The relationship between state and refugee

Each of the four states, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel, have accorded its Palestinian refugee-community with diverging sets of rights and duties vis-à-vis the state. Residence in different states has thus had crucial implications for the material and physical well-being of Palestinians because each state's legal framework directly affects the personal security, economic opportunities and social situation of refugees. These different state policies have created a range of Palestinian identities in terms of legal statuses. Each state has formed administrative authorities which deal with the presence of Palestinian refugees, some of which are sub-units under either the Foreign or the Interior Ministries of the respective host-states.

In Jordan, refugee camps are provided by the Jordanian government. All camps are administered by the Department of Palestinian Affairs which is an independent department linked to the Prime Minister's Office. The Jordanian Government is responsible for the administration, security and services in the camps. UNRWA offers education, health and social welfare services which are subject to reimbursement from the Jordanian Government.

There has been three main waves of Palestinian mass influx to Jordan. The first wave of approximately 440,000 refugees is the largest group.11 They are referred to as the "1948-refugees", denoting Palestinians who left their homeland following the 1948-war. Most of the 72,000 residents in the camp of Wihdat, for instance, are 1948-refugees (UNRWA- Jordan Field Office, January 1994).

A second wave of refugees was created following the 1967 war when an additional 240,000 Palestinians settled in the East Bank (Guide to UNRWA, April 1994:6). This wave included both resident West Bank Palestinians, Palestinians from Gaza, and 1948-refugees who had previously fled following the creation of the state of Israel. While 1948-refugees retained their legal status as "Palestine refugees" according to UNRWA's criterias, the new influx of 1967-refugees (who had not fled in 1948) were to be formally referred to as "displaced persons" both by UNRWA and the Jordanian state. Of the approximately 400,000 refugees who fled to Jordan in 1967, 240,000 were first time refugees, while the rest were 1948-refugees. The camp of Baqa'a which houses approximately 79,000 refugees includes both categories of refugees whereof 85% are registered as 1948-refugees and the remaining 15% are displaced persons (UNRWA- Jordan Field Office, January 1994). The 1990-Iraqi invasion of Kuwait created the third wave of Palestinian refugees where approximately 300,000 Palestinians came from Kuwait and the other Gulf states (Guide to UNRWA, Aril 1994:6). In addition there is a considerable number of Palestinians who came in between periods of war but were later barred from returning.

The bulk of Palestinian refugees residing in Jordan are eligible to Jordanian citizenships which accords them the same civic rights as native East Bank Jordanians. Having a Jordanian citizenship legally grants Palestinian refugees the right to move, work, own property, and vote as native Jordanians. Despite an acquired Jordanian citizenship, 1948-refugees do not lose their UNRWA-defined status as Palestinian refugees.

When Jordan relinquished its full claims to sovereignty over the West Bank in 1989, West Bank Palestinians lost their granted right to Jordanian citizenship. The government, however, still issues so-called "two-year passports" which differ in legal treatment from "five-year"-passports accorded to other Jordanians.

Most Palestinians living in Jordan have, in terms of formal legal relationship to the state, the opportunity to obtain a more secure personal legal position through their citizenships, than Palestinians living in other states, most of whom do not have the right to citizenship. Syria, notably, comes nearest Jordan in granting Palestinians equal civil rights as Syrian citizens, excluding citizenship and the right to vote. Gaza-refugees do not, however, enjoy citizenship rights. They are obliged to apply for residence and work permits as other foreigners, they travel on Egyptian travel documents and must obtain a return visa before departing from Jordan if they wish to enter the country again. Some Gazans have "two-year" Jordanian passports due to personal causes such as marriage with Jordanian citizens.

The formal legal status for Palestinians is becoming more complicated after Palestinians lost the right to obtain Jordanian citizenships in 1989. In addition, the fact that Palestinians often move and work all over the Middle East, may also create problems for their legal status, as the following example show:

A 19-year-old Palestinian student who works as a waiter has no passport. He was born in Kuwait where his father, born in Jaffa and raised in the West bank, had migrated to in 1963. His father, who possessed a Jordanian citizenship, had recently died, and his mother is not entitled to a citizenship because she is from Gaza, leaving the young student without formal travel documents.

