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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

Soldiers, Terrorists and the Children Caught in Between

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | September 12th, 2007 | Comments No Comments

Last week, I spent my first day in Lebanon at a parade for soldiers returning triumphantly from the north, where they had successfully ameliorated a terrorist cell – and the homes of 31,000 people. Emotions were high at the parade, with teenage girls crying, women shoving homemade cookies into the soldiers laps, patriotic music blaring through gigantic loudspeakers, and fireworks set off at each bridge as the soldiers passed.

Today, we head up to northern Lebanon, toward Nahr el-Bared, that Palestinian refugee camp the Lebanese Army bombed during most of the summer. This all started last fall when Syria released an assassin, Shaker Abssi, who fled to Lebanon and established a terrorist cell at the camp. The Lebanese Army successfully flushed out the Fatah al-Islam cell (although there were news reports yesterday that Abssi is still alive), but destroyed the camp – home to those 31,000 innocent people.

We’ll be meeting today with some of these displaced families in Beddawi, a nearby refugee camp.

There are 12 refugee camps in Lebanon, established for Palestinians who were displaced when Israel was created in 1948. The 400,000 Palestinian refugees live on land leased by the United Nations, and, theoretically, at least, the UN Relief and Works Agency provides all services. However, consistent budget cuts over the years have deteriorated electrical, water, sewage, trash and medical services, leaving most homes without running water, trashed strewn throughout the cement passageways that snake through the tight buildings, and low-hanging jerry-rigged wires drooping precariously above the small food stores.

International law forbids the Palestinian refugees civil rights: They are not Lebanese citizens, so they have no passports and cannot travel, work, get educated in the Lebanese school system or seek decent health care. The camps were originally located near cities where Lebanon wanted cheap labor. As the country’s economy tightened, rules restricting Palestinian workers tightened. Only recently, have Palestinians been allowed to hold basic administrative jobs, but no professional occupations.

Over the years, the camps have been invaded and bombed by Israeli troops. In 1982, during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, camps were stormed and the residents were brutally massacred.

The destruction, bombing and evacuation of Nahr el-Bared is Lebanon’s worst crisis since the end of the war with Israel. The humanitarian crisis is just beginning.

“That’s the story of Palestinians,” says one of our delegates, a lawyer from Sydney with relatives who live in the Beddawi camp, “being uprooted and thrown somewhere else.”
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