This week, unnoticed by the Western media, Palestinian demonstrations in Lebanon turned into violent confrontations with police. Precipitating the riots was Beirut’s crackdown on companies employing foreign laborers—mostly Syrian refugees and Palestinians—without work permits, which businesses must pay a fee to obtain. Now the protesters are demanding that Palestinians, the overwhelming majority of whom were born in the country, and are banned outright from dozens of professions, have the same rights to employment as “native” Lebanese.
Pinḥas Inbari explains:
The Syrian crisis caused a deep demographic change in Lebanon after one-million, mostly Sunni, Syrians flooded the country, including many Palestinians from the Syrian refugee camps. The change has introduced many radical elements and reinforced various al-Qaeda groups in the camps in Lebanon. Lebanon doesn’t want them to set down roots in the country, and in any case the Lebanese hate the Syrians and want to throw them out and to use the opportunity to get rid of the Palestinians. . . .
Generally, the crisis in Syria cut Syrian Palestinians off from the PLO, which has been unconcerned about them. (Almost 4,000 Palestinian men, women, and children were killed in the civil war.) The Palestinians formed ad-hoc groups to represent and care for themselves. No refugee from Syria wants to go to Palestine; they all want to go to Turkey and beyond to Europe.
Palestinian leaders, of course, have consistently demanded the “right of return,” which would mean that descendants of those who fled Israel during the 1948 war would be able to return to the Jewish state, even if there were a Palestinian state alongside it. The Trump administration’s peace plan would seem to involve the opposite: settling the descendants of those refugees in the countries where they live. This, argues Inbari, is exactly what Beirut and Ramallah fear, and exactly what Lebanese Palestinians want.