FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Political Grinches Stealing Christmas From Palestinian and Syrian Refugees

by FRANKLIN LAMB

Church of Notre Dame, Damascus.

Church officials in Damascus advanced the hour of last night’s traditional Christmas Eve midnight service to 6 pm because few Damascenes’ venture out past sunset these days. The reasons include ubiquitous checkpoints, security fears and the fact that there are few taxis and no buses around. Plus most shops and cafes close early and the thuds and whining of artillery and bomb blasts from this ancient city’s suburbs tend to sound more menacing at night.

But that does not mean that Notre Dame and other churches in Damascus were not over-flowing with Christians and Muslims for Christmas Eve service, which has become an ecumenical event in this secular country where Syrian and Palestinian refugees of both faiths attended from Yarmouk camp and elsewhere.  One Palestinian friend, who had been turned away at the Lebanese border at Maznaa  just three days earlier, explained that his family was celebrating ” both the birth of Jesus Christ and the birth of the state of Palestine” referencing last month’s  130 to 8 UN General Assembly vote.

A bizarre Lebanese politically motivated assault on this well establshed Syrian-Palestinian-Muslim-Christian sisterhood caused unnecessary angst and in some cases unconscionable needless hardships during Christmas week. Some Lebanese politicians, apparently experiencing a memory lapse which made them  forget how during the 2006 Israeli aggression, Syrians helped Lebanese refugees decided there were votes to be had in next year’s elections if they bashed the Syrian and Palestinians fleeing for their lives and seeking temporary refuge in brotherly Lebanon.

This observer distinctly recalls in mid-July 2006, crossing paths in the Internet supplied Business Center, at the Sheraton Hotel in Damascus, with an international team from the World Food Program. Led by some New Zealanders, the WFP team invited me to join them as they made a survey of Damascus ‘refugee camps” for Lebanese who were arriving by the scores of thousand fleeing the Zionist aggression. There were long lines at the Mazaa and other border points.

It was an impressive sight.  The Syrian government and the Syrian people, as well as private Syrian NGOs, to their eternal credit, gave vast and in many cases, lifesaving aid to the Lebanese, asking nothing in return. The aid we witnessed being distributed throughout Damascus and surrounding areas included food, cash, clothing, medical aid, schooling, and housing.   Refuge was provided in public spaces, mosques, churches, private homes, and government buildings  of all types as well as in cheap hotels near the Omayyad Mosque (formerly the Basilica of Saint John the Baptist) and the Old City.  Rarely,  as it was reported by the UN at the time, had one country had done so much to help so many caught in crisis.

In a Machiavellian political move designed to create sectarian tensions in Lebanon, and  to cause more spillover from the Syrian crisis next door, one Lebanese Minister, and several like-minded politicians called for closing the every Lebanese borders to Syrian and Palestinian refugees, fleeing for their lives. In a recent speech he gave on Lebanese Wine Day, reportedly after sampling a few glasses, the Minister declared: “When we say we don’t want Syrian and Palestinian refugees, it is because they take our place.”  He added: “Don’t we not have enough Palestinians in Lebanon to let the rest of the refugee camps come to Lebanon too?”

The minister in question, is perhaps best known for “marrying up” politically and for his $ 1.3 million Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Coupe  which he brags can reach a top speed of 253 mph around Mount Lebanon where he likes to drive it, and despite that it can drive at high speeds for only 12 minutes before all the fuel is gone.  He explains to his neighbors that power is transmitted to the pavement via four-wheel-drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission.

He is also known for his average intellect and this week won a prize from Lebanese political analyst Imani Hamad, contributor to Now Lebanon, for topping the list for the “Dumbest political statements made in 2012.” His prize winning statement was:

  “A decision   was made by a former prime minister that Beirut is allotted electricity for 21 hours. This is not acceptable. Beirut has to have the same amount of electricity as other areas that means only 12 hours.”   Ms. Haddad explained the logic of the Minister who has been roundly criticized this year for not solving or lessening Lebanon’s electricity problems.  Wrote she: “The Ministers logic?  Why solve the problem when you can create another?”

According to Lebanese journalist, Qassem Qassem, writing in Al Akbar this week, “The Minister perhaps does not realize that the refugees did not come out of their volition to Lebanon’s camps, which are nothing but ghettoes thanks to his racist “patriotism” and that of his ilk.”

The Progressive Socialist Party, led by Walid Jumblatt, and PSP member, Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, insist that Lebanon will not close its borders to Syrian or Palestinians refugees fleeing violence in Syria. Minsiter Faour also said that he agreed with Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ashraf Dabbour, on a plan to facilitate the return of Palestinians fleeing from the Yarmouk camp in Damascus as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Dabbour said that there is a consensus among Palestinians in Lebanon to reject new refugee camps in the country, adding that all the Palestinians coming from Syria would return as soon as the crisis ends in the country.

Perhaps as a student, the Minister was absent from school the day when his teacher in his sectarian school  was explaining that  the monks of St Maron, who founded the Church in Antioch by the Orontes River,  were persecuted by the Monophysites  but given sanctuary by the Syrians, including many Muslims.