Although formally Jordanian, there exists a social cleavage between native Palestinians (West Bankers) and native Jordanians (East Bankers) which was clearly brought to surface upon the outbreak of the Black September internal clashes of 1970 between the two groups. Since 1970, Palestinian political activity has been a sensitive subject. What was built up of Jordanian-Palestinian integration created suspicion which still colours the attitudes of many people.

Several respondents in our fieldwork indicated that they perceived themselves as being discriminated against in Jordanian society. In the sphere of education, for instance, the daughter of a surgeon complained that she was not able to enter the University of Jordan because it operates with a system of geographical quotas. As she belongs to the very small quota of "Jordanians Abroad", which according to her, constitute 6% of the students accepted and where Palestinians are heavily represented, she was not accepted while Jordanians with lower marks were enrolled. According to her father, the system is discriminating as it makes it more difficult for Palestinians from the cities where most of them live to get enrolled than for citizens in the rural districts who are predominantly native Jordanians.

What is noteworthy in our context is that Palestinian identity appears to be closely connected with the degree of political activism in Jordan, whether activity spans from demonstrations to ideological conviction. Equal treatment before the law among East and West Bankers in society is perceived by Palestinians (West Bankers) to be insufficient when it comes to bolster and emphasise their identity as Palestinians. As long as Palestinian activism is perceived as threatening by the host state, Palestinians are bound to perceive that their persecution and alleged discrimination is closely linked with their identity as Palestinians.

In Lebanon, the Directorate General of Palestinian Refugee Affairs (DPRA) within the Ministry of Interior is responsible for the Palestinian presence in the country where approximately 350,000 Palestinians reside. The exact number of Palestinians, however, is unknown because the figure includes a certain number of Lebanese and excludes a number of Palestinians. These are the descendants of some 160,000 refugees who arrived in 1948 and an additional 5,000 who arrived in the aftermath of 1967-war with Israel and the 1970-Black September clashes in Jordan. UNRWA-data indicate that 334,659 Palestinians are UNRWA-registered (Guide to UNRWA, April 1994:7). The rest is either registered at the DPRA or are residing illegally in the country.

Palestinians are assumed to constitute approximately 8-10% of the Lebanese population12. They are perceived by the government as a heavy political burden on the already fragile sectarian political system which collapsed during the 14-year long civil war. Prior to and during the civil war, the Palestinian cause was endorsed by several Moslem and leftist political groupings to the disagreement of the Christian political elite. A clear policy regulating the rights and duties of Palestinian refugees in the country has been more or less absent. Palestinians did not have official statements regulating their presence in the country before the Cairo Accords were concluded in November 1969 whereby Lebanese-PLO relations were settled.13 The Accords were unilaterally abrogated by the Lebanese government in June 1987, leaving the Palestinian refugee community in Lebanon in a politically uncertain situation. The official ambiguity regarding the Palestinian presence is clearly reflected in the handling of the legal residence of refugees in the country.

The Lebanese authorities have issued four decrees relating to the Palestinian presence in Lebanon; one which established the DPRA, another determined its powers, the third installed a special Lebanese security force for the Palestinian camps, while the fourth authorised the establishment of a camp (Alnatour 1993:42).14 Neither the Cairo Accords nor these decrees address the relationship between the refugees and their host country within a legal framework clarifying individual rights and obligations.

As a collective body, Palestinians are accorded residency rights in Lebanon within the context of decree no. 319 of August 2, 1962 where Palestinians are specified as "(f)oreigners not holding documents from their original countries and residing in Lebanon". This article urged Palestinians to settle their status and obtain temporary or permanent residential permits (Alnatour 1993:42). After 1975, however, the granting of identity cards and travel documents was made conditional on the presentation of UNRWA ration cards. Refugees not registered at UNRWA, including the 1967-refugees, are estimated to encompass 50,000 refugees.15 Other estimates state the number of unregistered (illegal and those carrying residency permits) at around 100,000 persons.

The 14-year long Lebanese civil war partly explains the uncertainty regarding the exact number of Palestinians in the country where unknown numbers had their residency permits confiscated or stamped "not allowed to return" in the early 1980s. The Lebanese authorities also took off the register Palestinians entitled to stay in Lebanon if they acquired residency or other citizenship abroad.

