Palestinians in Lebanon

Palestinians in Lebanon
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Greater Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli
Arabic (Palestinian Arabic)
Sunni Islam and Catholic Christianity

Palestinians in Lebanon refers to the Palestinian refugees, who fled to Lebanon during the 1948 Palestine war and their descendants, as well the armed Palestinians and the militia of Yasser Arafat. Many Palestinians and their descendants have never been naturalized, thus keeping a distinct status of "Palestinian refugee"s. Some Palestinians, mostly Christians, however did receive Lebanese citizenship, either through marriage with Lebanese nationals or by other means.

Estimates of the size of the Palestinian population in Lebanon range from 260,000 to 400,000.[1] Human Rights Watch estimates 300,000 as of 2011.[2] The Palestinian community does not have Lebanese citizenship and therefore does not have Lebanese identity cards, is legally barred from owning property or legally barred form entering a list of desirable occupations.[3] Employment requires a government-issued work permit, and, according to the New York Times, although "Lebanon hands out and renews hundreds of thousands of work permits every year to people from Africa, Asia and other Arab countries... until now, only a handful have been given" to Palestinians.[1] Palestinians in Lebanon also have to heavily rely on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for basic services such as health care and education, because they are not granted much access to the social services the Lebanese government provides.[4]

In February 2011, a decree was signed by Boutros Harb, the caretaker labor minister(of Lebanon), on carrying out labor law amendments from August 2010. If these labor law amendments go into effect, it will make it easier for work permits to be acquired by Palestinians. The amendments are seen as "the first move to legalize the working status of Palestinians since the first refugees arrived, fleeing the 1948 Arab-Israeli war".[1]


According to Human Rights Watch, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live in "appalling social and economic conditions." They labor under legal restrictions that bar them from employment in at least 25 professions, "including law, medicine, and engineering," a system that relegates them to the black market for labor. And they are "still subject to a discriminatory law introduced in 2001 preventing them from registering property.

Israeli Arab journalist, Khaled Abu Toameh accuse Lebanon of practicing apartheid against Palestinian Arabs who have lived in Lebanon as stateless refugees since 1948.[5][6][7][8][9] According to Human Rights Watch, "In 2001, Parliament passed a law prohibiting Palestinians from owning property, a right they had for decades. Lebanese law also restricts their ability to work in many areas. In 2005, Lebanon eliminated a ban on Palestinians holding most clerical and technical positions, provided they obtain a temporary work permit from the Labor Ministry, but more than 20 high-level professions remain off-limits to Palestinians. Few Palestinians have benefited from the 2005 reform, though. In 2009, only 261 of more than 145,679 permits issued to non-Lebanese were for Palestinians. Civil society groups say many Palestinians choose not to apply because they cannot afford the fees and see no reason to pay a portion of their salary toward the National Social Security Fund, since Lebanese law bars Palestinians from receiving social security benefits."[10]

In one of his series of articles accusing the government of Lebanon of practicing "apartheid" against the resident Palestinian community, the Israeli Arab journalist journalist, Khaled Abu Toameh describes the "special legal status" as "foreigners" assigned uniquely to Palestinians, "a fact which has deprived them of health care, social services, property ownership and education. Even worse, Lebanese law bans Palestinians from working in many jobs. This means that Palestinians cannot work in the public services and institutions run by the government such as schools and hospitals. Unlike Israel, Lebanese public hospitals do not admit Palestinians for medical treatment or surgery."[11] Journalist Ben-Dror Yemini describes Palestinians in Lebanon as living "under various restrictions that could fill a chapter on Arab apartheid against the Palestinians. One of the most severe restrictions is a ban on construction. This ban is enforced even in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, bombed by the Lebanese army in 2007.[12] Calling on Lebanon to change the systematic discrimination against his people, Palestinian journalist Rami George Khouri, biasedly, disregarding the past events of the PLO war against Lebanese Army and the current military presence on the Lebanese land, compared Lebanese treatment of Palestinians to the "Apartheid system" of South Africa.[13]

Such accusations are believed, on the other hand, to be biased and non-realistic for numerous reasons, one of which is the fact that the Palestinian refugees are armed and the Lebanese Army is de-facto banned from entering into the camps due to the existence of heavy arms and balanced tensions between Lebanese communities, in which the Lebanese leftist and Islamic politicians wave out the option of having Lebanese Army control over the camps. The other reason why the critics, who most hold the Israeli citizenship live and work in Israel, criticize Lebanon, is that they ignored the critical Lebanese demography, having the 40% Lebanese Christians holding the Presidency, Army and Central Bank, in addition to the Lebanese Shiites (including Hizbullah) and Lebanese Druze, not in favor of empowering the Muslim-Sunni Palestinians. Finally, the long war 1975-1990 that was initiated by the move of the Palestinian PLO bombing Israel from South Lebanon which used to cause the Israeli Army to retaliate back on the Lebanese lands.[14] [14] [14] [14]

See also

PLO in Lebanon


  1. 1 2 3 4 Josh Wood "The Palestinians' Long Wait in Lebanon," March 2, 2011 , New York times.
  2. Human Rights Watch "World Report 2011: Lebanon" accessed April 7, 2011.
  3. Andrew Lee Butters "Palestinians in Lebanon: A Forgotten People", Feb. 25, 2009, Time Magazine.
  4. Howe, Marvine (2005). "Palestinians in Lebanon" (PDF). Middle East Policy.
  5. Franklin Lamb " The Obama Doctrine: AWOL in Bahrain," April 15–17, 2011, CounterPunch.
  6. Kahled Abu Toameh "Where’s the international outcry against Arab apartheid?," March 17, 2011, Jerusalem Post.
  7. Khaled Abu Toameh "Where Is The Outcry Against Arab Apartheid?", Hudson Institute, March 11, 2011
  8. Adia Massoud "Left in Lebanon," The Guardian, May 25, 2007
  9. Franklin Lamb "The Case for Palestinian Rights in Lebanon", April 20, 2010, Counterpunch
  10. Human Rights Watch [34] "Lebanon: Seize Opportunity to End Discrimination Against Palestinians; Remove Restrictions on Owning Property and Working" June 18, 2010
  11. Khaled Abu Toameh , "What About The Arab Apartheid?" March 16, 2010, Hudson Institute
  12. Ben-Dror Yemini, Jerusalem Post, "The humanitarian show," July 7, 2010.
  13. Rami Khouri, Lebanon's Palestinians, Agence Global, June 30, 2010.
  14. 1 2 3 4 BBC "PLO Entanglement in Lebanon"
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