Sunday, April 04, 2010

What About The Arab Apartheid?
by Khaled Abu Toameh

How come the Lebanese students who recently talked about Israel's "war crimes" in the Gaza Strip during Israel Apartheid Week on many North American college campuses had nothing to say about the fact that tens of thousands of Palestinians have been massacred in Lebanon over the past four decades?

Dozens of refugees were killed and hundreds wounded in the three-month offensive that also destroyed thousands of houses inside the refugee camp. Reporters said it was the worst internal violence in Lebanon since the civil war that hit the country between 1975-1990. And just three years ago, the Lebanese Army used heavy artillery to bomb the Nahr-al-Bared refugee camp in north Lebanon. Yet who has ever heard of a United Nations resolution condemning Syria or Lebanon for committing horrific atrocities or discriminating against the Palestinians?

The Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian students and professors who took part in the anti-Israel events on campuses have clearly "forgotten" that their regimes probably have more Palestinian blood on their hands than Israel. In the early 1970s, the Jordanians slaughtered thousands of Palestinians in what has become known as Black September. Can somebody point to one United Nations resolution condemning that massacre?

And where was the United Nations when Kuwait and several Gulf countries expelled more than 400,000 Palestinians in one week? The exodus took place in March 1991, after Kuwait was liberated from Iraqi occupation. Ironically, the first week of March is being celebrated on university campuses as Israel Apartheid Week with no reference to the mass expulsion of Palestinians from the Gulf.

Although there are more than 400,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon in twelve refugee camps -- which human rights organizations and Palestinians say have the worst living conditions of all the refugee camps in the Middle East -- as in most of the Arab countries, these Palestinians have been assigned the status of "foreigners," a fact which has deprived them of health care, social services, property ownership and education.

Even worse, Lebanese law bans Palestinians from working in many jobs. This means that Palestinians cannot work in the public services and institutions run by the government such as schools and hospitals. Unlike Israel, Lebanese public hospitals do not admit Palestinians for medical treatment or surgery.

Can somebody imagine the outcry of the international community if Israel's parliament, the Knesset, passed a law today prohibiting Arabs from working in certain professions or receiving medical treatment? Ironically, the Arab citizens of Israel enjoy more rights in the Jewish state than their Palestinians brothers do in any Arab country.

The same applies to Palestinians living in most of the Arab countries. While Israel has never stripped its Arab citizens of their citizenship, Jordan has begun revoking the Jordanian citizenship of thousands of its citizens who are of Palestinian descent. Jordan was the only Arab country that has ever granted Palestinian Jordanian citizenship. In recent years, however, the Jordanians appear to have regretted that decision.

As for the rest of the Arab countries, Palestinians can only dream of obtaining citizenship. It is almost impossible to find a Palestinian with Egyptian or Moroccan or Kuwaiti citizenship.

Is it not absurd that Jordan and Egypt have been arresting Palestinians who demonstrate in support of their brothers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip or collect donations for them while Israeli citizens hold almost daily protests inside Israel in solidarity with the Palestinians?

And is it not ironic that the government of Binyamin Netanyahu is doing more to boost the Palestinian economy in the West Bank than any Arab country? .

At first glance, it looked as if the students who were distributing leaflets and posters that depicted the suffering of Palestinians inside Israel and the Palestinian territories, particularly those living in refugee camps, were actually talking about the suffering of Palestinians in their own countries - Lebanon and Egypt.

How come there was no talk on these campuses about the plight of Palestinians living in most of the Arab countries, where they have been subjected to discrimination, massacres and intolerance?

Perhaps the time has come to start paying attention to the plight of the Palestinians in the Arab world.

Perhaps the time has come for these students and professors behind Israel Apartheid to consider holding not Arab Apartheid Week, but a year-long seminar to discuss repression and discrimination against Palestinians living in various Arab countries. Of course one week would not be enough for this topic and that is why there is need for a whole year.

We have heard enough how "awful" Israel is. Let us take a look now at what is happening to the Palestinians in the Arab world. Or is something the organizers of Israel Apartheid Week do not want to hear about?

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