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How Palestinian Leaders Treat Their Refugees

How Palestinian Leaders Treat Their Refugees
By Khaled Abu Toameh

Originally Published by the Gatestone Institute.

The Palestinian leadership, which is about to receive tens of millions of dollars from the Biden administration, has once again proven that it does not tolerate any form of criticism, even if it comes from impoverished Palestinian who fled their homes in Syria.

This leadership has also shown how it cares nothing about the problems facing its people, especially those who were forced to flee their homes in Syria after the beginning of the civil war there in 2011.

The number of Palestinian refugees from Syria in Lebanon is estimated at 27,000, according to statistics from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). These refugees suffer from harsh living conditions as a result of the scarcity of relief aid and lack of stable financial resources.

About 87% of the Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria to Lebanon suffer from absolute poverty, according to UNRWA.

On April 12, members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction in Lebanon used force to disperse dozens of Palestinians who were demonstrating outside the PA embassy in Beirut.

The protest was organized by Palestinian refugees who fled from Syria to Lebanon in the past decade. The protesters came to the embassy to ask for help in solving their humanitarian and economic crises. They also demanded that the embassy issue them Palestinian passports or travel documents so that they could leave Lebanon to start a new life in other countries, including the European Union and Canada.

The message the protesters sought to relay to Abbas and the Palestinian leadership: If you do not want to give us financial aid, at least help us move to other countries where we might live in dignity and earn a decent living.

Embarrassed by the protest, the PA embassy summoned its security guards and scores of Fatah activists from different parts of Lebanon to disperse the refugees.

On March 31, Fatah militiamen in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon arrested three Palestinian activists who protested against the Palestinian leadership’s failure to help the refugees from Syria.

Some Palestinians officials accused the protesters and activists of being part of a “suspicious project” to resettle Palestinians in the West.

These Palestinian officials, in other words, would rather see their people continue living in devastating poverty as refugees rather than improve their living conditions and search for new opportunities in Western countries. They want millions of Palestinians to remain stuck in refugee camps so that the Palestinian leadership can continue milking the world for money.

Videos posted on social media platforms showed the Fatah thugs and security guards pushing back and beating the protesters. One of the embassy guards was filmed slapping a Palestinian woman on the face.

The assault on the woman triggered a wave of condemnations by Palestinian activists, who took to social media to express outrage over the Palestinian leadership’s decision to use force against Palestinian refugees.

Some of the activists created a hashtag on Twitter titled “May your hand be broken” — a reference to the security officer who slapped the woman on the face.

“Give the Palestinian refugees a glimmer of hope, not a slap on the face,” commented an account belonging to Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Lebanon.

“The assault on a Palestinian refugee in front of the Palestinian embassy is a stain on all [Palestinian] officials,” wrote social media user Ahmed Abu Shaer.

Lebanese political analyst and Middle East expert Nidal Sabeh accused Mahmoud Abbas’s “thugs” of beating the woman. “Doesn’t this harebrained behavior require the intervention of the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and human rights organizations?” Sabeh asked on Twitter.

“The conditions of the displaced refugees from Syria are dire,” complained Palestinian refugee Yousef Atallah. “The Palestinian embassy [in Beirut] is not fulfilling its duties toward the refugees.”

On April 7, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the US was planning to restart economic, development, and humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people. The assistance, he said, includes $75 million in economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza, $10 million for peace-building programs and $150 million in humanitarian assistance for UNRWA.

The Palestinians who protested outside the PA embassy in Beirut, however, seem somewhat dubious that this new American money will go into the right hands. The protesters have been in Lebanon for several years now and the Palestinian leadership has done precious little to assist them.

Palestinian leaders are currently preoccupied with preparing for next month’s parliamentary election. The plight of the displaced Palestinians in Lebanon is not on their busy agenda.

It is mortally embarrassing for Abbas, ahead of the election, to see Palestinians protesting against his failure to help them with their tragic conditions. Judging from experience, it is safe to assume that the Palestinians in Lebanon would be lucky to see a single dollar of the Biden administration’s new aid package. This is what happens when Western donors shower money on a corrupt and ruthless Palestinian leadership that sends its thugs to beat up starving refugees who are begging for help.

Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.

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