Bassem Eid

SJP Neglects the Plight of Palestinians in Lebanon

As a Palestinian human rights activist, I am often disappointed by how many purported proponents of our cause are, in fact, so blinded by animus against one of our neighbors – Israel – that they ignore the suffering our people have endured for decades elsewhere. Why do organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) blacken our cause by indulging in rank antisemitism and yet have absolutely nothing to say about the real suffering that stateless Palestinians undergo in countries like Lebanon?

This concern, which was recently in the news again, is the large Palestinian refugee population in Lebanon that cannot even be called second-class citizens because they have been totally excluded from Lebanese society. The estimated 250,000 Palestinian refugees residing in Lebanon, many in permanent ‘refugee’ camps that have been kept in place since 1948, face “restrictions on their right to work, own property, or obtain Lebanese citizenship.”

The Ain el-Hilweh camp in Southern Lebanon, on the outskirts of the ancient Phoenician city of Sidon, has since July been rocked by violence between secular and Islamist factions, which led in that month to “at least 13 dead and dozens wounded, and forced hundreds to flee from their homes.” The latest round of clashes on September 11, 2023, led to the deaths of ten people and wounded dozens more, including five Lebanese Army soldiers trying to restore order. The largest Palestinian Islamist terror faction, which has not officially taken part in the fighting, has reportedly sent representatives to Beirut to try to resolve the struggles – or, more cynically, to take advantage of them.

In contrast, many Palestinians are full citizens and members of Israeli society, which leads one to question the motives of groups like SJP, which is so removed from genuine pro-Palestinian advocacy that it has gone so far as to call for the expulsion of the Jewish student group Hillel from campus. Perhaps this is because SJP is, in many ways, a front group for an antisemitic and rabidly anti-Israel organization called American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), with which it shares personnel and resources.

Be that as it may, this gap in advocacy is particularly odd given that the position of Palestinians in Israel is generally far superior to that in Lebanon. About 21% of Israel’s citizens are Arab, most of whom identify as Palestinian, and all have the right to vote – indeed, it is one of the few places in the Middle East where Arab women have voting rights. Palestinian-Israelis are well-represented in Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, and have enjoyed resounding success on the world stage in technical, cultural, sporting, and economic fields.

Why should Palestinians look to disloyal organizations like SJP to distort our cause with blatant bigotry while ignoring the genuine distress our community is experiencing in countries like Lebanon and Syria? We have to pay attention to the forces behind SJP and understand their hateful geopolitical agenda, which has nothing to do with enhancing Palestinian dignity and everything to do with destroying the only reliable democracy in the Middle East.

About the Author
Bassem Eid (born 5 February 1958) is a Palestinian living in Israel who has an extensive career as a Palestinian human rights activist. His initial focus was on human rights violations committed by Israeli armed forces, but for many years has broadened his research to include human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the Palestinian armed forces on their own people. He founded the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group in 1996, although it ceased operations in 2011. He now works as a political analyst for Israeli TV and radio.