by Khaled Abu Toameh
Lebanon is not the only Arab country that openly enforces Apartheid laws against Palestinians. What is disturbing about the Apartheid laws in Lebanon and the mistreatment of Palestinians by Arab countries is the silence of the media, the international community and human rights groups -- even UNRWA, which is supposed to look after the well-being of Palestinian refugees.
About three years ago, the Lebanese government decided to amend its Apartheid law that denies Palestinians the right to work in as many as 20 professions.
Then, Palestinians were told that from then on they would be able to work in many professions and even own property in Lebanon. But now Palestinians have discovered that the Lebanese government, like most Arab countries, has lied to them.
Although Palestinians have lived in Lebanon for more than six decades, they are still treated as foreigners when it comes to obtaining a work permit, according to Lebanon's The Daily Star newspaper.
Lebanon is not the only Arab country that openly enforces Apartheid laws against Palestinians.
Palestinians have, in fact, long been treated as third-class citizens in most of the Arab countries, where they are denied not only basic rights such as employment and health care, but also citizenship.
According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees [UNRWA], Lebanon's 450,000 Palestinian refugees have long been subject to many employment restrictions.
For example, Palestinians in Lebanon are banned from working as doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers or accountants.
By contrast, anyone visiting an Israeli hospital or medical center would quickly notice the presence of a significant number of Arab doctors, nurses and pharmacists.
Yet, although three years have passed since the law was amended, nothing has changed for the Palestinians in Lebanon. And there is no indication whatsoever that the Lebanese authorities intend to ease restrictions imposed on Palestinians in the forseeable future.
According to a report in The Daily Star, the revisions to the law remain unimplemented.
Human rights activists say the Lebanese government is now using the war in Syria and its impact on Lebanon to avoid abolishing the Apartheid laws. This, of course, is a weak excuse: the anti-Palestinian Apartheid laws have been in effect long before the crisis in Syria erupted.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled to Lebanon from neighboring Syria over the past two years, providing the Lebanese government with an excuse to avoid implementing the amendment to the Apartheid law.
The Lebanese, who have always despised Palestinians, are afraid of incorporating them into their economy and workforce. Many Lebanese hold the Palestinians and the PLO responsible for destroying their country, especially during the civil war that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people during the 1970's and 1980's.
What is disturbing about the Apartheid laws in Lebanon and the mistreatment of Palestinians by Arab countries is the silence of the international community and media.
Even UNRWA, which is supposed to look after the well-being of Palestinian refugees, continues to turn a blind eye to Lebanon's Apartheid laws.
When contacted by The Daily Star for comment on the plight of the Palestinians in Lebanon, UNRWA's public information officer Hoda Samra said she had "no public statement to make regarding this particular issue."
This is the same UNRWA whose spokesmen regularly condemn Israeli military operations and house demolitions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas governments are also continuing to bury their heads in the sand with regards to the mistreatment of Palestinians in Lebanon and other Arab countries. The two governments are too busy fighting each other while at the same time inciting Palestinians against Israel.
Khaled Abu Toameh
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