From the Editors
Dear MP Nayla Tueni:
In your article, العبء الفلسطيني مجدداَ (al-Nahar, 31 December 2012), you put aside all journalistic integrity and regurgitated a xenophobic Lebanese discourse that tirelessly uses Palestinians to cover up the failings of a sectarian political system in Lebanon. Had your article been written by an American or French journalist about Lebanese immigrants abroad, she would have surely been asked to resign in order to save the newspaper from accusations of racism and even lawsuits. It seems that having inherited Annahar from your father and grandfather has, unfortunately, allowed you to publish racist rants on its pages with no accountability.
The problem of anti-Palestinian racism in Lebanon is not limited to you, as a representative of the March 14 bloc that purportedly represents youth, change, and the “future.” Anti-Palestinian bashing runs deep and crosses the March 8–March 14 political divide. Your ridiculous description of Palestinian refugees as settlers (مستوطنين), and fanatical warning against a “new Palestinian nightmare,” echo recent statements voiced by the Lebanese Minister of Energy, Gebran Bassile. In a meeting to promote Lebanese wine, he advocated deporting all Syrian and Palestinian refugees from Lebanon and, like you, singled out Palestinian refugees as more dangerous and unwanted. You both seem to compete in a show of racist nativism which blames Syrian and Palestinian refugees for draining Lebanon’s resources and taking away opportunities from Lebanese citizens.
Whereas you and Bassille belong to two diametrically opposing political camps, what brings the two of you intimately close is the bankrupt logic of racist outbidding at the expense of Palestinians to which the Lebanese political elite resort during times of peace as well as times of crises. What exactly was the purpose of your article, which accomplishes nothing other than the recitation of historical inaccuracies for the purpose of stigmatizing Palestinians? Perhaps the only (illogical) purpose was feeling threatened that statements made by Bassille could give the impression that the Christian right in the March 8 camp and their Shia allies can be more anti-Palestinian than the Christian right in the March 14 camp and their Sunni allies. Otherwise, your diatribe in Annahar has no purpose other than to childishly and immaturely compete in a race of Palestinian and Syrian bashing.
In your reference to Palestinians as settlers (مستوطنين, a term used to describe colonial settlers such as whites in South Africa or European Jews in Palestine), you either made a linguistic mistake—in which case I advise you to hire a language editor—or you intentionally used the term to misconstrue reality. Perhaps you are too young to know, or too lazy to read history books, to know that Palestinians arrived to Lebanon as refugees fleeing the ethnic cleansing of their towns and villages in Palestine in 1948. The refugees repeatedly tried to return to their homes but were forcibly prevented from doing so. To this day, they continue to insist on their right of return to Palestine. More than sixty-four years after the Palestinian nakba [catastrophe] and more than twenty years after the end of the Lebanese civil war, the majority of Palestinians in Lebanon continue to live in squalor, denied of basic civil rights. Their numbers have been dwindling, and they do not pose any threat to Lebanon. Indeed, it is racist Lebanese policies that threaten the livelihood and dignity of Palestinians.
Based on what logic, other than prejudiced presumptions, do you suggest that recent Palestinian refugees (who are granted the right to work and other civil rights in Syria and denied those same rights in Lebanon) dream of staying in Lebanon in these squalor conditions? Based on what logic, other than racist stereotyping of Palestinians as criminals, do you suggest that these refugees have no dreams and hopes, and are plotting to hide in camps where they cannot be followed by the Lebanese government? Contrary to your paranoiac statements, all the scenes on the television news show refugees (both Syrian and Palestinian) speaking not only of misery and despair, but of an impatient desire to return to their homes and lives.
It is very ironic that you and Bassille, both of who climbed the political ladder based on entitlements and not competence, decry Lebanon’s limited resources and blame Palestinians and Syrians for Lebanon’s economic problems. As a member of parliament who has been publically rebuked for not showing up to work, and as a Minister of Energy who has become the butt of jokes on the chronic electricity problem in Lebanon, the two of you would do well to live up to your responsibilities (or leave political office and live off your family wealth) and stop using Palestinians as a cover up. As you (Tueni) warn us of a “new Palestinian nightmare,” I assure you that a large number of Lebanese view the dysfunctional sectarian political system in which you are an active participant as a lingering “Lebanese nightmare.”
If you prefer, email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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