Palestinian refugees reject US Mideast policy as Beirut skips meeting

A Palestinian holds up a Palestine flag as he chants slogans during a demonstration organized by the Islamic militant group Hamas against a U.S.-sponsored Middle East economic workshop in Bahrain. (AP)
Updated 26 June 2019

Palestinian refugees reject US Mideast policy as Beirut skips meeting

  • The Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, said that ‘Palestine is not a commodity that is sold and bought’

BEIRUT: Palestinian refugees in Lebanese camps took to the streets on Tuesday to reject the so-called US “deal of the century,” burning US and Israeli flags and demanding the right to return, following the Bahrain workshop on the Palestinian issue.

Lebanon did not officially participate in the workshop despite hosting almost 200,000 Palestinian refugees, and Lebanese political and religious figures stressed their “rejection” of the policy of resettlement.

The chairman of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, Dr. Hassan Mneimneh, told Arab News: “The US administration’s insistence on its respect for the Lebanese constitution, which rejects the resettlement of the Palestinians, has changed now in the light of statements made by Jared Kushner, senior advisor to US President Donald Trump, asserting that the Palestinians should stay in the host countries or seek a third country. This is a resettlement project.

“If this continues and the Americans succeed in imposing what they plan as a fait accompli, things will become worrying. We have seen what happened over sanctions on Iran — countries that refused to impose them were subjected to economic pressure.

“Lebanon cannot resettle the Palestinians on its land. This is a firm, official and popular position.”

BACKGROUND

The Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, said that ‘Palestine is not a commodity that is sold and bought.’

Mneimneh said Lebanon would struggle to help Palestinians if more pressure was applied to the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians in the Near East (UNRWA). The Trump administration suspended its share of the agency’s annual funding, now around $370 million, last year, and there are suggestions the US could veto UNRWA’s mandate, which will be resubmitted to the UN General Assembly in September. “This is a very dangerous sign, especially for Lebanon. The Lebanese authorities should look into all future possibilities in case things get worse,” Mneimneh added.

Protesters in the Ain Al-Hilweh camp, the largest in Lebanon, burned flags and tires in front of the Palestinian Joint Force headquarters to express their anger.

“The Palestinian issue is not for sale, and we will resist any attempt to liquidate it. We stand behind the Palestinian leadership headed by President Mahmoud Abbas,” said Maher Shabayta, secretary of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Fatah Movement in Sidon.

“We will resist any capitulation suggested by the US administration,” said Abu Hussein Hamdan, a political relations official of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

In Tyre, UNRWA schools were closed and Palestinian flags and banners condemning the “deal of the century” and the Bahrain workshop were raised.

Abdulmajid Awad, a Hamas official in Tyre, said: “The meeting in Manama is aimed at eliminating the Palestinian national cause and we are still committed to the right of return. Resistance must continue in all its forms.”

The Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, said: “Palestine is not a commodity that is sold and bought. It is an issue that will be solved by the return of Palestinian people to land occupied by a brutal enemy. We say to whoever tries to lure our Arab countries with billions of dollars: Arab land, especially the land of blessed Palestine, is priceless and we will not accept resettlement.

“No one should dream that the Palestinians in the diaspora will be resettled — they will return to the Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

The Beirut Bar Association (BBA) witnessed a rally of dozens of lawyers after they walked out of court hearings to protest. “The Manama workshop aims to eliminate the Palestinian issue, and the right of return of the refugees to their country,” said Jamil Qambris, secretary of the BBA.

The Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee is a Lebanese governmental advisory body, dealing with the governance of Palestinian refugees.

A census conducted by the Lebanese and Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2017 showed that over 78,000 Palestinian refugees based in the country live in camps.


