Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict


DEIR YASSIN - startling evidence
About Maurice Ostroff
In Lebanon, there are about 400,000 Palestinian refugees living in camps in poverty and crowded conditions,  with fences separating them from the rest of Lebanese society. 

According to a December 2008 BBC report Palestinians are barred from 73 professions in Lebanon and allowed only menial jobs, They cannot own property nor use state health care and they face daily discrimination from the authorities.
A March 2009 BBC report   describes the Nahr al-Bared camp that was destroyed in heavy fighting between Islamist militants and the Lebanese army in 2007 during which  some 400 people died and 30,000 Palestinians were displaced. A Palestinian was quoted as saying "We have no right here... we need life"

Yet, although ethnic discrimination in Lebanon is enshrined in legislation, as it was in the old South Africa, it is never referred to by mainstream media nor influential politicians, by its appropriate "apartheid' designation, though this label is unjustifiably applied to Israel where ethnic discrimination is conspicuously absent.
An open letter to Ben Wedeman of CNN
in response to his TV report described in the right hand column

From Maurice Ostroff

August 18, 2010
Dear Mr. Wedeman

Easing of discrimination against Palestinian refugees in Lebanon
As a fair minded journalist I'm sure you will be anxious to correct what appears to be an inadvertent departure from your customary factual and balanced reporting. On CNN TV today, when you reported that Palestinian refugees in Lebanon will soon be able to work in places they've never been allowed to work before, you referred, incorrectly, to the refugees as having been driven from Israel. 
In fact, the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon were driven from Jordan in the notorious Black September affair. You will recall that in 1970, Palestinians under Arafat created a mini state in Jordan and attempted to take over the country. After the PLO hijacked four planes in September and flew two to Jordan where they were blown up, King Hussein's  army launched attacks in which thousands of  Palestinians and Arab civilians were killed. The survivors, driven out of Jordan, re-established themselves in Lebanon, leading to civil war and disaster for Lebanon.
These events are summarized on CNN Timeline 1970-1971 as follows: Faced with fighting in Jordan that left thousands dead, the PLO moves its base to Lebanon, where it carries out raids on Israel. A Palestinian terrorist group linked to the PLO is formed. Its name is "Black September" -- a reference to the Jordanian crackdown on Palestinians in September 1970.

Connecting the dots, Black September 1970 was, no doubt, a harbinger of the terrible September 11,  2001 terror  that  America is now commemorating and it is misleading to ignore this event when reporting on the origin of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
You may recall that during the operation in which terrorists hijacked planes to Jordan, there was an attempt to hijack an El Al flight, but the passengers fought back and overpowered the hijackers. One was killed and the main hijacker, Leila Khaled was arrested when the plane landed at Heathrow. Astonishingly, a month later the British government released her as part of a prisoner exchange, despite having pledged not to negotiate with hijackers at the 1963 Tokyo International Convention on Hijacking.
The news of the pending relaxation of the oppressive discrimination that has been practiced in Lebanon against Palestinians since 1970 is welcome indeed even though the easing is only partial. But I am curious to know why  eminent journalists like you, consistently avoid calling the Lebanese discrimination against Palestinians by its appropriate APARTHEID designation. This is puzzling, considering that in your broadcast you described the Palestinians in Lebanon as second-class citizens and discrimination there is enforced by legislation as it was in South Africa, while the apartheid label is indiscriminately hurled against Israel, where this type of discrimination is conspicuously absent.  See .

I would  very much appreciate it if you can please help me understand how you justify this differentiation in the manner of reporting

This open letter is being publicized as will the reply I hope to receive from you.

Maurice Ostroff

Click here for Mr. Wedeman's TV report

CNN's text report
In Lebanon, legislation will give Palestinians full employment rights

By the CNN Wire Staff
August 18, 2010 -- Updated 1928 GMT (0328 HKT)

(CNN) -- The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon will be able to work in places they've never been allowed to work before under legislation passed Tuesday by Lebanon's parliament.

The body OK'd legislation giving the refugees full employment rights and social security, according to the press office of Nabih Berri, the parliament's speaker.

The changes would take effect when two pieces of legislation are signed by the president of the republic, Michel Suleiman, who has a period of two weeks to one month to endorse them.

This would be the first time people in the 400,000-plus Palestinian refugee community, who dwell in refugee camps, would be able to work in any job that is open to foreigners.

Refugees have been able to get good educations in Lebanon, but traditionally the work outlet for many of them was, for example, labor abroad.

The legislation could have implications for ethnic and religious relations in Lebanon, home to Christians, Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims and Druze.

The refugees, largely Sunni Muslim, could find themselves in competition with others. Some think this could lead to the naturalization of the Palestinians, a development that could alter the balance of power there.

