Here in Lebanon, the diplomatic Israeli-Palestinian peace process embraced by the West has never been very popular. According to the leaked “Palestine papers,” Palestinian negotiators were willing to concede the right of return, recognized by UN Security Council resolution 194, to all Palestinian refugees but a select 10,000. One should not be surprised that this concession was unpopular here; over 400,000 Palestinian refugees are registered in Lebanon alone.
But their reaction to this and other developments has shifted in recent months. While in the past many Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon have supported the path of armed resistance to fight for their rights, today they are peacefully taking to the streets.
The new wave of Palestinian non-violent civil resistance in Lebanon started last year on the anniversary of the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” to commemorate the expulsion or fleeing of around 700,000 Palestinians from their land in 1948. On May 15, 2011 more than 50,000 Palestinian refugees gathered in a non-violent demonstration near Lebanon’s southern border with Israel. Since then, Lebanon’s Palestinians have been regularly organizing peaceful sit-ins and demonstrations, demanding civil rights in Lebanon (which they lack) and the right to return to their homeland.
But while the Palestinian Authority’s recent bid for statehood at the United Nations generated a lot of Western media interest, that same media are not reporting on the Palestinians’ peaceful protests in Lebanon, and were mostly silent when Hamas leaders in Gaza issued a declaration last December that “violence is no longer the primary option” for the party’s resistance against Israeli occupation.