The Republic of Racism: Palestinians are Prohibited from Returning to Lebanon

Myriam Sweidan
Lebanese Journalist
04.05.2020
“I cried hard, not because I didn’t return “home” to Lebanon, but because I was insulted, and judged for my nationality”.

Tarek Abou-Taha, a young Palestinian man, had no idea that the Lebanese national security had taken a decision to prevent the return of Palestinian refugees to Lebanon. Security procedures were normal in the Dubai Airport, returning from Dubai where he had been looking for job opportunities, until he boarded the plane, where an incident took place that has concerned Lebanese public opinion since it’s occurrence.

Abou-Taha, 30 years old, is a Palestinian engineer who was born in Lebanon, as was his father, and was also educated and employed in Lebanon his whole life, up until he traveled recently to Dubai looking for a job, before the emergence of the Coronavirus crisis and the closure of airports.

Tarek Abou-Taha and His Family

Abou-Taha awaited his flight, among a series of flights Lebanon had prepared to return the expatriate Lebanese community back home, weeks after the airports were closed, as a part of the general mobilization plan set to combat Coronavirus. His trip however was stopped short, after a general security officer refused to let him board that plane because he was a Palestinian ‘rascal’.

Abou-Taha told Daraj that it was the first time he had felt humiliated and discriminated against because of his Palestinian nationality. After hours of waiting due to carrying a travel document that was issued by the Lebanese Republic, which the officer ironically did not recognize, Abou-Taha was forced to stand outside on the plane’s stairs, amidst a sandstorm, because the officer had publicly insulted him on account of his nationality, saying, “This is a document for rascals. No one in the world would let you board a plane with it”, according to Abou-Taha’s account.

“My son is three and a half years old, he’s waiting for me and saying ‘Dad is coming back’, what will I tell him now?” asked Abou-Taha, who is now residing in a hotel in Dubai, waiting for any decree to let him return to his family in Lebanon.

Tarek’s trip however was stopped short, after a general security officer refused to let him board that plane because he was a Palestinian ‘rascal’.

Tarek is one of dozens of Palestinians who were prevented from returning to Lebanon because of their nationality, so they had to cancel their trips at the last minute, according to the information Daraj acquired. This is not the first time Lebanon has inclined towards racist practices that involve the inhumane treatment of Palestinian refugees.

About 174,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, according to the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, in addition to 30,000 Syrian-Palestinian refugees who have sought refuge in Lebanon. All of them face restrictions concerning the right to work and own property, according to the Human Rights Watch’s annual report for 2019, in addition to the discrimination they face on daily basis.

Tarek Abou Taha’s Passport

The General Directorate of Lebanese General Security issued a circular to Middle East Airlines (No. 5932 / M) dated April 30th, stating that the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, should not be allowed to return on the planes designated for bringing the Lebanese back from abroad. The circular stated that the word ‘Lebanese’ denotes the Lebanese family members, (husband, wife and children), without allowing their servants, or people from the Palestinian refugees group, to return to Lebanon.The directorate later announced in a statement, after the incident was faced with negative reactions on social media, that they held an investigation with the officer, after they received information about him treating Abou-Taha in an inadequate way, and that actions will be taken according to the results of the investigation.

They also explained that “they work according to the Prime Minister’s (Council of Ministers) decree, which states that only Lebanese should be returned home at this stage, and that non-Lebanese who have the right to enter the country will be allowed to return later.”

The Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee said in a statement that they are “performing all the necessary communications at the highest levels, in order to amend the decree of the National Committee for Disaster and Crisis Management to prevent the Palestinians who have the right of residence in Lebanon, and who carry travel documents issued by the Lebanese authorities, from returning to the country.”

It is as if their nationality has become a charge, and a crime, which justifies the violation of their rights, and deprives them of the most basic of them.

They added, “This discriminatory measure that emerged during the second batch of return airplanes is contradictory to what happened earlier during the first repatriation process. Moreover, it is contradictory to the basic Arab and international laws and agreements, which are in effect when dealing with the Palestinians and their issue”.

This racism, which the Aounist movement reinforced in Lebanon towards the Palestinians and the Syrians, has reached an intolerable level. It is as if their nationality has become a charge, and a crime, which justifies the violation of their rights, and deprives them of the most basic of them.. This incident is just one of a series of racist incidents that have been observed in Lebanon lately against the refugees.

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