Most of the 174,000 Palestinians who live in Lebanon (according to a 2017 Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee survey) are stateless and are not entitled to Lebanese citizenship, even though most were born in Lebanon to refugees who fled there during Israel’s 1948 War of Liberation. Without citizenship, they do not have Lebanese identity cards, which also means they are not entitled to health, education, and other government services. Most of them are forced to live in and near 12 official camps, where, according to Human Rights Watch, they exist in “appalling social and economic conditions.”
Palestinians are not allowed to buy land in Lebanon, and the local labor laws bar them from a long list of more than 30 professions. But on Wednesday, Lebanon’s Labor Ministry’s website announced that Palestinians born in Lebanon, as well as non-Lebanese with a Lebanese mother or who are married to a Lebanese citizen, are now allowed to work in professions under the control of Lebanese guilds and syndicates.
According to The National News, syndicated professions, such as nursing, are governed by a government decree or by Parliament, and only lawmakers can change laws governing guild jobs such as engineering, medicine, pharmacy, and law.
In November, responding to the flight of Lebanese medical professionals due to the crashing economy, the parliament passed a law allowing Palestinians to register in the syndicate of nurses. Abdelnasser El Ayi, who works for the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC), an inter-ministerial body headed by the prime minister’s office, told The National News that it was the first time a Lebanese syndicate changed its bylaw to let Palestinians in.
It remains to be seen whether the new access to the job market is permanent or merely intended to cover the urgent need of the medical sector in Lebanon.
Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh accused Lebanon of practicing apartheid against Palestinian Arabs. He describes the “special legal status” as “foreigners” that are assigned exclusively to Palestinians, “which has deprived them of health care, social services, property ownership, and education. … Unlike Israel, Lebanese public hospitals do not admit Palestinians for medical treatment or surgery.”
Israeli Journalist Ben-Dror Yemini described Palestinians in Lebanon as living “under various restrictions that could fill a chapter on Arab apartheid against the Palestinians. One of the most severe restrictions is a ban on construction. This ban is enforced even in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, which was bombed by the Lebanese army in 2007 (see image above).”
PA Arab journalist Rami George Khouri called on Lebanon to change its systematic discrimination against his people, and compared Lebanese treatment of Palestinians to the South African “Apartheid system.”