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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Palestinians in Lebanon

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Lebanon Facts
Area:    10,400 sq. km.
Capital:    Beirut
Total Population:    3,506,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

It is difficult to assess the future condition of Palestinians in Lebanon. While Maronites, Sunnis and Shi'a of Lebanese descent attempt to find an equitable political solution within the country, the Palestinians have been largely marginalized. Palestinians in Lebanon do have four risk factors for rebellion, including: territorial concentration; high levels of group organization; Lebanon's political instability; and government repression There is no sign of the Lebanese government changing its policies of exclusion. It is unlikely to see any cooperation between Palestinians and the Lebanese government because of recent rebellion against the Lebanese army, as well as repressive tactics of the Lebanese government toward Palestinian refugees. Many warring factions inside refugee camps characterize the Palestinians as being a divided front. The eventual creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza may give Palestinians in Lebanon a homeland, but with recent violence stalling this scenario and the economic viability of such an entity in question, the Palestinians may have to wait indefinitely for their condition to improve.


Analytic Summary

Today's Palestinians are descendants from the earliest recorded inhabitants of the Levant. These inhabitants later intermarried with various populations, including Philistines, Jews and Arabs, that controlled the area. Due to the formation of independent Jordanian and Israeli states, the area known as Palestine never became a state itself. As a result of the wars of 1948 and 1967 (fought between Israel and its Arab neighbors), most Palestinians were forced to abandon their homes. Now, they either live under Israeli occupation or throughout the Arab world as functional or actual refugees. Palestinians in Lebanon constitute approximately one-tenth of the population, and are distinct religiously from Lebanon's Shi'a plurality (BELIEF = 1; LANG = 0). While political and social conditions in Lebanon following its civil war have improved for most groups since the 1990s, this has had little impact on the situation of Palestinians living in Lebanon. Most Palestinians in Lebanon are refugees who live in overpopulated camps (some in existence for over 50 years) that have suffered repeated damage as a result of fighting in the region (GROUPCON = 1), whether during the Civil War (1975-1990) or Israeli occupation and cross-border raids against armed groups (1982-2006). As a result of the ongoing Intifada since 2000, the living conditions in the camps have deteriorated even more, especially since any repairs made to camps are under strict control of the Lebanese government.

Adding to the plight of Palestinians are Lebanon's immigration policies, which classify all Palestinians as foreigners and not citizens, excluding them from most political rights, such as participating in national elections (POLDIS01-06 = 4). Most Palestinian refugees are unable to obtain citizenship in Lebanon. The Lebanese Government does not provide health services to Palestinian refugees, who rely on the UNRWA and UNRWA-contracted hospitals. The economic plight of the Palestinians in Lebanon is dismal, and is generally worse than those Palestinians in Jordan and the territories, since they are unwelcome by their host country (ECDIS01-06 = 4). For example, in 2001 the Lebanese Parliament enacted a law that prohibited Palestinian refugees from owning property in the country. Under the new legislation, Palestinians may not purchase property and those who already own property will not be allowed to pass it on to their children. In addition to not being able to buy property, Palestinians are forced to reside in the designated refugee camps. Prior to 2005, Palestinian refugees were prohibited by law from working in 72 professions. In 2005, the Lebanese Minister of Labor allowed Palestinians in Lebanon to work in a limited number of positions.

With few economic resources and conventional political outlets at their disposal, Palestinians in Lebanon have generally supported militant organizations, although many of the grievances of these organizations (e.g., Fatah, DFLP) are directed toward Israel and not Lebanon (GOJPA01-06 = 5). From 2001 to 2006, there was also fighting between rival factions within the camps, adding to the turmoil the refugees already faced (INTRACON04-06 = 1). From 2004 to 2006 most of the intra-communal fighting was between Fatah, Jund al-Sham, Usbat Al Asnar (also known as the Partisan League and has possible ties to Al-Qaeda) and other factions. According to the U.S. Department of State, an estimated 17 Palestinian factions operated in Lebanon. There were also "popular committees" that met regularly with UNRWA and visitors, generally organized around leaders in the camps.

In 2004, Palestinians engaged in many acts of protest largely against Israel. For example, they protested against the apartheid segregation wall, which Israel was building between Israel and the Occupied Territories. There was also a rally in the Al-Rashidiyah refugee camp in which thousands of refugees took part. Palestinians are subject to oppression and repression in refugee camps (REPGENCIV04-05 = 3). For the most part, Palestinians in Lebanon have not engaged in armed rebellion against the Lebanese government. However, there was an armed engagement between the Lebanonese army and Palestinian refugees in 2005 (REB05 = 1).



Amnesty International. 2002 Human Rights Report., accessed: 2/24/2004.

Amnesty International. 10/2007. Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon., accessed: 4/13/2008

Brand, Laurie A. 1988. Palestinians in the Arab World. New York: Columbia

University Press.

LexisNexis. Various news reports. 1990-2006.

U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Lebanon. 2001-2006.


© 2004 - 2021 • Minorities At Risk Project

Information current as of December 31, 2006