The conditional connection made by the Ministry of Interior between residency permits and UNRWA cards jeopardizes the security of residence of all Palestinians not registered by UNRWA, and enhances the legal vulnerability of unregistered refugees in Lebanon. The danger of the conditional connection between residency and the UNRWA card has come to surface in 1993, when the Agency issued new computerised ID-cards and set a one-year deadline for the registered to meet personally. Since large numbers of legally registered are outside the country for motives of work, study and residency, this practice might lead to the annulment of the residency permits for an unknown number of Palestinian refugees, who thus are denied the right to come back and stay in Lebanon, their original country of residence (Alnatour 1993:42). Following these rules, approximately 25% of all Palestinians residing in Lebanon currently face severe restrictions on their residence security.

During our fieldwork, we encountered several examples of households that have had difficulties in issuing entry-visas for family-members who had migrated during the civil war.

Umm Dib in the camp of Rashidiyya in Lebanon tells that as a result of Israel's establishment of the security zone in the south of Lebanon, she has no problems visiting her brothers in Israel where she has been four times after she fled in 1948. She and her son Sari, however, had to work for one month in order to get an entry visa for her son Dib, who was born and raised in Lebanon, when he wished to visit his family last year. He currently lives and works in Germany where he has been staying the past ten years. What complicated Dib's application was that his Palestinian passport, issued by the DPRA, had expired, and the officials were suspicious of his intentions to come back. "Sari and me had to go to an attorney (kateb 'adl), and then appeal to the court (mahkama) in order to issue an entry permit which enabled Ziad to visit us for a month", recalls Umm Dib.

Refugees face formal labour restrictions since they rarely obtain work permits; the number of permits given to Palestinians since 1948 do not exceed 2,500 permits (Alnatour 1993:43). As a result, Lebanese labour laws have pressed Palestinian labour into the "informal sector". Furthermore, Palestinians are barred from working in government and foreign companies and institutions, and can only practice as doctors, lawyers, engineers and other "free professions" by joining syndicates, conditional on Lebanese nationality (Sayigh 1994a: 24).

Palestinians recall stories whereby members of their families were killed on check-points during the civil war because they produced Palestinian ID-cards. Some Palestinians who were dependent on finding work in other places than their places of residence bought forged Lebanese ID-cards during the civil war in order to enhance their personal security when they moved around. Mazen from the camp of Rashidiyya recalls that his father, a day-labourer who used to seek work on construction sites, issued a forged ID card in 1982 at the price of 100 Lira. He had to go to Beirut to find work at a time when Palestinians were not allowed to enter the city.

The sectarian system in Lebanon has, on the other hand, alleviated the security and living condition of Christian Palestinians since most of them obtained Lebanese citizenships, a step which strengthened the Christian character of the state and empowered the country's Christian political elite. Middle-class Moslem Palestinians were also able to obtain citizenships through wasta until the mid-sixties. The Christian Palestinians, are however, a small minority of the Palestinians, and the vast majority of Moslem Palestinians did not get the same access to Lebanese nationality and have been dependent upon the issuing and re-issuing of vital documents to legitimate their existence in their country of residence.

Having a Lebanese citizenship grants Palestinians a range of rights of which the most important is the right to stay in their country of residence. A citizenship thus eliminates the danger of insecure residency in Lebanon. It also provides a person with certain rights that guards him or her from arbitrary legal treatment before the law, and strengthens a person's security of physical mobility in the country of residence. A citizenship also entails a range of social and economic advantages such as the right to enter public secondary schools, lower tax-fees for the purchase of property, and the non-dependency on work-permits. A citizenship may also be regarded as one of the strongest indicators and bases for assimilation or incorporation in a country, and can be instrumental in diminishing the formal legal unequal treatment between citizens and non-citizens in a country.

During our fieldwork, the issue of granting citizenship to some groups of Palestinian refugees was widely debated in the Lebanese media. Although the vast majority of Palestinians residing in Lebanon are not affected, some are. An unknown number currently registered as refugees are, according to the new citizenship directives issued in June 1993, eligible to a Lebanese citizenship. These directives affect two categories of Palestinians; a) inhabitants of the so-called "Seven Villages" which are situated on the southern Lebanese boarder currently under Israeli control, and b) the offspring of Lebanese women married to Palestinians.

