Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Nahr al-Bared 2009?

According to a confidential technical report to the Lebanese government on the reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared camp seen by Sursock, the Palestinian camp will be rebuilt on a new model.

Out go the tight alleys and close quarter community housing, and in comes European style housing blocs separated by wide roads.

There are two elements to this “new model camp” that should be noted.

The first is that wide roads provide better entry for armoured patrols and thus leaving the Palestinian less able to defend their areas. The Humvees supplied recently by the US would fulfill this task.

Alongside the new style housing, the announcement that the Lebanese army will be running “security” in the new camp.This takes us back to the 1950s and 1960s when Palestinians lived in fear of the internal security services known as Deuxieme Bureau.

These security forces were driven out of the camps in 1969 during a mass uprising. The deal that allowed Palestinians to run their own affairs was concluded that year in Cairo—known as the Cairo Accords (for more on this see Tripoli 1969).

Over the past few years the US and France have sponsored UN resolutions demanding the Lebanese government “disarm all militias” (apart from government approved militias, of course).

Nahr el-Bared was established in 1949 by the Red Cross to rehouse Palestinian refugees who suffered a terrible winter in the Bekaa Valley and the suburbs of Tripoli.

Lying 16 kilometers north of Tripoli and spread over 20 square kilometers, the camp quickly established itself as an important trading hub on the road to Syria. Over the years mini suburbs of wealthier refugees grew around the old camp (the "new camp").

The word is that Bared was an important post in the smuggling route to Syria, with an extensive black market that supplied the surrounding areas (“Black market” can be read as any business not under the control of one of the major Lebanese families).

The camp derived most of its wealth from its gold market and small workshops. The Bared refugees were among the wealthiest (relative wealth that is) of Palestinians in Lebanon.

All of that is now gone:

The latest tally of damage presents a bleak picture. The total bill comes in at $221 million.

The three month siege destroyed 60 percent of the old camp and 40 percent of the new camp. The repair bill is estimated at between $155 million to $180 million.

6,000 residential and commercial units were damaged or destroyed, with the “structural integrity” of the surviving buildings classified as “a risk”. Included in this is a large number of small workshops an single family artisans (many homes doubled as workshops).

The camp lost 3 hospitals, 4 clinics and 15 primary schools (excluding the ones inside the UN compound).

Also lost were mosques, community centers and the offices of associations.

Infrastructure services like water supplies, electricity and telecoms were also destroyed with extensive gorund water polution. Roads have been ruined by heavy military equipment.

Over $14 million in personal property was lost.

The health and psychological damage is difficult to quantify, however the tally of dead stands at around 400, with over 1,000 seriously injured or disabled as a result of the siege.

The main thrust of the report is a mini “Marshall plan” to revive a very depressed area. Included is massive investment in the north, including job creation. These recommendations are the basic building blocs for economic growth and stability… so no doubt they will be completely ignored by the government.

Who will benefit form these giant contracts? Well the NGOs in the north have been swarming around the Future Current of Saad Hariri like flies round shit.

Plus sa change…


Anonymous said...

Pray tell us your solution(s) to the problems that you've posed. Assuming that the rebuilding plans of Naher El Bared - as described in your blog entry - do exist, should the Lebanese government choose to rebuild the Naher El Bared Camp the way it had been built originally? Should it allow the camp to once more become a refuge for gangsters and hardened criminals who go around killing and rampaging as they like, whenever they like? Does any other government in the Middle East, including governments that claim to be "pro-Palestinian" allow camp residents to "police" themselves? It may be easy (more like facile) to describe the plight of the inhabitants of the camp and to rally to their cause. It may be easier to criticize the Lebanese government's plans to rebuild (real or imaginary) but it certainly is not easy to find or propose a solution. It seems to me that the real interest of the writer of this blog is to criticize the actions of the Lebanese government, regardless of what they may be, instead of trying to suggest a solution - no matter how realistic or unrealistic - to solve the problems of the Palestinians. Blog writer: Instead of using your smarts and your blog entries for empty rhetoric, use them to come up with suggestions and solutions. Perhaps then, and only then, someone - anyone - would take them seriously.

Anonymous said...