifak, ça va?"  Famous Lebanese poet and philosopher, Saeed Akl is quoted as saying, "I would cut off my right hand just not to be an Arab."  

Al Jazeera did a special dedicated to the political Christian clans of Lebanon and their struggle for power in the 2009 election entitled, Lebanon: The Family Business, in which Lebanese political leader Walid Jumblatt, claimed that all Lebanese lack somewhat of a real identity and the country is yet to discover one everybody could agree on.

While most support the idea of a Palestinian state, Lebanese journalist Khodor Salameh writes in his column for Al-Masry Al-Youm the following: "The Palestinian bid for statehood is a silly joke, told by an authority that has lost most of its supporters… The best it can achieve is a quasi-state that does not enjoy full sovereignty over its land, borders or natural resources. The Palestinian people's legitimate aspirations for freedom and self-determination appear destined to be postponed. There will be no state for Abu Mazen, his aides, or rivals. There will be no state in September."  The entire analysis can be found here. (pop-up)

 Uganda as Israel

Believe it or not, Uganda was once considered a region suitable for the Jews to settle, yet you won't read this anywhere in history books. Nevertheless, if  the proposal had succeeded, the entire dynamics of Israel-Arab relationships would be different, and nobody knows what Uganda would be called today, or what would have happened to the native Ugandans. 

Why Uganda?  Anybody who has ever been to Uganda will tell you that it has the most beautiful landscape on the entire continent, that even Sir Winston Churchill was so overwhelmed by its beauty, he called Uganda the Pearl of Africa. Others have dubbed it the Switzerland of Africa. 

One of the most influential figures to bring a Jewish state into being was an Austro-Hungarian Jewish journalist, Theodor Herzl. Herzl was born in Budapest and lived in Vienna.  He published his pamphlet Der Judenstaat ("The Jewish State") in 1896 and Altneuland ("The Old New Land") in 1897.  Herzl argued that the creation of a Jewish state would enable the Jews to join the family of nations and escape antisemitism.

In 1903, the British Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, suggested the "British Uganda Program", land for a Jewish state in "Uganda".  The proposal was initially rejected by Herzl, who preferred Palestine, but later on, he introduced the proposal to the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel on August 26, 1903, to investigate the "Ugandan" offer. The proposal proved very divisive, nevertheless, a committee was established to investigate the possibility, which was eventually dismissed in the Seventh Zionist Congress in 1905.

The Man Eaters

The real reason the proposal was rejected after a team was dispatched to investigate the area is because the region had enough lions.  The Jews weren't accustomed to constantly having to look over their shoulders, and the notion of raising families in what appeared to be a lion-infested country became impractical. 

There were several tales by local villagers about"man-eating lions" because at the time, the Uganda-Kenya railway was being constructed.  The most notorious lions were the man-eaters of Tsavo.  The 1996 film Ghost and the Darkness starring Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer, tells a story of lions in this East African region, that were known for their notorious methods of stalking and attacking their human prey victims.  The movie went on to win an Academy Award for Sound Editing.

After the Ugandan proposal fell through, Palestine became the sole focus of Jewish aspirations. On Friday May 14, 1948, the state of Israel was established, replacing Palestine, the result of which is the current Israel-Palestinian conflict, and the recent drama that has been unfolding at the United Nations.

Israel has rejected the Palestinian bid for statehood, saying that peace can only be achieved through negotiations, not a unilateral declaration of statehood, and Barack Obama has also echoed the same sentiments. Add Comments>>  

 Back to Part I - Lebanese Palestinian Dilemma>>








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