Monday, June 14, 2010

A pair of Palestinian items

The blockade against the Gaza strip is making big headlines, especially since the Israeli raid onto an aid ship that killed 9 people. A couple of stories concerning the blockade and the life of the Palestinian people have caught our attention this morning.

First the International Red Cross says that the blockade against the Gaza strip is illegal as a violation against Geneva conventions. From Vision MP, this story gathers together various internet reports on the statement.

According to the Al Jazeera website, An ICRC statement issued Monday termed the blockade a “collective punishment” and a crime under international law.

“The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is about to enter its fourth year, choking off any real possibility of economic development,” the ICRC said.

“Gazans continue to suffer from unemployment, poverty and warfare, while the quality of Gaza’s health care system has reached an all-time low.”

For Palestinians who live in Lebanon, they still face a tough life due to restrictions to gaining employment. The Lebanese government does not allow Palestinians to obtain work visas for many types of jobs. Further many employers will not hire Palestinian people at all. The despair brought on by this discrimination could fuel even more extreme terrorism.

From the Inter Press Service, writer Mona Alami makes the case that the lot of Palestinians in Lebanon is not that much better than in Israel.

Large camps, such as Ain el-Helweh, Bedawi and Chatila, are guarded by the Lebanese military or police. Youngsters sit idly around the meandering dirty streets, chatting or smoking cigarettes.

At night, militants often run amok, engaging in futile feuds with rivaling political gangs. The often explosive environment means that a seemingly harmless game of football could turn into a violent gun battle.

There are about 300,000 Palestinians in Lebanon, mostly residing in nine camps throughout the country. The discrimination and marginalisation they face in their ghettoised reality are exacerbated by restrictions on their employment.

It is estimated that 60 percent of Palestinians are unemployed. Previously, Palestinians could not work in about 70 job categories; in 2005, however, the labour ministry lifted the ban on around 50 professions.

Khaled, 22-year-old Palestinian, studied electrical engineering in Baghdad before coming back to Lebanon to look for a job. "I have been looking for over a year with no success. I have been rejected because I am Palestinian, in spite of my credentials. In Iraq, Palestinians have more rights," he explains.

Much of the discriminatory treatment Palestinians face in the job market in Lebanon is rooted in the fact that they have been stateless since 1948. According to figures provided by the Human Rights Watch, only 261 Palestinians got work visas in 2009, compared to 36,754 Ethiopians. Lebanese authorities have denied them equal rights with Lebanese and other foreign residents.

"Lebanese labour law treats Palestinian refugees like other non-Lebanese and requires them to have a work permit and social rights, subject to the principle of reciprocity. This means that Lebanon grants the right to work to nationals of other states whose countries grant Lebanese citizens the same right. This law naturally bars Palestinians from many jobs," says Alexander Adam, project manager at the Danish Refugee Council (DRC).

In addition to fewer employment opportunities legally employed Palestinians cannot benefit from the Lebanese social security pension or insurance plans even though employers are still obligated to pay the government for such programmes, explains Adam.

Professional associations, such as those for lawyers, doctors, and engineers, either apply severe restrictions on non-citizens or exclude them completely, leaving Palestinians with few job choices.

"Most Palestinians work in the real estate sector as painters or builders as well as seasonal employees in the agricultural sector, or as taxi drivers. For professionals, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and other NGOs constitute the main source of employment," adds Adam.

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