Lebanon FM Bassil Urges Arabs to Step up Support for Palestinians

Published September 12th, 2018 - 09:34 GMT
Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil (AFP/File Photo)
Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil (AFP/File Photo)

Caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil Tuesday pressed Arab nations to step up and help the Palestinian people, during an urgent meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, a statement from the ministry said.

According to Bassil, the Palestinian cause was getting bleaker, and the support of Arab nations was weakening with every meeting he attended. In particular, Bassil chastised Arab nations for their “silence” surrounding U.S. President Donald Trump’s assertion that his administration will come up with "the deal of the century" to solve the decades-old Israel-Palestine conflict.

The naming of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital amounts to the “rape of Jerusalem,” Bassil said, and although it had been initiated by an American decision, it was met with international silence and Arab incompetence. Israel’s decision to declare a Jewish state, he continued, jeopardizes the fate of Palestinians inside the country, forcing them to emigrate.

Bassil also addressed the recent American decision to cut funding to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, or UNRWA, as a new step toward blocking Palestinians’ right of return, keeping refugees in their host countries and “burying their cause forever.”

Such decisions, Bassil went on, aim to eliminate a two-state solution and replace the idea of peace with that of surrender. Bassil questioned whether Arab states intend to remain idle or take action to make up for the financial deficit left by America’s decision, referring to it as a “humanitarian and moral duty.”

Seeing Lebanon and the other Arab countries “paying the price with their dignity, economy and belonging” caused him pain, he conceded.

But, he went on, “I see a positive opportunity to take the initiative and make a decision to restore the Arab role, and not abandon it in Palestine as is happening now in Syria.”

He said the Lebanese people have avoided the naturalization of refugees, as per their Constitution, and yet also tried to fulfill “our humanitarian duties in accommodating any diaspora and our national duty to preserve our [social] fabric.”

Lebanon has borne the political, economic and social costs of the Palestinian refugees who have come to the country since 1948, Bassil said. He credited UNRWA for working to alleviate suffering, but said that it had fallen short of covering all the financial burdens, which eventually became the responsibility of the Lebanese state.

Bassil went on to question policies that push for the permanent resettlement of Palestinian refugees on Lebanese land. His comments seem in large part to have been motivated by his concern about Palestinian and Syrian refugees’ destroying Lebanon’s social fabric. But he also sympathized with the Palestinians, noting that the lack of education, hospitalization and social services available to them means an increase in misery, extremism, displacement, desperation.

Bassil said he hoped Arab countries will pull through for the Palestinians, because if not, “future generations and history will curse us” for having taken part in what he called the “conspiracy of the century.”

This article has been adapted from its original source.

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