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Debate in Lebanon over Palestinain rights

June 17, 2010 12:01 P.M. (Updated: June 18, 2010 9:55 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an/Agencies - Lebanon's National Liberal Party leader Dori Chamoun and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat have faced off over the latter's support for giving Palestinian refugees in the country civil rights.

NOW Lebanon reported on Tuesday, while legislation submitted by Jumblat to the parliament on improving the living conditions of Palestinian refugees in the country was being discussed, that Chamoun said, "Some sympathize with the Palestinians more than they sympathize with Lebanon."

The comment spurred ripe debate in the nation, with Chamoun wondering out loud to NOW, "Why would Lebanon give the Palestinians their rights while they do not recognize the Lebanese State?"

Under the status quo, the 400,000 refugees in the country live in camps, and are not granted Lebanese citizenship. Refugees are prohibited from working in some 73 different job categories, with INGOs calling the camps veritable ghettos with little opportunity for advancement and education.

Chamoun criticized the camps for the perceived militancy inside, saying "When the Palestinians become under the Lebanese law and they no longer have their own police force… we will see how we can improve the living conditions of the Palestinians and grant them additional rights, but as long as the situation persists as it is, there's no need to hurry in this regard."

The official said his nation's policy toward refuges "doesn't differ from their treatment in Syria and the rest of the Arab countries, and thus we shouldn't succumb to emotional behavior or politically abuse the issue at the expense of the Palestinian cause."

The 1.8 million refugees in Jordan were granted citizenship from the country after it took control of the West Bank following the 1948 Nakba, also known as Israel's "War of Independence," while in Syria some 450,000 Palestinian refugees are not eligible for citizenship but can work and live with some of the civil rights and liberties afforded to nationals.

"We hold onto 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," Chamoun stressed.
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