The predominantly Shiite inhabitants of the "Seven Villages" have since Lebanon's independence in 1943 been regarded as "inhabitants under probe", not eligible to a citizenship, a state policy which aimed at preserving the sectarian balance within the Lebanese population. Palestinians who come from, or have fled from these villages are now able to get a Lebanese citizenship. Likewise, the offspring of Lebanese women married to Palestinians are now able to apply for Lebanese citizenships. Previously, citizenship was granted to offspring in mix-marriages only if the father was Lebanese.

The granting of Lebanese citizenship to some Palestinians can be considered a strong incorporating factor in Lebanese society which may influence future decisions of those affected concerning migration to a Palestinian homeland. Salah Salah, member of the PLO's Local Council in Lebanon (al-majlis al-markazi), and leader of the "Returnees Committee" (lajnat al-'aidin) has criticised the policy of granting Palestinians a Lebanese citizenship "in order to solve the problem of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon" (al-Wasat, July 18, 1994:60). According to him, this issue should be postponed to the beginning of the third year of the "Oslo-Agreement"; Palestinians should be granted civil rights as in Jordan and Syria, but not the right to citizenship, retaining thereby their refugee status (ibid:61).

The case of the children of Sana, a Lebanese Shiite married to a Palestinian in Rashidiyya, illustrates some aspects of the complex issue of citizenship and national identity which comes to surface when Palestinians have the opportunity to apply for Lebanese citizenship:

Sana (b. 1950) carries a Lebanese and a Palestinian ID-card after marrying a Palestinian. She has been head of household since her husband Mohammed, who worked as a taxi driver, was killed in 1984 by an unknown militia while Israel controlled the area of Tyre. She has 6 children between the age of 21 and 11, her eldest son Rami was 11 when she became a widow. She is financially supported by a Palestinian organisation which sponsors widows, and an Islamic Gulf charity organisation. In addition, her Palestinian father-in-law has been generous with her and his grandchildren. In 1993 he bought the land on which Sana's house is erected for the sum of 1 million Lira (approximately 600 USD in 1994-currency). She applied for UNRWA-help in order to enlarge or rebuild the original two-room zinko roofed dwelling but did not get a positive answer. Her father-in-law therefore stepped in and helped her financially in building the new two-room dwelling beside the old UNRWA-dwelling. "He is generous with his grandchildren, although he himself has been a day-labourer in the fields all his life. Now that all his children have their own houses, he has extra money for us".
Her husband's kin are keen at knowing whether Sana will apply for Lebanese citizenships for the children following the new regulations that grant the descendants of Lebanese mothers citizenships regardless of their father's nationality. She had assured them that she would follow her husband's kin: wherever they moved, she would move; she would not go anywhere without them. "Besides, the citizenship cost too much, up to 1 million Lira (600 USD) per person, I cannot afford this sum for each of my children!".16 Sana stresses that she feels Palestinian because she has suffered like the rest of the camp under the atrocities of the Amal-militia, and because her children consider themselves to be Palestinian. She is indebted to her husband's family who has helped her in building her current home and has strong incentives of following her husband's family although she has the right to stay in Lebanon.

Clearly, Sana and her children have gained new formal legal rights in Lebanon which may ease and bolster her own and her children's future formal right of residence in the country following the new citizenship regulations. At the same time she is well-integrated as a member in her husband's Palestinian family. It is her husband's extended family which offer the most important and significant financial resources, and not her Lebanese family. Although she has lived in a Lebanese village before marrying her Palestinian husband, she prefers living in the camp beside her husband's kin. Sana capitalises on her physical closeness to them. She knows they can step in, both financially and socially, whenever she is in need. Her eldest two children have both got jobs through friends of her husband's kin; Rami is part of a working-group together with other Palestinian day-labourers and has a good relationship with his foreman who provides regular work and thereby grants Rami a regular income. Sana's other son works as an apprentice at the shop of a Palestinian electrician who knew his father.

At the same time, it might prove profitable to apply for citizenships in the future if Sana or her children are prevented from achieving certain objectives, whether financial or related to security matters. She might conclude that applying for a citizenship might increase her assets in the long-run without necessarily impairing her position among her in-laws, and thus loosing the benefits of living among them.

