Palestinian refugees in
During the Nakba, 110,000 Palestinians fled to Lebanon. The majority was from the northern part of Palestine; the villages of the
The Lebanese government’s treatment of Palestinians changed over time. Until 1958, the refugees were mostly welcomed by the population, who viewed their displacement as temporary. Following the
This situation in exile exacerbated their dispossession from Palestine and helped to create the revolution in the 1960s. (So too did the increase in education levels, due to UNRWA’s services, which created a generation of teachers and young professionals who would lead the revolution after the defeat of 1967 War .) In an unplanned revolt in 1969, residents across all camps chased out the much-hated Deuxième Bureau. The liberation of the camps helped Palestinians to regain their self-respect, pride, and dignity. They felt back in control of their destiny and struggling as part of a mass movement to return home.
This mass uprising of Palestinians in Lebanon’s camps led to the signing of the
Allying themselves with the
The end of the Lebanese Civil War in 1990 brought an increase in the insecurity and marginalization of Palestinian refugees. They were evicted from squatter areas and suffered from a reduction in UNRWA’s services. Additionally, in 1994, the Oslo Agreement
was signed between the PLO and Israel and the
Despite their longstanding presence in Lebanon, Palestinian refugees have been excluded from key aspects of social, political, and economic life in the country through the principle of reciprocity. According to the terms of this principle, the treatment of a foreigner (e.g. Palestinian) in Lebanon was determined by the treatment of Lebanese nationals in the foreigner’s country of origin (e.g. Palestine). Considering that there was no Palestinian state that could treat Lebanese in any way, this method was used to exclude Palestinians from the labor market and to prevent Palestinians from owning property. Defined in law as foreigners, Palestinians have been barred from practicing in more than thirty professions, including liberal professions. Amendments in labor regulations made in 2010 have yet done little to change this.
Restricted to illegal employment and unable to achieve a minimum of stability in the form of home ownership, Palestinians were pushed to emigrate. A 2010 survey found that only half of the refugees registered with UNRWA resided in Lebanon, the rest having sought work in the
Despite these restrictions, Palestinians refugees in Lebanon have contributed in important ways to the Lebanese economy and cultural life. It is estimated that they account for roughly 10 percent of Lebanese private consumption, that the volume of remittances sent from Palestinians abroad is about $62 million a year, and that 91 percent of households have at least one member actively working (albeit without a valid permit). They provide skills in construction, agriculture, industry, trade, transportation, information technology, education, and health. Additionally, wealthy Palestinians have established many enterprises, including major banks and construction companies, which have created jobs and expanded the Lebanese economy. They also contribute to the intellectual life of the capital by founding research centers and publishing houses.
Chaaban, J., H. Ghattas, R. Habib, S. Hanafi, N. Sahyoun, N. Salti, K. Seyfert, and N. Naamani. Socio-Economic Survey of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon. Beirut: American University of Beirut, 2010.
Khalidi, Aziza, and Riad Tabbarah. Working Unprotected: Contributions of Palestinian Refugees Residing in Camps and Gatherings to the Lebanese Economy. Beirut: The Right to Work Campaign, 2008.
Sayigh, Rosemary. Too Many Enemies: The Palestinian Experience in Lebanon. London: Zed Books, 1994.
Sayigh, Yezid, Armed Struggle and the Search for State: The Palestinian National Movement 1949–1993. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies; Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Suleiman, Jaber. “The Current Political, Organizational, and Security Situation in the Palestinian Refugee Camps of Lebanon.” Journal of Palestine Studies 29, no.1 (Autumn 1999): 66–80.