Op-Ed: A look at Lebanon’s apartheid of their Palestinians

As a multitude of NGOs routinely accuse Israel of an imagined ‘apartheid’, for decades they’ve strategically ignored the Palestinians in Lebanon, who still live in forced poverty and barred from obtaining many professions and citizenship.

By Ben-Dror Yemini


It isn’t very often that we get an opportunity to see the “Palestinian problem” from a different angle. There is a problem. It’s even a very serious problem. But it has nothing to do with Israel.

Yes, the Nakba happened. [Some] People were expelled. Around 700,000 Arab residents of Palestine became refugees. They weren’t alone. Tens of millions of people became refugees during the same years. Among them were roughly 850,000 Jews, some of whom were expelled, while others fled Arab and Muslim countries. A Jewish Nakba.

International Red Cross employees helping Jewish refugees flee Jerusalem, as they’re being forceable removed by the Jordanian Army. – June 1948. – Photo courtesy: John Phillips, Life Magazine

That was the result of countless conflicts, which resulted in population swaps – all of which were forced – in the first half of the 20th century. The powerful explosion inside a Hamas weapons storage facility at the Burj Shamli refugee camp in Tyre, Lebanon, illustrates this problem. The storage, it bears noting, was hidden beneath a mosque. And the conflict isn’t with Israel.

Explosion beneath a mosque in the Burj Shamli refugee camp in Tyre, Lebanon. 10 Dec. 2021 – Screenshot: Twitter

Israel is only an excuse for Hamas and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. The conflict is internal. It is between Hamas, Fatah and other armed factions in other refugee camps as well. It is also a conflict between the Palestinians and rest of the Lebanese population.

Why is there a conflict? Because the developments in Lebanon are linked to a far broader phenomenon. More than 90% of the conflicts in the Muslim world are not with the external world. All of the Islamist organizations have a declared enemy: America, Israel, the West. But in the end the conflicts are between Muslims and other Muslims. Boko Haram, a-Shabab, the Taliban and most of the jihadist organizations almost exclusively murder Muslims. It is self-oppression. The murderousness is directed inward.

The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are merely another oppressed group, like many other ethnic, tribal or religious groups across the Muslim world.


It looks as though the world is preoccupied more with the Palestinians than any other unfortunate ethnic group in the world combined. But that is only an illusion. The world isn’t really interested in them. The Palestinians only interest the world when they can point an accusatory finger at Israel. Case in point, the most oppressed group of Palestinians in the world – close to half a million people, according to UNRWA – is the one living in Lebanon.

For the sake of accuracy, some Palestinian Christians managed over the decades to obtain Lebanese citizenship. It isn’t clear whether they identify as Palestinians at all. Doing so can only hurt them. That leaves the Sunni Muslims, who account for the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian refugees. What has been their fate? Fifty-six percent are unemployed, according to a study that was published at the end of 2019, irrespective of the current crisis in Lebanon. They live on six dollars a day. Fifty percent do not have even minimal training to allow them to get a job. All of that has happened because of historic decisions that were taken by the Arab countries to deny the Palestinians citizenship.

The openly stated goal was the need to perpetuate their refugee status so that they might continue to serve as a weapon in the fight against Israel, and so that they might never abandon for even a single moment their fight for the “right to return,” to facilitate Israel’s destruction.

Lebanon went even further when it complemented that decision with other draconian laws that prevent the Palestinians from earning a living in a long list of professions, restricting them to living in refugee camps, and deny them access to the public school system. Put in clearer terms: that is apartheid for all intents and purposes.

The Arabs who made their way from Palestine into Lebanon were not foreigners. They share the same language, the same culture, and the same religion. Nevertheless, they were subjected to apartheid that was anchored in law. Despite that apartheid, we never hear nor see any protests. Every once in a while, a paper gets published by a human rights organization, but that is where things end.

In 1948, the far majority of the Arab migrants living in Northern Israel were obedient and listened to their local leaders by returning to their homes & families in Lebanon. But, upon returning, they were herded into ‘refugee’ camps by Arab leaders to be used as a barging tool against the victorious Israelis.

The UN Human Rights Council has never condemned Lebanon – not even once. Human Rights Watch disseminated the libelous claim that Israel is an apartheid state, even though the conditions of the Palestinian Arabs on both sides of the Green Line are far better than those suffered by the Palestinians in Lebanon. And the refugees? They will continue to stockpile weapons in storehouses beneath mosques in Lebanon just like in Gaza. All of that is done in the context of the fight against Israel. And who pays the price? The refugees themselves. Both in Gaza and in Lebanon.


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