Another Palestinian living in Lebanon is Abu Fadi whose legal status is a registered 1948-refugee. He comes from one of the Seven Villages, entitling him and his family to apply for Lebanese citizenships. "A disgrace to our identity", comments Abu Fadi, "I would not allow it. Those who do it are poor Palestinians who think that the Lebanese government will help them with something. They are traitors." He insists on calling the new regulations as a "plot of nationalisation", and is ardently against granting Palestinians living in Lebanon the right to a Lebanese nationality. Abu Fadi has seemingly strong political reasons for not applying for a Lebanese citizenship. He has been a PLO-fighter all his life, and has a military rank although he currently has a civil job as leader of the popular committee in a squatter area. He is more eager to see what the peace process might result in. He believes he might get a job in a Palestinian homeland. "My rifle has been my identity for so long. Let's see what Holst's identity might bring us", he says, referring to the late Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The West Bank is inhabited by 1,2 million17 Palestinians, of whom 39% are registered refugees. Palestinians in the West Bank were under Jordanian rule between 1948 and 1967 following Jordan's annexation in 1950. Since 1967 the West Bank has been occupied by Israel along with the Gaza strip. Since the signing of the DoP in September 1993, negotiations have been under way between Israel and the PLO concerning the establishment of autonomous rule under Palestinian leadership. In August 1994, the administration of schools was transferred to Palestinian bodies. Negotiations are still ongoing regarding the further implementation of Declaration of Principles.

In the following some formal regulations and laws concerning the legal rights, obligations and obstacles which Palestinians have been subjugated to since 1967 are outlined. The elaboration is meant to illustrate the legal conditions which have formed the framework of the Palestinian sphere of action and the resulting coping strategies in the West Bank during the past 25 years.

The legal basis for the operation of the administrative and judicial systems in the West Bank under Israeli occupation is a proclamation issued on June 7, 1967 which declares that the commander of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on the West Bank assumed "any power of government, legislation, appointive or administrative" (Benvenisti 1986:143). The administration of the West Bank is thus under the control of the Military Government (MG) which is directly responsible to the Minister of Defence. The MG carries out both security and civilian tasks. Although the Civilian Administration (CA) was established in 1981, civilian matters remained completely subordinate to the MG (ibid:145).

The rule in the West Bank has been a rule by decrees where Security Enactments and Military Orders covered all aspects of daily life.18 Until 1986 there has been approximately 15,000 orders and amendments issued covering the spheres of agriculture, commerce, education, health, censorship, security, land, public order, traffic and taxes (Benvenisti 1986:196). West Bankers were controlled through the Israeli issuing of ID-cards, travel permits, work-permits, driving licences, and licences for professional practices (Heiberg & Øvensen 1993:27). The issuing of "red" and "green" ID-cards by the Israelis, whereby previously detained persons receive green ID-cards while non-detained persons have red ID-cards illustrates how Palestinians were formally differentiated under military rule. All Palestinians have to apply for permits to cross the border into Israel. Those holding green ID-cards are easily sealed out and are not granted an entry-permit, and even a red-card does not guarantee a seeker to obtain an entry-permit. Applicants under 25 years did not generally obtain entry-permits into Israel. Many, however, enter Israel illegally when the borders are closed because more job-opportunities are available in Israel than in the West Bank. Israeli authorities control the border and thereby the labour-migration between the West Bank and Israel, and decide the number of entries granted. On 4 April 1993, for instance, Israeli authorities allowed the entrance of 1,200 Palestinians into Israel to perform emergency farm work despite a border closure. A week later, an additional 7,000 Palestinians were allowed into Israel (Middle East Journal, Summer 1993). The Israeli Labour Ministry has thus direct influence on the number of Palestinians that are allowed to enter the Israeli labour market at any time.

West Bankers have been exposed to detainment without trial because the military commander has the authority to detain a person perceived as a security threat without bringing him to trial, on the grounds that trial would endanger the "security of the region". A detention order could be issued for a six-month period and may be renewed indefinitely. Until 1987, the total number of administrative detainees reached approximately 20,000 (Pelleg 1993:51).

