Monday, June 11, 2007

The Christian approach

Amine Gemayel, a former President of Lebanon in the 1980s, and member of the founding family of the rightwing Christian party known as the Phalange, made statements on the weekend calling for a hard line on government policy respecting the Palestinian refugee camps. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have always been denied a number of civil rights including the right to become Lebanese citizens, and some have said the current crisis should serve as an occasion for revising those policies. The statements of Gemayel, echoing recent statements by other Christian spokesmen, are instead for a re-confirmation of the idea that the Palestinian refugees are not under any circumstances or conditions to be permitted to be naturalized, moreover those rights that were granted to the Palestinians under the so-called Cairo Agreement (1969 until its abrogation by Amine Gemayel when he was president in 1986), including the idea of autonomous Palestinian security apparatus within the camps, should not be reinstituted. Gemayel described the Palestinian camps in Lebanon as having become in many cases military camps, and in other cases as "nests of terrorists", and he said it is the responsibility of the Lebanese state to clean up the entire situation, suggesting military action not only in Nahr al-Barid, but in other camps as well.

In an interesting Rovian turn of phrase, Gemayel said:
While the current events don't indicate any organic connection between the destructive groups than come from, or are supported by, foreign countries, and the [Lebanese political] opposition, the fact remains that these destructive groups are able to exploit the political divisions in order to infiltrate into Lebanon, and the obstinacy of the [Lebanese political] opposition makes a resolution of this problem particularly difficult.
suggesting in this way that opposition to the March 14 government represents de facto support for the infiltration of terrorist groups.

To Al-Akhbar journalist Khalid Saghiyyah, the gist of what Gemayel is saying is simple to understand. He asks sarcastically: What are the old people in Nahr al-Barid doing these days without electricity or water, except hatching some scheme to become naturalized Lebanese citizens; and the children looking for a place to sleep in the neighboring camp, what will they be dreaming of but Lebanese citizenship. Obviously there is something else going on. Gemayel's solution, says Saghiyyah, is the re-expulsion of the Palestinians; that is his dream, says Saghiyyah.
It appears that warning against naturalization of the Palestinians isn't enough in these difficult circumstances. Rather, it will be necessary, according to Amine Gemayel, to "purge" the camps that have become "nests" of groups of "evil terrorists"... Clearly what we have here is not an attempt to block naturalization of Palestinians; rather, this is a clear invitation to re-expel the Palestinians. Perhaps the only consolation is that the lexicon of Gemayelian racism isn't limited to the Palestinians, but extends also to such as the people of Kabul, and of Fallujah...


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