Poll bodes well for future of women’s empowerment in the Arab world

Updated 2 min 21 sec ago

Poll bodes well for future of women’s empowerment in the Arab world

  • YouGov study shows 59 percent support women holding ministerial roles in the region
  • GCC countries are a prime example of women excelling in every arena, says expert

DUBAI: Women’s empowerment in the Arab world has a bright future, if the findings of a YouGov study commissioned by Arab News for the Arab Strategy Forum are any guide.
Several recent regional developments — women driving in Saudi Arabia and an increase in the number of women holding ministerial roles in the Arab world — are viewed by substantial numbers of Arabs as positive.
A combined average of 61 percent said they expect to see more female empowerment in their home country over the next 10 years. This thinking was strongest in the Levant at 60 percent, followed by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries with 48 percent and 44 percent in North Africa.
The study surveyed 3,079 Arabic speakers, aged 18 years old and above, from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to better understand their current and future concerns on various topics.
June 24, 2018, will go down in history as the day Saudi Arabia lifted its longstanding ban on women driving. Two-thirds of the poll respondents actively supported the Kingdom’s new driving law, with only nine per cent expressing opposition.
Commenting on women’s standing in the MENA region, Maria Al-Qassimi, an Emirati writer, said recent decades had witnessed a movement led by Arab women to redefine social norms through a call for “equal opportunities and less restrictive laws.”
Despite the rapid speed of policy changes, Al-Qassimi says she wishes to see further progress in the standing of women in Arab societies.
“I hope that policies and regulations will be revised to allow both men and women to strike a balance between their responsibilities and contributions both at home and at work,” she told Arab News.
Al-Qassimi believes that the situation of women and other “vulnerable” segments of society as of now is largely determined by economic factors.
If women continued to play an important role in driving Arab economies forward while demonstrating their “indispensability” on the global level, countries would have an incentive to enlarge women’s empowerment, she said.
Al-Qassimi said there was no doubt that governments around the Arab world were recognizing the need for women’s empowerment in building stronger economies and societies. However, a change in social attitudes may require more time.
Al-Qassimi cited the GCC states as a prime example of women’s excellent performance in almost every field. In the UAE, women make up 70 percent of all university graduates, and hold 66 percent of all public-sector jobs, she said.
In Saudi Arabia, the number of women working in the public and private sectors has increased by “282 percent” over the past year. “The hope is not only for women to occupy more leadership positions, but to push for more merit-based career advancements across the GCC,” Al-Qassimi said.
Women holding ministerial roles in the Arab region is a development that gained strong support from respondents, with 59 percent expressing positive sentiment, as opposed to 14 percent who were negative.
Among those expecting to see an even greater increase in the number of Arabs supporting women’s empowerment in the next two years is Injeel Firoz Moti, managing director at Catch Communications, an agency that works with female entrepreneurs in the UAE and across the GCC.
“One advancement I see taking place is the rise of more women in the workforce as well as growth of the female entrepreneur,” said Moti, who foresees more women taking up leadership roles and driving operations in the labor force.
Moti described women’s empowerment in Saudi Arabia, including the new driving law and the modification of the public dress code, as “setting a precedent” for further positive changes.
This was supported by the poll’s findings on a woman’s right to choose what to wear: 52 percent of respondents expressed positive sentiments.
Women of the Arab world have made great strides in breaking away from “centuries-old gender norms and traditions,” one of which is freedom of appearance, according to Al-Qassimi.
“What women wear is unfortunately not a physical representation and expression of who they are, but of the honor and chastity of their immediate and extended families,” she said.
The poll also showed 24 percent of respondents selected one of two options — “prefer not to answer” or “neither agree or disagree” — when asked about the topic of women’s clothing.
Al-Qassimi said some Arab societies “respond to emotions of fear and shame,” which she believes could be the reason many respondents in the survey disagreed with the freedom of appearance or chose not to give an opinion.
Other questions in the survey dealt with topics such as forced marriage and honor crimes. The findings suggest that 77 percent of the Arab world disagree with the practice of forced marriage, with 67 percent of respondents strongly opposed to it.
“Given the rate at which our societies are evolving, with time more value will hopefully be given to the individual and the choices he or she makes,” Al-Qassimi said.