In a household in Askar, four out of five sons were detained and received green ID-cards during the intifada following participation in demonstrations and the throwing of stones. Jamil (b. 1971) was detained and imprisoned four times: three months 1987, one month 1988, 15 days in 1989 and for a whole year in 1990. In 1988 he was shot in the stomach.. His brothers Ziad (b. 1965) was detained for two months, and had a green ID-card throughout the intifada, just as the third brother, Hussein (b. 1968). Hussein entered Israel illegally in search of work and got a job through a friend, but was arrested soon after he started working. He received a 200 JD fine and stayed for a month in jail. After going out of jail, he went back working in Israel on a construction site. The fourth brother, Nizar (b. 1972) was detained six months in 1988 and another six months in 1989. He also carried a green ID-card throughout the intifada. Following the Madrid Conference in October 1991, all four brothers regained their red ID- cards.

Constraints against personal security in the camp have prevented many Palestinians from a regular school-career or participation in the labour market.

Despite military rule, the occupation has opened up for a labour market which offers higher wages than those Palestinians are able to receive in their own labour-market.

Jamal is a refugee from the camp of Askar. He works on a construction site in Israel. Jamal told his colleague that he would like to marry a Palestinian girl living in Israel, that is a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship who has a formal status as an Israeli Arab. His colleague who himself is an Israeli citizen, introduced the idea of Jamal marrying his niece. The couple is now engaged. Jamal admits that marriage with a non-refugee Palestinian girl with Israeli nationality is very costly. One reason is that her family requires a higher standard of living than refugee girls raised up in the camps demand, a desire which entails large bride-wealth transaction; The Arab Israeli girl's family require 3,000 JD (4,800 USD) instead of the regular 1,500 JD (2,400 USD) as a transaction for the girl's marriage. Jamal's family backs him up financially. Jamal explains that his family thinks of the future. It is a good investment for a refugee family to marry into a non-refugee family of Arab-Israeli background, a step which would eventually grant the refugee-fiancee an Israeli ID-card. The refugee family concludes that the household as a collective increases its assets as a result of marriage with a non-refugee. It is useful to have a member who has an Israeli ID-card since regular labour and income in Israel is thus granted.
11.) The precise number of Palestinian refugees who settled in the West and East Bank following the 1948 war is unknown. The number 440,000 is based on estimates provided by Brand 1988. She estimates the West Bank refugee population to amount to 280,000 registered refugees. (ibid:) and another 160,000 refugees who did not qualify for UNRWA assistance (ibid:148)
12.) The exact number of Lebanese who live in Lebanon is unknown. According to official 1971-estimates the Lebanese population includes 2,13 million inhabitants, excluding the Palestinian population. UN mid-year population data from 1991 estimates the Lebanese population at 2,75 million(The Middle East & North Africa 1994:626)
13.) The Cairo Accords are also known as the Cairo Agreement. The Accords were never published or ratified by the Lebanese National Assembly(Sayigh 1994a:33)
14.) Suheil Alnatour is a Palestinian from Lebanon. He is trained as a lawyer an has done extensive research on the refugee situation, particularly the civil and legal rights of Palestinians in Lebanon. Alnatour is a writer and journalist. He is Director of the office of the monthly Arab Le Monde Diplomatique in Beirut.
15.) World Refugee Survey, U.S Committee for refugees, 1993:108
16.) At the time (July 1994) the debate in the parliament was still going on concerning the fees for the Lebanese citizenship. While some representatives suggested that the fee be 1 million Lira(600 USD/4200 NOK), others suggested that it should be only 25,000 (15 USD/105NOK) arguing that a citizenship is not bougth but granted. The Government proposed a fee of 50,000 Lira for persons over the age of 18 and 25,000 Lira for those under(Assafir, July 20, 1994)
17.) The figure is based on the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) which estimates that the de facto population, i.e. the population present at the time of the census excluding those who are outside the territory for whatever reason, of the West Bank is 1,052,000(World Bank, September 1993:5 and CBS 1993:758).In addition, the now-Jewish population of Jerusalem which is estimated at 155,500 is included(CBS 1993:74).
18.) Jordanian laws regulating personal legal affairs, some of which are based on Islamic codes of law(Shari'a), continued to be in effect following the Israeli occupation in 1967.

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