Palestinian refugees fled or were forced from their homes in the longstanding conflict between the Arabs and Israel since the late 1940s.

CNN's Ben Wedeman contributed to this report


Read what Ahmed Moor, an American Palestinian discovered in Lebanon

Why Palestinians are second-class citizens in Lebanon

By Ahmed Moor

Arab leaders pay lip service to Palestinian rights – except when it comes to the rights of domiciled refugees in their countries

I moved to Beirut from New York nine months ago and began looking for an apartment. After 10 continuous years in America, I wanted to return to the Arab world – and returning to my family's roots in Palestine wasn't an option.

I knew that in Beirut, I likely wasn't going to be renting from a faceless, impersonal property company; real people mostly own the real estate here – and often, they are interested in knowing their tenants personally. That's how I learned, to my dismay, that being a Palestinian in Beirut is mostly a liability; anti-Palestinian racism is a fact of life here.

During my second month in Lebanon, I responded to an ad for an apartment in East Beirut, which is now predominantly a Christian district. The building owner called me and we arranged a viewing. The apartment seemed fine, and on my way out, the owner invited me into his apartment on the first floor of the building for a coffee.

The coffee turned out to be an interview – or rather, an interrogation. It began with a series of inquisitive but reasonable questions. Why did my family leave Palestine? What was my business in Lebanon? Why didn't I go back to Palestine? Why didn't I go back to America?

But from there, it became aggressively adversarial. The man suggested my father had behaved in a cowardly fashion by leaving Palestine – or that he left for love of money. I was shocked, and only said that it was clear that the man resented Palestinians. Needless to say, he didn't want to rent the apartment to me and I didn't want to rent it from him.

But my experience here in Lebanon has been a privileged one. I have the luxury of looking for an apartment in East Beirut – and I can afford the rent. Furthermore, I'm an American citizen, which makes life immeasurably easier. 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.

Lebanese hostility to the Palestinian refugees is far from uniform. But it's explosive and dangerous where it exists. For instance, the Lebanese Forces militia massacred up to 2,500 Palestinian refugees and others in the Sabra and Shatila camps in 1982 in coordination with the Israeli army. In the 1980s, the Amal militia besieged the camps, killing hundreds and starving thousands. More recently, the Lebanese army bombarded the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in the north of the country in an attempt to root out terrorists unaffiliated to the camp.

The Arab world is rife with hypocrisy when it comes to the Palestinian issue. Arab leaders frequently and rightly cite the chronic human rights violations in which Israel engages, but fail to address the marginalisation of Palestinians within their own societies. Historically, Lebanese citizens have declared that naturalising Palestinians will act as a disincentive to their eventual repatriation and the exercise of their inviolable right of return. But this is a specious and cynical misrepresentation of the issue.

First, many diaspora Palestinians who have been naturalised in foreign countries, including myself, still seek to return to Palestine. Second, an individual ought to have the right to lead a complete and fulfilling life in his/her country of birth, irrespective of national or racial identity; it is not up to the Arab leaders to safeguard the Palestinian right of return against the prospect of a meaningful life lived outside Palestine.

More plausibly, Lebanon's miserable record regarding the human rights of Palestinian refugees (and others) is a result of the country's sectarian structure. Lebanon has never been a cohesive political entity and remains divided by sectarian allegiances. Most Lebanese citizens are members of one of three communities: the Sunni community, the Shia community and the Christian community (each of which is further subdivided into competing forces). The country is less divided today than it was in 1991, in the aftermath of the 15-year-long civil war, but it remains fractured.

In this context, it matters that the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are mostly Sunni Muslims. There is a fear that if Palestinians are integrated, they will upset the delicate confessional balance that prevails here. It is therefore difficult to see how Lebanon will undertake to improve the lives of the refugees before the Lebanese solve their own sectarian problems.

There has been some official movement on the issue, however. The current prime minister, Saad Hariri, recently remarked that "we included the ministerial statement with an article related to the Palestinians that guarantees their human and public rights".

Major parliamentary leaders, like Walid Jumblatt and Nabih Berri, favour extending civil rights to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, but their efforts are being stalled by others like National Liberal party leader, Dori Chamoun. At the end of parliamentary proceedings on the issue last week, Chamoun said: "We hold on to Lebanon first and foremost and not onto the Palestinian cause at the expense of the Lebanese cause, and the Christians speak one language in this regard."

But the issue is far from deadlocked. Elias Muhanna, a prominent blogger, writes that "several analysts are very optimistic that the law will be passed when it comes up again, thereby rolling back several decades' worth of institutionalised discrimination against Palestinians in Lebanon."


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