This holiday season many in Yarmouk camp, despite their latest ordeal, are thinking of and praying for the quarter millions of their countrymen in Lebanon, who like themselves are still waiting to return to Palestine.

Several times over the past month this observer has heard from Palestinian refugees in Syria of their dismay at seeing the living conditions their countrymen are forced to endure in Lebanon, partly due the laws forbidding them the right to work or to own a home.  No country has treated Palestinian refugees as well as Syria and no government, save the Zionist regime still occupying Palestine, has treated them worse than Lebanon. Several academic and NGO studies over the past three decades have documented this fact.

It is a 90 minute drive from Lebanon to Straight Street in Damascus, much less in a Buggati Veyron 16.4.  It was on Straight Street here in Damascus where in the year 34 c.e.  the blind Paul of Tsarus is said to have regained his eyesight and devoted his life to helping those in need.

May the Minister, who appears to have lost his moral sight for the needs of others, come here to Damascus this Christmas season and walk along Straight Street and among the alleys of Yarmouk camp, to learn, perhaps experience an epiphany, and thereby regain his sight and moral compass.

And in the name of the one whose birth and message and spirit are celebrated this season, may the Minister and his political allies cease sectarian incitements seeking cheap political advantage in this troubled region. And instead open his vacant real estate properties this Christmas to those for whom there is no room at the inn.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria.  He is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com


More articles by:

Franklin Lamb volunteers with the Lebanon, France, and USA based Meals for Syrian Refugee Children Lebanon (MSRCL) which seeks to provide hot nutritional meals to Syrian and other refugee children in Lebanon. http://mealsforsyrianrefugeechildrenlebanon.com. He is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 27, 2017
Edward Curtin
The Deep State, Now and Then
Melvin Goodman
The Myth of American Exceptionalism
Nozomi Hayase
From Watergate to Russiagate: the Hidden Scandal of American Power
Kenneth Surin
Come Fly the Unfriendly Skies
Andre Vltchek
Philippines: Western Media is Distorting Reality, People and Army Unite to Battle “ISIS”
Robert Fisk
Out of the Ruins of Aleppo: a Syrian Community Begins to Rebuild
Andrew Moss
What is Adelanto?
Thomas Mountain
Free Speech or Terror TV? Al Jazeera’s Support for ISIS and Al Queda
Robert J. - Byers
Jamboree Travesty
Thomas Knapp
Send in the Clown: Scaramucci Versus the Leakers
Rob Seimetz
Because the Night Belonged to Us in St. Petersburg (Florida)
Paul Cantor
Momentum Not Mojo
Patrick Walker
In Defense of Caitlin Johnstone (Part Two)
July 26, 2017
John W. Whitehead
Policing for Profit: Jeff Sessions & Co.’s Thinly Veiled Plot to Rob Us Blind
Pete Dolack
Trump’s Re-Negotiation Proposal Will Make NAFTA Worse
George Capaccio
“Beauty of Our Weapons” in the War on Yemen
Ramzy Baroud
Fear and Trepidation in Tel Aviv: Is Israel Losing the Syrian War?
John McMurtry
Brexit Counter-Revolution Still in Motion
Ted Rall
The Democrats Are A Lost Cause
Tom Gill
Is Macron Already Faltering?
Ed Kemmick
Empty Charges Erode Trust in Montana Elections
Rev. William Alberts
Fake News? Or Fake Faith?
James Heddle
The Ethics and Politics of Nuclear Waste are Being Tested in Southern California
Binoy Kampmark
Slaying in Minneapolis: Justine Damond, Shooting Cultures and Race
Jeff Berg
Jonesing for Real Change
Jesse Jackson
The ‘Voter Fraud’ Commission Itself is Fraudulent
July 25, 2017
Paul Street
A Suggestion for Bernie: On Crimes Detectable and Not
David W. Pear
Venezuela on the Edge of Civil War
John Grant
Uruguay Tells US Drug War to Take a Hike
Charles Pierson
Like Climate Change? You’ll Love the Langevin Amendment
Linda Ford
Feminism Co-opted
Andrew Stewart
Any Regrets About Not Supporting Clinton Last Summer?
Aidan O'Brien
Painting the Irish Titanic Pink
Rob Seimetz
Attitudes Towards Pets vs Attitudes Towards the Natural World
Medea Benjamin
A Global Movement to Confront Drone Warfare
Norman Solomon
When Barbara Lee Doesn’t Speak for Me
William Hawes
What Divides America From the World (and Each Other)
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Was the “Russian Hack” an Inside Job?
Chandra Muzaffar
The Bilateral Relationship that Matters
Binoy Kampmark
John McCain: Cancer as Combatant
July 24, 2017
Patrick Cockburn
A Shameful Silence: Where is the Outrage Over the Slaughter of Civilians in Mosul?
Robert Hunziker
Extremely Nasty Climate Wake-Up
Ron Jacobs
Dylan and Woody: Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
Dan Glazebrook
Quantitative Easing: the Most Opaque Transfer of Wealth in History
Ellen Brown
Saving Illinois: Getting More Bang for the State’s Bucks
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail