Nahr al-Bared: Legacy of Nakba

Nahr al-Bared is in the international spotlight due to ferocious bombardment unleashed by the Lebanese army upon its residents, using the pretext that “al-Qaeda inspired militants” pose a threat to the internal security of the government.

Since battles engulfed this Palestinian refugee camp a week ago, thousands of Nahr al-Bared’s refugee population have fled to shelter deeper inside the coastal camp in north Lebanon. Media reports reveal the shocking conditions facing the remaining residents of this camp – home to 40,000 Palestinians since the Nakba – with severe shortages of essential supplies.

At the same time, Israeli stepped up its aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip, vowing to continue pounding this enclave until Hamas succumbs to its dictates. While negligible media attention is focused on the fact that Israel has been funding and arming factions within Fatah to wrest control of Gaza from Hamas in order to subvert its resistance to Israeli occupation, fires are being stoked to create internal civil strife.

Unfortunately, for the Zionist colonial settler state, both cases represent a nightmare scenario centered on the Nakba, which refuses to go away!

The conflict in Nahr al-Bared has, apart from drawing international attention to the tragic consequences of the dispossession of the Palestinians in 1947/48, also raised the all important question of the “Right of Return”.

Will these refugees be allowed to return home?

Home to them, of course, is where they belong despite the fact that 60 years later, their looted homes, villages, farms and orchards have been turned into settlements and bustling cities in which Jewish migrants from New York and Sandton have become “Israelis”, used as pawns of a colonial regime which thrives on apartheid laws. This in effect explains the misery of the residents of Nahr al-Bared. For six decades their elders have amid the squalor and impoverishment of “temporary” camps kept alive their hopes to return to lives of honour and dignity which their original abodes promise them.

Such hopes may be interpreted by some analysts as “wishful thinking”, yet the innocent refugees of Nahr al-Bared who are now subject to a second uprooting, remain adamant that returning home will happen sooner or later. They are no different from any other people who have been wronged and require that justice be seen to be done. That they aspire to return to their home, from which they were forcibly expelled sixty years ago, is not a romantic dream. The right of return is underpinned by UN resolutions and International laws.

Support for Hamas is also reflected in this cardinal principle which is defended by its leadership despite enormous pressure. This right has become an article of faith amongst Palestinians across the Occupied Territories as well as in the Diaspora. That it has thus far not been enforced, speaks to the disproportionate weight the Zionist regime carries in the UN Security Council in the name of the American veto.

Various attempts to subjugate this inalienable right provide a commentary of the love/hate relationship between Israeli leaders and the late Chairman Yasser Arafat. It also explains why individual leaders within Fatah, such as Mohamed Dahlan, are being courted by the Bush administration with arms and funds to destabilize Hamas. It is of no consequence for the US and Israel that a regime change engineered through orchestrating internal civil strife will reinstate the losers of the January 2006 polls. The prize that they hope to bag is a client state willing to dispense with Palestinian rights. And that of course means the end of the “Right of Return."

Nahr al-Bared therefore symbolizes much more than the misery evoked by pictures of its residents fleeing Fuad Siniora’s bombs –” supplied with hate by the Americans. This refugee community is part of a network of camps littering the Arab landscape which inevitable impacts on the collective conscience of supine Arab leaders. They serve as a reminder to these betrayers of Palestinian trust of their disgraceful conduct which has allowed successive generations of refugees a perpetual sentence of banishment.