Close to home


The recent dramatic developments in Lebanon have brought both hope and fear to the Arabs in general, but especially to Palestinians. The hope stems from the democratic performance of the Lebanese people on the one hand and the international community’s insistence on international legality on the other, while fear arises from the fragile stability in Lebanon, which, if recent memory serves us right, can easily be shaken and take us back to the dark years of the bloody civil war, with spill-over effects elsewhere. In addition, the double standard in calling on Syria to implement UN resolutions and not doing the same with Israel is also causing disillusionment.

Palestinians, with their bitter experience in Lebanon and the more than a quarter of a million Palestinian refugees there, have perhaps most closely followed developments in the country after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri. But they have also done so because of the possible effect of potential deterioration there on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

A security deterioration in Lebanon might negatively affect the stability in the region in general, including in Palestine. This danger, however, shouldn’t be exaggerated, because things are not stable anyhow in Palestine, and while there are promising signs and some hope, the situation is still very fragile. Israel has always stood accused of trying to influence developments in Lebanon, while Palestinians were always a part of it because they were there, so a possible outbreak of violence will affect the Palestinians in more than one way.

Meanwhile, the diversion of attention and efforts of the international community to yet another inflammatory conflict will come at the expense of international efforts toward a political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Palestinians have an interest in seeing the containment of growing tensions in Lebanon and the success of democratic procedures in defusing the tension.

One of the characteristics of the way the international community has been dealing with the crisis in Lebanon is the double standard that it reflects. The international community has been heavily involved and very active in trying to ensure the implementation of UNSCR 1559 that calls for an end to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.

While Palestinians are eager to see international legality be implemented, the irony of course, is that the international community has been tolerant of the continuing belligerent, military Israeli occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in spite of so many different Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, starting, but not ending, with 242. Such double standards negatively affect the credibility of the international community.

It is only to be hoped that the double standards will become so glaring that the international community, even under the leadership of the present American administration, will be unable to ignore them and will act to rectify them.

Palestinians also admire the democratic performance of the Lebanese people and political system, in spite of the unusual difficulties, the foreign influence, and the heritage of the civil war. It’s no coincidence. The Palestinians, who are living under the most difficult situation resulting from the occupation and its practices, are also trying to face down their own internal and external challenges and difficulties through democratic means.