Refugees deserve civil rights in Lebanon

Inside Gaza is not the only place where Palestinians are denied rights, and an editorial urges the Lebanese parliament to grant equal treatment.

In its editorial, pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi commented on the current debate about the civil and human rights of Palestinian refugees in the Lebanese parliament this past week.  Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon endure dire circumstances. They are prohibited from working freely. They cannot get one sack of cement into their camps to fix their homes.

"People of all nationalities can buy land or build a house in Lebanon, except the Palestinians who aren't even entitled to buy a grave, an unjust discriminatory decision that even applies to Palestinians holding foreign passports." At a time when a group of Lebanese is preparing to set sail to Gaza to attempt once again to bring aid to its people and break the blockade, it seems surreal that Lebanese laws impose a similar blockade on their brothers in Lebanon. Many Lebanese rightist parliament members still adamantly refuse to amend the laws related to Palestinians to give them minimum human rights, which they've been denying them for more than 60 years.

Opponents of Palestinian rights for more than 30 years have been using "settlement" as a scarecrow to humiliate the refugees. However, the Palestinian don't want settlement in Lebanon or elsewhere. They want to return to Palestine eventually. All they ask for is to be treated fairly in a country to which they've made huge sacrifices and contributions.

In a comment piece for Jordanian daily Al Rai, Tareq Masarwah shed light on the subject of natural gas fields that are being discovered in the Middle East. Some time ago, gas fields were discovered off the Gaza coast and an agreement was signed between the Palestinian Authority and British Petroleum Company to exploit them since they were commercially viable. That is, until the division happened and Israel took hold of the sites under the pretext of guarding maritime passages against weapon smugglers. In Lebanon, the former prime minister Fouad Siniora warned of the presence of gas fields off the coast where Israel was active. However, the matter was eclipsed as a German flotilla is now surveying the Lebanese coast as per Security Council resolution 1701 to prohibit the smuggling of arms to Hizbollah "although everyone knows that Iran and Hizbollah don't need the sea to bring weapons to Lebanon".

Now, both the Lebanese and the Syrians have discovered that their regional waters contain massive amounts of natural gas. They have to delimit their maritime and land borders and they have to find a way to deal with Israeli "piracy" in these waters before being able to exploit them. "Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian natural gas fields are all under Israeli siege while we waste our time fighting our petty internal battles."

"The new decade will witness radical transformations towards the establishment of clean and renewable energy production companies," wrote Dr Mohammad al Assoumi in an article for the Emirati daily Al Ittihad. Many big projects were announced in the field of solar power production, notably Abu Dhabi's Masdar initiative's agreement with French Total and Spanish Abengoa to build a new 100-megawatt solar power plant in Abu Dhabi.

Investment in renewable energy is a strategic step that aims at transforming dwindling financial oil revenues into assets for new scientific companies to develop sources of energy that will become an inexhaustible source of revenue for the country. In comparison to other sources, solar energy tops all the charts. It is environmentally friendly and has a sustained source. "Achieving such a strategic and pivotal step for economic growth in the GCC states would require massive investments. However, these states have the technical and the financial capabilities to accomplish such a feat." The high prices of oil, which aren't expected to drop in the coming years, allow all the GCC states to provide the necessary investments for this project. Abu Dhabi has laid the first brick for this new enterprise that heralds a new age for the future of energy in the world. Other counties must follow suit.

"Since the appointment of the US envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, his coming and going has been the same empty-handed effort," declared the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan in its editorial. Mr Mitchell's last visit will not be any different in light of the US administration's positions and the recent Israeli attack. The settlement plans, which Israel announced on the eve of his arrival, prove that.

Mr Mitchell arrives in the region at an opportune moment to exert pressure on the Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu while Israel is at the height of its international isolation due to its criminal act at sea. Its settlement policies have been rejected even by its closest allies. It would've been convenient to seize this opportunity to make Israel budge and allow for an easier peace process. Instead, Washington chose to protect it from the Security Council and from an international investigative committee. Israel responded with announcing the ratification of a new settlement project north of Jerusalem just as the American envoy arrived in the region. Mr Mitchell knows that the settlement project has given a fatal blow to the negotiations. So, what are his visits for? Have they any other purpose than to kill time?

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem